April 6, 1697 – The first documented use of the term “freethinker” is found in a letter from Irish scientist and political writer William Molyneux to English philosopher John Locke. Molyneux refers to fellow Irishman John Toland as “a candid free-thinker and a good scholar.” Toland was the author of several extremely controversial books, including Christianity Not Mysterious, in which he argued that faith claims could be analyzed rationally using natural principles.
April 6, 1970 – The Supreme Court of the United States dismisses O’Hair v Paine (in which atheist firebrand Madalyn Murray O’Hair sued NASA for allowing the Apollo 8 astronauts to read from the Book of Genesis during a Christmas Eve broadcast while orbiting the moon) “for want of jurisdiction.”
April 6, 1992 – Science fiction legend Isaac Asimov dies in Brooklyn, New York, aged 72. The incredibly prolific Asimov authored hundreds of books (novels and popular nonfiction works on such varied topics as science, history and religion) and innumerable short stories and essays. His now-classic works include the collection I, Robot; the Foundation trilogy (with later prequels and sequels); the Robot series (The Caves of Steel, The Naked Sun, etc.); and short stories “The Last Question” and “Nightfall.” Asimov was a lifelong atheist, humanist and rationalist. The American Humanist Society named him Humanist of the Year in 1984.
April 6, 2009 – President Barack Obama, during a joint press conference in AnkaraÂ with the Turkish president, says that while America has a large Christian population, “we do notÂ consider ourselves a Christian nation or a Jewish nation or a Muslim nation. We consider ourselves a nation of citizens who are bound by ideals and a set of values.” Obama went on to compare the US and Turkey as secular countries that respect religious freedom and rule of law. Needless to say, the American conservative outrage machine kicked into high gear, criticizing Obama both for his comments and the fact that they were uttered on foreign soil.