Paul Kurtz - A Kinder, Gentler Secularism

August 14, 2009

Paul Kurtz is founder and chair emeritus of the Center for Inquiry and founder of a number of other organizations. A Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, he is Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at the State University of New York at Buffalo, chairman of the Committee for the Skeptical Inquiry, the Council for Secular Humanism, and Prometheus Books. He is the author or editor of almost fifty books, including The New Skepticism: Inquiry and Reliable Knowledge. Throughout the last four decades, Kurtz has been a leading defender of science and reason against the prevailing cults of irrationality in our society, and has been interviewed widely in the media on a wide range of subjects, including alternative medicine and communication with the dead, to the historicity of Jesus and parapsychology.

In this conversation with D.J. Grothe, Paul Kurtz argues against associating secular humanism with atheism and explains whether or not he himself is an atheist. He reviews the history of the word "agnostic," and shows how it "is not a creed but a method." He explains why he is skeptical of the claims of theism. He denies that atheism is a necessary condition of secular humanism. He describes what he considers as the third "categorical imperative." He explains why he considers some atheist activists to be "fundamentalist atheists," arguing that their anti-religious stance stems from "being bruised" by religion. He talks about why he is against CFI's support of the International Blasphemy Day, and why it is "blasphemous to the whole humanist outlook" and is contrary to the "civic virtues of democracy."

Books Mentioned in This Episode:


Related Episodes

Ron Lindsay - International Blasphemy Day
July 31, 2009

Comments from the CFI Forums

If you would like to leave a comment about this episode of Point of Inquiry please visit the related thread on the CFI discussion forums

My impression from this show is that CFI has had a fundamental values shift.

Posted on Oct 15, 2009 at 2:56pm by diogenes99 Comment #1

Progress, evolution, or just smart?  ;-)

Posted on Oct 15, 2009 at 8:37pm by gray1 Comment #2

Progress, evolution, or just smart?  ;-)

Adaptive evolution.  However, it leaves the former niche unoccupied.

Posted on Oct 16, 2009 at 5:24am by diogenes99 Comment #3

It seems that those who promote Blasphemy Day were following Paul Kurtz dictum to the letter: Tailor your message to the moment.

When Dr. K. was in dialogue with the Vatican, of course the situation called for seeking common ground.

But when artists’, publishers’, and diplomats’ lives were threatened because a Danish cartoonist depicted a centuries-dead Arab, Dr. Kurtz published those cartoons in full support of the right to do so.

Free speech now faces new, even more worrisome challenges: new restrictions are coming with government saber rattling. This is the impetus of Blasphemy Day in 2009, just like the riots in the Middle East made publishing the Danish cartoons sensible in 2006. In the past year, the Irish Parliament criminalized blasphemy and the UN Human Rights Commission has urged all other countries to do the same. The laws in many Islamic countries allow for the death penalty as punishment for blasphemy. In Pakistan, such laws give have given succor to religious vigilantes who’ve committed mass murder over simple rumors of blasphemy.

Let’s help the fundamentalists get used to it. One supreme point of Blasphemy Day is to reduce the seriousness with which anti-religious statements are treated. The public benefits from being desensitized to such statements, and from recognizing that no one dies or is in any way hurt when someone thinks their belief or lack of belief is nutty. Just like public displays of affection, blasphemy should be taken in stride (or with nothing more than a roll of the eyes) as an celebrated element of our free society.

Posted on Oct 16, 2009 at 7:07am by NH Baritone Comment #4

When Dr. K. was in dialogue with the Vatican, of course the situation called for seeking common ground.
But when artists’, publishers’, and diplomats’ lives were threatened because a Danish cartoonist depicted a centuries-dead Arab, Dr. Kurtz published those cartoons in full support of the right to do so.

If the Pope was blowing things up, and someone drew a cartoon of him, and then the Catholic Church put out death threats against the cartoonist, then I suppose Dr. Kurtz would act in the same manner as he did with the Danish cartoonist.  I really don’t see your point.

In its own defense of blasphemy day, the new CFI has combined several senses of blasphemy into one, and declared them all worthwhile.  Dr. Kurtz was trying to make distinctions, but the new CFI’s proposed all-inclusive definition pretends to imply a contradiction in Kurtz’s positions.  Another false position taken by the new CFI is that all expressed disrespect or mocking of ideas and beliefs is not the same as disrespect for or injury to persons who hold them.  However, if one mocks the self-identity of people publicly, then the intent is for those people (a) to not engage in dialogue and (b) to react with shame or anger.  The new CFI seems to miss this point completely, that an attack on ideas in some contexts is an attack on persons.

