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Tom Flynn

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Tom Flynn is the Center for Inquiry’s vice president for media and director of Inquiry Media Productions. He is also executive director of the Council for Secular Humanism and editor of its flagship magazine, Free Inquiry. He designed and directs the Council's museum at the Dresden, N.Y., birthplace of 19th century agnostic orator Robert Green Ingersoll. He has written or edited eight books, including The New Encyclopedia of Unbelief (Prometheus, 2007).

What Secular Humanism Means to Me

Free Thinking (centerforinquiry.net)
March 21, 2017

It’s been a while since I blogged here! Herewith, an oldie-but-goodie from the October/November 2010 issue of FREE INQUIRY. At the time I was kicking off an event inviting readers to describe secular humanism is one word. I picked the word “emancipatory.” Subject only to a 1000-word limit, here’s what I wrote.

A Seasonal Reflection

Free Thinking (centerforinquiry.net)
December 16, 2016

As some readers know, I’m a longtime advocate of humanists, atheists, and other secular folks conspicuously sitting out that Christian observance of Jesus’s birthday that monopolizes the last six weeks of every year. I’m hardly the only one, but clearly “going Yule-free” is a minority stance among nonreligious Americans. From time to time, seculars who enjoy the holiday in whatever form – and who may resent my suggestions that by doing so, they might be harming our community – pose a question along the lines of, “But I like exchanging gifts with my loved ones. I like the decorations and the songs. Hell, I like eggnog. What evidence do you have that nonreligious people celebrating the holiday in some form is harmful?”

 

Secular humanism and secularization

Free Thinking (centerforinquiry.net)
March 24, 2016

Yesterday a member of the public asked me, “What could secular humanism have done to prevent today’s slaughter in Brussels?” Here is how I answered:

An Anti-marriage Rebel’s View of 50-state Same-sex Marriage

Free Thinking (centerforinquiry.net)
June 29, 2015

First, I join in the general jubilation that same-sex marriage is now legal in all 50 states. It’s a great step forward for same-sex couples who want to marry. But not all do. Come to think of it, not all opposite-sex couples want to marry. Civil-rights landmark that it undeniably is, the same-sex marriage victory has left some of us behind.

Wanted: Better Understanding of Humanism

Free Thinking (centerforinquiry.net)
June 1, 2015

Molly Worthen’s Sunday New York Times op-ed on the Sunday Assembly phenomenon (“Wanted: A Theology of Atheism,” May 30) demonstrates, if nothing else, how badly we need to educate the media about the humanist movement—and about atheism, for that matter.

What RFRA Sowed, the Nation Reaps

Free Thinking (centerforinquiry.net)
April 1, 2015

First Indiana, now Arkansas have passed “religious freedom” bills that will protect Christians who discriminate on religious grounds. This is a predictable result of the 1993 federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), a regrettable law whose beneficiaries are now (in the wake of the disastrous Hobby Lobby decision) free to unleash all the unconstitutional mischief that this ill-considered legislation always portended.

The Top Church-State Un-Story of 2014

Free Thinking (centerforinquiry.net)
January 2, 2015

What’s the top church-state un-story of 2014? I’d have to nominate the close cooperation between the United States and the Holy See in the diplomatic negotiations that led to the change of U. S. policy toward Cuba. The pope is the head of a church; he is a head of state only by dint of a huge and archaic legal fiction. For the White House to work that closely with a single church on a geopolitical issue violates the separation of church and state in the most literal way imaginable, and I’m amazed that none of the usual church-state watchdogs raised an objection to it.

Which Should Kirk Cameron Fear More?

Free Thinking (centerforinquiry.net)
December 24, 2014

In a post from yesterday, my esteemed colleague David Koepsell, one of my predecessors as executive director of the Council for Secular Humanism, suggests that he is doing more than I am to give Kirk Cameron nightmares. David good-naturedly suggests that by keeping a more-or-less traditional Christmas with zero religious or supernatural content, he and his thoroughly secular family are doing more to undermine Christianity’s role in the culture than I am when I urge atheists, humanists, and freethinkers to spurn the Christians’ birthday festival altogether. I respectfully disagree. Equally respectfully, I hope, I would warn David that his chosen path carries a very real risk of being co-opted, and of inadvertently helping Christianity to achieve the best future it can hope for in a world that’s secularizing out from under it.

