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Center for Inquiry turning to the Right?
Posted: 16 February 2007 05:14 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 16 ]
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CFI’s political orientation

Although as a CFI staffer I am not an unbiased observer, I think an unbiased observer who conducted a study of the material produced by CFI would conclude that it is both politically diverse and also slightly left of center (in the categories of U.S. politics). For instance, the New York City branch, with which I am most familiar, has in recent years sponsored lectures by Christopher Hitchens and Salman Rushdie, but also by Victor Navasky, Todd Gitlin, and Susan Jacoby.

CFI’s work on Islam is of course particularly controversial because of its intersections with U.S. foreign policy and counterterrorism. It is true that in this effort, CFI has collaborated with conservatives. For instance, Free Inquiry interviewed Michael Ledeen for its issue on Iranian secularists. We were quite right to do so, as Ledeen is a highly influential expert on Iranian politics. And, sadly, apparently no “liberals” of note are engaged with the Iranian secularist movement.

As a proud liberal and the son of New Left civil rights activists, it is deeply personally troubling to me that opposing Islamism has come to be considered a “conservative” issue. Perhaps this is due, as Paul Berman and Peter Beinhart argue, to a liberal fixation on partisan domestic policy struggles and a reflexive aversion to the exercise of American hard power abroad. Perhaps it is misplaced multicultural sympathy, as Ibn Warraq, Irshad Manji, and other Muslim dissidents contend.

In any event, CFI will continue to critique Islam and support those—like many of the participants in the upcoming conference—who bravely resist its totalitarian expressions in Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nigeria, and elsewhere. They, by the way, find it hard to work up much ire over whether to label CFI “liberal” or “conservative.”

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Posted: 16 February 2007 06:49 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 17 ]
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Austin said:

Although as a CFI staffer I am not an unbiased observer, I think an unbiased observer who conducted a study of the material produced by CFI would conclude that it is both politically diverse and also slightly left of center (in the categories of U.S. politics). For instance, the New York City branch, with which I am most familiar, has in recent years sponsored lectures by Christopher Hitchens and Salman Rushdie, but also by Victor Navasky, Todd Gitlin, and Susan Jacoby.

As I have noted above, it does not much matter to humanists the political orientation of CFI.  Just of CSH.  None of the other CFI projects, whether CSICOP, or those groups which focus on Alt. Med, Psychology, Biblical Criticism, etc., are promoting or defending a sociopolitical philosophy or world view (or life stance) such as CSH is (with humanism).  Skeptics, atheists, secularists, etc., can be anywhere on the political spectrum… It matters little to their ‘cause.’ 

Humanists are, well, humanists… And they DO indeed hold to a certain kind of sociopolitical framework… And it is not conservatism.

Austin said:

CFI’s work on Islam is of course particularly controversial because of its intersections with U.S. foreign policy and counterterrorism. It is true that in this effort, CFI has collaborated with conservatives. For instance, Free Inquiry interviewed Michael Ledeen for its issue on Iranian secularists. We were quite right to do so, as Ledeen is a highly influential expert on Iranian politics. And, sadly, apparently no “liberals” of note are engaged with the Iranian secularist movement.

Free Inquiry - as the magazine makes clear - is no longer ‘really’ the voice of CSH.  It is about ‘free inquiry’ and to that extent, the Ledeen essay was, well, interesting.  I do not know if he was correct about Iran, but the dialogue is interesting (and I do believe FI also published ideas on this from a more liberal perspective in that same issue).  I would have to reread the essay to see if he stays focussed on Iran via secularism, and did not drift off into right-wing diatribes.. for if he did, THAT might be where FI might have to be more careful.  For instance, humanists ought to have no problem at all with Hitchens writing for FI, so as long as he writes about secularism, or critiques the religious Right in America, or brings back to the foreground his good work on Kissinger and Mother Teresa… etc.  But when he shows his anti-humanist, pro-Bush or pro-Iraq war or anti-liberal side ... without FI defending the fact that it IS really the mouthpiece of CSH and humanism and making clear that such nonsense can not go unanswered ... then it really becomes about ‘sales over principle.’

Austin said:

As a proud liberal and the son of New Left civil rights activists, it is deeply personally troubling to me that opposing Islamism has come to be considered a “conservative” issue. Perhaps this is due, as Paul Berman and Peter Beinhart argue, to a liberal fixation on partisan domestic policy struggles and a reflexive aversion to the exercise of American hard power abroad. Perhaps it is misplaced multicultural sympathy, as Ibn Warraq, Irshad Manji, and other Muslim dissidents contend.