The new values shift at CFI has more to do with the passions than with reason.  The exuberance and energy of the new atheists has inspired atheists groups to stand tall and proud, and it ihas moved groups whose members have similar concerns (like CFI) to adopt new attitudes and approaches. 

While some see this new face of CFI as a mark of solidarity with other groups and perhaps a sign of new power and certainty among the nonreligious, I see it is as loss of diversity among the groups.  I am truly mourning the loss.  I hope to find a group whose concerns and approaches track more closely with Kurtz’s vision.

Posted on Oct 16, 2009 at 7:58am by diogenes99 Comment #5

NHBaritone-

Let’s help the fundamentalists get used to it. One supreme point of Blasphemy Day is to reduce the seriousness with which anti-religious statements are treated. The public benefits from being desensitized to such statements, and from recognizing that no one dies or is in any way hurt when someone thinks their belief or lack of belief is nutty. Just like public displays of affection, blasphemy should be taken in stride (or with nothing more than a roll of the eyes) as an celebrated element of our free society.

Bingo!! Excellent point-one I’ve also stated here at times.
We lose when the public enforces a contrived, traditional sense of reverence towards wing-nuts like Hare-Krishnas, or even followers of a religion whose symbol is a man nailed to a cross, bleeding.

Posted on Oct 16, 2009 at 8:16am by VYAZMA Comment #6

One should at least be thankful to fate (if that’s all he has) to have been born in a country which allows open mockery of traditional values and beliefs.  The danger remains that the sum total of “wing-nuts” might just constitute a majority opinion as well as majority vote.  In other words, the worm that finally turns might turn out to be a really big snake.  That said, I suggest that CFI as an institution should remain quite civil in all aspects of dealings and leave the petty mean spiritedness to various individuals who seem so capable.  I think that is what Mr. Kurtz is saying.

Posted on Oct 16, 2009 at 8:46am by gray1 Comment #7

One should at least be thankful to fate (if that’s all he has) to have been born in a country which allows open mockery of traditional values and beliefs.  The danger remains that the sum total of “wing-nuts” might just constitute a majority opinion as well as majority vote.  In other words, the worm that finally turns might turn out to be a really big snake.  That said, I suggest that CFI as an institution should remain quite civil in all aspects of dealings and leave the petty mean spiritedness to various individuals who seem so capable.  I think that is what Mr. Kurtz is saying.

Good points Gray1. Just remember that we need to objectively decide what is mean spirited, and not apply prejudiced, contextual ideas of “spirited” predicated on that age-old idea of reverential cult of institutionalism.
Because all too often, commentary, or observations of the “religious” are seen as “mean spirited”, or low brow, or “sacrilegious”, when actually it is only an objective view of an item which is illogical.

Posted on Oct 16, 2009 at 9:11am by VYAZMA Comment #8

  While some see this new face of CFI as a mark of solidarity with other groups and perhaps a sign of new power and certainty among the nonreligious, I see it is as loss of diversity among the groups.  I am truly mourning the loss.  I hope to find a group whose concerns and approaches track more closely with Kurtz’s vision.

Are you Dr. Kurtz’ son?  :cheese:

Posted on Oct 16, 2009 at 1:52pm by asanta Comment #9

Are you Dr. Kurtz’ son?  :cheese:

No. I live in Tn.

Posted on Oct 16, 2009 at 2:02pm by diogenes99 Comment #10

I think D.J. Grothe, in his response questioning, got it right. Paul Kurtz is indeed an atheist, he just doesn’t like defining himself as such, to the extent he won’t even admit he’s one (yet he’ll admit he’s a non theist).

Posted on Oct 16, 2009 at 4:25pm by Michael De Dora Comment #11

I think D.J. Grothe, in his response questioning, got it right. Paul Kurtz is indeed an atheist, he just doesn’t like defining himself as such, to the extent he won’t even admit he’s one (yet he’ll admit he’s a non theist).

