John Burroughs

On this date in 1837, naturalist John Burroughs was born on a farm in the Catskills of New York state. After teaching and clerking in government, Burroughs returned to the Catskills and devoted his life to writing and gardening. He knew Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, Theodore Roosevelt, John Muir and Walt Whitman, writing the first biography of Whitman. Most of his 22 books are collected essays on nature and philosophy.

In his book “The Light of Day (1900), he illuminated his views on religion: “If we take science as our sole guide, if we accept and hold fast that alone which is verifiable, the old theology must go.” “When I look up at the starry heavens at night and reflect upon what is it that I really see there, I am constrained to say, ‘There is no God.’ “

In his journal dated Feb. 18, 1910, he wrote: “Joy in the universe, and keen curiosity about it all — that has been my religion.” He died on his 83rd birthday. The John Burroughs Sanctuary can be found near West Park, N.Y., and his rustic cabin Slabsides has been preserved. (D. 1921)

Freedom From Religion Foundation