35 Years Ago in Free Inquiry

“The courage to doubt, on which American pluralism, federalism, and religious liberty are founded, is a special brand of courage, a more selfless brand of courage, than the courage of orthodoxy. A brand that has been far rarer and more precious in the history of the West than the courage of the crusaders or the true believer who has so little respect for his fellow man and for his thoughts and feelings that he makes himself the court of last resort on the most difficult matters on which wise men have disagreed for millennia.”

—Daniel J. Boorstin, “The Founding Fathers and the Courage to Doubt,” Free Inquiry, Volume 3, No. 3 (Summer 1983)

Editor’s Note: Daniel J. Boorstin (1914–2004), then serving as the twelfth librarian of Congress, was among several Washington, D.C., luminaries to speak at >Free Inquiry’s first large public event, a symposium titled “Religion in American Politics.” Other speakers whose remarks were published in FI’s Summer 1983 issue included Sen. Lowell P. Weicker (R-Conn.); former North Carolina senator and Watergate figure Sam J. Ervin, Jr.; towering church-state attorney Leo Pfeffer; and the prolific historian Henry Steele Commager.


“The courage to doubt, on which American pluralism, federalism, and religious liberty are founded, is a special brand of courage, a more selfless brand of courage, than the courage of orthodoxy. A brand that has been far rarer and more precious in the history of the West than the courage of the crusaders or the …

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