Charles Francis Potter

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Charles Francis Potter
Rappleyea Byrd Potter..jpg
George Washington Rappleyea, Howard Gale Byrd, and Charles Francis Potter (L to R), July 1925

Dr Charles Francis Potter (October 28, 1885 – October 4, 1962) was an American Unitarian minister, theologian and author.

In 1923 and 1924, he became nationally known through a series of debates with Dr. John Roach Straton, a fundamentalist Christian. The subjects, which Dr. Potter called "part of a crisis in theology," were the infallibility of the Bible, evolution, the Virgin Birth, the divinity of Christ, and the Second Coming

Scopes Trial[edit]

In 1925 he was adviser on the Bible to Clarence Darrow in his defense of John Thomas Scopes, a schoolteacher who was charged with teaching evolution in his classes.


He was born in Marlborough, Massachusetts, where his father was a shoe-factory worker, and received his education at Bucknell University, Brown University and Newton Theological Institution.

Dr. Potter began his career as a Baptist minister. He resigned his position in 1925 because, he explained, even a liberal pulpit did not afford all the necessary freedom of expression. The next year he was professor of comparative religion at Antioch College.


From 1927 to 1929, Dr. Potter served as the minister of the Fourth Universalist Society in the City of New York, a liberal Christian congregation on Manhattan's Upper West Side. In 1929, his increasingly progressive ideas led him to found the First Humanist Society of New York, whose advisory board included Julian Huxley, John Dewey, Albert Einstein and Thomas Mann. Together with Dewey, Potter was also one of the original 34 signees of the first Humanist Manifesto in 1933.[1] Potter was also the founder, in 1938, of the Euthanasia Society of America.

Humanism as religion[edit]

"Humanism is not the abolition of religion," he was quoted as saying.,[2] "but the beginning of real religion. By freeing religion of supernaturalism, it will release tremendous reserves of hitherto thwarted power. Man has waited too long for God to do what man ought to do himself and is fully capable of doing." It was to be, he said, "a religion of common sense; and the chief end of man is to improve himself, both as an individual and as a race."

Published works[edit]

  • The Preacher and I his autobiography, published in 1951.
  • The Story of Religion
  • What is Humanism?
  • Humanism a New Religion
  • Humanizing Religion
  • Technique of Happiness
  • Beyond the Senses
  • A Treasury of American Folk Wit and Humor
  • Books Jesus Loved
  • The Lost Years of Jesus Revealed
  • The Great Religious Leaders
  • Creative Personality
  • Is That in the Bible?

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Humanist Manifesto I". American Humanist Association. Retrieved September 19, 2012. 
  2. ^ (1962) New York Times Obituary, Charles Potter, Clergyman Dead.

External links[edit]