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: Steve Benson and Isaac Asimov
Steve Benson

Steve Benson

On this date in 1954, Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial cartoonist Steven Benson was born in Sacramento, Calif., the grandson of Ezra Taft Benson, who served as secretary of agriculture under President Eisenhower and became president of the Mormons (1985-1994). Benson was an Eagle Scout and graduated with a degree in political science, cum laude, from Brigham Young University in 1979. "I was on track to eternal Mormon stardom, reserved especially for faithful men in a church run by men," he has written. Except for a brief stint as editorial cartoonist for the Morning News Tribune in Tacoma, Wash., Benson has been editorial cartoonist for The Arizona Republic since 1980, and won a Pulitzer in 1993. He and his wife, Mary Ann, who have four children, left the Mormon Church in a highly publicized break in 1993, "citing disgreement over its doctrines on race, women, intellectual freedom and fanciful storytelling," as he has written. Benson lists among the benefits of leaving religion: "another day off, a 10 percent raise and getting to choose his own underwear." Among his favorite sayings is Mark Twain's adage: "Get your facts first, and then you can distort them as much as you please."

An atheist, he has appeared at several annual conventions of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, where he received a "Freethought in the Media: Tell It Like It Is Award" (1999) , an Emperor Has No Clothes Award (2002), and a Statuette of Liberty Friend of Freedom Award (2003). For several years beginning in 2001, Steve teamed up with Freedom From Religion Foundation staffer Dan Barker for the inimitable "Tunes and 'Toons" production, an irreverent look at freethought and religion in the news combining cartoons, music and satire. Some of their jointly-written parodies, "Godless America" among them, are recorded on the Foundation's "Beware of Dogma" CD.

“We must never retreat in the face of threats or punishments dispensed by theocratic terrorists more interested in protecting their power and indulging their vanity, than in advancing the human condition." 

"If, as the true believers claim, the word 'gospel' means good news, then the good news for me is that there is no gospel, other than what I can define for myself, by observation and conscience. As a freethinking human being, I have come not to favor or fear religion, but to face and fight it as an impediment to civilized advancement.”

—-Steve Benson, "From Latter-Day Saint to Latter Day Ain't" (1999), Freethought Today, December 1999

Compiled by Annie Laurie; photo by Brent Nicastro

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

Isaac Asimov

Isaac Asimov

On this day in 1920, Isaac Asimov, a self-described "second-generation freethinker" and one of the world's most prolific authors, was born in Petrovichi, Russia. He moved with his family to Brooklyn, New York, in 1923 and became a naturalized citizen in 1928. He sold one of his earliest published short stories, "Nightfall," in 1941, which was eventually voted the best science-fiction short story ever written, by the Science Fiction Writers of America. Asimov graduated from Columbia University in 1939, earned his M.A. in 1941 and a Ph.D. in chemistry in 1948. He was hired by Boston University's School of Medicine to teach biochemistry the following year. He became an associate professor of biochemistry in 1955 and professor in 1979, although he stopped teaching in 1958 to devote his life to writing.

I, Robot (1950) was the title of his first collection of short stories. Employing the "Asimovian Law of Composition," which meant writing from nine to five, seven days a week (often closer to 6:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.), he averaged at least 12 new books a year. Asimov won five Hugos, three Nebula Awards, and his best-known "Foundation" trilogy was given a 1966 Hugo as "Best All-Time Science-Fiction Series." Nonfiction works by Asimov were typically encyclopedic in range, such as his well-known Asimov's Guide to the Bible (1968) and Asimov's Annotated Paradise Lost (1974). He wrote a series of popular books on science and history, and even a guide to Shakespeare.

Asimov was an atheist: "I am Jewish in the sense that if an Arab wanted to throw a rock at a Jew, I would qualify as a target as far as he was concerned. However, I do not practice Judaism or any other religion." (March 17, 1969 letter.) "Properly read, the Bible is the most potent force for atheism ever conceived." (Feb. 22, 1966 letter.) He published 470 books, covering every category in the Dewey Decimal System, fiction and nonfiction. Asimov was married twice, and had a son and daughter from his first marriage. His 1992 death from heart and kidney failure was a consequence of AIDS contracted from a transfusion of tainted blood during his December 1983 triple-bypass operation, a fact later revealed by his wife Janet Asimov.

“Just the force of rational argument in the end cannot be withstood.”

—Isaac Asimov, Winter Solstice speech before the New Jersey Freedom From Religion Foundation, Dec. 22, 1985

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor; photo by Ken Malpas

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