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

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