Chapman Cohen

Chapman Cohen (1 September 1868 – 4 February 1954) was a leading English atheist and secularist writer and lecturer.Chapman Cohen was the elder son of Enoch Cohen, a Jewish confectioner, and his wife, Deborah (née Barnett). He attended a local elementary school but was otherwise self-educated. He had read Spinoza, Locke, Hume, Berkeley, and Plato by the time he was eighteen.Cohen recalled that he had "little religion at home and none at school", as he was withdrawn from Religious Instruction classes.Cohen and his wife had two children; a son (who entered the medical profession) and a daughter, who died at the age of 29.On his death, The Times printed a short obituary of Cohen, which said:"He was the author of many books setting forth the freethought philosophy of life, which had a large sale, and he was outstanding as a forthright, witty and courteous debater and lecturer."Cohen moved to London in 1889, and soon became involved in the secularist movement. Cohen commented that,"My introduction to the platform of the National Secular Society was quite accidental. I had heard none of its speakers, read none of its publications, except an occasional glance at Bradlaugh's National Reformer. I knew there was a Freethought movement afoot, but that was about all."Cohen relates that in the Summer of 1889 he was walking in Victoria Park when he came across a crowd listening to a Christian speaker:"the speaker was opposed by an old gentleman – at least he seemed old to me – who suffered from an impediment in his speech. The lecturer in replying spent part of his time in mimicking the old gentleman's speech. After he had 'replied,' the lecturer asked for more opposition. Mainly because of his treatment of the old man I accepted the invitation."He spoke against the same lecturer – at their invitation – a few weeks later. Shortly afterwards he was invited to speak the local branch of the National Secular Society. After a year of lecturing for the freethought cause, he joined the NSS.He was a popular lecturer for the Society, at his peak delivering over 200 lectures a year. He was elected a vice-president of the NSS in 1895.In 1897 Cohen began contributing weekly articles to G. W. Foote's Freethinker, having previously written accounts of his lecture tours. In 1898 he became assistant editor of The Freethinker, and after Foote's death in 1915 he was appointed editor. Cohen had written for other freethought journals before joining The Freethinker, and had edited The Truthseeker, owned by J.W. Gott. Cohen also succeeded Foote as President of the National Secular Society.
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