Freethought of the Day

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There are 1 entries for this date: Viscount Bolingbroke
Viscount Bolingbroke

Viscount Bolingbroke

On this date in 1678, Henry St. John, who later became Viscount Bolingbroke, was born near Battersea, England. Brought up by grandparents when his mother died soon after his birth, he was educated at Eton and Oxford. St. John became a prominent Tory in Parliament, where he was first elected in 1701. He served as Secretary of War from 1704-08 and from 1710 -14 was Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, negotiating the Treaty of Utrecht.

He became a favorite counselor of Queen Anne, was named Viscount Bolingbroke in 1712 and entered the House of Lords. Bolingbroke was forced to flee to France after being impeached for high treason by King George I in 1715. A witty deist who criticized the bible, he dismissed the idea of an anthropomorphic god, rejected prayer and miracles, doubted the existence of a soul or immortality, argued against divine morality and wrote that Platonism had corrupted Christianity.

In 1725 Bolingbroke was permitted to return to England and claim his property but was never reseated in Parliament. His Tory-sympathizing circle of friends included Swift. Pope and Voltaire visited him in England. "The Idea of a Patriot King" was Bolingbroke's most significant political contribution. His irreligious views, which influenced friends such as Voltaire, were only published posthumously and created a sensation. D. 1751.

"Let us observe with the celebrated Lord Bolingbroke, that 'theology is the box of Pandora; and if it is impossible to shut it, it is at least useful to inform men, that this fatal box is open.' "

—German-French atheist Baron d'Holbach, quoting Bolingbroke in d'Holbach's 1772 work "Le Bon Sens" (Common Sense)

Annie Laurie Gaylor and Bill Dunn

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