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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Butterfly McQueen

Butterfly McQueen

On this day in 1911, Butterfly McQueen was born in Tampa, Fla. Best known for her role as "Prissy" in the 1939 MGM movie "Gone with the Wind," Butterfly was a nearly lifelong atheist. The role of Prissy, she would later say, "was not a pleasant part to play--I didn't want to be that little slave. But I did my best, my very best." She quit movie acting in 1947 to avoid further typecasting, going to work as a real-life maid, Macy's saleslady, and seamstress. She earned her bachelor's degree in political science in 1974 at age 64 from the New York City College. Butterfly McQueen became the Freedom From Religion Foundation's premiere Freethought Heroine in 1989. The Life Member of the Freedom From Religion Foundation died in a tragic accident on Dec. 22, 1995.

“As my ancestors are free from slavery, I am free from the slavery of religion.”

—Butterfly McQueen, Atlanta Journal and Constitution, Oct. 8, 1989

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

Stephen Hawking

Stephen Hawking

On this date in 1942, cosmologist Stephen Hawking was born in Oxford, England, "300 years after the death of Galileo," as he points out at his Web site. He attended Oxford, studying physics, then earned his Ph.D. in cosmology at Cambridge. By his 21st birthday, he had been diagnosed as having ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease), or motor neurone disease. Despite his disability, confining him to a wheelchair and forcing him to rely on mechanized speech, Hawking became a research fellow, worked at the Institute of Astronomy, and in 1973 joined the Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics at Cambridge, where he was a Fellow of Gonville and Caius College. He became Lucasian professor of math in 1979. Hawking is celebrated for his work on unifying General Relativity with Quantum Theory. His 3 popular science books are: A Brief History of Time, Black Holes & Baby Universes & other Essays, and The Universe in a Nutshell. Although some rationalists have been disappointed in his tendency to use the term "god" too loosely as a metaphor, Hawking has made it clear he does not believe in a personal god. In an interview with Diane Sawyer on ABC News (June 7, 2010), Hawking said: "There is a fundamental difference between religion, which is based on authority, [and] science, which is based on observation and reason. Science will win because it works."

“All that my work has shown is that you don't have to say that the way the universe began was the personal whim of God.”

—Stephen Hawking, Black Holes and Baby Universes and Other Essays (1993)

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

Thomas Aikenhead (Died)

On this day in 1697, Scottish medical student Thomas Aikenhead, 18 or 19 years old, was hanged to death for blasphemy, in Britain's last execution for blasphemy. The young Edinburgh student was found guilty of denying the trinity, and was convicted on the testimony of five "friends" to whom he had confided his strong religious doubts. Evidence against him were "atheistic" books in his possession. The Church of Scotland urged his "vigorous execution."

“ . . . it is a principle innate and co-natural to every man to have an insatiable inclination to the truth, and to seek for it as for hid treasure. . .  ”

—Thomas Aikenhead, letter to friends on date of execution, Jan. 8, 1697

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

Carl Rogers

Carl Rogers

On this date in 1902, humanistic psychologist Carl Ransom Rogers was born in Oak Park, Ill., one of five children of Walter and Julia Rogers. His conservative Protestant parents created a home filled with prayer and protection for their children from society's influences. With few outside friends, Rogers led a quiet, sheltered life, reading and studying. When Rogers was a teenager, his family moved to a country house, where he developed a love of nature. Enrolling at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Rogers decided to study agriculture. He then changed his major to history and then to religion. While on a trip to Peking, China, for an international Christian conference, Rogers started to doubt his religious convictions, although it took two years in seminary before he left his religious track and decided to study teaching. Rogers obtained his M.A. from Columbia University in 1928 and his Ph.D. in 1931. While working on his doctorate, he was involved in child studies at the Society for the Prevention and Cruelty to Children, in Rochester, N.Y., becoming the center's director. He began to engage in a new relational approach to psychotherapy and, in 1939, wrote his first book, "The Clinical Treatment of the Problem Child. He became a full professor at Ohio State University and, in 1942, wrote a second book, Counseling and Psychotherapy: Newer Concepts in Practice, wherein patients could gain the necessary insight to restructure their own lives in conjunction with an empathetic therapist. The premise of self-help and self-understanding was contrary to prior clinical methodologies, in which the psychologist told the patient what to do.

