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: Johannes Brahms , Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky and Robert Browning
Johannes Brahms

Johannes Brahms

On this date in 1833, Johannes Brahms was born in Germany. As a teenager playing for drunken sailors in a Hamburg bar, Brahms would prop up books of poetry to read as a diversion. His favorite poet was the anticlerical G.F. Daumer, described by the Catholic Encyclopedia as "an enemy of Christianity" (although Daumer later converted). Brahms' works were influenced by such writers as Hoffman, Schiller and Robert Burns. He was well-read in philosophy and science, and was an avid hiker who took inspiration from nature. When a conductor requested a greater religious consciousness in some liturgical music, Brahms wrote him he would prefer to "dispense with places like John 3:16." (Jan Swafford, Johannes Brahms: A Biography). A liberal, Brahms ardently opposed anti-Semitism, was approachable even at the height of his fame, and was always generous with his time and charity. Biographer Swafford writes of the young composer: "Though he was to be a freethinker in religion, Johannes pored over the Bible beyond the requirements for his Protestant confirmation." From then on, "Music was Brahms' religion." According to Swafford, Brahms was "a humanist and an agnostic." After nearly 64 years of near perfect health, never even enduring a headache, Brahms succumbed quickly to liver cancer. There was no deathbed conversion. D. 1897.

“The only true immortality lies in one's children.”

—Johannes Brahms, letter to his friend Richard Heuberger, from the childless but

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky

Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky

On this date in 1840, Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky was born in Russia. Although he studied law and was appointed to the Ministry of Justice in 1859, Tchaikovsky jettisoned that career, studying music for three years at the Conservatory. He followed that by lessons from Rubenstein. This prolific and most lyrical of the classical composers wrote "Romeo and Juliet" (1869), "Swan Lake" (1876), "The Sleeping Beauty" (1890), "The Nutcracker" (1892), "Piano Concerto in B Flat Minor" (1875) and "Pathetique Symphony." His letters show an interest in religious questions, which, according to freethought encyclopedist Joseph McCabe, gravitated toward agnosticism by the end of his life. Tchaikovsky's homosexuality, which made him a "transgressor" in the 19th century, may have played a role in his religious migration. D. 1893.

“I have found some astonishing answers to my questioning as to God and religion in his book.”
"

—Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky, letter to Modeste about reading freethinker Flaubert's letters (Life and Letters of P.I. Tchaikovsky, 1906)

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

Robert Browning

Robert Browning

On this date in 1812, Robert Browning was born in London. The precocious child began writing poetry at age 12, attended London University College for a year at age 16, and eventually established his reputation as a major poet by 1845. One of his most famous writings is "The Pied Piper of Hamelin." Although Browning's mother was a devout evangelical, Robert announced at 13, after reading "Queen Mab" by Shelley, that he was (at least briefly) an atheist. At a more mature age, Browning began re-evaluating religion once more during his friendship with W.J. Fox, the former Unitarian minister at London's famous South Place Chapel. "Who knows most, doubts most," Browning wrote (cited in 2000 Years of Disbelief by James A. Haught). Browning's famous correspondence and whirlwind romance with poet Elizabeth Barrett resulted in their marriage in 1846. They settled in Italy for the benefit of Elizabeth, an invalid. They had a son, Robert ("Pen") Jr., in 1849. At the death of his wife in 1861, Browning was said to have discarded any remaining Christian beliefs, although the degree of Browning's skepticism is debated by academics. In The Ring and the Book, iv., Browning wrote: "Mothers, wives, and maids, / There be the tools wherewith priests manage men." D. 1889.

I.
“It is a lie--their Priests, their Pope,
Their Saints, their . . . all they fear or hope
Are lies, and lies--there! through my door
And ceiling, there! and walls and floor,
There, lies, they lie, shall still be hurled
Till spite of them I reach the world!

II.
“You think Priests just and holy men!
Before they put me in this den
I was a human creature too,
With flesh and blood like one of you. . .”

—Robert Browning, "The Confessional" (1845, written in Spain)

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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