Freethought of the Day

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There are 4 entries for this date: Summer Solstice , Edward Snowden , Ian McEwan and Jean-Paul Sartre

Summer Solstice

 

 

 

Happy Summer Solstice!

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

Edward Snowden

Edward Snowden

On this date in 1983, Edward Snowden was born in Wilmington, North Carolina. Snowden is known for leaking highly classified information from the National Security Agency, where he worked, to the press in June 2013. Snowden did not receive a complete formal education. He dropped out of high school and later dropped out of Anne Arundel Community College in Arnold, Maryland, where he studied computer science. He earned his GED. He taught himself computer science, information technology, politics, and Japanese and Chinese culture and language. He briefly joined the United States Army, where he listed himself as “Buddhist” because “agnostic” was not an option, according to his own web posting.

Beginning in 2006, Snowden started working on-and-off for the Central Intelligence Agency and the NSA, receiving top-security clearance. In May 2013, Snowden left the United States for Hong Kong, and less than a month later he was fired from the NSA for leaking classified information to The Guardian and The Washington Post. Snowden later was granted asylum in Russia. Some people see Snowden as a whistleblower, exposing many of the post-9/11 laws and the politicians who passed them for compromising Americans’ freedom and privacy. Others view Snowden as a traitor who jeopardized the safety of the United States by revealing confidential information.

 

“I feel that religion, adopted purely, is ultimately representative of blindly making someone else’s beliefs your own.”

—⎯Snowden, “A Life of Ambition Despite the Drifting,” The New York Times, June 16, 2013.

Compiled by Sarah Eucalano

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

Ian McEwan

Ian McEwan

On this date in 1948, novelist Ian McEwan, the son of a Scottish army officer, was born in Aldershot, England. McEwan spent most of his childhood in East Asia, Germany and North Africa, returning to England in his teens. He attended the University of Sussex and the University of East Anglia, becoming the first graduate of writer Malcolm Bradbury's newly introduced creative writing course. McEwan's first published work was a collection of short stories, First Love, Last Rites (1975), winning the Somerset Maugham Award in 1976, soon followed by two novels: The Cement Garden (1978), and The Comfort of Strangers (1981). McEwan's novels, which have a dark edge, exploring the multifaceted sides of human nature, have earned him worldwide critical acclaim. A Child in Time received the 1987 Whitbread Novel Award and the Prix Femina Etranger award in 1993. He won the 1998 Man Booker Prize for Fiction for his novel, Amsterdam. Atonement won Germany's 1999 Shakespeare Prize, the 2002 WH Smith Literary Award, the 2003 National Book Critics' Circle Fiction Award, the 2003 Los Angeles Times Prize for Fiction, and the 2004 Santiago Prize for the European Novel. This novel was also made into a critically-acclaimed movie, released in 2007, starring Keira Knightley. McEwan's novel, Saturday, was awarded the James Tait Black Memorial Prize in 2005. On Chesil Beach was shortlisted for the 2007 Booker Prize. McEwan has also written a number of produced screenplays, a stage play, children's fiction and an oratorio. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, of the Royal Society of Arts, and of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, as well as being a Distinguished Supporter of the British Humanist Association.

A self-proclaimed atheist, McEwan speaks openly on the subject. A friend of Richard Dawkins, he is featured in Dawkins' UK Channel 4 series on religion, "The Root of All Evil?"(2006). His freethought views are also expressed by some of his characters. Henry Perowne, in Saturday, defines the supernatural as "the recourse of an insufficient imagination, a dereliction of duty, a childish evasion of the difficulties and wonders of the real, of the demanding re-enactment of the plausible." The character reflects on curiosity that has been "hijacked by peddlers of fakery," and the religious "inability to contemplate your own unimportance." In an interview in The New York Times Magazine (Dec. 2, 2007), McEwan, musing about Atonement's character, Briony, said: "Yes, I am an atheist, and probably Briony is, too. Atheists have as much conscience, possibly more, than people with deep religious conviction, and they still have the same problem of how they reconcile themselves to a bad deed in the past. It's a little easier if you've got a god to forgive you." In a The New Republic interview (Jan. 21, 2008), McEwan stated: "I'm an atheist. I really don't believe for a moment that our moral sense comes from a God . . . It's human, universal, [it's] being able to think our way into the minds of others . . . people who do not have a sky god and don't have a set of supernatural beliefs assert their belief in moral values and in love and in the transcendence that they might experience in landscape or art or music or sculpture or whatever. Since they do not believe in an afterlife, it makes them give more value to life itself. The little spark that we do have becomes all the more valuable when you can't be trading off any moments for eternity . . . My own view of religion is that people must be free to worship all the gods they want. But it's only the secular spirit that will guarantee that freedom . . ."

“I find that life is rich, diverse, fabulous, and extraordinary, conceived without a god.”

—Interview, NPR affiliate KUSP, Capitola, Calif., Feb. 16, 1998

(Compiled by Jane Esbensen)

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

Jean-Paul Sartre

Jean-Paul Sartre

On this date in 1905, Jean-Paul Sartre was born in Paris, an only child and the great-nephew of Albert Schweitzer. He and his lifelong companion Simone de Beauvoir met at the Ecole Normale Superieure, where he graduated in 1929. After teaching and traveling for several years, Sartre headed a clique of Left Bank intellectuals. His first novel, La Nausee, came out in 1938, followed by the fictional Le Mur (1939), then a collection of short stories, and some plays. Drafted during World War II, Sartre was imprisoned for a year in Germany, and either escaped or was released, returning to work in the Resistance. Following the war he founded the magazine, Le Temps Modernes. Being and Nothingness was his existential masterpiece (1943). Sartre's nonfiction also included Existentialism and Humanism (1946) and What Is Literature (1947). Sartre was twice the target of terrorist attacks by opponents of Algerian independence, who exploded bombs in his apartment in the early 1960s. Sartre headed the International War Crimes Tribunal set up by Bertrand Russell to judge American conduct in Indochina. His last work was an unfinished biography of Gustave Flaubert. Atheism was an essential ingredient in Sartre's existentialism: "Illusion has been smashed to bits; martyrdom, salvation and immortality are falling to pieces; the edifice is going to rack and ruin; I collared the Holy Ghost in the basement and threw him out. . ." (The Words, 1964). D. 1980.

“We have lost religion, but we have gained humanism.”

—Jean-Paul Sartre, Life Magazine, November 6, 1964 (cited in 2000 Years of Disbelief, edited by Jim Haught)

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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