February 26 in freethought history…

christophermarloweFebruary 26, 1564 – The infant Christopher Marlowe (birthdate uncertain) is baptized in Canterbury, England. A renowned playwright and poet who greatly influenced his contemporary William Shakespeare (they were born the same year), Marlowe is best known for his plays, which include Doctor Faustus, based on the German story of a learned man who makes a tragic bargain with Lucifer. The details of Marlowe’s early death in May 1593 are murky. He was arrested by Queen Elizabeth I’s Privy Council in connection with a “heretical tract” found in the possession of a colleague. While he was awaiting his hearing with the Council, he was stabbed and killed. Many theories have been offered in the ensuing years, many of them claiming that Marlowe’s murder was a result (at least in part) of his atheism.

February 26, 1966 - Indian independence activist Vinayak Damodar Savarkar dies in Bombay, India, aged 82. He voluntarily fasted to death shortly after the death of his wife. An atheist who favored abolishing the caste system and dismissed cow-worship as superstition, he nonetheless promoted hindutva (“that Hindu identity is inseparable from Indian identity”) as a way to unite Indians in their struggle for independence. Savarkar’s advocacy of armed revolution clashed with Gandhi’s pacifism. Savarkar believed that Muslims and other minorities had conflicted loyalties, opposed the Partition of India in 1947, and was charged (but ultimately acquitted) in connection with Gandhi’s assassination in 1948. Today’s resurgent Indian conservatives venerate Savarkar, threatening marginalization of minorities.

February 26, 2015 – Bangladeshi blogger and freethought activist Avijit Roy is hacked to death by Islamic extremists in Dhaka, Bangladesh. He was the founder of the website mukto-mona.com, intended to serve freethinkers and fellow travelers.

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