You Won’t Believe What Great-Grandma Didn’t

Thomas Lawson recently published the book Letters from an Atheist Nation: Godless Voices of America in 1903. It transcribes articles that were written for the Blue Grass Blade, a freethought newspaper that’s over a century old, articles that answer the question, “Why are you an atheist?”

Check out the trailer:

It’s amazing that our great-grandparents were fighting the good fight over 100 years ago. (Well, not mine… because they were… you know… brown.) In some areas, we’ve made huge strides, but the fact that we’re still debating many of the same things shows we have a long way to go.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the chair of Foundation Beyond Belief and a high school math teacher in the suburbs of Chicago. He began writing the Friendly Atheist blog in 2006. His latest book is called The Young Atheist's Survival Guide.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1254090009 Kate Johnson

    Thanks for the share, Hemant.  Will keep an eye out for this book!

  • http://twitter.com/TortugaSkeptic A secret red slider

    We recently ran into an exhibit in the McLean Country History Museum (IL) that had information on free thinkers from that time period.  Now I’ll have to read this book too.

    • http://twitter.com/TominousTone Thomas Lawson

      A letter from McLeansboro, IL, is in the book! That’s pretty cool.

  • Annie

    Thanks for sharing!  I can’t wait to read this.  Some of my ancestors were already in the US by then, but some were not.  My father’s family has a fun story that takes place around this time.  They were standing out in front of their church (in Bohemia), talking with friends after the service.  The minister came out and yelled, “What are you all doing here?  Standing around like a bunch of cows?”  The family legend is that this is when my father’s side of the family turned to atheism, and never returned to church again. ;-)

    • http://twitter.com/TominousTone Thomas Lawson

      That was funny. I enjoyed that.

  • http://drzach.net Zachary Moore

    I loved finding out about the Blue Grass Blade. I harbor some secular fantasy that I’m distantly related to its editor, Charles Chilton Moore. My Moore family ancestry comes from about the same region of the country.

    • http://twitter.com/TominousTone Thomas Lawson

      Zachary, I have secular faith that you can find some linkage. That would make me jealous. Moore was a real American hero.

  • The Captain

    LOL. Damn Hemant, you sure do know when to drop in a zinger sometimes.

  • http://tch3.com C High

    Check out the BGB issues online at the Library of Congress: http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn86069867/issues/

    • Nazani14

       Awesome!  Although I want to read the book of transcripts, it would be very cool to have some facsimile newspapers printed up.  

  • http://twitter.com/TominousTone Thomas Lawson

    I would love for this book to be in every bookstore across the country, but it’s not. With that said, your local independent bookstore can order it for you, if you want to support your local shop and create some buzz. It’s available on-line at all the regulars, of course…Powell’s, B&N, Amazon, Indiebound, etc.

    Thanks for all the great comments.

    • Marco Conti

      Thomas, can you tell us who played the soundtrack in the trailer? Beautiful music. 

      • http://twitter.com/TominousTone Thomas Lawson

        I found that incredibly powerful song on NEO Sounds, which sells one-time fee music, and that is composer Jonathan Geer. He has quite a few tracks that are just soooo hard to pick from!

  • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

    How far back did your family come to the US Hemant?

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Hemant Mehta

      Late 1970s. Not very long!

  • Anonymous

    I need this book in my life.

  • elijna

     Cool,  but not so odd. On my mothers side I am a 5th generation atheist.

  • Satia Renee

    I may have to buy this book for my husband on his birthday.  He’s from Kentucky and I think we’ll both find this one worth perusing.

  • Anonymous

    “It’s amazing that our great-grandparents were fighting the good fight over 100 years ago.”
    Amazing, yes. Also a little depressing.

    • Annie

      “Amazing, yes. Also a little depressing.”

      That was my thought too.

  • Anonymous

    I remember when I first found the Blue Grass Blade by accident. It was inspiring to see atheism take such a public stance so long ago, though a tad disheartening to see that 100 years have passed, and we still have to keep saying the same things and batting away the same old tired rationalizations. 

    It would make my year to find a letter from a family member on here. My fathers side was already in the US and already entirely atheist at that time, so ideologically they fit the bill, even though the chances of them actually being there are vanishingly low.

  • Marco Conti

    The timing of this is perfect. I just found a bunch of kindle books from Col. Ingersoll and others completely free in the Kindle store and I am amazed at the clarity and modernity of Ingersoll writing. This would be a perfect complement.

    Now, I want to know what the song is. Incredibly haunting. I want it.

    • http://twitter.com/TominousTone Thomas Lawson

      The song is called “The Highway” by Jonathan Geer. I got it from NEO Sounds.com. Not sure if you can buy it for personal use, though. Geer’s music has been on various TV shows and Mac and PC games.

      • Marco Conti

        Thanks, I found him. He’s on MySpace and I’ll look for his music for sale.  He seems to be a very eclectic composer. I sampled 3 or 4 songs and they ranged from Chopin like romantic piano to 60′s pop to the one you picked which I would define as quasi-irish?

        Anyway, thanks. I love discovering new music. Hard to do when you have 2x 2TB hard drives only for music.

  • http://gloomcookie613.tumblr.com GloomCookie613

    I see it’s available for kindle, is there any hope that it’ll be available as a nook ebook at any point?  I’ve done away with paper books (like many) and kindle and nook don’t play nice together, but I’d love to read this. :(

    • http://twitter.com/TominousTone Thomas Lawson

      Working on the ePub format right now.

      • http://gloomcookie613.tumblr.com GloomCookie613

        You are made of WIN, sir!  I’ll keep an eye out in the virtual store!  *excited*  Thank you so much for compiling these, by the way.  It’s very awesome of you!  I honestly can’t wait to read it!

  • Kurtkt

    If you are a member of FFR, you can get a daily Freethought of the Day delivered directly to your inbox.  They include many atheists, both modern and past going all the way back to BCE imes.  They also tell of some momentous days/decisions in atheist history, such as the Engel v Vitale case removing state-sponsored prayer from public schools, the Schempp case in Pennsylvania making mandatory Bible reading unconstitutional


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