Freethought of the Day

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There are 6 entries for this date: Lydia Maria Child , Natalie Dormer , Momus , Flo Kennedy , Thomas Alva Edison and Leslie Nielsen
Lydia Maria Child

Lydia Maria Child

On this date in 1802, Lydia Maria Francis Child was born. Considered one of the "first women of letters" in the United States, she became a famous abolitionist, author, novelist and journalist. Americans continue singing her lyrics in the song, "Over the river and through the woods to grandfather's house we go." The daughter of a Calvinist, she joined the Unitarians in 1820, but was unchurched most of her life. She ran a school, started the first journal for children, wrote several novels, then supported herself (and her husband) by writing such popular how-to books as The Frugal Housewife, The Mother's Book and The Little Girl's Own Book. Her history, The First Settlers of New England, blamed Calvinist-based racism for the treatment of Native Americans.

An Appeal in Favor of That Class of Americans Called Africans recruited many to the anti-slavery movement, but made Child a pariah in Boston society. Her 2-volume The History of the Condition of Women, in Various Ages and Nations was published in 1835. She continued abolition work, supporting herself through popular writings and newspaper columns. The Progress of Religious Ideas (1855) rejected theology, dogma, doctrines, and talked of "Providence" as the inward voice of conscience. She later defined religion as simply working for the welfare of the human race. At her death, her funeral was presided over by Wendell Phillips, John Greenleaf Whittier recited a memorial poem in her honor, and The Truth Seeker memorialized her. D. 1880.

It is impossible to exaggerate the evil work theology has done in the world."

—Lydia Maria Child, The Progress of Religious Ideas Through Successive Ages, 1855. See also

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

Natalie Dormer

Natalie Dormer

On this date in 1982, actress Natalie Dormer was born in Britain in Reading, Berkshire. She studied drama at Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Art in London. Dormer is known for playing Anne Boleyn in the television show, "The Tudors," and Margaery Tyrell in the HBO hit fantasy television show, "Game of Thrones." She also appeared in "Casanova" (2005), a romantic-comedy starring Heath Ledger and Sienna Miller, and in "The First Avenger: Captain America" (2011). She is cast as Ilene Adler in the American adaptation of "Sherlock," called "Elementary" (2013). Dormer is an avid poker player, and has placed in several poker tournaments. She also enjoys fencing and martial arts.

 

“I say I’m an atheist but I wouldn’t mind being visited by a ghost.”

—--Natalie Dormer in an interview with The Tudor News Site (December 17, 2007)

Compiled by Sarah Eucalano

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

Momus

Momus

On this date in 1960, musician and writer Nick Currie, now better known as Momus, was born in Paisley, Scotland. Momus is frequently called the most underrated man in pop music. He has released dozens of albums over his 30-plus years as an active musician. One of Momus' well-known albums, "Stars Forever" (1999), is a 30-song album he created by writing an original song about each of 30 people who had given him a commission. He has written three books: "The Book of Jokes: A Novel by Momus" (2009), "Solutions 11-167: The Book of Scotlands" (2010), which presents 156 Scotlands in parallel worlds, and "Solution 214-238: The Book of Japans" (2011), which has a concept similar to "The Book of Scotlands." Momus has also written commentary on culture for Wired Magazine and many other news and entertainment sources. In 1991, Momus reworded Andy Warhol's famous 15 minutes of fame quote into, "In the future everyone will be famous for 15 people." In a Sept. 6, 2000 interview with The Onion's A.V. Club, Momus responded that he is an atheist when asked if there is a god.

 

“I like the idea of doing things that only exist for as long as they exist, which are not archives, which are not sold or prepared even.”

—--Momus in a 2009 interview with Interview Magazine

Compiled by Sarah Eucalano

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

Flo Kennedy

Flo Kennedy

On this date in 1916, lawyer, activist, civil rights advocate and feminist Florynce Rae “Flo” Kennedy was born in Kansas City, Mo., to parents Wiley and Zella Kennedy. The second of five daughters, Kennedy grew up in a mostly white neighborhood, in which her father once stood up to members of the Ku Klux Klan with a shotgun. Kennedy wrote, “My parents gave us a fantastic sense of security and worth. By the time the bigots got around to telling us that we were nobody, we already knew we were somebody.” Finishing high school at the top of her class in 1934, Kennedy opened a hat shop, performed on a radio show and operated an elevator. Her first political protest involved helping to organize a boycott when the local Coca-Cola bottler refused to hire black truck drivers. She moved to New York in 1942, graduating from Columbia University in 1948. In 1951, Kennedy became the first black woman to graduate from Columbia Law School, where she was admitted after threatening legal action on the grounds of racial discrimination. Kennedy ran her own law practice, representing the estates of jazz greats Billy Holiday and Charlie Parker, and the black power leader H Rap Brown, among other Black Panthers. Despite tending to take on cases related to feminism and civil rights, Kennedy eventually realized that she needed to employ broader strokes to battle oppression and effect the kind of social change she had in mind. Turning to political activism, Kennedy cofounded the National Organization for Women (NOW) in 1966. That same year, she established the Media Workshop in an effort to influence the representation of black people in journalism and advertising, threatening boycotts and pickets. At a 1967 anti-Vietnam War convention in Montreal, her speaking career was launched by a fiery invective against the refusal to allow a Bobby Seale to discuss racism. Kennedy became known for her vitriolic tirades and incendiary comments, delivered in her characteristic cowboy hat and boots.

