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By: Mohd Sadaq and Zehra Farhat Zargar

National FREETHOUGHT DAY which is celebrated on Oct 12th each year encourage people to be free thinkers and promote free thinking which is based on fact, science, logic and reason. The day promote logic and evidence-based decision making and our history tell us that those who did not follow the set patterns and instead created their own path by independent thinking were initially met with heavy criticism, subject to castigation and even killed just because they didn’t think like others. But eventually world wakes up to appreciate and acknowledge the spirit of free thinking!

While the technological age has come to appreciate such a spirit of free thought largely, there are however traditions and trends that still demonize free thinking and resist creativity and innovation to a large extent. We have seen people being exiled for speaking differently and challenging the set norms.

The irony is that though it has taken so long for people to celebrate and raise awareness for something that comes under basic human rights, independent thought remain a questionable trait. Anyone who thinks differently than the masses is considered either mad or offensive to this day. Be it politics, education, sciences or whatever those who have had revolutionary thoughts are often targeted and silenced.

Several groups since at least 1997 have promoted Freethought Day. Organizations such as the Freethought Society, American Humanist Association, and Secular Coalition For America are just a few.

The organizers selected the date of October 12th due to a series of events dating back to the Salem Witch Trials in 1692. Throughout the trials, questionable evidence and accusers’ claims of witnessing devils and specters caused the case to halted. Eventually, the hysteria surrounding the case and a letter written by the Massachusetts Governor William Phips on October 12th declared “spectral evidence” inadmissible in court. Up until that point, at least 20 accused had already been executed. The governor’s letter saved hundreds of lives. At some point, the trials did resume and “spectral evidence” was allowed but largely discounted and those convicted were swiftly pardoned by Phips.

Therefore, ever since 1997, the celebration for free thought were started by several organizations that create awareness regarding the historical significance of free thinking and stress upon the need to creating breakthroughs in any given circumstances. These organizations uphold the importance of free thinking and believe that the world could be made better by way of promoting free thinking and therefore creating more and more innovative means of conducting life.

The world is witness to the fact that if the global dynamics have been altered by people, it has always been due to free thinking minds- those who were the path breakers and who resisted the status quo and went on to create something new, something better. It is essential to note that all the great ideas, innovations, discoveries as well as theories have emerged from people who defied the status quo and struggled to prove their ideas. They eventually succeeded in doing so that that is why we have iconic people like Al Baruni,  Edison, Einstein, Marx, Ghalib etc.

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