The Freethinker magazine was launched in Britain in 1881 and has continued publishing without a break ever since.
As a result mainly of irreligious cartoons published in the Christmas, 1882, edition, the courts declared the issue “blasphemous” and its founder and first editor G.W. Foote was sentenced to 12 months’ imprisonment with hard labour.
The magazine, under caretaker editor Edward E Aveling, kept rolling off the presses, to the chagrin of the Home Office and the police, and to the delight of a growing number of readers who could hardly believe that any magazine in respectable, Victorian England, would dare attack religion in such an aggressive manner.
“relentless war” against religious superstition
In issue 1 of the Freethinker (May, 1881) Foote wrote:
The Freethinker is an anti-Christian organ, and must therefore be chiefly aggressive. It will wage relentless war against Superstition in general, and against Christian Superstition in particular. It will do its best to employ the resources of Science, Scholarship, Philosophy and Ethics against the claims of the Bible as a Divine Revelation; and it will not scruple to employ for the same purpose any weapons of ridicule or sarcasm that may be borrowed from the armoury of Common Sense.
Ever since, the Freethinker has remained faithful to Foote’s founding principles, and has never wavered in its opposition to religion.
Over the years the magazine has vigorously campaigned against all forms of censorship, and pushed hard for the abolition of the law of blasphemy.
The magazine provides in-depth articles, reviews and lively commentary from a rationalist viewpoint. It played a key role in pioneering the birth control movement, and has vigorously campaigned – and still campaigns – alongside the closely-associated National Secular Society, on a wide range of important issues.