Joseph Lewis (June 11, 1889 – 1968) was an American freethinker and atheist activist, publisher, and litigator. During the mid-twentieth century, he was one of America’s most conspicuous public atheists, the other being Emanuel Haldeman-Julius. Born in Montgomery, Alabama to a Jewish family, he was forced by poverty to leave school at the age of nine to find employment. He read avidly, becoming self-educated. Lewis developed his ideas from reading, among others, Robert G. Ingersoll, whose published works made him aware of Thomas Paine. He later credited Paine’s Age of Reason with helping him leave theism.
In 1920, Lewis moved to New York where he made contact with The Freethinkers Society, an organization founded in 1915. In 1928 Lewis incorporated the organization and renamed it "The Freethinkers of America" and became its president (a title he would keep for the rest of his life). He later started his own publishing company, the Freethought Press Association, through which he published literature about freethought written by himself and others. In the 1930s, Lewis expanded his business with a subsidiary, Eugenics Publishing Company, that published literature for common people written by medical experts about subjects such as contraception. Like Haldeman-Julius, Lewis published low-cost books on controversial topics and enjoyed commercial success. Profits from the Eugenics Publishing Company enabled Lewis to live comfortably, with an estate in Westchester County, New York, an apartment on Park Avenue in New York City, and a house in Miami Beach. He was also able to fund the Freethinkers of America’s annual deficit; as a result, said freethought historian Robert W. Morrell, “it became in effect his private fiefdom.”
A bulletin, The Freethinkers of America, was started by Lewis in 1928. In the 1940s it was renamed Freethinker and in the 1950s to its final name Age of Reason (named after Thomas Paine's book The Age of Reason). Contributors to the bulletin were, among others, William J. Fielding, Corliss Lamont and Franklin Steiner...
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