Freethought of the Day

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There are 2 entries for this date: Roger Ebert and Barack Hussain Obama Sr.
Roger Ebert

Roger Ebert

On this date in 1942, film critic Roger Ebert was born in Urbana, Illinois. Ebert became an icon in Chicago and around the world as a film critic whose reviews were honest, thoughtful and genuine. He attended the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and graduated in 1964 with a degree in journalism. He was the editor of the University's newspaper, The Daily Illini, and wrote his first movie reviews there. Ebert moved to Chicago after graduation and began covering stories for the city editor of the Chicago Sun-Times in 1966. He became the newspaper's movie critic in 1967, a position he held until his death over 40 years later. His work became syndicated in over 200 publications. In 1975, Ebert began a TV show with his counterpart at the Chicago Tribune, Gene Siskel. They became known for reviewing movies with either a thumbs up or a thumbs down. Roger Ebert frequently advocated for films created by Asian Americans, blacks, Native Americans, and other minorities. Ebert wrote many books, including several collections of movie reviews, a cookbook of recipes made with a rice cooker, and a memoir. Ebert was quick to adapt to new technologies: His blog, Roger Ebert's Journal, became popular, and his twitter had over 800,000 followers at the time of his death. Ebert received honorary degrees from the American Film Institute and the University of Colorado at Boulder. He won a Pulitzer Prize in criticism in 1975, the first film critic to do so. He is also the only film critic with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. In 2002, Ebert was diagnosed with cancer, and in the following years underwent several surgeries, which removed a portion of his jaw and left him unable to speak. Ebert inspired many people as he continued to review movies throughout his illness, and worked until shortly before his death.

Ebert, who grew up Catholic, chose not to define his religious beliefs, saying he is not an atheist and not a believer. He clarified his religious views in a blog post called "How I believe in God." He said, "I have never said, although readers have freely informed me I am an atheist, an agnostic, or at the very least a secular humanist--which I am. If I were to say I don't believe God exists, that wouldn't mean I believe God doesn't exist. Nor does it mean I don't know, which implies that I could know."

On his blog, he said he supported basic church teachings such as equality, mercy and empathy, because he thought they were right, not because a deity dictated them. He defined his political beliefs as kindness, and said people should live in a way that increases the happiness of others. On his blog he criticized megachurches with "jocular millionaire pastors" and churches that "evangelize aggressively." Ebert married his wife Chaz, an attorney, in 1992, and was with her until his death. D. 2013.


“I know it is coming, and I do not fear it, because I believe there is nothing on the other side of death to fear. I was perfectly content before I was born, and I think of death as the same state. What I am grateful for is the gift of intelligence, and for life, love, wonder, and laughter. You can't say it wasn't interesting.”

—--Roger Ebert in a blog post called “Go Gentle into That Good Night,” May 2, 2009.

Compiled by Sarah Eucalano; Photo by s_bukley /

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

Barack Hussain Obama Sr.

On this date in 1936, Barack Hussain Obama, Sr. was born near Kendu Bay, Kenya (then a British Colony). Obama Sr.’s father converted from Roman Catholicism to Islam by the time Obama Jr. was born. Obama Sr. studied at the University of Hawaii in Honolulu. The university’s first foreign African student, he earned a bachelor’s in economics in 1962. Obama Sr. met Ann Dunham on campus in 1960. They married in February 1961, and their son, Barack Hussein Obama, future president of the United States, was born in August that year. President Barack Obama noted that his father was mostly absent from his childhood, since his parents divorced when he was two years old (“My Spiritual Journey,” TIME Magazine, Oct. 16, 2006). Obama Sr. earned a master’s in economics in 1965 from Harvard University. He returned to Kenya and ultimately became a senior economist in the Kenyan Ministry of Finance. Obama Sr. last saw his son Barack Obama when he was 10 years old in Hawaii. The visit lasted only a month but had a profound effect on the young boy (Dreams from My Father by Barack Obama, 1995). The last years of Obama Sr.’s life were markedly difficult, having lost his position in the Kenyan government. During the time when President Obama was working toward a bachelor’s degree at Columbia University in New York City, his father died in an automobile crash in Kenya at the age of 46. D. 1982.

“ . . . although my father had been raised a Muslim, by the time he met my mother he was a confirmed atheist, thinking religion to be so much superstition.”

—President Barack Obama remarking about his father in “My Spiritual Journey,” TIME Magazine, Oct. 16, 2006)

Compiled by Bonnie Gutsch

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