Freethought Cartoon from 1890

A week ago, I posted a cartoon from 1903 that would be in line with the “New Atheism” of today.

This one is even better. Keep in mind this was drawn in 1890!

It’s from The Freethinkers’ Pictorial Text-Book by Watson Heston. (Click to enlarge)

In case you can’t see it, along the “Freethought Road,” via a secular school, you pass Investigation, Reason, Education, Humanity, Justice, Science, Virtue, Love, Liberty, and Truth.

Along the “Orthodox Route,” via Sunday School, you hit Faith, Hypocrisy, Ignorance, Cruelty, Superstition, Fraud, Decay, and Death.

It’s amazing how many people willfully choose the wrong path.

(Thanks to TJ for the link!)

  • Toni Seville

    That’s really beautiful. :) Thanks!

  • http://healthyhumanist.blogspot.com Jay Knight

    The Orthodox Route is missing the key ingredient. Fear.

  • ReasonableRob

    How many people really choose the Orthadox path though? Most are surely pushed half way down it by their parents, and a lot of them never turn back because it’s been ingrained into them as the right path. No-one chooses religion. They are brought to it by their circumstances and/or charismatic evangelists, or they are born into it. If they turn away from it, that’s only because they are deconverted either by people or by their experiences. Could anyone who leaves religion for those reasons really choose to stay?

  • Dorothy

    but notice that the freethought route is an uphill road!

  • Trace

    Why is the male to the right?

  • http://criticallyskeptic.blogspot.com Kev Quondom, Kevque Futurum

    That’s a really good picture, too bad we’re not better after 100 years.

  • Hypatia’s Daughter

    These would make great t-shirts – except that someone one would have to gaze at your chest for an uncomfortably long time before they got the point.

  • Nerdette

    I like the “Compliments to Ex. Rev. C. Buelle” in the bottom left corner.

  • http://facebook.com/djcrowmix MYDJCROW

    @Trace

    Because males are clearly superior. Duh.
    It honestly doesn’t matter if they put the female to the right it would have presented the same problem.

  • JJR

    …because (sadly) women tend to be more religious than men?

    I would aver we are further down the road of Freethought than we were in 1890, though.

    At least she is looking down Freethought road, while he is considering the other path (more patriarchal privilege for him down that way).

  • Nordog

    That’s a really good picture, too bad we’re not better after 100 years.

    Yes, because we all know that the “The Freethought Road” didn’t lead to any tears in the 20th century.

  • http://religionsetspolitics.blogspot.com/ Joshua Zelinsky

    There’s a more substantial issue. People have now been predicting the demise of religion for a few hundred years. At this point, we should probably acknowledge that this isn’t going to happen anytime soon. The limiting case seems to be something like Western Europe, and even there, there’s a substantial fraction of the population which is conventionally religious.

  • Richard P.

    It make me sad to think 100 years ago we had a free thought movement and were still in the state we are today.
    What the hell happened.

  • Nordog

    It make me sad to think 100 years ago we had a free thought movement and were still in the state we are today.
    What the hell happened.

    Man is flawed, and rationality is not the cure that some seem to think it to be.

  • Ibis

    @Joshua It took us over a thousand years for us to get into the Christian mess. It is not a wonder for it to take a few hundred to work our way out of it. Let’s just hope it doesn’t take Islam the extra 600 yrs on the other side.

  • JustSayin’

    Man is flawed, and rationality is not the cure that some seem to think it to be.

    Yes, and of course, the only logical response to that is to prostrate oneself before the eternal throne of almighty GAWD, right, Nordog?

    You’re like a gnat flitting around and irritating everyone, but never adding any substance to the conversation.

  • Allison

    @Jay– That was exactly my thought when I studied the image.

  • TheBlackCat

    This contradicts the claim I have seen repeatedly that modern-day atheists are co-opting the “freethought” label that until the last decade or two had nothing to do with religion.

  • ACN

    Yes, because we all know that the “The Freethought Road” didn’t lead to any tears in the 20th century.

    In before:

    freethought -> communism -> stalinism -> MASS MURDER

  • NotYou007

    So was the artist arrested and then burned at the stake afterwards?

  • Ibis

    @Nordog We need more rationality, not less. Since the French Revolution we’ve had a number of relatively short-lived religions such as nationalism, fascism, communism, and ethnic supremacism, which have indeed caused many tears. But the answer is not to return to the pre-modern barbaric religions of Christianity or Islam. As a species, we need our civilisation to move forward, beyond the need for any religion. We now have a fairly clear knowledge of our origins and our history. It’s time to decide, rationally, what we want for the future and to rationally figure out what we need to do to get there.

  • Nordog

    You’re like a gnat flitting around and irritating everyone, but never adding any substance to the conversation.

    Let me try it this way.

    Rationality is to the betterment of mankind like oxygen is to sustaining life: Necessary but insufficient. oxygen alone will not keep a man alive.

