Christianism ("Christianity"), Etc.

50 Years of Freethought


from: Fifty Years of Freethought [1873 - 1925], Being the Story of The Truth Seeker. With the Natural History of Its Third Editor, By George E. Macdonald, Volume II, Foreword by Clarence Darrow, New York: The Truth Seeker Company, 1931.

[this edition, "Volumes I & II", Arno Press, 1972].


This book, in which Mr. Macdonald tells of the struggle in America against superstition for the past fifty years, will be interesting to many men and women. It contains the story of constant progress in the realm of human thought. The Author has been connected with The Truth Seeker, a consistent Freethought paper, for more than fifty years, most of the time as an editorial writer. The book is a work, of two volumes, which tells in a straightforward, simple manner the story of Freethought, mainly in the United States. Many of the struggles for religious freedom in America, especially of the early days, are exceedingly interesting, and the friends of Freethought are fortunate that a man like Mr. Macdonald has been willing to spend the time and care in writing the story.

From very humble beginnings the [Freethought] movement in this country, as well as the world at large, has had an enormous growth. Within the memory of many living men the story of creation as told by the Bible was not even doubted. The Old Testament and the New was the literal work of the Almighty. God wrote it [Bible] with his own hand. The punctuation marks were about the only portions subject to doubt. Every part of the holy book was of equal worth. Not only was the whole story inspired but the translation as well. There was no difficulty about believing every miracle. All the evil in the world came from Adam and Eve's eating of the Tree of Knowledge in the Garden of Eden. Few doubted that all the women of the earth who suffered the pains of childbirth were tortured because Eve handed the apple to Adam. The serpent and Balaam's ass talked with human beings. The only question raised was as to whether they spoke in Hebrew. The story of the flood was true. Joshua made the sun stand still while he finished the carnival of slaughter. Jesus had no human father; he cured the ill by driving the devils out of the afflicted and into hogs. Jesus fed the multitude with the five loaves and two fishes. When he was born a star led the camels and their riders across the desert and stopped over a stable. The author, of course, thought that the stars were sticking in the firmament just above the earth. Now we know that they are billions of miles away and that if one should come near the earth our planet would be instantly converted into vapor.

THESE STORIES WERE TAUGHT IN NEARLY ALL HOMES AND PRACTICALLY ALL THE CHURCHES. Heaven and Hell were both fixed places for the abode of the dead, who were not separated according to their deserts but according to their beliefs. Today few of the churches talk about Hell, and not many have much to say about Heaven. If either abode is mentioned, no information is given about these mythical realms. Many of the churches are now liberal and aggressive. In every city and even in the smaller towns, there are churches that have maintained their names but are the headquarters for doubt and the interpreters of scientific thought. Many of them

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["churches"] openly deny miracles, but some "Liberal preachers" have tears in their voice when they speak of Jesus.

It is only seventy years since Charles Darwin [1809 - 1882] published his first book [The Origin of Species, 1859]. It was everywhere met with ridicule and abuse. No one then questioned but that it took away the foundations of Religion. In that short length of time the whole scientific world has accepted his conclusion [see (Dawkins) #7, 198], and his theory of evolution is taught in every school worthy of the name. Amongst the intelligent people of the world it is almost as well established as the once heretical doctrine that the earth is round. It is well to take a look at the story of privation and suffering of the early apostles of freedom and science who at great risk and through dire privations went up and down the world seeking to emancipate the human mind.

Some of the men and women of whom Mr. Macdonald writes are:

Susan B. Anthony,

Horace Greeley,

Harry Elmer Barnes,

Thomas W. Higginson,

Edward Bellamy,

Gov. Geo. Hoadley,

Heywood Broun,

Elbert Hubbard,

Luther Burbank,

Rupert Hughes,

Samuel L. Clemens

J. P. Mendum,

(Mark Twain),

Courtlandt Palmer,

Moncure D. Conway,

Samuel P. Putnam

Ernest Crosby,

John Emerson Roberts,

Eugene V. Debs,

Margaret Sanger,

David and R.G. Eccles,

Carl Schurtz,

Thomas A. Edison,

Horace Seaver,

Geo. Burman Foster,

Elizabeth Cady Stanton,

O.B. Frothingham,

Charles P. Steinmetz,

Helen Gardener,

Henry W. Thomas,

Hon. W.J. Gaynor,

B.F. Underwood,

Thos. B. Gregory,

Andrew D. White.


It is well for us to remember these men and women who have made it safe to think. The world owes an enormous debt to the fighters for human freedom, and we cannot suffer their names to be forgotten now that we are reaping the fruits of their intelligence and devotion....

I commend this rare production to all who want to know something about the struggle for truth and freedom in America, and the devoted men who made it.

Clarence Darrow [1857 - 1938]
Chicago, April 15, 1931.' ["v"-viii].

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