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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Kate Greenaway

Kate Greenaway

On this date in 1846, Kate Greenaway was born in Great Britain. Her father was an engraver for Punch and her mother a seamstress. Kate attended a school of art as a teenager, then the newly opened Slade School, where, as a female student, she was barred from life drawing classes involving nude models. She exhibited her first illustration in 1868. Her delicate watercolors of children wearing simple, timeless frocks, landscapes and flowers are classics that are still instantly recognizable today. Greenaway's oft-reprinted books include Illustrated Mother Goose (1881), the picture book Under the Window (1877), the Birthday Book, and The Language of Flowers (1884). Her watercolors were exhibited at the Royal Academy from 1877 onward. Kate corresponded for 20 years with art critic John Ruskin. She was skeptical of religious claims. Kate Greenaway died of breast cancer in 1901. The British Library Association inaugurated a Kate Greenaway Medal given to the best illustrator of children's books. D. 1901.

“[It is] strange beyond anything I can think to be able to believe in any of the known religions.”

—Kate Greenaway, letter, quoted by M.H. Spielmann and G.L. Layard in their biography, Kate Greenaway, 1905

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

Moncure Daniel Conway

Moncure Daniel Conway

On this date in 1832, Moncure Daniel Conway was born into a conservative, pro-slavery Virginia family. Becoming a Methodist minister at an early age, Conway soon gravitated toward Unitarianism. He graduated from Harvard Divinity School in 1854 as a Unitarian minister. Conway was much influenced by his "spiritual father," Ralph Waldo Emerson, and abolitionist Theodore Parker. By 1862, Conway, whose liberality had alienated his congregations, dropped Unitarianism. Conway helped about 30 of his father's slaves escape to freedom at the start of the Civil War. After embarking on an abolitionist speaking tour abroad, Conway was offered a position in 1863 at the South Place Chapel in London, an independent and increasingly freethinking congregation. Under Conway's tutelage, the chapel became an open-minded hub of new ideas, showcasing the day's newsmakers and intelligensia.

Conway, who had become an agnostic, is known for his Life of Paine (1892), the first major positive biography about the revolutionary. Conway researched and wrote other biographies, including one on Hawthorne. He also edited a four-volume edition of Paine's works and wrote several other books, such as Demonology and Devil Lore (1879). Conway, who had returned to America when his wife was dying, became an expatriate in Paris following his disgust with the U.S. war against Spain. (Theodore Roosevelt had even invited arch-critic Conway to join the Spanish.) Conway completed his autobiography in 1904. When the South Place Ethical Society built its new facilities in Red Lion Square, London, in 1929, it named the building "Conway Hall." Regular meetings are still held at Conway Hall every Sunday. Its library is adorned with portraits of freethinkers, including many of Conway. D. 1907.

“Sunday was a day of just so much external restraint as public opinion absolutely demanded. I learned at last, as I came to be about seventeen, that my father was an entire freethinker, as much as I am now. It shocked me much, because he never taught me anything, allowed me to pick up religion from any one around me, and then scolded me because I embraced beliefs which he knew must condemn him. I think this neglect to be honest with children is a terrible evil. I have lost years of thought, and wandered wide and done such unwise conceited things, and encountered risks for soul and body, all of which might have been obviated by his frank teaching.”
 

—Moncure Daniel Conway, Autobiography (1904)

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

Marie Jeanne Roland de la Platiere

On this date in 1754, revolutionary Marie Jeanne Roland de la Platiere was born in France as Manon Jeanne Philipon. Reading by the age of four, she read so widely of Rationalists that she lost her faith. An ardent admirer of Montesquieu, Voltaire and Rousseau, she gave up her early ambition to join a convent and rejected Roman Catholicism. Marie Jeanne married fellow rationalist Jean Marie Roland de la Platiere in 1780 . When they moved to Paris their home became a hub of the Girondists of the Revolution, and she became the famed "Mme. Roland." She wrote political articles for such journals as Courrier de Lyon. When the Rolands spoke out against the excesses of the Revolution, Robespierre had her imprisoned. During her 5-month detention, she penned her Memoirs and tried to assist prisoners at the jail for prostitutes where she had been placed. Upon glimpsing a statue embodying "liberty" at her execution site, Mme. Roland famously said: "O Liberte, que de crimes on commet en ton nom!" ("O Liberty, what crimes are committed in thy name.") Her husband, who had evaded arrest, committed suicide upon hearing of her death. D. 1793.

