Freethought of the Day

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There are 5 entries for this date: Giuseppe Mazzini , Erich Maria Remarque , Julian Huxley , Bill Blass and Meryl Streep
Giuseppe Mazzini

Giuseppe Mazzini

On this date in 1805, Giuseppe Mazzini was born in Italy. The Italian patriot was educated at Genoa University and practiced law before becoming a revolutionary. He founded a group to free Italy from Austrian dominance and the temporal power of the Pope in 1828, joined the Carbonari in 1830, and was expelled from Italy under sentence of death if he returned. He was expelled from Switzerland in 1838, where he had continued his work, founding "Young Italy." When the Pope fled Rome in 1848, Mazzini returned to become one of the leaders of the brief republic. A constitution was adopted shortly before the new republic fell to occupation in 1849, led by French soldiers fighting at the behest of the Pope. Mazzini settled in England where he was welcomed, and where he wrote and published his ideas of a "third Rome." Although a strong deist, Mazzini rejected Christianity and believed in Thomas Paine's "religion of humanity." He died in Italy in 1872.

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

Erich Maria Remarque

Erich Maria Remarque

On this date in 1898, German author Erich Maria Remarque was born Erich Paul Remark in Osnabruck, Germany. Remarque is known for writing "All Quiet on the Western Front," a novel published in 1928 that chronicled the challenges and reality of the life of a German soldier in WWI. Remarque began writing as a teenager. When he was 18, Germany drafted Remarque to fight in WWI. He was stationed on the Western Front where he received several shrapnel injuries and spent the remainder of the war in a hospital. After the war he trained to become a teacher and held different teaching jobs, quitting one after he clashed with the school's priest. Remarque sent a complaint in 1920 to the local education board about the priest that read in part, "He tells me off in the highest tones as if I were a schoolboy. 'You must go to church more . . . you are a bad model for the children . . . you do nothing at all in religion.'" (quoted from Tims's biography) He then moved around to a variety of writing jobs, including technical writing and reporting.

When Remarque published "All Quiet on the Western Front," which was an immediate success, he changed his middle name to honor his mother, Anna Maria, and changed his last name back to its former spelling, Remarque. Remarque wrote over a dozen other books including, "The Road Back" (1931), "Arch of Triumph" (1945), and "Spark of Life" (1952). In 1933, during the Nazi occupation of Germany Remarque's books were banned and burned. The Nazis spread propaganda that he was Jewish and did not fight in WWI. They also revoked his citizenship in 1938, and he fled to the United States in 1939. His sister, Elfriede Scholz, did not escape Germany and the Nazis beheaded her in 1943. Remarque was seen as a playboy and married three times. At the time of his death he was married to Paulette Goddard, an American actress, whom he married in 1958. D. 1970.

 

“Any incipient spirit of religion he may have acquired during his schooldays was to be tested and found wanting by his experiences on the western front, evolving instead into a brand of humanism he worked out for himself.”

—— Excerpt from “Erich Maria Remarque: The Last Romantic,” 2004, by Hilton Tims.

Compiled by Sarah Eucalano

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

Julian Huxley

Julian Huxley

On this date in 1887, Julian Huxley, the brother of novelist Aldous Huxley and the grandson of agnostic biologist Thomas Henry Huxley, was born in Great Britain. Educated as a biologist at Oxford, he taught at Rice Institute, Houston (1912-1916), Oxford (1919-25) and Kings College (1925-1935). An ant specialist (he wrote a book called Ants in 1930), Huxley became Secretary of the Zoological Society of London (1935-1942), and UNESCO's first general director (1946-1948). A strong secular humanist, Huxley called himself "not merely agnostic . . . I disbelieve in a personal God in any sense in which that phrase is ordinarily used. . . I disbelieve in the existence of Heaven or Hell in any conventional Christian sense." (Religion Without Revelation, 1927, revised 1956.) Huxley was an early evolutionary theorist, with versatile academic interests. Some of his many other books include: Essays of a Biologist (1923), Animal Biology (with J.B.S. Haldane, 1927), The Science of Life (with H.G. Wells, 1931), Thomas Huxley's Diary of the Voyage of the HMS Rattlesnake (editor, 1935), The Living Thoughts of Darwin (1939), Heredity, East & West (1949), Biological Aspects of Cancer (1957), Towards a New Humanism (1957), and Memories, a two-volume autobiography in the early 1970s. Huxley was knighted in 1958 and was also a founder of the World Wildlife Fund. D. 1975.

“Operationally, God is beginning to resemble not a ruler, but the last fading smile of a cosmic Cheshire Cat.”

