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: Marie Bashkirtseff , Pat Condell , Jennifer Hecht and Margaret Knight
Marie Bashkirtseff

Marie Bashkirtseff

On this date in 1860, Russian artist Marie Bashkirtseff was born in the Ukraine to a wealthy noble family. She grew up in France and Italy, and studied painting in Paris. Although a number of her paintings were destroyed by the Nazis during World War II, she is still well-known for two canvasses: "The Meeting," depicting Parisian slum children, and "In the Studio," depicting fellow artists at work. From the age of 13, she kept a journal, which included her correspondence with writer Guy De Maupassant. Still in print, the journal was first published in 1891, and was called I Am the Most Interesting Book of All. Her later journal entries, originally published in Revue des Revues, in February and September, 1900, reveal her skepticism. She was an ardent feminist, who wrote for Hubertine Auclert's newspaper, La Citoyenne. She died of tuberculosis at age 23. D. 1884.

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

Pat Condell

Pat Condell

On this date in 1951, English-born stand-up comedian, writer, playwright, secularist and atheist Patrick Condell was born. Born into an Irish Catholic family living in South London, Condell was educated in the Church of England schools, where he was treated differently from the other children. "I found myself segregated in assembly and shunted into another room while everyone said their morning prayers. I didn't mind. The whole pantomime seemed hollow to me even then. Once you become aware of the gulf between what people profess to believe and how they actually behave, it's hard to take any of it seriously" (Time Out London, magazine interview, 2006). Working various jobs, including six years in Canada as a logger, Condell started performing stand-up comedy on the London Alternative Comedy circuit in the 1980s. In 1991, he performed with the Cutting Edge Team at The Comedy Store, winning the "Time Out Comedy Award" that year. Between 1991 and 1994, Condell was a regular panelist on BBC Radio 1's "Loose Talk," as well as continuing to perform between 200 and 300 gigs around Great Britain. Feeling the need for a break, Condell began writing for other people, as well as writing some plays. In 2006, Condell performed a stand-up show entitled "Faith, Hope and Sanity: A Few Jokes About Religion Before It Kills Us All," a comedic vehicle for his nonbelief.

"I set out to write a show in order to say something, rather than just as a vehicle for stand-up. It seems to me that fundamentalist Christians, jihadist Muslims and settlement-building Jews are causing more than their share of trouble in the world. World events are being driven by people with apocalyptic delusions, while here in Britain a paralyzing liberal guilt allows religious bigots to use intimidation and violence to stamp out free speech. If you can't get laughs out of all that, you can't get them out of anything" ("Time Out London," interview 2006). In a 2007 presentation at the Beyond Belief symposium, Sir Harold Kroto, recipient of the 1996 Nobel Prize for Chemistry, used one of Condell's YouTube videos, in which he was "trying to find something good to say about the three major religions." Condell has two video sites where he has posted 39 proatheist/antireligious monologs, tallying up to 8 million hits. Condell's "The Trouble With Islam," has reached over two million hits on the worldwide web, proving "there is an enthusiastic audience for comedy ideas and opinions which are routinely censored out of existence in the UK's mainstream media, thanks to misguided political correctness," Condell has said (The Freethinker, Feb. 27, 2008). Condell concedes: "I admire anyone who's genuinely trying to achieve spiritual enlightenment and live a peaceful life. But religious dogma is a barrier to that. The last thing a dogmatist wants is for anyone to be enlightened, any more than a pharmaceutical company wants anybody cured" ("Time Out London," interview 2006). Asked what we can do to resist the growing influence of religion, Condell responded: "Use their tactics if you feel strongly enough. Make a nuisance of yourself. Make an official complaint. Take it to a tribunal. As an atheist you're part of a minority whose beliefs are constantly ignored and marginalised while religious prejudice is pandered to and encouraged, and you have every right to be offended by that . . . Remember, one person on their own can't do much, but a million people each doing a little every day can change things very quickly" (An Interview with Pat Condell, The Freethinker, Feb. 27, 2008).

Photo by OTRS, approved by Pat Condell in the permission archive under CC 3.0

“Religion disapproves of original thought the way Dracula does sunlight.”

