A Skeptic in Twilight April 19, 2010

A Skeptic in Twilight

There’s a nice profile of Paul Kurtz, who founded the Center For Inquiry, by Jay Tokasz of The Buffalo News.

They focus on his legacy, which includes the more recent rift with the organization he founded:

Kurtz appreciates the no-punches-pulled approach of writers such as Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins, firebrands of what has been dubbed the “new atheism,” an especially uncompromising critique of religion.

But it’s not what secular humanism and the Center for Inquiry that Kurtz envisioned are all about, he added.

Kurtz and his supporters cited the center’s “Blasphemy Day” last fall as evidence that it is headed in a direction more in line with the new atheism.

The event included contests calling for cartoons and slogans that illustrated the best forms of blasphemy — a gimmick that Kurtz termed “sophomoric.”

“That’s his greatest fear, that it’s becoming an outright atheist organization,” said Kurtz’s son, Jonathan, who runs the publishing company, Prometheus Books, that Kurtz founded in 1969. “There’s plenty of atheist organizations out there. There doesn’t need to be another one.”

Kurtz has arguably done more to promote Humanism than anyone else alive, between CFI, his books, Prometheus Books, and his magazines. Even his critics have good things to say about him.

(Thanks to Joe for the link!)

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • and then some

    “An outright atheist organization?” Gasp! That would be a terrible, horrible, ghastly thing to happen! I must retire to my fainting couch now…

  • Matto the Hun

    Is it wrong that the title of this post made me wonder if he was on Team Edward or Team Wolf-Boy?

  • Matto, you’re not alone.

  • Melody

    nope, matto. you certainly are not alone

  • rbray18

    yeah i saw the title and thought,wait one of the actors in twilight is skeptic? that’d be major cognitive dissonance or someone was getting paid big time 😀

  • Neon Genesis

    Someone please explain to me how it’s a gimmick to protect freedom of speech. I’m lost here.

  • Strangely, I find myself agreeing with Paul Kurtz. Perhaps it’s just because of the name, “Center for Inquiry”, which would be more appropriate for a skeptical organization. Instead, it’s a straight-up atheist organization, and a very partisan one at that. Awkwardly enough, the other half of CFI is The Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, which is a rather serious and dry skeptical organization.

    But if CFI’s direction is awkward, I suspect it’s Paul Kurtz’ own damn fault. It was awkward before he left.

  • JD

    There are plenty of skeptic organizations too.

    Maybe the open hostility is the way it needs to be, tit-for-tat and all that, but I can’t help but think that maybe it’s a line that shouldn’t be crossed without consideration for alienating those on the margins or would have been sympathetic.

    It’s also hard to justify taking sides in a mud-sling-fest, I’ve always felt that resorting to name-calling means you know you lost your argument, and my gut feeling is that this blasphemy day idea is just that, it’s no longer about promoting rationalism and stating and explaining your position, it becomes mud-slinging.

  • Kurtz’s Secular Humanism aligns too much with one US political party for my taste.

  • bigjohn756

    If CSI, or any other skeptical organization, becomes openly atheistic then they will lose those followers who are skeptical about many things but remain religious. The JREF, for example, takes great care to avoid such a position in order to continue to educate as many as possible in the ways of skepticism. CSI should do the same for the same reason, if it’s not too late already.

  • muggle

    I wish Paul Kurtz would crawl into a corner and go away already. What an utter snob.

    Humanism sucks. It is nothing but a godless religion for the record. Even has a list of rules and you do know what they can do with their manifesto, don’t you? Morals, not humanism. Genuine caring about others, not feeling you must because others said you should but wanting to be kind and respectful and helpful because those are good things. No need for rules. Just do it. Besides, labeling it human kind of puts things like abusing animals outside the circle, doesn’t it?

    I think Blasphemy Day is a fantastic idea, especially in light of what’s been happening to free speech and the freedom to criticize religion around the world. Let’s not forget Theo Van Gough.

    Perhaps Kurtz is just too old, dry, stale, unable to change with the times. That may be his greatest fault. Well, second greatest actually. His ego problem is his greatest.