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 6 entries for this date: Joy Behar , Dan Savage , Irene Stephenson , Sir Harold Kroto , Tim Minchin and Joe Hill
Joy Behar

Joy Behar

On this date in 1942, outspoken television host, comedian, actress and author Joy Behar (née Josephina Victoria Occhiuto) was born in Brooklyn, N.Y. Behar earned a bachelor's degree in sociology from Queens College (graduating in 1964) and a master's in English education from the State University of New York at Stony Brook (1966). She taught high school English in Long Island, N.Y., in the late 1960s and early 1970s before becoming a stand-up comedian and radio talk show host. She appeared in "Manhattan Murder Mystery" with Woody Allen in 1993. Behar is perhaps best known as an original cast member of the hit daytime show "The View." "The View," which began in 1997, has been nominated for Daytime Emmy Awards for Outstanding Talk Show almost every year since its creation. Behar and her cohosts won in 2009. A book of her humorous essays, Joy Shtick — Or What is the Existential Vacuum and Does it Come with Attachments?, was published in 1999. Her children's book, Sheetzucacapoopoo: My Kind of Dog, was published in 2006. She was a frequent guest host on CNN's "Larry King Live" from 2007-2009. In 2009, she launched her own evening talk show, "The Joy Behar Show," on CNN's HLN network. Behar has one daughter, Eve, from her first marriage to Joe Behar (1965-1981). She has been with partner Steve Janowitz since 1982. While Behar was raised Catholic, she now identifies as agnostic. She jokingly said she lost her faith when she "went to the Commie school Queens College." She told Father Edward Beck on an ABC News "Focus on Faith" interview: "I'm sustained by my family, my life, my brain. But I don't believe there's an afterlife." (March 17, 2011). In the same interview, she said: "I never gave her [my daughter] any religion, because I felt that I was brainwashed. . . . This is what I didn't want my daughter to have. So that's why I didn't want her to go to Catholic school or learn any of that."

"I'm pathetically pragmatic. . . . I don't believe that there's a higher power that created human beings."

—Joy Behar in an interview with Father Edward Beck on ABC News, "Focus on Faith," March 17, 2011

Compiled by Bonnie Gutsch; Photo by stocklight /

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

Dan Savage

Dan Savage

On this date in 1964, gay rights activist and writer Dan Savage was born in Chicago. Savage is famous for his sex advice column, “Savage Love,” which is syndicated in more than 70 publications. He is also known and respected for his longtime advocacy for LGBT rights. Savage earned degrees in theater and history from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He later moved to Madison, Wis., where he met Tim Keck, the co-founder of the popular satirical newspaper, The Onion, in 1991. Keck asked Savage to write an advice column for the paper. Savage agreed, and his advice column eventually became “Savage Love.” Savage is known for being outspoken in his advocacy for LGBT rights. He drew attention from the media in 2012 when he gave a talk to a conference of high school students and encouraged them to “ignore the bullshit in the bible about gay people.”

In 2010 Savage and his husband Terry Miller started the It Gets Better Project in response to a series of teens who committed suicide because they were bullied about their sexual orientation. Over 50,000 people have submitted videos encouraging LGBT teens that their lives will improve and they will find acceptance. The website’s videos have received over 50 million views and many prominent people, such as President Barack Obama, Ke$ha and Ellen Degeneres, have submitted videos. Savage has been married to Miller since 2005. They have one son together, D.J., and live in Seattle.


“My father was a Catholic deacon, my mother was a lay minister and I thought about becoming a priest. I was in church every Sunday for the first 15 years of my life. Now I spend my Sundays on my bike, on my snowboard or on my husband. I haven’t spent my post-Catholic decades in a sulk, wishing the church would come around on the issue of homosexuality so that I could start attending Mass again. I didn’t abandon my faith. I saw through it. The conflict between my faith and my sexuality set that process in motion, but the conclusions I reached at the end of that process—there are no gods, religion is man-made, faith can be a force for good or evil—improved my life. I’m grateful that my sexuality prompted me to think critically about faith. Pushed out? No. I walked out.”