Along with feminism and racial equality, Kennedy also championed gay rights, as well as rights for prostitutes and other minorities. In 1971, Kennedy founded the Feminist Party, nominating Shirley Chisholm, a New York Democrat, for president, and helped to found the National Women’s Political Caucus. She founded the National Black Feminist Organization in 1975. Throughout her life, Kennedy championed pro-choice legislation, organizing a group of feminist lawyers to challenge New York State’s abortion law in 1969, influencingthe legislature to liberalize abortion the next year. With Diane Schulder, she coauthored a book called Abortion Rap in 1971. While Gloria Steinem LINK is often unwittingly credited with the clever slogan, “If men could get pregnant, abortion would be sacrament,” Flo coined it. The two were warm colleagues, once going on a feminist speaking tour together. Kennedy was known for her quick repartee. When asked by a male heckler, "Are you a lesbian?" she replied, “Are you my alternative?” Kennedy launched a suit against the Catholic Church in 1968 for spending money illegally to influence abortion legislation, arguing that its campaign violated the separation of state and church. Furthering her efforts to rescind the church’s tax-exempt status in 1972, Kennedy filed tax evasion charges against the church with the IRS. Kennedy was briefly married to Charles Dudley Dye in 1957, but he died soon after. D. 2000.

“It's interesting to speculate how it developed that in two of the most anti-feminist institutions, the church and the law court, the men are wearing the dresses.”

—— Flo Kennedy, from her book, Color Me Flo — My Hard Life and Good Times

Compiled by Noah Bunnell

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

Thomas Alva Edison

Thomas Alva Edison

On this date in 1847, Thomas Alva Edison was born in Ohio, the youngest of seven. The inventor—famed for reading Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire before the age of ten, and for vowing at age 12 to read the entire contents of the Detroit Public Library—was largely self-taught. Supporting himself at a very early age, Edison sold newspapers, worked for railroad companies and became a telegraph operator. He invented the incandescent light bulb, the phonograph, the motion picture camera, and improved the telegraph and telephone, becoming a highly successful businessman and manufacturer. Edison, who held more than 1,300 U.S. and foreign patents, famously noted: "Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration." Edison told The New York Times in an interview (June 8, 1915): "I am proud of the fact that I never invented weapons to kill." A lifelong freethinker, one of his oft-repeated lines (for which we could find only secondary sources) is: "So far as religion of the day is concerned, it is a damned fake. . . . Religion is all bunk." D. 1931.

“I cannot believe in the immortality of the soul. . . . I am an aggregate of cells, as, for instance, New York City is an aggregate of individuals. Will New York City go to heaven? . . . No; nature made us—nature did it all—not the gods of the religions.”

—Thomas Alva Edison, The New York Times, Oct. 2, 1910 ("No Immortality of the Soul" Says Thomas A. Edison, interview by Edward Marshall)

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

Leslie Nielsen

Leslie Nielsen

On this date in 1926, actor Leslie Nielsen, the oldest of four sons, was born to Ingvard and Maybelle Nielsen and spent his early childhood in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada. Nielsen credited his father, a strict disciplinarian and an officer in the Canadian Mounted Police, for giving him his first acting experiences: He frequently had to lie to his father in order to avoid being punished! When Nielsen and his brother Eric, who grew up to become Deputy Prime Minister of Canada, were old enough to start school, the family moved to Edmonton, Alberta. After graduation, Nielsen joined the Royal Canadian Air Force, where he was an aerial gunner for one year overseas. After WWII ended, Nielsen worked on a Calgary radio station, then enrolled in The Lorne Greene Academy of Radio Arts in Toronto. Falling in love with acting, Nielsen, 23, earned a scholarship to study at the Neighborhood Playhouse in New York City. Quickly given parts on television shows, Nielsen continued in that medium for the next few years, playing dramatic roles. In the 1950s, Nielsen became interested in film, moved to Hollywood, and made his big screen debut in "Forbidden Planet" (1956). He made more than 50 films over the next 20 years.

In 1980, Nielsen switched from playing drama to playing comedy, and his career took off. Nielsen was an instant hit as the humorless doctor in the comedy spoof, "Airplane!" He went on to play the straight-laced, inept police officer, Det. Frank Drebin, in the TV series "Police Squad!" Continuing to hit his stride in comedy, he got his big breakthrough in 1988, reprising the role of Drebin for film in "Naked Gun: Files From the Police Squad." His success continued with the sequels, "Naked Gun 2 1/2: The Smell of Fear" (1991) and "Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult" (1994). In 1993, Nielsen wrote a fictitious autobiography, The Naked Truth. Switching back to drama in 1996, but in a new genre, Nielsen played the lead in the stage production of "Clarence Darrow," a one-man show that had originated with another freethinker, Henry Fonda, and which toured the United States and proved Nielsen's diversity as an actor. Nielsen's long career boasted more than 200 films and television programs. Winner of numerous awards, Nielsen received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2001, was inducted into Canada's Walk of Fame and received UCLA's Jack Benny Award for his comedic roles. Married and divorced three times, Nielsen resided in Arizona with his fourth wife and long-time friend, Barbaree Earl, until his death at age 84. He had two children. D. 2010.

“There's an old saying that God exists in your search for him. I just want you to understand that I ain't looking. ”

—Esquire Magazine interview, April 2008

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

Freethought of the Day

Would you like to start your day on a freethought note? "Freethought of the Day" is a daily freethought calendar brought to you courtesy of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, highlighting birthdates, quotes, and other historic tidbits.

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