The Subtle Bunkum of Faith

Free Thinking (centerforinquiry.net)
December 23, 2014

In today’s New York TimesDavid Brooks offers his obligatory annual column of holiday woo. In “The Subtle Sensations of Faith” he plumps for faith as a near-universal human experience. He depicts it as the response to genuine “glimmering experiences … of wonder and mystery,” “magical moments of wonder and clearest consciousness, which suggested a dimension of existence beyond the everyday.” Clearly, Brooks accepts without question that these are experiences of something genuine – that is to say, that there factually is “a dimension of existence beyond the everyday.” Sorry, Mr. Brooks, I don’t buy it.

The Article that Started It All

Free Thinking (centerforinquiry.net)
December 17, 2014
The Article that Started It All

In my Dec/Jan Free Inquiry op-ed “Thirty Years Yule-Free” I mentioned my 1992 Secular Humanist Bulletin article, “Confessions of an Anti-Claus,” the inadvertent beginning of my personal war on Christmas. Apparently there are some readers out there who haven’t saved their Bulletins from 1992, who want to see that article—but it’s not archived anywhere online. Okay, if you’re terminally curious, here is a PDF scan of the article that started it all.

 

Legacy Atheist Bans in State Constitutions a Long Recognized Problem

Free Thinking (centerforinquiry.net)
December 8, 2014

Todd Stiefel and the Openly Secular project have announced a bold plan to lobby legislators to repeal unconstitutional “legacy” language in seven states’ constitutions that bars atheists from holding public office. It bespeaks the growing prominence of unbelievers and “nones” in public discourse that someone now imagines that these unenforceable, but repellent, constitutional provisions might finally be swept away. The unbelieving community has long recognized that these hateful provisions exist, and that they are problematic. What is new, and welcome, is the possibility that our community finally has the muscle to demand that something be done about them.

Secular Humanism: Not a Religion

Free Thinking (centerforinquiry.net)
November 10, 2014

Litigation always carries risk – first of all, the risk of losing one’s case, but also the risk that a court decision will bring unintended consequences. On October 30, 2014, the American Humanist Association had what may prove to be a similar experience. In American Humanist Association v. United States of America, a federal district court in Oregon ruled that a prisoner had a valid legal claim when he alleged that prison officials refused to authorize a humanist study group. So far, so good. However, in reaching this conclusion the court bizarrely ruled that secular humanism is a religion, when the nature of secular humanism was never even an issue in the case. Of course, the judge may have been persuaded to reach this conclusion because in its arguments to the court the AHA vigorously contended that humanism is a religion, and made no effort to distinguish its brand of humanism from secular humanism.

Of Gender, Language, and Clarity

Free Thinking (centerforinquiry.net)
September 2, 2014

FREE INQUIRY columnist Greta Christina wrote a great essay for her other column (over at THE HUMANIST) about issues associated with treating transgender people with respect. (No idea whether it’s online, but the column “Trans People and Basic Human Respect” is on pages 38-39 of the new September-October issue.) ... At one point Christina writes that some transgender people “choose to be identified with the gendered pronouns ‘he’ and ‘she,’ while others prefer new gender-neutral pronouns like ‘zie’ and ‘hir’ or use ‘they’ as a singular pronoun.” I’m down with all of that except the last bit. Using “they” as a singular pronoun ... strikes me as going one step too far, because it unnecessarily degrades the clarity of our language in regards to number.

Really, Mr. Friedman?

Free Thinking (centerforinquiry.net)
August 6, 2014

Writing from Tel Aviv, New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman today  surveyed the current Israeli-Gaza war and sighed, “More and more, this is becoming a religious conflict.” Becoming, Mr. Friedman? Really? The seemingly-perpetual crisis in the Middle East has been a religious conflict—not totally, but significantly (and often principally) since its beginnings. And all three Abrahamic faiths bear guilt, in my view.

