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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Mattie Parry Krekel

Mattie Parry Krekel

On this date in 1840, freethought lecturer Mattie Parry Krekel was born in Goshen, Indiana, to John M. Hulett and Lucinda Jay (a direct descendant of revolutionary John Jay). Mattie liked to thank her parents for being liberal in their religious views, noting that her life had not been twisted or distorted by ecclesiastical influences which enslave the mind. She began lecturing at age 15 in Rockford, Illinois, and retired only in 1900. Mattie married T.W. Parry in 1862 and had six children, four sons and two daughters. Following his death she later married Judge Arnold Krekel of Missouri. She was well-known on the freethought lecture circuit, or "Liberal platform." Freethought biographer S.P. Putnam called her "one of the bravest and staunchest lecturers in the field . . . eloquent, scholarly, logical, ready for any hardship; has plenty of grit . . . She is well informed on subjects pertaining to science and reform, and is in thorough sympathy with those who suffer and toil because of ignorance and superstition." (Four Hundred Years of Freethought, 1894). "Up to the beginning of the present century there were few names more familiar to readers of The Truth Seeker than Mattie Parry Krekel," noted George E. Macdonald, one of the freethought newspaper's longest-lived editors (Fifty Years of Freethought, 1929, 1931). D. 1921.

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

Christopher Hitchens

Christopher Hitchens

On this date in 1949, writer and columnist Christopher Hitchens was born in Portsmouth, England. He attended Cambridge and graduated from Oxford in 1970, reading in philosophy, politics and economics. From 1971-1981 he worked as a book reviewer for The Times. In 1981 he emigrated to the United States. Hitchens wrote "Minority Report," a column for The Nation, from 1982-2002. He then wrote for Slate, The Daily Mirror, as a contributing editor to The Atlantic Monthly and Vanity Fair, and also wrote for Harpers and many other U.S. newspapers and journals. As a foreign correspondent, he covered events in 60 countries on all five continents. Hitchens wrote a host of books, but is best-known in freethought circles for authoring God Is Not Great (2007). His criticisms of Clinton and pro-Iraqi war views made Hitchens increasingly controversial among progressive readership, but he remained a stalwart atheist and iconoclast. In "Papal Power: John Paul II's other legacy" (Slate.com, April 1, 2005), Hitchens pointed out that the pope "was a part of the cover up and obstruction of justice that allowed the child-rape scandal to continue for so long." Hitchens became a U.S. citizen in 2007. D. 2011.

“Gullibility and credulity are considered undesirable qualities in every department of human life—except religion . . . Why are we praised by godly men for surrendering our 'godly gift' of reason when we cross their mental thresholds? . . . Atheism strikes me as morally superior, as well as intellectually superior, to religion. Since it is obviously inconceivable that all religions can be right, the most reasonable conclusion is that they are all wrong.”

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson

On this date in 1743, Thomas Jefferson, who became third president of the United States, was born in Virginia. As a young attorney and member of the Continental Congress, Jefferson drafted the Declaration of Independence. Jefferson became Governor of Virginia in 1779, when the Anglican church was disestablished as the state religion. Jefferson wrote the Statute of Religious Freedom, whose preamble indicted state religion, noting that "false religions over the greatest part of the world and through all time" have been maintained through the church-state. To "compell a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves is sinful and tyrannical." The heart of the Statute guarantees that no citizen "shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever." It was adopted in 1786 and is replicated in most other state constitutions. Jefferson spent five years in France as an ambassador, and therefore was out of the country at the time of adoption of the U.S. Constitution. He strenuously urged the addition of a Bill of Rights. Jefferson became the first Secretary of State in 1789, Vice-President in 1796, was elected president in 1800, and re-elected in 1804.

In his Notes on Virginia (1781), Jefferson wrote: "Millions of innocent men, women and children since the introduction of Christianity have been burnt, tortured, fined, imprisoned. Yet have we not advanced one inch towards uniformity. What has been the effect of coercion? To make one half the world fools and the other half hypocrites. To support roguery and error all over the earth . . ." The Deist wrote: "The day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus, by the Supreme Being as his father, in the womb of a virgin, will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter." (Works, 1829 ed., Vol. IV, p. 365). Jefferson, who contemptuously rejected the trinity concept and regarded Jesus as a human teacher only, made a 46-page extraction of the teachings of Jesus that he accepted, discarding the rest. In an Oct. 12, 1813 letter to a friend, Jefferson explained that he had arranged "the matter which is evidently, his, and which is as easily distinguishable as diamonds from a dunghill." Writing to James Smith on December 8, 1822, Jefferson said, "Man, once surrendering his reason, has no remaining guard against absurdities the most monstrous, and like a ship without rudder, is the sport of every wind. With such persons, gullibility, which they call faith, takes the helm from the hand of reason and the mind becomes a wreck."

As President, Jefferson issued his famous letter to the Baptists of Danbury, Connecticut on Jan. 1, 1802, explaining that the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment builds "a wall of separation between church and state." He refused to issue any days of prayer or thanksgiving, believing civil powers alone were conferred on public officials. Jefferson instructed that the epitaph on his tombstone read: "'Author of the Declaration of American Independence, of the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom & Father of the University of Virginia,' because by these, as testimonials that I have lived I wish most to be remembered." He and John Adams died on the same significant anniversary of July 4, 1826.

“Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason than that of blindfolded fear. . . . Do not be frightened from this inquiry by any fear of its consequences. If it ends in a belief that there is no God, you will find inducements to virtue in the comfort and pleasantness you feel in its exercise, and the love of others which it will procure you.”

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

George Jacob Holyoake

George Jacob Holyoake

On this date in 1817, George Jacob Holyoake was born to a poor family in England. The young foundry worker attended classes in his free time, becoming a mathematics teacher. By 1840, Holyoake was a lecturer at the Worcester Hall of Science. Best-known for coining the term "secularist," Holyoake dedicated his life to freethought. He was sentenced to six months in jail for saying England was "too poor" to support a God, and should consider retiring him. He founded and edited a number of freethought journals, including Reasoner (1846-50), Leader (1850) and Secular Review (1876). Holyoake wrote more than 160 pamphlets and works, including the books Origin and Nature of Secularism (1896), his autobiography, Sixty Years of an Agitator's Life (1892), and the two-volume Bygones Worth Remembering (1905). He was president of the British Secular Union for many years, and became the first chair of the Rationalist Press Association. An Owenite, Holyoake was an ardent reformer who put causes over personal gain, helped work for women's rights, political and educational reform, and personally aided refugees fleeing persecution. Contemporary American agnostic Robert G. Ingersoll wrote on Aug. 8, 1888: "There is no man for whom I have greater respect, greater reverence, greater love, than George Jacob Holyoake." D. 1906.

“Free thought means fearless thought. It is not deterred by legal penalties, nor by spiritual consequences. Dissent from the Bible does not alarm the true investigator, who takes truth for authority not authority for truth. The thinker who is really free, is independent; he is under no dread; he yields to no menace; he is not dismayed by law, nor custom, nor pulpits, nor society—whose opinion appals so many. He who has the manly passion of free thought, has no fear of anything, save the fear of error.”

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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