Category Archives: Listen

Listen: The Turning – The Sisters Who left

In 1995, Christopher Hitchens published The Missionary Position: Mother Theresa in Theory and Practice. Both then and now, Hitchens’ investigative journalism (and let’s be honest, polemics) earn him life-size portions of love and hate. But Hitchens was well aware that going after one of the twentieth century’s most iconic and celebrated figures of religious propagation would not result in anonymity.

Pin on Unrepentant Atheist

Twenty-first century humanists owe much to Hitchens’ willingness – or perhaps more accurately, energetic eagerness! – not only to publish the results of his inquiries, his insights and his opinions but also to engage with the often passionate and outraged responses.

Consider the popular new podcast, The Turning: The Sisters Who Left which currently has ten episodes available via iHeartRadio and other podcast providers. It hardly seems at all likely that this podcast would be available and popularly received, if not for the earlier work of Hitchens.

The Turning: The Sisters Who Left

The folks responsible for producing the podcast have indicated that it is “inspired by Mary Johnson’s memoir, An Unquenchable Thirst. Weaving poignant, sometimes startling stories with a gorgeous soundscape, host Erika Lantz of Rococo Punch interviews Mary and several other former Missionaries of Charity.”

Meanwhile, on Mary Johnson’s website, we learned that “Mary Johnson is the author of An Unquenchable Thirst, named one of 2011’s best nonfiction books by Kirkus Reviews and awarded the New Hampshire Literary Award for Outstanding Work of Nonfiction. After spending 20 years as a nun with the Sisters of Mother Teresa of Calcutta, she completed an MFA in Creative Writing at Goddard College and helped found A Room of Her Own Foundation. She married. Mary now considers herself a secular Humanist . As a Humanist Celebrant, Mary creates unique ceremonies for weddings, funerals, and other rites of passage, and has twice been voted New Hampshire’s top wedding officiant….Mary continues to find the world a marvelous place and tries her best to treat others well. She continues to invest in community, knowing that respectful, affectionate bonds formed among human beings are among life’s most precious gifts, whether in churches, mosques, gyms or bars, schools or shops, or synagogues.

The Turning, An Unquenchable Thirst and The Missionary Position are each deserving of recognition for their own type of courage and their own humanist character, inevitably linked to their times and social conditions. In ten or twenty years, there will be humanists who will be able to say, Thank you Christopher Hitchens. Thank you Mary Johnson.”

Citations, References And Other Reading

  1. Featured Photo Courtesy of: https://www.maryjohnson.co/lessons-loves
  2. https://christopherhitchens.net/mother-teresa
  3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Missionary_Position:_Mother_Teresa_in_Theory_and_Practice
  4. https://www.iheart.com/podcast/1119-the-turning-the-sisters-w-82262169/
  5. https://www.maryjohnson.co/


The views, opinions and analyses expressed in the articles on Humanist Freedoms are those of the contributor(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the publishers.

Heavy Metal Humanism: Personal Courage

On January 29, 2021 German heavy metal band Accept released their sixteenth studio album, Too Mean to Die. Here at http://www.humanistfreedoms.com, we don’t always connect with the latest releases in the heavy metal music scene, so we hope to be forgiven by the band for overlooking the release.

One song on Too Mean to Die has caught our ear. “No One’s Master”. We’ve provided a link to a lyric video for other humanist fans of heavy metal to connect with. Unlike many of Accept’s songs, which have carried credit to “Deaffy” all the way back to the 1980’s (actually Gaby Hoffman, the band’s manager and also Accept guitarist Wolf Hoffman’s spouse), “No One’s Master” is credited to band members Martin Motnik, Wolf Hoffmann and Mark Tornillo.

Still, it is absolutely essential when considering Accept, to identify Deaffy, who wrote the lyrics for the band’s most famous song “Ball’s to the Wall” (circa 1983). Who could forget a song that begins with the line, “Too many slaves in this world die by torture and pain”, and gets raunchier, bloodier and more rebellious from there?

Back in 1983, Deaffy also wrote the lyrics for “Fight it Back”, excerpted here as backdrop to the Accept song we’re actually listening to today “Always been the prophets who make the world evolve. Always been the average breaking it down. Majority, the unknown giving us the rules. It’s more than luck to get the standard. You’ll never find me like you hope that I am. You’ll never treat me like you think you can. Be always independent, surrendering no way. I won’t deal with crimes of society. Find myself in crisis, get near to collapse. Am I forced to live that boring life? God, I hate the average. Go and nuke it out. Go, piss the accepted, screw them all! Now, if you hate it, you gonna fight it back. Just try to change it. Fight it. Fight it back.”

Agree with the sentiments or not, Gaby Hoffman’s lyrics set out some clear perspectives on the individual’s role within their society. Now, let’s push forward to more recent days.

It appears that Tornillo, the band’s vocalist has written the lyrics for “No One’s Master”. Some time ago (actually 2012) Tornillo said that he enjoyed the opportunity to write socio-political lyrics. With “No One’s Master” Tornillo seems to be refining sentiments that Deaffy/Accept had established almost forty years earlier.

The “No One’s Master” lyrics take aim at the influence of media on people collectively while setting a rebelliously individualistic and humanistic ethic that is firmly set in the present.

