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Tom Flynn

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Tom Flynn is executive director of the Council for Secular Humanism and editor of its flagship magazine, Free Inquiry. A founding coeditor of the newsletter Secular Humanist Bulletin, he designed and directs the Council's museum at the Dresden, N.Y., birthplace of 19th century agnostic orator Robert Green Ingersoll. He is also vice president for media at the Center for Inquiry and director of its audio-visual production arm, Inquiry Media Productions. He has written or edited four books including The New Encyclopedia of Unbelief (Prometheus, 2007). He is executive producer of the Council for Secular Humanism's 2013 video miniseries, American Freethought.

Santa Monica Gets It Right: Public Parks No Place for Xmas Displays

Free Thinking (centerforinquiry.net)
November 20, 2012

One year after an atheist group smartly gamed a cumbersome lottery, seizing a majority of the exhibit slots under a clumsy system for ensuring diversity in “holiday” displays at a public park, Santa Monica, California, got the message. (Or rather, a wise Federal judge had to get it for them.) The message is that holiday displays with religious overtones have no business in the public square, whether they’re Christian, Jewish, Wiccan, Muslim, or whatever. Even atheist or humanist displays that comment on the bankruptcy of all religions can be blocked, it seems to me, if the benefit is that ALL religious displays, especially those representative of majority faith positions, are blocked also. There is more than enough property belonging to religious institutions and private owners where creches, trees, Santas, menorahs, and the like can be displayed at the upcoming time of year. Public spaces should be for everyone—and “everyone” includes people who are celebrating any number of holidays at this time of year, as well as others with no celebration whatever in their plans.

Florida’s Amendment 8 Soundly Defeated

Free Thinking (centerforinquiry.net)
November 7, 2012

Florida’s Amendment 8 ballot initiative, which would have eliminated the state constitution’s provision prohibiting state funding of religious or sectarian organizations, was soundly defeated at the polls. Only 44 percent of voters approved the initiative, which required a 60 percent vote for passage—this despite enthusiastic and open-handed support by the Roman Catholic Church. Opponents of the measure included the Florida Education Association, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, and a spectrum of both secular and pro-education organizations. If Amendment 8 passed, it would likely have rendered moot Council for Secular Humanism v. McNeil, our lawsuit (ongoing since 2007) challenging state contracts with explicitly sectarian religious charities.

Paul Kurtz - a Personal Reflection

Free Thinking (centerforinquiry.net)
October 22, 2012

Our movement has lost a titan. Paul Kurtz died at his home in Amherst, New York, on October 20, 2012. Among his legacies are a vast treasury of books and articles, an independent publishing house that has continued to thrive in an environment deeply corrosive of such institutions, and of course the Center for Inquiry, the world’s foremost humanist and skeptical organization.

Atheist Giving More Compassion-Driven than Giving By the Religious

Free Thinking (centerforinquiry.net)
September 27, 2012

Don’t know how I missed this before, but a study appearing in the July 2012 issue of Social Psychological and Personality Science finds that atheists are more motivated by compassion than givers with strong religious beliefs. This was not a study of whether atheists give more or less than churchgoers—that’s a whole other controversy—but rather a study of why religious and nonreligious givers give.

Parsing the “God” Blunder

Free Thinking (centerforinquiry.net)
September 5, 2012

The blunder I have in mind isn’t leaving God out of the 2012 Democratic platform. It’s putting it back.

Atheist Will Give Tulsa Council “Prayer”

Free Thinking (centerforinquiry.net)
August 29, 2012

The good news: the Tulsa, Oklahoma, city council will have its opening invocation given by an atheist in place of the usual prayer by some community cleric. The bad news?

What Is Religious Humanism—Really?