Austin, opposing Islamism is NOT a ‘conservative’ issue.  But many of those who do the opposing ARE conservatives and make no bones about it.  I am sure you see the difference in the various arguments?

And if your “liberals” care more about domestic issues than foreign policy issues, humanists are not really those sort of liberals.  We tend to have this thing called ‘Planetary Humanism,’ and that requires us to move to the left of mainstream liberalism ... Particularly of the kind which dominates the Democratic Party. 

But also, if liberals (of any variety) are concerned with “the exercise of American hard power abroad,” I’d hardly call this a “reflective aversion!”  Indeed, it is very reflective

Any liberal worth his or her philosophy MUST be concerned (and yes, wound up over and often revolted by) what you should rightly call American Hegemonic Military and Economy Imperialism!  I hardly would call this correct and humanistic response to real world events over the last 60 year “misplaced multicultural sympathy.”  My god!

Austin, you call yourself a liberal?  Of what variety? 

Austin said:

In any event, CFI will continue to critique Islam and support those—like many of the participants in the upcoming conference—who bravely resist its totalitarian expressions in Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nigeria, and elsewhere. They, by the way, find it hard to work up much ire over whether to label CFI “liberal” or “conservative.”

Again, it is one thing to have people “bravely resist (Islam’s) totalitarian expressions” and quite another thing to be blind to WHY these expressions exist in the first place!

Perhaps if CFI employed people who understood as much about geopolitics as they do about Islam - to really “counter terrorism” - they’d being talking about ways to end the West’s hold on the Middle East, to fix the damage we caused, and about how to force the West to right all their wrongs today!  We can start by helping Afghanistan rebuild, and not under the War Lords we put back into power.  We can also decide how to stop Israel from being an Apartheid nation, and give the Palestinians at least as much aid as we have given Isreal over the decades!  We can admit our wrong in Iraq and do whatever we can with the rest of the world to fix that damn mess! 

Instead of CSH taking the side of Dutch racists, we should be doing something to help the people in Muslim nations toward real democracy and get them out of bad lives (instead of proping up the crazies who “govern” them and then wondering why they are so angry!)

Your right-wing, Islam-hating-to-the-point-of-blindness-to-the-real-issues-of-totalitarianism “humanists” are “working up much ire” over the wrong things.  Do you think their tactics will do anything whatsoever to help these people?  How can Warraq back Bush’s wars and say 9/11 had nothing to do with politics… and still hope to free those caught under political Islam (unleashed by the USA in the first place)? 

How can folks at this talk do anything humanistic?  Folks like one person who was a “private advisory to former Israeli Prime Minister (and mass murderer) Ariel Sharon”, another person who says to Palestinians, “make the holy land truly holy by giving Israel and the Jewish people the respect they deserve in their tiny little country.” a Special Forces Mercenary, a former Israeli ambassador who laughs at “alleged” Israeli human rights violations, a Reagan defense secretary and more! 

Austin, what exactly do you think you are defending?

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Posted: 16 February 2007 07:45 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 18 ]
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Barry I have to disagree that Humanism is fundamentally political at all let alone left.

humanism |ˈ(h)yoōməˌnizəm| noun an outlook or system of thought attaching prime importance to human rather than divine or supernatural matters. Humanist beliefs stress the potential value and goodness of human beings, emphasize common human needs, and seek solely rational ways of solving human problems.

I see no reason that this philosophy would not be functional in many traditionally conservative (as in the state should be small and non-interventive) political stances. It could even be argue that stressing the potential value and goodness of humans has to be done on an individual basis (every individual has potential value and goodness). Thus moving humanism away from group politics and into the realm of individuals (everyone repeat after me we are all individuals).

I think that humanism is an umbrella ideal and politics is a method, or vehicle for reaching the ideal. I see no evidence that liberalism is more capable of moving humanity towards the primary goals of humanism than many other political theories.

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Posted: 17 February 2007 04:20 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 19 ]
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Barry, for as long as I have been on this forum, the sum total of your participation in it has been to denigrate the CFI in every way you can. Either you denigrate its tactics, its aims, CFI fellows like Pinker, Dawkins and Wilson, its magazines, its notion of Humanism, its employees, Paul Kurtz, et cetera.

It seems as though all the CFI has to do is promote something and you will be out with a post on why that promotion is wrong or unethical.

