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 5 entries for this date: Keira Knightley , Richard Dawkins , A.E. Housman , Robert Frost and Edward Sorel
Keira Knightley

Keira Knightley

On this date in 1985, Keira Christina Knightley was born in London to a playwright mother and actor father. Knightley had an agent by age six and in 1993 had a brief role in an episode of the British TV series, “Screen One.” Subsequent TV film roles included Natasha Jordan in “A Village Affair” (1995), a princess in “The Treasure Seekers” (1996), young Judith in “Coming Home” (1998) and Rose in “Oliver Twist” (1999). Knightley earned international recognition for her role as Sabé, the decoy to Natalie Portman’s Queen Amidala, in “Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace” (1999). Knightley played Robin Hood’s daughter, a starring role, in Disney’s 2001 production of “Princess of Thieves.” In 2002, she acted in a remake of “Doctor Zhivago,” “Pure” and “Bend It Like Beckham,” which grossed $18 million in the United Kingdom and $32 million in the United States. She starred with Johnny Depp in “Pirates of the Caribbean” (2003), with Emma Thompson, Colin Firth, Liam Neeson, Hugh Grant and others in “Love Actually” (2003) and with Adrien Brody in “The Jacket” (2005). Also in 2005, Knightley played Elizabeth Bennet in “Pride and Prejudice,” a role which earned her Golden Globe and Academy Award nominations. She was nominated for a Golden Globe and a BAFTA Award for her performance in 2007’s “Atonement.” Knightley appeared in “The Edge of Love” (2008), written by her mother Sharman Macdonald, “The Duchess” (2008), “Last Night” (2010), “Never Let Me Go” (2010), “A Dangerous Method” (2011), and, with Steve Carell, “Seeking a Friend for the End of the World” (2012). She was nominated for a Laurence Olivier Award for Best Supporting Actress for her performance on the London stage in “The Misanthrope,” her theatrical debut. In addition to her acting life, Knightley has used her celebrity to raise funds and awareness for Amnesty International, WaterAid, the American Library Association, Comic Relief, Women’s Aid and The Spinal Muscular Atrophy Trust.

Keira Knightley: If only I wasn't an atheist, I could get away with anything. You'd just ask for forgiveness and then you'd be forgiven. It sounds much better than having to live with guilt.

David Cronenberg: Yeah, but you could always lie about being an atheist. I don't think an atheist could get elected in America right now.

Keira Knightley: No, I don't think they could either.

—Keira Knightley in an interview with David Cronenberg in Interview Magazine, April 2012

Compiled by Bonnie Gutsch

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

Richard Dawkins

Richard Dawkins

On this date in 1941, evolutionary biologist and freethought champion Richard Dawkins was born in Nairobi. His father had moved to Kenya from England during the Second World War to join the Allied Forces and the family returned to England in 1949. Dawkins graduated from Oxford in 1962, earned his doctorate, became assistant professor of zoology at the University of California at Berkeley 1967-1969 and a fellow of New College in 1970. The Selfish Gene, his first book, published in 1976, became an international bestseller. It and the award-winning Blind Watchmaker were translated into all major languages. His other books include The Extended Phenotype (1982), River Out of Eden (1995), Climbing Mount Improbable (1996), Unweaving the Rainbow (1998) and A Devil's Chaplain (2003). His 2006 iconoclastic book, The God Delusion, which he wrote with the public hope of turning believing readers into atheists, became a bestseller in both the UK and the U.S. Dawkins has held the Charles Simonyi Chair of Public Understanding of Science since 1995, and was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 1997. He is married to actress and artist Lalla Ward, who has illustrated several of his books and other works. Dawkins has advanced the concept of cultural inheritance or "memes," also described as "viruses of the mind," a category into which he places religious belief. He has also advanced the "replicator concept" of evolution. A passionate atheist, Dawkins has coined the memorable term "faith-heads" to describe certain religionists. Since his remarks in The Guardian (Feb, 6, 1999): "I'm like a pit bull terrier being released into the ring, as a spectator sport, to attack religious people . . .," Dawkins is now affectionately known as "Darwin's pit bull." Dawkins, a vice president of the British Humanist Association, was named Humanist of the Year in 1999. He is the 1997 winner of the International Cosmos Prize, and received an Emperor Has No Clothes Award from the Freedom From Religion Foundation in 2001. His column for The Observer ("Children Must Choose Their own Beliefs," Dec. 30, 2001) pointed out: "We deliberately set up, and massively subsidise, segregated faith schools. As if it were not enough that we fasten belief-labels on babies at birth, those badges of mental apartheid are now reinforced and refreshed. In their separate schools, children are separately taught mutually incompatible beliefs." Following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, he eloquently warned in a Guardian column, "Religion's Misguided Missiles" (Sept. 15, 2001): "To fill a world with religion, or religions of the Abrahamic kind, is like littering the streets with loaded guns. Do not be surprised if they are used."

