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 6 entries for this date: Winter Solstice , Paul Kurtz , Frank Zappa , Rebecca West , David Randolph and Paul Winchell

Winter Solstice

Winter Solstice. 

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

Paul Kurtz

Paul Kurtz

On this date in 1925, Paul Kurtz was born in Newark, N.J. He became a philosopher and self-described skeptic who was a strong advocate for science and reason over all forms of superstition. Kurtz earned his undergraduate degree from New York University in 1948, and then his master's and Ph.D in philosophy from Columbia University in 1952. He taught philosophy at the State University in New York at Buffalo for over 25 years. He wrote over 40 books and founded Prometheus Books, a publishing house, in 1969. His books include Meaning and Value in a Secular Age: Why Eupraxsophy Matters (2012), Forbidden Fruit: The Ethics of Secularism (2008), The New Skepticism: Inquiry and Reliable Knowledge (1992), and In Defense of Secular Humanism (1983). Kurtz was a leader in the humanist community. The Center for Free Inquiry, which focuses on creating a secular society based on humanism and reason, was founded by Kurtz in 1991. He was also the editor of Free Inquiry magazine, founded the Center for Inquiry Transnational, and had a hand in many other humanist organizations and publications.

Kurtz enlisted in the army to fight in WWII when he was 17. He fought in the Battle of the Bulge and witnessed two concentration camps, Buchenwald and Dachau. Kurtz married Claudine Vial in 1960, and together they had four children: Valerie, Patricia, Anne, and Jonathan. Kurtz wrote in his essay The Faith of an Empathetic Humanist, “We are not confined by our planet or solar system, but are capable of exploring galactic space. Our true identity is universal; we are not defined by the isms of the past, as Christian or Jew, Hindu or Muslim, nonbeliever or believer. Rather we are defined by our humanity.” (Paul Kurtz, The Faith of an Empathetic Humanist from paulkurtz.net). D. 2012.

“The key to understanding who and what we are is that our futures, as individuals, societies or cultures, are not fixed or pre-ordained by some hidden hand of god; that what will become of us depends in part on what we choose to become.”

—Paul Kurtz, “The Faith of an Empathetic Humanist” from paulkurtz.net

Compiled by Sarah Eucalano

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

Frank Zappa

Frank Zappa

On this date in 1940, Mothers of Invention musician Frank Zappa was born in Baltimore, and moved at age ten with his family to California. His father was a Sicilian-born meteorologist. Zappa became a rock icon as bandleader, guitarist, composer, satirist and political commentator. His children were memorably named Valley Girl Moon Unit, Dweezil, Ahmet and Diva. The London Symphony Orchestra performed "Zappa Volume One" and "Zappa Volume Two." Zappa won a Grammy for "Jazz from Hell," an instrumental album. He released more than 50 albums before his untimely death at 52 from prostate cancer. D. 1993.

“Anybody who wants religion is welcome to it, as far as I'm concerned--I support your right to enjoy it. However, I would appreciate it if you exhibited more respect for the rights of those people who do not wish to share your dogma, rapture, or necrodestination.”
"

—Frank Zappa, cited by Warren Allen Smith in Who's Who in Hell

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

Rebecca West

Rebecca West

On this date in 1892, literary giant Rebecca West (née Cecily Isabel Fairfield) was born in Ireland. She moved with her family to Edinburgh at 10. Her father was a journalist. Cecily was educated in Edinburgh at George Watson's Ladies College, where some innocently penned verses caused a scandal. In 1911 she briefly joined the staff of the feminist publication, Freewoman. She renamed herself after an Ibsen heroine from "Rosmersholm." "Rebecca West" became a lead writer for a socialist newspaper, the Clarion. At age 19, she embarked on a 10-year love affair with H.G. Wells, who was 46 and whom she had previously referred to as "the old maid among novelists." Their son Anthony was born in 1914. In 1923, West left Wells. After other love affairs, including one with Charlie Chaplin, she happily married a banker in 1930. Her noted articles included "A Reed of Steel" about Emmeline Pankhurst. Her first novel was The Return of the Soldier (1918), followed by The Judge (1922), Harriet Hume (1929), The Thinking Reed (1936), Black Lamb and Grey Falcon (1942, about Yugoslavia), The Birds Fall Down (1966) and The Fountain Overflows (1956). She covered the Nuremberg trials, and wrote A Train of Power about the case in 1955. She was made a "Dame" in 1956, and continued writing until her death at age 90. She was known for her pithy quotes, such as those cited in The New York Times obituary about her, including: ''I myself have never been able to find out precisely what feminism is: I only know that people call me a feminist whenever I express sentiments that differentiate me from a doormat or a prostitute.'' In 1928, she observed in a speech to the Fabian Society in London: ''There is one common condition for the lot of women in Western civilization and all other civilizations that we know about for certain, and that is, woman as a sex is disliked and persecuted, while as an individual she is liked, loved, and even, with reasonable luck, sometimes worshipped.'' ''I do not myself find it agreeable to be 90, and I cannot imagine why it should seem so to other people. It is not that you have any fears about your own death, it is that your upholstery is already dead around you'' (Vogue article, 1983). In the 1970s she called Richard Nixon "an example of bad form combined with Original Sin.'' D. 1983.

