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 3 entries for this date: Arthur Hailey , Algernon Charles Swinburne and Thomas Hobbes

Arthur Hailey

On this date in 1920, Arthur Hailey was born in Bedfordshire, England. In 1939, he joined the Royal Air Force as a pilot. He served in the RAF until 1947, when he emigrated to Canada. His career as a writer began in 1955 when he imagined what would happen if the pilot and co-pilot both became ill, and if he as a former fighter pilot would be able to fly the plane. His teleplay, "Flight Into Danger," produced by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, later morphed into the successful novel, Airport (1968), which was spoofed in the 1980 Leslie Nielsen favorite, "Airplane!" After working as a television writer, Hailey began to write novels, some based on his television scripts. Hailey's books were aimed at a popular audience, and many were bestsellers. Hailey is often considered to be one of the pioneers of the “disaster fiction” genre and, by extension, the “disaster movie.” Many of Hailey's novels are set in institutions the public must interact with — like airports and hotels — but are unaware of their inner workings.

Hailey's last novel, Detective (1998), is a mystery told from the perspective of a Miami homicide detective. This detective also happens to be a former Catholic priest who has lost his religion; the work deals with themes of religion and questions the Catholic church. Hailey told the Walden Book Report that his aim in writing this book was to share his own thoughts about religion without “mak[ing] it a lecture.” He says that he lost his own faith while serving in Cyprus during World War II, and that since ex-priests have many occupations he might as well give his protagonist an exciting one. D. 2004.

“I'd been on patrol, and I went to church that evening. It was an Anglican church, quite high church (I always liked the ceremony) and I was standing up, reciting the Apostles' Creed (which to this day I could recite word for word) and suddenly I realized I didn't believe a word of it, and probably never had. And I never went back to church after that, except for the occasional funeral.”

—Arthur Hailey, in Walden Book Report, July 1998

Compiled by Eleanor Wroblewski

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

Algernon Charles Swinburne

Algernon Charles Swinburne

On this date in 1837, poet Algernon Charles Swinburne was born in London into a High Church family. Swinburne, who was very pious as a boy, later used his familiarity with religion and the bible to pillory Christianity in countless poems. At Oxford, Swinburne befriended the Pre-Raphaelite set. His poem "Atalanta in Calydon" (1865), which spoke of "... the supreme evil, God," launched his highly successful career. This was followed by "Poems and Ballads" (1866), the eroticism of which scandalized Victorian England but added to his poetic panache. In "Hertha," Swinburne wrote that "the gods of your fashion ... are worms that are bred in the bark that falls off; they shall die and not live." Swinburne closely followed politics, and was invited to represent English poetry in France at a commemoration of Voltaire's death in 1878.

Considered "excitable" as a youth and enjoying a reputation as a decadent, Swinburne was rescued from ill health apparently caused by alcoholism, by legal adviser Theodore Watts. Swinburne lived his last 30 years at Watts' home in great comfort. Freethought biographer Joseph McCabe, in A Biographical Dictionary of Modern Rationalists, wrote: "No poet was ever less religious, or showed more plainly how little religion is needed for great artistic inspiration. 'Glory to Man in the highest, for Man is the master of things,' is his keynote" (from "Hymn to Man"). D. 1909.

“Thou hast conquered, O pale Galilean; the world has grown grey from thy breath.”

—Algernon Charles Swinburne, "Hymn to Proserpine"

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

Thomas Hobbes

Thomas Hobbes

On this date in 1588, Thomas Hobbes was born prematurely on "Good Friday" in England, his birth precipitated by his mother's fear of the invasion of the Spanish Armada. Thomas was the precocious son of a ne'er-do-well parson. As a tutor, Hobbes made the "Grand Tour" of Europe three times, once meeting Galileo. Contemporary John Aubrey described Hobbes as "contemplative," and charitable, always carrying a pen and ink-horn in his cane, with a notebook handy so he could jot down ideas during daily constitutionals. Aubrey noted that Hobbes once wrote a poem in Latin hexameter and pentameter "on the encroachments of the clergy on the civil power," which contained over 500 verses.

Hobbes' De Cive was published in 1642 and Leviathan in 1651, in which Hobbes proposed the idea that a "social contract" was necessary for civil peace. Its analysis of religion brought charges of atheism, then punishable by death. When things got too hot in England after Leviathan, Hobbes repaired to Paris. After the Great Plague in 1665 was followed by the Great Fire the next year, religionists sought a scapegoat. Parliament once more targeted Leviathan for being heresy. Hobbes hastily burned many of his papers.

His writing helped give birth to the Enlightenment, by analyzing and questioning religious assumptions, and proposing that religion was created by humans. Hobbes attributed "opinion of ghosts, ignorance of second causes, devotion towards what men fear, and taking of things casual for prognostics, consisteth the natural seed of religion; which, by reason of the different fancies, judgements, and passions of several men, hath grown up into ceremonies so different that those which are used by one man are for the most part ridiculous to the other." Whether Deist, or covert atheist, Hobbes was anti-clerical, anti-Puritan and anti-Catholic, and managed to live out his full 91 years in perilous times due to influential friends. D. 1679.

“Seeing there are no signs nor fruit of religion but in man only, there is no cause to doubt but that the seed of religion is also only in man. . .” 

“Fear of power invisible, feigned by the mind or imagined from tales publicly allowed, RELIGION; not allowed, SUPERSTITION.” 

“They that approve a private opinion, call it opinion; but they that mislike it, heresy; and yet heresy signifies no more than private opinion.”

—Sir Thomas Hobbes, "Leviathan" (1651)

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

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