—Julian Huxley, Religion Without Revelation, 1927

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

Bill Blass

Bill Blass

On this date in 1922, fashion designer William Ralph Blass was born in Fort Wayne, Ind. His mother was a dressmaker and his father was a traveling hardware salesman, who committed suicide when Bill was five years old. Always interested in art, at the age of 15, Blass began selling evening gowns of his own design for $25 each to a dress manufacturer in New York. When he was 17, he moved to Manhattan in order to study fashion and, at 18, was the first male to win Mademoiselle's Design for Living award. At 20, Blass enlisted in the army and was assigned, along with writers, artists, theater people and other creative types, to a special camouflage unit whose mission was to trick the German army into focusing on false locations to find the Allies. At the end of the war, Blass returned to New York, becoming a protege of Baron de Gunzburg, an influential fashion editor at Vogue and Harper's Bazaar. During the 1950s, Blass worked for Anna Miller & Co., designing what was to become his signature style of clothing. In 1959, when Anna and her brother, Maurice Rentner, merged companies, Blass became head designer, then vice-president of Maurice Rentner, Inc., and, in 1970, changed the name of the company to Bill Blass, Ltd. Blass designed expensive, beautifully cut and tailored clothing, noted for its classic style and creative use of patterns and textures. He was also the first American designer, from the high fashion end of the industry, to design for men. Among other honors, Blass was awarded several Coty Awards, which are regarded as the Oscar of the clothing industry and, in 1999, was given a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Fashion Institute of Technology. Highly respected within the fashion industry, and in public life, he was described as someone not only with talent, but with the personal class and style of the clothes he designed. Involved in community work throughout his life, he was awarded several public service awards and was a trustee of the New York Public Library. His memoir, Bare Blass, is said to reveal a true American story: a person moving from the back room of the clothing industry to become one of the names defining that world. D. 2002.

Bill Blass: I have a firm belief in such things as, you know, the water, the Earth, the trees and sky. And I'm wondering, it is increasingly difficult to find those elements in nature, because it's nature I believe in rather than some spiritual thing.

SFWeekly: You're not a religious man?

BB: No. And I do suppose that science has taken, to a large extent and for a number of people, has taken the place of religion.

SFW: What do you mean by that?

BB: That one can have more belief in scientific cures or scientific miracles than you do in God miracles. It's inevitable that we will eventually diffuse into nothingness . . . ”

—Sept. 1, 1999 issue of the San Francisco alternative newspaper, SF Weekly

Compiled by Jane Esbensen

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

Meryl Streep

Meryl Streep

On this date in 1949, Meryl Streep (née Mary Louise Streep) was born and raised in New Jersey. Her Presbyterian parents, a commercial artist mother and pharmaceutical executive father, allowed her to attend Mass because many of her friends were Catholic. Young Meryl dreamed of being an opera singer but gravitated toward acting when, in high school, she received a standing ovation for playing the librarian in "The Music Man" at her school, which, she says, encouraged her to feel confident, and shed the "dorkyness" of her youth. She even became homecoming queen. Streep studied Drama and English at Vassar, graduating in 1971. She was awarded entrance to the incredibly competitive Honours Exchange Program with Dartmouth College, where she studied playwrighting, and set and costume design. Upon graduation, she attended the Yale School of Drama, where she performed in over 30 Yale Repertory Theatre productions (along with Sigourney Weaver) and graduated with a Master's in Drama in 1975. She then had various versatile theatrical roles, on and off Broadway, several television performances (including the TV series "Holocaust," in 1978), and a small but attention-grabbing role in her first film, "Julia" (1977), which starred Jane Fonda and Vanessa Redgrave. Streep earned her first Oscar nomination for  "The Deer Hunter" in 1978. 

Streep holds the record for actress with the most Oscar nominations (15)—she has won twice (for "Kramer vs Kramer" in 1980 and "Sophie's Choice" in 1983). Streep won a third Oscar, playing Maggie Thatcher in "The Iron Lady" (2011). The actress has played roles in almost every genre—musical ("Mamma Mia," 2008), drama (such as "The Hours," 2002, "Adaptation," 2002, and "The Evening," 2007), comedy (such as "Death Becomes Her," 1992, and "The Devil Wears Prada," 2006), romance ("The Bridges of Madison County," 1995), suspense ("Still of the Night," 1982) , biopic ("Silkwood," 1983), and animated ("Fantastic Mr. Fox," 2009, and "Artificial Intelligence: AI," 2001). Streep has been married to sculptor Don Gummer since 1978 and they have four children. The actress has become very involved with several causes over the years including the Elton John AIDS Foundation, Americans for the Arts, Equality Now, and Stand Up to Cancer, among others. A private person, she has not often discussed her lack of religious views publicly. However, when her movie "Doubt" (2008) debuted, she faced numerous questions on the subject. "Doubt is our friend," she told the London Telegraph. "And once you tip the scales in one direction or another it's very, very dangerous" ("Meryl Streep: mother superior," by Mick Brown, Dec. 4, 2008).

"I follow no doctrine. I don't belong to a church or a temple or a synagogue or an ashram."

—Meryl Streep, when asked if religion plays a part in her life, "Movies, marriage, and turning sixty," The Independent (UK), Jan. 24, 2009. 

Compiled by Bonnie Gutsch

© 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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