I had been wondering what the basis was for your continual bellyaching. And now it becomes clearer.

[quote author=“Barry”]PS: It’s interesting that two of the three CFI persons responding to this particular thread are the two persons whom hope to lead CFI in the years to come ... who expect to “take over” from Paul Kurtz, that is ... and whom were instremental in having me fired after six years with CFI because I was too “Left-Wing.”  Hmmm.

This is really over the top nasty.

Face it Barry, you are grinding your axe against CFI for precisely this reason.

If you don’t like the mission of CFI, and don’t feel that it reflects your narrow view of “Humanism”, I fail to see the point of hanging around. If you were let go, its presumably because you weren’t fitting in properly with the mission as they saw it. Clearly we’re not fighting your fight. I for one will not fight your fight because I disagree with it in nearly every facet.

Time to grow up and move on.

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Posted: 17 February 2007 05:07 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 20 ]
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Yes, I’ve watched this from the sidelines and I agree with Doug. Its time to stop beating up on the organization that provides the stage for the actors.

CFI will outlive all of us whether we agree with its direction or not.
Let’s all realize the organization is doing a great deal of good for secular humanism. Its publications provide some of the leading secular voices of the day with a place to be heard.
For me that’s something to be grateful for. Even though its methods sometimes seem unwise to me so what? I’m wrong on things as much as I’m right. On that issue I might be wrong.
Jim

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Posted: 17 February 2007 08:17 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 21 ]
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cgallaga said:

quote: humanism (’(h)yoom-niz-m) noun an outlook or system of thought attaching prime importance to human rather than divine or supernatural matters. Humanist beliefs stress the potential value and goodness of human beings, emphasize common human needs, and seek solely rational ways of solving human problems.

I see no reason that this philosophy would not be functional in many traditionally conservative (as in the state should be small and non-interventive) political stances. It could even be argue that stressing the potential value and goodness of humans has to be done on an individual basis (every individual has potential value and goodness). Thus moving humanism away from group politics and into the realm of individuals (everyone repeat after me we are all individuals).

I think that humanism is an umbrella ideal and politics is a method, or vehicle for reaching the ideal. I see no evidence that liberalism is more capable of moving humanity towards the primary goals of humanism than many other political theories.


You’d have to look at many of my other posts for a fuller response to this, but the definition above is a vague and incomplete one.  If it were called a full definition, it would clash with the humanist manifestos in that the latter go into much greater detail as to what sort of ideas we are talking about when we call them humanism. 

The definition you posted only reflects the naturalistic underpinnings of humanism, and not much more.  How do we understand the potential goodness of humans?  I have argued from anthropology and biology to respond to this.  What are the most important “common human needs” and what good is knowing them if we do not devise a plan to attain them.  Humanism becomes a ‘pie in the sky’ “idea” with no meat if it does not try to show how we humans can get from here to there.. And indeed, the manifestos talk to these many issues and lay out a basic plan of what a humanistic future should look like… We only need to move in the humanistic direction. 

As for politics as a method, that is partly correct, for what we do (what method we employ) in and to society in the political and economic sense will surly result in a certain kind of future.  But will that future be humanistic?  Does the ideas, goals and plans in the manifestos and the overall trajectory of philosophical humanism from the Enlightenment onward lead us to a humanistic future or not?  Should we completely change our ideas, goals and plans and just all become pure consequentalists… judging the means by the ends?  And what ends? 

Yes, what of those ends?  “Traditional Conservatism” as you define it is really Classical Liberalism because what we know of actual existing conservatism is that it is hardly a coherent and consistent “ism” (see Ted Honderich’s book: Conservatism: Burke, Nozick, Bush, Blair?), and the “social-conservatism” we see all around is nothing much more than hate, fear, racism, bigotry, etc.  Not humanism.  The rest is a doctrine to justify selfishness.  So much for conservatism as a humanistic method.

Classical Liberalism has its merits if it is taken to the next logical stage.  This “ism” of the Enlightenment ought to lead us directly to Libertarian-Socialism as Noam Chomksy points out.

“New Deal Liberalism” (big government liberalism) can be as troublesome as “social democracy” because though while it/they alleviate(s) the pains and injustices of free-market capitalism to a degree, it/they still concentrate(s) too much power into the hands of too few persons (including in ‘representative’ democracies).  Yes, such liberalism is better when democracy is the underpin of economic socialisms such as these - we know what can happen with non-democratic socialism - but ‘market capitalism’ ultimately forces the state to exert more and more power to control it… and this is why it has been collapsing for over 40 years now…. even in Sweden!