I disagree.  On a recent trip to Sweden, I discussed this issue with a few people who did not believe in god.  They claimed they were not atheists.  I think it is one of those slippery words, and Dr. Kurtz is being sensitive to the multiple meanings and wishes to avoid misunderstandings.  His self-identity is not rejection of god, but affirmation of the good life.

Posted on Oct 16, 2009 at 4:35pm by diogenes99 Comment #12

In my view the “Danish cartoons” affair was intended from the beginning as a reactionary, racist provocation.

It went on to serve the War Party’s agenda of stampeding liberals and repentent former leftists toward the utterly fraudulent narrative of ‘freedom vs. isalmofascism’. I was sorry, though not entirely surprised, to see CFI get behind that effort. The support for ‘Blasphemy Day’ seems to be a further step in that direction.

Posted on Oct 16, 2009 at 5:05pm by Balak Comment #13

I think D.J. Grothe, in his response questioning, got it right. Paul Kurtz is indeed an atheist, he just doesn’t like defining himself as such, to the extent he won’t even admit he’s one (yet he’ll admit he’s a non theist).

I disagree.  On a recent trip to Sweden, I discussed this issue with a few people who did not believe in god.  They claimed they were not atheists.  I think it is one of those slippery words, and Dr. Kurtz is being sensitive to the multiple meanings and wishes to avoid misunderstandings.  His self-identity is not rejection of god, but affirmation of the good life.

I don’t care what they claim. They’re without religion or God. They’re atheists. Using it or not is another matter.

Posted on Oct 16, 2009 at 5:43pm by Michael De Dora Comment #14

While atheism may be defined as anti-theism, non-theism, or a few other shades of meaning, I see the general concept as one that doesn’t accept the existence of one or more gods.  I see Humanism as a humanistic, humane, human centered philosophy, different from any of the versions of atheist, even though many of the former also fit into the idea of the latter.  However, once we stick the adjective “secular” in front of humanist, we’ve sort of shifted the discussion in a manner such that the two word term seems to include at least one of the meanings of atheism. 

If Kurtz has stuck with Humanism I wolud have agreed with his contention, but once Secular is there, I see him as trying to force the meanings he likes onto words that don’t match them.

Occam

Posted on Oct 16, 2009 at 5:59pm by Occam Comment #15

While atheism may be defined as anti-theism, non-theism, or a few other shades of meaning, I see the general concept as one that doesn’t accept the existence of one or more gods.  I see Humanism as a humanistic, humane, human centered philosophy, different from any of the versions of atheist, even though many of the former also fit into the idea of the latter.  However, once we stick the adjective “secular” in front of humanist, we’ve sort of shifted the discussion in a manner such that the two word term seems to include at least one of the meanings of atheism. 

If Kurtz has stuck with Humanism I wolud have agreed with his contention, but once Secular is there, I see him as trying to force the meanings he likes onto words that don’t match them.

Occam

Wow.  This is a huge misunderstanding.  Secular, in this context,  should mean “independent of god” not “denial of god.”

When did context go away?

Posted on Oct 16, 2009 at 6:33pm by diogenes99 Comment #16

Personally, I see the word theology properly defined as the “study of god(s)” as opposed to the actual “knowing” of anything.  Whether a “theist” or “atheist”, the truth is we are talking about whether the individual in question cares to study about something he might actually believe in or whether he prefers to actively oppose such beliefs for any number of reasons.  So, someone active in opposition could be said to be an atheist while someone who doesn’t even care enough to take any active position is by default an agnostic.  Just a suggestion.

I’m inclined to think that agnostics are just being honest.

Posted on Oct 16, 2009 at 7:21pm by gray1 Comment #17

Wow.  This is a huge misunderstanding.  Secular, in this context,  should mean “independent of god” not “denial of god.”

When did context go away?

As I said earlier, I see humanism as a philosophy independent of the concept of the existence or non-existence of god.  Adding “secular” as you define it would merely be redundant,  sort of like saying that one is a humanist humanist.  Sorry if my distinction was too subtle.  So, DIO, I certainly agree with your final question - when did context go away?

Occam

Posted on Oct 17, 2009 at 10:05am by Occam Comment #18

Wow.  This is a huge misunderstanding.  Secular, in this context,  should mean “independent of god” not “denial of god.”

When did context go away?

