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: Helen Thomas and Percy Bysshe Shelley
Helen Thomas

Helen Thomas

On this date in 1921, White House Correspondent Helen Thomas was born in Kentucky, although she grew up in Detroit. Dubbed "the grande dame" of journalism, she was called "the first woman of journalism" and was a White House correspondent for more than 40 years. She opened many doors for women in journalism. Thomas joined UPI in 1943 as a radio and news writer covering government. Helen Thomas was permanently assigned to the White House in 1961, becoming the first woman White House Correspondent. She has written two books about her experiences as fearless White House correspondent. A colleague who interviewed Fidel Castro once asked Castro what is the biggest difference between being president of Cuba and being president of the United States. Castro replied without hesitation: "I don't have to answer questions from Helen Thomas." In 2000, Thomas resigned from UPI after it was purchased by the Unification Church. That year she became a columnist for Hearst Newspapers, and "has been tenacious and unrelenting in her condemnation of faith-based funding schemes, of our 180-degree changes in foreign policy to endorse preemptive strikes, of the war and of the secrecy and unanswered questions behind the war. Helen Thomas could be resting on her laurels; instead she is plunging into the fray, as the conscience of Washington, D.C.," said Annie Laurie Gaylor, Co-President of FFRF, in granting her a "Friend of Freedom" award at the Foundation's 2003 convention. D. 2013.

"When she called to accept our invitation, Ms. Thomas wanted the Foundation to know that she describes herself as a non-denominational believer. The reason we want to recognize her is precisely because she is such an ardent believer . . . in the separation of church and state, the Bill of Rights, our U.S. Constitution, the rule of law, open government, patriotic dissent and all the best ideals behind the United States of America," Gaylor added. At the very first press conference Pres. George W. Bush held, in February 2002, Helen Thomas went right to the point, in asking him about his new "faith-based initiative" to grant public dollars to religious charities:

Helen Thomas: Mr. President, why do you refuse to respect the wall between the church and the state? And you know that the mixing of religion and government for centuries has led to slaughter. I mean, the very fact that our country has stood in good stead by having the separation—why do you break it down?
Pres. Bush: Helen, I strongly respect the separation of church and state—
Thomas: Well, you wouldn't have a religious office in the White House if you did . . . You are a secular official. And not a missionary.

“Atheists pay taxes, too.”

—-Helen Thomas, Address to the American Humanist Association, May 3, 2003, Washington, D.C., in giving objections to the faith-based initiative

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor; Photo by Susan Montgomery,

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

Percy Bysshe Shelley

Percy Bysshe Shelley

On this date in 1792, Percy Bysshe Shelley, one of atheism's most passionate advocates, was born in Field Place, Sussex, England. As an 18-year-old, Shelley was expelled from Oxford University College for writing The Necessity of Atheism (1811), a pamphlet which opens: "There is no God." Shelley vigorously protested the imprisonment of an elderly publisher for distributing Thomas Paine's Age of Reason in another pamphlet, "A Letter to Lord Ellenborough." Shelley's Declaration of Rights further championed freedom of thought and press. Shelley's long, atheistic poem, "Queen Mab," was published in 1813, in which he wrote of religion that it had "taintest all thou look'st upon!” In the poem he also mused, "…it is easier to suppose that the universe has existed from all eternity than to conceive a being beyond its limits capable of creating it.” In A Refutation of Deism (1814), Shelley averred: "It is among men of genius and science that atheism alone is found." Freethought permeated his other writings, including Hymn to Intellectual Beauty (1816), The Revolt of Islam (1817), Peter Bell the Third (1819) and Ode to Liberty (1820). When Shelley eloped with 16-year-old Harriet Westbrook, the daughter of a barkeeper, his father disinherited him. The pair briefly went on a political speaking tour in Ireland. They had two children, but the marriage was unsuccessful, despite Shelley's increasing recognition as a poet. New scandal followed Shelley when he ran off with 16-year-old Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin, the daughter of atheist writer William Godwin and of Mary Wollstonecraft. The young couple fled to the continent, traveling for a time with Lord Byron. During a writing race between the trio, Mary produced her famous classic, Frankenstein. When Shelley's first wife committed suicide, Shelley was denied custody of their two sons because of his infidel views. Mary Godwin and Percy wed in 1816, and had a son, William. He obtained financial security when his grandfather bequeathed him money. The young couple moved to Italy, where Shelley penned Prometheus Unbound, a lyrical drama. Shelley, at Byron's invitation, sailed to Pisa to consult over a new magazine. Shelley drowned, tragically young at 29, along with two others, on the return trip when their yacht capsized in a storm. D. 1822.


“If ignorance of nature gave birth to gods, knowledge of nature is made for their destruction.”

—-Percy Bysshe Shelley, The Necessity of Atheism, 1811

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor

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