February 5 in freethought history…

February 5, 1846 – Anarchist and atheist Johann Joseph Most is born in Augsburg, Bavaria. His upbringing was impoverished and traumatic–as a child he developed frostbite on his left cheek, which led to an infection and other complications. The resulting surgery left him so disfigured that throughout his adult life Most wore a long, thatchy beard to hide it. He espoused Marxist causes, and eventually embraced anarchism, even promoting “propaganda of the deed”; essentially a put-your-money-where-your-mouth-is brand of terrorism that emphasized violence and disruption over political action. Indeed, he literally wrote the book on bomb-making: for decades, his pamphlet “The Science of Revolutionary Warfare” was essential reading for violent malcontents. For his efforts, Most was imprisoned or expelled from Germany, France and the United Kingdom before emigrating to the United States, where he published and lectured, inspiring thousands of anarchists, including Emma Goldman and Alexander Berkman. (He later had a falling-out with Goldman and Berkman, which led to an infamous on-stage confrontation with Goldman, who attacked Most with a horsewhip.) Most also advocated atheism, publishing a pamphlet called “The God Pestilence.” He died in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1906, aged 60.

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