January 21 in freethought history…

reasontheonlyoracleJanuary 21, 1738 – American patriot Ethan Allen is born Litchfield, Connecticut Colony. Best known for his daring exploits during the Revolutionary War, Allen was also a politician, frontier philosopher and early advocate for smallpox inoculation. In later life he self-published Reason: the Only Oracle of Man, a rambling attack on organized religion that arose from earlier collaboration with physician and Deist Thomas Young. The book sold poorly; few copies survive. Allen died in 1777, aged 46.

January 21, 1950 – British novelist Eric Arthur Blair (aka George Orwell) dies in London, aged 46. He was the author of two of the greatest English-language novels of the 20th century: 1984 and Animal Farm. Of religion, Orwell said, “As long as supernatural beliefs persist, men can be exploited by cunning priests and oligarchs, and the technical progress which is the prerequisite of a just society cannot be achieved.”

January 21, 2011 – The film The Ledge, written and directed by Matthew Chapman (great-great-grandson of Charles Darwin) screens at Sundance. Starring Charlie Hunnam, Liv Tyler, Terrence Howard and Patrick Wilson, The Ledge is a tragic love triangle with an atheist and a Christian vying for the same woman. Despite its fascinating premise, the film received generally negative reviews and did poorly at the box office.

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