Free Thinking (centerforinquiry.net)
August 23, 2012

There’s been a flurry of interest in the idea of “Atheism-Plus” or “A+”— atheism that incorporates a strong values component. Essentially it’s secular humanism by another name, except that some advocates broaden it to include a specific, usually left-progressive, ideological agenda that secular humanism welcomes but does not demand. As such ideas often do, the A+ debate has spawned a spin-off debate over the meaning of other terms, including that perennial puzzler “What is Humanism?” At his “Temple of the Future” blog, James Croft of Harvard’s humanist chaplaincy offers a definition of humanism that in many ways is quite good (http://www.templeofthefuture.net/uncategorized/what-humanism-is-and-isnt). This post is sure to be widely quoted, so I think it’s important to note the one thing Croft got, in my view, spectacularly wrong.

 

Missouri Votes to Reap the Whirlwind

Free Thinking (centerforinquiry.net)
August 9, 2012

Missouri voters this week approved a benighted and mischievous “right to pray” amendment to the state’s Constitution. Amendment Two passed by 779,628 votes to 162,404, a thundering 5-to-1 margin!

Praying for Rain? Really, Secretary Vilsack?

Free Thinking (centerforinquiry.net)
July 19, 2012

Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack told reporters at the White House that he is praying for rain to end the drought parching 61 percent of the United States. But it sends the wrong message to distraught farmers when the Agriculture Secretary suggests that the best response is to pray.

For the First Time, Most Would Vote for an Atheist President

Free Thinking (centerforinquiry.net)
July 18, 2012
For the First Time, Most Would Vote for an Atheist President

Yes, hell HAS frozen over. Gallup reports that for the first time since 1958, a majority of American respondents said they would vote for a generally well-qualified atheist for president of the United States.

Charitable Giving to Religion Declines in 2011

Free Thinking (centerforinquiry.net)
July 13, 2012

After years of growth in the number of Americans who don’t attend church or don’t declare a religion, it had to happen. U. S. giving to churches and religious organizations actually declined in 2011. What’s more, it has declined in three of the last four years.

In this game of Info Survivor, print wins

Free Thinking (centerforinquiry.net)
June 18, 2012

One of the joys of blogging is sometimes you just get to rant. Here’s one case, at least, where a very good book has lost a bit of its value because its publisher was too quick to jump on the online bandwagon.

Population, Consumption Threaten Earth’s Future—Who’s Surprised?

Free Thinking (centerforinquiry.net)
June 15, 2012

If a consortium of 105 national science academies and a report by 22 scientists in the June 7 Nature are to be believed, overpopulation and unsustainable consumption may already have set humanity on course for a catastrophic future. If only we’d listened to the “popullution” alarmists back in the 1970s, when human numbers were far lower and remedial action might have been easier.

L. Frank Baum, Freethought Firebrand?

Free Thinking (centerforinquiry.net)
May 16, 2012
L. Frank Baum, Freethought Firebrand?

Tomorrow (May 17) is the 112th anniversary of the publication of that subversive freethought children’s book, THE WIZARD OF OZ. You didn’t know it was a freethought book? Have I got a tale for you ...

 

What We’ve Gained—and What We’ve Lost

Free Thinking (centerforinquiry.net)
May 10, 2012

If anyone didn’t already know that the legalization of same-sex marriage is inevitable, President Obama’s dramatic announcement that he supports it should settle the matter. That makes this a good time to appreciate what those of us who favor the expansion of rights as a general principle have gained—and what we’ve lost.

Mojave Cross Case Shows Nonbelievers Are Still Second Class Citizens

Free Thinking (centerforinquiry.net)
April 25, 2012

The Mojave cross case has ended, and it’s official: nonreligious Americans are still second class citizens!

 

Why Seculars Still Don’t Sing: response to James Croft

Free Thinking (centerforinquiry.net)
April 6, 2012

James Croft (http://harvardhumanist.org/2012/04/06/why-seculars-sing-a-response-to-tom-flynn/) offers a thoughtful and provocative critique of my Free Inquiry op-ed on humanist ritual (“Why Seculars Don’t Sing,” April/May 2012, http://www.secularhumanism.org/index.php?section=fi&page=flynn_32_3). As frequently happens when religious and secular humanists engage in debate, the ground on which the disputants – to say nothing of the spectators – stand quickly becomes mushy. Herewith, my unconscionably lengthy response.

