We celebrate the birthday of Thomas Paine on January 29. Most noted for scribing works that encouraged 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.
Thomas Paine was a fierce political activist who authored two pamphlets, “Common Sense” and “The American Crisis”. His words 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.
Some say Paine was a troublemaker who rocked the boat. Today, we are 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 by giving ‘powerful leaders’ license to influence and control.
Freethinkers Day plants seeds for self-discovery as you embrace the right to question, and the boldness to follow, your own beliefs. In this country, where blindly following the herd is so prevalent, exercising freedom to think freely is worth celebrating. You will not be assimilated and resistance is not futile.
We are given an opportunity to reflect on topics of debate and form our own opinions. We should ponder why we do the things we do or like the things we claim to like. Are our behaviors and beliefs our own, or do we blindly follow the sheep?
Let us give thanks to Paine for his inspirational role in ridding our nation of powdered wigs and red coats. Give thanks for your right to question without consequence. Use this day to question everything, think for ourselves, and formulate beliefs that define us as the individuals we were born to be.