John Irving

On this date in 1942, novelist John Irving was born in Exeter, New Hampshire, as John Wallace Blunt Jr. John became John Winslow Irving after his mother remarried when he was six. He earned his B.A. from the University of New Hampshire in 1965 and his M.F.A. from the University of Iowa in 1967. His books include The World According to Garp (1978), an enormous bestseller, The Cider House Rules (1986) and A Widow for One Year (1999), all of which were turned into movies. (A Widow for One Year was excerpted for the movie "The Door in the Floor"). The Cider House Rules portrayed a sympathetic abortionist during the era when it was illegal and freethinking subject matter. Irving told Mother Jones magazine (May/June 1997): "But we are a country that likes to be punitive. We want to restrict. It is a kind of religious fervor run amok." When he was asked by Mother Jones if he is religious, Irving replied: "You know, if you asked me one day, I might say, 'Well, sometimes I feel a little bit religious.' If you asked me another day, I'd just say flat out, 'No.' " In Brave Souls: Writers and Artists Wrestle with God, Love, Death and the Things that Matter by Douglas Todd, Irving is quoted saying about his views on religion: "Now, if you push me to the wall, I'd say I'm not a believer. But it depends on the day you ask. . . I'm not comfortable calling myself a believer, a Christian. But if somebody says, 'are you an atheist?' I'd back down from that question too."

“[W]hen you legislate personal belief, you're in violation of freedom of religion. The Catholic Church may espouse its opinion on abortion to the members of its congregation. But they are in violation of separation of church and state when they try to proselytize their abortion politics on people who are not Catholics.”

—John Irving interview, Mother Jones, May/June 1997

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor; Photo by Tupungato,

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