Neo-liberal (which is not liberal at all) capitalism has won the day, it seems… And it is currently being expressed via regressive “globalization.”

So humanists can’t take a relativistic approach to this… Not all political methods are equally fit to meet humanist ideas or goals, and so cannot be useful humanistic plans. 

And since method and idea have to become the same thing toward the end, I define humanism by what it must entail to bring us to where it promises - Planatary Humanism…

“Humanism is a sociopolitical world view, informed by scientific naturalism, which holds that human societies are healthiest if founded on non-hierarchal democratic principles.  Accordingly, a humanistic society - in recognizing universal interconnectedness - promotes cooperation in all areas of life, the peaceful and fair allocation of natural and human-made resources, and a commitment that individuals be encouraged and aided in achieving their fullest potential while in turn nurturing the larger society.”

PS:  Individualism, even if important toward understanding the human condition, is not the way to move us further.  It is only a step toward the maturity of our species, and if not understood that way, can lead us right to what is most damaging… As it has via neoliberal capitalism…

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Posted: 17 February 2007 09:12 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 22 ]
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Doug Smith said:

Barry, for as long as I have been on this forum, the sum total of your participation in it has been to denigrate the CFI in every way you can. Either you denigrate its tactics, its aims, CFI fellows like Pinker, Dawkins and Wilson, its magazines, its notion of Humanism, its employees, Paul Kurtz, et cetera. It seems as though all the CFI has to do is promote something and you will be out with a post on why that promotion is wrong or unethical. I had been wondering what the basis was for your continual bellyaching. And now it becomes clearer. Face it Barry, you are grinding your axe against CFI for precisely this reason. If you don’t like the mission of CFI, and don’t feel that it reflects your narrow view of “Humanism”, I fail to see the point of hanging around. If you were let go, its presumably because you weren’t fitting in properly with the mission as they saw it. Clearly we’re not fighting your fight. I for one will not fight your fight because I disagree with it in nearly every facet. Time to grow up and move on.

jimmiekeyes said:

Yes, I’ve watched this from the sidelines and I agree with Doug. Its time to stop beating up on the organization that provides the stage for the actors.

CFI will outlive all of us whether we agree with its direction or not.

Let’s all realize the organization is doing a great deal of good for secular humanism. Its publications provide some of the leading secular voices of the day with a place to be heard.

For me that’s something to be grateful for. Even though its methods sometimes seem unwise to me so what?

=======================

To Doug and Jim and anyone else who feels the same:

First, I removed the ‘PS’ from my previous post precisely because though I DO understand I was let go because of ideology, posting that made it look like all my posts on this forum were/are motivated by a disgruntled ex-employee mindset rather than by a concerned humanist.

No Doug, I do not write what I write because I am angry at CFI for letting me go.  Nor am I concerned that you find all my posts (ideas) wrong in nearly every way.  I assume you too are used to people (religious people, perhaps) finding YOUR IDEAS to be wrong in every facet, but if they were to post on these PUBLIC forums (critiquing your ideas and/or CFI), I am sure it would not be considered “immature.”  You would not tell them to “grow up and move on.”  Indeed that would be nasty and they could just as well suggest the same to you.  Differences of opinion are not a sign of immaturity. 

What bugs you really is not what you (wrongly) think is my motivation for my postings, but what I have said in them instead.  Face it, I am a humanist.  I am an atheist and a skeptic.  I am a freethinker.  I am not here to bash CFI as a freethinking organization, as many religious posters would no doubt be here to do.  CSH and CSICOP were very important to my learning process ever since I first read a SI or FI issue…  And Kurtz was my first guiding light toward humanism and naturalism when I first read The Transcendental Temptation

I worked for 6 years for CFI BECAUSE I believed in its message.  I also found, in the last few years of that employment, that things were changing.  CSH and humanism were becoming watered down, and CFI became more about science advocacy, angry atheism and secularism than about humanism.  Perhaps 9/11 did this to them, or perhaps it is just the newer staffers who sought a different future for CFI.  But as CFI is the largest and most successful such group in the country ... And perhaps in the world ... What CFI says about humanism, what it does about it, becomes the standard by which all other such groups (and to a degree, individuals) are compared to and challenged to become.

