Freethought / Minutiae / pensée · October 12, 2006

Happy Freethought Day!

On this day, October 12 of 1692, “spectral evidence” (supernatural evidence) was declared to be inadmissible for use in court in the colony of Massachusetts. This declaration by William Phips, Governor of Massachusetts, brought the Salem Witch trials to an end due to insufficient evidence.

Governor Phips was an otherwise unremarkable man and poor leader. But his decision was the high point of his life and it is celebrated today, 314 years after the end of the witch trials, because of the effect it later had on law and on religious freedoms. “Insufficient evidence” was made grounds for dismissal of court cases throughout the USA.

The principles of Freethought are that people should learn about and understand the world through science and logic. Understanding should not be based upon tradition, authority, or dogma. Religious dogma or belief systems that contradict logical reasoning should be shunned.

To hold a belief, any belief, without sufficient evidence is the direct opposite of Freethought.

Celebrate Freethought Day by promoting the value of legal neutrality in government through secular authority. Promote the separation of Church and State by speaking about the dangers of religious authority in government, where even a supposedly secular government can become corrupt when seeped in religion. Educate others about a fact-based worldview, and learn about and promote the contributions of Freethinkers who have advanced human rights.

The French word “pensée” means “thought”. The name of the common flower called “Pansy” is derived from this word because the flower somewhat resembles a human face, nodding as if in thought. The American Secular Union adopted the pansy as a symbol of Freethought in the late 1800s, and it is used as a symbol to represent Freethought Day.

To learn more about Freethinkers, and the tradition of Freethought and secularism, follow the links in this article. I also highly recommend the book by Susan Jacoby, “Freethinkers, a History of American Secularism.

Stop basing your beliefs on spectral evidence! If you hold a belief merely through dogma, tradition or authority it is now time to reexamine it. Today is your day!

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In the spirit of Freethought – I’m removing comment moderation.