Chapman Cohen

On this date in 1868, British freethought advocate Chapman Cohen was born. At the age of 21, he began a 50-year career as a popular and concise freethought writer and lecturer. When G.W. Foote died in 1915, Cohen succeeded him as president of the National Secular Society, and editor of its publication, The Freethinker. Cohen was an efficient manager who brought security to the National Secular Society. Cohen married happily and had a daughter, who died at age 29, and a son, who became a physician. He gave up the NSS presidency in 1949, and handed The Freethinker over to F.A. Ridley in 1951. Cohen is considered the "last great Victorian freethinker" (Victor E. Neuburg, The Encyclopedia of Unbelief). Cohen wrote many articles and pamphlets, as well as Almost an Autobiography (1940). D. 1954.

"Human society is born in the shadow of religious fear, and in that stage the suppression of heresy is a sacred social duty. Then comes the rise of a priesthood, and the independent thinker is met with punishment in this world and the threat of eternal damnation hereafter. Even today it is from the religious side that the greatest danger to freedom of thought comes. Religion is the last thing man will civilize."

—Chapman Cohen, The Meaning and Value of Freethought, 1932

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor

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