October 10 in freethought history…

juliasweeneyOctober 10, 1959 – Comedian and monologist Julia Sweeney is born in Spokane, Washington. She is best known for her 1990-1994 stint on Saturday Night Live. Since her time at SNL, she has received widespread acclaim for her one-woman shows, which include God Said Ha! (about her and her brother’s simultaneous struggles with cancer) and In the Family Way (about her experience adopting a daughter from China). Her show Letting Go of God, a deeply personal account of her struggle to find (and ultimately abandon) religion, has become a touchstone for a generation of atheists.

October 10, 2014 – Sixteen-year-old activist Malala Yousafzai is awared the Nobel Peace Prize for her efforts to ensure the education of girls in Pakistan despite objection from religious zealots. Just two years before, she had been shot in the head by a Taliban gunman. She recovered from her wounds, moved with her family to the United Kingdom, and continues her education and her activism.

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October 9 in freethought history…

billmaherOctober 9, 2002 – The A.V. Club website posts an article in which they asked numerous celebrities the question “Is there a God?” And, my, how times have changed. Comedian and talk show host Bill Maher, who in recent years has emphatically defended atheism (and even produced the documentary Religulous, which ridiculed religions big and small), had this to say:

“I think there is. We did a show [Politically Incorrect] last night about God and religion with Dave Foley, who I love, and we were arguing against this one woman who had a book called I Like Being Catholic. Someone said, ‘Oh, boy, a lot of atheists on this panel.’ I said, ‘I’m not an atheist. There’s a really big difference between an atheist and someone who just doesn’t believe in religion. Religion to me is a bureaucracy between man and God that I don’t need. But I’m not an atheist, no.'” After dismissing specifics of religious mythology, Maher concludes, “Who cares? What does that have to do with spirituality, where you’re really trying to get, as a human being and as a soul moving in the universe? But I do believe in a God, yes.”

October 9, 2012 – Fifteen-year-old Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai, who campaigned tirelessly for the rights of girls to be educated, despite the objections of Islamic zealots, is shot in the head by a Taliban gunman. Two others are wounded in the attack. She survived the assassination attempt, but she and her family moved to the United Kingdom so she could obtain proper medical treatment and continue her studies. Two years and one day later, she received the Nobel Peace Prize. She has largely recovered from her wounds, and courageously continues her work.

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October 8 in freethought history…

harvpekarOctober 8, 1939 – Underground comic book legend Harvey Pekar is born in Cleveland, Ohio. He is best-known for his autobiographical series American Splendor, which was adapted as a feature film in 2003 starring Paul Giamatti. The curmudgeonly everyman Pekar also made several infamous appearances on Late Night with David Letterman in the late 80s and early 90s. Pekar was raised Jewish, but said, “I’m a secularist. That was the only thing that made sense to me.” He died in 2010, aged 70. His tombstone reads “Life is about women, gigs, an’ bein’ creative.”

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October 7 in freethought history…

timminchinscreencapOctober 7, 1975 – British-Australian musician Tim Minchin is born in Northampton, England. His highly entertaining live performances  blend a wide range of musical genres with raucous, often blasphemous, comedy. An outspoken atheist and skeptic, Minchin performed “The Pope Song” (protesting papal cover-ups of child-molesting priests) during the 2012 Reason Rally in Washington, DC, and an animated version of his beat poem “Storm,” has become wildly popular within the skeptical community.

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October 6 in freethought history…

October 6, 1868 – Neurologist Charles Judson Herrick is born in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He was elected to membership in the National Academy of Sciences in 1918, and named Humanist of the Year in 1956 by the American Humanist Association. He died in 1960, aged 91.

October 6, 2007Freethought Radio, a weekly broadcast hosted by Dan Barker and Annie Laurie Gaylor of the Freedom from Religion Foundation, debuts on Air America.

