Cause & Effect: The Center for Inquiry Newsletter

Cause & Effect: The CFI Newsletter - No. 2

March 21, 2014

Cause & Effect is the biweekly newsletter of the Center for Inquiry community, covering the wide range of work that you help make possible. 

The Main Events

Church State Separation SignNew Resources to Help You Understand the Hobby Lobby Case

“Hobby Lobby.” Who could have guessed that those two words would come to symbolize a milestone conflict over the meaning of religious freedom in America? It can be hard to make sense of all the arguments and different uses of the term “religious liberty” that are being thrown around, so as the big Hobby Lobby case over the contraceptive mandate of the Affordable Care Act is set to be argued before the Supreme Court next week, we thought it would be helpful to provide some clarifying resources to help everyone understand what it all means, and what’s at stake. Check out our Hobby Lobby Case Resources Page for a handy FAQ and links to material that help to make sense of it all.


Last day for discount registration!Big Updates for Women in Secularism III

Hurry! Today (Friday, March 21) is your last day to take advantage of special early-bird discounts for Women in Secularism III, the year’s most inspiring and meaningful freethought event, happening May 15-18 in Alexandria, VA, just outside of Washington, DC.

BONUS: All attendees get a special room rate at the Westin Alexandria (must book by April 21), PLUS before the conference, you can get yourself officially trained and certified as a secular celebrant (if you meet certain qualifications), so you can preside over all your friends’ secular spring weddings.


One of Women in Secularism’s speakers, Rebecca Newberger Goldstein, has been on our minds a lot lately. She just did a fantastic interview on CFI’s Point of Inquiry with host Josh Zepps, talking about the importance of philosophy in our high-tech age. Plus, a brilliant Socratic dialog between her and husband Steven Pinker on how reason brings us moral progress has been given new life as a fascinating animated short. We think you’ll really like it.

And don’t forget to check out Goldstein’s talk at last year’s Women in Secularism, one of the most popular of the entire event.

The full Women in Secularism III schedule is now online so you can plan the details of your trip!


Skeptic's ToolboxComing soon! Skeptic’s Toolbox 2014

Here’s a sneak peek at what’s coming for this year’s Skeptic’s Toolbox, the hands-on weekend workshop for sharpening your investigative skills. Taking place August 7-10 in Eugene, Oregon, participants will engage in activities based on this year’s theme of how best to use model cases for dealing with dubious claims. Faculty will include James Alcock, Lindsay Beyerstein, Harriet Hall, Loren Pankratz, and of course the Toolbox’s founder, Ray Hyman. Stay tuned for the launch of the 2014 website so you can sign up!


Action Alert

CFI Office of Public PolicyShould religious beliefs trump secular laws? Tell your senators “No!”

Last week, the U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed the Equitable Access to Care and Health Act, which CFI staunchly opposes. It takes everything that’s wrong with the Hobby Lobby case and amplifies it, giving anyone the opportunity to opt out of the Affordable Care Act by claiming a religious exemption. In the Senate, the bill already boasts enormous bipartisan sponsorship, and its passage by a wide margin makes it more difficult for the upper house to ignore. Just as we called upon you to contact your House representatives, we need you to tell your senators in no uncertain terms that no one gets to be above following the law by claiming religious privilege.



News from HQ

CFI Galapagos Cruise!The Land of Darwin and a Movie with Lawrence Krauss

This summer, the CFI Travel Club is taking a voyage to the Galápagos, and there’s an exciting new addition to the itinerary: Physicist and science communicator Lawrence Krauss will be on board, and will be on hand for a special private screening of the new documentary The Unbelievers, a film that follows the exploits of Krauss and Richard Dawkins on a word wide speaking tour. And of course there’s the adventure in the land that inspired Darwin, in the company of brilliant people like Krauss, Nobel Prize-winning Sir Harold Kroto, evolutionary psychologist R. Elisabeth Cornwell, CFI president and philosopher Ron Lindsay, and other fascinating folks like yourself. Learn more about it here.


