August 2 in freethought history…

williamtyndallAugust 2, 1820 – Irish physicist John Tyndall is born. He was also a science popularizer who vigorously promoted the separation of science and religion, in direct contradiction to contemporary Roman Catholic teaching. In response to the observation that, in his time, there were few Irish scientists of note, he responded that this “is the complaint of free and cultivated minds wherever a Priesthood exercises dominant power.”

August 2, 1922 – Scottish inventor Alexander Graham Bell dies in Nova Scotia, Canada. Bell was most famous for inventing the first practical telephone, and for founding the telecommunications company that still bears his name. Although not outspoken on his religious beliefs, Bell confided that he had always considered himself an agnostic.

August 2, 1924 – Novelist, playwright and social activist James Baldwin is born in Harlem, New York. He is best known for his first novel Go Tell It on the Mountain. His relationship with religion was ambivalent: when asked by Malcolm X about his religious identity, he replied, “Nothing.” Nontheless, Baldwin saw the use of religion in shaping social justice. “If the concept of God has any validity or any use,” he wrote, “it can only be to make us larger, freer, and more loving. If God cannot do this, then it is time we got rid of him.”

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