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 5 entries for this date: Matthew Arnold , Ed Miliband , Ava Gardner , John Morley and Christopher Buckley
Matthew Arnold

Matthew Arnold

On this date in 1822, Victorian poet and critic Matthew Arnold was born in Laleham on the Thames. He graduated from Oxford in 1844. His father was Dr. Thomas Arnold, the inspiration for Tom Brown's Schooldays, and head of the famous school of Rugby. Arnold parted ways with Christianity sometime in his teens, on intellectual and ethical grounds, and became an agnostic. In "Stanzas from the Grande Chartreuse," he later wrote: "Rigorous teachers seized my youth / And purged its faith, and trimm'd its fire / Show'd me the high, white star of Truth." In 1851 he was appointed "Her Majesty's Inspector of Schools," an arduous responsibility he held for 35 years. His poem, "Empedocles on Etna," published only with the initial "A," appeared the following year. Religious critics censored sale of the book after only 50 were sold. Poems of Matthew Arnold was published in 1857, followed by other volumes. Arnold served for a decade as professor of poetry at Oxford. In his 40s he largely turned from poetry to critical writing. His Essays in Criticism came out in 1865. Arnold's freethinking was clearly delineated in Culture and Anarchy (1869), Saint Paul and Protestantism (1870), Literature and Dogma (1873) and Last Essays on Church and Religion (1877). In his poem, "Dover Beach," he described "The Sea of Faith . . . Retreating." Although Arnold gently defined religion as "morality touched with emotion" and some detect a tinge of regret in his rejection of faith, he was an ardent critic of Christian doctrine and the bible. "It is almost impossible to exaggerate the proneness of the human mind to take miracles as evidence, and to seek for miracles as evidence," he wrote in Literature and Dogma. "Miracles do not happen," he baldly wrote in the preface to the 1883 edition of Literature and Dogma. D. 1888.

"The personages of the Christian heaven and their conversations are no more matter of fact than the personages of the Greek Olympus and their conversations."

—Matthew Arnold, God and the Bible, preface, 1875. (Quote source: 2,000 Years of Disbelief by James Haught.)

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor; Photo by Elliott & Fry [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

Ed Miliband

Ed Miliband

On this date in 1969, Edward Samuel Miliband was born in London to Polish Jewish immigrants who fled to England during the Holocaust. His father, Ralph Miliband, was a prominent sociologist and Marxist scholar and educator. His mother was a feminist and human rights activist. Miliband studied politics and economics at Corpus Christi College at Oxford University and earned a Master’s in economics at the London School of Economics. Miliband’s political career began in 1997 as a special adviser to Gordon Brown, a post he held until 2002. He then spent several semesters at Harvard as a visiting scholar in the Center for European Studies, where he taught economics. In 2004, Miliband was appointed chair of the HM Treasury’s Council of Economic Advisers. In 2005, Miliband won a seat in the Labour party and was elected to Parliament later that year. The following year, Miliband became Parliamentary Secretary to the Cabinet Office under Prime Minister Tony Blair. In 2007, new Prime Minister Gordon Brown appointed Miliband, his former adviser, as a Minister for the Cabinet and Miliband was charged with drafting the Labour Party’s manifesto for the next election cycle. Miliband was promoted in 2008 to the Secretary of State for the Department of Energy and Climate Change. After Brown resigned from the Labour Party and from his post as Prime Minister, Miliband and his brother David Miliband, competed for the Leader of Labour position. Ed won the election, defeating his brother by a narrow margin. Miliband became Leader of the Labour Party in September 2010 and Leader of the Opposition. Miliband is married to Justine Thornton (since 2011) and they have two sons together.

“I don’t believe in god personally, but I have great respect for those people who do. Different people have different religious views in this country. The great thing is that, whether we have faith or not, we are by and large very tolerant of people whatever their view.”

