Freethought of the Day

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There are 2 entries for this date: Oksana Shachko and Rupert Hughes
Oksana Shachko

Oksana Shachko

On this date in 1987, artist and activist Oksana Shachko was born in Khmelnytski, Ukraine. In 2008 she helped found FEMEN, a women’s rights group that garnered international notoriety for bare-breasted political protests. Along with the punk group Pussy Riot, FEMEN was part of the post-Soviet protest movement against corruption, wealth inequality, civil rights violations and the oppression of women and minorities.

According to the New York Times in 2018, “FEMEN members protested in Ukraine against sexual exploitation; in Davos, Switzerland — the scene of an annual conference of world political and business leaders — against income inequality; and, in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican, against policies of the Roman Catholic Church, among other targets.”

In 2013 Shachko and other members of FEMEN were granted political asylum in France following persecution by Russian special services. Shachko claimed that due to FEMEN’s protests against President Vladimir Putin, pro-Putin agents had planted a grenade in front of her Kiev office along with a photo of Putin.

Shachko, who was interested in religious iconography from a young age, almost became a nun but was dissuaded from joining the nunnery by her parents. At the time of her death, she was working on an art installation entitled “Iconoclast,” wherein she painted traditional Orthodox icons, superimposing transgressive details and feminist messaging onto the icons in order to confront Orthodox religious dogma.

She was found dead at age 31 in her apartment in Paris after apparently hanging herself.

“From this moment on, I began to reflect on what religion and faith mean to a human being. I found an answer, and it was atheism.”

—Shachko, profile in 032c, an English-language magazine published in Germany (2016)

Compiled by Paul Epland

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

Rupert Hughes

Rupert Hughes

On this day in 1872, writer Rupert Hughes was born in Lancaster, Mo. The family moved when he was 7 to Keokuk, Iowa. He earned a B.A. from Adelbert College in Cleveland and a master's from Yale, 1893. He served in the Spanish-American War and in the infantry in World War I. His biographical subjects included George Washington and Samuel Gompers. More than 50 movies were written, directed or based on Hughes' stories and novels. He founded and served for decades as president of the Hollywood Screenwriters Club. 

Hughes, the uncle of future billionaire Howard Hughes, had his greatest Hollywood success in 1928 when he was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay for "The Patent Leather Kid."

Raised in the Congregational Church, Hughes began to lose his faith in college after reading the entire bible. In 1924 he wrote Why I Quit Going to Church, published by the Freethought Press Association, a forthright and thorough analysis of what is wrong with religion. In it Hughes recounted the uproar provoked by a shortened version of the 158-page book in Cosmopolitan magazine about the harm of Christianity. He wrote, "I quit because I came to believe that what is preached in the churches is mainly untrue and unimportant, tiresome, hostile to genuine progress, and in general not worthwhile. ... As for the God who is preached in the churches, I ceased to worship him because I could no longer believe in him or respect what is alleged of him."

He married Agnes Wheeler Hedge in 1893. They had a daughter, Elspeth, before divorcing in 1903. He married actress Adelaide Bissell in 1908. She took her own life in 1923 while on tour in Haiphong, French Indochina. Hughes' final marriage, to Elizabeth Patterson Dial, took place the next year. She died from an accidental overdose of sleeping pills in 1945. Elspeth died a few months later from cerebral apoplexy.

Hughes' health began to fail in the late 1940s, leading to a  stroke in 1953. He suffered a fatal heart attack while working at his desk on Sept. 9, 1956.

"I do not believe in a Santa Claus for grown-ups, and I do not believe that the vast number of church-people are doing the world any good by promulgating false ideas and false ideals."

—Hughes, "Why I Quit Going to Church" (1924)

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

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