Free Inquiry MagazineUnraveling the Resurrection in Free Inquiry

“Betting on Jesus to save us is a clear mistake,” writes philosopher David K. Clark in a fascinating cover story for the latest issue of Free Inquiry, where he follows the evidence to find out what really happened on Easter and shows that its defining moment, the Resurrection, could not possibly have taken place. (And how he reaches that conclusion will surprise even nonbelievers.) The April/May 2014 issue of Free Inquiry is available on newsstands now, with full web access available to print subscribers. Visit for more.


Tony1.jpgWe’re Looking for a Few Good Heretics

If you’re a student, or you know a student who’s smart, curious, and skeptical, we’ve got a great opportunity to get involved in the freethought movement while getting some serious experience in leadership and organizing. Our outreach team is looking for summer interns who will be trained in campus outreach, grassroots organizing, event planning, and management, and other skills useful in nonprofit advocacy. Our previous interns have been truly stellar and continue to make our community proud. Come join us! Visit CFI On Campus to learn more about our internship program.


CFI Community News

BANG! CFI-PortlandThis week scientists announced a huge discovery that goes a long way toward solidifying the Big Bang Theory. Now wouldn’t you like to see that dramatized? BANG!, a community theater project from CFI–Portland and written by CFI member Fred Strong, is running a Kickstarter campaign to fund a professional cast recording of the show. Learn more at their campaign page.


Anthony PinnOn March 9, religious studies professor Anthony Pinn wowed a packed house at the Hill Center and CFI–Washington, DC, with his presentation “How a Good Methodist Became a Better Atheists,” based on his new memoir, Writing God’s Obituary. Check out the great photos of the event by Brian Engler.


CFi-Indiana Volunteer Award WinnersCFI–Indiana had an awesome weekend March 8-9. On Saturday, they held a dinner to recognize members Sean and Diana O’Brien for their support and activism. CFI’s CEO Ron Lindsay was even on hand to present the award. The next day included an ice cream social to celebrate the 7th Anniversary of their headquarters in Indianapolis, topped off with a screening of the big Cosmos kickoff. Awesome, indeed.


Giordano Bruno Radio PlayThey kept up a busy week at CFI–Indiana with a radio-play rendition about the murder of heretic Giordano Bruno in 1600 (which was highlighted in animated form in the Cosmos premiere). This and many other interesting radio dramas are performed by Secular Radio Theater on Bruno’s birthday, March 18.


Jeffrey Masson's "Beast"In talks for CFI–Los Angeles, Jeffrey Masson, author of Beasts: What Animals Can Teach Us About the Origins of Good and Evil, presented evidence that the origin of good & evil can be attributed to the beginnings of agriculture and animal domestication. He reported that most predators, except humans, rarely kill their own species and that only about 250 humans are killed yearly by other animals, while, for instance, humans kill 100 million sharks yearly for soup.


In the Media

The Illness & Death of Fred Phelps: When news came down that Fred Phelps, former head of the much-loathed Westboro Baptist Church, was near death, it spurred a lot of thinking. His estranged son Nate Phelps, of CFI-Calgary, wrote about his own conflicted feelings on Facebook. CFI communications director Paul Fidalgo wrote at Friendly Atheist what he thought the best response to his death could be (none at all), and HuffPost Live invited him to join a panel with Frank Schaeffer (author of Crazy for God and other books) and Huffington Post’s own Rev. Paul Rauchenbush to talk about the scars Phelps has left and other ways people might respond to his death. Point of Inquiry’s own Josh Zepps hosted the panel.

CFI–Long Island Profiled in Bethpage Herald: The community of CFI–Long Island was subject of a great profile in the Plainview Old Bethpage Herald, calling the members an “intrepid group of philosophers” and “a multi-faceted group that is interested delving deep into modern-day society and uncovering the truth behind everyday life.”

