In Salman Rushdie’s 2012 memoir Joseph Anton, largely an account of the years he spent in hiding after the Ayatollah Khomeini sentenced him to death for writing a beautiful and thoughtful work of fiction, Rushdie refers to an interview with one of the twentieth century’s greatest writers:

‘The flame of the Enlightenment is waning,’ a journalist said to Günter Grass. ‘But,’ he replied, ‘there is no other source of light.’

I am proud and humbled to take up the mantle of Freethinker editor; this magazine has a long and noble history of guarding our only source of light. Emma Park, my predecessor, relaunched the Freethinker in 2022 and it has risen to new heights under her editorship. The flame of the Enlightenment burns a little brighter for her astounding efforts. Her tenure will be a hard one to follow, but I shall do my best.

Not much will change as I endeavour to live up to Emma. Perhaps, in time, there will be some expansion and some new features. But the ethos of the Freethinker remains what it always has been: to champion freethought in a world that seriously needs it. Emma’s own editorial letter from March 2022 can be found below since its expression of this ethos can hardly be bettered. (And Emma’s delightful Porcus Sapiens logo is here to stay.)

Pitches and submissions are welcome; please see the Contact/Submit page for more details. I want to keep up the tradition of the Freethinker as a space where different perspectives can be aired and arguments can be had, so if you disagree with any article and think you can write a quality rejoinder, feel free to submit. We have no party line.

This seems an appropriate moment to ask for your support. The Freethinker needs readers to back us so that we can continue long into the future. Please see the Donate/Support page to find out how you can help to keep us thriving.

Before I sign off, a line from Rushdie’s beautiful and thoughtful work of fiction, The Satanic Verses, recurs to me. In that book, a character named Baal says that ‘A poet’s work is to name the unnameable, to point at frauds, to take sides, start arguments, shape the world and stop it from going to sleep.’ This, I feel, nicely captures the spirit that has motivated the many writers who have contributed to the Freethinker since 1881. Long may that spirit continue to inspire and provoke.

image drawn by paul Fitzgerald (polyp).

Daniel James Sharp

The Editor

1 April 2024

An atheist, so the saying goes, is someone with no invisible means of support. The Freethinker intends to publish informative, entertaining and provocative articles, unsustained by divine guidance, for readers of an open-minded, broadly non-religious disposition: atheist, agnostic, humanist, secularist, sceptic, freethinker, and the like.

Our main sections will be: Philosophy & Religion; Politics & Law; History; Art & Science; Faith Watch; You’d Better Believe It; Interviews; and Reviews. We will usually publish cartoons, archive clippings or other images on Monday, and articles on Wednesday and Saturday. 

We aim to foster a shared culture of open enquiry, liberating doubt, and irreverence. For a modest subscription fee, readers will be able to comment on articles and to post notices of local atheist etc. events on the Freethinker Events page, which will be visible to all. In due course, we hope to include further benefits for subscribers.

The magazine is published independently by G. W. Foote & Co., a company established in 1916 in memory of our founding editor. Publication is made possible through readers’ subscriptions and donations, with help from the Secular Society Ltd., a company which aims to promote freethought.

In 1881, George William Foote set out to ‘wage relentless war against superstition in general, and against Christian superstition in particular.’ These days, the superstitious attitude, deference to received opinions, and an assumption of infallibility, can appear in many different guises – theological, cultural, moral, political, nationalistic, scientific, technological or corporate. But the same principle applies: that no idea should be above criticism, or laughter.

In 2022, the culture of the Freethinker will be neither conservative nor progressive, neither ‘fascist’ nor ‘woke’, but liberal, in the ancient sense of being individually free, untrammelled by a dogmatic or doctrinaire view of the world, or by linguistic self-censorship. Our guiding principles are liberty, reason, and humanity; we view the individual as an end, not a means.

Politically, the magazine will continue its tradition of being unaligned. Indeed, one of the advantages of being a freethinker is that you are not obliged to identify with a particular ideology, about which reasonable people may disagree. We welcome contributors with a variety of points of view.

We are based in the UK, but hope to appeal to readers of any country who sympathise with our approach.

Speaking freely, like speaking a language, is an acquired skill: use it or lose it. And, if possible, use it well, that free thought may flourish.


Emma Park
The Editor

5 March 2022