Freethought of the Day

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There are 4 entries for this date: David Miliband , Iris Murdoch , Jesse Ventura and Adam Savage
David Miliband

David Miliband

On this date in 1965, David Wright Miliband was born in London. Ralph Miliband, his father, was a great Marxist scholar from Belgium and his mother was a feminist and human rights activist from Poland. Miliband’s parents were Jewish and settled in England after escaping the Holocaust. Miliband’s younger brother, Edward Miliband, is the Leader of the British Labour Party. Miliband graduated with first class honors from Corpus Christi College at Oxford University with a degree in philosophy, politics and economics. As a Kennedy Scholar at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, he earned a Master’s degree in political science in 1989. Miliband then worked at a British think tank, the Institute for Public Policy Research, as a research fellow and policy analyst until 1994. Miliband was appointed as Tony Blair’s Head of Policy in 1994, and three years later Blair appointed him the de facto Head of the Prime Minister’s Policy Unit, a post he held until the 2001 election. Miliband was elected to Parliament for South Shields in 2001. Miliband served as Schools Minister in 2002, Cabinet Office Minister in 2004, Minister of State for Communities and Local Government in 2005, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in 2006. New Prime Minister Gordon Brown appointed Miliband Foreign Secretary in 2007. David Miliband gained the most nominations for his bid in 2010 for Labour Party Leader, a race that included his younger brother Ed Miliband, to whom he ultimately lost by a narrow margin. Since his unsuccessful campaign, Miliband has continued serving as a Member of Parliament for South Shields and became a senior global advisor for Oxford Analytica. Miliband is married to American-born violinist Louise Shackelton, with whom he has adopted two sons.

“My parents and grandparents — all of them Jews — went through huge trauma. They went through the trauma of the Holocaust. I don't know if it's for that reason that, by 1965, when I was born, my grandparents, who were alive, my parents were secular. But I've grown up in a secular way. I've thought about this, and I'm an atheist.”

—David Miliband in an interview with CNN’s Fareed Zakaria on July 5, 2009

Compiled by Bonnie Gutsch

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

Iris Murdoch

Iris Murdoch

On this date in 1919, Iris Murdoch, the daughter of an Irish woman who trained as a singer and an English civil servant, was born in Dublin. Iris as a child moved with her family to the suburbs of London. The prolific writer of 26 novels was educated at Somerville College, Oxford, and became a fellow of St. Anne's College, Oxford, in 1949. Her first book was nonfiction: Sartre, Romantic Rationalist (1953). Her first novel was Under the Net (1954). A Severed Head (1961) was made into a film in 1971. The Bell (1958) was about the Anglican religious community. Her book The Time of Angels (1956) depicted a highly flawed Anglican priest. The Sea, The Sea (1978) won the Booker Prize. For a self-described atheist, Murdoch had a somewhat confusing view of religion. The New Economist reported on Sept. 25, 1995, that one of her concerns "has been religion and its role in the modern world. She herself does not believe in God and, in the specific case of Christianity of the more orthodox sort, has a problem with the picture of God as a person up in Heaven, and Christ as his son, a magical, spiritual being. But she thinks that the maintenance of religion is essential; that it must be preserved. She notes that many are comforted by the belief that they will meet their loved ones after death but, in her opinion, such beliefs are, literally considered untrue." (Cited in Who's Who in Hell, edited by Warren Allen Smith.) Murdoch was made a Dame of the Order of the British Empire in 1987. Her death from Alzheimer's disease was documented in Elegy of Iris, and A Memoir of Iris Murdoch by her husband John Bayley. The movie "Iris," starring Kate Winslet and Judi Dench as the author, was made in 2001. D. 1999.