CFI On Campus Group MU SASHA Recognized for SashaCON: One of CFI On Campus’s most active affiliates was covered by Missouri Public Radio, as Missouri University’s Skeptics, Atheists, Secular Humanists and Agnostics (MU SASHA) was noted for its ability to put on and organize well-attended events with big-name speakers. Congrats, MU SASHA!


Highlights from CFI on the Web

Point of Inquiry PodcastPOINT OF INQUIRY — The Official Podcast of the Center for Inquiry

In addition to Josh Zepp’s interview with Rebecca Goldstein, Lindsay Beyerstein brought some red meat for skeptics to Point of Inquiry with a conversation with David Gorski (aka “Orac”) about the so-called “cancer quack” Dr. Stanislaw Burzynski, his extremely dubious and dangerous cancer treatments, and the efforts to rein him in.

Skeptical Inquirer MagazineSKEPTICAL INQUIRER Online

One huckster who is now facing justice is TV weight-loss pitchman Kevin Trudeau, who has just been sentenced to ten years for fraud. Skeptical Inquirer’s Carrie Poppy brought us inside the Trudeau estate as its contents were being sold off. Carrie has been rather prolific, with two more pieces for SI, one in which she reaches new states of consciousness in a chanting session, and another in which she tries to replicate the experiments of Dr. Masaru Emoto, “who magically turns normal rice into gross rice, simply by yelling at it.”

Free Thinking BlogFREE THINKING — The CFI Blog

     •  Tom Flynn gives us a progress report on the renovations to the Robert Green Ingersoll Birthplace Museum.

     •  Joe Nickell plucks from his snake oil collection a bottle of Warner’s Safe Kidney & Liver Cure, writing, “The word ‘cure’ on such early products was a sign of quackery.”

     •  Ben Radford helps a reader come to terms with their belief they had experienced “astral projection.”

     •  Tim Binga explores CFI’s collection of the papers of Dr. Thornton Page, including his correspondences with Carl Sagan.


And of course, you can keep up with news relevant to skeptics and seculars every weekday with The Morning Heresy.


Save the Date! Upcoming Events

March 22:

     •  CFI–Northeast Ohio holds its “All Things Being Equal” General Membership Meeting, featuring a potluck dinner and awards, with CFI’s national outreach director Debbie Goddard in attendance.

     •  Secular service is big on Saturday, as CFI–Michigan lends a hand with a community service opportunity at the Blandford Nature Center for the Blandford Sugarbush Festival in Grand Rapids.

     •  CFI–DC will help deliver groceries to low-income families as part of We Are Family DC.

     •  It’s movie night at CFI–NYC as they do their latest installment of Cerebral Cinema with Hitchcock’s The Birds.

March 25:

     •  CFI–Michigan hosts a debate on the existence of God with combatants Justin Schieber of the Reasonable Doubts podcast and Christian apologist Scott Symington at the Michigan League Ballroom in Ann Arbor.

March 26:

     •  Rev. Roger Brewin of the Unitarian Church joins CFI–Michigan to talk about “Social Justice with a Humanist Face” in Grand Rapids.

March 30:

     •  It’s Authors’ Night at CFI–Indiana with local members Matthew Barron and Craig Gosling discussing and reading excerpts from their own works.

April 3:

     •  Author Nicole Cushing kicks off a multi-state tour promoting her latest work of fiction, I Am the New God with CFI–Indiana.


Thank you!

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Cause & Effect: The Center for Inquiry Newsletter is edited by Paul Fidalgo, Center for Inquiry communications director.

The Center for Inquiry (CFI) is a nonprofit educational, advocacy, and research organization headquartered in Amherst, New York, with executive offices in Washington, D.C. It is also home to both the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry and the Council for Secular Humanism. The mission of CFI is to foster a secular society based on science, reason, freedom of inquiry, and humanist values. CFI’s web address is