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 years old he made his directorial debut with “Schlock” (1971), but it was 1978’s “National Lampoon’s Animal House” that earned Landis his first commercial success, grossing over $120 million domestically. From there, Landis co-wrote and directed “The Blues Brothers” (1980), starring John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd. Landis’ third cult-classic film, “An American Werewolf in London” (1981), won the inaugural 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 (age 7) and Renee Shin-Yi Chen (age 6), were trapped beneath a helicopter when it crashed due to special-effect explosions that went off too close to the tail rotor. Landis himself was riding in the helicopter when it crashed and suffered injuries. Landis was eventually acquitted of the charges, and the families of the deceased actors settled out of court with the film studio. The accident was directly responsible for reforming safety standards and regulations in the film industry. Landis would go on to direct many more blockbuster films, including “Trading Places” (1983), ”Three Amigos” (1986), ”Coming to America” (1988) and “Beverly Hills Cop III” (1994). In addition, 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, most notably in a 2011 interview with the BBC.

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

—John Landis, in an interview with IFC

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 had branched out from strictly radio work to television game and interview shows. He was also the voice of the Eurovision Song Contest in the UK 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 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."

Photo by Keith Laverack posted 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. 1, 2004

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 in England 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 Rupert Brooke. His friends included E.M. Forster, Virginia Woolf, Keynes, George Bernard Shaw, Henry James, and Violet Asquith, the daughter of the Prime Minister. Brooke 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 Naval division. 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 in England. Winston Churchill wrote a patriotic obituary after his death. Brooke was at minimum a strong doubter (see his poem "Heaven"). D. 1915.

Fish (fly-replete, in depth of June,
Dawdling away their wat'ry noon)
Ponder deep wisdom, dark or clear,
Each secret fishy hope or fear.
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.
Oh! never fly conceals a hook,
Fish say, in the Eternal Brook,
But more than mundane weeds are there,
And mud, celestially fair;
Fat caterpillars drift around,
And Paradisal grubs are found;
Unfading moths, immortal flies,
And the worm that never dies.
And in that Heaven of all their wish,
There shall be no more land, say fish.

—-Rupert Brooke, "Heaven," 1913

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor

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