February 21 in freethought history…

spinozaFebruary 21, 1677 - Philosopher Baruch Spinoza dies in The Hague, Netherlands, aged 44. A lens-grinder by trade, he is best known for his magnum opus Ethics. In 1656, he was excommunicated by the Jewish elders of Amsterdam for “abominable heresies” (which included equating purposeless Nature with God, denying that Jews are the chosen people, and denying the divine origins of Jewish scripture).

February 21, 2003 – The talk show Real Time with Bill Maher premieres on the cable television network HBO. Maher (an outspoken atheist who expresses questionable views on vaccines and alternative medicine) had his previous show Politically Incorrect cancelled in 2002 by ABC after he agreed with conservative pundit Dinesh D’Souza that the 9/11 perpetrators were not cowards, adding, “We have been the cowards, lobbing cruise missiles from 2,000 miles away, that’s cowardly.” Without advertisers to contend with at HBO, Maher is freer to make controversial comments, and Real Time has thrived.

February 21, 2006 – Psychiatrist and Syrian expatriate Wafa Sultan engages in a heated exchange on the Al Jazeera discussion program The Opposite Direction, which goes viral on the internet. Speaking from Los Angeles, Sultan (a self-declared Muslim apostate) argued with the host and an Egyptian Islamic scholar over Samuel P. Huntington’s “Clash of Civilizations” theory, sharply criticizing Islam and Islamic culture as medieval, backward, ignorant, misogynistic and oppressive. Since then, Sultan has become prominent in certain feminist and anti-Islamic circles, and has written a book titled A God Who Hates, in which she provides a brief autobiographic and lays out her case against Islam. Read the entire transcript here.


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