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Freethought Across the Centuries

Toward a New Age of Enlightenment

by Gerald A. Larue, Distinguished Author and Educator



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Throughout human history there have been those who by challenging accepted concepts have inaugurated new investigations into beliefs, life patterns and the human understanding of the self. In some periods, challengers were recognized and honored as innovators; more often they were persecuted, imprisoned and put to death. Nevertheless, so important was the critical and innovative thinking they introduced that their ideas grew and expanded after their death bringing changes in human understanding of the cosmos and of the place of humans within the vastness of the universe. New evidence and critical evaluations of documents and systems of government that were commonly assumed to be divinely given or endorsed brought about the changes that were ultimately to lead to a free, democratic society.

In this book, Larue provides an overview of the ways in which inquiring human minds have challenged notions accepted as facts-that-were-not-to-be-questioned. He urges students, educators, parents, and society in general to become involved in critical thinking, to not hesitate to indulge in independent reasoning, and to keep open the doors of free inquiry. Larue stresses that critical and evaluative processes have not ceased and insists that they not be stifled, for they provide the basis for a new age of enlightenment for the 21st century.

Gerald A. Larue is an Emeritus Professor of Biblical History and Archaeology and an Adjunct Professor of Gerontology at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California. He is a world traveler and has lectured widely in the United States, Canada, Europe, Asia and Australia. The American Humanist Association honored him as Humanist of the Year in 1989. He is a Humanist Laureate and a member of the prestigious international Academy of Humanism (Academie D’Humanisme) established in 1983—a date which marked the 500th anniversary of the Inquisition and the 350th anniversary of the trial of Galileo. He lives in Huntington Beach, California.

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Steve Allen

The average American has almost no conception of the debt owed to freethinkers of the past 200 years of American history, not to mention those Europeans who distinguished themselves for their courage and clarity of thought.

Once the specific evidence is brought to our attention we can, with the gift of hindsight, perceive the importance of those thinkers who moved bravely against the current of their time. In those times, sad to say, they often paid dearly for taking advantage of that freedom of thought and expression that are so honored by the rest of us, at least as abstractions.

Gerald Larue has produced a volume that can enlighten everyone, believers as well as non-believers.

Prof. Joseph E. Barnhart, Department of Philosophy, North Texas State University

Dr. Gerald Larue’s book, Freethought Across the Centuries, is an adventure epic of human mortals struggling to increase their liberty, including the freedom to think creatively and critically. It is also the account of tyrants and others whose fear of freedom of thought led them to employ violent tactics of repression.

In fascinating chapters, Larue demonstrates that many cultural streams around the world have fed into the vast river of freethought. As an author, he belongs to the noble tradition of humanists who find human heroism behind views and traditions sharply different from their own.

His book shows in detail how we as a species have struggled to solve problems and to make sense of the universe that gave us birth. Upon reading the closing chapter, we cannot help feeling deeper kinship with fellow humans who lived before us.

Larue helps us understand that ours is the responsibility of conserving, generously transmitting, and perhaps rectifying the vast heritage into which we have all in various ways been immersed and by which we have been made into a fearsome and wondrous species.

Lena Ksargian, University of Chicago

In Freethought Across the Centuries, Gerald Larue knocks religion off its pedestal and places it squarely into the arena of inquiry. Larue presents rational skeptics throughout history who questioned and criticized religious dogma and who often died because they questioned.

The book reminds us that, if we fail to question religion as we question all other fields of human knowledge, then we risk forfeiting the sacred balance between church and state.

I urge educators in all disciplines to read Prof. Larue’s book, and to bring its resources into their classrooms.