—--Dan Savage in the Book Review section of The New York Times, “What God Wants,” April 14, 2013.

Compiled by Sarah Eucalano; Photo by Ingrid Laas

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

Irene Stephenson

Irene Stephenson

On this date in 1923, Irene Hamlin Stephenson was born in Chicago. In 1973, Stephenson founded a method of personality analysis called "biorhythm," which assesses individual characteristics and compatibility between partners based on certain physical, mental and emotional "cycles." She wrote a column on biorhythm compatibilities for the National Singles Register from 1979-81. She was the editor of The Truth newsletter from 1979 to 1985, and is the editor of the Mini Examiner newsletter (since 1985). She has been the founder, owner and president of several matchmaking services that use her biorhythm analysis method. She has written numerous articles for magazines on issues of compatibility. She is quoted in Who's Who in America (1998): "To be happy, you have to be what is natural for you, not what someone else wants you to be" (p. 4165). Stephenson is a Lifetime member of the Foundation, and a self-proclaimed atheist.

"I want you to know I read EVERY WORD of Freethought Today. When my copy arrives I feel as if I have received a love letter."

—Irene Stephenson in a letter to the Freedom From Religion Foundation, May 20, 2007

Compiled by Bonnie Gutsch

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

Sir Harold Kroto

Sir Harold Kroto

On this date in 1939, Nobel Prize winner Sir Harold Walter "Harry" Kroto (originally Krotoschiner) was born in Wisbech, Cambridgeshire, England. His parents were both German but had to leave Berlin in 1937 because his father was Jewish. His mother, who was not Jewish, left Berlin a few months later to be with her husband. Kroto's father had wanted to be a dress designer, but ended up running a small business, painting images on balloons. Shortly after setting up another small business in London, the Second World War broke out and Kroto's father was interned on the Isle of Man since he was considered to be an enemy alien. A year later, Kroto's mother moved with her small son to Bolton, Lancashire, England, where he grew up and attended school. When the war ended, Kroto's father reunited with his family, becoming first an apprentice engineer and then a toolmaker. In 1955, Harold's father changed their family name to Kroto, so that it would sound less Jewish. That same year he began a small factory, making balloons as well as printing them, where Harold worked many school holidays over the years, learning all of the facets of the factory. He said that this provided him with problem-solving skills which he later used as a research scientist. "I, like almost all chemists I know, was attracted by the smells and bangs that endowed chemistry with that light but charismatic element of danger which is now banned from the classroom . . . the wimpish chemistry training that schools are now forced to adopt is one possible reason that chemistry is no longer attracting as many talented and adventurous youngsters as it once did. If the decline in hands-on science educaton is not redressed, I doubt that we shall survive the 21st century" (Nobel Prize Autobiography). Kroto attended Sheffield University, considered at that time to have the best chemistry department in the UK. Harold also played tennis and soccer, learned to play the guitar and became art editor of the student magazine, winning a Sunday Times bookjacket design competition. His cover designs were also featured in Modern Publicity magazine, an international annual featuring the best in professional graphic design.

Graduating with honors in 1961 and receiving his Ph.D. in 1964, Kroto did his postdoctoral research at the National Research Council in Canada and Bell Laboratories in the U.S. He returned to England in 1967 to teach and do research at the University of Sussex, looking for carbon chains in interstellar space. Aware of the laser spectroscopy work being done by Richard Smalley and Robert Curl at Rice University in Texas, Kroto contacted them and suggested they use the Rice apparatus to simulate the carbon chemistry that occurs in the atmosphere of a carbon star. This experiment not only supported their theory, but revealed an unexpected result, the existence of a new molecule, the C60 species, aka buckminsterfullerene (buckyballs). This discovery earned Curl, Kroto and Smalley the shared Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1996. In 2004, he joined the faculty at Florida State University as a professor of chemistry, where he continued his work on "buckyballs" and spearheaded the development of GEOSET (Global Educational Outreach for Science, Engineering and Technology). GEOSET is a growing online cache of video teaching modules that are available for free. He died on April 30, 2016, in Lewes, East Sussex, from complications of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis at  age 76.

