November 1

There are 3 entries for this date: Hermann Bondi Robert R. Tiernan Narendra Dabholkar

    Hermann Bondi

    Hermann Bondi

    On this date in 1919, Sir Hermann Bondi (knighted in 1973) was born in Vienna, Austria. He graduated from Trinity College with a degree in mathematics in 1940. Bondi worked as a university lecturer at Cambridge University from 1945-48, a professor of mathematics at King’s College from 1954-71 and a master of Churchill College in Cambridge from 1983-90.

    Bondi was an astronomer, mathematician and cosmologist renowned for his studies of relativity and black holes. He was one of the developers of the steady-state theory of the universe, which proposed that matter is constantly being created and that the universe had no beginning in time. (The steady-state theory has since been replaced with the big-bang theory.) Bondi discovered the Bondi Accretion, the Bondi Radius and Bondi mass. His books include Cosmology (1952), The Universe at Large (1961) and his autobiography Science, Churchill and Me (1990).

    He was also the director of the European Space Research Organisation from 1967-71 and chief scientific adviser for England’s Ministry of Defence from 1971-77. He married Christine Stockman, a fellow physicist and humanist, in 1947 and had two sons and three daughters.

    Although his family was Jewish, Bondi was a strong humanist who never “felt the need for religion,” according to a UK Telegraph article (Sept. 13, 2005). Bondi co-founded the British Humanist Association and served as its president from 1982-99 and was president of the Rationalist Press Association from 1982 until 2005. Bondi donated half of the money from a large award he received to the Atheist Centre in Andra Pradesh, India. (D. 2005)

    “Our humanist attitude should therefore throughout be to stress what we all have in common with each other and relegate quarrelsome religion to the private domain where it can do [less] harm.”

    —Bondi, April 1995 speech titled “Ethics, Science and Humanism” (quoted on the International Humanist and Ethical Union website, June 1, 1995).

    Compiled by Sabrina Gaylor

    Robert R. Tiernan

    Robert R. Tiernan

    On this date in 1933, freethinking attorney Robert Reitano Tiernan was born in Norwood, N.Y., to Albert and Grace (Reitano) Tiernan. Raised as a Catholic and later rejecting it, he graduated from LeMoyne College, a Jesuit school in Syracuse, and the Boston College School of Law. The day after law school graduation he was drafted into the U.S. Army, serving two years at Fort Dix, N.J. He helped provide security for presidential candidate John F. Kennedy.

    Tiernan practiced law for 20 years at the D.C. firm of Keller & Heckman in Washington and later specialized in constitutional law in Denver. After the tragic accidental death of his younger son Timothy in 1983, he spent three years successfully lobbying for mandatory installation of vehicle airbags.

    A longtime FFRF member and supporter, Tiernan headed the Denver chapter and was FFRF’s 2001 Freethinker of the Year for his legal contributions over the years. He stopped a 53-year violation involving a major taxpayer subsidy of an annual Easter service at the publicly owned Red Rocks Amphitheatre near Denver and defended pro bono a freethinker accused of “blasphemy” for removing a religious cross illegally placed in a public right-of-way.

    He won a partial victory in 1998 in an FFRF lawsuit when a federal court ordered removal of religious phrases and several images from a shrine built to commemorate the Mass said by Pope John Paul II in 1993 in Cherry Creek State Park outside Denver. “We object to the holding of religious ceremonies on public property, but that was a battle that was lost 25 years ago when the pope was allowed to say Mass on the Mall in Washington, D.C.,” Tiernan said at the time. (D. 2019)

    “It’s a shame that the judicial system, and especially the current U.S. Supreme Court, has tinkered so much with [the Establishment Clause] because the admonition is simple: There shall be no establishment of religion. The idea of ‘accommodating’ religion, which is the current rage with the judiciary, absolutely contradicts this clear and simple language and demeans our Constitution.”

    —Tiernan, accepting FFRF's 2001 Freethinker of the Year award in a speech titled "Blasphemy 101"
    Compiled by Bill Dunn

    Narendra Dabholkar

    Narendra Dabholkar

    On this date in 1945, Dr. Narendra Dabholkar, an atheist and rationalist assassinated for his anti-superstition activism, was born in Satara, Maharashtra state, India. The youngest of 10 children, Dabholkar was remarkably multifaceted. He was a physician, prolific writer and international level athlete who represented India in the game of kabaddi. 

    After practicing medicine for a dozen years, his involvement in social work started in the 1980s and gradually focused on the harm done by organized religion. In 1989 he founded the Maharashtra Andhashraddha Nirmoolan Samiti (Committee for the Eradication of Superstition).

    He became well known for public criticism of godmen (self-proclaimed demigods and charlatans with cult followings) and for anti-superstition drives in his home state of Maharashtra. The state includes Mumbai and has more than 120 million people. He was also the author of several books advocating rationalism and a scientific outlook. 

    Dabholkar refused police protection despite being constantly targeted with death threats and even assaults. He was murdered at age 67 on Aug. 20, 2013, in the city of Pune while on a morning walk. Although one of the two gunmen was caught, the masterminds, allegedly belonging to a fringe Hindu nationalist group, are still at large. His assassination was the first in a series claiming the lives of four freethinkers in that region, as of this writing in 2022. 

    Dabholkar was occupied in his final days working on an anti-superstition bill titled “Anti-Superstition and Black Magic Ordinance,” which became law four days after his murder. The next year, the Indian government posthumously awarded him one of its top civilian honors, the Padma Shri. The date of his assassination, Aug. 20, is now observed as National Scientific Temper Day in his memory.

    FFRF honored the Maharashtra Andhashraddha Nirmoolan Samiti and Avinash Patil, its head at the time, with the Avijit Roy Courage Award at its 2019 convention. Dabholkar was close friends with Amol Palekar and Shriram Lagoo, two actors who are Indian legends and are included in FFRF’s freethinking pantheon. (D. 2013) 

    “Scientific thinking is purely logical: the adjective ‘rational’ cannot be applied to it. Scientific temperament is a process of thinking, method of action, search of truth, wayof life, spirit of a freeman.”

    “When a so-called spiritual man amasses riches in billions, feasts on scrumptious meals, wears expensive silk clothes, and resides in an ivory tower, seeking the company of glamorous women, the contradiction in his life is obvious.”

    —QUOTE 1: "The Case for Reason: Understanding the Anti-Superstition Movement, Vol. 1" (English translation, 2018) QUOTE 2: "The Case For Reason: A Scientific Enquiry into Belief, Vol. 2" (English translation, 2019)
    Compiled by Amitabh Pal

Freedom From Religion Foundation