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 4 entries for this date: Joss Whedon , Alan Turing , Daniel Henry Chamberlain and Jon Steingard
Joss Whedon

Joss Whedon

On this date in 1964, writer, producer and director Joseph Hill "Joss" Whedon was born in New York City, where he grew up. Whedon attended Winchester College in England before graduating from Wesleyan University in 1987. He worked as a screenwriter in the early 1990s and wrote the Oscar-nominated script for “Toy Story” (1995) before creating the hit television series “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” (1997-2003). Perhaps best known for his work on television, Whedon went on to create and produce “Angel” (1999-2004), “Firefly” (2002) and “Dollhouse” (2009-10). In 2008, he released the Emmy-winning live-action musical “Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog” exclusively over the Internet.

In addition to screenwriting and directing, Whedon has written extensively for comics, including Marvel’s “Astonishing X-Men” (2004-07), as well as comics based on his television and other properties. With the “Buffy The Vampire Slayer Season Eight” (2007-11) comics, he took on the role of executive producer to retain control over the series without writing each issue himself, an unusual model in comics. He directed "The Avengers" (2012) and "Much Ado About Nothing" (2013) and wrote and directed the sequel "Avengers: Age of Ultron" (2015). He also co-wrote the script for the DC Extended Universe superhero film "Justice League" (2017) and directed reshoots.

Whedon identifies as an atheist with an existentialist and absurdist philosophy and in 2009 accepted the Harvard Humanist Chaplaincy’s Outstanding Lifetime Achievement Award in Cultural Humanism. (Acceptance speech available here.) He has explored religious themes from many perspectives in his work, including creating strong nonreligious and humanist characters. The title character of the supernatural show “Angel,” set in modern-day Los Angeles, is a vampire who strives to be human and embodies a humanist philosophy. Although the character is a traditional hero and plays an important role in a war between the forces of good and evil, he resists seeing himself as a soldier for good, telling a friend, “I wanna help because I don't think people should suffer as they do. Because if there's no bigger meaning, then the smallest act of kindness is the greatest thing in the world” (“Epiphany,” aired Feb. 27, 2001).

In the space western show “Firefly,” set in the year 2517, the protagonist, Mal Reynolds, is portrayed as a Christian in a flashback and an atheist in the present day in the pilot episode “Serenity” (Dec. 20, 2002). The show also features a preacher, Shepherd Book, who causes conflict over whether to say grace at dinner (“Serenity”) and a schizophrenic genius teen girl, River Tam, who systematically defaces Shepherd’s bible. She explains, “Bible’s broken. Contradictions, false logistics — doesn’t make sense.” (“Jaynestown,” aired Oct. 18, 2002). Perhaps most subversive is “Dollhouse,” set in twenty-first century Los Angeles. Its premise is that a company has developed a way to “imprint” people with personalities not their own. Genuine religious belief is programmed on a computer and a miracle is manufactured in order to infiltrate a gun-running Christian cult (“True Believer,” aired March 13, 2009). 

"Faith in God means believing absolutely in something with no proof whatsoever. Faith in humanity means believing absolutely in something with a huge amount of proof to the contrary. We are the true believers."

—Joss Whedon, accepting the Harvard humanist chaplaincy (April 10, 2009)

Compiled by Eleanor Wroblewski; photo by S-Bukley,

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

Alan Turing

Alan Turing

On this date in 1912, Alan Turing was born in London, England. He graduated from Cambridge with a degree in mathematics in 1934 and earned a Ph.D. in mathematical logic from Princeton University in 1938. Turing was a mathematician, cryptanalyst and computer scientist who studied cognitive science and artificial intelligence, among other fields. He was especially influential in the field of computer science.

In 1939, Turing began working for the Government Code and Cypher School (GCCS), which successfully broke the complex code used by the German military to encode their radio communications. This feat was accomplished thanks to Turing’s help designing a revolutionary code-breaking machine called the bombe, which was essential to the Allies throughout World War II. The bombe allowed the GCCS to decode up to 84,000 German messages per month.

Turing is also known for the creation of the Turing Test, a reliable method of testing artificial intelligence, and for proposing the Turing Machine, a multi-purpose thought-experiment computer that would function similarly to modern computers.

In 1952, Turing was convicted of homosexuality and denied further access to the GCCS. Turing chose chemical castration over jail time as his sentence. In 1954 he died of cyanide poisoning in what was determined to be suicide by the authorities. Only a few years later, in 1956, the 1885 Criminal Law Amendment Act under which Turing had been convicted was repealed.

