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: Richard Stallman , Maxim Gorky , James Madison and Rosa Bonheur
Richard Stallman

Richard Stallman

On this date in 1953, computer programmer Richard Stallman was born in New York City. Stallman is a leader in the software freedom movement. He graduated magna cum laude from Harvard with a degree in physics in 1974 and did graduate work at MIT. Stallman has received many awards and several honorary doctorates, including from the University of Glasgow and Lakehead University in Canada. He has also published several papers in peer-reviewed journals and has many other published works. Stallman frequently gives talks advocating for free software and other free methods of maintaining privacy while using technology. Stallman is known for founding the GNU Project (GNU's Not Unix) in 1983 while he was at MIT. The GNU Project involves programmers working to create free software so a computer may run entirely on free software. The GNU Project met this goal in 1992 with Linux, a free operating system. The GNU Project continues to develop more software and advocate for free software, which is free to use, edit and distribute.

Stallman, based in Massachusetts, also promotes other issues, including medical marijuana, and supports the Green Party. He also has sported a button that reads "Impeach God" and identifies as an atheist. According to his website Stallman was in agreement with FFRF's challenge of President George W. Bush's faith-based initiatives. "I think we have an excess of faith-based initiatives in recent years," he wrote. (Stallman.org, Feb 28, 2007)

 

"Religious people often say that religion offers absolute certainty about right and wrong; 'god tells them' what it is. Even supposing that the aforementioned gods exist, and that the believers really know what the gods think, that still does not provide certainty, because any being no matter how powerful can still be wrong. Whether gods exist or not, there is no way to get absolute certainty about ethics. Without absolute certainty, what do we do? We do the best we can. Injustice is happening now; suffering is happening now. We have choices to make now. To insist on absolute certainty before starting to apply ethics to life decisions is a way of choosing to be amoral."

—— Stallman in a May 1, 2000 interview with Slashdot called “Thus Spake Stallman.”

Compiled by Sarah Eucalano

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

Maxim Gorky

Maxim Gorky

On this date in 1868, Alexei Maximovitch Peshkov, who later renamed himself Maxim Gorky, was born in the village of Nizhny Novgorod, today called Gorky. After his father died when Alexei was 5, he was sent to live with his maternal grandparents. His grandfather made him quit school at age 8 to go to work. At 12, he ran away, and endured so many bitter hardships trying to survive that he later adopted the name "Gorky," which means "The Bitter One." After trying unsuccessfully at age 21 to commit suicide by shooting himself, Peshkov suffered from lifelong bouts of tuberculosis as the result of damage to his lungs. Gorky undertook a 2-year walking journey as a "tramp," becoming familiar with Russia's oppressed underclass. At 24, he became a reporter and began writing sympathetically about the outcasts, derelicts, petty criminals and prostitutes he had encountered, thus becoming a folk hero. His first collection of short stories was published to great acclaim in 1898. Chekhov befriended Gorky, introducing him to theatrical producers, who invited him to write his first plays. "The Smug Citizen" (1902), created an uproar, although "The Lower Depths" (1902) has endured. He was invited by a host of writers and dignitaries to speak in the United States in 1906. When the New York World pilloried Gorky for supposedly traveling with a woman he was not married to, many sponsors, such as Mark Twain and Teddy Roosevelt, withdrew their support, although some, such as H.G. Wells, stood by him. Gorky, sympathetic to the Marxist cause to overthrow the government, was periodically jailed, and finally exiled from Russia for several years. Critical of the Bolsheviks and Lenin, he went on a self-imposed exile throughout the 1920s, until one of his harshest critics, Stalin, invited him home. Although Gorky was criticized for endorsing some of Stalin's policies, he is credited with saving the lives of several writers. Gorky's many books and plays include Summer Folk (1903), Barbarians (1906), Enemies (1906), The Last Ones (1908), The Counterfeit Coin (1926), Yegor Bulychov (1931), and an autobiographical trilogy, My Childhood (1914), In the World (1916), and My Universities (1923). The circumstances of his death were murky. While it is possible he may finally have succumbed to tuberculosis or natural causes, he may also have been ordered killed by Stalin. His writings are strongly humanistic and rationalist. D. 1936.

“This 'search for God' business must be forbidden for a time--it is a perfectly useless occupation.”

—Maxim Gorky, quoted in Who's Who in Hell, edited by Warren Allen Smith. Also cited by by David Wallechinsky & Irving Wallace in The People's Almanac.

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

James Madison

James Madison

On this date in 1751, James Madison was born in Virginia. The Deist, who became primary author of the secular U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights, and fourth President of the United States, originally contemplated the ministry as a career. After graduating from Princeton, Madison was appointed a delegate to the Virginia state convention. There he was responsible for the adoption of a freedom of conscience clause in the state constitution. "Religious bondage shackles and debilitates the mind and unfits it for every noble enterprise, every expanded prospect," Madison wrote William Bradford (April 1, 1771). After being elected to the Virginia state legislature, his famous "Memorial and Remonstrance" defeated a bid to force mandatory tithing in 1785. His memorial warned: "it is proper to take alarm at the first experiment on our liberties." Madison was elected to the first House of Representatives, was Secretary of State under Jefferson, and served two terms as president, from 1809 to 1817. His "Detached Memorabilia," written between 1817 and 1832, revealed his regrets over the appointment of chaplains to the two Houses of Congress. Madison called it "a palpable violation of equal rights, as well as of Constitutional principles." He equally argued against chaplains in the military, and religious proclamations by the president for thanksgivings, writing that such acts "imply a religious agency." Madison's personal correspondence was free of religion. D. 1836.

“During almost fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What have been its fruits? More or less in all places, pride and indolence in the Clergy, ignorance and servility in the laity, in both, superstition, bigotry and persecution. . . .

Torrents of blood have been spilt in the old world, by vain attempts of the secular arm, to extinguish Religious discord, by proscribing all difference in Religious opinion.”

—James Madison, "Memorial and Remonstrance," 1785

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

Rosa Bonheur

Rosa Bonheur

On this date in 1822 (some sources give March 22), painter Rosa Bonheur was born in Bordeaux, France, to a nominally Jewish family. All four children in the family became artists. Inspired by George Sand, Rosa began dressing in boys' clothes in order to study animal anatomy, a sartorial habit of freedom she never abandoned. She visited slaughterhouses and also sketched at the horse market. Her painting, The Horse Fair, 1853, made her an international celebrity. Rosa Bonheur, the 19th century's most admired woman artist, was known for her unsentimental and realistic renderings of animals. She was exhibited regularly at Paris salons, and became the first woman to receive the Grand Cross of the Legion of Honor. Bonheur was considered an agnostic by peers. D. 1899.

“Though I make this concession as to my body, my philosophical belief remains unaltered.”

—Rosa Bonheur, consenting to a religious funeral in order to be buried near a friend. (Cited by Joseph McCabe, A Biographical Dictionary of Modern Rationalists, 1920.)

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  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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