July 29 in freethought history…

josephedamurukuJuly 29, 2006 – Journalist and rationalist Joseph Edamaruku dies in Delhi, India, aged 72. Known simply as “Edamaruku,” he was president of the Indian Rationalist Association and author of numerous books, including critical studies of the Quran, the Bhagavad Gita and the Upanishads. His son Sanal continues his work, albeit in exile from Finland.

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July 28 in freethought history…

July 28, 1784 – French revolutionary Maximilien Robespierre is executed by guillotine in Paris. With him died the Cult of the Supreme Being, the short-lived Deistic state religion created to replace the revolutionary Cult of Reason, which was itself intended to replace the official Roman Catholicism of the Ancien Regime.

July 28, 1804 – German philosopher and liberal atheist Ludwig Feuerbach is born in Bavaria. He writings, most notably The Essence of Christianity (translated into English by no less than George Eliot) were a great influence on Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels.

July 28, 1902 – Philosopher of science (and self-proclaimed agnostic) Karl Popper is born in Vienna.

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July 27 in freethought history…

spinozaJuly 27, 1656 – The Portugese Jewish elders of Amsterdam “excommunicate and expel” Baruch Spinoza from their community for “abominable heresies” (which include equating purposeless Nature with God, denying that Jews are the chosen people, and denying the divine origins of Jewish scripture). Their rambling and unprecedentedly harsh proclamation laid it on pretty thick: “Cursed be he by day and cursed be he by night; cursed be he when he lies down and cursed be he when he rises up. Cursed be he when he goes out and cursed be he when he comes in. The Lord will not spare him, but the anger of the Lord and his jealousy shall smoke against that man, and all the curses that are written in this book shall lie upon him, and the Lord shall blot out his name from under heaven.” Spinoza (1632-1677), a lens-grinder by trade, is best known for his magnum opus Ethics.

July 27, 2001 – The US Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals rules, in Indiana Civil Liberties Union v O’Bannon, that a proposed six-ton limestone monument of the Ten Commandments at the Indiana Statehouse fails the Lemon Test (i.e. that a government action must not create an excessive entanglement of religion and state, must not promote or inhibit free exercise of religion, and must serve a secular purpose). The Supreme Court later declined to hear the case, thereby letting the Appeals Court ruling stand.

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July 26 in freethought history…

goraJuly 26, 1975 – Atheist activist and author Goparaju Ramachandra Rao (“Gora”) dies in Vijayawada, India. Along with his wife Saraswathi Gora, he founded India’s Atheist Centre, which still operates today. Gora wrote numerous books on atheist topics and was one of the founders of the first World Atheist Conference in 1972.

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July 25 in freethought history…

July 25, 1968 – Pope Paul VI issues Humanae vitae (Of Human Life: On the Regulation of Birth), an encyclical that reaffirms the Roman Catholic Church’s teaching on birth control. The encyclical repeated the Church’s stance on the sanctity of marriage, opposition to abortion and any form of “artificial” birth control (except periodic abstinence within marriage to naturally avoid a pregnancy). Humanae vitae provoked controversy both within and outside of the Church, and remains the Church’s official position.

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July 24 in freethought history…

albertellisJuly 24, 2007 – Psychologist Albert Ellis dies in New York City, aged 93. Recognized by his peers as one of the most influential psychotherapists ever, Ellis was best known for his development of “Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy,” for his promotion of more open attitudes about sex, and for his increasing enlightened view of homosexuality. He was named Humanist of the Year in 1971 by the American Humanist Association, and was one of the signers of Humanist Manifesto III, published in 2003.

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July 23 in freethought history…

samuelporterputnamJuly 23, 1838 – Samuel Porter Putnam is born in Chichester, New Hampshire. After graduating from Dartmouth and serving the Union in the American Civil War, Putnam attended seminary, became a Congregationalist minister, then a Unitarian minister before finally renouncing Christianity to become a freethinker. He served as president of the American Secular Union, the California State Liberal Union and the Freethought Federation of America. Putnam toured widely throughout America, giving numerous lectures and writing several books, most notably 400 Years of Freethought. His death in 1896 was a minor scandal: while lecturing in Boston, he died, along with a young fellow freethought lecturer named May Collins, in her hotel room, apparently of gaslight asphyxiation. Both were found on the floor, fully clothed.

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July 22 in freethought history…

albertbrooksJuly 22, 1947 – Actor, comedian and writer Albert Brooks is born as “Albert Lawrence Einstein” in Los Angeles. He changed his stage name early in his career, quipping that “the real Albert Einstein changed his name to sound more intelligent.” Raised in the Jewish tradition, Brooks said in a 2013 Vanity Fair interview, “I don’t believe in the images of what God is, a thing or a person. I do wonder often the reason the sea horse is here, or a tree, or why I’m here, and so I don’t know if I’m religious. But it’s interesting when you’re part of a group—the Jews, to be exact—that the world has had such problems with. It has really nothing to do with religion. That’s why, if my kids didn’t want to go to temple, I used to say, ‘Let me explain something to you: If Hitler came back, he’s not going to ask if you went to temple. You’re already on the train. So you might as well know who you are and why they’re going to take you.'” On whether some things are “meant to be” he said, “I don’t buy it, but I love it.” Brooks’ debuted in a supporting role in the classic Taxi Driver, won numerous awards for his role in Broadcast News, and played the heavy in 2011’s Drive. He also starred in Defending Your Life (about a man being judged in the afterlife) and Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World (in which Brooks plays a version of himself, sent on a mission by the US government to discover “what makes Muslims laugh.”)

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July 21 in freethought history…

robertingersollJuly 21, 1899 – American politician, attorney and freethought lecturer Robert Green Ingersoll dies in Dobbs Ferry, New York, aged 65. Dubbed “the Great Agnostic,” Ingersoll was one of the most famous Americans of the 19th century. He lectured widely in favor of women’s rights and civil rights, and against organized religion. (Did I mention he was a REPUBLICAN?) Despite his influence within the Republican party, his outspoken unbelief prevented him from gaining elected office (he served as the first Attorney General of Illinois, but it was an appointed position). He knew many of the luminaries of the day, once hosting Frederick Douglass in his home when the civil rights activist could not find lodging elsewhere, and delivering the eulogy at Walt Whitman’s funeral. His lectures include “The Gods,” “Some Mistakes of Moses” and “Why I Am an Agnostic.”

July 21, 1925 – Schoolteacher John Thomas Scopes is convicted in Dayton, Tennessee of teaching evolution in a public school, in violation of state law. Scopes was convicted and fined $100. He appealed, and while the Tennessee Supreme Court upheld the conviction, they dismissed the fine on a technicality.

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Podcast #229 – Blowback on Same-Sex Marriage

kimdavisWe look at the ongoing blowback–at the state and local levels–against Obergefell v Hodges, in which the Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriage is constitutional. Specifically, we look at the refusal by two county clerks–Casey Davis in Casey County and Kim Davis in Rowan County (pictured)–to issue marriage licenses in Kentucky, and a proposal in the state legislature to allow clerks to refuse to issue marriage licenses if it offends their religious beliefs.


Six people are dead in Chattanooga in an apparent case of homegrown Islamist terrorism.

And…another victory for LGBT rights!  The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has ruled that discrimination against someone based on their sexual preference is sex discrimination pure and simple.

To listen to this podcast click here.


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