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 4 entries for this date: Mark Zuckerberg , Robert Owen , Erwin Chemerinsky and Robyn Blumner
Mark Zuckerberg

Mark Zuckerberg

On this date in 1984, Mark Elliot Zuckerberg was born in White Plains, N.Y. Zuckerberg grew up in Dobbs Ferry, N.Y., where he showed an early aptitude for computer programming. He created a home computer network, which he called ZuckNet, and wrote games for his friends to play. Zuckerberg attended and graduated from Phillips Exeter Academy, where he focused on the classics and created a music-recommendation program called Synapse, which AOL and Microsoft offered to purchase. Instead of moving to Silicon Valley, he instead attended Harvard, where he studied computer science and psychology. Zuckerberg, along with his roommate Dustin Moskovitz and their friends Chris Hughes and Eduardo Saverin, founded Facebook as a way way for Harvard students to connect with each other; in 2004, the year Zuckerberg dropped out of Harvard, Facebook went national, at first expanding throughout US colleges, then to the entire country. As of March 2011, Facebook had over 500 million active users. Zuckerberg was Time's Person of the Year in 2010, and that same year a movie based on the founding of Facebook, "The Social Network," was released. This film was nominated for five Academy Awards (including Best Actor and Best Picture), and won three in different categories.

Though Zuckerberg was raised Jewish and had a Star Wars-themed Bar Mitzvah, he has left religion behind and at one point had declared this on his Facebook profile. (Information on Zuckerberg's religion was not displayed to all Facebook viewers as of March 2011.) Zuckerberg has said that his vision for Facebook is that it will promote a more open society, by making it very easy to state one's religious views, romantic preferences, and other information which might not be immediately obvious directly on the profile page. Zuckerberg told the New Yorker: “No one has done a study on this, as far as I can tell, but I think Facebook might be the first place where a large number of people have come out . . . We didn’t create that — society was generally ready for that” (Sept. 20, 2010). This ease of openness contributes to visibility of Facebook-using atheists, agnostics and freethinkers.

Religion: Atheist

—Mark Zuckerberg's Facebook profile

Compiled by Eleanor Wroblewski; Photo by Frederic Legrand - COMEO, Shutterstock.com

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

Robert Owen

Robert Owen

On this date in 1771, reformer and philanthropist Robert Owen was born in Wales. He became known as "a capitalist who became the first Socialist." Owen started work as a clerk at age nine. With help from a sympathetic cloth merchant to whom he was apprenticed, Owen educated himself. Owen was an unbeliever by 14, influenced by Seneca, and his acquaintance with chemist John Dalton and Samuel Taylor Coleridge. By 18, Owen established a small spinning mill in Manchester. He married the daughter of a Glasgow cotton manufacturer, purchasing his father-in-law's New Lanark mills in Scotland. Owen set out to put his humanitarian creed into practice, and turned New Lanark into a model community attracting the attention of reformers around the world.

Owen set up the first infant-school in Britain, and a three-grade school for children under ten. He appealed to the government and other manufacturers to follow his lead, but was rebuffed by clergy-led opposition when his views on religion became widely known. At a public meeting calling for "villages of unity and cooperation," living wages and education of the poor at the City of London Tavern (Aug. 21, 1817), Owen called "all religions" false. He sought to limit hours for child labor in mills in 1815, and saw passage of a watered-down Factory Act in 1819. Owen's Essays on the Principle of the Formation of Human Character (1816) were his major treatises, in which he advised: "Relieve the human mind from useless and superstitious restraints."

He founded New Harmony, a model settlement in Indiana, in 1825-28--a failed venture which he signed over to his sons Robert Dale and William Owen. Owen wrote Debate on the Evidences of Christianity (1829). Owen founded the Economist in 1821 to promote his progressive views, and The New Moral World in 1834, along with an ethical movement called "Rational Religion." His "Halls of Science" attracted thousands of nonreligious followers ("Owenites") and the trade unions. Owen founded several other publications. His autobiography was published in 1857-58. Joseph McCabe called him "the father of British reformers, and one of the highest-minded men Britain ever produced." (Biographical Dictionary of Modern Rationalists, 1920). D. 1858.

“Finding that no religion is based on facts and cannot therefore be true, I began to reflect what must be the condition of mankind trained from infancy to believe in errors.”

—Robert Owen, Evidences of Christianity: A Debate with Alexander Campbell and Robert Owen (published 1829)

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

Erwin Chemerinsky

Erwin Chemerinsky

On this date in 1953, legal scholar Erwin Chemerinsky was born to Arthur and Raeda Chemerinsky, a working-class Jewish couple from Chicago's South Side. He earned a bachelor's degree in communication from Northwestern University in 1975 and graduated cum laude from Harvard Law School in 1978 while working with the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau. He taught law at DePaul University, the University of Southern California and at Duke University before becoming the founding dean of the University of California-Irvine School of Law and Raymond Pryke Professor of First Amendment Law in 2008. He married Catherine L. Fisk in 1993. She is a law professor at UC-Irvine who has degrees from the University of Wisconsin and UC-Berkeley.

Chemerinsky was elected in April 2016 to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. His areas of expertise are constitutional law, federal practice, civil rights and civil liberties and appellate litigation. He's the author of eight books, including The Case Against the Supreme Court (2014) and The Conservative Assault on the Constitution (2010) and has had over 200 articles published in top law reviews and journals. In January 2014, National Jurist magazine named him the most influential U.S. legal educator. (He finished second to Cass Sunstein in 2015.) In 2014, the Freedom From Religion Foundation named him a Champion of the First Amendment, an award he accepted at FFRF's national convention in Los Angeles. His convention speech was titled “The Vanishing Wall Separating Church and State."

Ingrid Laas photo.

"The thesis of my remarks is a simple one: Now more than ever, we need the Freedom From Religion Foundation. In 1947 in Everson v. Board of Education, the Supreme Court held that the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment applies to state and local governments. All nine justices believed that the Establishment Clause was meant to create a wall that separates church and state. Now for the first time since 1947, a majority of the court rejects that notion. We have a Supreme Court that is hostile toward freedom from religion."

—FFRF convention speech, Oct. 25, 2014

Compiled by Bill Dunn

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

Robyn Blumner

Robyn Blumner

On this date in 1961, Robyn Blumner was born in New York City. She grew up in Glen Cove, N.Y. She graduated from Cornell University with a B.S. in Industrial and Labor Relations in 1982, and New York University School of Law in 1985. She worked as a labor lawyer in New York and volunteered for the American Civil Liberties Union after graduation, becoming executive director of the Utah ACLU from 1987 to 1989, and the Florida ACLU from 1989 to 1997. She has since worked as a columnist for The St. Petersburg Times in Florida, and serves as a member of the editorial board. Her weekly column is nationally syndicated by Tribune Media Services. Blumner often writes about issues of civil liberties, workers' rights, and the separation of church and state. Blumner openly declared her atheism in several of her columns. She was awarded the Freedom From Religion Foundation's Emperor Has No Clothes Award in 2004 for her plain speaking on religion and the First Amendment. Blumner is now the CEO for the Center for Inquiry. 

“My faith is in mankind and the marvels accomplished by human ingenuity and drive. Why that makes me a pariah to [Tampa City Council member Kevin] White and others like him is beyond my ken. It certainly says more about them than me.”

—Robyn Blumner in “I'm an atheist — so what?” in The St. Petersburg Times, Aug. 8, 2004

Compiled by Eleanor Wroblewski; Photo by Brent Nicastro

© 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 This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 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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