July 3 in freethought history…

herzlJuly 3, 1904 – Theodor Herzl, journalist and father of modern Zionism, dies in Austria-Hungary. Born in Budapest in 1860, raised by assimilated Jews, Herzl considered himself an atheist. Widespread persecution and anti-Semitism throughout Europe convinced Herzl that Jews should create a homeland, preferably in their historic homeland of Palestine. (The State of Israel would not be born for another 44 years after Herzl’s death.)

July 3, 1980 – British journalist Ariane Sherine, creator of the 2009 Atheist Bus Campaign and editor of The Atheist’s Guide to Christmas, is born in London.

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Podcast #228 – Jiggery-Pokery with a Side of Applesauce

whitehouserainbowWe discuss the Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, with special attention to the bitter dissents seemingly aimed at delegitimizing the Court itself. We also look at the more-or-less predictible reactions by conservative politicians and pundits. Events are unfolding in various states aimed at resisting or slowing implementation of the ruling, and it’s a sure bet this will be playing out until the election next fall.

Plus: Another victory! The Oklahoma Supreme Court rules that a Ten Commandments monument on the statehouse grounds is a violation of the state constitutions prohibition against the use of funds to benefit–either directly or indirectly–religion.

To listen to this episode click here.

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July 2 in freethought history…

rousseauJuly 2, 1778 – Genevan philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau dies in France, aged 66. Contrary to mainstream religious teaching of the time, Rousseau believed that man in his natural state was good and that all religions were equally valuable. He was a Deist who believed that the goodness of Nature reflected the goodness of God. His major works include Emile (which describes a comparatively progress view of childhood education), A Discourse on Inequality and The Social Contract.

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July 1 in freethought history…

barreJuly 1, 1776Jean-Francois de la Barre is tortured and beheaded by French authorities in Abbeville, France for (among other things) failing to show proper respect to a Roman Catholic procession. His body was burned on a pyre along with a book by Voltaire found in his living quarters. The ashes were poured into the Somme River. La Barre was only 20 years old. Today Chevalier de la Barre is honored throughout France, with statues in Abbeville and Paris, and street names in dozens of towns.

July 1, 1840 – English agnostic and skeptic Edward Clodd is born in Margate. Though he earned a living as a banker, Clodd was an anthropologist and early proponent of Darwin’s theory of evolution. He was chairman of the Rationalist Press Associate and wrote numerous books on science, religion and spiritualism.

July 1, 1858 – Papers on natural selection by Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace are read in a joint presentation to the Linnean Society of London.

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Listen tonight on WRFG

If all goes as planned tonight, I (John C. Snider) will be one of the guests (along with Skepticality’s Derek Colanduno) on the Fifth Tuesday Series on WRFG 89.3 FM in Atlanta, Georgia. We’ll be discussing “freethought and non-belief,” although I don’t know much beyond that.

Tune in (or live stream at WRFG.org). The show includes listener call-in. Should be fun.

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June 30 in freethought history…

oxforddebatepmonumentJune 30, 1860 – Biologist Thomas “Darwin’s Bulldog” Huxley and Bishop Samuel “Soapy Sam” Wilberforce exchange jibes during a discussion on evolution at the Oxford University Museum in Oxford, England. No direct transcript of the conversation exists, but it was noted by several diarists and has become the stuff of legend. Darwin himself was not present, but his Origin of Species had only recently been published, and had met with great pushback from the clergy. Accounts vary on exactly what was said, but the general thrust was that Wilberforce asked Huxley if he descended from apes on his mother’s or his father’s side, to which Huxley replied he would rather be descended from an ape than from a man who would use his gifts to obscure the truth. Oh, snap.

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June 29 in freethought history…

thomashuxleyJune 29, 1895 – English biologist Thomas Huxley dies, aged 70. Huxley’s work in comparative anatomy led to his conclusion (widely accepted by scientists today) that birds evolved from dinosaurs. Huxley was an energetic advocate for colleague Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection, earning the nickname “Darwin’s Bulldog.” He also coined the term “agnostic.”

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June 28 in freethought history…

June 28, 1971 – The US Supreme Court rules in Lemon v Kurtzman that a state may not reimburse private schools for private teachers’ salaries. More generally, and more importantly, the opinion establishes the Lemon Test; to wit, government action must have a secular purpose, must neither advance nor prohibit religion, and must not result in excessive entanglement with religion.

secularwomanJune 28, 2012Secular Woman, a non-profit organization whose mission is “to amplify the voice, presence, and influence of non-religious women” is founded in Georgia.

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Podcast #227 – Murder at Mother Emanuel

emanuelameWe discuss the issues surrounding the recent massacre by a racist terrorist of nine black worshippers at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, including race, religion, politics, gun control and the Confederate flag.


Do you watch Orange Is the New Black? Apparently the lead character has come out as a fan of science, Hitchens and all that jazz.

To listen to this episode click here.

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June 27 in freethought history…

smithsonplaqueJune 27, 1829 – Englishman James Smithson dies in Genoa, Italy, aged 63. Born Jacques-Louis Macie in 1765 in Paris, he was the illegitimate son of Hugh Smithson (a.k.a. Sir Hugh Percy, 1st Duke of Northumberland). Well-educated and well-traveled, Smithson was an avid naturalist and scientist, whose published research included a paper disputing that the fossil contents of Kirkdale Cave in England were the result of Noah’s Flood. Smithson bequeathed his estate, library and scientific collections (valued then at over $500,000) to “the United States of America, to found at Washington, under the name of the Smithsonian Institution, an establishment for the increase and diffusion of knowledge.” Smithson never set foot in America.

June 27, 1869 – Anarchist and atheist activist Emma Goldman is born in the Russian Empire. She emigrated to American in 1885. She wrote, “The philosophy of Atheism represents a concept of life without any metaphysical Beyond or Divine Regulator. It is the concept of an actual, real world with its liberating, expanding and beautifying possibilities, as against an unreal world, which, with its spirits, oracles, and mean contentment has kept humanity in helpless degradation.” Her incendiary rhetoric and advocacy of violence led to multiple arrests and eventual deportation from the United States in 1919. She died in exile in 1940. Her freespirited personality contrasted with her harsh public persona, giving birth to the apocryphal quote, “If there won’t be dancing at the revolution, I’m not coming.”

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