As I said earlier, I see humanism as a philosophy independent of the concept of the existence or non-existence of god.  Adding “secular” as you define it would merely be redundant,  sort of like saying that one is a humanist humanist.  Sorry if my distinction was too subtle.  So, DIO, I certainly agree with your final question - when did context go away?

Occam

When you said ...“shifted the discussion in a manner such that the two word term seems to include at least one of the meanings of atheism” I thought you were implying that the term secular shifted the meaning to atheism.  I think the context was the history of humanism, where some human-centered ethics made reference to theism and others did not, i.e., secular humanism.  I do not think it is redundant in that context.

Posted on Oct 17, 2009 at 11:46am by diogenes99 Comment #19

I just finished listening to the podcast.  If the Nobel Peace Prize was given on the basis of good will towards all men and overall good intentions, then Dr. Kurtz should have won it.  Wait! He was robbed!

I’m at least tickled to discover that we share the same birthday.  If predictions regarding 12-21-2012 hold true, we’ll all go out with a bang to celebrate.

Posted on Oct 17, 2009 at 11:50am by gray1 Comment #20

While I understand Dr Kurtz’s focus on positive aspects of Humanism, he seems not to delineate between interpersonal behavior and the behavior of public expression of parties who disagree. I would not tell someone that their beliefs are nutty in a face-to-face for the purpose of humiliating or otherwise bruising them. On the other hand, I see nothing wrong, in the public forum, with pointing out the sheer nuttiness of some people’s beliefs. Just because someone feels personally insulted by a public statement doesn’t mean that it’s a personal attack.

Kevin

Posted on Oct 18, 2009 at 1:08pm by KCP6030 Comment #21

I certainly agree with you, KPC6030, however, the two instances of his public presentations where I was a witness, a few people asked questions for clarification.  While I thought Kurtz had made the points clear, I just didn’t think his response indicating that the qustioners were clods for asking questions that he had covered in his talk.  He did the same to someone who proposed a different, but reasonable conclusion, and asked his opinion.  That could have been answered without clearly implying that any disagreement with his views showed weakness of intellect.

Occam

Posted on Oct 18, 2009 at 4:06pm by Occam Comment #22

Interesting story on CFI in terms of the interviews D.J. did with Ron lindsay and Paul Kurtz:

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=113889251&ft=1&f=2100608

Posted on Oct 18, 2009 at 10:49pm by Thomas Donnelly Comment #23

Interesting story on CFI in terms of the interviews D.J. did with Ron lindsay and Paul Kurtz:

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=113889251&ft=1&f=2100608

And here’s PZ Meyers’ response to the story:

http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2009/10/and_she_sounded_so_nice_on_the.php

Posted on Oct 19, 2009 at 4:09pm by Lucretius Comment #24

Enjoyed this interview on the drive to work this morning. Mr. Kurtz is right. Mean people suck. All mean people—theistic, agnostic, and atheist. I prefer to affirm life and good and cooperation and respect. It seems that this is what Mr. Kurtz is saying. Of course we must have a right to blaspheme, but Blasphemy Day is to, as Mr. Kurtz put it, “blaspheme humanism.”

Posted on Oct 20, 2009 at 9:23am by rodneycwilson Comment #25

Enjoyed this interview on the drive to work this morning. Mr. Kurtz is right. Mean people suck.

Catholics & strict Protestants think we, as atheists, are going to Hell for Eternity.  Is that mean or what? 

I’m in the middle of the interview and I think D.J. is doing a great job of “assertively interviewing”—he makes it look easy, but I’m sure it’s not.

Posted on Oct 20, 2009 at 4:06pm by Jackson Comment #26

Most who call themselves Christians probably do not believe in hellfire—and outside a few congregations, there’s no hellfire preaching. Believing in hell, however, is mean. The meanest of the mean.

Posted on Oct 20, 2009 at 4:22pm by rodneycwilson Comment #27

Most who call themselves Christians probably do not believe in hellfire—and outside a few congregations, there’s no hellfire preaching. Believing in hell, however, is mean. The meanest of the mean.

http://www.centerforinquiry.net/forums/viewthread/6459/P15/#76591

How many do you need—we have one over in the Religion&Secularism; section right now….

Posted on Oct 21, 2009 at 7:15pm by Jackson Comment #28

Most who call themselves Christians probably do not believe in hellfire—and outside a few congregations, there’s no hellfire preaching. Believing in hell, however, is mean. The meanest of the mean.

http://www.centerforinquiry.net/forums/viewthread/6459/P15/#76591

How many do you need—we have one over in the Religion&Secularism; section right now….

