Freethought of the Day

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There are 3 entries for this date: Uma Thurman , Derek Humphry and Robert Gottlieb
Uma Thurman

Uma Thurman

On this date in 1970, Uma Thurman was born in Massachusetts. The actress identified herself "Agnostic (Buddhism if must choose)" for a brief autobiography in Cosmopolitan (November 1995), according to Who's Who in Hell by Warren Allen Smith. Her father teaches Indo-Tibetan studies at Columbia University and was ordained a Buddhist monk. She told Cosmopolitan she does not consider herself Buddhist, adding, "What I have learned is that I like all religions, but only parts of them." She has starred in "Dangerous Liaisons" (1988), "Pulp Fiction" (1994), "A Month by the Lake" (1995), "The Truth about Cats and Dogs" (1996), "Gattaca" (1997), "Les Miserables" (1998), "The Golden Bowl" (2000), "Kill Bill (Vol. 1)" (2003) and "Kill Bill (Vol. 2)", 2004.

"I'm not a practicing anything. I've been brought up around Buddhism and I'm very interested in it, and if I have any leaning I would lean toward Buddhist feelings. But as I have seen so many devout people, I wouldn't categorize myself as a practicing person."

—Uma Thurman, Biography magazine (August 2002)

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor; Photo by Andrea Raffin,

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

Derek Humphry

Derek Humphry

On this date in 1930, journalist, author and activist Derek Humphry was born in Bath, England. Growing up in a broken home during World War II, Humphry received a substandard childhood education. He attended close to a dozen different schools before leaving the school system at the age of 15 to pursue a career in journalism. He worked for the Yorkshire Post as an editorial manager prior to being drafted for the British Army at age 18. Not long after his service, he resumed his career in journalism and became a junior reporter on the Manchester Evening News, the largest evening UK newspaper. During his journalism career, Humphry worked at various news networks, specializing in issues of race relations, immigration, prison conditions, police brutality and corruption. This knowledge led to the production of Because They’re Black (1971), a book that argued for racial harmony in Britain and won Humphry the Martin Luther King Memorial Prize.

In 1978, Humphry accepted a position as a special feature writer for the Los Angeles Times and moved to the U.S. The same year he published Jean’s Way, based on the death of his first wife from bone cancer. Humphry firmly believes in the right to die and has spent many decades advocating the legal practice of euthanasia. He has written a number of books on euthanasia, including Final Exit: The Practicalities of Self-deliverance and Assisted Suicide for the Dying (1991), which marked the emergence of the Death with Dignity movement in the United States, Freedom to Die: People, Politics & The Right-To-Die Movement (1998) and Good Life, Good Death: The Memoir of a Right to Die Pioneer (2017).

He co-founded the Hemlock Society in 1980. It later split into two separate organizations — Compassion and Choices and Final Exit Network. Compassion and Choices focuses on legislative change while Final Exit Network focuses on the need for compassionate support for those suffering from incurable diseases. In a 1995 interview, Humphry was asked if he was a religious person and replied that he was an atheist.

“The euthanasia movement’s clash with religion is the heart of the struggle. People lose sight of that. But in a small way, it’s altering 2,000 years of Christianity.”

—Derek Humphry, “The Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity Presents Dignity and Dying: A Christian Appraisal” (1996)

Compiled by Tolulope Igun

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

Robert Gottlieb

Robert Gottlieb

On this date in 1931, Robert Adams Gottlieb, writer and editor at Simon & Schuster, Alfred A. Knopf and The New Yorker, was born in New York City to Charles and Martha Gottlieb. Growing up, he "was your basic, garden-variety, ambitious, upwardly mobile, hard-working Jewish boy from Brooklyn," Gottlieb later wrote. His parents were "confirmed atheists" and religion played no part in his upbringing. He enrolled at Columbia University as an English major, read voraciously (favorites: Henry James and Proust) and co-edited the school's literary magazine. He graduated in 1952, the year he married Muriel Higgins when she was pregnant with their son and then studied abroad at Cambridge University before joining Simon & Schuster as an editorial assistant in 1955. Two years later he started editing the unknown Joseph Heller's manuscript that became the blockbuster titled Catch-22. (He thinks Heller's Something Happened [1974] is his finest novel, "indeed, one of the finest novels of his time.")

Gottlieb's talent and nose-to-the-grindstone work ethic landed him the top editor position at S&S, where he stayed until moving to Alfred A. Knopf in 1968 as editor-in-chief. In 1969, four years after his divorce, he married Maria Tucci, an actress whose father, novelist Niccolò Tucci, was one of his writers. They have two children. In 1987 he succeeded William Shawn as editor of The New Yorker, where Gottlieb was succeeded in 1992 by Tina Brown. He then returned to Knopf as editor-ex officio.

Gottlieb has also edited novels by John Cheever, Doris Lessing, Chaim Potok, Charles Portis, Salman Rushdie, John Gardner, Len Deighton, John le Carré, Ray Bradbury, Elia Kazan, Michael Crichton and Toni Morrison and nonfiction books by Bill Clinton, Janet Malcolm, Katharine Graham, Nora Ephron, Katharine Hepburn, Barbara Tuchman, Jessica Mitford, Robert Caro, Antonia Fraser, Lauren Bacall, Liv Ullman, Paul Simon, Bob Dylan, Bruno Bettelheim and many others. He has been the dance critic for The New York Observer since 1999 and is the author of biographies of George Balanchine, Sarah Bernhardt and the family of Charles Dickens (who had 10 children). For many years he was associated with the New York City Ballet and has published books by Mikhail Baryshnikov and Margot Fonteyn. His autobiography Avid Reader: A Life was published in 2016.

Photo credit: Michael Lionstar/Farrar, Straus & Giroux

"I've simply always lacked even the slightest religious impulse — when people talk about their faith, I can't connect with what they're talking about. This isn't a decision I came to, or a deep belief or principle; I'm just religion-deaf, the way tone-deaf people hear sounds but not music. I suppose my religion is reading."

—Robert Gottlieb, "Avid Reader: A Life" (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2016)

Compiled by Bill Dunn

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