April 19 in freethought history…

charlesdarwin144x144April 19, 1882 - Charles Darwin dies at Down House, Kent, England, aged 73. He was the co-discoverer, with Alfred Russel Wallace, of evolution by natural selection. His books include The Voyage of the Beagle, On the Origin of Species, The Descent of Man and Expression of Emotions in Man and Animals. Evolution and the shared ancestry of all life on earth has dealt a blow to belief in divine creation (although there are hold-outs even in the 21st century). As for Darwin…he wrote in an 1880 letter: “I do not believe in the Bible as a divine revelation & therefore not in Jesus Christ as the son of God.”

April 19, 1939 - English animal rights activist Henry Stephens Salt dies, aged 87. Born in India, raised and educated in England, Salt was a pioneering advocate for vegetarianism and animal rights based on a rational understanding of humanity’s common bond with other species. He wrote numerous books, including A Plea for Vegetarianism and Animal Rights: Considered in Relation to Social Progress. In his own funeral address he wrote, “…I shall die, as I have lived, rationalist, socialist, pacifist, and humanitarian, [and] I must make my meaning clear. I wholly disbelieve in the present established religion; but I have a very firm religious faith of my own – a Creed of Kinship I call it – a belief that in years yet to come there will be a recognition of brotherhood between man and man, nation and nation, human and subhuman…” He was greatly influenced by Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Henry David Thoreau, and in turn influenced Mahatma Ghandi.

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