August 11, 1833Â -Â American politician, attorney and freethought lecturer Robert Green Ingersoll is born in Dresden, NY. 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.”Ingersoll diedÂ in Dobbs Ferry, New York, in 1899, aged 65.
August 11, 1919 – Capitalist and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie dies in Lennox, Massachusetts, aged 83. Born in Scotland in 1835, he came to the United States with his family in 1848. He eventually became one of the most wealthy men in history (making his money in the steel industry), but is best remembered for the establishment of countless public libraries and numerousÂ philanthropic organizations (many still in existence) that bear his name. On religion, Carnegie had this to say in a private letter:Â â€œThe whole scheme of Christian Salvation is diabolical as revealed by the creeds. An angry God, imagine such a creator of the universe. Angry at what he knew was coming and was himself responsible for. Then he sets himself about to beget a son, in order that the child should beg him to forgive the Sinner. This however he cannot or will not do. He must punish somebody–so the son offers himself up & our creator punishes the innocent youth, never heard of before–for the guilty and became reconciled to us… I decline to accept Salvation from such a fiend.â€
August 11, 2004 – Sam Harris’s first nonfiction book The End of Faith is published by W. W. Norton.
August 11, 2004 – Bangladeshi novelist, poetÂ and essayist Humayun Azad is found dead in his apartment in Munich, Germany, aged 57. A humanist and a freethinker, he was targeted by religious fundamentalists in his home country, and in February 2004 was gravely wounded by machete-weilding assailants. Although Azad had largely recovered from his wounds, many believe his death was ultimately the result of the earlier attack.
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