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.

As a member, to receive Freethought of the Day in your email inbox, contact us here. To become an FFRF member, click here. To learn more about FFRF, request information here.

There are 3 entries for this date: Edmund Halley , Ben Bova and Bonnie Raitt
Edmund Halley

Edmund Halley

On this date in 1656, astronomer Edmund Halley was born in the United Kingdom. The Royal Society published a scientific paper by Halley when he was only 19. He cut short his college career to travel to St. Helena, the southernmost point of the British empire, where he cataloged 341 stars, discovered a star cluster, and made the first complete observation of a transit of Mercury. King Charles II conferred a degree from Oxford upon Halley without requiring an exam. At 22, Halley became one of the youngest members admitted to the Royal Society. He had worked with Astronomer Royal John Flamsteed at Oxford and Greenwich. Flamsteed became Halley's enemy and blocked his appointment to Oxford on account of Halley's rationalist views in 1691. Although not well off, Halley urged Newton to write his Principia Mathematica and published it for Newton. Halley remains famous for being the first to predict the return of a comet (named for him). After several posts, Halley finally secured a professorship at Oxford in 1703. When Flamsteed died, Halley became Royal Astronomer in 1720. He was known during his day as "the Infidel Mathematician." While not all his theories proved correct, Halley made many important discoveries, innovations and inventions, such as the diving bell. D. 1741.

“That he was an infidel in religious matters seems as generally allowed as it appears unaccountable.”

—Chalmers, Biographical Dictionary, cited by Joseph McCabe, A Dictionary of Modern Rationalists, 1920

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

Ben Bova

Ben Bova

On this date in 1932, Ben Bova was born in Philadelphia. Bova grew up in a poor working-class neighborhood, riddled-with crime, malnutrition and hardship. Raised a Roman Catholic, his first exposure to science, on a planetarium field trip, gave him hope for a better future for humanity. In a Freethought Radio interview on July 18, 2009, Bova said, "The Catholic Church teaches that faith is a gift from God, and it's a gift I never received apparently. It always seemed kind of strange to me that we're depending on this supernatural power and there's no real evidence that it exists." Young Bova became an avid science and science fiction reader, but when he reached college age, he feared majoring in science because of his lack of math skills. This led him to study journalism at Temple University (1954), which landed him a job as a newspaper editor. Not giving up on his passion for science, Bova became a technical writer for an aircraft company and then, in 1959, worked at MIT writing educational films. In 1987, Bova earned a master's in communications from the State University of New York at Albany, and a Ph.D. in Education, in 1996, from California Coast University. While holding various scientific research posts in the 1960s, Bova published popular science and science fiction books and articles. His increasing renown as a writer in the 1970s brought him his role for which he would be most acclaimed, editor of Analog, the popular science fiction magazine. As editor, Bova earned five consecutive Hugo Awards (1973 to 1977), and an additional Hugo in 1982 as fiction editor of Omni magazine.

Since his first novel (The Star Conquerors) was published in 1959, Dr. Bova has written 120 science fiction and nonfiction books. He previously served as president of Science Fiction Writers of America and a science analyst on CBS Morning News. Bova has taught science fiction at Harvard and film courses at other institutions, and has worked with Woody Allen, George Lucas and Gene Roddenberry. Currently he serves as President Emeritus of the National Space Society. Bova received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Arthur C. Clarke Foundation (2005), was elected a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (2001), and, in 2008, won the Robert A. Heinlein Award "for his outstanding body of work in the field of literature." Dr. Bova's writings predicted solar power satellites, the discovery of organic chemicals in interstellar space, the space race of the 1960s, virtual reality, human cloning, stem cell therapy, the discovery of ice on the Moon, electronic book publishing and the Strategic Defense Initiative (Star Wars). Bova's novel, Mars Life (2008), explores the clash between science, politics and religion. His one page 1980 article in Discover magazine, "The Creationists' 'Equal Time,'" quickly became an inspirational classic among freethinkers. Bova said, "The difference between science and most religions is that science admits that we don't know everything." He called the failure of religion to question "not good for the human spirit or human understanding" (Interview on Freethought Radio, July 18, 2009).

Photo by Dd-B under CC 3.0

“When I started understanding how science works, it occurred to me that there just is no evidence that there is a God.”

—-Ben Bova, Interview on Freethought Radio, July 18, 2009

Compiled by Bonnie Gutsch

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

Bonnie Raitt

Bonnie Raitt

On this date in 1949, blues singer Bonnie Raitt was born in Burbank, Calif., the daughter of Broadway musical star John Raitt (Curly in "Oklahoma") and pianist Marjorie Haydock (whose father was a Methodist minister and missionary). Raitt, who got her first guitar for Christmas at age 8, was raised as a Quaker and graduated from Oakwood Friends School before enrolling at Radcliffe College. She became friends with blues promoter Dick Waterman and moved to Philadelphia to start a music career, releasing her eponymous debut album in 1971. As of this writing, Raitt has recorded 20 albums and received 10 Grammy Awards. Rolling Stone has named her as one of the "100 Greatest Singers of All Time" and one of the "100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time.

Her commitment to social, charitable and political activism includes co-headlining with Jackson Browne and Keb Mo' the 2004 "Vote For Change" tour, the Musicians United for Safe Energy campaigns against nuclear power and for disaster relief after the 2011 Fukushima reactor meltdown in Japan, and the Bonnie Raitt Guitar Project with Boys and Girls Clubs of America. The project funds music programs in more than 200 clubs serving underprivileged youth. She co-founded the Rhythm and Blues Foundation, which works to improve royalties, financial conditions and recognition for R&B pioneers. Raitt also holds seats on advisory and honorary boards of Little Kids Rock, Rainforest Action Network, Music Maker Relief Foundation and the Arhoolie Foundation, which preserves vernacular culture.

Masahiro Sumori photo; CC 3.0

Interviewer Tracy Smith: "I get a sense that gratitude is very important to you."
Bonnie Raitt: "That's true. I don't think anybody's ever mentioned that before. But I think it's probably the closest thing to religion that I have, is just being grateful."

—CBS "Sunday Morning," April 17, 2016

Compiled by Bill Dunn

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

FFRF is a non-profit, educational organization. All dues and donations are deductible for income-tax purposes.

FFRF has received a 4 star rating from Charity Navigator

FFRF is a member of the Secular Coalition for America

FFRF privacy statement