March 19 in freethought history…

richardfrancisburtonMarch 19, 1821 - British explorer, linguist, translator and writer Richard Francis Burton is born in Torquay, England. His achievements were legion, including a thoroughly documented pilgrimage in disguise to Mecca, a complete translation of One Thousand and One Nights, and extensive explorations in Africa. Of religions, Burton said, “The more I study religions the more I am convinced that man never worshipped anything but himself.” Burton died in 1890, aged 69.

March 19, 2008 - Futurist and science fiction writer Sir Arthur C. Clarke dies in Colombo, Sri Lanka, aged 90. His novels include such classics as Childhood’s End, Rendezvous with Rama, The Fountains of Paradise and 2001: A Space Odyssey (for which he also co-wrote the screenplay with film director Stanley Kubrick). An atheist and supporter of humanist causes, Clarke’s short stories nonetheless often featured thoughtful religious or spiritual themes; e.g. “The Star” (in which interstellar explorers discover that the Star of Bethlehem was a supernova that destroyed an ancient, advanced civilization) and “The Nine Billion Names of God” (in which Western computer scientists help Tibetan monks list all the names of God, thereby unwittingly bringing about the end of the world). Clarke is also widely credited with “inventing” the geostationary satellite, although it’s more accurate to say that he was a key figure in defining and popularizing the concept.

March 19, 2012 – In an interview published by Huffington Post, former president Jimmy Carter, a devout evangelical Christian, asserts that the Bible, although inspired by God, is imperfect and scientifically inaccurate. Carter also defended equality of the sexes and respect for homosexuals as consistent with the spirit, if not the letter, of the Bible. Carter’s comments were vehemently condemned by a great many fellow Christians, who believe the Bible is scientifically, historically and morally inerrant.

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