Freethought of the Day

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There are 2 entries for this date: Gora and William Pitt
Gora

Gora

On this date in 1902, Goparaju Ramachandra Rao, the Indian atheist leader known as Gora, was born into a high caste Hindu family in India. He wrote in his autobiography, We Become Atheists, that he grew up "conventionally orthodox and superstitious." He pursued a botany degree, eventually earning his Master's in botany at Presidency College in Madras. He and his wife Saraswati were married in 1922 when she was only 10. Both their families were Orthodox Hindu, which dictated that girls must marry before puberty, until the Child Marriage Restraint Act was passed in 1935. Gora was excommunicated by his family for his atheism, and devoted his life to propagating it. In 1940, he and his wife co-founded the Atheist Center, in a small village in the Krishna district. On the eve of Independence in 1947, they moved the center to Vijayawada. Gora wrote many books, such as Atheism Questions and Answers, An Atheist Around the World, An Atheist with Gandhi, The Need of Atheism, and Positive Atheism. From 1949 on, he wrote a column on atheism, and began publishing The Atheist, a monthly, in 1969. Gora's atheism dictated his campaign to abolish the caste system with its "untouchables," and the idea of "karma" or divine fate. The Atheist Center, which continued under the guidance of Saraswati, provides counseling, promotes intercaste and casteless marriages (more than 500 have taken place there), works to abolish child marriages, provides aid to prostitutes, unwed mothers and vulnerable women, explodes superstitious beliefs by holding firewalking demonstrations and debunking other "miracles," educates against belief in witchcraft and sorcery, promotes sexual education and family planning and many other reforms. D. 1975.

“The greatest contribution of atheism is the provision of a firm basis for ethical conduct. Atheism explains that morality is a social obligation but not a passport to heaven and salvation. The theistic belief in divine retribution sidetracked moral behavior. Believers were more prone to please the god of their imagination by prayer and ritual than to conform to rules of moral conduct. Consequently immorality and anti-social activities spread wild wherever people were absorbed in the worship of god and in the propitiation of fate. Atheism brings about radical changes in the outlook of people in this context. Truth, tolerance, love and equality are the basic needs of social harmony.”

—Gora, Note on Atheism

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

William Pitt

William Pitt

On this date in 1708, statesman and first Earl of Chatham, William Pitt, was born in England and educated at Eton and Oxford. He entered Parliament at age 27 in 1735. After one of his speeches in 1736 offended the King, Pitt was dismissed from the army. He continued eloquent calls for reform in the House of Commons, served several prestigious posts, and in 1756 was named a Secretary of State and became leader of the House. Pitt, known as "the Great Commoner," was England's most powerful politician by 1760, and was known for his honesty. The city of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, was named for Pitt, who served as wartime Prime Minister during the 7 Years' War against the French in the colonies. Pitt argued in Parliament against the Stamp Act, and introduced many measures to placate the Americans, which were all voted down, such as recalling British troops from Boston. Pitt advised: "You cannot conquer the Americans." The King consequently called Pitt "a trumpet of sedition." Pitt was believed by some to be author of an unsigned "Letter on Superstition," published in the London Journal in 1733, and reprinted with his name in 1873 by Austin Holyoake, calling for a "religion of reason." Biographer Basil Williams, in his Life of William Pitt (1913), disputes this claim. Yet Williams' research found that Pitt was a Deist with "a simple faith in God," who wrote a "fierce denunciation" of those with a "superstitious fear of God." There is agreement Pitt had no ministration from the Church on his deathbed. "Lord C. died, I fear, without the smallest thought of God," recalled William Wilberforce, a friend of Pitt's son (Correspondence of William Wilberforce, 1840). Pitt, who suffered from gout most of his life, collapsed at age 70 during debate on granting independence to the colonies (which he opposed) and died shortly thereafter. D. 1778.

“The only true divinity is humanity.”

—Attributed to William Pitt, Letter on Superstition, 1733. (Source for all quotes: A Biographical Dictionary of Modern Rationalists by Joseph McCabe)

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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