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: Harrison Ford and Sidney Webb
Harrison Ford

Harrison Ford

On this date in 1942, Harrison Ford was born in Chicago. His father was Irish-American and his mother's ancestry was Russian Jewish. Ford dropped out of Ripon College, Wisconsin, to act. He had found acting jobs by the late 1960s, but his career was slow to take off, so he worked as a carpenter in Hollywood. His big break came as the swash-buckling Han Solo in "Star Wars" (1977), which would be followed by many other heroic leading roles. Some of his many other films include "American Graffiti" (1973), "The Conversation" (1974), "Hanover Street" (1979), "Apocalypse Now" (1979), "Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back" (1980), "Indiana Jones & the Temple of Doom" (1984), "Witness" (for which he was nominated for an Academy Award, 1985), "The Mosquito Coast" (1986), "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" (1989), "Presumed Innocent" (1990), "Patriot Games" — his first movie cast as Jack Ryan (1992), "The Fugitive" (1993), "Clear & Present Danger" (1994) and "Sabrina" (1995). Ford's fourth "Indiana Jones" movie was released in 2008. His former wife, Melissa Mathison, wrote the screenplay for the movie, "E.T." A pilot, the actor rescued a stranded hiker near his Wyoming ranch by air in 2000. Ford has called "The Mosquito Coast," in which he plays an unraveling back-to-nature character, one of his favorite roles. Co-starring with him in that movie was atheist actress Butterfly McQueen.

“My parents did not practice any organized religion, although my father was raised Roman Catholic and my mother was Jewish. But there was always an ethical context to our lives, a very strong notion of individual moral responsibility.”

—-Harrison Ford, Parade, July 7, 2002

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor; Featureflash /

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

Sidney Webb

Sidney Webb

On this date in 1859, Sidney Webb was born in London. His father, an accountant, worked for John Stuart Mill in the 1865 election and was also a devout socialist. Webb taught himself to read at an early age and, as a teenager, became a clerk in the city of London. In 1886, he earned a law degree from London University and became a freelance journalist on the side. Webb befriended the famous playwright, socialist and fellow freethinker George Bernard Shaw and together they became the heart of the Fabian Society. Originally the Fabian Society's goals aimed at spiritual discovery, but Webb and others (including short-time member Bertrand Russell) reoriented the Fabian agenda to one of Socialist rather than religious values. Indeed "most of its early members were freethinkers: Shaw, Sidney Webb, first influenced by Mill; Graham WallasAnnie Besant" (David Tribe, 100 Years of Freethought 1967, 97). The Fabian Society soon developed into Britain's most influential intellectual group with Fabianism as the most significant socialist movement of its day.

Webb married a freethinker from high society and, as many friends described, his intellectual soulmate, Beatrice Potter, in 1892. In the same year, Webb won election to Parliament as the Progressive candidate for Deptford in the London county-council elections. Webb and Potter published numerous writings on social reform together including their first book, The History of Trade Unionism (1894), which was edited by their friend Bernard Shaw. Webb and Potter became increasingly active in opposing poverty in England and even were among the first to devise a national health care plan, the origins of Britain's National Health Service. Together they founded, along with fellow freethinkers Shaw and Graham Wallas, the London School of Economics and Political Science, the first social science research school of its kind. "The aim of the School was the betterment of society. By studying poverty issues and analysing inequalities, the Webbs sought to improve society in general" (London School of Economics website). After their marriage, the Webbs devoted the rest of their lives to social reform and education. D. 1947.

“[False] generalizations [about socialism] are accordingly now to be met with only in leading articles, sermons, or the speeches of ministers or bishops."

—-Sidney Webb, "The Historic Basis of Socialism" (1889), cited in Fabian Essays in Socialism, edited by George Bernard Shaw

Compiled by Bonnie Gutsch

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