September 18 in freethought history…

September 18, 1899 – Britain’s Rationalist Press Association holds its first public meeting. Founded by Charles Albert Watts and others in May of that year, the RPA published affordable secularist books that other publishers refused. The RPA was quit successful, but began declining in the mid-20th century as mainstream publishers began supporting secular titles. In 2002 the RPA became the Rationalist Association, which produces New Humanist magazine.

September 18, 1954 – Psychologist and science popularizer Stephen Pinker is born in Montreal, Canada. His books include How the Mind Works, The Blank Slate and The Stuff of Thought. Pinker describes himself as an atheist since the age of 13, and says of science, “we’re learning more and more about what makes us tick, including our moral sense, without needing the assumption of a deity or a soul.” Pinker was named Humanist of the Year in 2006 by the American Humanist Association.

September 18, 1956 – Journalist and author Chris Hedges is born in St. Johnsbury, Vermont. He is a prolific writer who has been active in leftist causes, including opposition to the Iraq War, criticism of mass incarcerations in the United States and support for the Occupy movement. He is best known to the freethought community for his books American Fascists: The Religious Right and the War on America and I Don’t Believe in Atheists (retitled When Atheism Becomes Religion: America’s New Fundamentalists), in which he argues that the New Atheists’ universal condemnation of all religion gives cover to capitalist globalization and American imperialism. Hedges earned a Master of Divinity from Harvard, but was initially denied ordination by the Presbyterian Church. He was finally ordained in 2014 and serves as Minister of Social Witness and Prison Ministry at the Second Presbyterian Church of Elizabeth, New Jersey.

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