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: Christopher Eccleston , Sir Francis Galton , Natalie Angier and Octave Mirbeau
Christopher Eccleston

Christopher Eccleston

On this date in 1964, actor Christopher Eccleston was born in Little Hulton, near Lancashire, England, to working-class parents. The youngest of three boys, Eccleston attended Joseph Eastham's High School, where his dream was to play soccer for Manchester United. At age 19, while attending a technical school, he signed up for a drama class and his life took a turn. Eccleston studied at the Central School of Speech and Drama and soon found himself performing the works of Shakespeare, Chekhov and Moliere. At 25, he made his professional stage debut in Bristol, performing in "A Streetcar Named Desire." His role in the film, "Let Him Have It" (1991), brought him public notice. But it was the British TV series, "Cracker" (1993-1994), which brought him fame in the UK. Eccleston appeared in the film, "Shallow Grave" (1994), then became a regular in the BBC drama serial, "Our Friends in the North," for which he was named "best actor" in 1997 by the Broadcasting Press Guild Awards and the Royal Television Society Awards (RTS). Often seeking roles echoing his own working class background, he has won praise for a poignant and truthful acting style. In the movie based on the Thomas Hardy book, "Jude" (1996), he played the title role opposite actress Kate Winslet. He again won the RTS award in 2003 for his performance in "Flesh and Blood," and was nominated for "best actor" for his role in "The Second Coming" (2004). He played the ninth doctor in "Doctor Who," winning "most popular actor" from the National Television Awards (2005). Recent films include "New Orleans, Mon Amour" (2006), "Perfect Parents" (2006) and "The Dark Is Rising" (2007), in which he played the lead in a film adaptation of Susan Cooper's novel. In 2007, Eccleston joined the cast of the NBC TV series, "Heroes." Eccleston is an avid marathon runner, competing several times a year. Although raised by a devout mother, Eccleston, by his own admission, is an atheist.

“I'm an atheist. My mother is very religious, a churchgoer. She would often encourage me to go to church as well, but never forced it upon me, which I thought was quite decent of her.

There was no defining moment in which I decided there was no god for me. It was more of a growing process. I do feel that whatever religious beliefs I had as a child were foisted upon me. It's like when you ask where Grandma went when she died, and you'd be told that she went to heaven. I wouldn't necessarily view that as a bad thing, but it was stuff like that which I think hindered my intellectual development. Now that I've grown, I prefer a different interpretation.”

—Christopher Eccleston, actor, born Feb. 16, 1964. BBC interview. Source:

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

Sir Francis Galton

On this date in 1822, Sir Francis Galton was born in England. The grandson of Erasmus Darwin, he was educated in mathematics at Cambridge. An inheritance in 1844 left him free to travel widely. He became a famous explorer, writing several books about his travels in Syria, Egypt and southwest Africa. In 1863 he became general secretary of the British Association and published a book on weather mapping. His Hereditary Genius was published in 1865. Galton coined the term "eugenics," defining it very differently from its current meaning. Galton founded a eugenics research fellowship and chair at University College. Galton's impressive study, "Statistical Inquiries into the Efficacy of Prayer," was first published in the Aug. 1, 1872, issue of Fortnightly View. Galton charmingly showed how royalty, the most-prayed-for people in the world, "are literally the shortest lived" of the affluent. Galton observed: "It is a common week-day opinion of the world that praying people are not practical." He made scholarly contributions to fields as diverse as fingerprinting and psychology. D. 1911.

"Your book drove away the constraint of my old superstition, as if it had been a nightmare."

—Sir Francis Galton, letter to Darwin, recorded in Life and Letters of F. Galton (1914)

