Freethought of the Day

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There are 2 entries for this date: Ludovic Kennedy and Andre Malraux
Ludovic Kennedy

Ludovic Kennedy

On this day in 1919, Sir Ludovic Henry Coverly Kennedy, atheist journalist and author, was born to upper-class parents in Edinburgh, Scotland. At age 80, Kennedy (an honorary associate of the National Secular Society) wrote All in the Mind: A Farewell to God, in which he dismissed beliefs on which Christianity was founded as "preposterous." He was knighted in 1994 by John Major's government for his services to journalism. Major's predecessor, Margaret Thatcher, had vetoed Kennedy's knighthood. For Kennedy, the "playing fields" of Eton College included a stint in a jazz band. After serving in the Royal Navy in World War II, he attended Christ Church, Oxford, before starting work as an investigative reporter. In 1950, he married ballet dancer Moira Shearer, who died in 2006. They had a son and three daughters.

He was known for reexamining cases such as the Lindbergh kidnapping and the murder convictions of Timothy Evans and Derek Bentley, and for his role in the abolition of the death penalty in the United Kingdom. Starting in 1953, he edited and introduced the "First Reading" radio series on the BBC. Later he became a television journalist and news anchor on the public network ITV. He did work for BBC's "Panorama," the longest-running current affairs documentary series in the world. It launched in 1953. He was president and co-founder of the Voluntary Euthanasia Society and in 1990 published Euthanasia: The Case for the Good Death. He died at age 89 of pneumonia in a Salisbury nursing home. D. 2009.

"In the spring and with the coming of Easter, an old man's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of gods. I am now 83 pushing 84 and the closer I come to shuffling off this mortal coil, the more mystified I am by Christian belief in the deity they call by the not very original name of God (as if there had never been others).

All gods from time immemorial are fantasies, created by humans for the welfare of humans and to attempt to explain the seemingly inexplicable. But do we, in the third year of the 21st century of the Common Era and on the springboard of colonising the universe, need such palliatives?

Wherever one looks there is conflict: Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland; Jews, Christians and Muslims in Palestine; Muslims and Hindus in the Indian subcontinent; Christians and Muslims in Nigeria, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia and elsewhere. Is not the case for atheism made?"

—Kennedy in a column titled "Put away childish things," The Guardian [UK], April 17, 2003

Compiled by Bill Dunn; Sir Ludovic Kennedy in 1992

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Andre Malraux

Andre Malraux

On this date in 1901, writer and freedom fighter Andre Malraux was born in Paris, France. Malraux studied Asian language at the Ecole des Langues Orientales. Not completing his studies, he traveled to Asia as a young man, becoming a noted critic of French colonial rule in Indochina. He cofounded the Young Annam League and founded the newspaper, Indochina in Chains. Malraux was an avowed religious agnostic, although he was once described as obsessed with the divine.  His first novel, The Temptation of the West, was published in 1926, followed by The Conquerors (1928), The Royal Way (1930), Man's Fate (1934), Days of Hope (1937), and The Walnut Trees of Altenburg (1943). After joining archeological expeditions to Iran and Afghanistan in the 1930s, Malraux cofounded the International Association of Writers for the Defense of Culture. During the Spanish Civil War, Malraux flew on missions as a pilot for the Republicans, and was wounded twice. He also traveled to the United States to try to raise money for the Republican cause. "Man defines himself by what he does, not by what he dreams," he wrote. A fictional account of his experiences, (L'Espoir) was published in 1937, and a movie followed in 1939. During WWII, Malraux joined the French Army, was captured in 1940 during the Western Offensive, escaped and joined the French Resistance. In 1944, he was captured by the Gestapo, and, following a mock execution, was rescued by the Resistance. He then joined the Free French and fought at Strasbourg and the takeover of Stuttgart. He was awarded the Medal of the Resistance, the Croix de Guerre, and the British Distinguished Service Order. Gen. Charles De Gaulle appointed Malraux his minister of information in 1945-1946. During the 1950s, Malraux wrote about aesthetics and art. He served as minister of cultural affairs in 1960-1967. His autobiography, Anti-Memoirs, was published in 1967. D. 1976.

"The attempt to force human beings to despise themselves is what I call hell."

—-Andre Malraux, "La Condition Humaine" (Man's Fate), 1933

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor; Photo by Boris15,

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