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: Edgar Allan Poe , Auguste Comte and Julian Barnes
Edgar Allan Poe

Edgar Allan Poe

On this date in 1809, writer Edgar Allan Poe was born in Boston. When his parents, both actors, died before he was three, Edgar was adopted by John Allan, who educated him in London and Virginia. Poe attended the University of Virginia for one year before dropping out. He began writing poetry, served in the U.S. Army for two years, and was awarded a prize for a short story in 1833. He moved to Baltimore and lived with his widowed aunt and her daughter, Virginia, and began editing Southern Literary Messenger. He married his cousin, not yet 14 years old, in 1836, and moved with her to New York City and Philadelphia, living in poverty, continually in search of better writing positions. His novella, The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym, was published, followed by Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque (1839), The Pit and the Pendulum (1842), and The Tell-Tale Heart (1843). Poe is considered a pioneer of thrillers and detective fiction, writing The Murders at the Rue Morgue (1841), The Mystery of Marie Roget (1842), The Gold Bug (1843), and The Purloined Letter (1844). The Raven, and Other Poems, was published to great acclaim in 1845. Virginia died of tuberculosis in 1847, inspiring Poe's famous poem "Annabel Lee." Poe's "prose-poem," Eureka (1848), according to freethought historian Joseph McCabe, "embodies a Pantheism which is not far removed from Agnosticism" (A Biographical Dictionary of Modern Rationalists, 1920). In it, Poe wrote that we know nothing about the nature of God, that nature and God are the same, and there is no personal immortality. His sudden death from an undiagnosed illness was controversial, with enemies pointing a finger at alcoholism, but the attending doctor recording that Poe was not intoxicated upon his death. D. 1849.

“Let us begin, then, at once, with that merest of words, 'Infinity.' This, like 'God,' 'spirit,' and some other expressions of which the equivalents exist in all languages, is by no means the expression of an idea—but of an effort at one. It stands for the possible attempt at an impossible conception.”

—Edgar Allan Poe, Eureka, 1848

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

Auguste Comte

Auguste Comte

On this date in 1798, Auguste Comte, the founder of Positivism, was born. A French mathematical prodigy, Comte rejected belief in God by age 14. He gave a series of lectures on Positive Philosophy in 1826, which was eventually published. He wrote: "The law is this: that each of our leading conceptions -- each branch of our knowledge -- passes successively through three different theoretical conditions: the Theological, or fictitious; the Metaphysical, or abstract; and the Scientific, or positive." His General View of Positivism was published in 1848. Auguste Comte is considered to be the "father" of sociology. D. 1857.

“All good intellects have repeated, since Bacon's time, that there can be no real knowledge but which is based on observed facts.”

—August Comte, The Positive Philosophy

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

Julian Barnes

Julian Barnes

On this date in 1946, Julian Barnes was born in Leicester, England. He attended the City of London School, and graduated from Magdalen College in 1968 with a degree in modern languages. He became a reviewer and editor for the New Statesman and New Review in 1977, and worked as a television critic for the New Statesman from 1979 to 1986. Barnes has published 21 novels (some under the pseudonym of Dan Kavanagh), including Metroland (1980), A History of the World in 10½ Chapters (1989), England, England (1998) and Arthur & George (2005). He has received numerous awards for his work, most notably the David Cohen Prize for Literature in 2011. Barnes married literary agent Pat Kavanagh in 1979, and was widowed in 2011 after Kavanagh died of a brain tumor.

Barnes is the author of Nothing to be Frightened Of, a memoir focusing on death and mortality. “I don’t believe in God but I miss him,” Barnes proclaimed in the opening sentence of Nothing to be Frightened Of. In a 2008 interview with Maclean’s magazine, he further explains, “I regard myself as a rationalist.”

“It is a bizarre thought that in this [U.S. 2008] presidential cycle we could have had a woman in the White House, we might have a black man in the White House, but if either of them had said they were atheists neither of them would have had a hope in hell.”

—Julian Barnes, interview with Maclean’s magazine, 2008.

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.

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  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  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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