—Pat Condell website: www.patcondell.net

Compiled by Jane Esbensen

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

Jennifer Hecht

Jennifer Hecht

On this date in 1965, Jennifer Michael Hecht was born in New York, N.Y. She earned a B.A. in history from Adelphi University in New York in 1987, and a Ph.D. in the history of science and European cultural history in 1995 from Columbia University. She is an author and poet whose works of poetry include The Next Ancient World (2001), for which she was awarded the Poetry Society of America’s 2002 Norma Farber First Book Award. Hecht is most famous for her historical and philosophical books: Doubt: A History (2003); The End of the Soul: Scientific Modernity, Atheism, and Anthropology in France (2003), which won the 2004 Ralph Waldo Emerson Award from the Phi Beta Kappa Society; and The Happiness Myth (2007). She has worked as a professor in history at Mannes College (1993–1994) an associate professor in history at Nassau Community College (1994–2006), and taught creative writing at New York University in 2006. She is currently a professor at Columbia University’s MFA program and The New School’s graduate writing program, as well as a journalist who writes book reviews for The New York Times and the Washington Post. She and her husband, John, have two children.

“I’m sort of what I’ll now call a Reagan atheist—came in real early. I was still a pretty young person,” Hecht said during her speech at FFRF’s 32nd annual convention. In her book Doubt: A History (2003), Hecht outlines the extensive history of atheism and religious doubt. She wrote: “Doubters have been remarkably productive, for the obvious reason that they have a tendency toward investigation and, also, are often drawn to invest their own days with meaning.” Hecht is a member of FFRF’s Honorary Board and received a Freethought Heroine Award from FFRF on Nov. 7, 2009.

“Almost all the great poets have conversations in their poetry about doubting God, and even go all the way to dismissing. It’s such a strong tradition that it’s almost amazing that we’ve missed it.”

—Jennifer Hecht, Nov. 7, 2009 speech at FFRF’s 32nd annual convention.

Compiled by Sabrina Gaylor; Photo in the Public Domain

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

Margaret Knight

Margaret Knight

On this date in 1903, British freethinker Margaret Knight, nee Margaret Horsey, was born in Hertfordshire, England, earning her Bachelor's degree at Girton, Cambridge, in 1926 and her Master's in 1948. "I had been uneasy about religion throughout my adolescence, but I had not had the moral courage to throw off my beliefs until my third year in Cambridge," Margaret wrote in the preface to Morals Without Religion. After reading philosophers such as Bertrand Russell: "A fresh, cleansing wind swept through the stuffy room that contained the relics of my religious beliefs. I let them go with a profound sense of relief, and ever since I have lived happily without them." She worked prior to her marriage to Arthur Knight, a professor of psychology, in 1936, then moved with him to Aberdeen, Scotland, and lectured at the University of Aberdeen from 1936-1970. She and her husband co-wrote several textbooks. She became a celebrity across Great Britain when she achieved the freethought coup of giving a series of freethought lectures on the BBC radio. "It is difficult . . . for the ordinary man to cast off orthodox beliefs, for he is seldom allowed to hear the other side. . . . Whereas the Christian view is pressed on him day in and day out." Margaret first submitted a draft script in 1953, after several years of negotiation. The BBC finally suggested that as a psychologist, she broaden her approach to include "positive advice to nonChristian parents on the moral training of children." Her aim: "to combat the view that there can be no true morality without supernatural sanctions." The fireworks began after her first talk, on Jan. 5, 1955, was written up in newspapers, including one headline in the Sunday Graphic with two-inch letters describing her as "The Unholy Mrs. Knight" and describing her as "a menace." The BBC lectures appeared in her 1955 book, Morals Without Religion. In 1975, she updated her views on religion in a pamphlet, "Christianity: The Debit Account." After studying the bible and religious history, she wrote that she had become even more critical of Christianity. She compiled a humanist anthology in 1961, revised in 1995 by James Herrick. D. 1983.

“Ethical teaching is weakened if it is tied up with dogmas that will not bear examination.”

—-Margaret Knight, Morals Without Religion, 1955. Also see Women Without Superstition

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor

© 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.">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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