May 1 in freethought history…

ludwigbuchnerMay 1, 1899 - Philosopher and physiologist Ludwig Büchner dies in Darmstadt, Germany, aged 75. He was a foremost German proponent of Charles Darwin’s evolutionary theories, and published a number of scientific books in which he vehemently advocated an extreme materialist view (which included an insistence on the indestructibility of matter). His writings inspired German secularists, and in 1881 he founded the German Freethinkers League, which eventually attracted half a million members before being closed by the Nazis in 1933.

May 1, 1910 - George Walser dies at the age of 75 in Liberal, Missouri, the town he founded in 1880 as an atheist utopia. Walser had hoped to attract nonbelievers from far and wide–and he did attract a few. But he also attracted even more Christians who, although discouraged from coming, moved to Liberal in the hopes of converting the populace. The Liberal experiment was short-lived: within 20 years or so the faithful outnumbered the infidels, and in later life Walser himself became a Christian, even writing a book titled Life and Teachings of Jesus.

May 1, 2003 – The American Humanist Association observes the first annual National Day of Reason, a reaction to the National Day of Prayer. Both events take place annually on the 1st Thursday in May.

May 1, 2007 -  Christopher Hitchens’ book God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything is published by Twelve Books. It is widely considered one of the essential books of modern freethought, and secured Hitchens’ place (along with Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins and Daniel Dennett) as one of the so-called Four Horsemen of New Atheism.

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