When this newspaper, the oldest English language daily newspaper in the world, began publishing in 1737 Britain was in the early phases of the Enlightenment.
Barbaric practices were dying out.
The last person to be executed for blasphemy had happened 30 years previously in Scotland in 1697.
The last person to be executed for witchcraft was a decade earlier, also in Scotland, in 1727.
Scotland would also be where the last person was beheaded, in the 1740s.
The early News Letters have a reference to atheism, albeit an advertisement warning against such thinking.
Press freedom and freedom of ideas and speech was a key component of the Enlightenment: the notion that it was not dangerous to challenge and test orthodox views.
Much of the Islamic world therefore is not merely behind, but centuries so. While it is welcome that a Christian woman in Pakistan sentenced to death for blasphemy there has had the sentence overturned eight years later, there are protests against the reversal.
Thousands of Islamists are rallying to have Asia Bibi hanged. It is shocking that such savage thinking remains so widespread in Pakistan and that western liberals waste their time trying to hound traditional Christians for supposed ‘Islamophobia’ or ‘homophobia’ when there are genuinely dangerous religious views out there to challenge.