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

Natalie Angier

Natalie Angier

On this date in 1958, Pulitzer Prize-winning science columnist for The New York Times Natalie Angier was born in New York City to a Jewish mother and a father with a Christian Science background. She attended the University of Michigan for two years, then transferred to Barnard College, where she studied English, physics and astronomy, and graduated with high honors. At 22, she became a founding staff reporter for the science magazine Discover. Throughout the 1980s, Angier worked as a senior science writer for Time Magazine, as an editor for the women's business magazine Savvy, and as a professor of journalism in a graduate program at New York University. She began writing for The New York Times in 1990 and won a Pulitzer after just ten months on the job for a series of ten feature science articles. Her hit books include Natural Obsessions (1988), about the world of cancer research, The Beauty of the Beastly (1995), and the National Book Award finalist and New York Times bestseller, Woman: An Intimate Geography (1999), which has sold over 200,000 copies. Woman won a Maggie Award from Planned Parenthood, was nominated for the Samuel Johnson Award (Britain's largest nonfiction literary prize), and was named one of the best books of the year by the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune, People magazine, National Public Radio, amazon.com, Publisher's Weekly, Library Journal, and the New York Public Library. In 2002, she edited The Best American Science and Nature Writing, and in 2010 The Canon: A Whirligig Tour of the Beautiful Basics of Science. Richard Dawkins describes The Canon as "an intoxicating cocktail of fine science writing," and Barbara Ehrenreich says of it, "Finally, Nature has a found a biographer who's up to the task." Angier received the American Association for the Advancement of Science prize for excellence in science journalism, among many awards and honors. Her writing has appeared in numerous magazines, publications and anthologies. She began serving a five-year term as the Andrew D. White Professor-at-Large at Cornell University in 2007, previously filled by Oliver Sacks, Toni Morrison, Jane Goodall, and others who were "distinguished contributors to cultural achievement."

Angier, a self-proclaimed "lonely atheist," was a guest on Freethought Radio in 2006. In The New York Times Sunday Magazine (Jan. 14, 2001), Angiers outed herself as an atheist in the article, "Confessions of a Lonely Atheist": "I'm an Atheist. I don't believe in God, Gods, Godlets or any sort of higher power beyond the universe itself, which seems quite high and powerful enough to me. I don't believe in life after death, channeled chat rooms with the dead, reincarnation, telekinesis or any miracles but the miracle of life and consciousness, which again strike me as miracles in nearly obscene abundance . . . I'm convinced that the world as we see it was shaped by the again genuinely miraculous, let's even say transcendent, hand of evolution through natural selection." She continued, "I may not believe in life after death, but what a gift it is to be alive now." Angier received an Emperor Has No Clothes Award at the 2003 national convention of the Freedom From Religion Foundation. She is married to and has a daughter with Rick Weiss, a science reporter for the Washington Post.

"Sure, I'm a soapbox atheist. But she [my daughter] doesn't have to take my word for anything. All she has to do is look around her, every day, to find the bible she needs—in the sky, sun, moon, Mars, leaves, lady bugs, stink bugs, possums, tadpoles, cardinals, the wonderful predatory praying mantises that have gotten really big and fat this year on all the insects this rainy year has brought. Life needs no introduction, explanation or excuse. Life is bigger than myth—except in California."

—Natalie Angier, during her acceptance speech of the Emperor Has No Clothes Award at the national FFRF convention in 2003

Compiled by Bonnie Gutsch

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

Octave Mirbeau

Octave Mirbeau

On this date in 1848, French playwright and novelist Octave Mirbeau was born in Paris. He was expelled from a Jesuit college at age 15. In his life, Mirbeau adopted strong anarchist views and a fondness for art and art criticism. He ghost-wrote at least 10 novels, and many under his own name, including Le Calvaire (Calvary, 1886), (1888), Le Journal d’une femme de chambre (Diary of a Chambermaid, 1900) and Dingo (1913). In his 1888 novel, L’Abbé Jules, Mirbeau’s main character is a priest who rebels against Catholicism. The novel explores the repressive and abusive role religion plays in human life. Sébastien Roch, published in 1890, recounts the sexual abuse of a 13-year-old boy by priests that results in the boy’s expulsion from school and the subsequent destruction of his life. Mirbeau’s plays included “Les Mauvais bergers” (The Bad Shepherds, 1897), the acclaimed “Les affaires sont les affaires” (Business is Business, 1904) and “Le Foyer” (Charity, 1908), a comedy accusing the Catholic church of exploiting young girls. Mirbeau and French actress Alice Regnault wed in London in 1887. Mirbeau is buried in Paris. D. 1917.

“The universe appears to me like an immense, inexorable torture-garden. . . . Passions, greed, hatred, and lies; social institutions, justice, love, glory, heroism, and religion: these are its monstrous flowers and its hideous instruments of eternal human suffering.”

—Octave Mirbeau in his novel, Le Jardin des supplices (Torture Garden), 1899

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.

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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