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: Theodore Schroeder , Jerry DeWitt and Sean B. Carroll
Theodore Schroeder

Theodore Schroeder

On this date in 1864, Theodore Schroeder was born on a farm near Horicon, Wisconsin. Because his parents "intermarried" (one was Lutheran, the other Roman Catholic), they were disowned by their families. His father became an agnostic, and Schroeder was also influenced by the legacy of the freethinking German immigrants who came to Wisconsin after the failed 1848 revolution. He took the injunction to "go west, young man" to heart and traveled for about a decade, taking odd jobs to support himself. In 1882, Schroeder entered the University of Wisconsin, studying engineering, then earning a law degree in 1889. He practiced law for ten years in Salt Lake City, Utah, making a study of Mormonism. Schroeder worked for statehood for Utah, but grew alarmed at the Mormon theocratic hold, as well as the practice of polygamy, which he termed "sanctified lust." In 1900, Schroeder moved to New York. He formed the Free Speech League (a precursor to the American Civil Liberties Union) with Lincoln Steffens and other progressives in 1902. Schroeder worked as League secretary, also offering legal aid. By 1908, when he moved to Connecticut, Schroeder was focusing his activism against religionist Anthony Comstock and the Comstock laws, which suppressed free speech relating to sexual matters, especially discussion of birth control. An ardent foe of these antiquated obscenity laws, Schroeder helped defend his friend and anarchist Emma Goldman at her Denver trial, as well as many others prosecuted in blasphemy or obscenity cases, including progressive ministers. Schroeder wrote Constitutional Free Speech Defined and Defended in an Unfinished Argument in a Case of Blasphemy (1919). He turned his attention to what he called the erotogenetic theory of religion, which he developed after observing Mormonism. William James and others discredited the concept, but he found allies in Havelock Ellis and Chapman Cohen. He also worked with the National Liberal League, which became the American Secular Union. Schroeder became the victim of the censorship he had worked against his entire life, when his will, instructing that his works be published as a collection, was found invalid by the Connecticut Supreme Court. The Court called his freethought writing "obscene," offensive to religion and of no social value. Judge O'Sullivan wrote, "The law will not declare a trust valid when the object of the trust, as the finding discloses, is to distribute articles which reek of the sewer." D. 1953.

“The freethinker has the same right to discredit the beliefs of Christians that the Orthodox Christians enjoy in destroying reverence, respect, and confidence in Mohammedanism, Mormonism, Christian Science, or Atheism.”

—Theodore Schroeder, Constitutional Free Speech Defined and Defended in an Unfinished Argument in a Case of Blasphemy (1919). Main source: The Encyclopedia of Unbelief

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

Jerry DeWitt

Jerry DeWitt

On this date in 1969, Jerry DeWitt was born in DeRidder, La., the progeny of a long line of Pentecostal preachers. DeWitt was an evangelical pastor of two churches in DeRidder for 25 years. His journey to atheism was gradual, doubts beginning to form when he contemplated the idea of hell, reifying when a parishioner came to him, asking him to pray for her injured brother. DeWitt secretly joined the Clergy Project, a confidential online community for active and former preachers who no longer hold supernatural beliefs, founded by Richard Dawkins LINK, FFRF Co-President Dan Barker, Daniel Dennett, and Linda LaScola. When a photo of DeWitt and Dawkins circulated, unintentionally outing DeWitt, DeWitt embraced his status as the first “graduate” of the Clergy Project, though not without cost. After coming out publicly as an atheist in 2011, DeWitt lost his wife, his job, and many friends and relatives. Soon after, DeWitt became the volunteer executive director of Recovering From Religion (RFR), serving until 2012. RFF is an organization that provides support for people recovering from the trauma of religion or reconsidering the role of religion in their lives. In speaking to Oklahoma Atheists and the UCO Skeptics at UCO (Feb. 15, 2012), DeWitt said: “Pretending has an adult word that we call faith. What religion calls faith is really pretending to believe.”

In 2013, DeWitt wrote a book about his experiences, Hope After Faith (Da Capo Press), and hosted the first meeting of the Community Mission Chapel, a so-called “atheist church” in his home state. DeWitt now travels to freethought gatherings around the country, deploying the oratory skills he acquired from preaching to share his story and his thoughts on “the five stages of disbelief.” “I loved God for 25 years, but yet in my search was not able to find any true evidence or proof of his existence or intervention,” he told CNN (July 22, 2013).

“Skepticism is my nature, freethought is my methodology, agnosticism is my conclusion after 25 years of being in the ministry, and atheism is my opinion.”

—— Jerry DeWitt, CNN interview, July 22, 2013

Compiled by Noah Bunnell

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

Sean B. Carroll

Sean B. Carroll

On this date in 1960, Sean B. Carroll was born in Toledo, Ohio. (He is not to be mistaken with cosmologist Sean M. Carroll.) He earned a B.A. in biology from Washington University after only two years, and graduated with a Ph.D. in immunology from Tufts Medical School in 1983, when he was 22. Carroll works as a professor of genetics and molecular biology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and an investigator at the University of Wisconsin’s Howard Hughes Medical Institute. He primarily studies evolutionary developmental biology, a relatively new field that focus on the evolution of the development of organisms. Carroll has two sons with his wife, Jamie.

Carroll is a strong advocate for evolution. When he was interviewed by Freethought Radio on May 24, 2008, Carroll stated that he often works with teachers who want to incorporate evolution into their curriculum, and helps to develop high school lesson plans that include evolution. He has published three books about evolution: Endless Forms Most Beautiful: The New Science of Evo Devo (2005), The Making of the Fittest: DNA Evidence for Evolution (2006), and Remarkable Creatures: Epic Adventures in the Search for the Origins of Species (2009). He writes the Remarkable Creatures science column for The New York Times, and was awarded the 2010 Stephen Jay Gould Prize for raising public awareness about the importance of evolution.

In 2007, Carroll wrote the article “God as Genetic Engineer,” which debunks author Michael Behe’s book about Intelligent Design, The Edge of Evolution (2007). When asked in a 2003 interview by Nature magazine what he wished the public understood better about science, Carroll responded, “The depth and breadth of evidence supporting scientific ideas: compared with, say, the absence of evidence in areas like astrology, UFOs and ghosts.”

“If a designer was designing us, either they’re a terrible designer or they’ve got a great sense of humor, because we’re carrying around all sorts of genes that don’t work.”

—Sean Carroll, Freethought Radio, May 24, 2008.

Compiled by Sabrina 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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