October 10 in freethought history…

October 10, 732 – Frankish forces under Charles Martel defeat the Islamic invasion of France at the Battle of Tours. The battle marked the “high tide” of Islamic power in Western Europe (of course, it was not until 1492 that the Spanish pushed the Muslims completely out of the Iberian peninsula). Had the Franks lost the battle, Islamic armies might well have conquered the rest of Europe. In his magnum opus The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Edward Gibbons wryly noted, “Perhaps the interpretation of the Koran would now be taught in the schools of Oxford, and her pulpits might demonstrate to a circumcised people the sanctity and truth of the revelation of Mahomet.”

juliasweeneyOctober 10, 1959 – Comedian and monologist Julia Sweeney is born in Spokane, Washington. She is best known for her 1990-1994 stint on Saturday Night Live. Since her time at SNL, she has received widespread acclaim for her one-woman shows, which include God Said Ha! (about her and her brother’s simultaneous struggles with cancer) and In the Family Way (about her experience adopting a daughter from China). Her show Letting Go of God, a deeply personal account of her struggle to find (and ultimately abandon) religion, has become a touchstone for a generation of atheists.

October 10, 2014 – Sixteen-year-old activist Malala Yousafzai is awared the Nobel Peace Prize for her efforts to ensure the education of girls in Pakistan despite objection from religious zealots. Just two years before, she had been shot in the head by a Taliban gunman. She recovered from her wounds, moved with her family to the United Kingdom, and continues her education and her activism.

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