Dissent from within a Freethought organization is as important to that organization as dissent is important to democracy.  I was fired for my dissent.  That was a shame.  I still believe in CFI and that it can allow CSH to become humanistic again, and this is why I post on these forums (outside of the fun in chatting with you all).  My arguments may be aimed at times at CFI, but this is because dissent must be allowed ON THESE FORUMS.  We must be in the habit of holding the most powerful freethinking organization’s feet to the fire and not loose our principles for our gratefulness! 

Yes, CFI provides these forums which is a good thing ... Perhaps a necessary thing ... But if it is only to ‘make nice’ with all that CFI does and promotes re its particular agenda, it is not then democratic. It’s then propaganda.  There is much which CFI does which is important and necessary.  I sometimes talk about these things, but I see I really do not need to because the forums are filled with such praise.  I may be the only person who carefully watches what CFI and humanists/atheists in general (such as Harris and Dawkins) do, and reports on how I think and feel about it.  Perhaps this is not welcome anymore than ‘Hitman’ welcomes Chomsky’s critique of America or Americans, but I can think of no more important duty of a humanist but to do just this.

I may be ignored most of the time by the powers that be at CFI, but imagine a CFI forum without anyone to hold CFI itself to the Cause(s) it says it promotes and defends IN OUR NAMES! 

These forums would become not much more than a CFI club ... Boring and useless for achieving real humanistic change.

Like ‘V’ (from “V for Vendetta”), who learns that vengeance against those who brought him personal harm is not moral or mature, I am not seeking any personal vendetta via my postings on the forums.  I think anyone who reads what I have written can see that I am concentrating on the issues at hand - even when I am talking to or about CFIers, or fellows.  It has ALWAYS been about the issues and not the persons.  This is what democracy looks like.

And Jim, about “attacking” the organization which gives us these forums…. The U.S. gives us the chance to vote, free speech and certain rights, so does that mean we must not criticize the U.S. itself with these tools they offer us?  What good are these tools then? 

Most of my posts have been about how folks promote or defend humanism (and atheism), and if CFI happens to back these folks, then they ought to take note of the arguments.  My posts about the CFI-FL conference was unique in that it was a direct response to CFI, BUT not because of some personal vendetta, but because I see the defense of this confrence as a clear next step to the bastardization of CSH and humanism under the umbrella of the most powerful Freethought banner there is.  I do not want to see this done to CSH, or more importantly, to humanism… And I would have only myself to blame if I did not speak out.  If CFI is to “outlive” all of us, then it is even more important that it does not become a Right-wing, anti-humanistic organization for our children! 

It is not about that mere fact that we have a voice for humanism/atheism in CFI, its about what KIND of voice that is.

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Posted: 17 February 2007 11:58 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 23 ]
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Barry: You certainly weren’t let go from CFI because of your ideology; indeed, many people at CFI share your leftist ideology, and some leaders at CFI are even more on the political left than you are. You were let go from CFI for other, over-determined, reasons, not the least of which is that you were regularly openly hostile to other CFI volunteers and community leaders because they didn’t share your political commitments.

I know that you mean well, and that you are earnest, but I think that sometimes you get overly passionate about your political views, and that maybe you think that only your perspective is the one that will solve all the world’s problems. If someone doesn’t share your perspective, you seem to find it too easy to rebuke them or attack them. That wasn’t very conducive to your goals as a field organizer for CFI. You end up being divisive, even if that isn’t your intention.

But for the sake of fun and fruitful discussion, please let’s all move past all of this and discuss the issues so many people like to discuss on these forums: humanism, skepticism, politics, religion, activism, secularism, etc.

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Posted: 17 February 2007 02:49 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 24 ]
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[quote author=“Barry”]The definition you posted only reflects the naturalistic underpinnings of humanism, and not much more.

Yes well obviously that OED is well known to be far to the right. raspberry

[quote author=“Barry”]what good is knowing them if we do not devise a plan to attain them.

Prove that just letting people be, letting them be free and unfettered to find their own way is not an acceptable means to the ends. Prove that a controlling all knowing government can have any better chance of improving the lot of the mass of men, rather than, as the same history you refer to shows, just selecting certain men over others. But again thats all about politics, a fuzzy science at best, but it is not humanism, which is a moral philosophy.

