First of all: I would like to say to anyone and everyone who is graduating from any type of “school” or with any form of college degree, congratulations you’ve worked hard to get where you are and it is incredible to see you on the verge of beginning the next step in your lives and in your educational careers. This is the semester my girlfriend is graduating from college with her undergraduate degree, and I am incredibly proud of her. Whether you are graduating from elementary school, or on the verge of obtaining your doctorate degree, you have put in an incredible amount of work (I am NOT saying these things are the same or require the same level of energy, I am saying relative to your age, many people who do this have spent entire chunks of their lives in school and/or obtaining an education, and it’s commendable especially because not everyone gets that change), and there are people out there myself included who are proud of you. Education doesn’t start or end in school, but school is a good place to get an education. Never stop learning. And always be happy that we even theoretically have this chance, this chance to further our education.
Second of all: My third year of college has now come to an end. I am now just a year away from graduating myself. And even a year away from graduating, I can feel my world change. Because of the environment I am in I have been granted very real opportunities to further myself, to improve my resume, and to join global groups like Patheos and FreeThought Blogs. Three years ago the University of North Carolina at Greensboro was my dream school. And it still is. Every day I wake up fully aware that coming here, to Greensboro, from Honduras, from Columbus, really was the right choice. This year I realized I wanted to use the voice that I have to make a real difference, and I am doing that. I want to use the place I’ve managed to gain on the Internet to talk about things that other people don’t really want to talk about. Or don’t know how to approach. And I am happy that on Patheos I have that chance. This isn’t a “feels” post. It’s just… it’s hard to believe that this semester is really over. It’s felt like the longest semester I’ve ever had. And it hasn’t been. But at long last, I am now in my senior year of college. It feels good.
So to the body of this post. This post is meant to signal that I am back, and to talk about something I personally find really neat: the history of irreligion. This post is meant to mark the beginning of a series I want to do talking about figures who have relevance to the history of irreligion. One of the first figures I’d like to talk about is George Holyoake. This guy was and is someone who has real significance to global secularism, partially because he coined the term “secular”. I’m sure that at least some English atheists, secularists, and otherwise irreligious people are familiar with him but I know that many free-thinkers from other parts of the world aren’t as aware of him and the work he did.
Holyoake is a really cool dude. He lived from 1817 until 1906 spending his life in various parts of England. He was a journalist and newspaper editor for newspapers including: The Reasoner and The English Leader. Part of the reason why Holyoake is so remarkable to me personally is because he was accused of and convicted for committing blasphemy. Yep, England had blasphemy laws, until 2008. Resources that I found stated that blasphemy was abolished in 2008 with the passing of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008.
He is even responsible for a Baptist by the name of Harriet Law becoming a free-thinker, who would become a respected and well-known speaker during her lifetime who like Holyoake was a passionate socialist. Law was the only woman who was part of the general council of the First International, where she’d meet with people like Marx. Holyoake is an important figure, and in the days and weeks to come I want to talk about him and other figures who helped contribute to the creation of the current state of irreligion/free-thought worldwide. Holyoake might not be a extremely well-known figure, but he could be. And I would like to see more free-thinkers of all stripes talking some time and learning about him and other individuals whose work and words have left a resounding impact on the global community of free-thinkers.
We as free-thinkers and irreligious individuals have a long, remarkable, and rarely discussed history and it makes me sad to know that our history isn’t part of more conversations that we have. I would like to see us as a community not JUST looking to the future, but also to the past. Our history is mysterious and largely unknown to many of us only because we don’t take the time to learn about it. As a writer and a historian I find the past remarkable. And I hope you do too.
In order to truly understand just how far we’ve gotten in terms of making society more accepting of free-thinkers we should go back and look at our history. And in order to do that we must first REMEMBER our history. That’s what I want to do.
I am working on writing pieces about Holyoake and the effect he had on the English Free-Thinking community. I am also working on a piece about a specific Honduran free-thinking group, and I am chatting with Chilean atheists about their groups. Yep Chile is the next place I will be talking about in my series on Latin American atheists, agnostics, and otherwise labeled irreligious/free-thinking people.
If you know of other individuals whose lives had an impact on the free-thinking global community historically, let me know! I want to talk about people from all over the world. I’m really excited to be writing again, and I can’t wait to publish my pieces on the history of the freely-thinking community.