Photo by Pd1000 under CC 3.0

"There are serious problems confronting society and a "humanitarian" God would not have allowed the unaccountable atrocities carried out in the name of any philosophy, religious or otherwise, to happen to anyone let alone to his/her/its chosen people. The desperate need we have for such organisations as Amnesty International has become, for me, one of the pieces of incontrovertible evidence that no divine (mystical) creator (other than the simple Laws of Nature) exists. . . . I am a devout atheist --nothing else makes any sense to me and I must admit to being bewildered by those, who in the face of what appears so obvious, still believe in a mystical creator."

—From his Nobel Prize autobiography

Compiled by Jane Esbensen

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

Tim Minchin

Tim Minchin

On this date in 1975, Timothy David Minchin was born in Northampton, England, to Australian parents. On his website, Minchin describes himself as “a comedian, actor, composer, songwriter, pianist, musical director and huge rock n roll megastar.” Minchin grew up in Perth, Australia, where he attended the University of Western Australia, and received a bachelor of arts in English and theater in 1995. He went on to obtain an advanced degree in contemporary music at the Conservatorium of Western Australia in 1998. In 2002, he began his career as a musical comedian in Melbourne, Australia, in stage shows where he sang original songs while accompanying himself on piano as well as incorporating more traditional stand-up elements. Minchin came to prominence at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival in 2005, and went on to win the Perrier Newcomer Award at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival that same year. Living in London, he toured the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and North America. He has also written the book and lyrics for the Royal Shakespeare Company's adaptation of Roald Dahl's "Matilda," which premiered in Stratford-upon-Avon in December 2010.

Minchin is outspoken in his opposition to religion, as well as to nonscientific claims made by New Age groups and others. His comedy and songs cover a wide range of topics, from love and sex to political controversies and language use, but a primary focus is on religion. Many of his songs contain strong language, but some are safe for radio play, including “Peace Anthem for Palestine,” which Minchin says sums up his views on religious conflict: “We don't eat pigs, you don't eat pigs, it seems it's been that way forever. So if you don't eat pigs and we don't eat pigs, why not not eat pigs together?” He does express a fondness for the music of his upbringing in the Anglican Church of Australia, as well as the secular and family aspects of Christmas in the southern hemisphere, in his 2009 single, “White Wine in the Sun.” But its hard-hitting lyrics created a firestorm in Australia when his song was released as part of a charitable seasonal album in 2010. Themes of Minchin's work include his contempt for unscientific thinking, such as the song, “If You Open Your Mind Too Much Your Brain Will Fall Out (Take My Wife),” and the beauty of scientific thinking, as in the short comedy routine, “Tony the Fish.”

“And yes I have all of the usual objections
To the miseducation of children who, in tax-exempt institutions,
Are taught to externalize blame
And to feel ashamed and to judge things as plain right and wrong
But I quite like the songs . . . ”

