August 19 in freethought history…

generoddenberryAugust 19, 1921 – Television screenwriter and producer Gene Roddenberry is born in El Paso, Texas. Roddenberry’s Star Trek (which aired from 1966 to 1969) presented a near-utopian 23rd century Earth: enlightened, progressive, free of racial hatred and almost devoid of religion. Star Trek has gone on to become one of the most successful entertainment franchises in history, thus far spawning six television series, thirteen feature films, and countless comics, books, toys and other merchandise. In a 1991 interview Roddenberry said that from a fairly early age “it was clear to me that religion was largely nonsense, largely magical, superstitious things.” His advice on dealing with religious people: “If people need religion, ignore them and maybe they will ignore you and you can go on with your life.” Roddenberry died in 1991, aged 70.

August 19, 1994 – Chemist and peace activist Linus Pauling dies in Big Sur, California, aged 93. He is widely considered one of the greatest scientists in history, making contributions in quantum chemistry, organic and inorganic chemistry, and molecular biology. After World War II he became concerned about the destructive potential of nuclear weapons, urging against nuclear testing and against war itself. Pauling won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1954 and the Nobel Peace Prize in 1961, making him the only person in history to have won two unshared Nobel Prizes. In his later years he promoted questionable alternative medical practices and vitamin therapies. Pauling was a longtime Unitarian and was named Humanist of the Year in 1961 by the American Humanist Association.

August 19, 2006 – Indian atheist Saraswathi Gora dies, aged 93. At the age of ten (in accordance with brahmin tradition) she was married to Goparaju Ramachandra Rao (“Gora”). They would go on to be two of India’s most influential atheist and social activists, campaigning against superstition and the caste system, and founding the Atheist Centre in 1940.

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