May 6 in freethought history…

thoreauMay 6, 1862 - Philosopher and social reformer Henry David Thoreau dies in Concord, Massachusetts, aged 44. He is best known for his memoir Walden; or, Life in the Woods (a call for simplicity, thoughful living, and closeness to nature) and his essay “Civil Disobedience” (which influenced later reformers including Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr.). Thoreau was interested in Eastern spiritualism and was critical of the organized religion of his time: “The church is a sort of hospital for men’s souls and as full of quackery as the hospital for their bodies.”

May 6, 1961 – Actor and activist George Clooney is born in Lexington, Kentucky. (agnostic). Although raised Catholic, Clooney’s views can best be described as agnostic and humanistic: “I don’t believe in Heaven and Hell. I don’t know if I believe in God. All I know is that as an individual, I won’t allow this life — the only thing I know to exist — to be wasted.”

May 6, 1962 – Cosmonaut Gherman Titov (1935-2000) stirs controversy at the Seattle World’s Fair with his comments about God. Titov (the second man–after Yuri Gagarin–to orbit the Earth and the fourth man to travel to space), by all accounts polite and personable, spoke soberly of his grim childhood during World War II, and his desire that the coming generation avoid the horrors of war. He raised eyebrows, however, when he said of his trip to space, “Sometimes people are saying that God is out there. I was looking around attentively all day but I didn’t find anybody there. I saw neither angels nor God… Up until the orbital flight of Major Gagarin, no god was helping make the rocket. The rocket was made certainly by our people and the flight was carried out by man. So I don’t believe in God. I believe in man — in his strengths, his possibilities, and his reason.”

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