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  • Back to index of The Great Freethinkers
  • Introductory Notes to the Great Freethinkers

    By Punkerslut

    Start Date: Late 2001
    Finish Date: Friday, March 29, 2002

         The following is a list of ten incredibly influential Freethinkers. Most of them either called themselves Atheists or Agnostics, but one called himself a Deist. At first, I had planned to organize them in order of how influential they have been on history and change; but it is impossible to have one strict standard to measure each person's individual contribution and devotion to their cause. So, understand that none of these biographies are in any particular order. It is good to note that I did not solely choose individuals that were simply Atheists, but rather individuals who have fought for an ethical cause, for a revolution of their social world.

    Contributions in Brief...
    10. Mark Twain (1835-1910) - Wrote many popular novels and his witty quotes make him popular.

    9. Margaret Sanger (1883-1966) - Is known for being the primary advocate of women's rights to abortion.

    8. Francisco Ferrer y Guardia (1859-1909) - Built many Spanish schools that taught subjects without being riddled with religious superstition. (Killed as ordered by Catholic advocates and death praised by Pope.)

    7. Giordano Bruno (1548-1600) - Wrote many works on the nature of the world and influenced thousands of great thinkers. (Burned at the stake and denounced by the Pope as a coward.)

    6. Henry Stephens Salt (1851-1939) - Formed the American Humanitarian League and wrote over forty books, working for reform towards humaneness.

    5. Clarence Seward Darrow (1857-1938) - Defended Scopes during the famous Monkey Trial and saved Loeb and Leopold from the Death Penalty, among numerous other famous cases.

    4. Joseph McCabe (1867-1955) - Formed the Black International and tried to destroy the power of the Catholic Church, while writing over 250 books and giving 3,000 to 4,000 speeches.

    3. Thomas Paine (1737-1809) - Wrote the pamphlet that ushered in the American Revolution, wrote vindictive attacks on revealed religion, and fought for the abolition of slaves.

    2. Robert Green Ingersoll (1833-1899) - Fought against superstition, prejudice, bigotry, censorship, and brutality all through his life, as well as serving for the Union during the Civil War.

    1. Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822) - Worked against the Death Penalty, censorship, and cruelty, as well as being a Vegetarian and writing many inspiring poems.

    A Note to Writers

         When writing a Freethought paper or essay, any Atheist should have no trouble gathering information concerning the history of rationalism. Undoubtedly, the history of Materialism is paralleled with the history of reform and change. In every reform and change, the clergy and religious have cursed it, much as they continue to curse abortion and Animal Rights. But, among the large hurdling masses of men and women whom will believe whatever they are told as long as the thief have a cross, individuals will arise from these ruins whom will question what they are told. They will not allow the words of a murdered - robed or not - change the way they think. They will think for themselves, not allowing large masses of pious individuals force them to think one way or another. They will not believe anything unless given evidence, thereby disbelieving religion without much difficulty. They were the heroes, the fighters, the champions. When they believed something was wrong, when some great atrocity was committed, it was never the priest who spoke out, nor was it ever the pope. It was the Freethinker, the Skeptic, the Atheist, who had destroyed the chains of injustice and evicted religion from the minds of men.


         Many of the resources used here were from Warren Allen Smith's "Who's Who In Hell" and James A. Haught's "2000 Years of Disbelief." Also, if necessary, I looked up Joseph McCabe's "A Biographical Dictionary of Ancient, Medieval, and Modern Freethinkers." Furthermore, I included quotes from the works of every individual mention. For some Freethinkers, I had to rely heavily upon biographical accounts of their life due to the obscurity and lack of available information (namely, Giordano Bruno). Also, in the biography of Giordano Bruno, you will notice that Ingersoll stated he was burned on the 16th and Foote stated he was burned on the 17th yet I stated he was burned on the 20th. The reason for this is that the book "Giordano Bruno: His Life and Thought" by Dorothea Waley Singer was an incredibly large book that was well-researched by a Bruno scholar. The other books concerning Bruno were in a compiled list of Freethinkers (in Ingersoll's case, it was "The Great Infidels," and in Foote's case, it was "Infidel Death-beds"). Very little was also available on Henry Stephens Salt, so I had to gather much of my information from a Salt scholar from the Latin Quarter website, which used to be here: http://www.radioafrica.co.uk/henrysalt/. The link, however, is long since dead. Wikipedia is a good source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_Stephens_Salt.


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