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.

If you would like to be placed on the "Daily Freethought" e-mail [email protected] ffrf.org. To become an FFRF member, click here.


There are 2 entries for this date: James A. Michener and Michael Martin
James A. Michener

James A. Michener

On this date in 1907, writer James A. Michener was born in New York City. An orphan, he spent his first few years at the Buck's County Poorhouse in Doylestown, Penn., until adopted by Edwin and Mable Michener. As Quakers, they believed in social activism and took in several orphaned children. The family was extremely poor, moving often during Michener's childhood. Michener felt that this gave him a strong sense of character; an acceptance of what life really looked like. In an interview by the American Academy of Achievement, Michener stated, "I think the bottom line . . . is that if you get through a childhood like mine, it's not all bad . . . the sad part is, most of us don't come out." Michener credited his mother for reading to him every night. "I had all the Dickens and Thackeray and Charles Read and Sinkiewicz and the rest before I was the age of seven or eight." He also credits his good teachers: "[t]eachers who wanted to make kids learn." Michener realized at a young age that there was a bigger world to see and, when he was 14, started hitchhiking around the United States with only 35 cents in his pocket: "I went everywhere, and I did it on nothing." This interest in the world lasted a lifetime. Michener received a scholarship to study at Swarthmore College, graduating with highest honors. He studied at St. Andrew's University in Scotland, returned home to teach, and then went on to become Assistant Visiting Professor of History at Harvard University. At the onset of WWII, Michener joined the Navy and was stationed in the Pacific. In 1947, Michener wrote his first book, Tales of the South Pacific, relating some of his experiences in the Solomon Islands, for which he received a Pulitzer Prize. The story was subsequently turned into the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, "South Pacific," which also received a Pulitzer Prize. Spending many years living abroad and writing, he thoroughly researched whichever culture he was living in before beginning to write about it. Among his books: The Bridges at Toko-Ri, Sayonara, The Source (about religion), Hawaii, Chesapeake, The Covenant, Space, Poland,Texas and Alaska. In addition to his writing, Michener was also active in public service, was a member of the Advisory Council to the NASA and was cultural ambassador to various countries. He considered himself to be a humanist and during the 1960s spoke out, amid the concerns raised regarding Kennedy's Catholicism: "I've fought to defend every civil right that has come under attack in my lifetime. . . . I've stood for absolute equality, and it would be ridiculous for a man like me to be against a Catholic for President" (The Historian, 2001). Michener won several honors and awards, among them the Medal of Freedom, the United States' highest civilian award. Michener was married for 39 years to Mari Yoriko Sabusawa until his death at the age of 90. D.1997.

“ . . . I decided (after listening to a 'talk radio' commentator who abused, vilified, and scorned every noble cause to which I had devoted my entire life that) I was both a Humanist and a liberal, each of the most dangerous and vilified type. I am a Humanist because I think humanity can, with constant moral guidance, create a reasonably decent society. I am terrified of restrictive religious doctrine, having learned from history that when men who adhere to any form of it are in control, common men like me are in peril. I do not believe that pure reason can solve the perceptual problems unless it is modified by poetry and art and social vision. So I am a Humanist. And if you want to charge me with being the most virulent kind—a secular humanist—I accept the accusation.”

—James Michener, Interview, Parade Magazine (Nov. 24, 1991), cited in Who's Who in Hell edited by Warren Allen Smith. (A similar passage is found in The World Is My Home by Robert Michener, 1991.)

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

Michael Martin

On this date in 1932, renowned American philosopher and teacher Michael Martin was born in Cincinnati, Ohio. Martin was a respected academic promoter of atheism, penning several books examining the case against the existence of God.

Martin served with the U.S. Marine Corps veteran in the Korean War before graduating from Arizona State University in 1956 with a degree in business administration. He earned a master’s degree in philosophy in 1958 from the University of Arizona and a doctorate degree in philosophy from Harvard University in 1962. That year, Martin began his lifelong teaching career at the University of Colorado as an assistant professor, joining the staff at Boston University, in 1965, where he was a professor of philosophy before retiring.

The focal point of Martin’s research and writing was always the philosophy of religion and the defence of atheism. His best-known book was Atheism: A Philosophical Justification (1989), which has been considered one of the most analytical philosophical examinations against God’s existence. In its introduction he writes, “The aim of this book is not to make atheism a popular belief or even to overcome its invisibility. My object is not utopian. It is merely to provide good reasons for being an atheist. … My object is to show that atheism is a rational position and that belief in God is not. I am quite aware that atheistic beliefs are not always based on reason. My claim is that they should be.”

Additionally, Martin wrote and edited several other books including Atheism, Morality, and Meaning Atheism: A Philosophical Justification (2002), The Case Against Christianity (1991), The Impossibility of God (2003), The Improbability of God (2006), The Cambridge Companion to Atheism (2006) and numerous articles on atheism. He also engaged in a number of debates with Christian theologists. His philosophical interests extended to social science and law.

Martin’s wife, Jane Roland Martin, is a professor of philosophy at the University of Massachusetts in Boston. They were married on June 15, 1962 and had two sons, Timothy and Thomas, and five grandchildren. D. 2015.

“Since experiences of God are good grounds for the existence of God, are not experiences of the absence of God good grounds for the nonexistence of God?”

—Michael Martin, Atheism: A Philosophical Justification (1989), pg. 170.

Compiled by Molly Hanson

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

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.

If you would like to be placed on the "Daily Freethought" email [email protected] ffrf.org. To become an FFRF member, click here.


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

Contribute to Nonbelief Relief

FFRF privacy statement