April 22 in freethought history…

April 22, 1864 – The US Congress passes the Coinage Act of 1864, changing the composition of the one-cent coin and authorizing the production of a new two-cent coin featuring the phrase “In God We Trust”–the first time such wording appeared on American coinage.

April 22, 1946 – American filmmaker John Waters is born in Baltimore, Maryland. He is best known for transgressive cult films like Pink Flamingos, Polyester and Hairspray. An icon of gay culture himself, he is an avid supporter of gay rights and critic of the Catholic Church’s policies. In a recent interview, he said, “The Catholic Church is my enemy and I’m proud to be a Catholic-basher because they are against women and gay people; they’re against gay marriage, abortion, they are against everything that I am for and they are quite militant in trying to stop everyone else.”

April 22, 2004 – Former professional football player Pat Tillman, who became a US Army Ranger in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, is killed at the age of 27 in a friendly fire incident in Afghanistan. Due to Tillman’s celebrity, the military was under increased scrutiny to determine exactly how the incident occurred and why. The situation was complicated by Tillman’s criticism of the US invasion of Iraq, and his avowed atheism. Lt. Col. Ralph Kauzlarich, who headed the initial investigation into the incident, sparked controvery with his dismissive remarks about the Tillman family’s atheism: “I don’t know, these people have a hard time letting it go. It may be because of their [lack of] religious beliefs… When you die, I mean, there is supposedly a better life, right? Well, if you are an atheist and you don’t believe in anything, if you die, what is there to go to? Nothing. You are worm dirt. So for their son to die for nothing, and now he is no more – that is pretty hard to get your head around that. So I don’t know how an atheist thinks. I can only imagine that that would be pretty tough.” At Tillman’s memorial, his brother Richard offered this rough summary of Tillman’s beliefs: “Just make no mistake, he’d want me to say this: He’s not with God, he’s fuckin’ dead—he’s not religious. Thanks for your thoughts, but he’s fuckin’ dead.”

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