—Tim Minchin, “White Wine in the Sun,” 2009

Compiled by Eleanor Wroblewski; Photo by Andrew L. Seidel

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

Joe Hill

Joe Hill

On this date in 1879, union organizer, itinerant laborer, poet and songwriter Joe Hill (né Joel Hagglund) was born in Gavle, Sweden, the fourth of six children. His parents, Olaf and Margareta Katarina Hagglund, were devout Lutherans who enjoyed music immensely, filling their home with song. Hill started composing songs when he was still relatively young, and played the piano in local cafes as he got older. Only 9 years old when his father died, Joe, along with his siblings, was forced to leave school and go to work in order to support his large family. Joe worked many hard labor jobs, from rope factory to crane operator. At age 20, Hill was diagnosed with skin and joint tuberculosis. He moved to Stockholm for treatment, undergoing a series of disfiguring operations on his face and neck, incurring scars which remained for the rest of his life. His mother died of complications from a back operation when Hill was 22. Joe and his brother, Paul, went to America, and the other children stayed in Sweden. Working various laborer jobs over the years, from the east coast to the west, Hill started his life as a union organizer, writing songs about the experiences of the working class, bringing their plight to homes across America. Songs about immigrant factory workers, homeless migratory workers and railway shopcraft workers were common themes and became a part of the International Workers of the World's (IWW, "Wobblies") Little Red Song Book. Hill's songs include: "The Tramp," "There is Power in the Union," "Rebel Girl," and "Casey Jones - Union Scab." Hill's irreverent classic, "The Preacher and the Slave" parodies the hymn, "In the Sweet Bye and Bye" and lampoons the Salvation Army ("The Starvation Army"). (See song below.) 

Always the rebel, Hill was at the center of strikes, fights for the emancipation of the working class, and protests alongside socialists, suffragists and AFL members. In 1914, a Utah grocer and his son were killed, in what appeared to be a revenge killing. The grocer, a former law enforcement officer, had recently reported concerns about a suspect from his former life to police. Police picked up Hill, an unpopular newcomer to the Utah scene, who had been treated for a gun-shot wound by a physician. Hill didn't help himself, in (gallantly, he maintained) refusing to provide details about his alibi involving being shot in a woman's room by a rival. Although the evidence was circumstantial only and contradictory, he was found guilty. An international outcry ensued. Helen Keller came to his defense. President Woodrow Wilson intervened twice to try to prevent the execution, but on Nov. 19, 1915, the beloved labor organizer was executed. The death of Joe Hill made his cause for the union more widely known than it had been during his lifetime. Just before his death he wrote to the former president of the Western Federation of Miners, Bill Haywood: "Goodbye Bill: I die like a true rebel. Don't waste any time mourning, organize!" Then he quipped: "It is a hundred miles from here to Wyoming. Could you arrange to have my body hauled to the state line to be buried? I don't want to be found dead in Utah." Following his wishes, after his cremation his ashes were distributed to every IWW local, except for the one in Utah. More than 30,000 people attended his funeral. According to an article in the Deseret Evening News (Utah, 1915): "No creed or religion found a place at the service. There were no prayers and no hymns, but there was a mighty chorus of voices singing songs written by Hill." On the eve of his execution, Hill wrote: "My body? Ah, if I could choose/ I would to ashes it reduce / And let the merry breezes blow/ My dust to where some fading flowers grow / Perhaps some fading flowers then / Would come to life and bloom again./ This is my last and final will./ Good luck to you." A lovely ballad, "Joe Hill," written by Alfred Hayes and set to music by Earl Robinson, commemmorates his work: " 'From San Diego up to Maine / 'In every mine and mill / 'Where workers strike and organize' says he, 'You'll find Joe Hill.' " D. 1915.

The Preacher And The Slave

Long-haired preachers come out every night
Try to tell you what's wrong and what's right;
But when asked about something to eat,
They will answer in voices so sweet:

You will eat, by and by,
In that glorious land in the sky.
Work and pray; live on hay.
You'll get pie in the sky when you die. (That's a lie!)

Oh, the Starvation Army they play
And they sing and they clap and they pray
Till they get all your coin on the drum,
Then they'll tell you when you're on the bum.

If you fight hard for children and wife,
Try to get something good in this life,
You're a sinner and bad man, they tell;
When you die you will sure go to Hell.

Holy Rollers and Jumpers come out,
And they holler, they jump, and they shout.
"Give your money to Jesus," they say,
"He will cure all diseases today."

Working folk of all countries, unite!
Side by side we for freedom will fight.
Then the world and its wealth we have gained,
To the grafters we'll sing this refrain:

You will eat, by and by,
When you've learned how to cook and to fry.
Chop some wood--'twill do you good.
And you'll eat in the sweet by and by. (That's no lie!)

—-Words by Joe Hill

Compiled by Jane Esbensen

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