Freethought of the Day

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There are 4 entries for this date: Gael Garcia Bernal , Mark Twain , John Toland and Louise Victorine Ackermann
Gael Garcia Bernal

Gael Garcia Bernal

 On this date in 1978, actor Gael Garcia Bernal was born in Guadalajara, Mexico. Garcia Bernal became the first Mexican accepted into London's prestigious Central School of Speech and Drama, where he studied to become an actor. Throughout his career Garcia Bernal has starred in many films, and has shaped the Mexican film industry. Garcia Bernal is known for remaining grounded and thoughtful even as a celebrity. His film credits include major roles in "Amores perros" (2000), "Y tu mama tambien" (2001), "El Crimen del padre Amaro" (2002), "The Motorcycle Diaries" (2004), "Babel" (2006), "Even the Rain" (2010), "Casa de Mi Padre" (2011), and "No" (2012). Garcia Bernal won a BAFTA for best actor for playing Che Guevara in "The Motorcycle Diaries" and "No" received a nomination for Best Foreign Film at the Oscars.

In the movie "El Crimen del padre Amaro," Garcia Bernal plays a young priest who forms a relationship with a teenaged girl who he eventually impregnates. He pressures her to get an abortion, and the unsafe and unregulated procedure kills the girl. The film examines blind faith and the amount of power the Church has in Mexico. The film received positive reviews, but caused a lot of controversy. The Roman Catholic Church attempted to stop the film from being released in Mexico.

Garcia Bernal married Argentinean actress Dolores Fonzi in 2009. They have two children, Lazaro and Libertad.

"I am . . . culturally Catholic, but spiritually agnostic."
"Yo soy . . . Culturalmente católico, pero espiritualmente agnóstico."

—— Gael Garcia Bernal in an interview with El Universal, a major Mexican daily newspaper based in Mexico City, Feb. 2, 2003.

Compiled by Sarah Eucalano

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

Mark Twain

Mark Twain

On this date in 1835, America's iconographic humorist and writer "Mark Twain" (né Samuel Clemens) was born in Florida, Mo. He grew up in Hannibal, in the slave state of Missouri, which became the inspiration for the setting of his classic books Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. "When I was a boy, everybody was poor, but didn't know it; and everybody was comfortable, and did know it," he wrote in his autobiography. His mother, Jane Lampton Clemens, was gentle, yet nevertheless an advocate of the downtrodden, and "could be beguiled into saying a soft word for the devil himself," he recalled. His father died when he was 11. Samuel left school to work and by 13 was a journeyman printer at the Hannibal Gazette. Traveling east to work as a printer and writer, he returned to Missouri to spend two eventful years as a cub-pilot on the Mississippi. His nom de plume was inspired by the call, "mark twain," that river workers made to signal a safe passage of two fathoms' depth. After a 2-week volunteer stint for the confederacy, Twain went west, working as a reporter in Nevada and California. When his story, "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County," was published in the east, he became a national celebrity. Twain supported himself as a traveling correspondent and lecturer. Innocents Abroad was published in 1869.

After marrying Olivia Langdon in 1870, he soon built an opulent house in Hartford. It was at his Hartford home, and summers spent at Quarry Farm, his sister-in-law's home in Elmira, N.Y., where he produced Tom Sawyer, followed by Prince and the Pauper, Life on the Mississippi, and Huck Finn. That beautifully written 1884 novel, whose thrilling denouement is Huck 's decision to be damned to hell rather than betray his friend, a runaway slave, contains the immortal lines: "Hain't we got all the fools in town on our side? And hain't that a big enough majority in any town?" Twain's later books included Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court (1889), "The War Prayer" (a scathing indictment of war and religious hypocrisy, 1905, not published until 1923), The Mysterious Stranger (published posthumously, 1916, debunking Providence), and Letters from the Earth. Twain's surviving daughter Clara delayed publication of this blasphemous yarn told about humans from Satan's perspective until 1962. Europe and Elsewhere — containing "The War Prayer" and many other freethinking writings — was edited by Albert Bigelow Paine, who also helped edit Twain's autobiography, published in 1923. Pudd'nhead Wilson (1894) begins each chapter with an aphorism from "Pudd'nhead Wilson's Calendar," including: "There is no humor in heaven." "The man with a new idea is a Crank until the idea succeeds." In his book Following the Equator (1897), he famously said, "Faith is believing what you know ain't so." Twain's sardonic humor increasingly coated indignant social criticism. He called the Book of Mormon "chloroform in print." In 1907, he wrote Christian Science, exposing Mary Baker Eddy's "desert vacancy, as regards thought." In the late 1890s he became a passionate critic of American imperialism, opposing the Spanish-American and Philippine wars. Twain suffered many personal tragedies, from his brother Henry's tragic death in a steamboat accident in 1858 to the death of his baby son, Langdon, at just 19 months, the death of his beloved daughter, Susie, from meningitis at age 24, and the premature death of his daughter, Jean, in an institution, during an epileptic seizure. His wife, Livy, died in 1904. D. 1910.

