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: Catherine Fahringer , Louis C.K. and H.L. Mencken
Catherine Fahringer

Catherine Fahringer

On this date in 1922, Catherine Fahringer was born in Utah to a military family. After living in various places in the United States and abroad, her family settled in San Antonio, Texas, when Catherine was 12. Raised as an Episcopalian, she was urged by family members to introduce her children to religion. While living in England, where her husband was stationed, Catherine dutifully purchased The Golden Book of Bible Stories. Perusing it before she read the stories to her children, Catherine had an epiphany: "I said to my husband, 'I can't teach this stuff to my kids. I'm nicer than God" (San Antonio Express News, March 24, 1991). Catherine found a venue for activism when she hooked up with the Freedom From Religion Foundation in 1987. She created and hosted "Freethought Forum," a cable TV show. Catherine became a well-known public figure in San Antonio, monitoring and challenging numerous, egregious state/church violations there. An officer with the national Foundation, she served on its governing council. With wit and aplomb, Catherine protested city prayer breakfasts, the presence of religious symbols on public property, and kept freethought in focus with numerous op-eds, letters to the editor and educational letters to government officials and media. In the 1990s, she even managed to persuade then-Gov. Ann Richards and city officials to make proclamations commemorating freethought. Catherine's media appearances included being featured on TV's Sally Jessy Raphael Show, where she quipped about rejecting the idea of a "Big Spook in the Sky." Catherine died of pancreatic cancer at the age of 86. Foundation Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor said of Catherine: "We loved [her] and miss her. She was not only one of FFRF's best activists, but she was one of our best friends, best boosters and best advertisements for freethought." FFRF offers the Catherine Fahringer Youth Activist Memorial Award in her honor. D. 2008.

“We would be 1,500 years ahead if it hadn't been for the church dragging science back by its coattails and burning our best minds at the stake.”

—-Catherine Fahringer, Interview, San Antonio Express News, Portrait of an Atheist by Craig Phelon, March 24, 1991)

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

Louis C.K.

Louis C.K.

On this date in 1967, comedian, screenwriter, producer, actor and director Louis C.K. (né Louis Székely) was born in Washington, D.C., to parents Mary Louise Székely (née Davis), a software engineer, and Luis Székely, an economist. Louis’ father, a Hungarian-Mexican, and his mother, an Irish Catholic, met at Harvard University. Raised in Mexico until he was seven, Louis’ first language is Spanish, but he learned English quickly after moving back to the U.S. Shortly after the family, including Louis’ three siblings, settled in Newton, Mass., his parents divorced (and he altered the pronunciation of his last name for ease).

Louis first tried standup at an open mic in Boston at 17, and he bombed so badly that it was two years before he made another attempt. In the meantime he worked odd jobs including stints as an auto mechanic, a pool boy, a KFC cook and a video store clerk. Moving to New York City in 1989, Louis sought out gigs without much success and worked a number of odd jobs. Louis scored a position as a staff writer for a cable show, and soon became a writer on “Late Night with Conan O’Brien,” later writing for “The Dana Carvey Show,” “Late Show with David Letterman” and “The Chris Rock Show” as well. He earned Emmy Award nominations for his work, winning one for his writing on “The Chris Rock Show.” Louis’ 2001 film “Pootie Tang,” based on a sketch that appeared on the show, became a cult classic. In 2006, Louis created and starred in the HBO show “Lucky Louie.” By this point in his career, Louis had opened for Jerry Seinfeld, hosted numerous comedy clubs, and performed his standup on many televised programs. But he discovered that he was not satisfied to settle into comedic torpor. In the tradition of comedy legend George Carlin, Louis committed to dropping his entire act every year to invent fresh material. Louis released his first comedy special, “Shameless,” in 2007, and his next, "Chewed Up,” in 2008. His 2009 concert film “Hilarious” was the first standup comedy film to ever be accepted to the Sundance Film Festival. In 2010, Louis’ creation “Louie,” in which he wrote, directed and starred, premiered on cable television. For his writing, Louis received an Emmy Award for “Louie” and another for his “Live at the Beacon Theater” special in 2012. Following the success of his show, Louis embarked on a sold-out national comedy tour, selling reasonably priced tickets and CDs exclusively through his website in order to streamline the relationship between artist and fan. His album sold more than $1 million after only two weeks, $280,000 of which he donated to charity. Louis hosted “Saturday Night Live,” in 2012 and again in 2014, and has appeared in a number of television shows and films including “Parks and Recreation,” “Blue Jasmine” (2013) and “American Hustle” (2013). Louis has been nominated for a total of 25 Emmy Awards, including a fourth win for his 2013 standup special “Oh My God.” He was married to artist Alix Bailey from 1995 to 2008, and they have two daughters. Continuing to confront themes of self-deprecation, misandry, fatherhood and divorce with brutal honesty and candor, Louis’ more recent comedy has also delved into social commentary, broaching social issues such as gay marriage and belief in God.