—Ed Miliband, quoted in The Telegraph (U.K.), “Ed Miliband: I don’t believe in god,” Sept. 29, 2010

Compiled by Bonnie Gutsch; Photo by Featureflash,

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

Ava Gardner

Ava Gardner

On this date in 1922, actress Ava Lavinia Gardner was born in Grabtown, N.C., the last of seven children born to her Irish Catholic father (a tenant farmer who died when Ava was 16) and Scottish Baptist mother. Biographer Charles Higham wrote this of the family: "Books were no part of the texture of their life: only the Bible stood on the shelves, and it was not until Ava was 16 that she was permitted to read any novel not assigned in school." She grew up attending Baptist services and enrolled for a year at Atlantic Christian College (now Barton College), affiliated with the Disciples of Christ. Visiting her sister in New York City in 1939, she caught the eye of a photographer with ties to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios. Two years later, she signed a seven-year contract with MGM for $50 a week and married Mickey Rooney. She soon divorced him and then bandleader Artie Shaw before marrying Frank Sinatra in 1951. They divorced in 1957. While she had relationships with other men throughout her life, including Howard Hughes, John Huston and Ernest Hemingway, she never again married. She never had children and ended at least two pregnancies with abortions. Gardner's acting career expanded from small, walk-on roles to starring with Clark Gable in "The Hucksters" and "Mogambo." In between she had a leading role in the musical "Show Boat." Gardner exuded "sultry" as a femme fatale in her four-decade film career. She was nominated once (in 1953) for a Best Actress Oscar as Eloise "Honey Bear" Kelly in "Mogambo," losing to Audrey Hepburn in "Roman Holiday." Gardner's only Golden Globe nomination was for 1964's "Night of the Iguana," won by Anne Bancroft for "The Pumpkin Eater."

Religion never played a positive role in her life, according to biographers and Gardner herself, in her autobiography Ava: My Story. Her friend Zoe Sallis, who met her on the set of "The Bible" when Gardner was living with Huston in Puerto Vallarta, said Gardner always seemed unconcerned about religion. When Sallis asked her about religion once, Gardner replied, "It doesn't exist." Gardner ended her acting career on the small screen with several TV roles in the mid-1980s. She suffered a stroke in 1986 and was plagued by lung problems before dying at home in 1990 of pneumonia at age 67.

Public domain photo by Eiga no Tomo via Wikimedia


“[N]obody wanted to know Daddy when he was dying. He was so alone. He was scared. I could see the fear in his eyes when he was smiling. I went to see the preacher, the guy who’d baptized me. I begged him to come and visit Daddy, just to talk to him, you know? Give him a blessing or something. But he never did. He never came. God, I hated him. Cold-ass bastards like that ought to . . . I don’t know . . . they should be in some other racket, I know that. I had no time for religion after that. I never prayed. I never said another prayer.”

—"Ava Gardner: The Secret Conversations," by Peter Evans and Ava Gardner

Compiled by Bill Dunn

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

John Morley

John Morley

On this date in 1838, author and statesman John Morley was born in England. He was educated at Cheltenham College and Oxford. His father wanted him to become a clergyman and withdrew his financial support when Morley demurred. His plans to take the bar were interrupted by taking editorship of the rationalist Fortnightly Review in 1867, for which he also wrote. The trademark of agnostic Morley was to spell "God" with a small "g." His books include Burke (1867), Voltaire (1871), Rousseau (1873), On Compromise (1874), Diderot (1878), Life of Gladstone (3 vols., 1903), and Recollections (1917). He became editor of the crusading newspaper Pall Mall Gazette in 1880 and supported Prime Minister William Gladstone. Morley represented Newcastle in Parliament from 1883 to 1895, and Montrose Burghs from 1896 to 1908. He supported parliamentary reform and Irish Home Rule, and opposed the Boer War. Morley was Chief Secretary for Ireland in 1886, and 1892 to 1895. Known as "honest John Morley," he was Secretary of State for India from 1905 to 1910, and Lord President of the Council from 1910 to 1914, retiring from politics to protest entry into WWI. D. 1923.

“Where it is a duty to worship the sun, it is pretty sure to be a crime to examine the laws of heat.”

