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: George E. Macdonald , Mark Strand and Leo Rosten
George E. Macdonald

George E. Macdonald

On this date in 1857, freethought editor George Everett Macdonald was born in Maine. He was largely self-educated, working as a youngster on an uncle's farm in New Hampshire after his parents' deaths. He joined his brother, Eugene Montague Macdonald, in New York City to work for a printing house. His brother, a foreman forThe Truth Seeker, a freethought newspaper founded by D.M. Bennett, later purchased the paper with two others and established The Truth Seeker Co. George, who contributed to The Truth Seeker, particularly humor pieces, eventually foundedFreethought, a rationalist newspaper out of San Francisco in 1877. In 1907, he took over editorship of The Truth Seeker until 1937. He edited the book, Fifty Years of Freethought, which, in a folksy style, chronicled events in American freethought. Vol. I was published 1927 and Vol. II, with a foreword by Clarence Darrow, was published in 1931. Darrow called Macdonald "a valiant soldier for human liberty." D. 1937.

"“The [Roman Catholic] Church being what she is cannot have the instincts of a gentleman.”

—-George E. Macdonald, Fifty Years of Freethought (1927)

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

Mark Strand

Mark Strand

On this date in 1934, poet Mark Strand was born on Prince Edward Island in Canada. Strand was raised wary of religion, thanks to his father who shared terrifying stories of heretics burned at the stake for their revolutionary ideas with his son. Growing up, Strand was encouraged to pursue art by his mother, who was a painter. After high school, Strand attended Antioch College and Yale University, where he studied painting. Yet, after years of instruction, he realized that he was following the wrong career path and decided to travel to Italy to study 19th century poetry. Soon after, he received a master’s degree from the University of Iowa’s prestigious Writers’ Workshop.

Upon graduation, Strand taught at a number of universities, including Yale, Princeton and Harvard. He also held a position as Andrew MacLeish Distinguished Service Professor of Social Thought at the University of Chicago until 2005. Strand is the author of more than a dozen poetry books and several works of prose. His writings include “Sleeping With One Eye Open” (1964), “Reasons for Moving” (1968), “Darker” (1970), “The Story of Our Lives” (1973) and the Pulitzer Prize-winning “Blizzard of One” (1999). Audiences of his literature most commonly note the profound absence of God in his writing. D. 2014

Photo credit: Timothy Greenfield

“I haven’t met God and I haven’t been to heaven, so I’m skeptical. Nobody’s come back to me to tell me they’re having a great time in heaven and that they’ve seen God, although there are a lot of people claiming that God is telling them what to do. I have no idea how God talks to them. Maybe they’re getting secret emails.”

—Mark Strand, quoted in the Wisconsin State Journal, Dec. 1, 2014 (his obituary)

Compiled by Tolulope Igun

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

Leo Rosten

Leo Rosten

On this date in 1908, American writer, journalist and political scientist Leo Rosten was born in Łódź, a former state of the Russian Empire that is now a part of Poland. Rosten was born into a Yiddish speaking family, but emigrated to the United States at the age of 3, where his trade unionist parents opened a knitting shop in the Chicago area. He grew up in a working-class neighborhood in which the primarily Jewish residents spoke Yiddish and English. From a very early age, Rosten had an interest in books and language that led him to write his first story at the age of 9. He put himself through college and received degrees from the University of Chicago and the London School of Economics.

Emerging into the workforce during the Great Depression, Rosten was unable to find a job that fit his degree. Instead, he began teaching English to immigrants at night school. This experience led to his most popular work The Education of H*Y*M*A*N*K*A*P*L*A*N (1937), published under the pseudonym Leonard Q. Ross. In 1949, Rosten joined the staff at Look Magazine in New York, where he remained until 1971. He edited and compiled 19 distinguished articles that became the basis of A Guide to the Religions of America (1955), explaining the beliefs of various faiths practiced by groups of people throughout the nation. During this time, Rosten lectured as a professor at Columbia University, Yale and the New School of Social Research in New York City. He was also a screenwriter for many films such as “The Conspirators” (1944), “The Dark Corner” (1946) and “Double Dynamite” (1951). Rosten is recognized for his humorous encyclopedic collections The Joys of Yiddish (1968) and The Joys of Yinglish (1989). He was the recipient of several awards, including the 1940 Rockefeller Foundation Grant and the Freedom Foundation and George Polk Memorial Awards in 1955. Additionally, Rosten is acclaimed for familiarizing millions of Americans with Yiddish history and lingo. D. 1997.

“The purpose of life is not to be happy — but to matter, to be productive, to be useful, to have it make some difference that you lived at all.”

—Leo Rosten, "The Myths by Which We Live," The Rotarian (Evanston, Illinois) volume 107, number 3 (September 1965)

Compiled by Tolulope Igun

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

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