“I'm not religious! I don't know if there's a God, but that's all I can say, honestly, is I don't know!”

—— Louis C.K., from his “Saturday Night Live” monologue (March 30, 2014)

Compiled by Noah Bunnell

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

H.L. Mencken

H.L. Mencken

On this date in 1880, America's most prominent journalist, H.L. (Henry Louis) Mencken, was born in Baltimore. Although his father was agnostic, his Lutheran mother sent him to Sunday School, which he later defined as, "A prison in which children do penance for the evil conscience of their parents" (A Mencken Chrestomathy,1949). The cigar-chomping, iconoclastic journalist worked most of his life at the Baltimore Sun, where he began his trademark column, "The Free Lance," in 1911. Mencken also coedited Smart Set magazine (1914-1923) and edited American Mercury magazine (1925-1933). His lifetime production of 28 books included a 6-volume collection of his essays, Prejudices (1919-27), In Defense of Women (1917), Treatise of the Gods (1930), and an autobiographical trilogy, ending with Heathen Days, published as one volume in 1947.

The sardonic critic of the "booboisie," who also coined the term "Boobus americanus," was famed for his coverage of the Scopes Trial in Dayton, Tenn., in 1925. Mencken's many epigrams include: "Faith may be defined briefly as an illogical belief in the occurrence of the improbable" (The New York Times Magazine, Sept. 11, 1955). "The chief contribution of Protestantism to human thought is its massive proof that God is a bore" (Minority Report, 1956). "No one in this world, so far as I know . . . has ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of the great masses of the plain people" (Notes on Journalism, Chicago Tribune, Sept. 19 1926). "Puritanism - The haunting fear that someone, somewhere may be happy" (A Mencken Chrestomathy, 1949). "Sunday - A day given over by Americans to wishing that they themselves were dead and in Heaven, and that their neighbors were dead and in Hell" (A Book of Burlesques 1916, 1924). "Theology: An effort to explain the unknowable by putting it into terms of the not worth knowing" (A Mencken Chrestomathy, 1949). "The most curious social convention of the great age in which we live is the one to the effect that religious opinions should be respected" (American Mercury, March 1930). D. 1956.

I believe that religion, generally speaking, has been a curse to mankind--that its modest and greatly overestimated services on the ethical side have been more than overcome by the damage it has done to clear and honest thinking.

I believe that no discovery of fact, however trivial, can be wholly useless to the race, and that no trumpeting of falsehood, however virtuous in intent, can be anything but vicious. . .

I believe that the evidence for immortality is no better than the evidence of witches, and deserves no more respect.

I believe in the complete freedom of thought and speech . . .

I believe in the capacity of man to conquer his world, and to find out what it is made of, and how it is run.

I believe in the reality of progress.

But the whole thing, after all, may be put very simply. I believe that it is better to tell the truth than to lie. I believe that it is better to be free than to be a slave. And I believe that it is better to know than be ignorant.

—Mencken's Creed, cited by George Seldes in Great Thoughts

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.

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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