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: John Ruskin and Philip Appleman
John Ruskin

John Ruskin

On this date in 1829, art critic and reformer John Ruskin was born an only child in London. Ruskin's mother, who was a devout evangelical, intended her son for the Church. But Ruskin turned to the arts, studying art and poetry at King's College and Oxford. In Praeterita (1855), Ruskin related that by the age of fourteen, he had rejected the literal truth of the bible: "It had never entered into my head to doubt a word of the Bible, though I saw well enough already that its words were to be understood otherwise than I had been taught; but the more I believed it, the less it did me any good. It was all very well for Abraham to do what angels bid him, -- so would I, if any angels bid me; but none had ever appeared to me that I knew of." Ruskin credited his interest in geology with destroying his faith, unable to reconcile that science with such claims as the Flood. Ruskin became a public figure when he took up the cudgels to defend the paintings of Joseph Turner, writing the book Modern Painters (1843). Ruskin wrote several other books on art, then turned to social reform, working as an art teacher with the London Working Men's College, and writing on economic questions. Ruskin also founded the Art School at Oxford, a museum in Sheffield, and attempted some experimental agrarian communities. "In an earlier age he might have become a saint," noted E.T. Cook in the Dictionary of Natural Biology. Ruskin gave away most of his inheritance on the theory that it was a contradiction to be a rich socialist. He became Slade professor of Art at Oxford (1869-1879). His interest in architecture helped to birth the National Trust and the Society of the Protection of Ancient Buildings. In his reforming years (1858-1875), Ruskin was decidedly agnostic, telling Augustus Hare in 1860 that he "believed nothing" (Hare, Story of My Life). In Fors Clavigera (1875), Ruskin admitted that "of all sects . . . I most dislike and distrust the so-called Evangelical." Although he dallied with spiritualism in the 1870s and regained a vague theism, according to biographer E.T. Cook, Ruskin never rejoined the Church. When talking of taking "the Lord's Supper," Ruskin was joking about dining at his own table. Cook also wrote that Ruskin rejected the misconception that morality depends on religion. Ruskin's returning interest in religion coincided with his first of several recurring bouts of mental illness in 1878. D. 1900.

“It is neither Madonna-worship nor saint-worship, but the evangelical self-worship and hell-worship—gloating, with an imagination as unfounded as it is foul, over the torments of the damned, instead of the glories of the blest—which have in reality degraded the languid powers of Christianity to their present state of shame and reproach.”

—John Ruskin, Fors Clavigera (1875)

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

Philip Appleman

Philip Appleman

On this date in 1926, Philip Appleman was born in Kendallville, Ind. The Distinguished Professor Emeritus at Indiana University, considered the "Poet Laureate of Humanism and Freethought," has nine published volumes of poetry. One of Appleman's most notable volumes is New and Selected Poems, 1956-1996, which includes his powerful freethought poetry from the acclaimed "Let There Be Light."

Appleman, a Darwin scholar and aficionado, is the editor of the impressive and widely-used Norton Critical Edition, Darwin, and the Norton Critical Edition of Malthus' Essay on Population. Appleman's poetry and fiction have won many awards, including a fellowship in poetry from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Humanist Arts Award from the American Humanist Association, the Friend of Darwin Award from the National Center for Science Education, and the Castagnola Award from the Poetry Society of America. His writing has appeared in Harper's Magazine, The Nation, New Republic, The New York Times, Paris Review, Partisan Review, Poetry, Sewanee Review and Yale Review. Phil is married to playwright Marjorie Appleman and they live in New York.

O Karma, Dharma, Pudding and Pie

“O Karma, Dharma, pudding and pie,
gimme a break before I die:
grant me wisdom, will, & wit,
purity, probity, pluck, & grit.
Trustworthy, helpful, friendly, kind,
gimme great abs and a steel-trap mind,
and forgive, Ye Gods, some humble advice --
these little blessings would suffice
to beget an earthly paradise:
make the bad people good --
and the good people nice;
and before our world goes over the brink,
teach the believers how to think.”

—Philip Appleman, from Karma, Dharma, Pudding & Pie

Last-Minute Message for a Time Capsule

“I have to tell you this, whoever you are:
that on one summer morning here, the ocean
pounded in on tumbledown breakers,
a south wind, bustling along the shore,
whipped the froth into little rainbows,
and a reckless gull swept down the beach
as if to fly were everything it needed.
I thought of your hovering saucers,
looking for clues, and I wanted to write this down,
so it wouldn't be lost forever --
that once upon a time we had
meadows here, and astonishing things,
swans and frogs and luna moths
and blue skies that could stagger your heart.
We could have had them still,
and welcomed you to earth, but
we also had the righteous ones
who worshipped the True Faith, and Holy War.
When you go home to your shining galaxy,
say that what you learned
from this dead and barren place is
to beware the righteous ones.”
 

—Philip Appleman, from New and Selected Poems, 1956-1996

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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