[quote author=“Bary”]what we know of actual existing conservatism is that it is hardly a coherent and consistent “ism” (see Ted Honderich’s book: Conservatism: Burke, Nozick, Bush, Blair?), and the “social-conservatism” we see all around is nothing much more than hate, fear, racism, bigotry, etc.  Not humanism.  The rest is a doctrine to justify selfishness.  So much for conservatism as a humanistic method.

First likening a broad political philosophy with any one or few individuals or with a small group/period within is not very truthful or productive. It is like equating all communist philosophy only with Stalin. It also seems to me you are throwing the baby out with the bath water. Finally I would argue that many current conservatives and liberals in western politics are simply neither, but rather populist centrists, willing to do or say almost anything just to get the votes.


[quote author=“Bary”]And since method and idea have to become the same thing toward the end, I define humanism by what it must entail to bring us to where it promises - Planatary Humanism…

And thus dogma is born: Define Humanism only by what Barry thinks else it is not humanist.

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Posted: 17 February 2007 05:34 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 25 ]
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As an outside observer, in my experience over the years those who have been terminated from their jobs are almost never willing to recognize the real reasons they were fired and, instead, come up with something that makes them more noble in their own eyes.  I don’t know if this is a description of the case in point.

I do know that I have a very short attention span for diatribes so I usually read only about five lines of some of the posts here before I scroll down to the next post.

Occam

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Posted: 17 February 2007 06:13 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 26 ]
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DJ Grothe said:

Barry: You certainly weren’t let go from CFI because of your ideology; indeed, many people at CFI share your leftist ideology, and some leaders at CFI are even more on the political left than you are. You were let go from CFI for other, over-determined, reasons, not the least of which is that you were regularly openly hostile to other CFI volunteers and community leaders because they didn’t share your political commitments.

DJ:  I already agreed with Doug Smith that this stuff does not belong on these forums - and I think it is best to just say that I was NEVER “hostile” to any CFI volunteers or leaders - even if they were Neocons at heart LOL 

I may have debated hard, and came off even more opinionated than other freethinkers (which is quite a task, let me tell you raspberry ), but I never insulted any volunteer or community leader, got nasty with them, or told them in any way that if they did not follow my political path, they were lessor people. 

I also never said or wrote anything rude or nasty about people’s atheism, secularism or skepticism… Or re CFI or its fellows/staffers either.  What I DID in fact do was talk or write about what I feel is humanism, how I feel CSH (under CFI) is portraying humanism, or what others may argue humanism is all about ... but these discussions or debates were about   ideas and not about persons. 

Of course it can be said that if I criticize someone’s definition of humanism they might take it personally, but freethinkers know better than that.  A robust debate about what humanism is or is not, and about how it ought to be betrayed by the organization we all were/are dedicated to (and I worked for), is what is so powerful about Freethought - and I thought, of CFI too.  Where else better to debate what is humanism or who’s ideology makes them a humanist or not - based, again, on what is humanism? 

That any of these debates or discussions have been reinterpreted as being hostile to volunteers or community leaders themselves, or hostile to any person at CFI, shows the level of dissent CFI is willing to accept from its employees.  My dissent hit too much to the heart of things and I had to go :(

PS: I do not know anyone at CFI who is as left as, or more left than, me .. Not that that seems to matter.  I know Koepsell says he is an anarchist, which I am also, to a degree; but I doubt many others are that “left” (and btw, communism and social democracy are to the right of anarchism).  But politics is not the issue here, not directly.  What IS the issue is that even Koepsell - as radical as he says he is - will not admit to the fact that humanism is nothing if divorced from the sociopolitical and economic ‘world’.

DJ Grothe said:

I know that you mean well, and that you are earnest, but I think that sometimes you get overly passionate about your political views, and that maybe you think that only your perspective is the one that will solve all the world’s problems. If someone doesn’t share your perspective, you seem to find it too easy to rebuke them or attack them. That wasn’t very conducive to your goals as a field organizer for CFI. You end up being divisive, even if that isn’t your intention.

Again, I never rebuked people or attacked them.  I addressed ideas and issues.  This is well within the framework of Freethought!  If it is not, and dissenting opinions are not welcome, then so much for free thought.  Why do you insist on conflating debate about ideas with debate about the persons who hold such ideas? Even Doug Smith and I - who argue allot - never call each other names or attack each other personally (well we both did once, but we kissed and made up :wink: 

Even when I have addressed persons’ ideas more directly (but not their persons) like when I critique PUBLIC figures Dawkins or Harris - or “go at it” with folks on these forums about these folk’s ideas or methods - it is to point out these folk’s angry atheism, and simplistic approach to religion and religious people… and not to talk about anyone personally.  Example, just to make clear, I do not criticize Hitchens for being a drunk or womanizer (though others do that for me in the real world), I criticize him for being an anti-humanistic apologist for the Neo-Cons.  I talk about his ideas, and not his person.

