Freethought of the Day

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There are 3 entries for this date: Indira Gandhi , Myla Goldberg and Jodie Foster
Indira Gandhi

Indira Gandhi

On this date in 1917, Indira Gandhi (née Indira Nehru) was born in Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh, India, to a wealthy, upper-caste Brahmin Hindu family. Gandhi's father, Jawaharlal Nehru, was India's first prime minister and popular independence leader. Before completion of her education at Oxford University, Gandhi joined the Indian independence movement, which led to her imprisonment for 13 months on charges of subversion by British colonial authorities. In 1942, she married a Congress party militant, Feroze Gandhi, but her marriage suffered as her father took office as prime minister (in 1947) and invited Indira to be his official hostess. In this position, Indira, while quiet and unassuming, studied the world's most powerful political elites and in the 1950s began building her own political career. She first was elected president of the Congress party in 1959, and in this role helped oust the Communist government from the southern Kerala state. She served in the upper house of Parliament in 1964, and in 1967, when her Congress party won the elections, Gandhi became the first woman leader of a major country in modern times.

As prime minister, Gandhi strengthened the authority of the federal government and strongly objected to religious sectarianism that, she believed, threatened Indian democracy. While some of her domestic policies were viewed as weak, she managed to keep relative social peace and silence radical opposition movements. She achieved great success in her foreign policy and, after winning re-election in 1971, led India to victory in a bitter war with Pakistan (that also resulted in the birth of Bangladesh). While her popularity grew among Indians and especially the poor, Gandhi gained a reputation as an authoritarian within her own party. After an Indian court determined her 1971 election was illegitimate, Gandhi declared a state of emergency, suspending civil liberties and jailing thousands of her critics. Facing internal and international pressure, she returned to democratic government in 1977, but the people elected a former rival, Morarji Desai, to replace her. Desai attempted to destroy Gandhi's reputation with corruption and abuse of power charges, but she fought back by campaigning in rural villages and regaining control of her party, which resulted in her election as prime minister for the fourth time in 1980. Sikh terrorist factions in the Punjab state demanded an independent state, but Gandhi refused to negotiate and, in June of 1984, ordered an army assault on a militant Sikh temple, which resulted in the loss of over 1000 lives. Over the next months, Gandhi remained undeterred by numerous death threats from Sikh militants. She told Newsweek, "In politics you simply can't hide from people. My life has been one with India, and it makes no difference to me if I die standing or in bed." Gandhi was gunned down in her garden in New Delhi by her body guards, Sikh religious extremists. Following her death was a period of extreme tension and bloodshed between Hindus and Sikhs across India. D. 1984.

“There exists no politician in India daring enough to attempt to explain to the masses that cows can be eaten.”

—Indira Gandhi, quoted by Oriana Fallaci in "Indira's Coup," New York Review of Books, 1975

Compiled by Bonnie Gutsch

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

Myla Goldberg

Myla Goldberg

On this date in 1971 author Myla Goldberg was born. Goldberg grew up in Laurel, Md., and graduated from Oberlin College in 1993. Her first book, Bee Season, which is a coming-of-age story about a girl who wins a spelling bee, was published in 2000 and received many honors along with being on the New York Times Notable Book List of 2000. Her other books include Wickett’s Remedy (2006), which chronicles the story of a woman during the 1918 flu pandemic, and most recently The False Friend (2010), about a woman returning to her hometown to confront her past. She has also written Time's Magpie: A Walk in Prague (2004), a compilation of her essays on Prague, and Catching the Moon (2007), a children's book, along with many other published short stories and writings.

Goldberg also has a passion for music. She sings and plays banjo and accordion in a band called The Walking Hellos. Their first CD, of the same name, was released in 2006. Goldberg is married to Jason Little and has two daughters. She lives in New York with her family where she writes, plays music, and teaches.

Photo by David Shinbone under CC 3.0

“I’m a total atheist, and for me it’s just about trying to find something that rises above the banal day-to-day bullshit of living.”

—Myla Goldberg from New York Magazine article by Boris Kachka, In Print: Bee's Buzz. Aug. 7, 2001, Pg. 102.

Compiled by Sarah Eucalano

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

Jodie Foster

Jodie Foster

On this date in 1962, Academy Award-winning actress Jodie Foster was born in Los Angeles. Her professional debut was at age 3 in a Coppertone Suntan lotion commercial. Foster made a series of TV appearances and movies as a child, and was once mauled by a lion while making a Disney film. Her "big break" role was being cast as a preteen prostitute in "Taxi Driver" (1976). She graduated best of her class from the College Lycee Francais in 1980. She was stalked by John Hinkley Jr., who tried to assassinate President Ronald Reagan in a warped paean to "Taxi Driver" in 1981. Foster graduated magna cum laude from Yale with a degree in literature in 1985. She earned two Academy Awards as best actress, for "The Accused" (1988) and for "Silence of the Lambs" (1991). Her many movies include "Nell" (1994), and "Contact" (1997), in which she memorably portrayed the atheist astronomer protagonist based on Carl Sagan's novel. The casting was apt, since Foster is not religious. She has also directed movies, including "Little Man Tate" (1991).

“I absolutely believe what Ellie [Arroway, the atheist astronomer in the movie "Contact"] believes—that there is no direct evidence, so how could you ask me to believe in God when there's absolutely no evidence that I can see? I do believe in the beauty and the awe-inspiring mystery of the science that's out there that we haven't discovered yet, that there are scientific explanations for phenomena that we call mystical because we don't know any better.”

—Jodie Foster, interview with Dan McLeod, The Georgia Straight, July 10-17, 1997, page 43, cited by Celebrity Atheist List.

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor; Photo by Featureflash /

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