Here is a “lyric video” version of the song, which is rather catchy in a rock-anthem kind of way:

For those who may not be enthusiastic fans of the genre, presented here is an abridged version of the lyrics:

The media’s controlling the masses
Stoking our anger and fear
Further dividing the classes
Serving the richest careers
Their mantra is lies and deception
When honesty’s all that I crave
I decline and there’ll be no exceptions
I am no one’s master
No one’s slave
Living in fear ain’t worth living
Wasting your life is the crime
The reaper will be unforgiving
Wake up, while you’re still in your prime
The guide of my life is my conscience
My way is the path that I pave
I treat, how I want to be treated
I am no one’s master
No one’s slave
I won’t rule; I won’t bow
I won’t sink my eyes to the ground
I won’t steal; I won’t kneel
I won’t bend my knee to the crowned
I pledge an oath to myself and to life
I’m not afraid of the sword or the knife
The guide of my life is my conscience
My way is the path that I pave
Equality’s all that I’m after
I am no one’s master
No one’s slave
No one’s master
I am no one’s
No one’s slave

The song and the genre are a terrific reminder that living a humanist ethic may occasionally require a bit of rebellion, a bit of anger and a lot of personal courage.


Citations, References And Other Reading

  1. Featured Photo Courtesy ofhttp://www.metalrockmusicpodcast.com/accept-recorded-part-of-too-mean-to-die-with-remote-producer/
  2. https://www.acceptworldwide.com/accept-discography/too-mean-to-die/
  3. https://www.acceptworldwide.com/
  4. https://www.theaquarian.com/2012/04/13/interview-with-mark-tornillo-from-accept-living-the-metal-scream-dream/
  5. http://www.darklyrics.com/lyrics/accept/ballstothewall.html#3

Listen: “the laborious, collaborative and sometimes poorly-compensated work of humanist scholarship between the Renaissance and Enlightenment”

From Francis Bacon to Barack Obama, thinkers and political leaders have denounced humanists as obsessively bookish and allergic to labor. In this celebration of bookmaking in all its messy and intricate detail, renowned historian Anthony Grafton invites us to see the scholars of early modern Europe as diligent workers.

That’s how the publishers of Anthony Grafton’s new book, Inky Fingers: The Making of Books in Early Modern Europe (Harvard University Press: June 2020) begin their exposition of the book.

To begin our approach to the labours of book-making, we turned first to a podcast! While that may be seem ironic, the rapid growth of podcasts as a transmission vehicle for information is fascinating to consider in light of the subject. Surely there is plenty of messy, intricate detail involved in producing any one of the thousands upon thousands of podcasts currently available.

In Theory is the podcast of the Journal of the History of Ideas Blog. On September 1, 2020 In Theory’s co-host Simon Brown interviewed Grafton on themes to be found in the book.

Grafton is the Henry Putnam Professor of History and the Humanities at Princeton University and has taught both undergraduate and graduate courses on art, magic, and science in Renaissance Europe and on the history of books and readers as well as the history components of Princeton’ four-course undergraduate introduction to Western civilization offered by the Program in Humanistic Studies.

Grafton’s special interests lie in the cultural history of Renaissance Europe, the history of books and readers, the history of scholarship and education in the West from Antiquity to the 19th century, and the history of science from Antiquity to the Renaissance.

Included in Grafton’s many publishing achievements are several “intellectual biographies” of a variety of original and influential thinkers such as a 15th-century Italian humanist, architect, and town planner, Leon Battista Alberti; a 16th-century Italian astrologer and medical man, Girolamo Cardano; and a 16th-century French classicist and historian, Joseph Scaliger.

Over the course of the In Theory podcast interview, Grafton discussed the various kinds of human labour involved in producing the works of scholarship, taking pains to contrast it with previous views of scholarship which relied on “divination” as the explanation of how scholarship worked. In considering textual divination Grafton suggested, “scholars realized that all that divination means is that you’re simultaneously applying many different kinds of knowledge: lexical, grammatical, stylistic, knowledge of the use of the author, knowledge of historical context, knowledge of the development of the language, knowledge of meter if its verse. All of those things are being focused down on a single passage and that’s what enables you to divine the answer. There’s nothing miraculous about it. It’s a highly interdisciplinary and remarkably erudite process.

At a little over forty-seven minutes in length, the interview is worth the listen. It is a reminder of the often-ignored but still necessary supportive contributions made by people that enable academic or intellectual output – whether that work is by a printing press operator, a scribe or a sound technician.

It also offers a vantage point to consider the subtle ways that systemic faithism has been, and arguably continues to be, deeply engaged in obscuring or appropriating human endeavour.

Finally, a listen to the interview suggests that Grafton’s book will provide valuable and interesting insights into humanistic scholarship. According to the publisher’s website, “Meticulously illuminating the physical and mental labors that fostered the golden age of the book—the compiling of notebooks, copying and correction of texts and proofs, preparation of copy—he shows us how the exertions of scholars shaped influential books, treatises, and forgeries. Inky Fingers ranges widely, tracing the transformation of humanistic approaches to texts in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and examining the simultaneously sustaining and constraining effects of theological polemics on sixteenth-century scholars. Grafton draws new connections between humanistic traditions and intellectual innovations, textual learning and craft knowledge, manuscript and print. Above all, Grafton makes clear that the nitty-gritty of bookmaking has had a profound impact on the history of ideas—that the life of the mind depends on the work of the hands.


The views, opinions and analyses expressed in the articles on Humanist Freedoms are those of the contributor(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the publishers.


Sources, Citations and References

  1. Featured Photo Courtesy of: https://www.unibas.ch/de/Aktuell/News/Uni-Agenda/Anthony-Grafton-haelt-Basel-History-Lecture-2018.html
  2. https://history.princeton.edu/people/anthony-grafton
  3. https://soundcloud.com/jhi-blog/inky-laborious-humanism-simon-brown-interviews-anthony-grafton
  4. https://jhiblog.org/2020/08/31/in-theory-simon-brown-interviews-anthony-grafton-on-the-labor-of-humanist-scholarship/
  5. https://www.hup.harvard.edu/catalog.php?isbn=9780674237179