Also known as
Freethought "Coming Out" Day
annually on October 12th
School & Education
Observed by freethinkers, secularists, humanists, and atheists, Freethought Day is celebrated on October 12th, the date that the Salem Witch Trials are considered to have ended. It was on that date in 1692 that William Phips, Governor of the Province of Massachusetts Bay, wrote to the Privy Council of William and Mary, the British monarchs, saying that the trials had lost credibility, in part because of their reliance on spectral evidence. The accusers had said they had seen devils and other apparitions working in collusion with the accused, and Phips decided this type of evidence was a valid reason for the trials to be put to a stop. By this time, over 20 people, mainly women, had been executed for "witchcraft," and 52 executions were pending. By putting a stop to the executions, reason and logic won out over superstition. Eventually, the trials resumed, and some spectral evidence was allowed, but Phips usually didn't accept it, and in the end, he exonerated the rest of those who were convicted.
Freethought Day takes place during Freethought Week and the Month of Freethought. By 1997, the day and week had been declared by a number of cities and states. One of their goals is to show the general public that atheists aren't different from others when it comes to community involvement and being family-friendly. Sacramento has held a Freethought Day on or near October 12th since 2002. Known as California Freethought Day, it is outdoors and open to the public, has entertainment and speakers, and is funded by a dinner and reception. Just like the larger Freethought Day, it celebrates the separation of church and state, the First Amendment, science, reason, and progress.
How to Observe Freethought Day
Some ways you could take part include:
- Read a book that explores freethought.
- Watch a film that has an atheism-related theme.
- Attend California Freethought Day.
- Check to see if any Freethought Day events are being held in your community, or organize your own Freethought Day event.
- Read a book about the Salem Witch Trials.