October 13 in freethought history…

October 4, 1961 - San Francisco, CA. Lenny Bruce being booked  by the San Francisco Police after his arrest for obscenity at the Jazz Workshop.

October 4, 1961 – San Francisco, CA. Lenny Bruce being booked by the San Francisco Police after his arrest for obscenity at the Jazz Workshop.

October 31, 1925 – Comedian Lenny Bruce is born Leonard Alfred Schneider in Mineola, New York. He was a groundbreaking humorist, infamous for his transgressive stand-up routines and a handful of controversial appearances on network television. Bruce’s jokes were often politically incorrect. Riffing on the frequent assertion that the Jews killed Christ, he said, “‘Why did you kill Christ?’ I dunno, it was one of those parties, got out of hand, you know.” Remarking on the irony of that the cross (a device of torture and execution) is the symbol of supposedly peaceful and loving Christianity, he joked, “If Jesus had been killed twenty years ago, Catholic school children would be wearing little electric chairs around their necks instead of crosses.” Bruce was repeatedly persecuted and prosecuted by law enforcement. Most notably, he was convicted of obscenity in Manhattan, but died of a drug overdose in 1966 before he could serve his sentence. He was 40 years old.

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October 12 in freethought history…

teddyrooseveltOctober 12, 1915 – Former president Teddy Roosevelt delivers a speech in which he condemns “hyphenated Americanism.” He said, “One of the most important things to secure for [the citizen] is the right to hold and to express the religious views that best meet his own soul needs. Any political movement directed against any body of our fellow citizens because of their religious creed is a grave offense against American principles and American institutions. It is a wicked thing either to support or to oppose a man because of the creed he professes. This applies to Jew and Gentile, to Catholic and Protestant, and to the man who would be regarded as unorthodox by all of them… Washington and his associates believed that it was essential to this republic that there should never be any union of Church and State; and such a union is partially accomplished wherever a given creed is aided by the State or when any public servant is elected or defeated because of his creed.”

October 12, 1971 – The musical Jesus Christ Superstar, by Andrew Lloyd Weber and Tim Rice, makes its Broadway debut.

October 12, 2012 – The satirical short film “Fist of Jesus,” in which Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead and unwittingly launches a zombie apocalypse premieres at Spain’s popular Sitges Film Festival.

October 12, 2012Atlas Shrugged II: The Strike, the second installment in a three-film adaptation of Ayn Rand’s magnum opus, is released. It is universally panned by critics and earns $3.3 million at the box office against a budget of $10 million.

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Podcast #235 – Linda K. Wertheimer (Author, Faith Ed.)

faithedWe interview Linda K. Wertheimer, author of Faith Ed: Teaching about Religion in an Age of Intolerance. Most people understand that the Constitution prohibits religious indoctrination in the public schools, and that the Supreme Court has repeatedly supported that position. What many may not realize is that there’s nothing wrong with teaching students about the world’s religions, but it’s a cultural and political minefield for teachers and administrators. For more about Linda and her work, visit lindakwertheimer.com.

Plus: Check out Shelley Segal, an Australian singer-songwriter currently touring North America. Her lyrics often reflect atheist, skeptical or scientific themes. For more visit shelleysegal.com.

To listen to this podcast click here.

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October 11 in freethought history…

October 11, 2004 – The documentary series Atheism: A Rough History of Disbelief airs on BBC4. Written and presented by Jonathan Miller, the three-part show provides an overview of Western atheism and includes appearances by notable atheists like Richard Dawkins and Daniel Dennett. The series struggled to find support in the United States, but eventually aired in 2007.

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October 10 in freethought history…

October 10, 732 – Frankish forces under Charles Martel defeat the Islamic invasion of France at the Battle of Tours. The battle marked the “high tide” of Islamic power in Western Europe (of course, it was not until 1492 that the Spanish pushed the Muslims completely out of the Iberian peninsula). Had the Franks lost the battle, Islamic armies might well have conquered the rest of Europe. In his magnum opus The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Edward Gibbons wryly noted, “Perhaps the interpretation of the Koran would now be taught in the schools of Oxford, and her pulpits might demonstrate to a circumcised people the sanctity and truth of the revelation of Mahomet.”

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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