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Freethought Day

October 12

"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 essential nature."

Toward a General Theory of the First Amendment, Thomas Emerson

"[F]reedom 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."

Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson, West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette, (1943)

Freethought "Coming Out" Day is an annual day of celebration which gives those freethinkers who have been unable to proudly declare themselves a platform from which to do so. Held on October 12, newly declared freethinkers can gain strength and support from fellow "open" freethinkers and from other October freethought holidays such as International Freethought Month and Separation of Church and State Day.

In this day and age in the United States, discrimination, hatred, and bias against freethinkers is still allowed, even promoted, by many in this country. Unlike the gay and lesbian community, the freethought community does not have the powerful voice and activist population necessary to end such treatment. It is time to change this situation for the better of all freethinkers, especially the young.

These reactions often stem from a lack of understanding about what it is to be a freethinker, the fact that it is a mindset that is often set in motion in childhood, and like sexual preference, is not something one can change with a whim or the right "religion." Nor should it be something others try to change. In order to be understood, freethinkers must be allowed to openly admit themselves and their beliefs-or lack thereof. Only in such a supportive environment can freethinkers ever hope to gain the voice they need to change their world for the better of all.

Today's world sees the emergence of younger and younger freethinkers who are often alone and isolated in their communities. The Secular Student Alliance and the Campus Freethought Alliance attempt through their projects to give voice to college and university freethinkers in the US and across the globe, while programs such as Camp Quest, the country's first secular humanist summer camp, and the SSA's High School Program provide young freethinkers with a place to gain a sense of community and understand that there is a proud and illustrious history to their philosophy. However, these programs are few and far between, and without a united voice and a united commitment to change this situation, they may not be enough.

Every freethinker in every community should feel comfortable about her ideals, and part of being able to do so is feeling connected to other like-minded individuals. Freethought Coming Out Day allows friends, family, and communities of freethinkers the chance to understand who we are, what we believe, and that freethought is in every community and should not be looked upon with fear, but with respect as a positive, compassionate way to live one's life.

Activity Suggestions

Hold a Community Self-Outing: If you belong to a local freethought group, hold a meeting at a local public area and "come out" to your community. Make speeches about how you became freethinkers, pass out literature to the community (and any press that may show up for such an event; if you publicize it in advance, your group's efforts may make the local newspapers and the evening news), and read passages from the works of famous freethought writers such as Mark Twain, George Eliot, Shakespeare, Isaac Asimov, Harlan Ellison, etc.

Start a Freethought Quilt: Quilts with a historical theme can often be easy for a group to make, especially over a period of time. Have your group look up details about quiltmaking on the Internet. Use a simple pattern, and create a local freethought quilt using colors, symbols, events, and people from the freethought movement. At community festivals and on Freethought Coming Out Day, rent a booth and display the quilt, along with other group and freethought literature, so that the community can see what freethought means to you.

Do a Good Deed for the Community: As part of Freethought Coming Out Day, either as an individual or as part of a freethought group, do something good for the community. Take part in a river, highway, or park cleanup, collect coupons and go to the grocery store and donate the foods to a local food bank, donate children's blankets to a local hospital's children's ward, have a statue cleaned, help build a house for a homeless person, donate books to a local library, or any number of other "good deeds" that reflect the positive nature of being a freethinker.

Practice Random Acts of Kindness: This is something you can do any day, but on Freethought Coming Out Day this can often help the newly open freethinker feel better about her decision. On toll roads pay the tolls of the next 5 people behind you. Where legal, make sure parking meters have time on them where people are parked. Buy a stranger's dinner at a fast food place, or pay for the food of the person behind you in the drive-thru. Make a person's day with a random act of kindness.

Become a Mentor to a Young Freethinker: Contact the SSA High School Program and see about becoming a mentor to a young high school freethinker. This can mean the difference between a young person feeling alone or feeling part of the larger movement.