(photo from threfreethinker)
Freethought Day is October 12th, the annual observance by freethinkers and secularists of the anniversary of the effective end of the Salem Witch Trials.
The seminal event connected to Freethought Day is a letter written by then Massachusetts Governor William Phips in which he wrote to the Privy Council of the British monarchs, William and Mary, on this day in 1692. He outlined the quagmire into which the trials had degenerated, in part by a reliance on "evidence" of a non-objective nature and especially "spectral evidence" in which the accusers claimed to see devils and other phantasms consorting with the accused. (Click here for full Wikipedia article)
Every man- in the development of his own personality- has the right to
form his own beliefs and opinions. Hence, suppression of belief, opinion
and expression is an affront to the dignity of man, a negation of man’s
First Amendment freedoms are most in danger when the government seeks to
control thought or to justify its laws for that impermissible end. The
right to think is the beginning of freedom, and speech must be protected
from the government because speech is the beginning of thought.
For the First Amendment rests upon the premise that both religion and
government can best work to achieve their lofty aims if each is left
free from the other within its respective sphere.
Freedom of expression must be considered sacred and thought can only be
corrected by counter thought.
Freedom of thought and the right of private judgment, in matters of
conscience, driven from every other corner of the earth, direct their
course to this happy country as their last asylum.
Freedom to differ is not limited to things that do not matter much. That
would be a mere shadow of freedom. The test of its substance is the
right to differ as to things that touch the heart of the existing order.
-Chief Justice Robert Jackson
Heresy is only another word for freedom of thought.
I believe there are more instances of the abridgment of the freedom of
the people by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power, than
by violent and sudden usurpations; but, on a candid examination of
history, we shall find that turbulence, violence, and abuse of power, by
the majority trampling on the rights of the minority, have produced
factions and commotions, which, in republics, have, more frequently than
any other cause, produced despotism. If we go over the whole history of
ancient and modern republics, we shall find their destruction to have
generally resulted from those causes.
If we don't believe in freedom of expression for people we despise, we
don't believe in it at all.
It is true that many Americans find the (Ten) Commandments in accord
with their personal beliefs. But we do not count heads before enforcing
the First Amendment.
-Sandra Day O'Connor
No people in history have ever survived who thought they could protect
their freedom by making themselves inoffensive to their enemies.
The freedom of thought is a sacred right of every individual man, and
diversity will continue to increase with the progress, refinement, and
differentiation of the human intellect.
The jaws of power are always open to devour, and her arm is always
stretched out, if possible, to destroy the freedom of thinking,
speaking, and writing.
They (the Pilgrim Fathers) believed in freedom of thought for themselves
and for all other people who believed exactly as they did.
Unreason and anti-intellectualism abominate thought. Thinking implies
disagreement; and disagreement implies nonconformity; and nonconformity
implies heresy; and heresy implies disloyalty- so, obviously, thinking
must be stopped. But shouting is not a substitute for thinking and
reason is not the subversion but the salvation of freedom.
-Adlai E. Stevenson II
We are so proud of our guarantees of freedom in thought and speech and
worship, that, unconsciously, we are guilty of one of the greatest
errors that ignorance can make- we assume our standard of values is
shared by all other humans in the world.
-Dwight D. Eisenhower
When people talk of the freedom of writing, speaking or thinking I
cannot choose but laugh. No such thing ever existed. No such thing now
exists; but I hope it will exist. But it must be hundreds of years after
you and I shall write and speak no more.
You simply disobey. Peaceably, yes. Respectfully, of course.
Nonviolently, absolutely. But when told how to think or what to say or
how to behave, we don't. We disobey the social protocol that stifles and
stigmatizes personal freedom.