Yes, he’s consigning his Granny to hell!!

Posted on Oct 21, 2009 at 11:55pm by asanta Comment #29

Very sad. I’m glad he’s a minority.

Posted on Oct 22, 2009 at 6:13am by rodneycwilson Comment #30

I have profound respect for Paul Kurtz but this all just seems to me to be about one thing. The man is about to be 90 years old and is incapable of understanding the best means of reaching and speaking to THIS new generation. I’ve read Kurtz’s commentaries and listened to his gripes on POI and sorry to say, I get nothing but the feeling of an old man who has lost touch. Even the Pope is younger than Kurtz, and most people don’t think of the Catholic Church as a beacon of youthful vigor, passion and new ways of thinking. A movement of open-minded non-believers should be full of more fresh ideas, passion and energy than a stale institution led and governed by nothing but a bunch of old decrepit men. Not that old age suggests an inability to lead but rather an ability to adapt to new ideas and ways of thinking. You would hope a man of intellectual openness like Kurtz would have the wisdom to understand this. With each generation, the message may not change much, but the means should always be evolving and adapting to the needs and ever changing climate of the times we live in. To keep doing things the way they’ve always been done would truly be fundamentalist and dogmatic because the very nature of those two concepts suggest a mind closed off to the idea of change and that is what seems to me to be at the root of Kurtz’s and everyone of like mind’s disagreement.

Posted on Oct 22, 2009 at 8:32am by AndruAesthetik Comment #31

While atheism may be defined as anti-theism, non-theism, or a few other shades of meaning, I see the general concept as one that doesn’t accept the existence of one or more gods.  I see Humanism as a humanistic, humane, human centered philosophy, different from any of the versions of atheist, even though many of the former also fit into the idea of the latter.  However, once we stick the adjective “secular” in front of humanist, we’ve sort of shifted the discussion in a manner such that the two word term seems to include at least one of the meanings of atheism. 
Occam

I certainly agree that the word ‘secular’ has no place alongside the appellation Humanism. The necessary implication is that Humanism is theistic without it, which it most certainly is not.

Since everything old is new again, it may be useful to review the Renaissance scholar Robert Grudin’s sketch of Humanism in the Britannica,  and do note how little it has to do with religion or atheism or secular et. al., and much more with responsibility:

“Humanitas meant the development of human virtue, in all its forms, to its fullest extent. The term thus implied not only such qualities as are associated with the modern word humanity—understanding, benevolence, compassion, mercy—but also such more aggressive characteristics as fortitude, judgment, prudence, eloquence, and even love of honour.

Consequently, the possessor of humanitas could not be merely a sedentary and isolated philosopher or man of letters but was of necessity a participant in active life. Just as action without insight was held to be aimless and barbaric, insight without action was rejected as barren and imperfect. Humanitas called for a fine balance of action and contemplation, a balance born not of compromise but of complementarity.

The goal of such fulfilled and balanced virtue was political, in the broadest sense of the word. The purview of Renaissance humanism included not only the education of the young but also the guidance of adults (including rulers) via philosophical poetry and strategic rhetoric. It included not only realistic social criticism but also utopian hypotheses, not only painstaking reassessments of history but also bold reshapings of the future.

In short, humanism called for the comprehensive reform of culture, the transfiguration of what humanists termed the passive and ignorant society of the “dark” ages into a new order that would reflect and encourage the grandest human potentialities. Humanism had an evangelical dimension: it sought to project humanitas from the individual into the state at large.”

Posted on Oct 22, 2009 at 8:35am by Martinus Comment #32

I get nothing but the feeling of an old man who has lost touch. Even the Pope is younger than Kurtz, and most people don’t think of the Catholic Church as a beacon of youthful vigor, passion and new ways of thinking. A movement of open-minded non-believers should be full of more fresh ideas, passion and energy than a stale institution led and governed by nothing but a bunch of old decrepit men.

A classical case of ageism if nothing else, and nothing it is. You broach no idea(s), and complain that a man with Dr. Kurtz’ life works has to reinvent himself to warrant your attention. Let the Ditchkins group sell books to atheist novitiates, who clearly revel in their chest-thumping rebel ways.