“I have no faith in the sense of comforting beliefs which persuade me that all my troubles are blessings in disguise. . . . Creeds pretend to explain the total universe in terms comprehensible to the human intellect, and that pretension seems to me bound to be invalid. . . .

The belief that all higher life is governed by the idea of renunciation poisons our moral life. . . . If we do not live for pleasure we will soon find ourselves living for pain. . . . ”

—Rebecca West, cited by Warren Allen Smith in Who's Who in Hell

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

David Randolph

David Randolph

On this date in 1914, brilliant composer and Lifetime Member of the Freedom From Religion Foundation David Rosenberg was born in Manhattan. (He changed his last name early in life.) The oldest conductor to conduct at Carnegie Hall, he was noted for his energy, bounding onto the stage, and his short, witty musical explanations to the audience. He held a bachelor's degree from the City College of New York and earned a master's in music education from Teachers College of Columbia University. During World War II, Randolph worked for the U.S. Office of War Information. In 1947, CBS hired him to script classical radio broadcasts. He founded a madrigal group, the Randolph Singers, which performed widely and in 1948, he married its alto, Mildred Greenberg. His sonorous baritone was known to listeners of a weekly classical music program, “Music for the Connoisseur,” on WNYC in New York, later called “The David Randolph Concerts.” The show ran for more than 30 years in New York City and on stations throughout the country, starting in 1946. He wrote the well-received This is Music: A Guide to the Pleasure of Listening (1964).

The New York Times published a lengthy obituary (May 15, 2010) noting that Randolph’s performances of Handel’s “Messiah” (at least 170 full performances with two different choruses) were a mainstay of New York’s holiday season. “Mr. Randolph’s hands were light and fast, and his ‘Messiah’ was known for crispness and fleetness,” noted The Times. Randolph remarked at a luncheon in his honor in New York City, hosted by FFRF Co-Presidents Dan Barker and Annie Laurie Gaylor: “A couple of months ago I had the pleasure of appearing on the Freethought Radio program with Dan and Annie Laurie, and Annie Laurie said to me, ‘How can you as an atheist conduct Handel’s Messiah?’ My answer was this: Suppose Dan were engaged as an actor to play the role of Iago in Shakespeare’s ‘Othello,’ admittedly one of the most vicious and horrible people in the world. Would he be able to do it? Yes. Does he have to be vicious and horrible? No, not at all” (April 19, 2009). "There was no such thing as 'religious' music, Randolph felt . . . there was only music put to different uses, in different contexts," wrote Oliver Sacks, discussing his friend David Randolph. "He would mention [this] when conducting his favorite Requiem Masses by Brahms, Verdi or Berlioz — all of whom, he would remind the audience, were atheists (as he himself was). The religious imagination, he felt, was a most precious part of the human spirit, but he was convinced that it did not require particular religious beliefs, or indeed any religious belief" (a tribute to Randolph in The Paris Review Daily, Dec. 21, 2010). Randolph was the original music director of the Masterwork Chorus, a high-level amateur group he led through 37 seasons and 166 “Messiahs” before stepping down in 1992. He began directing the St. Cecilia Chorus in Manhattan in 1965 (entirely secular despite the inherited name), featuring works by freethought composers, including Brahms. Randolph retired from the post the Sunday before his death, from complications of pneumonia and cancer, at the age of 95. D. 2010.

"Fortunately I was brought up in a family in which religion played almost no part whatsoever."

—David Randolph, commenting on his lifelong nonbelief, on io_139_122008.mp3?sid=2e27ad25609268046a20952e31decfbe&l_sid=18176&l_eid=&l_mid=1474647

Compiled by Bonnie Gutsch

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

Paul Winchell

Paul Winchell

On this date in 1922, Paul Winchell was born in New York, N.Y. He briefly attended Columbia University to study pre-med, beginning when he was 35, and graduated from the Acupuncture Research College of Los Angeles in 1974. Winchell became a talented ventriloquist, achieving fame for the popular children’s television shows “The Paul Winchell Show” (1950–1954) and “Winchell-Mahoney Time” (1965–1968). He was also a voice actor, most notably providing the voice of the memorable animated character Tigger for the television show “Winnie the Pooh” (1968–1999). Winchell’s voice has also appeared in “The Fox and the Hound” (1981) and “The Smurfs” (1984–1986), and he has appeared as a guest star on shows such as “The Beverly Hillbillies” (1962) and “The Brady Bunch” (1971). In 1974, he won a Grammy for best children’s recording of the year for his voice acting in “Winnie the Pooh and Tigger Too” (1974). Winchell was also an inventor who patented 30 inventions, including the first artificial heart in 1963, which was used for research at the University of Utah. Winchell’s books include Ventriloquism for Fun and Profit (1954) and his autobiography Winch (2004). He married his third wife, Jean Freeman, in 1974, and they have five children, including actress April Winchell. D. 2005

Winchell authored the book God 2000: Religion Without the Bible (1982), which discusses bible contradictions and disputes the existence of a biblical god. He wrote: “It is essential to understand that true freedom of Religion must include freedom from Religion.”

“It is my contention that no other invention of man has brought greater chaos to humanity than the practice of religion.”

—Paul Winchell, God 2000, 1982.

Compiled by Sabrina 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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