Turing lost his faith as a young adult and became a materialist after a classmate whom he loved died of tuberculosis. Turing’s work with artificial intelligence also influenced his freethought views. “God has given an immortal soul to every man and woman, but not to any other animal or machine. Hence no animal or machine can think. I am unable to accept any part of this,” he wrote in “Computing Machinery and Intelligence” in 1950. D. 1954.

Turing passport photo at age 16.

“I am not very impressed with theological arguments whatever they may be used to support. Such arguments have often been found unsatisfactory in the past.” 

—Turing, “Computing Machinery and Intelligence,” Mind (1950)

Compiled by Sabrina Gaylor

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

Daniel Henry Chamberlain

Daniel Henry Chamberlain

On this date in 1835, Daniel Henry Chamberlain was born in West Brookfield, Mass. He graduated from Yale with honors in 1862 and became a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army. He was elected attorney general of South Carolina (1868-72) and served as governor from 1874-77. Chamberlain was elected during a period of waste and corruption in state government and high taxation, abuses which his administration, regarded by history as honest, temporarily ended. Chamberlain was to be the last Republican to fill a high office in South Carolina until the late 1960s.

The gubernatorial election of 1876 was marked by irregularities on both sides. The votes of two counties had not been counted. Wade Hampton, Chamberlain's rival and a war hero, claimed victory. Two state governments were in effect for about a year while Chamberlain refused to leave office. When President Rutherford B. Hayes removed all federal troops from the South, Chamberlain left office. Chamberlain was a planter, lawyer, author (writing Charles Sumner and the Treaty of Washington) and professor of constitutional law at Cornell University. His rationalist views were not well-known, but he wrote an article for the North American Review, later reprinted in The Freethinker, describing himself as "a Freethinker." D. 1907.

“I reject the whole Christian religion [and] a presiding or controlling Deity.”

—Chamberlain, North American Review article reprinted in The Freethinker (Nov. 15, 1908)

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

Jon Steingard

Jon Steingard

On this date in 1983, musician and visual artist Jonathan Steingard, the eldest of three children, was born in Canada to religious parents. His father was pastor of what Steingard calls a charismatic, Holy Spirit-focused church. He started playing guitar at age 9.

In 2004 he joined Hawk Nelson, a Christian pop-punk band that had formed in 2000 in Peterborough, Ontario. In 2012 he took over as lead vocalist and frontman when Jason Dunn left the band. In 2013 Beliefnet called the band "officially one of Christian rock’s elder statesmen." The band has recorded eight studio albums (most recently "Miracles" in 2018) and is a staple at Christian music festivals.

It was in the parking lot at one of those festivals — Spirit West Coast in Del Mar, Calif. — that he proposed to Jessica Hubbard. They married in 2007 and have a son, Grey (b. 2017), and a daughter, Winter Joy (b. 2018). Both pregnancies were complicated by placental abruptions in which the placenta separates from the inner wall of the uterus before birth.

Asked by Risen Magazine in 2014 to describe his spiritual journey, Steingard said as he got older, he felt something was missing and he ended up at a Baptist church "really diving into Scripture." The journey took an unforeseen and surprising turn in April 2020 when he announced on Instagram that he no longer believed in God: "It didn't happen overnight or all of a sudden. It's been more like pulling on the threads of a sweater, and one day discovering that there was no more sweater left."

In a Christian Post story (May 23, 2020), he said he sees the bible as "human, flawed and imperfect," adding, “I am stunned by the number of people in visible positions within Christian circles that feel the same way as I do. Like me, they fear losing everything if they’re open about it.” His doubt was increasingly fueled by questions such as these common ones: "If God is all loving, and all powerful, why is there evil in the world? Can he not do anything about it? Does he choose not to?"

Steingard had worked on various musical and video side projects while part of the band. He and Jessica, who live in San Diego, started Breaktide Artist Services, now Steingard Creative. "I specialize in music videos, promo videos, text animation and effects. Really anything that needs to grab people's attention," he said. 

He was a guest on Freethought Radio on June 18, 2020.

"After growing up in a Christian home, being a pastor's kid, playing and singing in a Christian band, and having the word 'Christian' in front of most of the things in my life, I am now finding that I no longer believe in God."

—Steingard Instagram post (April 21, 2020)

Compiled by Bill Dunn

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