Musings on May 7 freethinkers.

It turns out that May 7 is a very good birthday for freethinkers (via FFRF-h/t Don Ardell):

Robert Browning, English poet, born May 7, 1812. Browning announced his atheism at age 13, but would come to revisit god-belief throughout his life and career. When his beloved wife, the poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning, died in 1861, Browning was said to have discarded all remaining Christian beliefs.

Who knows most, doubts most. –Robert Browning

Ignorance is not innocence but sin. –Robert Browning

Perhaps one has to be very old before one learns to be amused rather than shocked. –Robert Browning

Johannes Brahms, German composer and pianist, born May 7,1833. Brahms was a liberal, an ardent opponent of anti-Semitism, an avid hiker, well-read in science and philosophy, and by all accounts exceedingly generous with his time and charity. His biographer described him as “a humanist and an agnostic.”

The only true immortality lies in one’s children. –Johannes Brahms

Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Russian composer, born May 7, 1840. (“Romeo and Juliet” (1869), “Swan Lake” (1876), “The Sleeping Beauty” (1890) and “Piano Concerto in B Flat Minor” (1875)…) His letters show an interest in religious questions, and a distinct drift toward agnosticism by the end of his life. Historians have suggested that his homosexuality may have played a role in his gravitation away from religion. When I was a kid Tchaikovsky’s “The Nutcracker” (1892) completely captivated me, and still to this day transports me to majestic realms of magical beings and dark beauty the moment I hear it.

I played over the music of that scoundrel Brahms. What a giftless bastard! It annoys me that this self-inflated mediocrity is hailed as a genius. –Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

Well okay then. I’d probably have adored Brahms, and honestly Tchaikovsky sounds like kind of a douche. But when it comes down to the music, I’m on Team Tchaikovsky.

I used my mad Google skillz to discover that Scottish philosopher David Hume was also born on May 7, in the year 1711. Truefax: Your Humble Monarch™ pursued a philosophy minor in college, but fell three credits short before deciding she just had to get the hell out of there with merely a double major (Theatre Arts—oh my parents just loooved that idea, let me tell you—and Communications with a specialization in mass media). But I loved studying philosophy. Well, some of it anyway. And I credit that to an amazing professor, Dr. Lucia Palmer, now deceased.

LuciaPalmerlgLucia Palmer

This woman was brilliant and engaging; she was in love with the subject matter as much as she was the teaching of it, and it was contagious. Alas, that was a long time ago, and I can no longer quote Kant or Karl Popper. But I can recall in detail how she both challenged and encouraged me as a thinker and a writer, recruited me to join her small honors classes, and opened up a world of history and disciplined thought and astonishing ideas I had never encountered before.

I never knew her date of birth. But it wouldn’t surprise me if it were May 7.

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