CANDOR OR CONCEALMENT
You are doubtless aware that here an author who should openly admit to antireligious or even antichristian opinions, would compromise not only his social position, which I feel myself capable of sacrificing to a sufficiently high objective, but also, and this would be more serious, his chance of being read. (John Stuart Mill)
THAT MILL concealed his religious opinions in works published during his lifetime is evident. One need only compare such works with his other writing. In essays that were put aside for posthumous publication Mill did not conceal his atheism.1 His most severe and systematic criticisms of Christian theology and of both natural and revealed religion appeared in two essays written during the mid-1850s— “Nature” and “Utility of Religion”—and in “Theism,” composed in 1868–70. These three essays were not published until 1874, the year following his death. He also reminded his wife that in the draft of his autobiography (composed in 1853–54) there was “an unreserved proclamation of our opinions on religion.”2 In it he was forthright, and he called on others to be the same. “On religion in particular it appears to me to have now become a duty for all who … [are persuaded] that the current opinions are not only false but hurtful, to make their dissent known.”3 But this was not a call he would heed in 1854. It was for those reading his posthumously published Autobiography—as it turned out, in 1873.
In letters to trusted and like-minded friends, as in unpublished essays, he wrote as one with nothing to hide. He confessed his lack of faith and belief to Carlyle and Comte.4 To his father's old friend Walter Coulson he put the question: “How can morality be anything but the chaos it now is, when the ideas of right and wrong, just and unjust, must be wrenched into accordance either with the notions of a tribe of barbarians in a corner of Syria three thousand years ago, or with what is called the order of____________________