Freethinkers by Susan Jacoby

Freethinkers- A History of American Secularism

Freethinkers is a book that explores the history of secularism in America. The author, Susan Jacoby, takes readers on a journey through the nineteenth-century abolitionism and suffragism movements to the twentieth century’s civil liberties, civil rights, and feminist movements.

The book highlights the achievements of secularists who have fought for reform in the past and present, often working alongside tolerant believers.

The main themes of the book include the importance of secularism in American history, the battle for separation of church and state, and the contributions of freethinkers to social movements and civil rights. Jacoby also discusses the Comstock Laws, censorship, and the marginalization of secularist figures like Thomas Paine.

Useful takeaways from the book include:

  • The rich heritage of diverse viewpoints, ideologies, and beliefs in America’s history
  • The importance of free speech and literature in society
  • The need for continued advocacy for separation of church and state
  • The contributions of secularists to social movements and civil rights
  • The value of understanding and appreciating America’s secularist heritage.

What I Liked

Very readable and engaging. I like how the book goes back to the very beginning of America – to Thomas Paine – and traces the line of thinking to the present.

What I Did Not Like

I think the book definitely shifts a few thinkers around to fit them into the book’s chronology.

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