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.

As a member, to receive Freethought of the Day in your email inbox, contact us here. To become an FFRF member, click here. To learn more about FFRF, request information here.


There are 5 entries for this date: Neil Kinnock , Corliss Lamont , Daniel C. Dennett , Ishmael Jaffree and Jane Rule
Neil Kinnock

Neil Kinnock

On this date in 1942, British Labour Party leader Neil Kinnock was born in Tredegar, Wales. His father was a miner and his mother a nurse. Neil attended the University College, Cardiff, where he met his wife, Glenys, who is now a Labour MP. Kinnock was elected to Parliament with the Labour Party at age 28, and became party leader by 1983. He resigned in 1992 after his party's national defeat. In 1995, Kinnock became the European Union's European Commissioner, then Vice-President (1999-2004). In 2005, Kinnock was introduced into the House of Lords as Baron Kinnock of Bedwelty, which he accepted "for practical political reasons." According to the Greater Manchester Humanists Group meeting notes (June 11, 1997), Kinnock is an agnostic. The Humanists questioned whether his agnosticism had been used against him politically.

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor; Photo by David Fowler, Shutterstock.com

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

Corliss Lamont

Corliss Lamont

On this date in 1902, Corliss Lamont was born in Englewood, N.J. His father, Thomas W. Lamont, was a chairman of J.P. Morgan & Co. Lamont attended Phillips Exeter Academy, and received his bachelor's degree from Harvard University in 1924. He eventually went on to obtain his Ph.D. in philosophy from Columbia University in 1932. Lamont supported many radical causes, including socialism, and although he never joined the Communist Party, he was strongly opposed to the persecution of Communists and was initially sympathetic to the Soviet and other Communist governments. He served as the director of the the American Civil Liberties Union from 1932 until 1954. He was a founder in 1954 of the National Emergency Civil Liberties Committee, a civil libertarian organization willing to stand up for known and suspected communists, after having been called before the House Un-American Activities Committee because of a book he had written, The Peoples of the Soviet Union (1946). He was cited for contempt of Congress, but his indictment was dismissed by the Court of Appeals on the grounds that he was outside the jurisdiction of the committee.

Lamont wrote many books, pamphlets, and essays throughout his life, including many on humanism. His influential book, The Philosophy of Humanism (1949), was based on a course he taught at Columbia in the 1940s and 1950s on naturalistic humanism. Other books on humanist subjects include his classic The Illusion of Immortality (1935), which argues against the immortality of the soul. He also wrote A Humanist Funeral Service (1954) and A Humanist Wedding Service (1970). He was an active member for many years of the American Humanist Association, and in 1977 was given its Humanist of the Year award. He continued to speak out and write about naturalistic humanism throughout his long life, as well as continuing his political activism. He died of heart failure at age 93. D. 1995.

“The greatest difference between the Humanist ethic and that of Christianity and the traditional religions is that it is entirely based on happiness in this one and only life and not concerned with a realm of supernatural immortality and the glory of God. Humanism denies the philosophical and psychological dualism of soul and body and contends that a human being is a oneness of mind, personality, and physical organism. Christian insistence on the resurrection of the body and personal immortality has often cut the nerve of effective action here and now, and has led to the neglect of present human welfare and happiness.”

—-Corliss Lamont, “The Affirmative Ethics of Humanism,” The Humanist, March/April 1980

Compiled by Eleanor Wroblewski

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

Daniel C. Dennett

Daniel C. Dennett

On this date in 1942, philosopher Daniel Clement Dennett III was born in Boston, the son of Ruth Marjorie (née Leck) and Daniel Clement Dennett Jr. He earned his B.A. in philosophy at Harvard in 1963 and his doctorate in philosophy from Oxford in 1965. Since 1971, he has taught at Tufts, with the exception of visiting professorships, and is Austin B. Fletcher Professor of Philosophy there. His specialty is consciousness. His 1992 book Consciousness Explained is widely credited with advancing the understanding of how various parallel brain processes contribute to consciousness. He also writes often about the philosophy of the mind and of science and is considered a leading proponent of "neural Darwinism."

Among his many books are Darwin's Dangerous Idea (1995), Freedom Evolves (2003), Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon (2006), Kinds of Minds: Towards an Understanding of Consciousness (1997), Science and Religion (2010), Caught in the Pulpit: Leaving Belief Behind (with Linda LaScola, 2013) and From Bacteria to Bach and Back: The Evolution of Minds (2017). His well-known 2003 New York Times piece, endorsing the use of the term "Bright" to describe the nonreligious, began: "The time has come for us brights to come out of the closet. What is a bright? A bright is a person with a naturalist as opposed to a supernaturalist world view. We brights don't believe in ghosts or elves or the Easter Bunny — or God. We disagree about many things, and hold a variety of views about morality, politics and the meaning of life, but we share a disbelief in black magic — and life after death."

