Atheist History: Learn Some, Teach Some!

Posted on April 18, 2021


Good Sunday Morning, Freethinkers!

Today I’m thinking about history. Think with me.

How many positive stories about atheists in history did you hear growing up?

How many freethinkers’ stories do you know?

Now compare and contrast: How many positive stories about Christians in history did you hear growing up?

How many Christian stories do you know?

What do you think about the way our history has been portrayed in your lifetime?

I find it troubling that atheists are erased from history on the one hand, and demonized on the other. I love to learn atheist history. I remember how, before LGBTQ folks had legal rights, one had to “be family” to know who was LGBTQ in popular culture. I remember countless conversations that started with, “Did you know that (insert name here) is LGBTQ?” As a teacher of high school literature, I would tell students which writers were LGBTQ, but only straight writers had facts about their husbands, wives, and partners in the biographical portraits in the textbook.

Likewise, the history of atheists is hidden from us, and we have been denied knowledge of the rich human history of freethinking, atheism, and skepticism. For this reason, I am obsessed with learning and sharing our history. I seek to learn more every day, and I encourage others to learn it and teach it.

One day the Youtube algorithm suggested How to Be An Atheist in Medieval Europe, a series of delightfully fascinating and informative lectures on atheist history by Professor Alec Ryrie, Gresham College Professor of Divinity.

Ryrie’s speech inspired me to draw comics to remember some of the amazing religious rebels he introduces.

I really enjoy learning about our Freethinker history and look forward to watching Ryrie’s entire series–and many other videos that will allow me to learn our hidden history.

What are your favorite sources of atheist history? Who are your atheist heroes and sheroes? I invite you to learn and share our history with pride. Our lack of superstition and unfounded belief is not a crime, a personal failing, or anything to be ashamed of, no matter what Christians say to try to silence and erase us. It’s time to push for inclusion of our voices, our history, and our right to exist in the United States. Atheists and freethinkers have a long history of positive contributions in all fields, including religion. Let’s know it and share it!

For today’s inspiring song, I’ve chosen the poem, “Democracy,” by poet, Langston Hughes. As a bi-racial, gay author, he often wrote about the fight for full citizenship in the USA. I hope that one day, we will truly be a democratic nation, with one person/one vote, where everyone is accepted as fully human, just because they’re alive.

I wish you peace, strength, and joy on the journey.

Be well, friend. Thanks for reading. Have a good week!

lisa eddy is an atheist writer and editor for-hire, researcher, educator-for-hire, youth advocate, musician, and gardener.

On Twitter: @lisa_eddy
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