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 4 entries for this date: John Lennon , Giuseppe Verdi , Roger Williams (Banished) and Peter Lipton
John Lennon

John Lennon

On this date in 1940, John Lennon was born in Liverpool. A guitar player, Lennon first teamed up with Paul McCartney at the age of 15. In 1960, they founded The Beatles, a pop foursome that took the world by storm in 1962. On March 4, 1966, the London Evening Standard published an interview with John Lennon in which he claimed that the Beatles were bigger than Jesus: "Christianity will go. It will vanish and shrink. I needn't argue about that. I'm right and I will be proved right. We are more popular than Jesus now. I don't know which will go first—rock and roll or Christianity. Jesus was all right, but his disciples were thick and ordinary. It's them twisting it that ruins it for me." When the interview was reprinted in America, it was greeted by record-burnings and boycotts. He subsequently apologized for his remarks. Lennon married his second wife, Yoko Ono, in 1969. Despite hit after hit, The Beatles broke up when McCartney left in 1970. Lennon issued his solo hit album, "Imagine," in 1971. When his son, Sean, was born, Lennon became a famous "house husband." In 1980, he came out of retirement to do some recordings. Lennon was shot to death by a deranged fan outside his Dakota apartment building in New York City on Dec. 8, 1980. In an interview Lennon and Yoko gave to Playboy, published in the January 1981 issue, Lennon said: ". . . this whole religion business suffers from the 'Onward, Christian Soldiers' bit. There's too much talk about soldiers and marching and converting. I'm not pushing Buddhism, because I'm no more a Buddhist than I am a Christian; but there's one thing I admire about the religion: There's no proselytizing." Lennon also wrote lyrics saying "I don't believe in Bible" or Jesus: "God is a concept by which we measure our pain." D. 1980.

Imagine

Imagine there's no heaven,
It's easy if you try,
No hell below us,
Above us only sky.
Imagine all the people
Living for today.

Imagine there's no country,
It isn't hard to do.
Nothing to kill or die for,
And no religion, too.
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace--

You may say I'm a dreamer.
But I'm not the only one.
I hope someday you'll join us,
And the world will be as one.

—Words and music by John Lennon. 1971 Northern Songs Ltd. (Maclen Music)

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

Giuseppe Verdi

Giuseppe Verdi

On this date in 1813, Italy's great 19th-century composer, Giuseppe Verdi, was born to a humble family in Roncole, Italy. He began music lessons with the village church organist at age 7. He was turned away from a conservatory in Milan, but studied privately. His first opera, Oberto, was produced at La Scala in 1839. Many operas would follow, including Rigoletto (1851), Il Trovatore and La Traviata (1852), and Les Vepres Siciliennes (1855), which was criticized by clergy. The composer of Don Carlos (1867), Aida (1870), Otello (1886) and Falstaff (1893) was acclaimed internationally, and regarded by contemporaries as the greatest Italian composer of his century. Verdi's early personal life was marked by family tragedies, including the death of his sister at age 17, the death of his first son, and then of his young first wife, to illness. Verdi avoided writing ecclesiastical music, was an anti-Papist, and a rationalist. He served Parliament from 1861 to 1865 and sympathized with the 19th-century campaigns for freedom. At the end of his successful career, Verdi shared his wealth, endowing the city of Milan with two million lire in 1898 to establish a home for aging musicians.

Verdi’s second wife, Giuseppina Strepponi, called her husband “certainly very little of a believer” (quoted in Verdi: A Biography by Mary Jane Phillips-Matz, 1993). She wrote: “I exhaust myself in speaking to him about the marvels of the heavens, the earth, the sea, etc. It’s a waste of breath! He laughs in my face and freezes me in the midst of my oratorical periods and my divine enthusiasm by saying ‘you’re all crazy,’ and unfortunately he says it with good faith.” Verdi’s wife eventually warmed to his lack of religion, saying, “For some virtuous people, a belief in God is necessary. Others, equally perfect, while observing every precept of the highest moral code, are happier believing in nothing” (quoted in Verdi: A Biography by Mary Jane Phillips-Matz, 1993). Verdi was well-known as an unbeliever and there was no religious service when he died, by his own request: “[My funeral is to be without] any part of the customary formulae,” Verdi wrote in his will (cited by F.T. Garibaldi in Giuseppe Verdi, 1903). Twenty-eight thousand mourners showed up for his secular funeral. D. 1901

“Stay away from priests.”

—Giuseppe Verdi to his cousin Angiolo Cararra Verdi, perhaps referencing a childhood incident where Verdi was pushed down altar steps by a priest (quoted in Verdi: A Biography by Mary Jane Phillips-Matz, 1993).

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor and Sabrina Gaylor

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

Roger Williams (Banished)

Roger Williams (Banished)

On this approximate date in 1635, Roger Williams was banished from the Massachusetts Bay Colony for advancing the notion that the civil state should not enforce religious injunctions. Fleeing with four others and enduring deprivations in the wilderness, Williams settled in 1636 at a site in Rhode Island that he named Providence. Williams established a colony where Baptists like himself, Quakers and other nonconformists were welcomed. The settlement was chartered in 1663 by the British crown. The charter promised "no person within the said colony . . . shall be in any wise molested, punished, disquieted or called in question for any differences in opinion in matters of religion, and do not actually disturb the civil peace of our said colony." Today the Roger Williams National Memorial can be found on 4.5 acres of landscaped park on the grounds of the original settlement.

“God requireth not an uniformity of Religion to be inacted and inforced in any civill state.”
"

—Roger Williams' The Bloudy Tenent of Persecution, for Cause of Conscience. (Cited by Leo Pfeffer in Church State and Freedom)

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

Peter Lipton

Peter Lipton

On this date in 1954, Peter Lipton was born in New York, N.Y. He graduated from Wesleyan University in 1976 with a degree in philosophy and physics, and gained a doctorate in philosophy from New College in Oxford in 1985. Lipton was particularly interested in the philosophy of science and religion. He was a professor of the History and Philosophy of Science at Cambridge University from 1997 to 2007 and head of the department for over 10 years. He previously worked as an assistant professor at Williams College from 1985 to 1990 and an assistant research professor at Clark University from 1982 to 1985. Lipton is most famous for his book Inference to the Best Explanation (1991), which explores the idea of the best explanation being the one that best fits the evidence. He was the Medawar Prize Lecturer of the Royal Society in 2004. Lipton married Diana Warner in 1984 and they have two sons.

Lipton was culturally Jewish and considered himself to be a “religious atheist,” according to his Dec. 17, 2007 Telegraph obituary. D. 2007

“It’s irrational to fear what death will feel like if you know it won’t feel like anything, but it doesn’t follow that it is irrational to fear death. It’s not irrational to look forward to the pleasures of living, and if we know that death will take these away, the fear of losing those pleasures doesn’t seem irrational either.”

—Peter Lipton, quoted in The Telegraph, Dec. 17, 2007.

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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