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: Catherine Fahringer , Jose Manuel Balmaceda (Died) and Steven Pinker
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 United States and abroad, her family settled in San Antonio, Texas, when Catherine 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, Catherine dutifully purchased The Golden Book of Bible Stories. Perusing it before she read the stories to her children, Catherine 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). Catherine found a venue for activism when she hooked up with the Freedom From Religion Foundation in 1987. She created and hosted "Freethought Forum," a cable TV show. Catherine became a well-known public figure in San Antonio, monitoring and challenging numerous, egregious state/church violations there. An officer with the national Foundation, she served on its governing council. With wit and aplomb, Catherine protested city prayer breakfasts, the presence of 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. Catherine'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." Catherine died of pancreatic cancer at the age of 86. Foundation Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor said of Catherine: "We loved [her] 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.”

—Catherine Fahringer, Interview, San Antonio Express News, Portrait of an Atheist by Craig Phelon, March 24, 1991). For more about Catherine Fahringer, see a href=http://ffrf.org/books/wws/

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

Jose Manuel Balmaceda (Died)

Jose Manuel Balmaceda (Died)

On this date in 1891, Jose Manuel Balmaceda, president of the Republic of Chile, died at the end of a civil war. He was born circa 1838 (one source reports 1840), and was educated at the Jesuit Seminary in Santiago. Rejecting Roman Catholicism, Balmaceda founded the anti-clerical Reform Club in 1868. He became part of the Chilean congress in the 1870s, and led the anti-clerical Liberals. In 1882, as Minister of the Interior during the presidency of Domingo Santa Maria, Balmaceda used his powers to oppose Church strangleholds on the law, passing a divorce law and other reforms. Balmaceda was president from 1886 to 1890. His rule, which became increasingly autocratic during a constitutional conflict, brought on a civil war. He committed suicide at the Argentine embassy. D. 1891.

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

Steven Pinker

Steven Pinker

On this date in 1954, Steven Pinker, who, according to the Guardian, has "the looks of a rock star, a fondness for early Woody Allen movies, and a world-class reputation as a scientist and writer," was born in Montreal's Anglophone Jewish community. Pinker earned a bachelor's with first class honors in experimental psychology from McGill University (1976) and a Ph.D. in experimental psychology from Harvard in 1979. Pinker, published extensively in the fields of linguistics and experimental psychology, taught at MIT for 21 years and now is Johnstone Professor of Psychology at Harvard. Among his numerous books and bestsellers are The Language Instinct (1994), How the Mind Works (1997), The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature (2002), and The Stuff of Thought: Language as a Window into Human Nature (2007). His writings have frequently appeared in Time, The New Republic, The New York Times and many other magazines and newspapers. Pinker has won numerous prizes for his books (including the Los Angeles Times Science Book Prize, the Eleanor Maccoby Book Prize and the William James Book Prize three times) and research (including awards from the American Psychological Association, the Royal Institution of Great Britain and the National Academy of Sciences). 

In addition to receiving six honorary doctorates, Pinker is a Humanist Laureate, 2006 Humanist of the Year, and the Honorary President of the Canadian Psychological Association. He is an elected fellow of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the Neuroscience Research Program. The UK Guardian called him "Science's agent provocateur," and Newsweek listed him in the top "One Hundred Americans for the Next Century" (1995). Of the same caliber as intellectual great Noam Chomsky, he made Time's 2004 list of "World's 100 Most Influential People." A long-time critic of creationism, Pinker wrote in a Boston Globe op-ed, "Virtually no scientist takes 'intelligent design' seriously, and in the famous Dover, Pa, trial in 2005, a federal court ruled that it is religion in disguise" (July 20, 2009). In a Salon.com interview, Pinker and his wife Rebecca Newberger Goldstein, said they were proud atheists and Pinker continued: "Atheists are the most reviled minority in the United States, so it's no small matter to come out and say it. . . . I would put faith in the same category [as alchemy] because faith is believing something without a good reason to believe it" (Oct. 15, 2007). He fought and won against a proposal at Harvard to require a course on "Reason and Faith." On this, Pinker wrote, "[U]niversities are about reason, pure and simple. Faith—believing something without good reasons to do so—has no place in anything but a religious institution, and our society has no shortage of these. Imagine if we had a requirement for 'Astronomy and Astrology' or 'Psychology and Parapsychology' " ("Less Faith, More Reason," in The Harvard Crimson, Oct. 27, 2006). Pinker, who has been a guest on Freethought Radio, was awarded FFRF's 2004 Emperor Has No Clothes Award for his plain speaking on religion and in appreciation of his forthright espousal of his rational views. The evolutionary psychologist is a member of the Foundation's honorary board.

"I was never religious in the theological sense. I never outgrew my conversion to atheist at 13."

—Steven Pinker quoted in

Compiled by Bonnie Gutsch

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

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.

If you would like to be placed on the "Daily Freethought" e-mail list to automatically receive the calendar notice, log in and edit your email settings (My Membership). Or, email  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  and include your first and last name with your request for verification purposes. This email service is limited to members of the Freedom From Religion Foundation or subscribers to Freethought Today. To become an FFRF member, click here.


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