Freethought of the Day

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There are 3 entries for this date: Ned Rorem , Johnny Carson and George Santayana (Quote)

Ned Rorem

On this date in 1923, Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Ned Rorem was born in Richmond, Ind. Rorem studied at the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools, the American Conservatory of Music, Northwestern University, the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia and the Julliard School in New York City. A prolific composer, Rorem has composed music for numerous operas as well as his many symphonies, orchestral, choral, chamber, and other compositions. In 1966, Rorem published The Paris Diary of Ned Rorem, an honest account of his sexuality and that of his partners, which included fellow composers Leonard Bernstein, Noël Coward, Samuel Barber and Virgil Thomson.

Rorem also wrote extensively about music and his essays, collected in Music from the Inside Out (1967), Music and People (1968) and Setting the Tone (1983), are praised due to Rorem’s prose style and unabashed criticism of his contemporaries. Rorem is the recipient of a Fulbright Fellowship (1951), Guggenheim Fellowship (1957), National Institute of Arts and Letters Award (1968), and Pulitzer Prize for Music (1976) for his suite Air Music: Ten Etudes of Orchestra (1975). Time magazine called Rorem “the world’s best composer of art songs.” Rorem currently resides in New York City.

“Now that I'm closer than I was a year ago to the unknown, I'm very much an atheist and more so every day… I think we've invented God to give some sort of meaning to life because life doesn't have any meaning. We've certainly invented money for that and we've invented art for that. It helps us kill time before time kills us. I'm not in despair, but I'm melancholy most of the time. But if I died today I'm not ashamed of what I've created.”

—Ned Rorem, SFGate (2003)

Compiled by Paul Epland

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

Johnny Carson

Johnny Carson

On this date in 1925, television host and comedian John William “Johnny” Carson was born to Ruth and Homer Carson in Corning, Iowa. He spent his childhood in Iowa and Nebraska, and by age 14, performed magic tricks locally as “The Great Carsoni.” After a stint in the U.S. Navy, he attended the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, earning a bachelors degree in radio and speech along with a minor in physics. Carson began his career in Omaha, Nebraska, as a host for WOW’s radio and television programs. He quickly grew a fan base, starring in “Carson’s Cellar,” a comedy show of his creation at a television station in Southern California. He also hosted several game and variety shows, including “To Tell the Truth, “Who Do You Trust?” and “The Johnny Carson Show,” which was short-lived. In 1962, he replaced Jack Paar on NBC’s “The Tonight Show” and proceeded to become one of the highest paid and most beloved television entertainers in history. Throughout his career in entertainment, Carson was praised for his wit and humor, garnering unprecedentedly high ratings for “The Tonight Show.” He received six Emmy Awards, the Governor’s Award, a Peabody, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom. He prominently featured James Randi, who exposed several televangelists on the show. Carson retired from “The Tonight Show” in 1992. Like many entertainers and comedians interested in magic tricks, he appeared to be a strong rationalist who enjoyed exposing flim flam. He reportedly had a complex character and was more quiet and reclusive in his private life, preferring to abstain from public events and interviews. "In my living room I would argue for liberalization of abortion laws, divorce laws, and there are times when I would like to express a view on the air. I would love to have taken on Billy Graham. But I'm on TV five nights a week; I have nothing to gain by it and everything to lose." (Barthel, Joan, January 23, 1970. "Here's Johnny! Out There," Life: 52). He married four times and had three sons from his first marriage. He died at the age of 79, due to complications from emphysema. D. 2005.


“Dear James: After watching John Edward on Larry King last night, I was reminded of Bacon’s admonition – ‘A credulous man is a deceiver.’ On the gullibility scale, Larry is second only to Montel Williams. I hope the enclosed will help to educate them both. My best, Johnny Carson.” 

—Letter (with donation) to James Randi of the James Randi Educational Foundation, taken from

Photo by CBS-Gabor Rona, photographer. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

George Santayana (Quote)

George Santayana (Quote)

“Christianity persecuted, tortured, and burned. Like a hound it tracked the very scent of heresy. It kindled wars, and nursed furious hatreds and ambitions. It sanctified, quite like Mohammedanism, extermination and tyranny . . . ”

—-George Santayana, philosopher (1863-1952), Little Essays, No. 107, "Christian Morality"

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

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