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: John Fowles , Hypatia Bradlaugh Bonner and Olive Schreiner
John Fowles

John Fowles

On this date in 1926, novelist John Fowles was born in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex, outside London. After serving two years as a lieutenant in the Royal Marines, Fowles went to Oxford, where he graduated in 1950 with a degree in French. As a college student, he admired the French existentialists, (particularly Camus and Sartre). Fowles lectured in Poitiers, France, then spent two years on a Greek island teaching English at a college. From 1954 to 1963, he taught English at St. Godric's College, London. The phenomenal success of his first published novel, The Collector (1963), permitted him the luxury of becoming a fulltime writer. The Magus, set on a Greek island with an English protagonist who teaches at a school, was published in 1966, and revised in 1977. These novels were followed by The French Lieutenant's Woman (1969), Daniel Martin (1977), Mantissa (1982), and A Maggot (1985). Fowles also wrote poetry and nonfiction. His book of essays, Wormholes, came out in 1998. The vivid The Collector, a disturbing tale of a young butterfly collector who decides to kidnap a woman he has a crush on, was made into a memorable film in 1965 starring Terrance Stamp. The French Lieutenant's Woman, Fowles' most commercial success, inspired a 1981 movie of the same name, starring Meryl Streep. Fowles' semi-autobiographical protagonist in Daniel Martin is described as an atheist. According to the Spring 1996 volume of Twentieth Century Literature, which was devoted to Fowles, he "repeatedly defined himself as an atheist." The New York Times Book Review (May 31, 1998), in reviewing Wormholes, noted: ". . . Religion is one of several subjects (environmentalism is another) for which Fowles retires elegance in favor of the bludgeon" (see featured quote). In an interview by James R. Baker ("Art of Fiction"), Fowles said: "I stay an atheist, a totally unreligious man, with a deep, deep conviction that there is no afterlife." D. 2005.

“Being an atheist is a matter not of moral choice, but of human obligation.”

—John Fowles, quoted in The New York Times Book Review (May 31, 1998)

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

Hypatia Bradlaugh Bonner

Hypatia Bradlaugh Bonner

On this date in 1858, Hypatia Bradlaugh (later Bonner) was born. Namesake of the murdered pagan lecturer of Alexandria, Hypatia was the daughter of great British atheist leader Charles Bradlaugh, who triumphed after a long battle to be seated in Parliament as an atheist. Matriculating at London University, Hypatia became a teacher at the Hall of Science run by her father's National Secular Society. When she married Arthur Bonner in 1882, they merged their surnames and had two sons, one of whom survived. After her father died in 1891, Hypatia wrote his biography, and was forced by constant slanders of deathbed conversions to correct the public record, even taking successful court action. An ardent opponent of the death penalty, proponent of penal reform, peace advocate and feminist, Hypatia lectured widely. She founded the Rationalist Peace Society in 1910. She edited a journal, Reformer (1897-1904). She was part of the Rationalist Press Association, worked against blasphemy laws, and was appointed Justice of the Peace for London, 1922-1934, as a reward for 40 years of public service. Her books include Penalties Upon Opinion (1912), The Christian Hell (1913) and Christianity and Conduct (1919). In her final "Testament," she wrote: "Away with all these gods and godlings; they are worse than useless." D. 1934.

“Heresy makes for progress.”

—Motto of Reformer, a British journal launched in 1897 by Hypatia Bradlaugh Bonner. Also see

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

Olive Schreiner

Olive Schreiner

On this date in 1855, Olive Schreiner was born in Basutoland (now Lesotho), Africa, the daughter of a German father and an English mother, both working for the London Missionary Society. She was ninth of 12 children. Olive began working at age 13 as a governess, often in primitive conditions. The Story of an African Farm, which was published in 1883 under the pen-name "Ralph Iron," was written before she was 20. She educated herself, reading scientists and freethinkers, and had saved passage for England within 10 years. Her novel, about two children growing up in the African veldt, has been called a "South African Wuthering Heights." The sections detailing the internal struggle of the character Waldo (whose name was a nod at Ralph Waldo Emerson) poignantly describe the struggles she went through over her loss of faith after being raised in strict Calvinism. The novel, where nonbelief runs as a constant thread, caught the eye of reader George Meredith, and was highly acclaimed upon publication and remains in circulation. Schreiner also wrote Dreams (1891), Trooper Peter Halket (1897), and Woman and Labour (1911). In 1894, she married S.C. Cronwright. In England, she became friends with radicals such as Eleanor Marx, and had a longterm correspondence with Havelock Ellis. After returning to Africa, she was at one time placed under martial law and her home was burned down by whites incensed over her position on race. A feminist and suffragist, she was a pacifist during World War I. D. 1920.

“But we, wretched unbelievers, we bear our own burdens; we must say, ‘I myself did it, I. Not God, not Satan; I myself!’

This thing is certain--he is a fool who says, ‘No man hath said in his heart, There is no God.’ ”

—Olive Schreiner, The Story of an African Farm, first quote, character of Lyndall, "A Boer-Wedding," second quote, character of Waldo, "Times and Seasons," (1883)

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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