A Clarification

May 20, 2010

In one of my blog posts last week, I emphasized the importance of adhering to certain standards of criticism. These standards apply to everyone, including me. One thing a critic should do is be clear about the relevant implications of his argument. I may have failed to do so.
To summarize briefly: In the post in question, I objected to certain criticism of CFI and the Council for Secular Humanism, publisher of Free Inquiry magazine. In particular, I maintained that Paul Kurtz's criticism of Free Inquiry's publication of a cartoon that he characterized as offensive was inconsistent with Paul Kurtz's apparent approval of Free Inquiry's publication of similar cartoons for many years. I stated that this inconsistency could be explained by Dr. Kurtz's unfamiliarity with the contents of Free Inquiry in prior years or his desire to criticize CFI and the Council for Secular Humanism for reasons unrelated to any principled objection to the allegedly offensive cartoon. There was another possible explanation as well, which I expressly mentioned in some of my follow-up comments, namely that Paul Kurtz has changed his mind. In other words, although in the past he found cartoons that arguably mock religion acceptable, he no longer finds such cartoons acceptable, and he has a sincere objection to them. As indicated, I did acknowledge this possibility in my follow-up comments, but I should have expressly noted this possibility in the body of my post. I regret the omission.
The purpose of this post is solely to clarify my remarks. This is not an invitation to renew the discussion about Paul Kurtz's criticism of CFI and the Council, or my response to that criticism. Of course, readers are free to leave comments, but I do not intend to address this particular issue further.


#1 Catzilla on Thursday May 20, 2010 at 10:34pm

I have read Paul Kurtz’s criticisms and I disagree with most of what he says.  I am fairly new to CFI etc because I had never heard of Secular Humanism until I was almost 50 yrs old (I’m 51 now.)  So, under Paul Kurtz’s leadership, the marketing of Secular Humanism was lousy as far as I am concerned.

I have only been an out of the closet atheist for about 3 years.  I came out only after reading about people like Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, Mike Newdow, PZ Meyers, and Dan Barker.  It is only through researching them that I found Secular Humanism.

I support all blasphemy projects because I feel it is vital to decrease the hysterical level of religious outrage.  Blasphemy will help to desensitize those religous zealots who are accustomed to using violence when they don’t get their way.  Blasphemy is a public service.

Paul Kurtz seems to me to be watering down his own ideals for the sake of peace with the religious.  I do not respect that sort of thing.  Truth matters. It should not be compromised for the sake of feelings.

I think that the religious have been favored for far too long, and now I think non-believers should stand up and challenge this.  Because of the nature of faith, unemotional and rational dialogue will not reach most believers.  It has to be something with some emotional impact to break through their hautiness.  This is why I favor the new atheist style so much (and I do call them new atheists because the old atheists could not capture my attention, much less get me to participate in anything.) 

New atheists do not try to save the feelings of the believers, because doing so means not getting your message through to them at all.

To expand membership, I think Secular Humanism needs to be less esoteric, a little less intellectual, and less boring.  3 articles on John Dewey in one magazine issue…..honestly, just how will you expand membership like that???

My favorite reads are Freethought Today by FFRF and Church and State by Americans United for Separation of Church and State.  These organizations accomplish a lot, and are frequently in the news.  This is why I send them money (I have sent over $1500 to FFRF in the last year or so alone,) and why I don’t send money to CFI/Council for Secular Humanism.

It is time,in my opinion, for the Secular Humanists to evolve and make their organizations more user friendly.

#2 Thomas (Guest) on Friday May 21, 2010 at 7:51am

I go along with a lot of what Catzilla says.  I stopped subscribing to Free Inquiry because it was just too dull.  So many articles say the same thing in different words.  About halfway through the magazine, my eyeballs would start bubbling.  We need a little humor if only to break the monotony.

At the same I agree with Kurtz, too, and the particular cartoon he singled out.  There are so many times you make make jokes about pedophile priests before it stops being funny.

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