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.

As a member, to receive Freethought of the Day in your email inbox, contact us here. To become an FFRF member, click here. To learn more about FFRF, request information here.


There are 3 entries for this date: Avijit Roy , H.L. Mencken and Catherine Fahringer
Avijit Roy

Avijit Roy

On this date in 1972, Avijit Roy, author, atheist/social activist and martyr to the secular cause, was born in Bangladesh to Ajoy and Shefali Roy. Ajoy, his father, was a physics professor at the University of Dhaka. Avijit Roy earned a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering from the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology and a master's and doctorate in biomedical engineering from the National University of Singapore. While working in his field, Roy in 2001 started a Yahoo group named Mukto-Mona (Free Mind) for Bangladeshi secularists, rationalists and atheists to discuss issues related to human rights, secularism, humanism and the impact of religious doctrines — especially Islam and Hinduism — on politics in South Asia. Mukto-Mona was born as an online platform in 2002 and expanded its reach worldwide.

Roy moved from Singapore to the U.S. in 2006 to work as a software engineer. He'd met Atlanta resident and eventual wife Rafida Bonya Ahmed, known as Bonya, on Mukto-Mona. They settled in Alpharetta, Ga., with Bonya's daughter Trisha, and Roy became a U.S. citizen. He wrote prolifically on many varied subjects, including religion, atheism, cosmology, homosexuality and Rabindranath Tagore. Seven of his books were published in Bangladesh.

In a 2013 column in Free Inquiry magazine, he and Trisha Ahmed, then a high school senior, wrote an essay defending Bangladeshi atheists: "Nonbelievers are not only valuable contributors to society; they also constitute a large fraction of the world’s intellectual and academic community." (Baltimore Sun, March 2, 2015.) As a free-speech advocate, Roy took an active role in protesting the arrests of atheist bloggers and the murder of others in Bangladesh. His writing and activism brought him the ire of fundamentalist Muslims, and on Feb. 26, 2015, he was hacked to death with machetes by militants at a book fair in Dhaka. Bonya was severely injured but survived.

Trisha wrote on the day he died: "He and my mom started dating when I was six years old. In the twelve years that followed, he became my friend, my hero, my most trusted confidante, my dance partner (even though we're both terrible dancers), and my father. Not once did he tell me to simmer down or be more polite; he taught me to be informed, bold, and unafraid." (CNN column on the first anniversary of Roy's death, Feb. 26, 2016.)

In 2018, the Freedom From Religion Foundation and Bonya announced the first recipient of the Avijit Roy Courage Award: Roopbaan, the first gay magazine published in Bangladesh. One of its founders was murdered by Muslim fundamentalists. FFRF established the $5,000 award in 2018 to recognize "a person who has been working toward the spread of rational and logical discourse, toward diminishing the influence of regressive fundamentalist religious thinking, toward building a society based on humane laws and without discrimination." 

"If one thing is certain, it is that the virus of faith is dangerously real."

—Avijit Roy, "The Virus of Faith," posthumously published in Free Inquiry magazine (April/May 2015)

Compiled by Bill Dunn

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

H.L. Mencken

H.L. Mencken

On this date in 1880, H.L. (Henry Louis) Mencken, atheist and journalist, was born in Baltimore. Although his father was agnostic, his Lutheran mother sent him to Sunday school, which he later defined as "a prison in which children do penance for the evil conscience of their parents." (A Mencken Chrestomathy,1949.) The cigar-chomping, iconoclastic journalist worked most of his life at the Baltimore Sun, where he began his trademark column, "The Free Lance," in 1911.

Mencken also co-edited Smart Set magazine (1914-23) and edited The American Mercury magazine (1925-33). His lifetime production of 28 books included a six-volume collection of his essays, Prejudices (1919-27), In Defense of Women (1917), Treatise of the Gods (1930) and an autobiographical trilogy, ending with Heathen Days, published as one volume in 1947.

A sardonic critic of the "booboisie," he coined the term "Boobus americanus" and was famed for his coverage of the 1925 Scopes trial in Dayton, Tenn. Mencken's many epigrams include: "Faith may be defined briefly as an illogical belief in the occurrence of the improbable." (The New York Times Magazine, Sept. 11, 1955). "The chief contribution of Protestantism to human thought is its massive proof that God is a bore." (Minority Report, 1956.) "No one in this world, so far as I know ... has ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of the great masses of the plain people." ("Notes on Journalism," Chicago Tribune, Sept. 19 1926.) "Puritanism — the haunting fear that someone, somewhere may be happy." (A Mencken Chrestomathy, 1949.)

In 1930, after a seven-year courtship, he married Sara Haardt, a professor of English at Goucher College in Baltimore and an author 18 years his junior. Haardt had led efforts in Alabama to ratify the 19th Amendment. Haardt was in poor health from tuberculosis throughout their marriage and died in 1935 of meningitis. Mencken suffered a stroke in 1948, which left him aware and fully conscious but nearly unable to read or write and able to speak only with difficulty. He died in his sleep on Jan. 29, 1956.

"I believe that religion, generally speaking, has been a curse to mankind — that its modest and greatly overestimated services on the ethical side have been more than overcome by the damage it has done to clear and honest thinking."

"I believe that the evidence for immortality is no better than the evidence of witches, and deserves no more respect."

—"Mencken's Creed," cited by George Seldes, ed., "The Great Thoughts" (1985)

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

Catherine Fahringer

Catherine Fahringer

On this date in 1922, Catherine Fahringer was born in Utah to a military family. After living in various places in the U.S. and abroad, her family settled in San Antonio, Texas, when she was 12. Raised as an Episcopalian, she was urged by family members to introduce her children to religion. While living in England, where her husband was stationed, she dutifully purchased The Golden Book of Bible Stories. Perusing it before she read the stories to her children, she had an epiphany: "I said to my husband, 'I can't teach this stuff to my kids. I'm nicer than God." (San Antonio Express-News, March 24, 1991.)

Fahringer found a venue for activism when she became involved with FFRF in 1987. She created and hosted "Freethought Forum," a cable TV show. She became a well-known public figure in San Antonio, monitoring and challenging numerous, egregious state/church violations there. With wit and aplomb, she protested city prayer breakfasts and religious symbols on public property and kept freethought in focus with numerous op-eds, letters to the editor and educational letters to government officials and media.

In the 1990s she even managed to persuade then-Gov. Ann Richards and city officials to make proclamations commemorating freethought. Fahringer's media appearances included being featured on TV's "Sally Jessy Raphael Show," where she quipped about rejecting the idea of a "Big Spook in the Sky." She served as a national FFRF officer and on its governing council.

She died of pancreatic cancer at the age of 86. FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor said of her, "We loved and miss her. She was not only one of FFRF's best activists, but she was one of our best friends, best boosters and best advertisements for freethought." FFRF offers the Catherine Fahringer Youth Activist Memorial Award in her honor. D. 2008.

“We would be 1,500 years ahead if it hadn't been for the church dragging science back by its coattails and burning our best minds at the stake.”

—Fahringer interview, San Antonio Express-News, "Portrait of an Atheist" (March 24, 1991)

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor; photo by Robert McLeroy

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

FFRF is a non-profit, educational organization. All dues and donations are deductible for income-tax purposes.

FFRF has received a 4 star rating from Charity Navigator

FFRF is a member of the Secular Coalition for America

FFRF privacy statement