Freethought of the Day

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There are 4 entries for this date: Sir Richard F. Burton , Henry Morgentaler , Bruce Willis and Jean Astruc
Sir Richard F. Burton

Sir Richard F. Burton

On this date in 1821, Sir Richard Francis Burton was born in Great Britain. The colorful adventurer and explorer, educated at Oxford, served in the army in India, where he began to study languages and Muslim culture. Burton became fluent in nearly 30 languages. Posing as a pilgrim, he was the first nonMuslim to partake in the rituals of Mecca, writing a book about the experience. He made famous translations of the Arabian Nights and the Kama Sutra, and traveled extensively in the Mideast, Africa, and South America. Biographers, including his niece, Georgiana Stisted (True Life of Sir. R.F. Burton) considered Burton a rationalist, at most an agnostic or Deist. He was married to a highly superstitious Catholic woman who had last rites administered at Burton's death. D. 1890.

The more I study religions the more I am convinced that man never worshipped anyone but himself."

—Sir Richard F. Burton, in "Terminal Essay," from his translation of Arabian Nights, 1885. See footnote 13 on 

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

Henry Morgentaler

Henry Morgentaler

On this date in 1923, abortion doctor and pro-choice activist Henry Morgentaler, ne Henryk Morgentaler, was born in Lodz, Poland. Morgentaler’s parents were Jewish socialists and the Gestapo murdered his father in 1939 when the Nazis invaded Poland. Morgentaler, his mother and two siblings were forced to live in Lodz’s ghetto, where his sister died, until 1944. The Nazis then sent Morgentaler, his mother and his brother to Auschwitz where they killed his mother, and the brothers did forced labor until they were sent to Dachau, another concentration camp, which Allied Forces liberated in 1945.

Morgentaler became an icon and strong advocate for choice in the fight for reproductive rights. He opened abortion clinics across Canada and trained doctors how to perform abortions safely. He was continuously arrested and jailed for performing safe abortions until he famously won the Canada Supreme Court case that legalized abortions in 1988. Morgentaler immigrated to Canada in 1950 and graduated from the University of Montreal’s medical school in 1953. He began his career as a general practitioner for the working people of Montreal, but transitioned to his specialty of family planning when he saw the need for it in his community. He performed his first abortion in 1968 and opened his first abortion clinic in Montreal in 1969. “I decided to break the law to provide a necessary medical service because women were dying at the hands of butchers and incompetent quacks, and there was no one there to help them. The law was barbarous, cruel and unjust. I had been in a concentration camp, and I knew what suffering was. If I can ease suffering, I feel perfectly justified in doing so.” (Quoted in "Morgantaler: A Difficult Hero," a biography by Catherine Dunphy, 1996.)

Morgantaler battled the Roman Catholic Church, his clinics were raided by police, harassed by pickets and he was arrested four times for performing illegal abortions. Each time he was acquitted by jurors, but was sentenced to 18 months in prison when one of his acquittals was appealed. Morgantaler was released after 10 months when he suffered a heart attack. Another acquittal that was appealed went to the Canadian Supreme Court, resulting in a historic decision on Jan. 28, 1988, overturning a federal law restricting abortions to hospitals and to those in which the pregnancy endangered the pregnant woman. Even in Canada his actions were controversial, and after several abortion doctors were attacked, and even murdered, Morgentaler took many safety precautions including wearing a bulletproof vest. He and his clinics were still the victims of many hate crimes, such as when one of his clinics was firebombed.

Morgentaler was active in humanist organizations in Montreal and in 1975 the American Humanist Association made him its Humanist of the Year. He received many other honors and recognition for the work that he did, including induction into the Order of Canada in 2008. Morgentaler married three times and divorced twice. He had four children: Goldie, Bamie, Yann and Benny. At the time of his death at age 90 he was married to Arlene Leibovich. D. 2013.

 

“In Canada, you have fewer religious fanatics, there is much less violence in Canada and it's a much more tolerant society.''

—— Morgentaler in the New York Times article by David Rohde, “Sniper Attacks on Doctors Create Climate of Fear in Canada,” October 29, 1998.

Compiled by Sarah Eucalano

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

Bruce Willis

Bruce Willis

On this date in 1955, actor Bruce Willis, ne Walter Bruce Willis, was born on a military base in Germany. He grew up in PennsGrove, New Jersey, attended Montclair State College, New Jersey, then moved to New York City. Willis waited on tables and bartended while looking for acting jobs. He was (type)cast for one of his first roles as a bartender by a director who spotted him tending bar. Willis' TV break came in the series "Moonlighting" (1985). His first box office hit was "Die Hard" (1988). Among his many movies: "Look Who's Talking" (1989), "The Bonfire of the Vanities" (1990), "The Last Boy Scout" (1991), "Pulp Fiction" (1994), "Twelve Monkeys" (1995), "The Jackal" (1997), "Breakfast of Champions" (1999), "The Sixth Sense" (1999), and "The Story of Us" (1999), not to mention three "Die Hard" sequels. Willis was married for 11 years to actress Demi Moore, with whom he has three daughters.

“Organized religions in general, in my opinion, are dying forms. They were all very important when we didn't know why the sun moved, why weather changed, why hurricanes occurred, or volcanoes happened. Modern religion is the end trail of modern mythology. But there are people who interpret the Bible literally. Literally! I choose not to believe that's the way. And that's what makes America cool, you know?”

—Bruce Willis, interview, George magazine (July 1998)

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

Jean Astruc

Jean Astruc

On this date in 1684, Jean Astruc was born in France. Astruc, a French physician, became the founder of bible criticism. He served as Professor of Anatomy at Toulouse, then Montpellier, and later Professor of Medicine at Paris. In 1753, he published his "Conjectures" that Moses appeared to have composed the book of Genesis. Freethought historian Joseph McCabe noted that this was the first time the Mosaic narrative was divided into Jahvist and Elohist documents. According to historian J.M. Robertson, Astruc died without the sacraments. D. 1766.

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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