In Praise of Falling Birth Rates

Free Thinking (centerforinquiry.net)
March 26, 2012

A recent column by Froma Harrop makes a point I’ve repeatedly alluded to in FREE INQUIRY—the demographic contraction that comes from years of falling birthrates is not only survivable, but could portend a more pleasant and sustainable future.

Zelig Was a Woman: Meet Freethought Campaigner Lucy N. Colman

Free Thinking (centerforinquiry.net)
March 8, 2012
Zelig Was a Woman: Meet Freethought Campaigner Lucy N. Colman

As we observe International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month, it’s worth remembering one of nineteenth-century America’s most active – and best-connected – freethinkers. Lucy N. Colman (1818-1906) was the Zelig of the Golden Age of Freethought. She contributed to every reform cause of the day and touched the lives of the time’s most noteworthy freethought activists.

A Clarion Call—and a Bombshell?—on Obama and Church-State?

Free Thinking (centerforinquiry.net)
February 9, 2012

A February 9th essay on Salon.com by ACLU Legislative Counsel Dena Sher casts down the gauntlet, presenting the case for Barack Obama positioning himself as a more secular president, perhaps picking up support from mainstream believers uncomfortable with religious-right posturing. Take, for example, those tens of millions of U. S. Catholics who, unlike their 271 bishops, apparently think contraception is just fine. Ms. Sher also included what may be a bombshell.

More on Hosanna-Tabor

Free Thinking (centerforinquiry.net)
January 13, 2012

The U. S. Supreme Court’s curious decision in Hosanna-Tabor endorsing an amorphous ministerial exemption against Federal employment law leaves me conflicted. As a secularist, I regret any court finding or legislation that broadens religion’s power vis-a-vis a secular polity. Still, as I understand the First Amendment and its unique religion clauses, the Supremes probably did the right thing—though I wish the Justices had found a way to do it that seems less certain to catalyze a tsunami of new employment litigation.

What are your helladay plans?

Free Thinking (centerforinquiry.net)
December 5, 2011

Well, the Some People’s Favorite Holiday Season is upon us again. How to you plan to observe—or not observe—the “helladays”?

7 Billion? Yikes!

Free Thinking (centerforinquiry.net)
November 4, 2011

A less sanguine view of the arrival of Baby #7 Billion.

Take a Trip on the Freethought Trail

Free Thinking (centerforinquiry.net)
September 13, 2011
Take a Trip on the Freethought Trail

A Council for Secular Humanism project highlights the rich radical-reform history of the region surrounding the Ingersoll Birthplace Museum.

The Ultimate Faith-based Initiative, Ten Years On

Free Thinking (centerforinquiry.net)
September 9, 2011

Sunday marks the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. Rivers of ink, actual and virtual, have already been spilled about it. But I’d like to add one perspective that, on my view, has not been represented nearly enough.

UFOs Over New York City!

October 14, 2010
UFOs Over New York City!

Mysterious objects in the sky have the internet atwitter, but here at CSI this scene is old hat.

Sound, Fury, Less Than Nothing

December 8, 2009
Sound, Fury, Less Than Nothing

I didn't think it was possible, but last night pseudo-documentary television reached a new high in seeking new lows.

World Skeptics Congress Draws Over 1200 Participants

Skeptical Briefs Volume 6.3, September 1996

World Skeptics Congress Draws Over 1200 Participants

More than twelve hundred skeptics representing some twenty-four countries flocked here for the "20th birthday party" of CSICOP.

A Matter of Perspective, Part II

Skeptical Briefs Volume 5.4, December 1995

Beyond Belief
A Matter of Perspective, Part II

Last issue, we examined the once-difficult motion picture shot in which the camera dollies forward while zooming out...

The Curse of Clarity Returns!

Skeptical Briefs Volume 5.2, June 1995

Beyond Belief

Effects technology has made countless strides since Star Wars launched the revolution in 1977...

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