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 2 entries for this date: George Gershwin and Charles Bradlaugh
George Gershwin

George Gershwin

On this date in 1898, composer George Gershwin was born in Brooklyn, New York. Of the three boys in the family, only Ira, later George's lyricist, was subjected to a bar mitzvah. "This religious milestone apparently meant little to Ira himself. The fact that Rose and Morris never imposed it upon George and Arthur means that, by the time they became teenagers, the family had left their East European Jewish origins behind and were living a secularized existence in New York's cosmopolitan melting pot. . . . Rose made sure the living room curtains were drawn closed on the eve of sabbaths or festivals, so that her Jewish neighbors would be unaware she had not lit the ceremonial candles," according to Rodney Greenberg, in his biography, George Gershwin. Gershwin's named sources of "inspiration" were not gods or prophets but two other nonbelieving songwriters: Irving Berlin and Jerome Kern, according to biographer Edward Jablonski, Gershwin: A Biography. Self-taught as a piano-player, Gershwin began writing songs and musicals as a teenager, quickly advancing from Tin Pan Alley to Broadway musicals. Considered by many to be America's greatest song composer, Gershwin wrote memorable standard after standard, including: "Lady, be Good!" "Strike Up the Band," "Funny Face," "The Man I Love," "Embraceable You," "Somebody Loves Me" and "They Can't Take That Away from Me." His more serious work: Rhapsody in Blue (1924), Piano Concerto in F (1925), Porgy & Bess (1934-5), and Three Preludes (1926). At the height of his career, the ambitious 38-year-old, who had been sent to see a psychiatrist after complaining of debilitating headaches, collapsed from an undiagnosed brain tumor and tragically died during surgery. D.1937.

It Ain't Necessarily So

It ain't necessarily so, (repeat)
De t'ings dat yo' li'ble
To read in de Bible,
It ain't necessarily so.

Li'l David was small, but oh my! (rpt)
He fought big Goliath
Who lay down an' dieth!
Li'l David was small, but oh my!

Oh, Jonah, he lived in de whale, (rpt)
Fo' he made his home in
Dat fish's abdomen.
Oh, Jonah, he lived in de whale.

Li'l Moses was found in a stream, (rpt)
He floated on water
Till Ole Pharaoh's daughter
She fished him, she says, from that stream.

It ain't necessarily so, (rpt)
Dey tell all you chillun
De debble's a villun,
But 'tain't necessarily so.

To get into Hebben don' snap for a sebben!
Live clean! Don' have no fault.
Oh, I takes dat gospel
Whenever it's poss'ble,
But wid a grain of salt.

Methus'lah lived nine hundred years,
But who calls dat livin'
When no gal'll give in
To no man what's nine hundred years?

I'm preachin' dis sermon to show,
It ain't nessa, ain't nessa,
ain't nessa, ain't nessa,
Ain't necessarily so.

—div class=attribution

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

Charles Bradlaugh

Charles Bradlaugh

On this date in 1833, England's best-known proponent of atheism, reformer Charles Bradlaugh, was born in East London. Bradlaugh left school at age 11 to earn his living. When he announced his freethought views, he was forced to leave his family home, and found support among other freethinkers, including the children of oft-jailed publisher Richard Carlile. Bradlaugh worked as a coal merchant. After joining the army, he worked as a solicitor's clerk, learned the law and became a skillful attorney. He wrote and lectured about freethought under the pseudonym "Iconoclast." Bradlaugh briefly became editor of the freethinking bi-weekly periodical, the Investigator, in 1858. By the time he became co-editor of the National Reformer in 1860 he was a famed social reformer and orator, known in England and abroad. In 1866, he founded the National Secular Society. Bradlaugh had two daughters and one son with his wife, whose serious drinking problem broke up the family in 1870. Bradlaugh's challenge in 1868-69 of the Security Laws, inhibiting distribution of controversial periodicals, brought their repeal. He also championed land reform. In 1876, he and colleague Annie Besant were prosecuted for "obscenity" for republishing a birth control booklet, The Fruits of Philosophy, by American doctor Charles Knowlton. After a grueling trial, the pair were convicted and faced jailtime and fines, but were freed on a technicality. Bradlaugh was urged to run for Parliament in 1868, placing fifth. He ran several times before winning in 1880, but was refused seating because he would not take the religious oath. Bradlaugh was re-elected by loyal constituents four times before finally prevailing in his fight to be seated in 1886, a landmark for British freethinkers, but a legal fight that drained him financially. Bradlaugh persuaded Parliament to pass a bill permitting the right to affirm in 1888. Bradlaugh lectured three times in the United States in the 1870s, and was warmly received in India during his 1889 visit. His only surviving child, Hypatia Bradlaugh Bonner, took up the freethought/reform cudgels, also defending her father's reputation from numerous "death-bed conversion" fables. D. 1891.

“I maintain that thoughtful Atheism affords greater possibility for human happiness than any system yet based on, or possible to be founded on, Theism, and that the lives of true Atheists must be more virtuous--because more human--than those of the believers in Deity, . . .

Atheism, properly understood, is no mere disbelief; is in no wise a cold, barren negative; it is, on the contrary, a hearty, fruitful affirmation of all truth, and involves the positive assertion of action of highest humanity.”

—Charles Bradlaugh, "A Plea for Atheism," Humanity's Gain from Unbelief (1929)

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.

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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