Carnegie, Andrew (25 November 1835 - 11 August 1919)
Carnegie, a major philanthropist and founder of Carnegie Steel Company (which later became U. S. Steel) was born in Dumfermline, Scotland.
In 1848, he traveled with his family to Allegheny, Pennsylvania. He entered the workforce at 13 as a bobbin boy in a cotton mill, worked at Western Union and the Pennsylvania Railroad, then founded the Keystone Bridge Works and the Union Iron Works in Pittsburgh.
The Gospel of Wealth
In The Gospel of Wealth (1899), he proposed that the rich are obligated to give away their fortunes. He began his philanthropy in his thirties, first endowing his native town, and eventually establishing seven philanthropic and educational corporations. His principal desire was to promote free public libraries. When he began his campaign in 1881, they were scarce in the United States. He is credited with having given away $332,000,000. during his lifetime, a sum which included 2,811 free public libraries in the United States, England, and Scotland as well as 7,689 church organs in several countries, once saying this was “in the hope that the organ music will distract the congregation’s attention from the rest of the service.”
The icon of capitalism was negatively evaluated by many in his time. Matthew Josephson in 1938 wrote The Robber Barons: The Great American Capitalists, 1861- 1901),
On Practical Matters and Atheism
Carnegie rejected Christianity and sectarianism and was delighted to replace those views with evolution: "Not only had I got rid of the theology and the supernatural, but I had found the truth of evolution," he wrote in his autobiography. After encountering missionaries on an ocean voyage to the Pacific, Carnegie wrote humorously in his diary that he would "never forgive" the missionary for a particularly ridiculous sermon. When applied to for money by those same missionaries to China, Carnegie wrote them: "I think that money spent upon foreign missions for China is not only money misspent, but that we do a grievous wrong to the Chinese by trying to force our religion upon them against their wishes."
When asked to sell five acres of his land for a "free" cemetery open to all Protestants, Carnegie wrote he would be delighted to give the land away, "provided it were open to all who desired to rest there of every sect or of none. . . . We poor mortals while living our short span are far too sharply separated. Surely, we should not refuse to lie down together at last upon the bosom of mother earth."
In making preparations for his death, Carnegie wrote of "deep regrets that one isn't allowed to live here in this heaven on earth forever, which it is to me. None other satisfactory."
To Elizabeth Haldane, he added, "More and more I realize we should think less & less of 'Heaven our Home!' more & more of 'Home our Heaven.' "
To Sir James Donaldson, Principal of St. Andrews University, June 1, 1905, he wrote,
- The whole scheme of Christian Salvation is diabolical as revealed by the creeds. An angry God, imagine such a creator of the universe. Angry at what he knew was coming and was himself responsible for. Then he sets himself about to beget a son, in order that the child should beg him to forgive the Sinner. This however he cannot or will not do. He must punish somebody - so the son offers himself up & our creator punishes the innocent youth, never heard of before - for the guilty and became reconciled to us. . . . . I decline to accept Salvation from such a fiend.
According to Moncure Conway, from youth Carnegie was a skeptic, as illustrated by his mother’s telling him one sabbath, “You would have enjoyed the sermon today, Andrew. There wasn’t a word of religion in it.”
Carnegie once said he was “a disciple of Confucius and Benjamin Franklin.”
Carnegie Speaking about The Gospel of Wealth
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On Any Afterlife
As for any afterlife, he said, “I will give a million dollars for any convincing proof of a future life.” As for prayer, he declared, “I have not bothered Providence with my petitions for about forty years.” As for God, “I don’t believe in God. My God is patriotism. Teach a man to be a good citizen and you have solved the problem of life.” Although he never joined a church, he attended the Universalist church in New York City of which his wife was a member. Her minister, in fact, had married the two.