For many U. S. Christians, It’s Still “Subdue the Earth”

Free Thinking (centerforinquiry.net)
July 18, 2014
For many U. S. Christians, It’s Still “Subdue the Earth”

Rank-and-file Christians seem to be less concerned about the environment than other Americans—and also, less concerned than their pastors think they are.

The Dry Humor of Samuel Alito

Free Thinking (centerforinquiry.net)
July 1, 2014

Not since Mick Jagger promoted the upcoming Monty Python reunion concert by complaining about old stars from the 60s who just endlessly rehash their own stuff (OK, that was earlier this week) has anyone displayed mastery of dry British humor like U. S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, Jr.

Ingersoll Museum Renovation: Progress Report

Free Thinking (centerforinquiry.net)
March 18, 2014
Ingersoll Museum Renovation: Progress Report

It’s been a vicious winter; nonetheless progress continues toward the installation of the all-new T. M. Scruggs Museum Interior. Herewith, some progress photos.

A Classic Article on the Religious/Secular Humanist Divide

Free Thinking (centerforinquiry.net)
February 21, 2014

From time to time I’ll flag classic articles from back issues of FREE INQUIRY—pieces that are worth another read today if you keep your physical back issues. If you’re a current FI subscriber, you can also read the article online (link at bottom of this post).

 From the Summer 2002 issue (Volume 22, No. 3), Bible scholar Robert M. Price limns the difference between religious and secular humanism about as elegantly as one can. 

 

2014 Will Be a Big Year for the Ingersoll Museum

Free Thinking (centerforinquiry.net)
February 21, 2014

2014 will be an epic year for the Robert Green Ingersoll Birthplace Museum in Dresden, New York. Last year we challenged our donors and friends to raise $70,000 for a long-needed redesign of the museum interior. They exceeded the target by more than $20,000. We’re well into the redesign process. The Museum will open in May with all-new exhibits and expanded promotion, and in August we’ll have an Ingersoll-themed mini-conference in western and central New York State. For the full story see the link at the bottom of this post!

Catholicism’s Sex Abuse Scandal Goes Global

Free Thinking (centerforinquiry.net)
February 5, 2014

The U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child savaged the Vatican today, in a report that accused the worldwide Roman Catholic Church of “systematically” allowing priests to rape and otherwise sexually abuse tens of thousands of children—and then to evade responsibility for their acts— over multiple decades. In one sense, this is only a capstone for a scandal that’s been erupting in country after country for almost three decades. But freethinkers shouldn’t allow the fact that this scandal has been grinding on for so long to blind them to the sheer fact of what a huge, even extraordinary development it represents.

 

Nye/Ham Debate Probably a Bad Idea, but I’d Love to Be There for It

Free Thinking (centerforinquiry.net)
January 3, 2014

Planetary Society director and forever “Science Guy” Bill Nye has apparently agreed to debate young-earth creationist Ken Ham on February 4th at Ham’s sprawling Creation Museum in northern Kentucky. At least Ham says so on his website, and I haven’t seen a denial from the Nye camp yet. Opinions are mixed on this, and mine are too—there’s a very real risk that Nye will shine a fresh spotlight on a fading evangelist whose museum has lately been grasping at straws to keep its attendance numbers up. But it’s sure to make for great theater.

The Difference between Religious and Secular Humanism in Its Essence

Free Thinking (centerforinquiry.net)
December 30, 2013

In a Guardian blog, New Humanist commentator Suzanne Moore has—if inadvertently—defined the key difference between religious humanists and secular humanists in a very few words.

