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Freethinkers by Susan Jacoby


Author: Susan Jacoby
Title: Freethinkers
Paperback ISBN: 0805077766
Published: 2005 Henry Holt & Co.
Rating: 5.00 / 5.00

Freethinkers is a history of Freethought in the United States of America from the Revolutionary War to the present. Paine, Jefferson, Ingersol, Stanton, Lincoln, and Murray all get great write ups along with many lesser known players in the history of the country. Freethought is not nessicarily defined as agnoticism or atheism, but rather the open minded opinion to analyze the facts and be open minded about the possibilities. Interestingly enough, most of the people featured in Freethinkers were very much believers in a God. Thomas Paine, for example, was a staunch believer in God and advocated Deism and denounced the Church suggesting that the Church was an afront to the creator. Ingersol as an agnostic, Cady as a feminist, and Murray as an atheist are perhaps the only two people featured in this book who were not believers in a god.

The book's most amazing details lie in those tieing oppression and support of evil to the Church which opposed women's rights, birth control, and free speech while supporting slavery. Often times people opposing the church were denounced as Athiestic Heretics even though they were very much believers of a god. The church attacked those who supported measures to weaken the church's role and hold on other people most. Concessions were made during the women's movement to appease the church which saw women's liberation as a problem. Freethinkers never crosses the line to be openly hostile towards the church but rather presents a sordid and disgusting history exposing some ties that many are likely not aware of.

The final pages of Freethinkers get kinda ugly, but the rest of the book is so well written I have excused Susan Jacoby's full on assault of Republican Christian Conservatives despite my open agreement with her assessment. The last few pages are full on Christian Conservative Republican bashing with Justice Scalia taking the most egg on his face, and justifiably so. But it wasn't warrented in what was a very even handed historical account that would be suitable for all faiths or lack their of and all political views.

Freethinkers also serves as an excellent diving board to launch off and delve into more detail into the various people playing a role in the history. For myself, I have already read Thomas Paine's "Common Sense" and a biography of Thomas Jefferson and plan to continue further reading into these great personalities that defined so many aspects of what the country was founded on or what it developed into. Freethinkers is a fantastic exploration of some of the values educated and open minded people everywhere treasure most and carries my highest recommendation.
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