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 4 entries for this date: Paul Robeson , Charles Baudelaire , Tom Lehrer and Paul Krassner
Paul Robeson

Paul Robeson

On this date in 1898, Paul Robeson, the son of a former slave and preacher, was born in New Jersey. Robeson was awarded a 4-year scholarship to Rutgers, becoming that university's third black student. He was a 12-letter athlete, Phi Beta Kappa scholar, Cap & Skull Honor Society member and valedictorian of his 1919 graduating class. Robeson earned a law degree from Columbia in 1923, but encountered racist barriers, such as a white secretary refusing to take dictation from him. Robeson turned to theater, starring in Eugene O'Neill's "All God's Chillun Got Wings" (1924) and "Emperor Jones." Robeson changed the words to Jerome Kern's song, "Old Man River," when he starred in "Showboat." It became the mellifluous singer's signature song. He made 11 films and gave popular concert tours around the world, but faced constant "Jim Crow" racism even in Europe. The increasingly radical Robeson, questioning why American blacks should be loyal to a country that denied them equal rights, was called before the House Committee on Un-American Activities in 1947, and was denied a passport until 1958. He spent time in Russia and abroad before returning to the United States. According to Who's Who in Hell, edited by Warren Allen Smith, Robeson was a naturalist and nontheist. D. 1976.

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

Charles Baudelaire

Charles Baudelaire

On this date in 1821, influential poet Charles Pierre Baudelaire was born in Paris into an aristocratic, Catholic family. His father, a former priest, had, at age 60, married a 26-year-old woman. After Charles' father died, his mother remarried, leading to an estrangement and what he recalled as a feeling of "eternal solitude" during his childhood. He abandoned religious notions in his youth. Educated at College de Lyon and Lycee Louis le Grand, he entered law school, where he apparently acquired both syphilis and an opium habit, but no law degree. Baudelaire was described as being "on the barricades" of the revolution of 1848. He translated Edgar Allan Poe's Tales in 1856. His own collection of 151 short poems, Les Fleurs du Mal (The Flowers of Evil) came out in 1857, including the poem "Les litanies de Satan." He, the publisher and the printer were all prosecuted for obscenity and blasphemy and found guilty. Six poems were excised to conform to the laws. He had several mistresses, primarily Jeanne Duval, a woman of mixed race whom he immortalized in his poem "Black Venus." Along with Mallarme and Verlaine, Baudelaire was one of the so-called "Decadents." He had some success as a critic, and knew many writers and painters. His life ended in a medical downward spiral, but not before penning "Pauvre Belgique," a collection of insults toward that country, where he had lived as an invalid, which has been published in several editions. Baudelaire died in his mother's arms. D. 1867.

“God is the only being who does not have to exist in order to reign.”

—pan class=Apple-style-span

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

Tom Lehrer

Tom Lehrer

On this date in 1928, satiric songwriter Tom Lehrer was born. The precocious student earned a degree in math from Harvard at 18 and a Master's the following year. Lehrer recorded "The Songs of Tom Lehrer" in 1953, followed by "An Evening (Wasted) With Tom Lehrer." He performed on stage reluctantly, finally bowing out altogether. After writing for NBC's "That Was The Week That Was" (1964), Lehrer cut his third and most political album, "That Was The Year That Was." A musical revue of his work, "Tomfoolery," later opened in London. Lehrer has taught at MIT, Harvard and Wellesley, and currently teaches at the University of California-Santa Cruz. One of his most famous quips: "Political satire became obsolete when Henry Kissinger was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize." His claim to fame in the freethought community is the perennial favorite, "Vatican Rag" (words below). Lehrer has said: "I firmly believe all religion is bullshit, but I don't think I would have gone and written a song expressing that, unless I could figure out a way to make it funny." (Telephone interview with Jeremy Mazner, Nov. 21, 1995).

“First you get down on your knees,
Fiddle with your rosaries,
Bow your head with great respect,
And genuflect, genuflect, genuflect!

Do whatever steps you want, if
You have cleared them with the Pontiff.
Everybody say his own
Kyrie eleison,
Doin' the Vatican Rag.

Get in line in that processional,
Step into that small confessional,
There, the guy who's got religion'll
Tell you if your sin's original.
If it is, try playin' it safer,
Drink the wine and chew the wafer,
Two, four, six, eight,
Time to transubstantiate!

So get down upon your knees,
Fiddle with your rosaries,
Bow your head with great respect,
And genuflect, genuflect, genuflect!

Make a cross on your abdomen,
When in Rome do like a Roman,
Ave Maria,
Gee it's good to see ya,
Gettin' ecstatic an'
Sorta dramatic an'
Doin' the Vatican Rag!”

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

Paul Krassner

Paul Krassner

On this date in 1932, comedian and radical editor Paul Krassner was born in Brooklyn, New York. The co-founder of Yippies (Youth International Party), with Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin, he edited The Realist from 1958 to 1974. When People magazine dubbed the standup satirist the "father of the underground press," Krassner quipped that he would demand a paternity test. Both journalist and activist, Krassner, after interviewing a doctor who was performing abortions before their legalization, decided to run an underground abortion referral service. An FBI agent once wrote a letter to the editor saying, "To classify Krassner as a social rebel is far too cute. He's a nut, a raving, unconfined nut." Krassner's memoirs were consequently titled, Confessions of a Raving, Unconfined Nut. Krassner edited Lenny Bruce's biography, How to Talk Dirty and Influence People. Krassner's comic records include, "We Have Ways of Making You Laugh." After ABC's Harry Reasoner said, "Krassner not only attacks establishment values; he attacks indecency in general," Krassner called his one-man show "Attacking Indecency in General." He has written for Rolling Stone, Spin, Mother Jones, The Nation and Ron Reagan's late-night talkshow. Krassner has been inducted in the Counterculture Hall of Fame. His many books include The Winner of the Slow Bicycle Race: The Satiric Writings of Paul Krassner, Impolite Interviews, Murder at the Conspiracy Convention and Other American Absurdities. The San Francisco Examiner has said of him: "He has lived on the edge so long he gets his mail delivered there." Krassner repeatedly identifies himself as an atheist in his interviews and writings.

“I had become an atheist at the age of thirteen, when atomic bombs were dropped on Japan.”

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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