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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There are 3 entries for this date: Lyle Stuart , Robert G. Ingersoll and Steve Wozniak
Lyle Stuart

Lyle Stuart

On this date in 1922, renegade publisher Lyle Stuart (né Lionel Simon) was born in New York City. When Stuart was six years old, his father, a salesman, committed suicide. After dropping out of high school, Stuart became a merchant marine, changing his name in response to the anti-Semitism he encountered. Forging a career in journalism in the 1940s and 50s, Stuart gained moderate notoriety after a bitter dispute with columnist bigwig Walter Winchell — a fight that escalated to a libel suit that ruled in Stuart’s favor. With the money he won, Stuart pursued publishing, starting the independent company Lyle Stuart Inc., which would later become Barricade Books. As a publisher in Fort Lee, New Jersey, Stuart became a millionaire off of such incendiary titles as Naked Came the Stranger (1969), The Sensuous Woman (1969), The Anarchist Cookbook (1970), and Jackie Oh! (1978). Although his wealth was jeopardized in 1997, when a libel suit against Stuart forced Barricade Books into bankruptcy, the decision was later reversed.

Throughout his life, Stuart maintained his muckraking, anti-establishment roots, publishing contentious antiwar books during the Vietnam War, one of which, The Anarchist Cookbook, contained instructions on making homemade explosives. Nothing delighted him more than subverting the status quo. In 1987, Stuart printed L. Ron Hubbard: Messiah or Madman?, a biography of the founder of Scientology. As reported by an open letter he wrote to The New York Times, Stuart used all of the profits to “help fight this cult and the other cult exploiters of the innocent, the naive and the idealistic.” In 2000, Barricade Books published Warren Allen Smith’s 1,237 page compendium Who’s Who in Hell: A Handbook and International Directory for Humanists, Freethinkers, Naturalists, Rationalists and Non-Theists. Stuart married at age 22 to Mary Louise Stuart, who died of cancer in 1969. In 1982, he married his secretary Carole Livingston Stuart, with whom he lived until his death in 2006.

“Do I believe in any god or gods or supernatural destiny? No. I’m an atheist from way back. If you believe there is some god or gods watching over you, more power to you and your imagination. From Thomas Edison to Albert Einstein, the most knowledgeable scientists of our time — and those who best understood how the universe works ­— discarded the idea of a personal deity.”

—— Lyle Stuart, from his book, Casino Gambling for the Winner (1978)

Compiled by Noah Bunnell

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

Robert G. Ingersoll

Robert G. Ingersoll

On this date in 1833, Robert Green Ingersoll, who became the best known advocate of freethought in 19th-century United States, was born in Dresden, N.Y. The son of an impoverished itinerant pastor, he later recalled his formative church experiences: "The minister asked us if we knew that we all deserved to go to hell, and we all answered 'yes.' Then we were asked if we would be willing to go to hell if it was God's will, and every little liar shouted 'Yes!' " He became an attorney by apprenticeship, and a colonel in the Civil War, fighting in the Battle of Shiloh. In 1867, Ingersoll was appointed Illinois' first Attorney General. His political career was cut short by his refusal to halt his controversial lectures, but he achieved national political fame for his thrilling nomination speech for James G. Blaine for president at the national convention of the Republican Party in 1876. Ingersoll was good friends with three U.S. presidents. The distinguished attorney was known and admired by most of the leading progressives and thinkers of his day.

Ingersoll traveled the continent for 30 years, speaking to capacity audiences, once attracting 50,000 people to a lecture in Chicago—40,000 too many for the Exposition Center. His repertoire included 3 to 4-hour lectures on Shakespeare, Voltaire and Burns, but the largest crowds turned out to hear him denounce the bible and religion. Ingersoll's speaking fees ranged as high as $7,000, in an era of low wages and no income tax. He married Eva Parker Ingersoll, a rationalist whom he deemed a "Woman Without Superstition," in dedicating his first freethought book to her. He initially settled in Peoria, Illinois, then in Washington, D.C., where he successfully defended falsely accused men in the "Star Route" scandal, the most famous political trial of the 19th century. The family later relocated to New York. A devoted family man, he lived with his extended family, and the Ingersoll "at homes" were celebrated, both in Washington D.C., and in New York. Religious rumors against Ingersoll abounded. One had it that Ingersoll's son was a drunkard who more than once had to be carried away from the table. Ingersoll wrote: "It is not true that intoxicating beverages are served at my table. It is not true that my son ever was drunk. It is not true that he had to be carried away from the table. fBesides, I have no son!" The 12-volume Dresden Edition of his lectures, poetry and interviews was collected after his death and has been reprinted many times. D. 1899.

“All religions are inconsistent with mental freedom. Shakespeare is my bible, Burns my hymn-book.”

“I do not borrow ideas. I have a factory of my own.”

“I do not believe in putting out the sun to keep weeds from growing.”

“With soap, baptism is a good thing.”

“[Of William Jennings Bryan] He talks, but he does not think.”

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

Steve Wozniak

Steve Wozniak

On this date in 1950, Stephen Wozniak was born in San Jose, Calif. Wozniak holds degrees in electrical engineering and computer science from the University of California at Berkeley. Wozniak, along with inventor Steve Jobs, founded the innovative Apple Computer Inc. in 1976. Wozniak helped to create the original Apple computers, Apple I and Apple II, which were some of the first personal computers invented. His simple, convenient designs have greatly influenced current personal computers.

In 1985, he was given the prestigious National Medal of Technology by President Ronald Reagan, and he has also received the 2001 Heinz Award for Technology, among numerous accomplishments. Wozniak is the founder of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a nonprofit digital rights organization, and is a New York Times bestselling author for his autobiography, iWoz: From Computer Geek to Cult Icon (2006). He has three children from his previous marriage with Candice Clark.

On a page on his website from 2000, Wozniak states: “I am also [along with fellow entrepreneurs Bill Gates, Linus Torvalds and Larry Ellison] atheist or agnostic (I don’t even know the difference). I’ve never been to church and prefer to think for myself.” Besides being a freethinker himself, Wozniak writes on his website that he “believes in encouraging free thinking and creativity for youngsters” (2009). Wozniak was awarded the 2011 Isaac Asimov Science Award from the American Humanist Association.

“I just felt that an intelligent person like myself could figure out good behaviors without going to a church and having to follow the thinking of a large group, all who follow it largely because they all do.”

—Steve Wozniak, www.woz.org, 2000

Compiled by Sabrina 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.

If you would like to be placed on the "Daily Freethought" e-mail list to automatically receive the calendar notice, log in and edit your email settings (My Membership). Or, email  and include your first and last name with your request for verification purposes. This email service is limited to members of the Freedom From Religion Foundation or subscribers to Freethought Today. To become an FFRF member, click here.


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