CFI Program


Paul Kurtz Presents:

Secular Humanism, Naturalism....Who are we? Prospects for the Future~

At a time when ancient rivalries and violence seem to threaten humankind daily, we ask, Can we develop ethical principles and values appropriate to the present global condition of humankind? Can we resolve conflicts before they lead to war, overcome environmental degradation that endangers our common planetary habitat, and bridge the severe disparities in income and wealth? Kurtz maintains that secular humanists and scientific naturalists can help point the way toward a new planetary civilization.  

The New Multi-Secularist Agenda~
We need to overcome the ancient religious, ethnic, racial, and nationalistic perspectives of the past; and we need to develop moral principles appropriate to the twenty-first century and beyond. Kurtz calls this “Planetary Ethics.” Such a moral stance considers “every person in the world community to be equal in dignity and value” over and beyond existing boundaries. Kurtz attempts to outline the key principles of this new Planetary perspective.

Rebecca Goldstein Presents:

Thirty-Six Arguments for the Existence of God: A Work of Fiction. A Reading~

A professor of the psychology of religion, Cass Seltzer, has recently published a book, "The Varieties of Religious Delusion," which has become an international bestseller. The novel follows Seltzer around in his new life as an intellectual celebrity, including a major debate he engages in with a religious apologist who has new many spins to put on old arguments for God's existence, it explores multiple facets of the religious impulse, including the ways in which other delusions—such as romantic love and celebrityhood itself— can mimic religiosity.
Spinoza's Mind~

Einstein had such a high regard for the philosophy of Spinoza that he composed a poem that began "How much do I love this noble man!" When asked about his religious beliefs, Einstein's answer was always that he believed "in the God of Spinoza."  Spinoza was excoriated in his own seventeenth century as an atheist, a fatalist, and an immoralist, but in fact Spinoza demonstrates, in both his theoretical work and his life, how morality is independent of religious faith.  A leading inspiration for modernity and secularism, Spinoza's deep intuitions on subjects as varied as physics and psychology are still influential today. 

Steven Pinker Presents:

The Moral Instinct~

What is the nature of our moral thoughts and emotions? What are their neurobiological and evolutionary roots? To what extent are they universal, and how do they vary across cultures? Is there such a thing as an abstract morality that stands apart from the moral intuitions of flesh-and-blood human beings? If so, must it come from religion? And what are the implications of the science of the moral sense for contemporary issues such as biomedical research and global environmental issues?

The Evolutionary Psychology of Religion~

In culture after culture, people believe that the soul lives on after death, that rituals can change the physical world and divine the truth, and that illness and misfortune are caused and alleviated by spirits, ghosts, saints, angels, demons, cherubim, djinns, devils, and gods. Is this any way to build an intelligent organism?  Pinker explores the evolutionary basis of religious belief, and suggests that it is not an adaptation in the biologist's sense, but a by-product of other adaptations, including the faculty of intuitive psychology, the desire for prestige, and acquiescence to experts. He will also discuss why religious belief persists in an age in which science has invaded the traditional territory of religion.

Toni Van Pelt Presents:

The Center for Inquiry Office of Public Policy Defending Science and Secularism~

 In order to promote and defend science and secularism in the development of laws and policies, the Center for Inquiry created the Office of Public Policy in Washington D.C. The branch is headed by Toni Van Pelt, CFI's governmental affairs director, who urges Congressional members to base laws and policies on scientific data and empirical evidence as opposed to faith, as well as emphasizing the separation of church and state. Van Pelt will give a first-year report on the current bills CFI is following in Congress, the inner workings of the Office, what the future holds, and how CFI members can affect public policies and laws.

DJ Grothe Presents:

A Nation of Suckers: Getting Duped in America Today~

What makes people believe, despite the lack of evidence – or even in the face of solid contrary evidence?  How many Americans believe the unbelievable?  In a free society, does it even matter what people believe, or why?  Focusing on the leaders of the contemporary cults of irrationality, D.J. surveys some of the more “unbelievable beliefs” of our society, including Scientology and other fringe religions, the Ufology movement, alternative medicine remedies like “healing touch” and magnet therapy, and the most popular current conspiracy theories.  He concludes by suggesting concrete actions that rationalists can take to counter these trends of unreason in society.