March 5

There are 3 entries for this date: Rosa Luxemburg Penn Jillette Matt Lucas

    Rosa Luxemburg

    Rosa Luxemburg

    On this date in 1871, Rosa Luxemburg was born in Zamość, Poland, to a middle-class Jewish family. A revolutionary agitator by her teens, she moved to Switzerland, in part to avoid possible imprisonment. She studied at the University of Zurich, receiving her doctorate in 1898. From Warsaw, Luxemburg tried to help the Russian revolution. She wrote more than 700 pamphlets, articles, speeches and books, advocating mass strikes by proletariats.

    She was in and out of prison, once for advocating during World War I that German soldiers turn their guns on the government and overthrow it. In 1919 she and two leaders of the German Communist Party, which Luxemburg helped found, were arrested. She was knocked out, shot to death and thrown in a canal. She was 47.

    Although socialism, not freethought, was her life’s passion, she wrote the article “Socialism and the Churches” in 1905, first published by the Polish Social Democratic Party. Luxemburg, who strongly believed in freedom of conscience, sought to show that the church, originally considered a refuge for workers, was now clearly oppressing them. D. 1919.

    “The clergy, no less than the capitalist class, lives on the backs of the people, profits from the degradation, the ignorance and the oppression of the people. ”

    — Luxemburg, "Socialism and the Churches" (1905)
    © Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

    Penn Jillette

    Penn Jillette

    On this date in 1955, entertainer Penn Jillette was born in Greenfield, Mass. He embraced atheism as a teen and has been outspoken about it and his libertarian political views. After high school, he attended Ringling Brother’s Clown College for a year in 1973. In 1975 he first worked with silent magician Teller (his legal name) as part of an act called The Asparagus Valley Cultural Society before starting their longtime collaboration as Penn & Teller. They gained critical acclaim for their off-Broadway show in 1985 and have since had two Broadway runs, and toured the country extensively throughout the 1990s.

    Teller traditionally stays mute during their magic acts in Las Vegas. The duo started hosting a documentary on Showtime in 2003 called “Penn & Teller: Bullshit!” On the show, Teller continued to not talk while Penn provided commentary. The stated aim was to debunk myths and share the truth with the public, often through a combination of interviews, narration and other documentary techniques.

    Their topics often included religion and skepticism, for example, the episodes “Creationism” (2003), “The Bible: Fact or Fiction?” (2004) and “Holier Than Thou” (2005), which criticized Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Teresa and the Dalai Lama. Their recurring TV show “Fool Us” first aired in 2011. In their stage shows, they debunk supernaturalism and explain some of their magic tricks. They were presented with FFRF’s Emperor Has No Clothes Award in 2003 in Nevada for their “plain speaking” on the shortcomings of religion.

    During the 2006–07 season, Jillette hosted the prime-time game show “Identity” on NBC. In 2008 he was a contestant on “Dancing with the Stars” and was the first celebrity eliminated. He was a contestant in 2012 on “The Celebrity Apprentice” season 5 and was fired by Donald Trump during the Week 11 episode. Also in 2012, along with Michael Goudeau, he started the podcast “Penn’s Sunday School,” still airing as of this writing.

    Jillette has published eight books, including the best-selling God, No!: Signs You May Already Be an Atheist and Other Magical Tales (2011) and Every Day is an Atheist Holiday!: More Magical Tales from the Author of God, No! (2012). After high blood pressure landed his 6-foot-6 frame in the hospital in 2014, he lost 105 pounds and in 2016 published Presto!: How I Made Over 100 Pounds Disappear and Other Magical Tales.

    He married film producer Emily Zolten in 2004. They have a daughter, Moxie CrimeFighter, born in 2005, and a son, Zolten Penn, born in 2006.

    “I have so much love in my life. So many people who love me and I love back makes the idea I need more from a God insane. I look at my children and I’m overwhelmed with this pure love that is not filtered through any sort of God.”

    — Jillette interview, Humanist Network News (Dec. 19, 2012)
    Compiled by Eleanor Wroblewski; photo by S_Bukley,
    © Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

    Matt Lucas

    Matt Lucas

    On this date in 1974, entertainer Matthew Richard Lucas was born in London to Diana (née Williams) and John Lucas, who owned a chauffeuring business. Some of his mother’s family fled Nazi Germany. Alopecia caused the loss of all his hair at age 6. His father died of a heart attack at age 52 when Lucas was 22.

    Lucas attended the same boys school as comic actor Sacha Baron Cohen, then studied at the University of Bristol (1993-95) and spent time with the National Youth Theatre. He is best known for his work with David Walliams on the BBC sketch comedy series “Rock Profile” (1999–2000, 2009), “Little Britain” (2003–07, 2020) and “Come Fly With Me” (2010–11).

    He played Nardole in the BBC series “Doctor Who” (2015–2017) and appeared in the films “The Infidel” (2010), “Alice in Wonderland” (2010), “Bridesmaids” (2011) and “Small Apartments” (2012). In 2020 he became co-presenter with Noel Fielding of “The Great British Bake Off,” which debuted in 2010.

    His memoir Little Me was published in 2017. During the 2020 coronavirus lockdown, his song “Baked Potato” was the No. 1 British iTunes download and raised over £1 million for food banks. He reprised the role of Monsieur Thénardier in the concert version of “Les Misérables” at the Sondheim Theatre in late 2020.

    Lucas is gay and began a civil partnership in 2006 with a ceremony attended by Elton John and Courtney Love. They dissolved their partnership two years later. From 2012-15, Lucas lived with his “Bridesmaids” co-star Rebel Wilson, an Australian actress, in West Hollywood, Calif.

    He calls himself “a fairly secular Jew” and an atheist. He believes “people should be free to practice their religion if it doesn’t hurt others.” (Twitter, Aug. 6, 2018) 

    PHOTO: Lucas at the 2017 San Diego Comic-Con International; Gage Skidmore photo under CC 3.0.

    “I am a Jew and an atheist. After my father died, I started to lose faith.”

    — Interview, The Times of London (June 2, 2018)
    Compiled by Bill Dunn
    © Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

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