“My respect for the Abrahamic religions went up in the smoke and choking dust of September 11th. The last vestige of respect for the taboo disappeared as I watched the 'Day of Prayer' in Washington Cathedral, where people of mutually incompatible faiths united in homage to the very force that caused the problem in the first place: religion. It is time for people of intellect, as opposed to people of faith, to stand up and say 'Enough!' Let our tribute to the dead be a new resolve: to respect people for what they individually think, rather than respect groups for what they were collectively brought up to believe.

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

A.E. Housman

A.E. Housman

On this date in 1859, Alfred Edward Housman was born in England. He took a "passing degree" from Oxford, and received several university appointments, moving permanently to Trinity College in 1911. His most famous work, a book of poems called A Shropshire Lad, has stayed in print since it was first published in 1896. His second, long-awaited volume of poetry, Last Poems, was published in 1922. After he died, his brother put together posthumous collections. Housman's writing was irreverent, including such lines as, "It is a fearful thing to be The Pope. That cross will not be laid on me, I hope." His poem below, with its lines "let God and man decree/Laws for themselves and not for me," was a special favorite of Margaret Sanger's. D. 1936.

“The laws of God, the laws of man,
He may keep that will and can;
Not I: let God and man decree
Laws for themselves and not for me;
And if my ways are not as theirs
Let them mind their own affairs.
Their deeds I judge and much condemn,
Yet when did I make laws for them?
Please yourselves, say I, and they
Need only look the other way.
But no, they will not; they must still
Wrest their neighbour to their will,
And make me dance as they desire
With jail and gallows and hell-fire.
And how am I to face the odds
Of man's bedevilment and God's?
I, a stranger and afraid
In a world I never made.
They will be master, right or wrong;
Though both are foolish, both are strong.
And since, my soul, we cannot fly
To Saturn nor to Mercury,
Keep we must, if keep we can,
These foreign laws of God and man.”

—A.E. Housman, No. 12, Last Poems, 1922

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

Robert Frost

Robert Frost

On this date in 1874, Robert Frost was born in San Francisco. His family relocated to New England when his father died. In 1892, Frost married Elinor White, with whom he was co-valedictorian at Lawrence High School. Although Frost later served as poet in residence and professor of literature at several universities, he never received a degree from Dartmouth or Harvard, both of which he attended. Frost and his young wife moved to England for a time, where he found success as a poet and was influenced by the work of Rupert Brooke, Robert Graves and friend Ezra Pound. The couple returned to New England, where his first two books of poetry were published to great acclaim in 1915, A Boy's Will and North of Boston, followed by many other books of poetry. Frost was awarded the Pulitzer Prize four times. Frost was sly in revealing his position on religion, telling freethought encyclopedist Warren Allen Smith (Who's Who in Hell) that the answer was to be found in his work. (See sample below.) D. 1963.

''The kind of Unitarian 

Who having by elimination got 

From many gods to Three, and Three to One, 

Thinks why not taper off to none at all.''           

