Freethought of the Day

Would you like to start your day on a freethought note? "Freethought of the Day" is a daily freethought calendar brought to you courtesy of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, highlighting birthdates, quotes, and other historic tidbits.

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There are 3 entries for this date: George Santayana , Ludwig van Beethoven and Arthur C. Clarke
George Santayana

George Santayana

On this date in 1863, philosopher George Santayana was born in Madrid, Spain, where he was schooled in Roman Catholicism before immigrating with his parents to the United States at age nine in 1872. Santayana earned a Ph.D in philosophy at Harvard University in 1886 and joined the faculty from 1889 until 1912. His first book was Sonnets and Other Verses (1894), followed by his eloquent philosophical works: The Sense of Beauty (1896), The Life of Reason (1905-6), Skepticism and Animal Faith (1923), and the 4-volume The Realms of Being (1927-1940). Santayana wrote one novel, The Last Puritan (1935), which proved popular. His final work was Domination and Power (1951). He resigned from Harvard to travel abroad and never returned to the United States. He lived a secluded life and died in Rome at age 88. "My atheism, like that of Spinoza, is true piety toward the universe and denies only gods fashioned by men in their own image, to be servants of their human interests." "On My Friendly Critics," Soliloquies in England (1922). "We should have to abandon our vested illusions, our irrational religions and patriotisms," he wrote in The Life of Reason: Reason in Art (1906). "The fact of having been born is a bad augury for immortality," Santayana quipped in The Life of Reason. "Wisdom comes from disillusionment," he wrote in Reason in Common Sense. He sagely observed in Reason in Religion: "What religion a man shall have is a historical accident, quite as much as what language he shall speak." "That fear first created the gods is perhaps as true as anything so brief could be on so great a subject," he wrote in Reason and Common Sense. D. 1952.

"No religion has ever given a picture of deity which men could have imitated without the grossest immorality."

—George Santayana, Little Essays, No. 24, "Pathetic Notions of God"

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

Ludwig van Beethoven

Ludwig van Beethoven

On this date in 1770, composer Ludwig van Beethoven was born in Bonn, Germany, into a Roman Catholic family. After working as an assistant organist, he studied in Vienna under Haydn. Beethoven was an admirer of Goethe who rejected Christianity in favor of a pantheistic viewpoint. When his friend Moscheles returned a manuscript to Beethoven with the words "With God's help" on it, Beethoven reportedly wrote instead: "Man, help thyself." (Cited in A Biographical Dictionary of Modern Rationalists by Joseph McCabe.) Biographer and friend A. Schindler wrote that Beethoven was "inclined to Deism." Although he received Catholic ministrations at the insistence of religious friends, Beethoven reportedly said in Latin, after the priest left: "Applaud, friends; the comedy is over." (Nohl, Beethoven's Brevier, 1870). In his Imperial Dictionary of Universal Biography, Sir G. MacFarren described Beethoven as "a free thinker." According to McCabe, the Catholic Encyclopedia chose to omit Beethoven. "Ode to Joy," in his 9th Symphony, sets to music the humanistic words of Schiller. D. 1827.

“There is no record of his ever attending church service or observing the orthodoxy of his religion. He never went to confession. . . . Generally he viewed priests with mistrust.”

—George Marek, Beethoven: Biography of a Genius (1969), cited by James Haught in 2,000 Years of Disbelief

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

Arthur C. Clarke

On this date in 1917, science fiction writer and inventor Arthur C. Clarke was born in Minehead, Somerset, England. A stargazer as a boy, he could not afford to attend university. He became a radar specialist for the Royal Air Force during World War II. Clarke earned a first-class degree in math and physics in 1948 at King's College, London. He was the first to propose, in a technical paper in 1945, that geostationary satellites could make telecommunication relays, which later won him the 1982 Marconi International Fellowship and many other honors. After selling science fiction throughout the 1940s, Clarke was writing fulltime by 1951. In 1954, Clarke suggested satellite applications for weather forecasting to the U.S. Weather Bureau. He turned from the stars to underwater exploration, concentrating on the coast of Sri Lanka, where he has lived since 1956.

His most famous work was the screenplay for the 1968 film, 2001: A Space Odyssey. Clarke has served as chair of the British Interplanetary Society. His TV programs included "Arthur C. Clarke's Mysterious World" (1981) and "Arthur C. Clarke's World of Strange Powers" (1984). He co-broadcast Apollo 11, 12 and 15 missions with Walter Cronkite and CBS News. He had been wheelchair-bound since 1988 with post-polio syndrome. A lifelong nonbeliever, he refused to accept the "Church of England" affiliation put on his dogtag by the RAF, and insisted they change it to "pantheist." He told London Times reporter Mark Nuttal (Aug. 4, 1992): "I remain an aggressive agnostic." He had mused that Lucretius "hit it on the nail when he said that religion was the by-product of fear--a reaction to a mysterious and often hostile universe. For much of human prehistory, it may have been a necessary evil--but why was it so much more evil than necessary--and why did it survive when it was no longer necessary?" (Cited in Who's Who in Hell by Warren Allen Smith). In 2000, Clarke was knighted. Before his death at age 90, Clarke made written instructions that his funeral be entirely secular: "Absolutely no religious rites of any kind, relating to any religious faith, should be associated with my funeral." D. 2008.

“Religion is the most malevolent of all mind viruses. We should get rid of it as quick as we can.”

—Author Arthur C. Clarke, Popular Science, Aug. 2004

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

Freethought of the Day

Would you like to start your day on a freethought note? "Freethought of the Day" is a daily freethought calendar brought to you courtesy of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, highlighting birthdates, quotes, and other historic tidbits.

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