(pseudonym of Gabriel Antoine Jogand-Pagès). Born Mar. 20, 1854, in Marseille; died Mar. 30, 1907, in Sceaux. French journalist.
Taxil was educated by the Jesuits but later rejected their teachings. Between 1879 and 1885 he published several antireligious, satirical works. He recanted in 1885 and returned to the Roman Catholic Church. At the behest of the church hierarchy, he published works critical of Masonry, whose adherents Pope Leo XIII considered the most dangerous enemies of the church. Taxil wrote several works full of absurd fabrications about the Masons and their dealings with the Devil. In 1897, to the surprise of the church, Taxil publicly declared that everything he had written about the Masons was a hoax, which he and several assistants had perpetrated in order to expose the obscurantism of the clergy. This scandal greatly damaged the authority of the pope and the church, and Taxil was excommunicated.
Taxil’s major works were A Humorous Bible (1882; Russian translation, 1961), A Humorous Gospel, ora Life of Jesus (1884; Russian translation, 1963), and The Skullcap and Its Wearers (1880; Russian abridged translation, The Holy Den, 1965). In these books Taxil ridiculed religious doctrine, sacred books, and the unseemly lives of the popes. Although the works offer no profound, scientific criticism of religion, they played an important role in the struggle against clericalism.
M. M. SHEINMAN