Doubtless the next week will be full of commemorative events regarding the Titanic sinking. However for those interested in free speech and free expression then April 11th– the day that I write- has significance. For today is the 400th anniversary of the last person to be burnt at the stake on the charge of heresy and he was a Staffordshire man. Edward Wightman went to the stake on the 11th April 1612 at Lichfield. He was a businessman and local Baptist minister in Burton. He also had business interests in Uttoxeter and Cheadle.
The infighting and struggles over freedom of religious thought in the early 17th century seem lost in the myths of time. They were concerned with authority and strict adherence to a dogma. However many people of a puritan view were willing to question the official view of religious practice. Some left for a new life in the newly found colonies of America. Wightman stayed and fought his corner. He had a number of objections. He did not believe that Jesus was the son of God just an ordinary man. He did not believe that there was an after life. He believed that baptising infants who had no understanding was right. In short Wightman was a fully paid up member of the awkward squad. His stance attracted the attention of King James1st who fancied himself as an authority on things theological and was determined to stamp out heresy. Unfortunate it was a foregone conclusion. Wightman was condemned to die but he was finally brought to the stake his courage left him, and as the fires were lit he is said to have quickly cried out to recant and was pulled from the fire, although by then he had been “well scorched.” Two or three weeks later he was again brought before the courts and, no longer fearing the searing flames he stood by his original view and died.
Heresy is a refusal to accept the orthodox or received view and with this in mind I will offer a list of my own heresies.
- Were are not winning the war on drugs
- 50% of young people achieving degree status is a foolishness
- We have had historically higher levels of debt than left in 2010
- Multiculturalism is not an overwhelming success
- Fighting a war in Afghanistan has not made us safe
- Building a local economy on retail parks/ warehousing is a mistake.
- Giving the rich tax cuts will not stimulate the economy
- People will come to the UK irrespective of the Royal Family.
- Creationism is not a science
- Football is not more important than life or death