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

Alexander McQueen

Alexander McQueen

On this date in 1969, fashion designer Alexander McQueen was born in London's East End, the son of a taxi driver. He dropped out of school at 16 to apprentice himself to Savile Row tailors, worked for Romeo Gigli and Koji Tatsuno, then completed his Master's at Central St. Martins College of Art and Design in 1991. McQueen soon introduced his own label, and was named chief designer at Givenchy in 1996. McQueen won "Best British Designer" awards several years. Among his famous clients was Kate Winslet, for whom he designed her "Titanic" dress. At age 40, McQueen was found dead in his London home. D. 2010.

“ . . . I'm an atheist and an anti-royalist, so why would I put anyone on a pedestal?”

—Alexander McQueen, interviewed by (his client) David Bowie, Dazed & Confused, November 1996

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

Patrick Duffy

Patrick Duffy

On this date in 1949, actor Patrick Duffy was born in Montana and moved at age 12 with his family to Seattle. Duffy graduated from the University of Washington, attending the Professional Actors Training Program. An athlete, he taught mime for a while, while seeking acting jobs. His wife Carlyn, a ballet dancer whom he married in a Buddhist temple in 1974, introduced Duffy to Buddhism. His most famous acting role is as "Bobby Ewing" (the nice son) in the hit TV series, "Dallas" (1978-1985, 1986-1991). He and his wife have two sons, both college graduates. Duffy's parents were tragically murdered in 1986 during an armed robbery of their tavern in Montana. Duffy's acting career, largely in TV, has rarely been on hiatus.

“And it [Buddhism] deals with the fact, in essence, you know, come right out and say it, that there is no God, that the individual is God.”

—Patrick Duffy, on Bill Maher's ABC talkshow, Politically Incorrect, July 19, 1999

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

Robert Blatchford

Robert Blatchford

On this date in 1851, Robert Peel Glanville Blatchford was born in Maidstone, England. Blatchford was raised by his actress mother after his father's death. At age 20, he joined the army, which he served in for six years, attaining the rank of sergeant after a year and a half. He was deeply influenced by his military service, and would go on to write several books drawn from this experience, most famously My Life in the Army (1910). After leaving the service, Blatchford married Sarah Crossley. In 1883, he began writing for newspapers around Manchester, where they settled. In 1885, he moved to London to become a full-time journalist, using the pen name “Nunquam Dormio” (Latin for “I never sleep”), which he would continue to use throughout his life, sometimes shortening it to merely “Nunquam.” Blatchford became attracted to socialist ideas while reporting on conditions in Ireland and the slums of Manchester. In 1891, he became one of the founders of a socialist newspaper, The Clarion, for many years the primary popularizer of English socialism. Blatchford's first popular book, Merrie England, an influential explication of socialist principles, was published in 1893. In that same year, Blatchford was involved in the foundation of the Independent Labour Party, a forerunner of the modern Labour Party in the United Kingdom, despite his distrust of electoral and party politics. He continued, throughout his life, to write many books as well as essays for various newspapers, including an autobiography, My Eighty Years, published in 1931.

In 1903, Blatchford wrote God and My Neighbor, a critique of religion, especially Christianity. In this work (the “Apology” of an “Infidel,” according to the book's introduction), he critiques Christianity as it is practiced, questions the veracity of scripture, and highlights those portions of the bible which are in fact morally problematic. In addition, he traces the roots of Christianity into more ancient religions, and focuses on the problem of revelation quite extensively. Responding to the (at the time) new idea that the bible was an allegory, Blatchford responded, “It would be just as easy and just as reasonable to take the Morte d'Arthur and try to prove that it contained a veiled revelation of God's relations to man.” Blatchford did not see this work as separate from his larger intellectual project; he described it as “part of a defence of the unfortunate against hatred and injustice” (quoted in Robert Blatchford: Portrait of an Englishman by Laurence Thompson, 1951). God and My Neighbor sparked a major debate, with many articles and books written in response to it and condemnations from the pulpit continuing for two years after its publication. Later in life, Blatchford abandoned his earlier materialist views after the death of his wife in 1921; unable to believe that she was really gone, he turned to spiritualism, while continuing to reject Christianity and other revealed religions. His contributions to freethought in the early twentieth century, however, remained; and God and My Neighbor was still in print after Blatchford had backed away from its strongest claims. D. 1943.

"I cannot believe that any religion has been revealed to Man by God. Because a revealed religion would be perfect, but no known religion is perfect; and because history and science show us that known religions have not been revealed but have been evolved from other traditions."

—Robert Blatchford, God and My Neighbor (1903)

Compiled by Eleanor Wroblewski

© 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.

If you would like to be placed on the "Daily Freethought" e-mail list to automatically receive the calendar notice, log in and edit your email settings (My Membership). Or, email  and include your first and last name with your request for verification purposes. This email service is limited to members of the Freedom From Religion Foundation or subscribers to Freethought Today. To become an FFRF member, click here.


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