Freethought of the Day

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There are 3 entries for this date: Grant Allen , George Augustus Moore and Joan Konner
Grant Allen

Grant Allen

On this date in 1848, Charles Grant Blairfindie Allen was born in Canada. The versatile and prolific author of nonfiction and fiction was well-known to famous contemporaries. The son of a minister, Allen studied at the College Imperial of Dieppe, the King Edward's School of Birmingham, and Oxford University. He taught at a college for Blacks at Spanish Town, Jamaica, for four years, where his agnostic and other progressive views matured. He returned to England and began writing books. His well-regarded Physiological Aesthetics (1877) was dedicated to Herbert Spencer. Other books include Vignettes from Nature (1881), The Evolutionist at Large (1881), The Colours of Flowers (1882), and The Evolution of the Idea of God (1897). Admirers included Huxley and Darwin. Allen's later writings were mostly guidebooks and novels. The Hand of God, a collection of essays, was published posthumously in 1909 by the Rationalist Press Association. D. 1899.

“[T]he vast mass of existing gods or divine persons, when we come to analyze them, do actually turn out to be dead and deified human beings. ... I believe that corpse worship is the protoplasm of religion.”

—Grant Allen, cited in "Who's Who in Hell," edited by Warren Allen Smith

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor; photo by By Elliott & Fry [public domain] via Wikimedia Commons

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

George Augustus Moore

George Augustus Moore

On this date in 1852, prolific novelist George Augustus Moore was born into a Roman Catholic family in Ballyglass, County Mayo, Ireland. He was educated at a Catholic college, but jettisoned his faith in Paris, where he went at 18 to study art, as described in Flowers of Passion (1877). His 1883 novel, A Modern Lover, was barred by some libraries. In The Apostle, the author depicted Paul murdering Jesus after finding him alive many years following his alleged "resurrection." The preface is "a charmingly free study of the bible," according to freethought historian Joseph McCabe (A Biographical Dictionary of Rationalists, 1920). Ester Waters (1891) is about a nun who gives birth to a son. In Brook Kerith (1916), what McCabe called "his beautiful rationalized version of the life of Christ," Moore described Jesus as an Essenian monk, for which the Catholic Church attempted to prosecute him. His "whole work," including his autobiography, Hail and Farewell (3 vol., 1911-14), "is pagan," according to McCabe. Moore's nonfiction includes Reminiscences of the Impressionist Painters (1906). His Collected Works (1924) is 21 volumes. Moore was instrumental in the Irish Renaissance. D. 1933.

"The mind petrifies if a circle be drawn around it, and it can hardly be denied that dogma draws a circle round the mind."

—George A. Moore, "Salve," the second volume of his "Hail and Farewell" trilogy (1912)

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

Joan Konner

Joan Konner

On this date in 1931, academic, journalist, reporter and TV producer Joan Konner was born in Paterson, N.J. She received her B.A. from Sarah Lawrence College in 1951 and her M.S. from the Columbia School of Journalism in 1961. Upon graduating from Columbia, she became a journalist for the Bergen Record, where she worked on the women’s page. She left in less than two years to pursue public television. After a few years of working in this new industry, Konner moved to WNBC-TV, where she was a writer and producer of many documentaries. 

She became executive producer of “Bill Moyers Journal” during the 1980s and the president and executive producer of Moyers’ production company, Public Affairs Television. Konner ended her career in public television as the executive producer for national news and public affairs for WNET/Thirteen, an outlet of PBS in New York. She returned to Columbia in 1988 to become the first female dean of the Columbia School of Journalism. She was also the publisher for the Columbia Journalism Review until 2000. She has written books on religion from the freethought point of view, such as The Atheist Bible: A Illustrious Collection of Irreverent Thoughts (2007), and You Don’t Have to Be a Buddhist to Know Nothing: An Illustrious Collection of Thoughts on Naught (2009) and is known for producing over 50 documentaries and television series that focus on ideas and beliefs. Konner won numerous awards and honors throughout her lengthy career, including 16 Emmys, a Peabody Award, the New Jersey Presswomen’s Lifetime Achievement Award and the New York Newswomen’s Award for Best Documentary. She died of leukemia at age 87 in Manhattan in 2018.

Columbia University photo 

“I don’t call myself an agnostic but I do recognize that I will never know. As I explore this field, this beat of ideas, it takes me into what is sometimes called the spiritual landscape.”

—Joan Konner, online interview, “Read The Spirit,” March 16, 2010

Compiled by Tolulope Igun

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