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Table of Contents

Preface ix

Chapter 1. Concerning Freethought 1

Looking Backwards 3

Freethought: An Expanded Definition 5

Freethought Movements 10

Chapter 2. On Teaching About Religion 11

Separation of Church and State 11

What is "Religion"? 17

Who are the Nonreligious? 21

Chapter 3. In the Beginning 34

Cave Paintings and Sculptures 36

Towns and Cities 39

Chapter 4. The Birth of the Gods 42

The Gods of Babylon 43

The Gods of Egypt 46

Polytheism, Monolatry, Monotheism. 50

Chapter 5. Mesopotamia 51

Temple Beginnings 52

The Beginning of Writing 53

The Sumerians 53

From Democracy to Monarchy 55

The Flood Story 58

The Development of Law Codes 61

The Semites 62

The Law and Humankind 65

Assyria 68

The Neo-Babylonian Period 69

The Persians 73

The Religion of Zoroaster 74

The Greeks 76

Chapter 6. Egypt 79

United Egypt: A Brief Overview 81

Egyptian Cosmological Myths 85

Memphite Cosmology 86

Heliopolitan Cosmology 87

Hermopolitan Cosmology 89

Theban Cosmology 90

The Cosmology of Elephantine and Philae 91

The Cult of the Dead 91

Ancient Egyptian Wise Men and Skeptics 97

Chapter 7. Israel and Judaism 102

The Sea People 103

The Canaanites 104

The Hebrews 105

Judaism 110

Zoroastrianism 111

The Sects of Judaism 112

Ancient Jewish Skeptics 114

Ancient Humanistic Concerns 123

The Formation of the Jewish Canon 124

Critical Inquiry 126

Ethical Culture 130

The Death of God Movement in Judaism 131

Humanistic Judaism 132

Some Jewish Freethinkers 133

Chapter 8. Greece 138

Ancient Greece 138

The Minoans 139

The Mycenaeans 141

The Dorians 142

The Homeric Epics 143

The Gods of Ancient Greece 145

The Mystery Religions 146

The Persian Invasion 151

Greek Democracy 152

The Philosophers, Pericles, and Freethought 156

The Ionians and the Beginnings of Philosophy 158

The Pythagoreans 161

The Atomists 162

Socrates 162

The Sophists 164

The Cynics 165

The Skeptics 166

The Epicureans 167

The Stoics 168

The End of Greek Freethought 168

Chapter 9. Rome 172

Rome: the Fiction 172

History and the Origins of Rome 173

The Growth of Rome 175

Roman Gods 178

Philosophy in Rome 182

Confrontation With Judaism and Christianity 187

Chapter 10. Christianity 193

Christianity and the Mystery Religions 194

Christianity and Judaism 195

Dissension in the early Church 196

The Growth of the Church 196

Christianity and Rome 197

Divisions Within the Early Church 198

Christianity: the New "Mystery" Religion 199

Christianity Confronts Mithraism 200

Christianity and Neo-Platonism 202

Christianity Confronts Manichaeism 202

Early Christian Writings 203

Eastern versus Western Christianity .204

The Persecution of Witches 205

Christian "Orders" 205

Development of the Christian Church (chart) 206

Forerunners of the Reformation 207

The Reformation 209

Biblical Translations and Biblical Criticism 211

Source and Translations of the Bible (chart) 212

Folklore, Comparative Religion and the Bible 218

Science and the Bible 218

Archaeology and the Bible 220

Demythologizing the New Testament 222

Theistic Humanism 223

The Death of God 225

The Unitarian Universalists 228

The New Christian Secularists 229

Chapter 11. Islam 233

Beginnings 233

Divisions in Islam 241

The Kharijites 242

The Sunnis 242

The Shi’ites 242

The Mutaziites 243

The Baha’is 244

Muslim Skeptics and Freethinkers 245

Contemporary Islamic Issues 252

Chapter 12. Africa 264

Geography and Life in West Africa 266

The Twa 270

The San 271

The Kingdoms of Northeast Africa 273

Punt 273

Nubia 274

Ethiopia 276

Libya 278

Other African Empires 279

African Religion 279

The Loss of Freedom 285

Santaria 287

Freethought in Africa 288

Chapter 13. India 291

The Coming of the Aryans 292

Hinduism 293

Jainism 296

Buddhism 298

The Growth of Buddhism 303

Judaism 305

Christianity 306

Zoroastrianism 308

Islam 309

Sikhism 309

Freethought 311

Chapter 14. China 321

Beginnings 321

Confucianism 324

Taoism 331

The Mohists 332

Buddhism 333

Christianity 334

Materialistic Communism 335

Chapter 15. Japan: Land of the Rising Sun 337

Myths of Beginnings 337

Beginnings 339

Buddhism 340

Shinto 343

Christianity 345

Post-World-War II Japan 345

Skepticism in Japan 349

Chapter 16. Americans Before Columbus 352

Myths of Beginnings 352

Beginnings: The Coming of the First Americans 354

The First North Americans 357

The First Meso-Americans 363

The Olmecs 364

The Mayans 365

The Toltecs 368

The Aztecs 369

The First South Americans 371

Before Columbus: The Asiatic Connection 374

Before Columbus The European Connection 376

Chapter 17. Europe "Discovers" America 379

The Conquest of "New Spain" 379

The Situation in Spain 382

The Coming of Cortes 383

After Cortes 384

Chapter 18. The Conquest of North America 392

Indian Life 392

The Coming of the Europeans 395

The Puritans 399

The Continuing Struggle 400

The American Colonies Discover "Democracy" 402

Chapter 19. The European Heritage 405

The Renaissance 406

The Protestant Reformation 408

The Enlightenment 412

Chapter 20. Freethought Expands Freedoms 422

Freedom for Women 422

Freedom for the Indians 428

Freedom for the Slaves 432

Religious Freedom in America 439

Chapter 21. Freethought in America 443

Some Pioneering Freethinkers 443

Modem Education, Freethought and Religion 451

Psychology, Freethought and Religion 451

The Sciences and Freethought 455

Modem Biblical Research and Freethought 460

Biblical Creationism, Freethought and Modem Science 463

Geology, Freethought and the Bible 468

Astronomy, Freethought and the Bible 469

Anthropology, Freethought and the Bible 471

Poets, Writers, Singers and Freethought 472

Chapter 22: Conclusion 482

Appendix: Freethought Organizations and Literature 486

Index: 491

Purchase Information

Freethought Across the Centuries is published by the Humanist Press.  You can purchase this 516-page book for $19.95 from Amazon Books.  Click this link and search books for Gerald Larue.



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