March 17 in freethought history…

March 17, 1906 – Anarchist and atheist Johann Joseph Most dies in Cincinnati, Ohio, aged 60. 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.”

March 17, 1947 – American novelist and short story writer James Morrow is born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Morrow’s satirical works, generally categorizable as science fiction and fantasy, often include complex philosophical and theological themes. His novels include the “Godhead Trilogy” (Towing Jehovah, Blameless in Abaddon, and The Eternal Footman), as well as The Wine of Violence, Continent of Lies, This Is the Way the World Ends, Only Begotten Daughter, The Last Witchfinder, The Philosopher’s Apprentice and Galapagos Regained. His short fiction has been collected at least three times, including Bible Stories for Adults, Cat’s Pajamas & Other Stories and Reality by Other Means. He has won numerous awards and honors, including a Nebula Award and two World Fantasy Awards.

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