“I cannot see how a man of any large degree of humorous perception can ever be religious — except he purposely shut the eyes of his mind & keep them shut by force.”

—Mark Twain, Mark Twain's Notebooks and Journals, Notebook 27, August 1887-July 1888, edited by Frederick Anderson (1979). Cited by James Haught in 2,000 Years of Disbelief.

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

John Toland

John Toland

On this date in 1670, John Toland was born in Ireland, where he was rumored to be the son of a Catholic priest. He was "Educated from the cradle in the grossest superstition and idolatry," he later wrote in Apology (1697). By age 15, he had rejected Roman Catholicism by "his own reason." He studied at Glasgow College from 1687-1690, aligning himself with Presbyterianism. He earned a Master's Degree in Glasgow in 1690. He then studied at Leyden, Holland. A Dutchman, Benjamin Furley, wrote John Locke that Toland had become "a free-spirited, ingenious man," but "having cast off the yoke of spiritual authority . . . has rendered it somewhat difficult for him to find a way of subsistence in the world." Patrons, including the deistic Lord Shafesbury, helped him. The Encyclopedia of Unbelief (source of quotes) terms Toland "perhaps the first professional freethinker." Toland directed the bulk of his writing, more than 100 works, against established religion while shrewdly qualifying his statements to avoid prosecution. Toland was the first to be called a "freethinker" (by Bishop Berkeley). At Oxford, Toland wrote "Christianity not Mysterious" (1696), in which he credited "cunning priests" with the promotion of irrationality. Toland returned to Ireland for a visit, where his book was castigated from the pulpits and by the Irish House of Commons, which ordered the book burnt and the author arrested. One member of the House even moved "that Mr. Toland himself should be burnt." Toland moved to London. By 1704, Toland, who had translated the pantheistic work of Giordano Bruno, called himself "a Pantheist," and is believed to be the first to use the term. In his "History of the Soul's Immortality," Toland asserted that this doctrine was a self-serving invention by Egyptian priests. He also wrote a Life of Milton (1698) and political tracts. The courts of Holland, Hanover, Vienna and Berlin received Toland; he dedicated his Letters to Serena (1694) to the Queen of Prussia. His pamphlet "Nazarenus" (1718) contained early samples of biblical criticism. "Pantheisticon" (1720) rejected supernaturalism. His essay "Tetradymas" contains bible criticism and a description of the murder of Hypatia. D. 1722.

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

Louise Victorine Ackermann

Louise Victorine Ackermann

On this date in 1813, Louise Victorine Ackermann (nee Choquet) was born in France. Her father educated her in the philosophy of the Encyclopedists. While studying German in Berlin, she met Paul Ackermann, a German pastor who had lost his faith, and married him in 1843. They had two happy years before his death. She moved to Nice and wrote highly regarded stories and poems, Contes (1855) and Contes et Poesies (1863). Her home in Paris later became a hub for major writers. "She was the most decidedly Agnostic of them all," wrote freethought historian Joseph McCabe. Mme. Ackermann is best-known for Poesies (1874), which contains powerful, somber verses against human suffering. She also wrote Pensees d'un solitaire (1883), which included a short autobiography. Her tombstone was inscribed with her agnostic verse. D. 1890.

“[Religions] impose antiquated and narrow beliefs which are entirely unsuitable for a being who knows nothing and can affirm nothing.”
"

—Pensees d'une solitaire, 1903 ed. Cited by Joseph McCabe, A Biographical Dictionary of Modern Rationalists

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.

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