April 1

There are 3 entries for this date: Milan Kundera Abraham Maslow Vladimir Pozner Jr.

    Milan Kundera

    Milan Kundera

    On this date in 1929, novelist Milan Kundera was born in Brno, Czechoslovaki (now the Czech Republic). He grew up in a cultured, middle-class family and graduated from the Faculty of Arts, Charles University, in 1952. Kundera was expelled from the Communist Party in 1950, then readmitted in 1956 and expelled again in 1970. He became an assistant, then a professor, at the Film Faculty at Prague’s Academy of Performing Arts. His first book was published in 1953 and he continued publishing poetry and short stories until his novel The Joke was published in 1967.

    During the 1968 Soviet invasion, Kundera became a leader of the resistance, lost his teaching post and saw his books banned. He lost his citizenship in 1979 for writing The Book of Laughter and Forgetting. Since 1975 he has lived in France with his wife Vera and became a French citizen in 1981. His other books include Life is Elsewhere (1969), The Unbearable Lightness of Being (1986), The Art of the Novel (1988, in which he discusses his lack of religion), Slowness (1994) and Identity (1998).

    Unbearable Lightness was turned into a movie in 1988 starring Daniel Day-Lewis and Juliette Binoche. Kundera cites Diderot as one of his literary icons.

    “I was never a believer, but after seeing Czech Catholics persecuted during the Stalinist terror, I felt the deepest solidarity with them. What separated us, the belief in God, was secondary to what united us. In Prague, they hanged the Socialists and the priests. Thus a fraternity of the hanged was born.”

    —Kundera, New York Times interview (May 19, 1985)

    Abraham Maslow

    Abraham Maslow

    On this date in 1908, Abraham Harold Maslow was born, the first of seven children, to immigrant Russian Jewish parents in New York City. In 1928 he married his first cousin, Bertha Goodman. They had two daughters, Ann and Ellen. He received his B.A. in 1930 from City College of New York and his M.A. and Ph.D. in psychology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Maslow taught full-time at Brooklyn College and then at Brandeis, where he was named chair of psychology in 1951.

    Maslow, a humanist-based psychologist, is known for proposing in 1943 the “hierarchy of needs” to be met so an individual can achieve “self-actualization.” In analyzing achievers, Maslow found they were reality-centered. Among his many books was Religion, Values and Peak-Experiences, which is not a freethought treatise, but which did not limit “peak experiences” to the religious or necessarily ascribe such phenomena to supernaturalism. In the book’s introduction, Maslow warned that mystics may become “not only selfish but also evil,” in single-mindedly pursuing personal salvation, often at the expense of others. 

    He’s also known for Maslow’s hammer, popularly phrased as “If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail,” from his book The Psychology of Science: A Reconnaissance (1966). He was named Humanist of the Year by the American Humanist Association in 1967. He died at 62 of a heart attack while jogging in Menlo Park, Calif. (D. 1970)

    “We need not take refuge in supernatural gods to explain our saints and sages and heroes and statesmen, as if to explain our disbelief that mere unaided human beings could be that good or wise.”

    —Description of Maslow's views by Richard J. Lowery, "A H. Maslow: An Intellectual Portrait" (1973)

    Vladimir Pozner Jr.

    Vladimir Pozner Jr.

    On this date in 1934, Vladimir Vladimirovich Pozner was born in Paris to a Russian-Jewish father, also named Vladimir, and a French Catholic mother, Géraldine Lutten. The couple separated when he was 3 months old, and he and his mother moved near her family in New York City. His parents later reunited and moved back to Paris in 1939.

    Fleeing World War II, they returned to New York in 1940. Pozner briefly attended Stuyvesant High School in Manhattan until his father, under FBI scrutiny for pro-Soviet activities and suspected spying, moved them to East Berlin and then to Moscow. He majored in human physiology at Moscow State University and earned a B.S. in 1958.

    In 1961 he joined Novosty Press Agency (later learning his department was actually a KGB “disinformation” effort) and then became editor of Soviet Life and Sputnik magazines. He was a commentator on Radio Moscow from 1970-86. Pozner was permitted to travel abroad from 1977 to 1980, when his passport was revoked for criticizing Russia’s military incursions in Afghanistan.

    In the late 1980s he began appearing regularly on ABC’s “Nightline,” the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, the BBC and other TV networks in the U.S. and abroad, all by satellite hookup because he was not allowed to travel. In 1985-86 he co-hosted two shows, also by satellite, with Phil Donahue, which brought glasnost to Soviet TV. In 1989, he resigned from the Communist Party.

    He moved to New York City in 1991 to work with Donahue. Parting with Illusions (1990) became a national best-seller, which was followed by Eyewitness (1991). In 1997, Pozner returned to Moscow to host two TV shows. He served as president of the Academy of Russian Television and dean of the Pozner School of Television Journalism. He has won two Emmy certificates and several other journalism awards.

    He married Valentina Chemberdzhi (1957–67), Yekaterina Orlova (1969–2005) and Nadezhda Solovieva (2005). He has often identified himself publicly as an atheist and has advocated for the right to euthanasia and legalization of same-sex unions and recreational drugs in order to cut down on trafficking.

    “As it is known, I am an atheist. I stridently believe there is no God. It’s not that I run around shouting, ‘There isn’t, there isn’t’ from morning to evening, but I do not hide my convictions.”

    —Pozner interview with Radio Free Europe (May 16, 2017)
    Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor; photo by Ekaterina Bykova, Shutterstock.com

Freedom From Religion Foundation