Madison Arnold

On this date in 1936, stage, film and television actor Madison Arnold was born in Allentown, Pa. Arnold graduated from Erasmus Hall and Brooklyn College. He earned a master's in European History from Columbia University and received scholarships to study abroad in Vienna and Berlin, where he did two years of postgraduate work in history, philosophy and languages. Arnold, named after James Madison as a tribute to religious freedom in America, said in Freethought Today: "I had a Jewish family background and have been an atheist as long as I can remember" (March 1989). Though he is best known for his television work, some film titles include "Escape from Alcatraz" (1979), "Xanadu" (1980), "The Lonely Guy" (1984), "Presumed Innocent" (1990), "The Turning" (1992), "White Lies" (1996), "Donnie Brasco" (1997), "Gracie" (2007) and "Monogamy" (2010). Some of his many television credits include: "Serpico" (1976), "Kojak" (1976-1978), "Baretta" (1978), "The Bionic Woman" (1977-1978), "Starsky and Hutch" (1976-1978), "Barney Miller" (1980), "Whiz Kids" (1980), "Hill Street Blues" (1985-1986), "Law & Order" (1999-2009), "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" (2000-2004) and "The Big C" (2010). Arnold, who has described himself as a "militant atheist" and even an "atheist of the hostile sect," says there was never a time when he was not an atheist. "As a kid I looked up and saw no god and I wondered where 'he' got such a large notebook to write down X's when I am bad as I was told he did" (Madison Arnold, quoted in Freethought Today, March 1989). 

"I never accepted religion so I had nothing to reject as such. The history of 'Christiansanity' (my own coinage of which I am proud!) is so brutal of mind, emotions, freedom, progress, science and all that I hold precious, that by any standards of justice its leaders in almost any given period would be incarcerated for life, or worse!"

—Madison Arnold, quoted in Freethought Today, "Madison Arnold: Actor, Activist, Atheist," by Dan Barker, March 1989

Compiled by Bonnie Gutsch

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