    One can, and most do, argue over what else besides rationality is needed for the betterment of mankind, but one would think that history has proven that man, as an agent of history, is indeed flawed in many ways. And the many flaws are not, and will not be removed.

    Man has, and will continue, to better his condition through the application of reason, but it is irrational to conclude that man will ever be perfected, least of all by a simple trip down “The Freethought Road”.

    That is all my comment was intended to invoke.

    I trust this posting of mine is less flitting in your eyes than my last.

  • TheBlackCat

    @ Nordog: Where has anyone here made any of the claims you are arguing against?

    I haven’t seen anyone claim that rationality is the only thing needed. I haven’t seen anyone claim that humans aren’t flawed. I haven’t seen anything say rationality will fix all of humanity’s problems.

    You seem to be trying to argue against a position that no one has taken.

  • Steve

    What you can’t get rid of is spirituality. You can get rid of organized religion though. Or at least make it largely irrelevant, so it doesn’t play much if any role in everyday life. That’s what happened in large parts of Western Europe.

    We might think that spiritual people are wrong and misguided, but at least they are only harming themselves and not society and the people around them.

  • Karen

    Some welcome news from Pitzer College this morning, speaking of the Freethought Road.

    They are establishing the first academic study of secularism.

    The program was initiated by an agnostic-atheist professor and received unanimous approval from the faculty.

    Let’s hope it spurs a lot of imitators!

  • Nordog

    I haven’t seen anyone claim that rationality is the only thing needed. I haven’t seen anyone claim that humans aren’t flawed. I haven’t seen anything say rationality will fix all of humanity’s problems.

    You seem to be trying to argue against a position that no one has taken.

    I refer you to the original cartoon that presents the false dichotomy that orthodoxy leads to the vale of tears, while freethought only leads to the shining light on the hill.

    It is not unreasonable to infer that the cartoon posits that freethought necessarily leads to a type of eutopia born of “Truth” (let us leave aside the discussion of “Truth” with an upper case T, I’m sure many here would have objections to the idea of any objective measure usually signified by that upper case).

    The history of mankind, and the nature of mankind as well, demonstrates a considerably more complicated reality than that presented by the cartoon.

    Be that as it may, in the event that no one made such a claim, is it unbecoming to note that such a claim would be false? You seem to agree that it is false.

  • http://leavingthequietroom.blogspot.com/ Joe Zamecki

    Nice cartoon. We need more of those.

  • Heidi

    Be that as it may, in the event that no one made such a claim, is it unbecoming to note that such a claim would be false?

    God does NOT ride unicorns down main street on Sunday afternoons!

    Oh, wait, nobody said he did? Well he still doesn’t! So there!

  • Nordog

    LOL.

  • cat

    No, religion is not the source of all of the world’s problems, but it does not need to be in order to be a fucked up trouble making institution that needs being rid of to improve the situation for humanity. Arguing that we should be okay allowing religion to exist because racism is a problem as well (setting aside for a moment the fact that religion creates and/or encourages most of these other problems as well), is like arguing that we should be okay with murder using guns because people get murdered with knives and poisons as well.

    Also, encouraging people to think for themselves was clearly the problem with Stalinism, folks, because that makes sense.

  • Nordog

    After reading “The Gulag Archipelago” I’m hard pressed to think Stalinism had much to do with “freethought” or free anything.

  • http://hoverfrog.wordpress.com hoverfrog

    I really like these pictures. It is such a shame that eradicating religion is such a slow process though. It takes generations to change opinions even a little but every step makes a difference.

  • Nordog

    Do you really think that religion will ever be eradicated?

  • Dan W

    Well, the time that these cartoons were drawn is right during the Golden Age of Freethought, if Wikipedia is to be believed… http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Golden_Age_of_Freethought

  • http://hoverfrog.wordpress.com hoverfrog

    Nordog

    Do you really think that religion will ever be eradicated?

    Yes. Either we’ll destroy our species, in which case religion will be eradicated as a side effect, or we’ll grow beyond tribalism and religion.

  • ckitching

    Yes. Either we’ll destroy our species, in which case religion will be eradicated as a side effect, or we’ll grow beyond tribalism and religion.

    Well, sooner or later our sun will explode, eradicating all life on this planet. If that doesn’t completely eliminate religion, there’s always the heat death of the universe to look forward to.

  • http://hoverfrog.wordpress.com hoverfrog

    :) I’d rather not wait that long.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/ChristopherTK ChristopherTK

    Seems like we should have made more advances by now. We seem to be struggling to hold onto what we have instead.

  • John Gant

    The key ingredient to the continuing viability of religion is faith. What has not been reasoned into a person can hardly be reasoned out. (Think of decades of American slavery and oppression of females.)

    As long as millions of the educated and the powerful say that faith is real, that faith is obvious, that it is the key to eternal life, and that it is the most important source of knowledge known to man, religion and its dastardly allegiances to creeds, will thrive, even in near-total secular states, as
    we see emerging in Europe. Faith trumps science and all else in the religious mind. Hume, an atheist, put it this way: ‘Reason is slave to the passions’.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X