On January 29, we celebrate the birthday of Thomas Paine. Most noted for scribing works encouraging freedom of thought and individuality, he is one of the most influential individuals in American history. Since the 1990s, this day has been dubbed Freethinkers Day.
Freethinkers Day plants seeds for self-discovery as you embrace the right to question, and the boldness to follow, your own beliefs. In a nation where blindly following the herd is so prevalent, exercising the freedom to think freely is worth celebrating. You will not be assimilated, and resistance is not futile.
Thomas Paine was a political activist. He authored two pamphlets, “Common Sense” and “The American Crisis,” that inspired Americans to declare their nation’s independence from Great Britain and encouraged the American Revolution. He later wrote “The Age of Reason”, urging readers to think and reason for themselves and to question the imposed doctrines of others.
On Freethinkers Day, give thanks to Paine for his inspirational role in ridding our nation of powdered wigs, red coats and kidney-pie breakfasts. More importantly, give thanks for your right to question without consequence. Pay homage by reading Paine’s works.
To celebrate, there are two paths you can follow, and your newfound propensity for freethinking empowers you to choose.
You can spend the day reflecting on social mores and topics of debate, formulating your own opinions about them. Play devil’s advocate and ponder why you do the things you do or like the things you claim to like. Are your choices, behaviors and beliefs your own, or do you blindly follow the sheep? Alternately, you can invite a few friends over and nudge everyone into a healthy debate that will encourage freethinking around the table.
Some say Paine was a troublemaker who rocked the boat. Today, we’re so easily led, we follow the crowd and pander to power because we don’t want to be perceived as rockers of the boat. This kind of intellectual oblivion leads us into trouble. It gives “powerful leaders” license to influence and control.
Let us use Freethinkers Day as an opportunity to question everything, think for ourselves, and formulate beliefs that will define us as the individuals we were born to be.