Freethought of the Day

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There are 3 entries for this date: John Landis , Michael Terence Wogan and Rupert Brooke
John Landis

John Landis

On this date in 1950, American director, producer, screenwriter and actor John Landis was born in Chicago. Landis, who was born into a Jewish family, began his career working as a mailboy for 20th Century Fox. When Landis was only 21 he made his directorial debut with “Schlock” (1971), but it was 1978’s “National Lampoon’s Animal House” that brought him commercial success, grossing over $120 million domestically. Landis co-wrote and directed “The Blues Brothers” (1980), starring John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd. “An American Werewolf in London” (1981) won the Academy Award for Best Makeup.

In 1982 Landis was charged with involuntary manslaughter for the death of actor Vic Morrow and two child extras during the filming of “Twilight Zone.” Morrow and the extras, Myca Dinh Le, 7, and Renee Shin-Yi Chen, 6, were trapped beneath a helicopter when it crashed due to special-effect explosions that went off too close to the tail rotor. Landis was riding in the copter when it crashed and suffered injuries. He was eventually acquitted of the charges and the families settled out of court with the film studio.

Landis would go on to direct many more blockbuster films, including “Trading Places” (1983), ”Three Amigos” (1986), ”Coming to America” (1988), “Beverly Hills Cop III” (1994) and "Blues Brothers 2000" (1998, co-writer with Dan Aykroyd). Landis directed the music videos for Michael Jackson’s "Thriller" (1983) and "Black or White" (1991).

Landis has spoken about his atheism on multiple occasions. He and his wife Deborah Nadoolman, an Oscar-nominated costume designer, have two children, Max and Rachel.

“I’m an atheist. I do not believe in the devil; in fact, I’m suspect of people who do.”

—Landis, Independent Film Channel interview (Nov. 23, 2011)

Compiled by Paul Epland

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

Michael Terence Wogan

Michael Terence Wogan

On this date in 1938, Michael Terence "Terry" Wogan was born in Limerick, Ireland. When he retired from his BBC Radio morning program "Wake Up to Wogan" in 2009, he had about 8 million listeners, making it the most popular radio broadcast in Europe. He had started his career in 1963 with Radio Éireann, the Irish national broadcaster. He was educated by Salesian nuns in primary school and later at Crescent College and Belvedere College, both Jesuit schools. In 1966, when his daughter Vanessa died at 3 weeks of age, his wife sought refuge in Catholicism but the tragedy cemented his nonbelief, Wogan said in 2005. He called losing his faith at age 17 a relief. Interviewed by New Internationalist magazine on Aug. 1, 2004, he said, "There were hundreds of churches, all these missionaries breathing fire and brimstone, telling you how easy it was to sin, how you'd be in hell. We were brainwashed into believing."

Wogan branched out from strictly radio work to television game and interview shows. He was also the voice of the Eurovision Song Contest for many years and was involved with and hosted the Children in Need telethon since its inception in 1980. He acquired dual British citizenship in 2005, the same year he was knighted. "There was no one better at being a friend behind the microphone than Sir Terry," said fellow broadcaster Simon Mayo. Wogan said the two most important attributes a person could have were kindness and family. He and his wife Helen Joyce had four children. He also wrote a column in The Sunday Telegraph for many years and wrote several books, including the autobiographies Is It Me? and Mustn’t Grumble.

When he died of cancer in 2016, The Telegraph's obituary said he was "the most popular and best-loved broadcaster in Britain for more than three decades, confecting a middlebrow, old-fashioned brand of gentle Irish whimsy that barely concealed his forthright and often antagonistic views about the BBC and the people who run it."

Wogan at the 2015 Cheltenham Literature Festival; Julie Anne Johnson photo under CC 2.0.

"I'm afraid I don't believe in God. My mother was devout and so is my wife. But I have the intellectual arrogance that makes it very hard to believe in him. I don't have the gift of faith. I remember at school I used to make up sins at confession. What we were told were sins by priests were not sins at all."

—The Sunday Independent (May 8, 2005)

Compiled by Bill Dunn

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

Rupert Brooke

Rupert Brooke

On this date in 1887, Rupert Brooke was born in England. The Cambridge-educated poet became a celebrity among his Fabian Society peers. W.B. Yeats famously dubbed him "the handsomest young man in England." Bertrand Russell, in his autobiography, recorded there was "no humbug" in Brooke. He traveled widely, including trips to North America and the South Seas. He edited an anthology of Georgian poetry and his own book, Poems 1911, came out the same year.

When World War I broke out in 1914, the 27-year-old became a sub-lieutenant in the Royal Navy. Weakened by a series of illnesses, Brooke died off the Greek island of Skyros of blood poisoning from an insect bite. He had only seen combat once, but his sonnet, "Soldier" and several other wartime poems, became celebrated during the early, war-fevered years. Winston Churchill wrote a patriotic obituary after his death. Brooke was at minimum a strong doubter (see an excerpt below of his poem "Heaven"). D. 1915.

Fish say, they have their Stream and Pond;
But is there anything Beyond?
This life cannot be All, they swear,
For how unpleasant, if it were!
One may not doubt that, somehow, Good
Shall come of Water and of Mud;
And, sure, the reverent eye must see
A Purpose in Liquidity.
We darkly know, by Faith we cry,
The future is not Wholly Dry.
Mud unto mud! — Death eddies near —
Not here the appointed End, not here!
But somewhere, beyond Space and Time.
Is wetter water, slimier slime!
And there (they trust) there swimmeth One
Who swam ere rivers were begun,
Immense, of fishy form and mind,
Squamous, omnipotent, and kind;
And under that Almighty Fin,
The littlest fish may enter in.

—Rupert Brooke, "Heaven" (1913)

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor

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