AOF Activities & Events
Freethought Day, or "Freethought Coming-Out Day," is a day to give in-the-closet freethinkers a platform from which to declare themselves. The formal calendar holiday is October 12, but many groups plan celebrations for the closest weekend. Some recognize the week as Freethought Week, or the entire month of October as Freethought Month. In this time, newly declared freethinkers can garner strength and support from fellow "declared" freethinkers.
Why October 12? Because on the day in 1692, Colonial Massachusetts Governor William Phips wrote to the Privy Council of the British monarchs to take a stand against the legal use of "spectral evidence," that is, evidence of a non-objective nature, such as "feelings" and visions. His decision that evidence should be objective and verifiable essentially brought an end to the Salem Witch Trials, saving scores of lives. (Click here to read Phips's two letters.)
In the modern United States, discrimination, hatred and bias against freethinkers continues. The freethought community, unlike the gay and lesbian community, lacks a powerful voice and activist population for ending such treatment. Reactions often stem from a misunderstanding of what it is to be a freethinker, or that freethought is a mindset often set in motion in childhood, like sexual preference, not something to change on a whim or with the right "religion." Others should not to try to change it with bullying, ridicule or intimidation. Freethinkers must be allowed to declare themselves openly. The intent of Freethought Day is to change this situation for the better of all freethinkers, especially the young.
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 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 with his or her ideals, and part of that is a connection to like-minded individuals. Freethought Day gives our friends a chance to understand who we freethinkers are, what we believe, that freethought exists in every community, and that they should not view freethought with fear, but with respect as a positive, compassionate way to live life.