March 28 in freethought history…

festivalofreasonMarch 28, 1794 – France’s short-lived Cult of Reason ceases to exist with the beheading of its last leaders. Fueled by anti-clericalism, the Cult of Reason was a civic religion that sought to focus the French populace on Enlightenment values like Truth and Liberty. In 1793, proponents staged the Festival of Reason, the largest and most notorious of which 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 was supplanted by the equally short-lived deistic religion, the Cult of the Supreme Being.

March 28, 1794 - French philosopher and revolutionary Marquis de Condorcet is found dead in his jail cell in Bourg-la-Reine, France. He was 50. Among his accomplishments were the invention of a form of instant run-off voting (called the Condorcet method), and an essay in which he espoused the concept of human technological and moral progress. He was an active member of the French Revolution, but fell prey to the resultant internal conflicts.

March 28, 1902 – American socialist and civil libertarian Corliss Lamont is born in Englewood, New Jersey. He was director of the American Civil Liberties Union for 30 years, and like many leftists of the early 20th century, first praised the Soviet experiment but later condemned it while retaining his socialist ideals. Lamont was deeply involved in the Humanist movement, signing the original Humanist Manifesto and writing several books on Humanism. He was named president emeritus of the American Humanist Association, and was Humanist of the Year in 1977. Lamont died in 1995, aged 93.

March 28, 1934 – Environmentalist and signer of Humanist Manifesto III Lester R. Brown was born in Bridgeton, New Jersey. He was named Humanist of the Year in 1991 by the American Humanist Association.

March 28, 1942 – Philosopher Daniel Dennett is born in Boston, Massachussetts. He is best known for his books on the mind and on religion, including Consciousness Explained, Darwin’s Dangerous Idea and Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon. Dennett has been named (along with Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins and the late Christopher Hitchens) one of the “Four Horsemen” of the New Atheism. He was named Humanist of the Year in 2004 by the American Humanist Association.

March 28, 2014 – Attorney and freethought activist Edwin Kagin dies in Union, Kentucky, aged 73. He was a founding member of the Free Inquiry Group (FIG) of Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky, and a co-founder (with wife Helen Kagin) of Camp Quest, a children’s summer camp that emphasizes science and skeptical thinking. Kagin was one of the signers of Humanist Manifesto III.

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