By James Haught
James Haught is editor of West Virginia’s largest newspaper, The Charleston Gazette, and a senior editor of Free Inquiry. He is 87-years-old and would like to help secular causes more. This series is a way of giving back.
(Mar. 30, 2020 – Daylight Atheism)
This is the seventh segment of a series on renowned skeptics throughout history. These profiles are drawn from 2000 Years of Disbelief: Famous People With the Courage to Doubt, Prometheus Books, 1996.
Ethan Allen, a reckless hero of the American Revolution, was just as reckless in attacking Christianity, which he called “superstition” in an unruly book.
A New England resident, Allen actually rebelled before the Revolution. A 1770 dispute over land grants threatened settlers with loss of their farms. They raised a defense regiment called the Green Mountain Boys, with Allen its colonel. The British governor of New York declared him an outlaw and put a price on his head. The settlers held the governor’s forces at bay.
When the Revolution broke out, the Green Mountain Boys joined the action and overwhelmed the British garrison at Fort Ticonderoga. Then Allen made a foolhardy attempt to capture Montreal, but was captured himself and sent to England as a prisoner. Later, he was released.
Allen was a freethinker. At his wedding, the ritual required him to pledge “to live with Fanny Buchanan agreeable to the laws of God.” Allen halted the ceremony in protest. Only after it was specified that his pledge meant the god of nature, as envisioned by Deists, did he proceed.
Before the war, Allen had worked with a fellow skeptic, Dr. Thomas Young, in drafting a book. But Young died, leaving the work unfinished. After the war, Allen revised the manuscript and published it under his name alone as Reason, the Only Oracle of Man. It was a scathing assault on Calvinist Christianity. The clergy seethed in anger. One minister published a verse rebuke:
“Behold, inspired from Vermont dens,
The seer of Antichrist descends
To feed new mobs with hell-born manna
In gentle lands of Susquehanna.”
When on his deathbed Allen was told by a minister, “General, I fear the angels are waiting for you,” the old soldier replied: “Waiting, are they? Waiting, are they? Well, goddam ’em, let ’em wait.”
Allen’s comments on religion:
“I have generally been denominated a Deist, the reality of which I have never disputed, being conscious that I am no Christian, except mere infant baptism makes me one; and as to being a Deist, I know not, strictly speaking, whether I am one or not.” – Reason, the Only Oracle of Man, 1784, preface
“…The doctrine of the Trinity is destitute of foundation, and tends manifestly to superstition and idolatry.” – ibid., p. 124
“That Jesus Christ was not a god is evident from his own words, where, speaking on the day of judgment, he says, ‘Of that day and hour, knoweth no man, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the son.’ This is giving up all pretension to divinity, acknowledging in the most explicit manner that he did not know all things.” – ibid., p. 125
“There is not any thing, which has contributed so much to delude mankind in religious matters, as mistaken apprehension concerning supernatural inspiration or revelation.” – ibid., p. 200
“In those parts of the world where learning and science has prevailed, miracles have ceased; but in those parts of it as are barbarous and ignorant, miracles are still in vogue.” – ibid., p. 265
“They are blind with respect to their own superstition, yet they can perceive and despise it in others. Protestants very readily discern and expose the weak side of popery, and papists are as ready and acute in discovering the errors of heretics.” – ibid., p. 337
Footnote: Abraham Lincoln reportedly told a story about Allen’s stay in England. The American visited the home of a Briton who scornfully kept a painting of George Washington in his water closet. The host asked Allen what he thought of the gesture. Allen replied that it was quite appropriate, because “nothing could make an Englishman shit like the sight of George Washington.”
Scott Douglas Jacobsen is the Founder of In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal and In-Sight Publishing. He authored/co-authored some e-books, free or low-cost. If you want to contact Scott: Scott.D.Jacobsen@Gmail.com.
*Associates and resources listing last updated May 31, 2020.*
Canadian Atheist Associates: Godless Mom, Nice Mangoes, Sandwalk, Brainstorm Podcast, Left at the Valley, Life, the Universe & Everything Else, The Reality Check, Bad Science Watch, British Columbia Humanist Association, Dying With Dignity Canada, Canadian Secular Alliance, Centre for Inquiry Canada, Kelowna Atheists, Skeptics, and Humanists Association.
Other National/Local Resources: Association humaniste du Québec, Atheist Freethinkers, Central Ontario Humanist Association, Comox Valley Humanists, Grey Bruce Humanists, Halton-Peel Humanist Community, Hamilton Humanists, Humanist Association of London, Humanist Association of Ottawa, Humanist Association of Toronto, Humanists, Atheists and Agnostics of Manitoba, Ontario Humanist Society, Secular Connextions Seculaire, Secular Humanists in Calgary, Society of Free Thinkers (Kitchener-Waterloo/Cambridge/Guelph), Thunder Bay Humanists, Toronto Oasis, Victoria Secular Humanist Association.
Other International/Outside Canada Resources: Allianz vun Humanisten, Atheisten an Agnostiker, American Atheists, American Humanist Association, Associação Brasileira de Ateus e AgnósticoséééBrazilian Association of Atheists and Agnostics, Atheist Alliance International, Atheist Alliance of America, Atheist Centre, Atheist Foundation of Australia, The Brights Movement, Center for Inquiry (including Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science), Atheist Ireland, Camp Quest, Inc., Council for Secular Humanism, De Vrije Gedachte, European Humanist Federation, Federation of Indian Rationalist Associations, Foundation Beyond Belief, Freedom From Religion Foundation, Humanist Association of Ireland, Humanist International, Humanist Association of Germany, Humanist Association of Ireland, Humanist Society of Scotland, Humanists UK, Humanisterna/Humanists Sweden, Internet Infidels, International League of Non-Religious and Atheists, James Randi Educational Foundation, League of Militant Atheists, Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers, National Secular Society, Rationalist International, Recovering From Religion, Religion News Service, Secular Coalition for America, Secular Student Alliance, The Clergy Project, The Rational Response Squad, The Satanic Temple, The Sunday Assembly, United Coalition of Reason, Union of Rationalist Atheists and Agnostics.
About Canadian Atheist
Canadian Atheist is an independent blog with multiple contributors providing articles of interest to Canadian atheists, secularists, humanists, and freethinkers.
Canadian Atheist is not an organization – there is no membership and nothing to join – and we offer no professional services or products. It is a privately-owned publishing platform shared with our contributors, with a focus on topics relevant to Canadian atheists.
Canadian Atheist is not affiliated with any other organization or group. While our contributors may be individually be members of other organizations or groups, and may even speak in an official capacity for them, CA itself is independent.
For more information about Canadian Atheist, or to contact us for any other reason, see our contact page.
About Canadian Atheist Contributors
Canadian Atheist contributors are volunteers who provide content for CA. They receive no payment for their contributions from CA, though they may be sponsored by other means.
Our contributors are people who have both a passion for issues of interest to Canadian atheists, secularists, humanists, and freethinkers, and a demonstrated ability to communicate content and ideas of interest on those topics to our readers. Some are members of Canadian secularist, humanist, atheist, or freethought organizations, either at the national, provincial, regional, or local level. They come from all walks of life, and offer a diversity of perspectives and presentation styles.
CA merely provides our contributors with a platform with almost complete editorial freedom. Their opinions are their own, expressed as they see fit; they do not speak for Canadian Atheist, and Canadian Atheist does not speak for them.
For more information about Canadian Atheist’s contribors, or to get in contact with any of them, or if you are interested in becoming a contributor, see our contact page.
Image Credit: James Haught.