We older heads who retreat to the classics understand that concepts such as world government, as espoused by Dr. Kurtz, are as fresh (and unfulfilled) as always, and the cart really won’t benefit from a fifth wheel and a maniacal driver.

Posted on Oct 22, 2009 at 8:48am by Martinus Comment #33

Andruaesthetik’s comments are the most Ageist I have seen on any forum.  This is ugly discrimination at its worst.
It degrades and discounts the many contributions older people have and continue to make to Society and Humansim.

Paul Kurtz has accomplished great things for Humanism, is still and physically and mentally acute, and can contribute more

I doubt if Andru will do a fraction of that contribution in his lifetime.

Hugheen

Posted on Oct 22, 2009 at 10:05am by hugheen Comment #34

Well, I’m only ten years younger than Kurtz, and while associating the characterics Andru mentions with age may annoy you, I feel Kurtz has had them for many years, not just because of his age. 

And, you have no justification for assuming or “doubting” anything about Andru.  That personal attack is at least as onerous as any you perceive in terms of ageism.

Occam

Posted on Oct 22, 2009 at 6:47pm by Occam Comment #35

Well, I’m only ten years younger than Kurtz, and while associating the characterics Andru mentions with age may annoy you, I feel Kurtz has had them for many years, not just because of his age.

Can you elaborate on what characteristics bother you, Occam?

A movement of open-minded non-believers should be full of more fresh ideas, passion and energy than a stale institution led and governed by nothing but a bunch of old decrepit men.

In fairness, if you are talking about Humanism, you can’t blame Kurtz if “secular” types hijacked it and sold it in the streets as atheism.

And, you have no justification for assuming or “doubting” anything about Andru.  That personal attack is at least as onerous as any you perceive in terms of ageism.

His dismissal of Kurtz was presumptuous, disrespectful, sophomoric - we must gather those ‘characteristics’ are not important to you? Hugheen’c comment was by no means unwarranted.

Posted on Oct 22, 2009 at 7:48pm by Martinus Comment #36

Your ethical razor may need sharpening Occam.  I oppose Ageism the same way I opposed Racism and
his piece clearly showed he views age as something unacceptable in terms of wisdom and ability
I suggest he (and maybe you) talk to Paul Kurtz personally and see if he has lost it.  He just finished his 53rd book (three this year) with another in the works.  His points are worth considering irrespective of his age, (and I do have doubts about
anyone who casts a blanket prejudice against any group of people at any age.

Hugheen

Posted on Oct 23, 2009 at 12:17pm by hugheen Comment #37

Very sad. I’m glad he’s a minority.

He may be in the minority, but there are by no means only a few Christians who buy into the whole hellfire b.s.

There are millions of them in the U.S. alone, and increasingly in Asia and Africa, too.

And yes, the whole concept is mean-spirited and irrational, as, well, hell.

Posted on Oct 23, 2009 at 2:17pm by Trail Rider Comment #38

While I understand Dr Kurtz’s focus on positive aspects of Humanism, he seems not to delineate between interpersonal behavior and the behavior of public expression of parties who disagree. I would not tell someone that their beliefs are nutty in a face-to-face for the purpose of humiliating or otherwise bruising them. On the other hand, I see nothing wrong, in the public forum, with pointing out the sheer nuttiness of some people’s beliefs. Just because someone feels personally insulted by a public statement doesn’t mean that it’s a personal attack.

Kevin

The first sentence above is an interesting point.  As I have great regard for Paul Kurtz, I’d love to hear how he might respond.

I agree wholeheartedly with the remainder of the above post.  Interestingly, only today I was accused by a Christian of being “full of hatred” for simply clearly stating what I feel to be harms and shortcomings of god beliefs in today’s world.  Good grief.
As someone pointed out elsewhere in the thread, theists are going to have to get used to it…

The bottom line, to me, of much of the other semantic squabbling above is just that context is important - there is a time and a place for most every reasonably civil approach and every term of art.  The relative degree of aggression and stridency vs. diplomacy and tact depends on the situation. 
Humor, well-used, may be the best tool of all…

Posted on Oct 23, 2009 at 2:27pm by Trail Rider Comment #39

I finally got to listen to this podcast and thoroughly enjoyed it, as I do much of what Paul Kurtz has said and written.  I’ve read many of the comments in this thread and regardless of what others have said, I really liked what he had to say.  I personally like to keep things positive, if at all possible and he does a good job of that, but of course, I am not above commenting on some of the ridiculous and even dehumanizing things of religion or even committing blasphemy myself.

