Freethinkers of note: By Paul Heffron and Jerry Rauser

By Paul Heffron and Jerry Rauser

It was 20 years ago today, Mr. Barker taught the band to play. Yes, it was Dan’s inspiration that help start the Freethought Band almost 20 years ago. We played for the parties, picnics and other atheist-humanist community events in the Twin Cities area of Minnesota.

We used Dan Barker songs, other songs we’d located and sometimes modified, and some we’d written ourselves. To be freethought songs, they had to have a vocal with a freethought message. Fortunately, we had a good vocalist.

We played not only for the social events of Minnesota Atheists and Humanists of Minnesota, which were often joint, but also for the American Atheists national conference when it was in Minneapolis, for Camp Quest Minnesota and for the wedding reception of two local freethinkers. We always performed as volunteers, without compensation. Music clearly added a lot to our local activities.

We eventually made a CD and gave one to each of our fellow freethinkers at our solstice party. We decided not to charge anything for the CD and to make it part of a new project of promoting freethought music. Dan and Annie Laurie Gaylor interviewed Paul on their Freethought Radio program in 2012 when he said he’d send the CD free to listeners who requested it. This was the beginning of sending the CD without charge to people all over North America.

We created a website,, for the project. It has resources for those interested in freethought music. The website for our CD,, makes some of our songs available.

Recently, we did a national survey on the use of music by atheist and humanist groups. Results are posted on the “Articles” page of A significant number of groups answered that they were using or wanted to use music in their meetings. As you would expect of freethinkers, there was a variety of approaches to the use of music.

We also noted the addition of music at most national and regional freethought conferences, the continued production and performance of music by Dan Barker, the coverage of music and musicians in Freethought Today and Freethought of the Day, coverage in other national atheist and humanist magazines, and coverage in some recent freethought books.

The good news is that the new secular movement has acquired a noteworthy musical dimension that seems likely to grow.

Highlights for us were the times when Dan came to the Twin Cities to speak and entertain and play with the Freethought Band. The most recent highlight was hearing Dan play the Steinway grand piano at the new FFRF building open house in October. He invited Paul to play a number, and he chose to play Dave Brubeck’s signature song, “In Your Own Sweet Way” because that’s the way we freethinkers do it.

Freedom From Religion Foundation