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 2 entries for this date: Ludwig Buchner and Eric Idle
Ludwig Buchner

Ludwig Buchner

On this date in 1824, German physician and philosopher Friedrich Karl Christian Ludwig Buchner was born in Darmstadt, Germany. Buchner's father was a physician and his siblings were the freethinker writer and playwright Georg, the novelist Louise, Mathilde, the freethinker literary historian Alexander and factory owner and German parliamentarian Wilhelm. He was educated at the Universities of Giessen, Strassburg, Wurzburg and Vienna. After earning his medical doctorate with honors from Gissen in 1848, he taught medicine at Tubingen University. In 1855 he published his most famous work, Kraft und Stoff (Force and Matter). This book, because of its scientific, atheistic and rationalist ideas, caused his dismissal at Tubingen, and thus he began practicing medicine in Darmstadt. Force and Matter "made a bold attempt at transforming the then prevailing theory of the world which was based on theological philosophy, and adapting it to the requirements of modern science" (from a biographical sketch appearing as a preface to Force and Matter, 4th English Edition, p. ix). At the end of a Force and Matter chapter, in which he debunks the idea of God as universal, Buchner wrote: "If God is in us all and is the soul of the world, then he must directly partake of all our wickedness and imperfections. . . . In one man he does good, while in another he works evil and contends against his own laws. . . . But enough of all this nonsense!" (4th English Edition, p. 399).

Buchner,  considered one of the fathers of scientific materialism in Germany, wrote numerous articles and books, including Nature and Spirit, The Soul of Animals, Man's Place in Nature, The Idea of God, Darwinism and Socialism and The Influence of Heredity. Considered one of the fathers of scientific materialism in Germany, he traveled and lectured widely, including in the United States. According to his brother Alexander, Ludwig made visits to Charles Darwin. An obituary in the journal Science, by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, said: "Buchner was well known for his series of popular works on physical science and the theory of evolution, as well as for numerous contributions to physiology, pathology and other sciences" (Vol. 9, January-June 1899). "[Buchner's] philosophic and scientific writings entitle him to a foremost place in the gallery of great men who have led the human race out of the bondhouse of superstition to the promised land of reason" (George Seibel in "Thomas Paine in Germany," from The Open Court, Vol. 34, edited by Paul Carus, January 1920). His brother Alexander wrote of him: "As if trying to outdo the theologian with his promises of sugar plums, he predicted a better future here on earth for advancing science" (Last Words on Materialism and Kindred Subjects by Ludwig Buchner with an "Introduction" by Alexander Buchner, 1901).  D. 1899.

"[A]ccording to the unanimous testimony of traders, philosophers, navigators and missionaries, there exists a by no means small number of peoples, who have either no trace of religious belief, or who have it in so strange and imperfect a form that it scarcely deserves the name of religion. If there are, therefore, many philosophers and naturalists who look to 'religiosity,' and more particularly to the idea of God as the distinctive feature of humanity, the contention referred to must either be false, or we must make up our minds to deny human character to by no means a small number of actual and undoubted specimens of mankind."

—Ludwig Buchner, Force and Matter, 4th English Edition, p. 382

Compiled by Bonnie Gutsch

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

Eric Idle

Eric Idle

On this date in 1943, Eric Idle was born in the North of England: “By odd coincidence, I was born on my birthday,” he quips in his memoir, Always Look on the Bright Side of Life (2018). His father died in World War II, and his mother sent him away to school when he was five. When he was seven, she placed him in the Royal School Wolverhampton, previously known as the Royal Orphanage, which the children shortened to “Ophny.” He was there from seven until he “managed to escape” at the age of nineteen: “It was a physically abusive, bullying harsh environment for a kid.” Then accepted by Cambridge University, he discovered comedy. He was president of Footlights Revue, and graduated in 1965. He worked in several television comedies, including "The Frost Report." He wrote, directed and created “The Rutles,” the first mockumentary. He teamed up with Michael Palin, Terry Jones, Terry Gilliam, Graham Chapman and John Cleese for the enduring TV classic, "Monty Python's Flying Circus" (1969 - 1974). The cast produced several irreverent movies, with Idle a driving force, including "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" (1975), which spoofed religion and the Crusades. "Monty Python’s The Life of Brian" (1979) depicts what happens when a peasant, Brian, unfortunately gets mistaken for Jesus. In his memoir, Idle recounts how difficult it was to get studio backing for “The Life of Brian.” His friend George Harrison saved the day by mortgaging his mansion to pay for the entire $4.5 million budget: “It’s still the most anyone has ever paid for a cinema ticket.”

Brian and other crucifix victims (including Idle) memorably end the film singing Idle’s song, "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life." “Just remember that the last laugh is on you,” proclaims his anthem. Idle writes in his memoir, “The song was supposed to be ironic, but it ended up being iconic. . . people began to sing it in real wars and in real danger. It struck a chord somehow and . . . it’s the number one song requested at British funerals.” "The Meaning of Life" (1983) contains Idle's other signature "Galaxy Song," reminding humans of their insignificance and drawing on Idle’s interest in science. Idle has appeared in many other comedies, including "Nuns on the Run" (1990) and frequently tours the country with his revues. He also wrote the Tony Award-winning musical “Spamalot” (2005). He recruited his surviving fellow Pythons to a memorable reunion in 2014.The final show, which was streamed live globally, included a skit in which his scientist friend Brian Cox nitpicks at some of the dated lyrics in the “Galaxy Song,” ending when Stephen Hawking appears to run over Cox with his wheelchair. Idle has been married twice, with an enduring marriage to Tania Idle, and has two children. In his memoir, he terms himself an “old agnostic.” He writes, “My funeral song will go on . . . and on . . . though obviously we won’t. Dust to dust is about right. We dissipate into the carbon atoms we came from; technically, reincarnation is sort of correct, we get reassembled into other things.” He has suggested he’d like his tombstone to say: “I’d like a second opinion . . .”

The Lord God Made Them All

All things dull and ugly
All creatures short and squat
All things rude and nasty
The Lord God made the lot.

Each little snake that poisons
Each little wasp that stings
He made their brutish venom
He made their horrid wings.

All things sick and cancerous
All evil great and small,
All things foul and dangerous
The Lord God made them all.

Each nasty little hornet
Each beastly little squid
Who made the spiky urchin?
Who made the sharks? He did!

All things scabbed and ulcerous
All pox both great and small
Putrid, foul and gangrenous
The Lord God made them all.

—Composed by Eric Idle, sung by Monty Python team

Oh, Lord, Please Don't Burn Us

“O Lord, please don't burn us.
Don't grill or toast your flock.
Don't put us on the barbecue
Or simmer us in stock.
Don't braise or bake or boil us
Or stir-fry us in a wok

Oh, please don't lightly poach us
Or baste us with hot fat.
Don't fricassee or roast us
Or boil us in a vat,
And please don't stick thy servants, Lord,
In a Rotissomat”

—Composed by Eric Idle and John Du Prez, authored by Graham Chapman and John Cleese

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor; Photo by Jaguar PS, Shutterstock.com

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