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: David Attenborough and Ella E. Gibson
David Attenborough

David Attenborough

On this date in 1926, Sir David Attenborough was born in London, England. He is the brother of Lord Richard Attenborough, the director and actor. He graduated from Cambridge University in 1947 with a degree in Natural Sciences and then spent two years in the Royal Navy. In 1952, Attenborough joined the BBC as a producer. He began working on his first series, “Zoo Quest,” a wildlife documentary series, in 1954. Attenborough was appointed controller of BBC Two in 1965 and director of programming in 1969 before deciding to return to creating nature series in 1973. He is known for the popular trilogy “Life on Earth” (1979), “The Living Planet” (1984) and “The Trials of Life” (1990). His other series include “The Private Life of Plants” (1995) and “Life of Birds” (1998). He was knighted in 1985 for his services to television. Attenborough was married to Jane Elizabeth Ebsworth Oriel from 1950 until her death in 1997. They have two children.

He was never religious and was not brought up with faith. “It never really occurred to me to believe in God,” Attenborough said in a 2009 interview with Radio Times. “And I had nothing to rebel against. My parents told me nothing whatsoever. But I do remember looking at my headmaster delivering a sermon, a classicist, extremely clever ... and thinking, he can’t really believe all that, can he? How incredible!”

When Radio Times asked Attenborough why he never credited God in his nature documentaries, Attenborough responded: “They always mean beautiful things like hummingbirds. I always reply by saying that I think of a little child in East Africa with a worm burrowing through his eyeball. The worm cannot live in any other way, except by burrowing through eyeballs. I find that hard to reconcile with the notion of a divine and benevolent creator.” Attenborough addressed evolution in his documentary “Charles Darwin and the Tree of Life” (2009). "People write to me that evolution is only a theory. Well, it is not a theory. Evolution is as solid a historical fact as you could conceive,” he told the BBC in 2009.

Attenborough at the opening of Oxford's Weston Library in 2015. John Cairns photo (cropped), Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International

“I’m an agnostic.” 

—David Attenborough, BBC, Jan. 25, 2012.

Compiled by Sabrina Gaylor

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

Ella E. Gibson

Ella E. Gibson

On this date in 1821, Ella E. Gibson was born in Massachusetts. A schoolteacher, Gibson was elected chaplain of the First Wisconsin Regiment, Heavy Artillery. The Secretary of War refused to muster her because she was a woman. By an act of Congress in 1869, pay for her services was belatedly approved. She did not receive her pension until 1876, and distributed most of that to freethought causes, which she had embraced soon after the war. During her line of duty, Gibson contracted malaria, which severely disabled her. Even when confined to bed, she wrote for nearly every Liberal (freethought) newspaper in the United States, and edited "The Moralist" during the early 1890s. Her book, The Godly Women of the Bible by an Ungodly Woman of the Nineteenth Century, the first such treatment of the bible, was published by The Truth Seeker Co. in the 1870s and was continuously in print for the next three decades. D. 1901.

“The abominable laws respecting [women in the Bible] ... are a disgrace to civilization and English literature; and any family which permits such a volume to lie on their parlor-table ought to be ostracized from all respectable society.”

—Ella E. Gibson, "The Godly Women of the Bible by an Ungodly Woman of the Nineteenth Century"

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor

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