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 4 entries for this date: Robert A. Heinlein , Josiah P. Mendum , Gustav Mahler and Eleanor Clift
Robert A. Heinlein

Robert A. Heinlein

On this date in 1907, Robert A. Heinlein was born. The science fiction author is famous for his novel, Stranger in a Strange Land (1961). Heinlein was one of seven children in his Missouri family. He attended the University of Missouri and graduated from the Naval Academy at Annapolis in 1929. Heinlein served in the Navy for five years until discharged after contracting tuberculosis. Heinlein studied at the University of California-Los Angeles, and conducted research at the Navy Experimental Air Station in Philadelphia during WWII. The prolific author, who had many pseudonyms, won four Hugos for "best novel of the year" (Double Star Starship Troopers, Stranger in a Strange Land, and The Moon is a Harsh Mistress).

Heinlein wrote, "The faith in which I was brought up assured me that I was better than other people; I was saved, they were damned. . . . Our hymns were loaded with arrogance--self-congratulation on how cozy we were with the Almighty and what a high opinion he had of us, what hell everybody else would catch come Judgment Day." (Peter's Quotations: Ideas for Our Time, ed. Laurence J. Peter, 1977). In his book Time Enough for Love, he wrote: "History does not record anywhere at any time a religion that has any rational basis. Religion is a crutch for people." D. 1988.

“We have our hands, we have our brains, we have the challenge all around us, and we have within (from whatever source) the will to strive. That is enough; there is no need to assert 'belief' in that which we do not, as yet, know.”

—Robert A. Heinlein, personal correspondence in 1956 with Warren Allen Smith, cited in Who's Who in Hell

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

Josiah P. Mendum

Josiah P. Mendum

On this date in 1811, Josiah P. Mendum was born in Kennebunk, Maine. In 1844, Mendum took over as editor and proprietor of the Boston Investigator, the first U.S. rationalist news publication, after Abner Kneeland retired. Under Mendum's businesslike management, the newspaper became prosperous and influential. Mendum also republished books by Voltaire, D'Holbach, Volney, and Paine. He lobbied hard for the building of a hall to memorialize Thomas Paine in 1870. By 1874, the Paine Memorial Hall was opened in Boston. Mendum spent 40 years as rationalist advocate. Mendum and Horace Seaver as co-editors were succeeded by Mendum's son, Ernest Mendum, and by Lemuel K. Washburn. When J.P. Mendum died, a memorial was fittingly held at Paine Hall. Mendum was lauded for helping to turn "the strait-laced Boston of sixty years ago [into] the enlightened Hub of today, . . . to 'destroy bigotry and uproot the evils of superstition.' " (Boston Globe, Feb. 3, 1891) D. 1891.

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

Gustav Mahler

Gustav Mahler

On this date in 1860, Gustav Mahler was born in Austrian Bohemia. Although his family was Jewish, Mahler is described as a life-long agnostic (Who's Who in Hell edited by Warren Allen Smith). Mahler converted to Catholicism in name only, in order to be named director of the Court Opera of Vienna. He reportedly commented after the service was over: "I've just changed my coat." Mahler wrote ten symphonies and many songs, although working full-time as conductor. A great personal tragedy was the 1907 death of his daughter from scarlet fever. He left Austria during an anti-semitic campaign in 1907 for work in New York, summering in Europe. D. 1911.

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

Eleanor Clift

Eleanor Clift

On this date in 1940, Eleanor Clift was born in Brooklyn, N.Y. In the 1960s, she became a secretary for Newsweek magazine, and was one of the first women at Newsweek to be promoted to reporter. Clift became an accomplished political reporter for Newsweek, serving as deputy Washington bureau chief beginning in 1992, working as part of the 1992 election team which covered Bill Clinton’s campaign, and becoming a contributing editor for the magazine in September 1994. Clift was Newsweek’s White House correspondent until 1985, when she briefly became White House correspondent for The Los Angeles Times.

She currently writes a weekly column for Newsweek, and is a panelist on the political talk show “McLaughlin Group.” Clift is also a writer who authored Founding Sisters and the Nineteenth Amendment (2003), as well as co-authoring two books with her husband Tom Brazaitis. When Brazaitis died after a long battle with kidney cancer, Clift wrote the memoir Two Weeks of Life: A Memoir of Love, Death and Politics (2008), about the deaths of Brazaitis and of Terry Schiavo. Clift has appeared as herself in the films “Dave” (1993), “Independence Day” (1996), “Getting Away with Murder” (1996) and “Follow the Leader” (2002).

Clift was brought up Lutheran, but in a 2008 interview with the Cleveland Plain Dealer, she said, “I’m closer to Tom’s [atheism] than to my early upbringing in the Lutheran church. I would probably label myself as an agnostic.” She gave a speech at the 31st annual Freedom From Religion Foundation convention in 2008, and appeared on Freethought Radio on Sept. 27, 2008.

“Religion and politics are supposed to be separate.” 

—Eleanor Clift, Two Weeks of Life: A Memoir of Love, Death and Politics, 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.

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