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.


There are 3 entries for this date: Scott Joplin , Benedict Spinoza and Billy Connolly
Scott Joplin

Scott Joplin

On this date in 1868, composer Scott Joplin, the "King of Ragtime," was born. Joplin's early musical career took place in centers of entertainment, not in church. He played piano in a brothel, and in a club (the famous Maple Leaf) that was shut down due to pressure from local churches, whose pastors were ashamed of the "iniquitous practices" (dancing and cards) taking place there. Ragtime was America's first uniquely national style of music. Scott Joplin, born in Texas and raised in Missouri, did not invent ragtime, but it was his incredible compositions that propelled the style to national prominence, especially after his 1899 "Maple Leaf Rag" became a huge hit, followed by dozens more, including "The Entertainer," which is still popular today. He was married in a home, not a church, and his funeral was not conducted in a church.

In the opera Treemonisha, dealing with the fact that the African-American community was still living in ignorance, superstition, and misery, Joplin tells his audience that the way out of this condition is through education. He does not propose religion as the solution. "Ignorance is criminal," he tells us. Treemonisha, a woman who promotes education, is a leader who is more persuasive than the useless pastor in town. To the conjurer Zodzetrick, she says: "You have lived without working for many years, All by your tricks of conjury. You have caused superstition and many sad tears. You should stop, you are doing great injury." Revealing a freethought attitude, Joplin named the pastor "Parson Alltalk"--all he does is talk and exhort the people to be good; he is totally ineffectual, unable to see the people's real needs and, being uneducated, unable to provide leadership. The opera contains no gospel music, no hymns or religious melodies that would have been expected of such a community. D. 1917.

“There is no harm in musical sounds. It matters not whether it is fast ragtime or a slow melody like 'The Rosary'.”

—Scott Joplin. Quoted in King of Ragtime: Scott Joplin and His Era, by Edward A. Berlin. Oxford University Press, 1994

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

Benedict Spinoza

Benedict Spinoza

On this date in 1632, excommunicated rabbi and philosopher Baruch Benedict Spinoza was born in Amsterdam, Holland, the son of Portuguese immigrants named d'Espinosa who traveled to escape the Inquisition. Bertrand Russell called him "the noblest and most lovable of the great philosophers. . . . As a natural consequence, he was considered, during his lifetime and for a century after his death, a man of appalling wickedness" (A History of Western Philosophy). Trained as a rabbi, Spinoza read Descartes and Bruno, studied Latin with a skeptic, and by 24 had rejected orthodoxy. Attempts were made to bribe him to keep quiet about his doubts, followed by an assassination attempt! He changed his name from Baruch to Benedict, left Judaism and Amsterdam, and resettled in The Hague in 1667. He supported himself at a poverty level by teaching and by grinding optical lenses, which worsened his health. Meanwhile Spinoza wrote his philosophical works, while enduring opprobrium as an "atheist" from both Christians and Jews alike, who spread scandals about him. Spinoza refused offers of help and a professorship at Heidelberg: "I do not know how to teach philosophy without becoming a disturber of established religion" (c. 1670, Great Thoughts, edited by George Seldes).

Spinoza was at most a pantheist, whose deism rejected immortality and free will. Tractatus Theologico-Politicus was termed by Russell to be "a curious combination of biblical criticism and political theory," which "partially anticipates modern views." Spinoza cautioned that the bible should be scrutinized like any other literature. He did not believe that the Pentateuch was really written by Moses, that biblical miracles occurred or that Jesus was divine. In this work, Spinoza mused: "Philosophy has no end in view save truth; faith looks for nothing but obedience and piety." Tractatuc Politicus, a political work, was Hobbesian, concurring with Hobbes that the church should be subordinate to the state. Ethics was Spinoza's chief work, and it was published posthumously. Spinoza wrote: "Man is a social animal." Sin, he reasoned, "cannot be conceived in a natural state, but only in a civil state, where it is decreed by common consent what is good or bad." Spinoza mused, "How blest would our age be if it could witness a religion freed from all the trammels of superstition!" The heretic also wrote, "The most tyrannical governments are those which make crimes of opinions, for everyone has an inalienable right to his thoughts." Obviously from personal experience Spinoza noted: "Those who wish to seek out the causes of miracles, and to understand the things of nature as philosophers, and not to stare at them in astonishment like fools, are soon considered heretical and impious, and proclaimed as the interpreters of nature and the gods." (appendix, Ethics). Spinoza, who never married, died of tuberculosis at 44. D. 1677.

“True virtue is life under the direction of reason.”

—Benedict Spinoza, Ethics, 1677

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

Billy Connolly

Billy Connolly

On this date in 1942, Billy Connolly was born in Glasgow, Scotland. Connolly’s early years were difficult; his mother abandoned him and his sister Florence when Connolly was four. His father was at that time still away with the army. In the 2001 biography Billy, written by Connolly’s wife, psychoanalyst Pamela Stephenson, Connolly described being sexually abused by his father between the ages of 10 and 15. At 15, Connolly graduated high school with an engineering degree and worked as a welder in a Glasgow shipyard. In the mid-1960’s, Connolly began to perform as a folk singer in the duo “The Humblebums.” After the breakup of the duo, Connolly began to perform solo and transitioned from a singer who told long comedic stories to a comedian who sometimes sang funny songs. Connolly’s comedy became very popular throughout Britain in the mid-1970’s. In 1969, Connolly had married Iris Pressagh, and they had two children together. Connolly’s involvement with show business as well as his problems with drugs and alcohol caused the end of their marriage in the early 1980’s; they legally divorced in 1985. In 1981, Connolly moved in with Pamela Stephenson, then a comedian. After the birth of their three daughters, they were married in 1989.

In 1990, after featuring in an HBO standup special with Whoopi Goldberg, Connolly’s popularity in America grew. He was cast in the sitcom “Head of the Class” in the 1990-1991 season, and moved with his family to Los Angeles in 1991. Connolly has since featured as a character actor in many U.S. television and movie productions, as well as continuing his career as a comedian. Much of Connolly’s comedy is idiosyncratic and irreverent. He uses profanity freely and jokes about many of the more difficult, abusive experiences of his childhood. He also takes many potshots at religion, especially Catholicism. Connolly was raised as a Catholic, and blames the Catholic Church’s prohibition of divorce, at least in part, for the sexual abuse he suffered at his father’s hands.

I don’t like religion. I think religion is a con. 

—Billy Connolly

Compiled by Eleanor Wroblewski

© 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.


FFRF is a non-profit, educational organization. All dues and donations are deductible for income-tax purposes.

FFRF has received a 4 star rating from Charity Navigator

 

FFRF privacy statement

AAI-LOGO

FFRF is a member of Atheist Alliance International.