October 6, 2013New York magazine publishes an interview with Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, in which he admits, as a devout Catholic, that he believes in the Devil, and asserts that the reason Satan’s Biblical-style activity is absent in modern times is “because he’s smart. What he’s doing now is getting people not to believe in him or in God. He’s much more successful that way… I mean, c’mon, that’s the explanation for why there’s not demonic possession all over the place. That always puzzled me. What happened to the Devil, you know? He used to be all over the place. He used to be all over the New Testament… He got wilier.” Scalia then scoffs at his interviewer’s skepticism: “You’re looking at me as though I’m weird. My God! Are you so out of touch with most of America, most of which believes in the Devil? I mean, Jesus Christ believed in the Devil! It’s in the Gospels! You travel in circles that are so, so removed from mainstream America that you are appalled that anybody would believe in the Devil! Most of mankind has believed in the Devil, for all of history. Many more intelligent people than you or me have believed in the Devil.”

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October 5 in freethought history…

neildegrassetyson2October 5, 1958 – Astrophysicist and science popularizer Neil deGrasse Tyson is born in New York City. He is the director of the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History, and was at the forefront of the movement to “demote” Pluto from its status as a planet. He hosted Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, and update to Carl Sagan’s classic TV documentary Cosmos: A Personal Voyage. Tyson describes himself as an agnostic with respect to the world’s prevailing religions, but resists the one-word label of “atheist.”

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October 4 in freethought history…

grahamchapmanOctober 4, 1989 – British comedian Graham Chapman dies in Maidstone, Kent, England, aged 48. A core member of the Monty Python troupe, Chapman played the title character in the religiously controversial 1979 film Life of Brian. A few weeks after his untimely death from cancer, Chapman’s fellow Pythons saw him off at a private memorial that was raucous, irreverent and profanity-laced–just as he would have liked. Chapman (a homosexual) was also an early advocate for gay rights.

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Podcast #234 – Chris Matheson (Author, The Story of God)

storyofgodWe interview Chris Matheson, author of the new satirical novel The Story of God: A Biblical Comedy about Love (and Hate). While Chris isn’t exactly a household name,  you’re guaranteed to know his work: he’s also a screenwriter and director, most notably the co-writer of the 1989 comedy film Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure (starring Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter) and its 1991 sequel Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey.


Rowan County (Kentucky) County Clerk Kim Davis has surfaced again, this time to receive the “Cost of Discipleship Award” at the Values Voter Summit in Washington, DC. (And after this episode was recorded, Davis’s lawyers revealed she had a brief, secret meeting with Pope Francis while he was in town. The Vatican has not denied the meeting, but all the details are coming from Davis.)

A survey at Harvard University shows that an unprecedented number of incoming freshmen (37.9%!) identify as atheist or agnostic. Since Harvard alumni are disproportionately represented in American halls of power (e.g. CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, inhabitants of the Oval Office), there is some reason to be optimistic for future leadership with a rationalist outlook.

Tennessee Judge Jeffrey M. Atherton wins our inaugural “F*ck That Guy” award for his petty and facetious ruling denying a couple’s divorce because: “With the U.S. Supreme Court having defined what must be recognized as a marriage, it would appear that Tennessee’ s judiciary must now await the decision of the U.S. Supreme Court as to what is not a marriage, or better stated, when a marriage is no longer a marriage.” Atherton should be disciplined for abusing the powers of his office.

To listen to this podcast click here.



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October 3 in freethought history…

gorevidalOctober 3, 1925 – Novelist, essayist and social commentator Gore Vidal is born Eugene Louis Vidal in West Point, New York. His many novels include The City and the Pillar (which featured one of the earliest candid depictions of a homosexual protagonist), the transgressive sex-farce Myra Breckenridge, and Live from Golgotha (about a time traveler attempting to erase Christianity from history), as well as mainstream historical novels such as Burr and Lincoln. One of the mid-20th century America’s most recognized public intellectuals, Vidal participated in a series of one-on-one debates, centered around the 1968 Republican and Democratic national conventions, with conservative arch-rival William F. Buckley, Jr. Vidal was adamantly “an atheist, not an agnostic,” and said, “Get rid of religion. It’ll do you no good.” Vidal died in 2012, aged 86.

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October 2 in freethought history…

October 2, 1832 – British anthropologist Edward Burnett Tylor is born in London. He was the first to propose prehistoric animism as the root of all religion. He was a Fellow of the Royal Society, became a professor at Oxford (despite never having earned a university degree), and was Knighted for his contributions to science. He died in 1917, aged 84.

October 2, 1836 – Charles Darwin returns to England after a five-year around-the-world journey aboard the HMS Beagle.

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