Robert Frost (1874-1963), U.S. poet. "A Masque of Mercy."        

 

Not All There

“I turned to speak to God
About the world's despair
But to make bad matters worse
I found God wasn't there.”

—Robert Frost, A Further Range (1936)

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

Edward Sorel

Edward Sorel

On this date in 1929, illustrator, artist and satirist Edward Sorel was born in Bronx, N.Y., to Morris and Rebecca (Kleinberg) Schwartz. He packs a lot of punch with few, and very often, no words. Look at Sorel's "Pass the Lord and Praise the Ammunition" from 1967, for example. The color halftone poster, on display at the Smithsonian Institution's National Portrait Gallery, depicts New York Cardinal Francis Spellman in clerical garb and Army boots on the advance, wielding a rifle with fixed bayonet. The conservative Catholic cardinal has been military vicar general of the U.S. armed forces since 1939 and was an outspoken hawk on the Vietnam War. By 1967, he was out of step with many Americans. Just as Sorel was finishing the poster, Spellman died, so Sorel waited till 1972 to use the image for the cover art of his book Making the World Safe for Hypocrisy. Sorel, who is a member of the Freedom From Religion Foundation's Honorary Board, is a regular contributor to The Atlantic and The New Yorker and many other publications. Besides his 41 covers for the latter, his art has appeared on the covers of The Atlantic, Harpers, Fortune, Forbes, The Nation, Esquire, American Heritage The New York Times Magazine. He has illustrated many children's books, three of which he also wrote. Unauthorized Portraits (Knopf 1997) is the most recent of several collections of his work. In 1998, the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C., devoted several rooms to an exhibition of his caricatures. Other one-man shows include the Graham Gallery and the Davis and Langdale Gallery in New York City, the Susan Conway Gallery in Washington, D.C., the Art Institute of Boston and Galerie Bartsch and Chariau in Munich, Germany. He is a recipient of the Augustus St. Gaudens Medal for Professional Achievement from The Cooper Union, the Hamilton King Award from The Society of Illustrators, the Page One Award from the Newspaper Guild, the Best in Illustration Award from the National Cartoonists Society, the George Polk Award for Satiric Drawing, and the "Karikaturpreis der deutschen Anwaltschaft" from the Wilhelm Busch Museum in Hanover, Germany. In 2001, the Art Directors Club of New York elected him to their Hall of Fame.

Sorel graduated from the Cooper Union in 1951 and co-founded Push Pin Studios with Milton Glaser and Seymour Chwast in 1953 before embarking on a very successful freelance career. In a 1997 interview in The Atlantic, Sorel was asked what issues he felt especially strong about and inspired to address. He answered: "Well, I'm one of those who regard organized religion as a dangerous force. I try whenever possible to do anti-clerical cartoons. The only place that will print them is The Nation, which has a very small circulation and pays almost nothing." Sorel, sitting for a joint interview with fellow artists Jules Feiffer and David Levine that was published in the spring 2003 Lincoln Center Theater Review as "Memories of Three Left-Wing Cartoonists," was asked about earlier saying he hated the Bush administration and Saddam Hussein“. "All I said was that we have our religious fanatics fighting their religious fanatics, which leaves me without a side to root for," Sorel said. The introduction to his National Portrait Gallery Unauthorized Portraits exhibit says Sorel's "potent spoofs of public figures . . . skewered pomposity wherever it appeared or simply mused on the exquisite oddness of the human comedy." Unauthorized Portraits has three sections: history, entertainment and the arts, and politics. "From Moses leading his kvetching people ('Some miracle! If I don't get pneumonia, that'll be a miracle') through the parted Red Sea waters, to George Gershwin teaching Fred Astaire a dance step, to Madonna seen as a 'horseperson of the apocalypse.' "


Edward Sorel's "The Last Flossing" (1992)


"

Compiled by Bill Dunn

© 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.

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