—John Morley, "Bartlett's Familiar Quotations"

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

Christopher Buckley

Christopher Buckley

On this date in 1952, political satirist Christopher Buckley was born in New York City to conservative icon William F. Buckley Jr. and Canadian socialite Patricia (Taylor) Buckley, both Catholics. Buckley attended Catholic grammar schools and then a secondary school run by Benedictine monks. After high school, Buckley worked briefly on a Norwegian freighter and then graduated with an English degree from Yale University in 1975. Buckley began his career at Esquire magazine, in various editorial positions, which led to his appointment as managing editor at the age of 25. He left the magazine in 1979 to once again work at sea, this time as a merchant marine on a tramp freighter. This experience, which included being suspected by some fellow marines as an undercover police officer and a member of the CIA, inspired his first book, Steaming to Bamboola: The World of a Tramp Freighter (1982), which Detroit News called "thoroughly enjoyable" and the Washington Post lauded as "a funny, high-spirited and immensely enjoyable book." Buckley served as chief speechwriter to then-Vice President George H.W. Bush from 1981-1983. Buckley's well-received first novel, White House Mess (1986), satirized both politics and the writing of memoirs. Buckley continued to write successful satirical books such as Wet Work (1991), Thank You For Smoking (1994), which was also made into a popular film, God Is My Broker: A Monk-Tycoon Reveals the 7-1/2 Laws of Spiritual and Financial Growth (1998) and No Way to Treat a First Lady (2002).

Buckley has also written on more serious subjects, such as his sometimes contentious relationship with his parents (Losing Mum and Pup: A Memoir, 2009), and especially about his father, who founded the conservative National Review, and was considered to be the father of the modern conservative movement. The younger Buckley ditched his own conservativism during the 2008 election by publicly supporting Barack Obama, which lost him his unpaid gig writing for his father's magazine. He defended his reasoning in an online article titled, "Sorry, Dad, I'm Voting for Obama" (Daily Beast, Oct. 2008). He wrote, "having a first-class temperament and a first-class intellect, President Obama will (I pray, secularly) surely understand that traditional left-politics aren't going to get us out of this pit we've dug ourselves." Buckley wrote: "Our choice, last fall, was between an angry 73-year-old with a legislative record far from consistently conservative [John McCain], who nominated as his running mate [Sarah Palin] a know-nothing religious extremist. On the other side was an appealing, thoughtful man who — for a brief shining moment — seemed to be more than the sum of his ideological parts.” (Forbes, March 2009).

In a Time magazine interview with Joel Stein, Buckley said, "I was raising (my kids) agnostic, then the Hale-Bopp thing happened, and I thought, 'What if in their 20s, they decide they need some spiritual connection and they turn to some idiot like that cult leader?' " (April 5, 1999). Buckley says he grew tired of fighting with his Roman Catholic father over religion, and that his "agnosticism, once defiant, had gone underground. I no longer had the desire to nail my theses to his church door. By now I knew we didn’t have much time left, and I didn’t want to spend it locking theological horns," ("Growing Up Buckley," The New York Times Magazine, April 26, 2009, p. 23). The young Buckley recalled in Losing Mum and Pup, that as a defiant agnostic, father and son "waged their 'own Hundred Years' War over the matter of faith' and exchanged, by Christopher's count, over 3,000 contentious letters and e-mails" on the subject (James Rosen, "The Final Buckley Bon Mot," Washington Post, May 2009). "I'm no longer a believer, but I haven't quite reached the point of reading aloud from Christopher Hitchens' 'God Is Not Great' at deathbeds of loved ones" (Christopher Buckley, "Growing Up Buckley," The New York Times Magazine, April 26, 2009).

As an only child, did you find one of your parents easier to talk to than the other? My mother. She got it. He often didn’t get it.

What didn’t he get? Religion.

He was a practicing Catholic. What are you? I am post-Catholic.

As opposed to a lapsed Catholic? I am probably more of a collapsed Catholic.

Do you believe in the afterlife? Alas, no.”

—-Christopher Buckley, in The New York Times Magazine interview by Deborah Solomon, "Questions for Christopher Buckley: The Right Stuff," October 23, 2008

Compiled by Bonnie Gutsch

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