Free Religious Association

The Free Religious Association (FRA) was formed in 1867 in part by David Atwood Wasson and Reverend William J. Potter.[1] to be, in Potter's words, a "spiritual anti-slavery society" to "emancipate religion from the dogmatic traditions it had been previously bound to.[2]" It was opposed not only to organized religion, but also to any supernaturalism in an attempt to affirm the supremacy of individual conscience and individual reason. The FRA carried a message of the perfectibility of humanity, democratic faith in the worth of each individual, the importance of natural rights and the affirmation of the efficacy of reason.

The first public assembly was held in 1867 representing something akin to a spiritual town meeting with an audience ranging from Progressive Quakers, liberal Jews, radical Unitarians, Universalists, agnostics, Spiritualists, and scientific theists. The first person to join the association at the original meeting was the famed American individualist Ralph Waldo Emerson.[3] It caught on and many FRA members helped to lead communes based on their values on equality and self organizing organizations.


  1. DeLeon, D: "The American As Anarchist", page 70. Johns Hopkins University Press, 1978
  2. Potter, W: "The Free Religious Association: Its Twenty-five Years and Their Meaning", pages 8-9. 1892
  3. Persons, S: "Free Religion". Yale University, 1947
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