Those Celebrating Only a Holiday Other Than Christmas Barely Outnumber Those Celebrating Nothing

Free Thinking (centerforinquiry.net)
December 24, 2013

Another interesting factoid from the PRRI-RNS study on holiday preferences. Roughly 9 in 10 respondents reported celebrating Christmas in some form. Interestingly, those who reported celebrating only some holiday other than Christmas (Hanukkah, Solstice, Kwanzaa, Diwali, or whatever) numbered 6 percent, compared to the 5 percent who reported celebrating no December holiday whatever (as I blogged yesterday: http://www.centerforinquiry.net/blogs/entry/five_percent_of_americans_celebrate_no_december_holiday/).

Five Percent of Americans Celebrate No December Holiday

Free Thinking (centerforinquiry.net)
December 23, 2013

Yes, I know that quite a few secular humanists and other freethinkers celebrate the Solstice, HumanLight, Newton’s Birthday, or even a bowdlerized form of Christmas this time of year. Even so, a new PRRI/RNS survey (click the link beliow full text) indicates that the number of Americans who tell pollsters that they celebrate no holiday in December has reached 5 percent. 5 percent? That’s more than double the usual figure for the size of the American Jewish community (2.2 percent). Who knows, this year that figure may include a large number of American Jews, given that Hanukkah unfolded mostly in November. 

 

We Shoulda Seen This Coming—Oh, Wait, I Did!

Free Thinking (centerforinquiry.net)
October 2, 2013

Way back in the October/November 2011 FREE INQUIRY, I sounded the alarm about the danger of unintended consequences from the drive for humanist chaplains in the military. Since then, the issue has only mushroomed. Now (partly but not solely by way of Harvard’s humanist chaplaincy) tearing down the fences between humanism and religion has become a game almost anyone can play. Today even Peter J. Reilly, an online tax columnist (!) for Forbes, has weighed in with an essay asking “Should Humanist Groups Seek Church Status?”

Supreme Court Link Rot Highlights Shortcomings of Online Citations

Free Thinking (centerforinquiry.net)
September 24, 2013

The U. S. Supreme Court has a “link rot” problem, and how—according to one study, 49 percent of the hyperlinks cited in Supreme Court decisions point nowhere. These include not only links to other sites, but even links to former postings on the Court’s own Web site. This casts fresh light on an issue I’ve written about before—if you’re writing something whose references just might be of interest to future scholars, Internet citations are far too emphemeral to rely on.

 

White House Interfaith Panel—No Place for Humanists

Free Thinking (centerforinquiry.net)
September 19, 2013

The Secular Student Alliance (SSA) has accepted an invitation from the White House to take part in a Department of Education interfaith panel to help plan campus service projects, and most of the movement is happily abuzz about that. I’d like to offer an alternative view. Speaking personally, I think that to accept that invitation was most unfortunate – and I think that is true on several levels.

 

Anti-Humanist Chaplain Vote in the House Has a Lesson For Us

Free Thinking (centerforinquiry.net)
July 26, 2013

By a 253 to 173 vote, the U. S. House of Representatives passed an amendment to H. R. 2397, the defense authorization bill, that will block the appointment of humanist chaplains in the military. Most in the movement have been outraged. I follow a different drummer. By forbidding humanist chaplains, the House majority has reminded us of something important about chaplaincy—and about religion itself—something that I fear too many humanists have been willing to overlook in their recent “Ooooh, we want to be chaplains too!” enthusiasm.

Mehta’s Not Too Friendly to Pierce Prison Religion Info Embargo

Free Thinking (centerforinquiry.net)
July 17, 2013

“Friendly Atheist” blogger Hemant Mehta wasn’t too friendly to use the Freedom of Information Act to shake loose bombshell data on the religious affiliations of inmates in the Federal prison system. This pierces (but does not completely shatter) what I believe has been a six-decade embargo by prison administrators to hold back information on how many prisoners are or aren’t religious.

Actually, Joe Klein Was Right

Free Thinking (centerforinquiry.net)
June 24, 2013

In a TIME cover story on community service, columnist Joe Klein observed that one never sees secular humanist groups handing out hot meals at disaster sites. Many in the atheosphere, including Hemant Mehta, Amanda Knief, and our own Paul Fidalgo, took umbrage at this “nasty crack,” But you know what? So long as we’re talking strictly about secular humanists, not about atheists/freethinkers generally, Klein was right. And there’s a good reason why.

