March 9

There are 3 entries for this date: Michael Kinsley PZ Myers Óscar Isaac

    Michael Kinsley

    Michael Kinsley

    On this date in 1951, journalist Michael Kinsley was born in Detroit. He earned his B.A. at Harvard in 1972, attended Oxford and earned his law degree from Harvard Law School in 1977. Named editorial and opinion editor of the Los Angeles Times in June 2004, Kinsley previously was founding editor of Slate.com. His journalistic credentials include writing for Time magazine, the Washington Post and Vanity Fair.

    In 1979 he became editor of The New Republic (rejoining the magazine in 2013 after a long hiatus). He has been editor-in-chief of Harper’s and editor of the American Survey Department of The Economist. Kinsley was managing editor of the Washington Monthly and co-hosted CNN’s “Crossfire” for six years. He played himself in the 1993 movie “Dave.”

    In a December 2004 Los Angeles Times column about gay marriage, he wrote, “Such a development is not just amazing. It is inspiring. American society hasn’t used up its capacity to recognize that it harbors injustice, and it remains supple enough to change as a result. In fact, the process is speeding up. It took African American civil rights a century, and feminism half a century, to travel the distance gay rights have moved in a decade and a half.”

    His books include Please Don’t Remain Calm: Provocations and Commentaries (2008) and Old Age: A Beginners Guide (2016).  Kinsley identifies as a “nonbeliever.” In 2002 he married Patty Stonesifer, a top executive at Microsoft and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. That same year he revealed he had Parkinson’s disease and in 2006 underwent deep brain stimulation, surgery designed to reduce its symptoms.

    According to a humorous postscript to his Time column anticipating the surgery, the operation went well: His first words out of the operating room were, “Well, of course, when you cut taxes, government revenues go up. Why couldn’t I see that before?”

    PHOTO: Kinsley during an interview with Brian Lamb on C-SPAN (April 12, 2016).

    “As a devout believer, [Marine Corps Gen. Jerry] Boykin may also wonder why it is impermissible to say that the God you believe in is superior to the God you don’t believe in. I wonder this same thing as a nonbeliever: Doesn’t one religion’s gospel logically preclude the others’? (Except, of course, where they overlap with universal precepts, such as not murdering people, that even we nonbelievers can wrap our heads around.)”

    —Kinsley, "The Religious Superiority Complex: It's OK to think your God's the greatest, but you don't have to rub it in," Time magazine (Nov. 3, 2003)

    PZ Myers

    PZ Myers

    On this day in 1957, biologist Paul Zachary “PZ” Myers was born. Myers is a biology professor at the University of Minnesota-Morris. His specialty is developmental biology and he is a proud proponent of science, evolution and atheism. He graduated from the University of Washington with a degree in zoology in 1979 and went on to earn his Ph.D in biology from the University of Oregon.

    Before employment at UM-Morris, Myers worked at the University of Oregon, the University of Utah and Temple University. Myers studies zebrafish, spiders and cephalopods, an ink-squirting class of marine animals, most notably octopuses and squids.

    “Pharyngula,” his very popular science blog, is partnered with National Geographic and has won numerous awards, including a 2005 Koufax Award for Best Expert Blog and an award from Nature. Myers was named Humanist of the Year in 2009 by the American Humanist Association, and won the International Humanist Award in 2011.

    Myers makes his religious beliefs clear on Pharyngula: “If you’ve got a religious belief that withers in the face of observations of the natural world, you ought to rethink your beliefs — rethinking the world isn’t an option.” Commenting on his 2013 book The Happy Atheist, he said, “I’m an atheist swimming in a sea of superstition, surrounded by well-meaning, good people with whom I share a culture and similar concerns, and there’s only one thing I can do. I have to laugh.”

    Myers at Ken Ham’s Creation Museum in Kentucky in 2009; syslfrog photo under CC 2.0.

