October 12th

National Freethought Day -

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Every year on October 12, we celebrate National Freethought Day in the United States. This day marks the end of the renowned Salem Witch Trials and serves as a reminder of the value of thinking independently. It encourages us to build our thoughts and beliefs on scientific evidence, rationality, and reasoning rather than just blindly following traditions, societal norms, or religious dogmas.

Born out of a tumultuous period in history, National Freethought Day puts the spotlight on the essential role that free-thinking, skepticism, and self-guided inquiry play in contemporary society.

History of National Freethought Day

This particular day was selected to coincide with the termination of the infamous Salem, Massachusetts witch trials, which ended on October 12, 1692. The trials were a reflection of superstition and paranoia, during which individuals were wrongly charged with witchcraft, resulting in mass hysteria and the execution of 20 people. On this day, Massachusetts Governor, William Phips, decreed the cessation of the trials.

The inauguration of National Freethought Day took place in 2002, thanks to the collective efforts of the Freethought Society and the Center for Inquiry. These organizations, which advocate for science, secularism, critical skepticism, and humanist principles, inaugurated this day to disseminate awareness and advocate the core values of freethought.

Ever since its establishment, National Freethought Day is typically marked by numerous local events, such as public assemblies, speeches, and social gatherings. These events are organized across the United States by various secular, atheist, and humanist groups. This day serves as an excellent opportunity for secular individuals, atheists, agnostics, and those not affiliated with any religion to unite in celebration of their shared beliefs and to champion the principle of church-state separation.

Moreover, this day allows for reflection on the significant role of freethought in society’s progress and the promotion of values such as logic, reason, inquiry, and freedom of expression; these pillars form the backbone of freethought.

National Freethought Day Timeline

Birth of Philosophy

The era marked by the teachings of ancient philosophers like Thales, Anaximander, and Pythagoras, who introduced a new way of thinking based on reason and hypothesis, laying the groundwork for free thought.

Trial of Socrates

Socrates, a philosopher, was executed in Athens for impiety and corrupting the youth, an event that highlighted the importance and possible repercussions of free thought.

John Locke’s 'A Letter Concerning Toleration'

Reforms for religious tolerance and free thought made. John Locke, a prominent philosopher, argues that the government should not have control over individuals' consciences.

French Revolution

The start of a new era which saw a rise in secularism, individual rights, and freedoms promoting free thought leading to massive social and political change.

Publication of 'On the Origin of Species'

Charles Darwin's revolutionary theory of evolution challenged religious orthodoxy and stimulated free thought in the areas of biology and human nature.

Universal Declaration of Human Rights

The United Nations established a universal set of human rights, including the freedom of thought, conscience, and religion.

World Wide Web

The invention of the internet has created a free space for all individuals to express their thoughts and beliefs publicly, marking a new era for free thought.

First National Freethought Day

National Freethought Day is celebrated for the first time, on October 12, commemorating the effective end of the Salem Witch Trials in 1692.

Arab Spring

A series of anti-government protests, uprisings, and armed rebellions spread across the Arab world in late 2010 where people fought for their freedoms, including free thought.

Ideas to Celebrate National Freethought Day

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Freethought Movie Marathon

Arrange a marathon dedicated to films that question the mundane and induce radical thinking. This could include titles like 'The Man From Earth', 'Inception', 'The Matrix', and 'A Beautiful Mind'.

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Panel discussion

Gather erudite scholar representatives and outspoken activists for a vibrant discussion focusing on modern problems, moral dilemmas, scientific aspects and the role of freethought in our daily lives. Potential venues could be the local library, a community space, or a school auditorium.

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Book Club Meetup

Organize an engaging book club gathering focusing on the literal works of notable freethinkers including Bertrand Russell, Thomas Paine and Robert Ingersoll. This could also include analysing popular freethought literature like 'God is Not Great by Christopher Hitchens' or 'The End of Faith by Sam Harris'.

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Critical Thinking Workshop

Plan an enlightening workshop focusing on developing critical thinking capabilities and fostering reasoning. Embed the values of skepticism, questioning and logical thinking into practical examples and brainstorming activities to make it lively and instructive.

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Group Debates and Discussions

Start thought-provoking debates or discussions in groups over pertinent social affairs using the principles of freethought guiding conversations, thereby fostering the culture of respectful expression and sentiment of critical thinking among community members.

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Online Freethought Forum

Initiate an online forum for freethinkers to share, deliberate and understand concepts, concepts and thoughts pertaining to freethought. With modern technology, this can extend beyond the local community fostering a global conversation.

6 Interesting Facts About Free thought


Origins in Ancient Times

The roots of contemporary freethought are traceable back to the time of the ancients. One example is the ancient Greek philosopher, Epicurus, who advocated against superstitious and divine interventions aligning with the central tenets of freethought.


Prominent Free Thinkers

Many renowned individuals including Thomas Edison, Mark Twain, Susan B. Anthony, and Friedrich Nietzsche endorsed and embodied the principles of freethinking in their lives and works.


Not Necessarily Atheism

Freethought is not synonymous with a lack of belief or atheism. It embodies the practice of applying logic, reason, and science to shape personal beliefs, irrespective of the nature of those beliefs.


Influence on Human Rights

Democratic societies and the foundation of human rights have been significantly shaped by principles of freethought. This is evident in the era of Enlightenment, promoting individual liberty, the separation of religious authority from the state and the progression of scientific knowledge.


Freethinking Philosophers

Many thinkers across history, such as Bertrand Russell and Jean-Paul Sartre, embodied freethought in their approach to assessing and challenging beliefs, including religious ones, making them true freethinkers.


Women Freethinkers

Many women freethinkers in the 19th and early 20th century were also leading advocates for women's rights, including their right to vote, and access to education, to name a few. Notable figures include Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony.

National Freethought Day FAQs

Next National Freethought Day Dates

Year Date Day
2023 October 12th Thursday
2024 October 12th Saturday
2025 October 12th Sunday
2026 October 12th Monday
2027 October 12th Tuesday
What is the pattern? Every October 12th

National Freethought Day Word Search

  • Freethought
  • Rationalism
  • Reasoning
  • Independence
  • Logic
  • Freedom