Freethought of the Day

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There are 3 entries for this date: Edward Truelove , Alfred Jules Ayer and Lee Child
Edward Truelove

Edward Truelove

On this date in 1809, Edward Truelove was born In England. A follower of Robert Owen and his son, Truelove worked at the Owenite utopian community of New Harmony, Indiana, for a year. After returning to London in 1847, Truelove opened his own bookstore in the Strand in 1852 and later opened another shop in Holborn. He published freethought and rationalist works. In 1858, after he published Tyrannicide by W.E. Adams, Truelove was charged with blasphemy, but the prosecution was withdrawn.

Truelove served four months in prison in 1878 for the publication of Robert Dale Owen's Moral Physiology: Is It Justifiable? The book addressed population and birth control. Truelove was married to a suffragist and had three children. D. 1899.

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

Alfred Jules Ayer

Alfred Jules Ayer

On this date in 1910, philosopher Alfred Jules Ayer was born in London into a wealthy family. His father was a Swiss Calvinist and his mother was Reine Citroën from the Dutch-Jewish family that founded the Citroën car company in France. Ayer attended Eton preparatory school and studied philosophy and Greek at Oxford University. From 1946 to 1959 he taught philosophy at University College London. He then became Wykeham Professor of Logic at the University of Oxford. Ayer was knighted in 1970.

Among his many works are The Foundations of Empirical Knowledge (1940), The Problem of Knowledge (1956), The Origins of Pragmatism (1968), Metaphysics and Common Sense (1969), Bertrand Russell (1972) and Hume (1980), about philosopher David Hume. In his still-popular book Language, Truth and Logic (1936), Ayer rejected the term “atheism” on the grounds that the existence of God as a hypothesis could never be proven. To argue that no god exists, to Ayer, was as meaningless as saying that one did exist.

Later in life he frequently identified himself as an atheist and became active in humanist causes. He was the first vice president of the British Humanist Association and served as its president from 1965-70. He was an honorary associate of the Rationalist Press Association from 1947 until his death. He was also an honorary member of the Bertrand Russell Society. In 1988, Ayer had a near-death experience in the United States after choking on salmon and losing consciousness. He wrote of his experience in the New Humanist (May 1989): “My recent experiences have slightly weakened my conviction that my genuine death, which is due fairly soon, will be the end of me, though I continue to hope that it will be. They have not weakened my conviction that there is no god. I trust that my remaining an atheist will allay the anxieties of my fellow supporters of the British Humanist Association, the Rationalist Press Association and the South Place Ethical Society.”

Ayer was married four times to three women and had a son with his wife Alberta Wells. He also had a daughter out of wedlock with Hollywood columnist Sheilah Graham Westbrook. He died at age 78 in London in 1989.

"I do not believe in God. It seems to me that theists of all kinds have very largely failed to make their concept of a deity intelligible; and to the extent that they have made it intelligible, they have given us no reason to think that anything answers to it." 

—Ayer in "What I Believe," The Humanist (August 1966)

Compiled by Bonnie Gutsch

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

Lee Child

Lee Child

On this date in 1954, best-selling author Lee Child, né James Dover Grant, was born in Coventry, England. Best known for his Jack Reacher series of novels, Child attended the same high school as JRR Tolkien before enrolling in law school (with no intention of practicing law).

He then joined Granada Television in Manchester. It turned out to be an 18-year career as a presentation director during British TV’s “golden age.” During his tenure, Granada made "Brideshead Revisited," "The Jewel in the Crown," "Prime Suspect" and "Cracker" before he lost his job in 1995 at age 40 during corporate restructuring.

"Always a voracious reader, he decided to see an opportunity where others might have seen a crisis and bought six dollars’ worth of paper and pencils and sat down to write a book, Killing Floor, the first in the Jack Reacher series," says the bio on Child's website. Killing Floor won the 1997 Anthony Award and the Barry Award for Best First Novel.

As of 2020, 48 Reacher titles have been published, with over 100 million books sold. Forbes magazine called it the "The Strongest Brand In Publishing" in 2014. Two of the titles were adapted for movies starring Tom Cruise. Some Reacher fans cried foul because their hero is a strapping 6-foot-5 while Cruise is 5-foot-7.

Child was elected president of the Mystery Writers of America in 2009. He had moved to New York in 1998 with his American wife, Jane, and their daughter, Ruth, while maintaining British citizenship and other homes outside the U.S. After accepting a visiting professorship in 2008 at the University of Sheffield, where he attended law school, he funded 52 Jack Reacher scholarships. In 2019 it was announced he  would host a new TV show called "Lee Child: True Crime." Child announced in 2020 he would be turning over the Reacher series to his brother Andrew Grant, who would write them under the surname Child.

Child identifies as an atheist and has made Reacher, an ex-military cop vigilante, one also. "Anyone who writes will use a good deal of autobiography in a protagonist," Child said in a 2016 interview. "You can insert your own enthusiasm, jokes and opinions." In Nothing to Lose (2008), Reacher tells a Christian preacher, “We’re all atheists. You don’t believe in Zeus or Thor or Neptune or Augustus Caesar or Mars or Venus or Sun Ra. You reject a thousand gods. Why should it bother you if someone else rejects a thousand and one?”

In Bad Luck and Trouble (2007), Reacher pays a higher fare for another airline because "Reacher hated Alaska Airlines. They put a scripture card on their meal trays. Ruined his appetite." 

Child in 2010 at Bouchercon XLI in San Francisco; Mark Coggins photo under CC 2.0.

"I’ve no sympathy for any religion. I’m an atheist; I think they’re all nuts."

—Interview, Saga Magazine (Oct. 24, 2016)

Compiled by Bill Dunn

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