November 10 in freethought history…

festivalofreasonNovember 10, 1793 – The first (and last) national Fête de la Raison (Festival of Reason) is organized by leaders of the French Revolution. Fueled by anti-clericalism, the short-lived Cult of Reason was a civic religion that sought to focus the populace on Enlightenment values like Truth and Liberty. The largest–and most notorious–celebration was held in Notre Dame in Paris, with living women impersonating, among other things, the Goddess of Reason. The provocativeness and licentiousness of the Festival of Reason sparked sharp criticism from other Revolutionary factions. The Cult of Reason ended in 1794 with the beheading of its leaders, and it was supplanted by the equally short-lived deistic religion, the Cult of the Supreme Being.

November 10, 1924 – Feminist and gay rights activist Phyllis Lyon is born. With longtime partner Del Martin, she co-founded the Daughters of Bilitis (America’s first lesbian organization) in 1955, and in 2008, she and Lyon became the first same-sex couple married in California. In 1964, Martin and Lyon co-founded the San Francisco-based Council on Religion and the Homosexual, which included Methodist, Episcopal, Lutheran, and United Church of Christ representatives.

November 10, 2010 – In a speech in Indonesia, President Barack Obama mistakenly says that “E Pluribus Unum” is the motto of the United States. Conservatives were quick to outrage, demanding that he issue a correction. In fact, “In God We Trust” has been the official motto of the US since 1956, fueled by anti-communistic panic. While “E Pluribus Unum” (Latin for “Out of Many, One”) has appeared on the Great Seal of the United States since 1782, it has never been officially declared the country’s motto. (In fairness to President Obama, Ronald Reagan made a similar error during a speech in Indianapolis on December 8, 1983, to which no conservative outcry resulted.)

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