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 2 entries for this date: Charlie McDonnell and Annie Besant
Charlie McDonnell

Charlie McDonnell

On this date in 1990, Charlie McDonnell was born in Bath, England, where he grew up. In 2007, while bored studying for exams, he started making videos for his YouTube channel, charlieissocoollike. The channel became incredibly popular after producing hit videos like “How to get featured on YouTube” and “How to be English.” His YouTube channel has more subscribers than any other channel based in the UK. As of January 2012, he had nearly 1,400,000 subscribers. Producing videos on YouTube has been McDonnell’s full-time job and primary source of income since he graduated from secondary school in 2009. In 2010, he moved to London, where he lives with friend and collaborator Alex Day. In 2011, the two bought a house in order to shed the reputation of being “kids who make videos in their bedrooms.”

McDonnell occasionally performs humorous songs on his YouTube channel, usually accompanying himself on the ukulele. He addresses scientific themes in songs like “A Song About Monkeys,” about evolution, and “Chemical Love,” on the physical origins of human emotion. In “A Song About Monkeys,” McDonnell addresses a gorilla: “You’re my favorite animal, but I’m biased I guess, because you look exactly like me. . . . You’re an animal. You’re just like me, ‘cause I’m an animal. We’re of the same biology.” McDonnell is a member of the Doctor Who-themed band Chameleon Circuit with Day. He has also made appearances in more mainstream media outlets; he presented an award at the 2010 British BAFTA Television Awards, and in 2010 he filmed a series of behind-the-scenes videos for the BBC show “Doctor Who Confidential.” McDonnell often addresses scientific ideas from a rational perspective in his videos, and describes himself as an atheist.

Photo by Gage Skidmore under CC 3.0

Fan’s blog post (rating Charlie’s “hotness points”): Faith: Unknown but believed to be an atheist.
Charlie McDonnell: I am an atheist.
Fan’s Blog: Minus 50 [hotness] points
Charlie: Oh well, reason loses again.

Compiled by Eleanor Wroblewski

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

Annie Besant

Annie Besant

On this date in 1847, Annie Besant (née Wood) was born in London. The sheltered girl married the unpleasant Rev. Frank Besant (rhymes with "pleasant") at 20. The reverend, she later quipped in an early autobiography, had "very high ideas of a husband's authority and a wife's submission." Besant after a course of reading gave up Christianity at age 25 and soon after separated from her husband. In 1874 she met Charles Bradlaugh, Britain's most prominent freethought leader and an attorney for the poor, who offered her a position on the weekly National Reformer.

They embarked on a platonic professional partnership of writing, speaking and reform. Besant became a celebrity among reformers, with George Bernard Shaw praising her as "the greatest orator in England, and possibly in Europe." She persuaded Bradlaugh to reprint The Fruits of Philosophy, a book about birth control, to challenge the Obscene Publications Act. They were arrested, tried and narrowly avoided jail. She then rewroted the outdated booklet, but her involvement lost her custody of her 8-year-old daughter.

Annie became a student at London University when it agreed to admit women in 1878, receiving the only honors award in botany in 1881 in Prof. Thomas Huxley's class. She was the first woman on the London School Board, and an advocate for working class women and woman suffrage. Her enthusiasms for other causes and other men gradually strained her friendship with Bradlaugh. The rudest shock to Bradlaugh, his daughter Hypatia, and admirers such as Elizabeth Cady Stanton came in 1889, when Besant officially converted to theosophy. Although retaining affection for the freethought movement, she became a successor to the mystic founder of theosophy, Mme. Blavatsky, moving to India. A fanatical bent which her mother had detected (her mother's prophetic dying words: "it has been darling Annie's only fault; she has always been too religious") took Besant on a journey to occultism. Even in India, however, Besant was a true reformer, never quite losing her practical bent. D. 1933.

“I rejoice that I played my part in that educating of England which has made impossible for evermore the crude superstitions of the past, and the repetition of the cruelties and injustices under which preceding heretics suffered.”

—Besant, "Autobiography" (1910)

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

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