January 28 in freethought history…

polishlithuanianbannerJanuary 28, 1573 – Noblemen of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth sign the Warsaw Confederation, formalizing a longstanding tradition of religious tolerance for nobility and free persons. It was the first European document to codify religious toleration. The Commonwealth, which existed for over 200 years despite being surrounded by nations of various denominations (including Catholic, Protestant, Russian Orthodox and Muslim), became, in the words of one critic, “a place of shelter for heretics.”

January 28, 1754 - Prolific correspondent Horace Walpole, in a letter to British diplomat Horace Mann, coins the word “serendipity,” derived from the Persian fairy tale “The Three Princes of Serendip,” in which the heroes frequently make unexpected but not unwelcome discoveries. Incidentally, Walpole (youngest son of long-serving Prime Minister Robert Walpole) disdained organized religion and pious presumption, as is apparent in his thousands of letters. Here’s a sample: “I hate Papists, as a man, not as a Protestant. If Papists were only enemies to the religion of other men, I should overlook their errors. As they are foes to liberty, I cannot forgive them.”

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