Atheist Birthday Cake

Ophelia Benson

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I’ve been unusually steeped in the history of atheism and freethought in the United States and the United Kingdom recently. Barry Duke, the editor of the UK magazine The Freethinker, sent me a history of the magazine published in 1982 to mark its hundredth year of publication (Vision and Realism: A Hundred Years of The Freethinker by Jim Herrick). Reading it has been an exercise in “spot the similarities." There’s this, for instance, about the founder G. W. Foote:

In criticising religion by ridicule and sarcasm, Foote was defying a longstanding taboo. He challenged the assumption, which even respectable agnostics held, that religious views should be treated with reverence. He sought to establish that religion is a social phenomenon which should be open to the same range of comment, from vigorous intellectual analysis to polemical jibes, as other aspects of human behaviour.

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