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

Jesse Ventura

Jesse Ventura

On this date in 1951, James George Janos, later known as Jesse "The Body" Ventura, was born in Minneapolis to George and Bernice Janos. After graduating high school in 1969, Janos joined the U.S. Navy, spent time in the Vietnam War and was honorably discharged in 1973. He attended North Hennepin Community College in Minneapolis but dropped out after one year and spent the next several years in various places and jobs. (He was briefly a bodyguard for the Rolling Stones, and spent nine months in a motorcycle club in San Diego.) Janos developed a rigorous workout routine, and his newly muscular physique attracted the attention of famous Midwest wrestling promoter Bob Geigel. He began wrestling professionally in the mid-1970s and changed his name to the one that made him famous, Jesse "The Body" Ventura. Playing a loud, aggressive villain became Ventura's trademark as a wrestler for the World Wrestling Federation. He continued wrestling in the national spotlight until 1984, when emergency hospitalization due to blood clots in his lungs made him miss a title match against Hulk Hogan, and ended his professional wrestling career. He spent the next five years as a wrestling commentator for various television and radio programs. He acted in a handful of films, including several Arnold Schwarzenegger movies: "Predator" (1987), "The Running Man" (1987) and "Batman & Robin" (1997). In 1990, Ventura ran against and defeated the 18-year incumbent mayor of Brooklyn Park, Minn., serving until 1995. He campaigned for governor as a third-party candidate, and was one of the pioneering politicians who reached out to new voters via the Internet. He was elected as Minnesota governor in 1998, and proved to be a progressive politician, strongly backing gay rights, abortion rights, funding higher education, third-party politics, mass transit, property tax reform and opening trade relations with Cuba. Deciding not to run for reelection because he wanted his family to regain their privacy, Ventura and his family (including wife Terry, whom he married in 1975) currently live in Mexico.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation awarded the former governor the 1999 "Emperor Has No Clothes Award" for his "plain speaking" on religion and, as governor, for rejecting proposals to entangle state and church, including refusing to proclaim for Minnesota a "Day of Prayer." As governor, Ventura vetoed a bill that would have required students to recite the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools. Ventura, on refusing to sign a National Day of Prayer in 1999, said: "I believe in the separation of church and state. We all have our own religious beliefs. There are people out there who are atheists, who don't believe at all. They are all citizens of Minnesota and I have to respect that" (Minnesota Independent, "Despite court decision, National Day of Prayer will endure in Minnesota," by Andy Birkey, April 20, 2010). In his 2009 book Don't Start the Revolution Without Me! (co-authored with Dick Russell), Ventura writes: "I was the only governor of all fifty who would not declare a National Day of Prayer. I took a lot of heat for that, and my response was very simple: Why do people need the government to tell them to pray? Pray all you want! Pray fifty times a day if you desire, it's not my business! . . . If I declare National Day of Prayer, then I've got to declare National No-Prayer Day for the atheists. They are American citizens too" (p. 58). "For me, the lines between church and state seem to become more blurred by the day. The First Amendment protects freedom of speech, thought — and religion. Nowhere is it mandated that we're the Christian States of America. . . . That's made us, I think, a stronger and more democratic nation. . . . It's abundantly clear that our Founding Fathers wanted to prevent our government from establishing a 'national church' " (p. 59).

"Organized religion is a sham and a crutch for weak-minded people who need strength in numbers."

—Jesse Ventura, Playboy magazine, November 1999

Compiled by Bonnie Gutsch

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

Adam Savage

Adam Savage

On this date in 1967, Adam Savage was born in New York City. Savage was raised in North Tarrytown, N.Y., now known as Sleepy Hollow. When talking about his family, Savage says, “I'm actually the fourth generation in my family to have no practical use for the church, or God, or religion. My children continue this trend” (in a speech to Harvard Humanists, April 2010). He worked as an actor when he was a child, but started working in special effects when he was 19. Savage constructed mechanical effects for theatrical productions and worked as a model maker on several films, including the new "Star Wars" movies and "Space Cowboys," before being offered the opportunity from the Discovery Channel to create and host the show “Mythbusters” with Jamie Hyneman, another special effects veteran. On “Mythbusters,” Savage and Hyneman, along with their staff, investigate myths and rumors through experimentation. Though “Mythbusters” does not investigate claims about the supernatural, as they are often non-disprovable, Savage and his co-host are openly nonreligious, and both were awarded the Harvard Humanist Chaplaincy's Lifetime Achievement Award in Cultural Humanism.

“The idea of an ordered and elegant universe is a lovely one. One worth clinging to. But you don't need religion to appreciate the ordered existence. It's not just an idea. It's reality. We're discovering the hidden orders of the universe every day. The inverse square law of gravitation is amazing. Fractals, the theory of relativity, the genome: these are magnificently beautiful constructs.”

—Adam Savage in his acceptance speech at Harvard Humanist Chaplaincy, April 2010

Compiled by Eleanor Wroblewski

© 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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