BTW, do I think I have political views, or share political views with others, which might be the best suited to solving many of the world’s problems?  Not dogmatically, no.  But with cautious optimism?  Yes. 

As does anyone else who takes seriously their sociopolitical and economic ideas.

And if humanism is about making the world a better place to live, then all the best ideas we can find will be needed!

DJ Grothe said:

But for the sake of fun and fruitful discussion, please let’s all move past all of this and discuss the issues so many people like to discuss on these forums

I am sure we all will.  But that should include expressing our concern or upset over where CFI is taking CSH/Humanism… i.e. the CFI-FL event.
cgallaga said:

what good is knowing them if we do not devise a plan to attain them. 
Prove that just letting people be, letting them be free and unfettered to find their own way is not an acceptable means to the ends. Prove that a controlling all knowing government can have any better chance of improving the lot of the mass of men, rather than, as the same history you refer to shows, just selecting certain men over others. But again thats all about politics, a fuzzy science at best, but it is not humanism, which is a moral philosophy.

1) Humanism is a moral philosophy?  Whose morals?  What kind of morals?  What do we do with these morals in the real world?

2) I can not prove what you ask.  Indeed, I find much evidence that such a government (and indeed most governments), make life far less humanistic than more so.  ‘Letting people be’ is a bit simplistic, but I’d overall agree with you.  I take it you are a Libertarian or a Classical Liberal.  I am not that far from you re my views.  I am a Left-Libertarian or a Libertarian-Socialist or an anarchist (all depending on the specifics).  More than most on these forums, I think you would enjoy reading “Economic Justice and Democracy” by Robin Hahnel and “Toward an Inclusive Democracy” by Takis Fotopoulos.

cgallaga said:

Bary wrote:
And since method and idea have to become the same thing toward the end, I define humanism by what it must entail to bring us to where it promises - Planetary Humanism…


And thus dogma is born: Define Humanism only by what Barry thinks else it is not humanist.


If you want to think this, I can not talk you out of it.  I think it is clear that your definition is too vague .. gets us nowhere fast.  You might as well loose the word humanism and replace it with naturalism. 

But I never said MY definition is the best or only one.  I said it fits all the main meanings of humanism I have found through my studies and reading.  I welcome other, better worded definitions which actually speak to what humanism is, and does so in some detail. 

BUT if anyone’s definition is as good as anyone else’s - rather postmodernist, actually - then humanism might as well mean nothing.

And to be honest with you, if humanism continues to be nebulous in this way, then it may be best we all drop the term and the core of its historical meanings (as perhaps CFI has decided was the best thing to do for this very reason), and just be satisfied being atheists or naturalists and call it a day. 

Of course then there won’t be much to say that will be very enlightening on making a better planet because atheism does not go there very well, and except for the fact that naturalism’s philosophical determinism can indeed help us begin such a task, it offers little else along these lines.  But then, most people who call themselves naturalists tend to believe in Free Will (which is supernaturalism), anyway. 

But for now, I think Humanism brings together natural science, naturalism, politics, economics, social science, and so much more in just a way that it can be a powerful “ism,”  so I will continue my quest and tasks.

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Posted: 17 February 2007 06:23 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 27 ]
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Occam:

As an outside observer, in my experience over the years those who have been terminated from their jobs are almost never willing to recognize the real reasons they were fired and, instead, come up with something that makes them more noble in their own eyes. I don’t know if this is a description of the case in point.

Occam.  I will respond privately to you.

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Posted: 17 February 2007 06:42 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 28 ]
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As a relative newcomer, my $0.02 may not be worth much, but here it is anyway.

Ok, so we can all agree that Barry gets carried away sometimes and can be pretty abrasive. Still, he has a point that his role as gadfly stimulates discussion! As on old-fashioned welfare state liberal, I disagree with him on just about everything, but young Turks force the rest of us to defend our positions, and that requires thinking them through again even if they’re long-established, which is a good thing. And though I haven’t been a part of CFI or the forum for that long, it seems like an organization dedicated to inquiry can put up with a little bellicosity in the name of considering all points of view on their merits.

