May 20 in freethought history…

ronreaganMay 20, 1958 - Radio talk show host and political commentator Ron Reagan is born in Los Angeles, California. He is best known for the fact that his liberal political views contrasted sharply with the conservatism of his parents, the late President Ronald Reagan and First Lady Nancy Reagan. He outed himself as an atheist at twelve and has generally applied that label to himself since. In 2014 he shot a television ad for the Freedom for Religion Foundation, describing himself as “an unabashed atheist” and urged citizens to support separation of church and state.

May 20, 2002 - Paleontologist, evolutionary biologist and historian of science Stephen Jay Gould dies in New York City, aged 60. A prolific writer, he produced over twenty books plus hundreds of essays and peer-reviewed articles. He is perhaps most famous for coining the terms “non-overlapping magisteria” (a still-controversial assertion that science and religion address separate issues and need not be in conflict) and (with colleague Niles Eldredge) “punctuated equilibrium” (the idea that speciation can be characterized as long periods of stasis interrupted by rapid periods of mutation). Raised Jewish, Gould doubted the existence of the conventional gods, saying that Huxley’s agnosticism toward a deity was “the only honorable position because we really cannot know.”

May 20, 2010 – Protestors worldwide stage Everybody Draw M0hammad Day, organized in reaction to death threats against Trey Parker and Matt Stone, whose TV show South Park had recently included a storyline involving depictions of the Prophet Mohammed. The event sparked considerable controversy between advocates of unfettered free speech and those who simply found it disrespectful to Muslims (who generally observe a prohibition against images of the Prophet). The creator of the original cartoon proposing Everybody Draw Mohammad Day subsequently received death threats, and was forced to go into hiding, where she remained as late as 2015.

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