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: John Baskerville and Alan Alda
John Baskerville

John Baskerville

On this date in 1706, John Baskerville was born. The famous English printer, who produced the "Baskerville Bible" in 1763, was a freethinker. He instructed that he wished to be buried in unconsecrated ground, and composed his own freethinking epitaph. By interesting coincidence, the typeface used by Freethought Today, the publication of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, is Baskerville Times. D. 1775.

“Emancipate thy mind from the idle fears of Superstition and the wicked arts of Priesthood.”

—John Baskerville's self-composed tombstone inscription (1775)

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

Alan Alda

Alan Alda

On this date in 1936, Alan Alda (né Alphonso Joseph D’Abruzzo) was born in New York, N.Y. He began acting at the age of 16, a hobby that he continued during his time at Fordham University, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in English in 1956. After graduating, he spent time performing at the Cleveland Playhouse and on Broadway. Alda’s best-known acting role is starring as surgeon Hawkeye Pierce on the television show “M*A*S*H” (1972–1983), for which Alda wrote and directed numerous episodes (1973–1983). Besides “M*A*S*H,” Alda has acted in a plethora of movies, including “Crimes and Misdemeanors” (1989) and “The Aviator” (2004). He has also written and directed films such as “The Four Seasons” (1981) and performed in Broadway plays including “QED” (2001–2002), in which he portrayed Richard Feynman.

Alda hosted the television shows “Scientific American Frontiers” (1993–2007) and “The Human Spark” (2010). He was awarded a People’s Choice Award for Favorite Male Actor in 1975, and won an Emmy in 2006 for his portrayal of a Republican senator on “The West Wing” (2004-2006). Alda's character, Sen. Arnold Vinick, stopped going to church and often battles the religious right in his own party. Although he's asked by the young daughter of a campaign staffer, Vinick doesn't directly say he is an atheist. He and his wife, Arlene, a photographer, were married in 1957 and have three daughters.

Alda is open about his lack of belief, but prefers to identify simply as a nonbeliever rather than as an atheist or agnostic. He told the Edge Foundation, “I still don't like the word agnostic. It's too fancy. I'm simply not a believer. But, as simple as this notion is, it confuses some people. Someone wrote a Wikipedia entry about me, identifying me as an atheist because I'd said in a book I wrote that I wasn't a believer.” Alda is interested in science and cosmology, and hosted the PBS show “Scientific American Frontiers” from 1993 until 2007. He is also an advocate for feminism, and was involved in the campaign to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment. He has written two books, Never Have Your Dog Stuffed (2005) and Things I Overheard While Talking to Myself (2007). In January 2019, he received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Screen Actors Guild. "His ability to make us laugh, to think and to feel is extraordinary. From theater to television, movies and new media, Alan’s dedication and talent are exceeded only by his contributions to a just and caring society," said SAG-AFTRA President Gabrielle Carteris.

“For a while in my teens, I was sure I had it. It was about getting to heaven. If heaven existed and lasted forever, then a mere lifetime spent scrupulously following orders was a small investment for an infinite payoff. One day, though, I realized I was no longer a believer, and realizing that, I couldn’t go back.”

—Alan Alda, "Things I Overheard While Talking to Myself" (2007)

Compiled by Sabrina Gaylor and Eleanor Wroblewski; photo by David Fowler /

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