February 9 in freethought history…

luciliovaniniFebruary 9, 1619 - Philosopher and freethinker Lucilio (“Julius Caesar”) Vanini is executed by the Parliament of Toulouse, France for atheism and blasphemy. Vanini was not, in fact, an atheist (more a pantheist). Nonetheless he denied the immortality of the soul; declared Moses, Jesus and Muhammad imposters; believed that the laws of nature applied everywhere in the universe and that life emerged spontaneously on earth; and even theorized that man arose from apes. He was only 33 at the time of his execution.

February 9, 1737 - Thomas Paine is born in Thetford, United Kingdom. Paine was an influential propagandist for both the American and French Revolutions. Like many of America’s Founders, Paine was a Deist who declared, “My country is the World, and my religion is to do good.” His influential works include Common Sense, The American Crisis, The Rights of Man and The Age of Reason. In this last title, Paine criticized organized religion and questioned Biblical inerrancy; as a result, he fell out of favor with both the American public and its politicians. He died in New York City in 1809, aged 72. Only six people attended his funeral.

February 9, 1944 – Poet, novelist and activist Alice Walker is born in Putnam County, Georgia. She is best known for her novel The Color Purple, which won the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award. She was named Humanist of the Year in 1997 by the American Humanist Association.

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