In 1945, Rogers was asked to begin a new counseling center at the University of Chicago and, in 1951, he published his breakthrough work, Client-Centered Therapy, which outlined his basic theory. Rogers became president of the American Academy of Psychotherapists in 1956 and a year later returned to the University of Wisconsin-Madison to work in the Department of Psychology. After becoming disillusioned with academia, Rogers moved to LaJolla, Calif., in 1964, where he worked on the staff at the Western Behavioral Sciences Institute. In 1964, he was named "Humanist of the Year" by the American Humanist Association. He remained in LaJolla for the rest of his life, doing therapy, giving speeches and writing. Rogers wrote numerous journal articles, and 16 books, the best known being On Becoming a Person (1962). He traveled worldwide to promote his theories in the areas of education, the social sciences and in national social conflict, specifically focusing his efforts on leading encounter groups between people of conflicting political factions. In 1987, he was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for his work with international intergroup conflict in South Africa and Northern Ireland. He is considered to be one of the most eminent psychologists of the 20th century, second only to Sigmund Freud. He died of a heart attack at age 85. D. 1987.

"

“ I disagree with manipulative approaches to therapy; to assume that one person can be in charge of another's life is a dangerous philosophy. My own philosophy is based on the conviction that people have within themselves the resources and capacity for self-understanding and self-correction. . . . In the [Northern Ireland encounter] groups, you see each other as a person, not as those evil Catholics and Protestants. The feelings of irrational hostility dissolve. ”

"

—Carl Rogers, The New York Times, obituary article (February 6, 1987)

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

Lewis Lapham

Lewis Lapham

On this date in 1935, Lewis H. Lapham was born in San Francisco, Calif. He earned his bachelor’s degree in history from Yale University in 1956, and attended Cambridge University (1956–1957). Lapham’s journalism career had an early start: after graduation, he worked as a reporter for the San Francisco Examiner (1957–1960), and at the age of 25 became the U.N. Correspondent for the New York Herald Tribune (1960–1962). He later became managing editor of the prominent literary journal Harper’s Magazine (1971–1975) and was soon appointed its editor (1976–2006). He was a prolific journalist who wrote articles for many publications, including The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. In 2007, Lapham founded and became editor of Lapham’s Quarterly, a history magazine. His many books include Waiting for the Barbarians (1998) and Gag Rule: On the Suppression of Dissent and the Stifling of Democracy (2005). Lapham was also the host of the television show “Bookmark” (1988–1991). He received the 1994 and 1995 National Magazine Awards for his journalistic contributions to Harper’s Magazine. In 2007, Lapham was included in the American Society of Magazine Editors’ Hall of Fame. He married Joan Brooke Reaves in 1972 and they have three children: Anthony, Elizabeth and Winston.

“As an unbaptized child raised in a family unaffiliated with the teachings of a church, I missed the explanation as to why the stories about Moses and Jesus were to be taken as true while those about Apollo and Rumpelstiltskin were not,” Lapham wrote of his lifelong nonbelief in “Mandates of Heaven,” the introduction to the Winter 2010 issue of Laphams Quarterly. He continued: “[French philosopher Michel] Onfray observes that ‘a fiction does not die, an illusion never passes away,’ situating Yahwey, together with Ulysses, Allah, Lancelot of the Lake, and Gitche Manitou, among the immortals sustained on the life-support systems of poetry and the high approval ratings awarded to magicians pulling rabbits out of hats.” He expressed his disdain for the intersection of church and state in America, saying: “The dominant trait in the national character is the longing for transcendence and the belief in what isn’t there—the promise of the sweet hereafter that sells subprime mortgages in Florida and corporate skyboxes in heaven.”

“God is the greatest of man’s inventions, and we are an inventive people, shaping the tools that in turn shape us, and we have at hand the technology to tell a new story congruent with the picture of the earth as seen from space instead of the one drawn on the maps available to the prophets wandering the roads of the early Roman Empire.” 

—Lewis Lapham, ww.laphamsquarterly.org/preamble/mandates-of-heaven.php

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.

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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