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: Thomas Szasz , Emma Thompson and Emile Durkheim
Thomas Szasz

Thomas Szasz

On this date in 1920, psychiatrist Thomas Szasz was born in Hungary. He earned a degree in physics from the University of Cincinnati in 1941, and his medical degree from the same university in 1944. His residency was in psychiatry. Szasz, went on to be a professor of psychiatry at the State University of New York-Syracuse, and in 1990 the University made him a professor emeritus.  He was a critic of coercive psychiatry and a libertarian who supported suicide as a fundamental right. He favored abolition of the insanity defense and involuntary mental hospitalization, and refered to the "myth of mental illness." His many books include The Manufacture of Madness, The Myth of Mental Illness, A Lexicon of Lunacy, and, with Milton Friedman, On Liberty and Drugs. His freethought credentials included being named the 1973 Humanist of the Year by the American Humanist Association and being a Humanist Laureate with the Council for Secular Humanism. He has had a major influence on the field of psychiatry. D. 2012.

"If you talk to God, you are praying. If God talks to you, you have schizophrenia."

—Thomas Szasz, The Second Sin, 1973

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

Emma Thompson

Emma Thompson

On this date in 1959, talented British actress and screenwriter Emma Thompson was born in London. Her mother Phyllida Law (with whom she has acted), sister Sophie Thompson, and father Eric Thompson (now deceased) were all actors. Thompson studied English literature at Newnham College at Cambridge University (graduating in 1980), where she became active in the university's famous theatrical group, the Footlights Revue. She started her career with some BBC radio gigs, followed by appearances on a sketch comedy series called "Alfresco," with Hugh Laurie, and a popular sitcom, "The Young Ones," in Britain. In 1990, Thompson co-starred with Jeff Goldblum in "The Tall Guy," her first major film. Thompson won a BAFTA and an Oscar for Best Actress in her 1992 role in "Howard's End." She adapted Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility for the screen, the screenplay for which she deservedly earned an Academy Award for Best Adaptation in 1996, and starred in the film of the same title. Thompson gained an Emmy for guest starring in an episode of "Ellen" in 1997. She played the leading role in the 2001 TV production of "Wit," about a woman dying of cancer. Her most memorable films include roles in "Much Ado About Nothing" (1993), "The Remains of the Day" (1993), "In the Name of the Father" (1993), "Primary Colors" (1998), "Love Actually" (2003), the series "Angels in America" (2003), in which she played an angel, "Stranger than Fiction" (2006), "Last Chance Harvey" (2008), and has had a recurring role as Professor Sybill Trelawney in several of the Harry Potter films (which star freethinker Daniel Radcliffe). "I think that the bible as a system of moral guidance in the 21st century is insufficient, to put it mildly. I feel quite strongly that we need a new moral lodestone if we can't rely on what is inside our own selves," she told The Australian in 2008.

"I'm an atheist; I suppose you can call me a sort of libertarian anarchist. I regard religion with fear and suspicion. It's not enough to say that I don't believe in God. I actually regard the system as distressing: I am offended by some of the things said in the Bible and the Koran, and I refute them."

—Emma Thompson, "Acting on outspoken beliefs," by Jane Cornwell in The Australian, Oct. 15, 2008

Compiled by Bonnie Gutsch

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

Emile Durkheim

Emile Durkheim

On this date in 1858, one of the most significant founders of sociology, David Emile Durkheim, was born in Epinal in Lorraine, France. His father, grandfather and great-grandfather were prominent rabbis. Durkheim spent time in rabbinical school but broke with Judaism early in life (Emile Durkheim: An Introduction to Four Major Works by Robert Alun Jones, 1986). Durkheim excelled in school, earning his bachelor in letters and sciences in 1875, two years earlier than normal, from College d’Epinal. He was admitted to the prestigious École normale supérieure in 1879 and passed examinations to become a philosophy lecturer in 1882. He was appointed to the Faculty of Letters at Bordeaux to lecture on the “Science Sociale,” marking the first time sociology officially entered the French university system. Durkheim founded the Année Sociologique in 1898, the first French social science journal, still in existence. In 1902, Durkheim was appointed chair of education at the Sorbonne in Paris. For a time, his courses were the only lectures required at the Sorbonne. Durkheim believed religion served a unique role in human life, and indeed shaped many social structures, but that its origins were in human society, not from a divine source (“Reasons people choose atheism,” BBC, Oct. 22, 2009). “Frequently described as a ‘secular pope,’ Durkheim was viewed by critics as an agent of government anti-clericalism” (Jones, 1986). Some of his greatest contributions to sociology include: The Division of Labour in Society (1893), Rules of the Sociological Method (1895), On the Normality of Crime (1895), Suicide (1897), Sociology and Its Scientific Domain (1900) and The Elementary Forms of Religious Life (1912). Published posthumously were other important works including Education and Sociology (1922), Sociology and Philosophy (1924) and Pragmatism and Sociology (1955). Overwork and the death of a beloved son in war (in 1916) had severe repercussions on Durkheim’s health. He suffered a stroke and died at the age of 59. He is buried in Paris. D. 1917.

“Religious force is nothing other than the collective and anonymous force of the clan.”

—Emile Durkheim in The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life, 1912.

Compiled by Bonnie Gutsch

© 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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