    “What I want to happen to religion in the future is this: I want it to be like bowling. It’s a hobby, something some people will enjoy, that has some virtues to it, that will have its own institutions and its traditions and its own television programming, and that families will enjoy together. It’s not something I want to ban or that should affect hiring and firing decisions, or that interferes with public policy. It will be perfectly harmless as long as we don’t elect our politicians on the basis of their bowling score, or go to war with people who play nine-pin instead of ten-pin, or use folklore about backspin to make decrees about how biology works.”

    —Myers, interviewed in the 2008 documentary "Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed"
    Compiled by Sarah Eucalano

    Óscar Isaac

    Óscar Isaac

    On this date in 1979, Óscar Isaac Hernández Estrada was born in Guatemala City, Guatemala, to María Eugenia Estrada Nicolle, a Guatemalan, and Óscar Gonzalo Hernández-Cano, a Cuban pulmonologist. His father met his mother while studying medicine in Guatemala. They moved to the U.S. when he was 5 months old.

    His parents became enmeshed in evangelical Christianity and enrolled him in Westminster Christian School, a Calvinist school in Palmetto Bay, Fla. He was expelled in seventh grade for a series of rebellious incidents, including defacement of a mural with profanities.

    “The Hernandez home became the site of a kind of ongoing tent revival. Visiting pastors would come and stay with the family, play Legos with the children, and then hold services in the living room, where participants would often be so seized by the Spirit that they would faint and speak in tongues. … It wasn’t long before Isaac broke away from the Church; a ‘slow amputation’ is how he describes it.” (GQ, Dec. 15, 2015)

    His first film acting role was “Pool Boy” in “Illtown” (1998). He’d had several small theatrical roles in Miami and played lead guitar and sang in the ska-punk band The Blinking Underdogs. The band had some success and opened for Green Day and The Mighty Mighty Bosstones.

    Isaac was accepted into the acting program at New York’s Juilliard School in 2001. While a student there, he played Francesco in the action comedy “All About the Benjamins” (2002). He dropped his last names to be credited instead with his first two, Óscar Isaac. As of this writing in 2022, his acting credits number 60, including television (hosting “Saturday Night Live” and playing Marc Spector/Moon Knight in Marvel Studios’ six-episode series “Moon Knight” in 2022 on Disney+).

    Isaac starred in the Coen brothers’ “Inside Llewyn Davis” (2013), playing a talented but unsuccessful folk singer in Greenwich Village in 1961. His performance brought him a Golden Globe Best Actor nomination in 2014, when he co-starred with Jessica Chastain in “A Most Violent Year” after Javier Bardem dropped out over script concerns.

    He portrayed Nathan Hamlet Bateman in the science fiction film “Ex Machina” (2015) and starred in the six-episode “Show Me a Hero” on HBO, winning the Golden Globe for Best Actor – Miniseries or Television Film. Also in 2015, he co-starred in “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” playing Poe Dameron, an X-wing pilot. He reprised the role in “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” in 2017 and “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” in 2019.

    Along with several other movie, TV and podcast roles in the latter half of the 2010s, Isaac played Prince Hamlet in 2017 in The Public Theater production of “Hamlet.” The New York City theater was founded in 1954 by Joseph Papp as the Shakespeare Workshop. 

    A naturalized U.S. citizen, Isaac married Danish film director and screenwriter Elvira Lind in 2017. They are raising their sons, Eugene (b. 2017) and Mads (b. 2019), in Brooklyn. 

    PHOTO: Isaac at the premiere in Los Angeles of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”  in 2015;  Kathy Hutchins/Shutterstock.com photo.

    “My dad was a man of extremes. And the way my mom was raised, she followed her husband. So if God spoke to my father one day and said we were not supposed to have a TV in the house, it was suddenly gone. … I was never frightened by it. I was more curious why I wasn’t feeling the real thing myself.”

    —Isaac, describing the "tent revival" atmosphere in his childhood home (GQ, Dec. 15, 2015)
    Compiled by Bill Dunn

Freedom From Religion Foundation