Does Spiraling Sex Abuse Mean Gender Integration in the Military Has Failed?

Free Thinking (centerforinquiry.net)
May 8, 2013

Usually when I blog here, I argue for something with great confidence and bluster. This time I’m just posing a question—an uncomfortable question, but one that I’m amazed no one else seems to be asking. There’s a vast sex abuse crisis in the U. S. military, with incident rates skyrocketing year to year. Might this mean that America’s great experiment in creating a gender-neutral military has failed?

“Interfaith” and Inclusion: Another View

Free Thinking (centerforinquiry.net)
April 19, 2013

There’s been much passionate commentary about the recent Boston interfaith service excluding humanist, atheists, and other freethinkers. It’s not for lack of effort; Harvard humanist chaplain Greg Epstein and other heavy-hitters in the movement strove mightily for a place on the altar—pardon me, stage—and were coldly stonewalled. But what are we asking for when we seek inclusion in such events? While it may make sense for Epstein, whose work skews religious-humanist, to want a place at an interfaith event, should atheists and more secular humanists be seeking to stand by his side? I don’t think so. On my view, those of us in the movement who are not comfortable with the “religious humanist” identifier should not be seeking entry to interfaith events. Instead, we should be boycotting them, then demanding something more inclusive in their place.

When Seculars Get Sectarian

Free Thinking (centerforinquiry.net)
April 16, 2013

Making the rounds on Facebook is an announcement that yet another humanist/atheist charity has started a fund drive for victims of the Boston Marathon bombings. It’s a fine cause, but I wonder whether its organizers have considered the implications when nonbelievers—normally quick to revile sectarianism when religious people indulge in it—conduct a blatantly sectarian appeal for aid. Perhaps it’s overdue to review the full meaning of the word “secular.”

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Paul Kurtz, Philosopher, Humanist Leader, and Founder of the Modern Skeptical Movement, Dies at 86

Skeptical Inquirer Volume 37.1, January/February 2013

Paul Kurtz In Memoriam

Religious Humanism (Or Something) Gone Wild

Free Thinking (centerforinquiry.net)
February 14, 2013
Now I've seen it all. NonProphet Status (NPS), the blog of Faitheist author Chris Stedman, is inviting seculars to give something up for Lent!

Sweet Vindication

Free Thinking (centerforinquiry.net)
January 31, 2013
For a decade I've been writing that secular humanists and other atheists need to compel greater social acceptance by making themselves "irresistibly visible." Now social science has backed me up.

Is This Our Future?

Free Thinking (centerforinquiry.net)
January 22, 2013
“If we fail in this great experiment," author Ronald Wright told journalist Chris Hedges, "this experiment of apes becoming intelligent enough to take charge of their own destiny, nature will shrug and say it was fun for a while to let the apes run the laboratory, but in the end it was a bad idea.” Is humankind's assault on its planetary home already past the point of no return?

Prager Misses the Point

Free Thinking (centerforinquiry.net)
January 17, 2013

In a NATIONAL REVIEW rebuttal of Susan Jacoby's NEW YORK TIMES piece on the atheist response to the school shootings at Sandy Hook, right-wing pundit Dennis Prager proves that he doesn't understand atheism nearly as well as he thinks he does.

