July 17 in freethought history…

adamsmithJuly 17, 1790 – Scottish philosopher and economist Adam Smith dies in Edinburgh, aged 67. Best known for his economic masterpiece The Wealth of Nations (published in 1776), Smith also wrote The Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759), which (among other things) maintains that human beings have an essential caring nature. “How selfish soever man may be supposed, there are evidently some principles in his nature, which interest him in the fortunes of others, and render their happiness necessary to him, though he derives nothing from it, except the pleasure of seeing it.”

July 17, 2009 – Broadcast journalist Walter Cronkite dies in New York City, aged 92. Dubbed “the most trusted man in America,” his career lasted more than half a century, including a 19-year stint as anchorman of CBS Evening News. Cronkite was sharply critical of the influence of the Religious Right, and endorsed the Interfaith Alliance (an organization that promotes “policies that protect both religion and democracy”). In an open letter published through the Alliance, Cronkite wrote: “As a concerned person of faith… I have watched with increasing alarm as Religious Right groups manipulate religion to further their intolerant, political agendas. Over the years, they have gained considerable influence at every level of government…on local school boards, in the Administration, the courts, and in Congress. They have shrewdly twisted the traditional healing role of religion into an intolerant, political platform.”

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