Posted on Nov 14, 2009 at 11:13pm by Mriana Comment #40

Thank you Mriana, your recent post has brought this topic of discussion to my attention. So I too, have just listen to the podcast.

I just recently joined CFI forum, as I really appreciate the open and intelligent conversations/debates about religion.  My friends and family are well aware of my secular views, our common ground is based on our shared Humanistic principles.

I do not want to ‘in your face’ offend believers (though I have to admitt, I don’t care about offending the hypocrits :) ), but I do feel it is important for our society to hear it is acceptable to question religion and the belief in God(s), without being ostracized or viewed as evil.  Hopefully then, future generations may lead fuller lives based on reason & science, not the fear of God.

It is great to see younger members joining CFI discussion forums (it’s a good sign for the future), but we should not disregard the trail blazers before them, such as Paul Kurtz.

Posted on Nov 15, 2009 at 5:51am by AG Comment #41

After reading through this entire chain of messages I can’t help but feel that we are making an either-or argument where none exists.

Mr. Kurtz has done amazing work in his lifetime and continues to fight the good fight in his way.  We can all gain from his wisdom while at the same time refrain from the danger of hero worship.  Those of us who understand his approach and what he is trying to say have the obligation to translate it to those in the younger generation who may not understand.  We must also trust the intelligence of this younger generation and their ability to carry on the good fight into the future.

Some of us prefer the kinder, gentler approach while others are more effectively getting directly in the face of believers and, more importantly, the fundamentalists.

Some believers are turned off by the hard sell while others need that kick in the butt to see reality.

Must we really take the one-message, one-camp approach that is working oh-so-well for the GOP?

Let the philosophers, thinkers, fighters, comedians, and thoughtful individuals each take their place in the important fight to rid the world of superstition.

Posted on Nov 15, 2009 at 8:42am by Frederick Green Comment #42

I hear you, Fredrick and I agree.  Even so, I do appreciate what Paul Kurtz says and prefer being kind and gentle myself.  It isn’t always easy here in Pentecostal land though.

Posted on Nov 15, 2009 at 11:37am by Mriana Comment #43

Must we really take the one-message, one-camp approach that is working oh-so-well for the GOP?

Let the philosophers, thinkers, fighters, comedians, and thoughtful individuals each take their place in the important fight to rid the world of superstition.

I agree.

Posted on Nov 15, 2009 at 3:35pm by AG Comment #44

Must we really take the one-message, one-camp approach that is working oh-so-well for the GOP?

Let the philosophers, thinkers, fighters, comedians, and thoughtful individuals each take their place in the important fight to rid the world of superstition.

I agree.

All well and good, and what are we going to discuss then, once the monasteries stop smouldering? Nonbeliefs do not excite me.

Paul Kurtz was/is a Humanist and wrote about subjects such as World Federalism, a critical idea, and species governance is, I feel, the proper study of Humanism and indeed Man himself.

I just completed a book “The Humanist” and it certainly doesn’t focus on fundy bashing. If anyone wants to read it, I’ll forward you a coupon. It’s positive Humanism in spades.

Humanism is likely the only philosophy that can ever unite our species, ergo I espouse a variant I term inclusive Humanism, toward that prospect. The IHEU doesn’t like modifiers in front of Humanism, but secular is rampant anyway, and inclusive just speaks to its target constituency being (much) wider.

Posted on Dec 04, 2009 at 3:21pm by Martinus Comment #45

Wow, its been four years since this thread started but while searching and reading related articles, I stumbled on this conversation again and could not in good conscience neglect to express my shock now over my own words regarding Professor Kurtz those years ago. Though I may not have agreed with all his views, it was wrong and completely inappropriate for me to attack him personally and I am deeply sorry for that as this does not reflect the great respect I have for the man. Though he is no longer with us, Professor Kurtz’s life and legacy have become one of the most inspiring treasures to me as a secular humanist and I would not be who I am today were it not for all his achievements. I will forever be indebted to him.

Posted on Aug 19, 2013 at 11:14pm by AndruAesthetik Comment #46