Responding to a Slam in the New York Times

Free Thinking (centerforinquiry.net)
December 29, 2012
It's Saturday, and each Saturday brings a new religion feature story in the New York Times. This week's installment is by Samuel G. Freedman, with the lurid headline "In a Crisis, Humanists Seem Absent." It concerns a phenomenon widely noted within the nontheist community, as well -- the fact that despite the great increase in atheism's social prominence, freethinkers were largely unheard from in the social response to the Newtown massacre. In fairness, Freedman's analysis was more even-handed than his essay's headline would suggest. He recognized that unbelievers were as much shut out of "interfaith" outpourings as they failed to step up. But does it make sense to say that there's any sense in which the nonreligious actually "failed to step up"? Greg Epstein thinks so. He is Harvard's humanist chaplain and, for all intents and purposes, the current "pope" of the religious-humanist camp. He told Freedman, "we need to provide an alternative form of community if we're going to matter for the increasing number of people who say they are not believers." But I'm not convinced. Truly secular people, precisely insofar as they are secular, have outgrown the need to seek emotional support primarily from a group that has been twice segregated to resemble them: segregated once by adjacent residence, and segregated again by worldview. That's what a traditional church congregation is, after all: a community of people who live in the same area and see the world in about the same way. Secular humanists tend not to seek that parochial sort of support. That's a distinctive characteristic of their approach to life, not a shortcoming. Colloquially, it's a feature, not a bug. I wrote a letter to the New York Times making this point. Since I'm more likely to be struck by lightning twice while marrying a terrorist than to see my letter published, I reproduce it below.

SKEPTICAL INQUIRER Article Strikes Hammer Blow Against Strategies to Shield Dogma

Free Thinking (centerforinquiry.net)
December 23, 2012
Pardon me while I blow the horn for FREE INQUIRY's sister zine. The January/February SKEPTICAL INQUIRER contains an article that just may strike the definitive blow against those who, by appeal to righteous indignation or sanctity, would shield heinous cultural practices or religious dogmas against any comment or criticism. (SI doesn't post articles from an issue until the next issue comes out, so "bad news," you'll just have to lay your hands on a physical copy!)

A Personal Note About Dec. 25th

Free Thinking (centerforinquiry.net)
December 18, 2012
Some folks -- from humanist/atheist activists to folks in the media -- have made it a tradition to phone me at the office on December 25 whenever that date falls during the work week. Some call to wish me "Happy just another day," some just to make sure I'm there. Well, I won't  be there this year, and I figured I'd better explain why. (Spoiler alert: It's not because I've succumbed to the lures of a certain holiday beloved for different reasons by many Christians and some neo-pagans.

What’s Wrong with HumanLight / the Winter Solstice?

Free Thinking (centerforinquiry.net)
December 13, 2012
Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the American Humanist Association, has posted a blog endorsing HumanLight, a Winter Solstice observance invented a bit more than a decade ago by a local humanist group in New Jersey then led by the late Joe Fox. Perhaps that's an appropriate action for Roy, whose organization has a history of being friendlier toward religious humanists than the Council for Secular Humanism. But I couldn't resist leaving a secular humanist rejoinder as a comment to Roy's post. Here it is, below:

Flynn December Talks Target the South

Free Thinking (centerforinquiry.net)
December 3, 2012
Look out, Dixie, Council for Secular Humanism executive director Tom Flynn (i. e., yours truly) will do a lecture tour across the South just in time for some people's favorite holiday, December 7 - 10. I'll be speaking on church-state separation in Chattanooga and Tuscaloosa, and delivering my barn-burning illustrated talk "The Trouble with Christmas" in Knoxville and Atlanta.

Two Cheers for Rhode Island!

Free Thinking (centerforinquiry.net)
November 28, 2012
Two cheers for Rhode Island governor Lincoln Chaffee, who has stood tall against religious-Right posturing to insist that the 17-1/2 foot conifer in the state capitol will again be called the Holiday Tree, not the Christmas Tree. He stated that the more inclusive language was appropriate because the state house "is a public building...paid for by people with different religions." So far, so good ... but is even Governor Chaffee being inclusive enough?

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...

The Curse of Clarity

Skeptical Briefs Volume 5.1, March 1995

Beyond Belief
The Curse of Clarity

One of the best effects shots of the 1930s is a pilot's-eye view as his plane screamed over the New York skyline toward Kong...

The Color of “White”

Skeptical Briefs Volume 4.3, September 1994

Beyond Belief
The Color of “White”

What’s going on here? We're catching our eyes in the act of second-guessing the color of everything we see.

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