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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Stephen Foster

Stephen Foster

On this date in 1826, Stephen Foster was born in Lawrenceville, Pennsylvania. Foster wrote the first great American popular songs and is remembered as the “father of American music.” Foster received little formal musical education and taught himself music composition and song writing. He was the first American songwriter to support himself from music sales, propelling the industry in its infancy. He produced a body of songs that have been remembered and sung longer than the works of any other American songwriters. Foster’s most famous songs include, “Oh Susanna,” “Camptown Races,” “Old Folks at Home,” and “My Old Kentucky Home.” Irving Berlin honored Foster by quoting part of the “Swanee River” in his first hit, “Alexander’s Ragtime Band” (he had a picture of Foster on his office wall). George Gershwin paid him a similar tribute with his first hit song, “Swanee.” They knew that if you wanted to tap into the culture of America, you had to start with Stephen Foster.

Little is known of Stephen Foster’s inner religious views, but he lived and worked as if he were not a believer. A nonconformist, he never joined a church and rarely attended services. The songs that he chose to write of his own volition were purely secular. Toward the end of his life, he accepted an assignment writing Sunday School songs. He hadn’t found God, but he had found a publisher. The songs were part of an endeavor to indoctrinate children with “catchy” music, sometimes setting religious words to secular melodies.

Foster married Jane Denny MacDowell in 1850 and the couple had one child together, Marion. Foster earned only small commissions on even his best-selling work and because there were no copyright laws at the time, he never was given his fair share from publishers and died with only 38 cents in his pocket. Stephen Foster may not have been an atheist—it is hard to know—but he certainly lived like a nonbeliever and wrote as a humanist, inspired by a hope for this world. D. 1864.

Shameful rivalries of creed
Shall not make the martyr bleed,
In the good time coming.
Religion shall be shorn of pride,
And flourish all the stronger;
And Charity shall trim her lamp;
Wait a little longer.

—⎯Stephen Foster, “There’s a Good Time Coming,” 1846.

Adapted from Dan Barker’s book, “The Good Atheist: Living a Purpose-Filled Life Without God,” (2011). Compiled by Sarah Eucalano.

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

Declaration of Independence

Declaration of Independence

On this date in 1776, Thomas Jefferson's "Declaration of Independence" was adopted, after a vote approving it on July 2. Its secular purpose was to "dissolve the political bands," and it inaugurated the anti-biblical idea that "governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed." Jefferson was a Deist who was highly critical of Christianity, and whose revolutionary document made references to a "Nature's God."

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

Giuseppe Garibaldi

Giuseppe Garibaldi

On this date in 1807, Giuseppe Garibaldi was born. Although his father wanted him to be a priest, Garibaldi set out to sea as a youth. He took part in the conspiracy of 1834, for which he was forced to flee from Italy. After adventurous travels, the famed Italian compatriot took a major role in work to emancipate Italy from outside rule. After the failed revolution of 1848, he traveled to America. He returned with a band of revolutionaries in 1859, then again in 1862 and 1870. He was elected to the Italian Parliament in 1872. Garibaldi called the Vatican "the Sacred Shop," and rejected all creeds. D. 1882.

“Dear Friends, -- Man has created God; not God man. -- Yours ever, Garibaldi.”
"

—Giuseppe Garibaldi, letter, 1880, cited by Joseph McCabe,A Biographical Dictionary of Modern Rationalists

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

Kay Nolte Smith

Kay Nolte Smith

On this date in 1932, Kay Nolte Smith was born in Minnesota. She received her B.A. from the University of Minnesota in 1952 and her Master's degree in theater and speech from the University of Utah in 1955. She married Prof. Philip Smith in 1958. She and her husband went into professional theatre together, co-producing Ayn Rand's "Penthouse Legend." She made TV commercials, performed off Broadway for a decade, joined several faculties as a teacher, then turned her energies to writing. Her first novel, Watcher (1980), won the Edgar Allen Poe award, followed by Mindspell (1983), Country of the Heart (1988), and Tale of the Wind (1991). Mindspell delved into the witchhunts. After her research for that book, Kay asserted that records of this heinous time should be "mandatory reading in every Sunday school. This is what made me an atheist. Consider how deeply witch craze was rooted in religion. The papal sanction was not abolished for six centuries. How can anyone belong to a church that treated its members this way?" (Feminist Connection interview, December 1983). D. 1993.

“The tragedy is that every brain cell devoted to belief in the supernatural is a brain cell one cannot use to make life richer or easier or happier.”
"

—Kay Nolte Smith, "Truth or Consequences," speech to the Freedom From Religion Foundation 1983 national convention. See

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor

© 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.


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