Friedrich von Schiller

On this date in 1759, German poet Johann Christoph Friedrich von Schiller was born in Marbach, Wurttemberg, to Lutheran parents. Although he began writing poetry at an early age, he was educated in military schools against his will. In 1780, Schiller was dismissed from the academy for writing his controversial essay about religion, "On Relation Between Man's Animal and Spiritual Nature." With reluctance, he became a military doctor. His drama, Die Rauber (1781), about a noble outlaw who rejects the values of his father, provoked histrionics from his audience, especially among admiring revolutionary students. Don Carlos (1787) sealed his reputation, and inspired Verdi's 1867 opera. Schiller's writings also attracted many other other famous composers, including Brahms. His friend and collaborator Goethe found him a chair at Jena University, where he wrote a history of the Thirty Years' War. He and Goethe founded Die Horen in 1794. In 1796 Schiller founded another journal, Musenalmanach. The pair wrote what freethought historian Joseph McCabe termed "a series of caustic and brilliant distichs" satirizing religion, using the title Die Xenien. After a bout of pneumonia and pleurisy in 1791, Schiller became an invalid, but continued writing humanistic works. His most famous is "Ode to Joy," later set to music by Beethoven. Schiller was a nonChristian, an agnostic and considered humanism part of his aesthetics. D. 1805.

“Which religion do I profess to follow? None! And why? Because of religion.”

—Friedrich von Schiller. Source: Encyclopedia of Unbelief edited by Gordon Stein.

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor

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