Upton Sinclair

On this date in 1878, Upton Sinclair was born in Baltimore. As a boy, his two heroes were (the anticlerical) Shelley and Jesus Christ. Sinclair paid for his education at the College of the City of New York and Columbia University by writing for newspapers, magazines and boys' weeklies. Sinclair's sixth novel, the muckraking classic, The Jungle (1906), catapulted his literary career. The Jungle brought a presidential inquiry into stockyard regulations, and resulted in passage of the Pure Food and Drugs Act and the Meat Inspection Act (1906). Raised in an Episcopalian family, Sinclair was skeptically deistic as an adult, never quite losing his boyhood admiration for the moral teachings of Jesus, but going after organized religion in his book, The Profits of Religion: An Essay in Economic Interpretation (1918). In the preface, which Sinclair wryly titled "Offertory," he explained, "This book is a study of Supernaturalism from a new point of view--as a Source of Income and a Shield to Privilege." A cursory scan of its chapters reveals its thrust: "The Priestly Lie," "The Great fear," "Priestly Empires," "Prayer-wheels," "The Butcher-Gods," "the Holy Inquisition," "Hell-fire," "Anglicanism and Alcohol," "Bishops and Beer," "Trinity Corporation," " 'Suffer Little Children,' " "God's Armor," "The Unholy Alliance," and "Riches in Glory." Sinclair was an activist socialist who ran for public office, unsuccessfully, several times. Over his lifetime, he wrote 90 books, many of them political novels. He won the Pulitzer in 1942 for Dragon's Teeth, about the rise of Nazism. D. 1968.

“There are a score of great religions in the world. . . and each is a mighty fortress of graft.”

—Upton Sinclair's Magazine, April 1918

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor

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