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 F. Kennedy (Quote) and Peter Higgs
John F. Kennedy (Quote)

John F. Kennedy (Quote)

“I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute — where no Catholic prelate would tell the president (should he be Catholic) how to act, and no Protestant minister would tell his parishioners for whom to vote — where no church or church school is granted any public funds or political preference — and where no man is denied public office merely because his religion differs from the president who might appoint him or the people who might elect him.

“I believe in an America that is officially neither Catholic, Protestant nor Jewish — where no public official either requests or accepts instructions on public policy from the pope, the National Council of Churches or any other ecclesiastical source — where no religious body seeks to impose its will directly or indirectly upon the general populace or the public acts of its officials — and where religious liberty is so indivisible that an act against one church is treated as an act against all.

“Finally, I believe in an America where religious intolerance will someday end — where all men and all churches are treated as equal — where every man has the same right to attend or not attend the church of his choice — where there is no Catholic vote, no anti-Catholic vote, no bloc voting of any kind — and where Catholics, Protestants and Jews, at both the lay and pastoral level, will refrain from those attitudes of disdain and division which have so often marred their works in the past, and promote instead the American ideal of brotherhood.”

—John F. Kennedy, born on May 29, 1917 (D. 1963). Speech to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association, Rice Hotel, Sept. 12, 1960

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

Peter Higgs

Peter Higgs

On this date in 1929, Peter Ware Higgs was born in Newcastle upon Tyne, UK. He graduated with honors in physics in 1950 from King’s College, University of London. He earned his master of science the next year and his Ph.D. in 1954, both from King’s. In his early 30s, Higgs began his career as lecturer in mathematical physics at the University of Edinburgh. He became a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 1974  Chair of Theoretical Physics in 1980. Higgs was elected Fellow of the Royal Society in 1983 and Fellow of the Institute of Physics in 1991. 

In the 1960s he proposed the existence of a single particle responsible for imparting mass to all matter immediately following the Big Bang. (The Guardian, Nov. 16, 2007.) The Higgs boson, the scientific term for the particle, radically altered the field of physics, such that Higgs, according to Time magazine, ranks with physics giants like Albert Einstein, Isaac Newton and Democritus. Based on Higgs’ theory, scientists theorized a quantum field through which initially weightless particles move and acquire their mass. Higgs and François Englert were awarded the 2013 Nobel Prize in Physics for their work.

For several decades, a multi-billion dollar effort, including the construction of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at the CERN laboratory in Geneva, Switzerland, sought to find the Higgs boson particle. The LHC , the most powerful particle accelerator ever constructed, cost $6 billion and took 25 years to plan. “Scientists ... hope the [Large Hadron Collider] will produce clear signs of the boson, dubbed the ‘God particle’ by some, to the displeasure of Higgs, an atheist.” (Reuters, April 7, 2008.) Within two years of the original 2012 results at the LHC, the vast majority of particle physicists agreed that the Higgs particle discovery had been confirmed by multiple experiments and analyses.

Higgs at the 2013 Nobel Laureates press conference at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences; photo by Bengt Nyman under CC 2.0.

"I wish he hadn't done it. I have to explain to people it was a joke. I'm an atheist."

—Higgs, on Leon Lederman, the scientist who nicknamed the Higgs boson the “God particle,” The Guardian (Nov. 16, 2007)

Compiled by Bonnie Gutsch

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