Freethought of the Day

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There are 2 entries for this date: The Amazing James Randi and Charles Southwell
The Amazing James Randi

The Amazing James Randi

On this date in 1928, Randall James Hamilton Zwinge, known as the Amazing James Randi, was born in Toronto, Canada. Randi has used his international reputation as a magician and escape artist to investigate and expose claims of the paranormal. He exposed both psychic "spoonbender" Uri Geller and "faith-healer" Peter Popoff on "The Tonight Show" hosted by Johnny Carson. His numerous awards and recognitions include a "Genius" Fellowship from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation in 1986. In 1993, PBS-TV's "NOVA" dedicated a one-hour special to coverage of Randi's work, particularly his investigations of Geller and various occult and healing claims being made by scientists in Russia.

His books include: The Truth About Uri Geller, The Faith Healers, Flim-Flam! and An Encyclopedia of Claims, Frauds, and Hoaxes of the Occult and Supernatural. Randi is a founding fellow of CSICOP, the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal. He established the James Randi Educational Foundation in 1996. The foundation offered a $1 million standing prize to any eligible applicant who could demonstrate evidence of any paranormal, supernatural or occult power or event under test conditions agreed to by both parties. A version of the challenge, similar to one that freethinker Harry Houdini was part of in the early 20th century, was first issued in 1964. More than a thousand persons took up the challenge and all failed. The foundation ended the challenge in 2015. Randi retired at age 87.

James Randi Educational Foundation photo under CC 2.0.

"[T]here are two sorts of atheists. One sort claims that there is no deity; the other claims that there is no evidence that proves the existence of a deity. I belong to the latter group, because if I were to claim that no god exists, I would have to produce evidence to establish that claim, and I cannot."

—James Randi, newsletter at (Aug. 5, 2005)

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

Charles Southwell

Charles Southwell

On this date in 1814, Charles Southwell was born in London. Southwell became an atheist as a teenager after reading Sermons by the Calvinist Timothy Dwight. After serving in the British Foreign Legion in Spain during the Carlist War, Southwell became a popular and prolific freethought lecturer in London. He opened a radical bookstore and helped found the atheist periodical The Oracle of Reason (1841-43), which often published fiercely anti-Christian material. It was among the first avowedly atheist publications in England. Southwell and several later editors were imprisoned for blasphemy.

“The ... BIBLE has been for ages the idol of all sorts of blockheads, the glory of knaves, and the disgust of wise men. It is a history of lust, sodomies, wholesale slaughtering, and horrible depravity; that the vilest parts of all other histories, collected in one monstrous book, could scarcely parallel,” Southwell wrote in The Oracle of Reason. (Politics 1790-1900, Edward Royle, 1976.) Southwell boldly asserted in 1842 that “The world could not have been designed by one being, infinitely wise, infinitely good, and infinitely powerful.” 

Southwell lived in New Zealand from 1856 until his death in 1860, where he was influential to the freethought movement there. The New Zealand Association of Rationalists and Humanists named its Charles Southwell Award after him. Southwell wrote An Apology for Atheism (1846), Superstition Unveiled (1854) and The Confessions of a Freethinker and founded the newspapers The Investigator, The Lancashire Beacon and The Auckland Examiner. D. 1860.

“Superstition is the tyranny of tyrannies, and its priests the tyrants of tyrants.” 

—Charles Southwell, The Oracle of Reason (1842)

Compiled by Sabrina Gaylor

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

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