November 29 in freethought history…

stanleyanndunhamNovember 29, 1942 – Stanley Ann Dunham is born in Wichita, Kansas. She was possibly the most influential atheist of the 20th century, being the mother of America’s first black president, Barack Obama. Obama’s civic commitment is clearly a product of her progressive parenting. He recalled her as a “a lonely witness for secular humanism, a soldier for New Deal, Peace Corps, position-paper liberalism” and one who had “a healthy skepticism of religion as an institution.” She died in Honolulu, Hawaii in 1995, aged 52.

November 29, 1968 – Biologist Oscar Riddle dies Plant City, Florida, aged 91. He was best known professionally for his research into the pituitary gland, but he came to national attention in 1936 when, as a vice president of the American Academy for the Advancement of Science, he delivered a speech titled “The Confusion of Tongues,” in which he praised the rapid expansion of biological knowledge, criticized superstition in general, and condemned resistance in public schools to the teaching of evolution. His speech was covered by the New York Times and reprinted in the journal Science. Riddle was named Humanist of the Year in 1958 by the American Humanist Association.

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November 28 in freethought history…

mmkalburgiNovember 28, 1938 – Indian academic and rationalist M. M. Kalburgi is born in Yaragal, British India. In 2014 he upset Hindu right-wingers by criticizing idol worship, going so far as to say “one can even urinate on idols.” In August 2015 he was assassinated in his home by an unidentified gunman. Kalburgi was 77.

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November 27 in freethought history…

November 27, 1955 – Science educator Bill Nye is born in Washington, DC. He is best known for his children’s show Bill Nye the Science Guy, which aired from 1993-1998. He is the Executive Director of The Planetary Society, a fellow with the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, and was both criticized and praised for his 2014 debate with creationist Ken Ham. Nye was named Humanist of the Year in 2010 by the American Humanist Association.

November 27, 2007 – The film The Golden Compass, based on the Philip Pullman novel, premieres in London on November 27, 2007. Blasted by religionists for its veiled anti-Catholic themes, and by secularists for its watering down of Pullman’s source material, the film received mediocre reviews from critics. While the film made money, it failed to meet expectations, and plans for sequels were scrapped.

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November 26 in freethought history…

govindpansareNovember 26, 1933 – Indian politician and rationalist Govind Pansare is born in Kolhar village, Maharashtra, India. He was involved in left-wing politics, but also opposed the taboo against inter-caste marriages, Hindu superstitions regarding the conception of male children, and the glorification by Hindu extremists of Mahatma Gandhi’s assassin. Pansare supported the Anti-Superstition and Black Magic Act, a Maharashtra state law that protected citizens from certain types of fraud. He was assassinated in February 2015 by gunmen, presumed right-wing Hindus.

November 26, 1940 – Attorney and freethought activist Edwin Kagin is born in Greenville, South Carolina. He was a founding member of the Free Inquiry Group (FIG) of Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky, and a co-founder (with wife Helen Kagin) of Camp Quest, a children’s summer camp that emphasizes science and skeptical thinking. Kagin died in 2014, aged 73.

November 26, 1956 – Sixteen-year-old Ellery Schempp stages a one-person protest at Abington (Pennsylvania) High School against the school’s requirement that students read ten Bible verses and the Lord’s Prayer every day. The protest led to a lawsuit against the school, and culminated in Abington School District v Shempp, in which the Supreme Court struck down public school mandated Bible reading as unconstitutional.

November 26, 1999 – Anthropologist Ashley Montagu dies in Princeton, New Jersey, aged 94. his major contributions include recognizing the importance of touch in the emotional development of monkeys (and by extension, humans), questioning the validity of race as a biological concept, and opposing genital modification/mutilation of children. He was named Humanist of the Year in 1995 by the American Humanist Association.

November 26, 2007 – The first episode of the American Freethought podcast is released.

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November 25 in freethought history…

andrewcarnegieNovember 25, 1835 – Capitalist and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie is born in Dunfermline, Fife, Scotland. He came to the United States with his family in 1848, and eventually became one of the most wealthy men in history (making his money in the steel industry), but is best remembered for the establishment of countless public libraries and numerous philanthropic organizations (many still in existence) that bear his name. On religion, Carnegie had this to say in a private letter: “The whole scheme of Christian Salvation is diabolical as revealed by the creeds. An angry God, imagine such a creator of the universe. Angry at what he knew was coming and was himself responsible for. Then he sets himself about to beget a son, in order that the child should beg him to forgive the Sinner. This however he cannot or will not do. He must punish somebody–so the son offers himself up & our creator punishes the innocent youth, never heard of before–for the guilty and became reconciled to us… I decline to accept Salvation from such a fiend.” He died in 1919, aged 83.

November 25, 1926 – Atheist and women’s rights activist Anne Nicol Gaylor is born Anne Nicol in Tomah, Wisconsin. She founded (with husband Paul Gaylor) the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) in 1976, which continues to be led by her daughter Annie Laurie Gaylor and son-in-law Dan Barker. She died in 2015, aged 88.

