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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Sonia Johnson (Excommunicated)

Sonia Johnson (Excommunicated)

On this date in 1979, Equal Rights Amendment supporter Sonia Johnson was excommunicated by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) for supporting women's equality and exposing the role of the Mormon Church in lobbying against the defeated constitutional amendment.

Photo provided by the National Women's History Museum

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

Carolyn Hax

On this date in 1966, author and advice columnist Carolyn Hax was born in Bridgeport, Conn. She attended Harvard University, graduating in 1988 with undergraduate degrees in American history and literature. She then worked as a writer and editor for different publications, including Army Times and The Washington Post. In 1997, she began her advice column, called "Tell Me About It" for the Washington Post. The "Carolyn Hax" column now runs three days a week in over 200 publications, with the goal of giving honest advice to those who ask for it. She has contributed to several books, and published her own book in 2001, "Tell Me About It: Lying, Sulking, Getting Fat . . . and 56 Other Things Not to do While Looking for Love."

Hax, in an interview published by the Washington Post on May 30, 1999, said she bases her advice around the Golden Rule. This maxim was repeated by many cultures, including the ancient Greeks and Chinese, and was first recorded by the ancient Egyptians. "You don't have to believe in God to see it is the perfect, working guideline for doing unto others," Hax said. She was married to her column's cartoonist, Nick Galifianakis, until 2001. Galifianakis continues to illustrate her columns. Hax married Ken Ackerman in 2002, and they have three children together.

“Your happy atheist advicemaker proudly presents the serenity prayer…”

——Hax’s self-description in her advice column, May 28, 2013.

Compiled by Sarah Eucalano

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

"Witches Bull" Issued

On this date in 1484, Pope Innocent VIII's notorious "Witches Bull" (Bull Summis desiderantes) was issued, officially commencing the witchhunts. Historians estimate that victims put to death as a result ranged from 600,000 to more than 9 million, over the 250 years of the witchhunts.

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

Joan Didion

Joan Didion

On this date in 1934, Pulitzer Prize winning author Joan Didion was born in Sacramento, Cal. Renown for her unflinching depiction of psychological fragmentation and grief in the memoir The Year of Magical Thinking (2005), Didion’s literary journalism documents turbulent eras in American history, such as in the collection entitled The White Album (1979). Later, Didion explored the corruption of American political institutions and changing political strategies in the late 1980s in the collection After Henry (1992). Writing in Vanity Fair, Christopher Hitchens called Didion’s memoir Blue Nights (2011), in which Didion recounted the death of her daughter, a “supremely tender work of memory” (VF, 2011). Didion was presented with the National Humanities Medal in 2013, and her life was made the subject of a documentary, Joan Didion: The Center Will Not Hold (2017). At the age of 83, Didion remains one of America’s pre-eminent cultural critics and essayists.

Didion was raised Episcopalian, but now identifies with agnosticism. In a 2006 interview on religion and grief, Didion says “if I had been going to find comfort in religion I would have found it before now.” However, Didion has noted that she does “find a certain comfort in the rituals” of the “Episcopal litany, the idea of the mass, the whole basic story” (beliefnet.com, 2006). Nevertheless, when asked about the rituals pertaining to death, which often presume the existence of the afterlife, Didion remains skeptical of such assumptions: “It's one of the clichés people say to you after a death: ‘He lives in our memory, she lives in our memory.’ I mean I don't disbelieve; I just don't believe. It is an agnostic position.” (beliefnet.com, 2006). Didion’s rhythmic prose style did not spare her more contemptable subjects from unflattering depictions, as is evidenced by her essay “God’s Country” (2000), in which she reserved a special ire for evangelical Christianity and its influence over American politics.

“The willingness to accept responsibility for one's own life is the source from which self-respect springs.”

—Joan Didion, “On Self Respect,” Slouching Towards Bethlehem (1968)

Compiled by Paul Epland

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

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