His scholarship has earned Dennett a place among the “Four Horsemen” of literary atheism, also including Richard Dawkins, the late Christopher Hitchens and Sam Harris. Dennett received FFRF's Emperor Has No Clothes Award in 2008 and in his acceptance speech urged atheists to “come out of the closet.” He is an FFRF honorary officer. He and Susan Bell were married in 1962 and live in North Andover, Mass. They have a son and a daughter.

"[Brights'] ... deepest convictions are increasingly dismissed, belittled and condemned by those in power — by politicians who go out of their way to invoke God and to stand, self-righteously preening, on what they call 'the side of the angels.' "

"Politicians don't think they even have to pay us lip service, and leaders who wouldn't be caught dead making religious or ethnic slurs don't hesitate to disparage the 'godless' among us."

"From the White House down, bright-bashing is seen as a low-risk vote-getter. And, of course, the assault isn't only rhetorical: the Bush administration has advocated changes in government rules and policies to increase the role of religious organizations in daily life, a serious subversion of the Constitution. It is time to halt this erosion and to take a stand: the United States is not a religious state, it is a secular state that tolerates all religions and — yes — all manner of nonreligious ethical beliefs as well.”

—Daniel C. Dennett, "The Bright Stuff," New York Times (July 12, 2003); photo by Brent Nicastro

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

Ishmael Jaffree

Ishmael Jaffree

On this date in 1944, Ishmael Jaffree was born. Jaffree brought and won the U.S. Supreme Court decision, Wallace v. Jaffree, 472 U.S. 38, 72 (1985). Calling him "an authentic American hero," the Freedom From Religion Foundation inaugurated the Freethinker of the Year award at its 1985 convention to recognize his contributions. An agnostic, a father of six children and an attorney in Mobile, Jaffree discovered in 1981 that his children were being fed daily doses of the Lord's Prayer and grace at lunch, with an occasional bible reading. Jaffree bravely filed a lawsuit in May 1982, challenging a 1978 law authorizing a one-minute period of silence, a 1981 statute authorizing a period of silence "for meditation or voluntary prayer," and a 1982 law authorizing teachers to lead "willing students" in a prescribed prayer to "Almighty God ... the Creator and Supreme Judge of the world."

During the 1982 trial, U.S. District Judge William Brevard Hand allowed 600 Christians to intervene; school officials led children in prayer in front of media. Jaffree's children were ostracized, laughed at and subjected to racial epithets and physical harassment. Hand ruled against Jaffree in 1983, claiming the Supreme Court was wrong about state-church separation and that the First Amendment does not bar states from establishing a religion. The case proceeded by way of the 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals to the U.S. Supreme Court. On June 4, 1985, the Supreme Court ruled 6-3 in Jaffree's favor, declaring unconstitutional a period of silence for "meditation or voluntary prayer" in public schools. 

{Hand received more national attention two years later when he ruled for plaintiffs who claimed Alabama textbooks promoted secular humanism and violated the Establishment Clause. Hand, appointed as a federal judge by President Nixon, ordered statewide removal of textbooks in home economics, history and social studies. The 11th Circuit later overruled him unanimously.)

“I brought the case because I wanted to encourage toleration among my children. I certainly did not want teachers who have control over my children for at least eight hours over the day to ... program them into any religious philosophy.”

—Ishmael Jaffree, acceptance speech for Freethinker of the Year (1985)

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor; photo by Paul Gaylor, Freethought Today

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

Jane Rule

Jane Rule

On this date in 1931, lesbian writer Jane Rule was born in Plainfield, New Jersey. She graduated from Mills College, Oakland, California, in 1952, and became an occasional student at University College, London. Her first book, Desert of the Heart, a novel, was turned into the 1984 movie, "Desert Heart." Rule moved to Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, in 1956, and taught intermittently at the University of British Columbia until 1976. Among her many books, which include novels and nonfiction, are: After the Fire (1988), Memory Board (1987), Hot-Eyed Moderate (1985), Contract with the World (1982) and Lesbian Images (1982). Among her awards was being named author of the Best Story of the Year 1978 by the Canadian Authors Association. She died of liver cancer in 2007.

Cropped photo by Arrecifazo under CC 3.0

“I'm a nonbeliever. I don't believe in the existence of a God. I don't believe in the Christian dogma. I find it horrifyingly silly.The intolerance that flows from organized religion is the most dangerous thing on the planet.”

—Jane Rule, "Brave Souls: Writers and Artists Wrestle with God, Love, Death and the Things That Matter," by Douglas Todd (1996)

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

FFRF is a non-profit, educational organization. All dues and donations are deductible for income-tax purposes.

FFRF has received a 4 star rating from Charity Navigator

FFRF is a member of the Secular Coalition for America

FFRF privacy statement