Gay and Lesbian Humanist

Winter 2002-2003

Freethoughts, by Barbara Smoker

reviewed by Andy Armitage

Few people could be more prolific when it comes to writing about secularism than the busy Ms Smoker, and this book is proof of that. It’s a collection of articles she’s had published in the Freethinker from 1966 to 2002.

Now in her eightieth year, Smoker has pulled together a fascinating compilation of articles on popes and prayer, the Turin shroud, Mother Teresa, freewill, Muslims and martyrdom. That’s not all, of course: there are dozens of challenging articles, in chronological order of publication, making this an eminently dip-innable volume.

And she’s not one to pull punches when it comes to religion’s more ridiculous aspects – something made more obvious when a number of articles are brought together in one volume, to be read several at a sitting if a reader so wishes.

Smoker was born into a Roman Catholic family, but sensibly saw the light after she had had a convent education but decided she didn’t want to become a nun after all.

She’s been a long-time campaigner in humanist organisations, and is a vice-president of GALHA and occasional contributor to this magazine.

In her introduction, she calls this a “selection of snippets” and says it is “something of an ego-trip”. She admits that there will be some repetition of themes – that’s the nature of writing for a regular publication, and it’s inevitable that situations will stimulate a writer’s choice of material more than once in the course of a few years, whether it’s prelates prattling about sex or popes pontificating about ... well, sex and other things.

One of Smoker’s more recent articles (January 2000) concerns what she calls “de-baptism”, in which she calls on readers to hold ceremonies to free them from any claims the Christian Church might claim to have over them. She even suggests a “Declaration of De-Baptism”, suggests people read it out at a special gathering for the occasion, then send copies to people they wish to annoy.

What a wonderful idea! Perhaps G&LH readers would like to give it a try. (Do let us know if you do, though.)

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Created : Sunday, 2003-01-12 / Last updated : Wednesday, 2007-12-12
Brett Humphreys :