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Podcast #238 – War on Christmas Special

batmanwaronchristmasIt’s War on Christmas! There is no War on Christmas–there’s only a war on the alleged War on Christmas. Example: A new group called Faith Driven Consumers has published the so-called Faith Equality Index, which ranks major companies on, among other things, whether they use “Christmas” in their holiday literature, discriminate against LGBT persons, or oppose women’s sexual freedom. Basically, if you’re a bigot they want Christians to shop at your store. So…we’re encouraging our listeners to do the opposite: if Faith Driven Consumers don’t like a company, we love ’em.


We offer our annual Top Five Suggestions for Gifts for Nonbelievers:

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November 24 in freethought history…

November 24, 1632  – Dutch philosopher Baruch Spinoza is born Benedito de Espinosa to Portuguese-Jewish parents in Amsterdam, Netherlands. A lens-grinder by trade, he is best known for his magnum opus Ethics, which opposed mind-body dualism and equated God with Nature (he was vehemently excommunicated by the Jewish community in Amsterdam for his efforts). He died in 1677, aged 44.

originofspeciesNovember 24, 1859 – Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species is published by John Murray in London, England. It’s central concept–that all earthly life is descended from a single, simple ancestor, and that random mutation combined with environmental pressure causes species to change over time–was controversial at the time, and continues to be controversial to the present day (although the current controversy is of a religious, social and political nature rather than scientific).

November 24, 2007 – The first episode of the American Freethought podcast is released, hosted by John C. Snider and David Driscoll.

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November 23 in freethought history…

jennifermichaelhechtNovember 23, 1965 – Writer and historian Jennifer Michael Hecht is born in Glen Cove, New York. She is best known to the freethought community for her books Doubt: A History and The Happiness Myth. Over the years, Hecht has become an outspoken atheist, and is an honorary board member of the Freedom from Religion Foundation.

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November 22 in freethought history…

georgeeliotNovember 22, 1819 – Writer and translator George Eliot is born Mary Ann Evans in Nuneaton, England. Her novels (published under a male pen name to ensure her works were taken seriously) included The Mill on the Floss, Silas Marner and Middlemarch. She was also well-known for her irreligion and her unorthodox relationships with men. Eliot translated philosophical and theological works from German to English, including David Strauss’s Life of Jesus, Critically Examined and Ludwig Feuerback’s Essence of Christianity. When she died in 1880 at the age of 61, she was denied a place of honor in Westminster Cathedral due to her denial of Christianity.

November 22, 1866 – Surgeon James P. Warbasse is born in Newton, New Jersey.  He was an advocate for cooperative (i.e. jointly-owned and democratically-controlled) businesses, and was an outspoken anti-militarist. Warble was named Humanist of the Year in 1955 by the American Humanist Association. He died in 1957, aged 90.

November 22, 1916 – Author Jack London dies in Glen Ellen, California, aged 40. His novels include the classics The Call of the Wild and White Fang, London was an atheist, saying, “I believe that when I am dead, I am dead. I believe that with my death I am just as much obliterated as the last mosquito you and I squashed.”

November 22, 1934 – British atheist Nicolas Walter is born in London, England. He was a lifelong activist for humanist, rationalist and secularist causes. Walter edited New Humanist for the Rationalist Press Association. He died in 2000, aged 65.

November 22, 1998 – An Albanian referendum adopts a new constitution “with faith in God” and “a spirit of religious coexistence and tolerance,” declaring that the republic has “no official religion.” This is in marked contrast to the country’s 1976 constitution, adopted during the suppressive reign of communist dictator Enver Hoxha, which declared “the State recognises no religion, and supports atheistic propaganda in order to implant a scientific materialistic world outlook in the people.” Albania is religiously diverse, with 60% of the population Muslim, 10% Roman Catholic, and only 2.5% atheist.

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November 21 in freethought history…

voltaireNovember 21, 1694 – Voltaire is born François-Marie Arouet in Paris, France. An avowed Deist, he was a writer, philosopher and public wit well known for his criticisms of organized religion. He thought Christianity “assuredly the most ridiculous, the most absurd and the most bloody religion which has ever infected this world.” His most famous work is Candide, which mocks the notion that we live in the “best of all possible worlds.” His many other works include “Fanaticism, or Mahomet the Prophet,” which mocks the founder of Islam and surely would have gotten Voltaire murdered were he alive today. He died in 1778, aged 83.

November 21, 1905 – Albert Einstein’s paper on Mass-Energy Equivalence (better know by the famous equation E = mc²) is published in the German scientific journal Annalen der Physik. This was the last of four landmark papers (which included works on the photoelectric effect, Brownian motion and Special Relativity) published during his “Annus Mirabilis.” Einstein died in 1955, aged 76.

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