As for the deleted thread, I completely agree that the organization has the right to determine the content limits of the boards, and that the discussion that was deleted probably fell outside those limits. But I must admit I was a little surprised that part of the rationale given was fear of how our “cultural competitors” might use the content of the discussion to make us look bad. If we have the “courage of our convictions” and “the courage for an attack on our convictions,” and if our convictions include a commitment to questioning established beliefs regardless of how widely or deeply held they are, then we should be very hesitant to encourage only certain kinds of inquiry out of concern for our reputation. Besides, as secular humanists and atheists, we couldn’t have a much worse reputation!  :wink:

All in all, I have found this to be one of the few forums out there where relatively civil and intelligent debate is the rule despite the variety of perspectives and the strength of conviction (and of personality) of many participants. And as Occam points out, we can all skim past diatribes if they get on our nerves (though some of the “good parts” are buried in the middle, darn it!)

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Posted: 17 February 2007 07:02 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 29 ]
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Brennon:

Ok, so we can all agree that Barry gets carried away sometimes and can be pretty abrasive. Still, he has a point that his role as gadfly stimulates discussion! As on old-fashioned welfare state liberal, I disagree with him on just about everything, but young Turks force the rest of us to defend our positions, and that requires thinking them through again even if they’re long-established, which is a good thing. And though I haven’t been a part of CFI or the forum for that long, it seems like an organization dedicated to inquiry can put up with a little bellicosity in the name of considering all points of view on their merits.

All in all, I have found this to be one of the few forums out there where relatively civil and intelligent debate is the rule despite the variety of perspectives and the strength of conviction (and of personality) of many participants. And as Occam points out, we can all skim past diatribes if they get on our nerves (though some of the “good parts” are buried in the middle, darn it!)


Brennen, you made my day   :D

I was beginning to think people were thinking I was an abrasive person at heart   :( 

I am sorry if any of my “carried away” posts seem such, but as you mentioned, many other forums I have seen are far less civil and far less intelligent as far as the debate goes ... even when the posters are persons far more prestigious than this particular (not so young) “Turk.” 

I may be a bit blunt, and not so sensitive to the sensibilities of more sensitive people (say that 3x fast), but I have always felt that though it’s great to be both polite and correct, when it comes to picking between the two, I strive much harder for the latter.  Perhaps that is something Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris and I share in our writings (not in person, for I have found both of them to be very polite in person, as some have even said of me :oops: - I guess some things are worth debating hard about ... I just think humanism deserves more attention than atheism).

Anyway, as you say, CFI can afford a bit of passion, even when abrasive, as an inquiring bunch.  Too bad CFI can’t have employees with such passion :( 

PS: I think the welfare state is the best solution humans have come up with toward humanizing ‘free market capitalism,’ but a welfare state would not be needed if we had a humane economic and political system in the first place.

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Posted: 21 February 2007 04:53 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 30 ]
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This seems like a silly discussion, but I’ll jump in anyway.

#1 I’m glad that CFI is cooperating with CIA or former CIA members, and with ideological rightists.

#2 I consider myself a left of liberal socialist.

Handing one side of the spectrum over to religious people is just plain stupid. We should be courting both sides of the spectrum, because if there are atheists on both sides then the discussion with be less about whether something is right or wrong based on the Bible and more based on the merits.

It’s just like its a good thing that there are “right-wing” homosexuals. The interests of homosexuals are advanced better by having representatives and individuals in both camps than by all being in one camp.

We should be working with those on the right and showing them that scientifically minded, atheistic people are more rational, have better policy ideas, make more sense for national security, are better in a global war on religious terrorism, etc.

So they are inviting these people to the conference as speakers, so what? They will get feedback from the audience, and that will be a good thing.

I’d be happy if they invited President Bush for that matter.

This whole business seems silly. Enough preaching to the choir, we should be reaching out more to more diverse, indeed DIFFERENT, interests and institutions.

Stop being childish. Remember Sun-tzu, “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.”

You can’t make changes or have an effect from the outside, you can only do that from the inside. Look at this as an opportunity to influence on “the right”.

To be honest, there are so many fruity liberals and leftists that it’s hard to find decent ones to speak on anything anyway. As essentially a Marxist I find most so-called American leftists to be idiots in the first place.

Tariq-Ali and some others would be nice (I have no idea if he is on the list) but you can’t always get the people you want. If they didn’t ask Tariq-Ali I would be disappointed in that, but, whatever.

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