The “new atheist” said with a smile
“Yes, I’m godless–you’ll get no denial–
But freethought sure looks
If you judge from the books
Like the “new” has been old for some while!”
So… I have a soft spot for old editorial cartoons. The cross-hatching, the labeling, the speech balloons–they are art. And I was looking through some old Watson Heston cartoons, and found (maybe you already knew) that his books (collecting decades of his freethought cartoons) were available, for free, online. Volumes one and two of the Freethinker’s Pictorial, and separate old and new testament illustrated stories.
And it astonishes me to see the similarities between these books, first published in the 1890s, and our current FtB output. Chaplains, for instance, were getting paid ten times what privates were in the army, while contributing (from Heston’s perspective) nothing but an opportunity to gain money and followers. Schools were under attack by those who would have the bible, and not evolution, in the classroom. Women were particularly ill-treated by the church. Slavery was a very recent memory, and the role of the church in the slave trade, and in subsequent bigotry, was clear. The various denominations (especially the papist/protestant split) were never united except when opposed to freethought and reason, and then only as war’s strange bedfellows. In particular, the Freethinker’s Pictorial books are a delightful, frustrating, look at where we have been… and where we still are.
But wait, there’s more!
Turns out the website that offers these (Bank of Wisdom) also has a collection of some 141 different books (all free, near as I can tell), scans of old atheist and freethinking tomes that represent part of our history. Some are beautifully written, some are classics, some are hard-to-find gems… and all are right here. (I note that they do accept donations.)