There is a great deal of zealotry on the loose in this country, which would be a good thing if only the zealots on the loose were zealous about the right things. But, what animates most of the ordinary American zealots are the tax cuts, fear of big government and the slogan-based patriotism of the Tea Party-Sarah Palin-Rush Limbaugh-Michele Bachman Right-Wing extremists. The masses are thus zealots with fascist impulses seeking to impose fundamentalist Christian values, laws, restrictions and beliefs on society. There is a great need, therefore, for undercover freethinkers to volunteer for the cause of a 21st century Enlightenment. Freethinkers who have allowed neighbors, family, friends and business associates to assume they are god-fearing, miracle-believing, going-to-heaven someday believers, should consider disabusing people who believe such things about them. How? By coming out in support of a counter-movement already underway, one that offers rational if polite zealotry in the cause of reason and free expression.
Blom devotes much attention to the promotion of reason and free expression credited to Spinoza, Hume, Voltaire, Rousseau, Diderot, Jean d'Alembert, Kant, Hume and Baron d'Holbach, among others, names often cited by America's 19th century champion of freethought, Robert Green Ingersoll. These men were the freethinkers or "New Atheists," humanists and rationalists who in the 18th century advanced ideas still under assault today and defended by rationalist organizations such as the Freedom from Religion Foundation, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, The Center for Inquiry and the Secular Coalition of America, as well as prominent individual writers such as Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris, P.Z. Myers and Tom Flynn, among many others.
What were the key ideas professed by Enlightenment zealots? It is important, I believe, that we not forget that many of the rights we take for granted were once thought radical and even criminal to promote, such as:
* Support for democratic forms of government rather than either monarchy or aristocracy.
* The promotion of racial and gender equality.
* A belief in the inherent right of all citizens to choose individual ways of life.
* Freedom of thought and expression.
* Religious freedom and tolerance for non-belief with the right to freely express such views in print and otherwise.
Philosophic reason was valued over religious faith. These REAL wellness advocates were also, according to Mr. Blom, very much interested in the exuberance dimension of a quality lifestyle. The author reports at length on what one novelist (Laurence Sterne) called "an infinitude of gaiety and civility (that) reigned among them."
Nobody will ever say that about the likes of Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Michele Bachman and the other Right-Wing extremists of our time. They all strike me as an angry, mirthless bunch who, like the Puritans, worried most of all about the possibility that someone, somewhere, might be having a good time. The Puritans would not have appreciated or suffered the presence of Enlightenment thinkers among them. The Catholic Church (and Calvinists in Geneva and other Protestant strongholds elsewhere throughout Europe) were power-addled reactionaries, burning books and heathens alike in attempts to enforce their ludicrous faiths. Freethought then was a lot more dangerous than it is today, in good part because those brave wellness pioneers lived and risked as they did. We are the beneficiaries of their heroism. It might be appropriate for us to do our part for future generations.
So, if you favor a philosophy consistent with that of secular progressives who support evidence over faith, reason over religion, science over superstition -consider becoming a visible volunteer for the New Enlightenment of REAL wellness advocacy. There are so many of us still undercover, often for strategic, fear of discrimination reasons. This is a luxury non-enthusiasts for the hazards that could come from Republican rule can no longer afford. An America dominated by Christian reactionary conservatives will be no place for freethinkers fond of the hard-earned guarantees of our Constitution. And remember, despite what is asserted in the Pledge of Allegiance to the contrary, we are still under the Constitution, not a generic god or any of the specific imaginary deities who have ruled over people since the dawn of human times.
Take the initiative - start telling people that you favor reason and free expression, that you do not think that a sky god is necessary for moral awareness and decency, that you want to do what you can to improve human welfare in this world and that we are the source for the greatest meaning, values, and ethics, not the priestly classes. We must develop and adhere to our own values based on what best serves a good society that values integrity, trustworthiness, benevolence, fairness and other common decencies. A REAL wellness mindset is the best path to fulfilling and humane lives that are rich intellectually, ethically and emotionally, without reliance on religious faith.
Compared with other volunteer possibilities, coming out to volunteer for outspoken REAL wellness, particularly the New Enlightenment of reason and free expression in conservative Republican-oriented 21st century America, is a courageous, ambitious and greatly needed public service.
I hope you will do it - today, in your own fashion. For freethinkers, it's time to stop living under the unspoken but powerful norm of don't ask, don't tell. Tell everyone, whether they ask or not. The dialogue that follows is more likely to advance a new Enlightenment than an invitation to appear before some new version of the Roman Catholic Inquisition.
Be well and enjoy your life - and your freedoms.