Cause & Effect: The Center for Inquiry Newsletter

Cause & Effect: The CFI Newsletter - No. 40

September 18, 2015

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

Screen Shot 2015-09-aaaa09 at 11.59.21 AM.pngSpecial Blasphemy Issue of Free Inquiry Holds Nothing Sacred

International Blasphemy Rights Day (IBRD) comes on September 30, which marks the anniversary of the publication of the “Danish cartoons” of Muhammad in the Danish paper Jyllands-Posten in 2005, drawings that were the focus of riots and violence throughout the Muslim world. In 2006, Free Inquiry took a bold stand for free expression as the first U.S. print publication to run the cartoons in solidarity. Major bookseller chains in the U.S. and Canada refused to sell Free Inquiry as a result, until they met a fierce backlash from the public and in the media. 

For this year’s IBRD, as atheist bloggers are being murdered in Bangladesh and dissidents such as Raif Badawi suffer incarceration and lashings, Free Inquiry takes on this controversy with a special issue on blasphemy. It includes a collection of powerful, provocative essays on the absolute necessity of free expression rights, unabashedly rejecting the idea that religion should be free from criticism and satire. To bring the point home, Free Inquiry once again stands alone as the only U.S. print publication to run the winning cartoon from the American Freedom Defense Initiative’s (AFDI) “Draw Muhammad” contest, a controversial event that sparked the ire of two American jihadis in Garland, Texas, earlier this year, ending in a shooting attack. Although CFI in no way endorses the AFDI and deplores its intolerant statements regarding Islam, Tom Flynn says of the cartoon itself, “It is brilliant beyond its origins, capturing the conflict between religious extremism and freedom of expression boldly and with great vibrancy.”

The special blasphemy issue of Free Inquiry is on newsstands now (we hope), and right now you can read selections by CFI President Ronald A. Lindsay, Elizabeth Cassidy of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, Stephen R. Welch on the Salman Rushdie affair, and a history of International Blasphemy Rights Day from CFI’s Debbie Goddard.


Michael De DoraCFI’s De Dora to Serve on Board of Raif Badawi Foundation

As mentioned above, Saudi dissident Raif Badawi is carrying out a ten-year prison sentence and has endured fifty of the 1,000 lashes to which he has been condemned, all for the supposed crime of “insulting Islam” as the head of a progressive website that dared question religious tenets and Islam’s role in Saudi government. Badawi’s cause has long been at the center of CFI’s efforts to fight for free expression around the world, and though we have yet to see him freed, we are proud of the role we have played in bringing his case and his cause to international attention. 

Last week, his wife, the brave and tireless activist Ensaf Haidar, announced the establishment of the Raif Badawi Foundation, which will focus on fighting for free expression and a free press in the Arab world. It is our honor to tell you that CFI’s public policy director and UN representative, Michael De Dora, has been tapped to serve on the Foundation’s board of directors. In our announcement, Michael noted that Badawi’s case helped inspire the Campaign for Free Expression. “Winning Raif’s freedom, and defending the rights of others in similar situations, remains a focal point of my work, and our work,” said Michael, “and I look forward to providing any support I can to this effort.” We congratulate Michael and Ms. Haidar, and most importantly, we will continue to work to free Raif.


13-327as.jpgCFI Summit Videos with Bill Nye and More Now Online

Earlier this week, Apple CEO Tim Cook declared that “the future of TV is apps,” but we hold out hope that included in that wondrous app-centric future is enough room for full-length conference videos and lectures (it’s kind of our thing). Happily, no matter what device you’re on, you can now watch, in their entirety, four truly excellent presentations from the CFI Summit held in Tacoma, Washington.

Included in this quartet of videos is Ron Lindsay discussing the myths and (actual) history of the Ten Commandments; Greta Christina on the importance of atheists making firm arguments against religious belief; Zack Kopplin on his experiences in grassroots activism and lobbying for science education; and of course the hilarious and inspiring keynote address from Bill Nye “The Science Guy,” as he urges us all to take responsibility for the future and “change the world”!

And unlike the objects of desire introduced by Apple, our conference videos are all free. Go and check them out now and enjoy!


News from HQ and the CFI Community

hyhyhya.pngAmerica’s Complicated Impact Abroad on Point of Inquiry

CFI’s podcast Point of Inquiry talks to two authors covering very different topics, but both shining a critical light on aspects of America’s impact around the world that are too often invisible to us. 

Marking fourteen years after the attacks of 9/11, Josh Zepps speaks with journalist Craig Unger about the very tangled and contradictory alliance between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia. They examine the radical religious ideology promoted by the Saudi royal family and the complications brought on by conflicts with Iran and ISIS.

Lindsay Beyerstein interviews author and labor expert Erik Loomis about the history of corporate outsourcing in America and how irresponsible corporate behavior has led to a number of disasters for workers and the environment.  


Monica_Richardsona1.jpgDocumentarian Critiques AA at CFI–L.A. 

Documentary filmmaker and grassroots activist Monica Richardson visited CFI–Los Angeles to screen her award-winning documentary The 13th Step, which is highly critical of Alcoholics Anonymous for what she casts as the predatory and abusive behavior of its leaders and members, its emphasis on religion for recovery, its lack of professionalism in its group leaders, and its poor addiction recovery outcomes.

A former member and proponent of AA, Richardson has appeared on numerous TV and radio shows with her criticism. She’s also an actor, voice actor, singer/songwriter, and a business manager. The documentary was followed with a Q&A with Richardson.


y450-293.pngDawkins Brings a Candle in the Dark to CFI Branches in October

Folks at the recent Reason for Change conference were treated to a fascinating interview with Richard Dawkins for Point of InquiryBut if you live in Florida or the DC area, you now have another chance to see Dawkins in person, with your local CFI branch!

In September, Dawkins will release the next part of his memoirs, entitled Brief Candle in the Dark: My Life in Science (a life in science for which he was just honored with CFI’s Lifetime Achievement Award), and will be discussing his book with two CFI branches this October. 

On October 10, Dawkins will appear at an event with CFI–Tampa Bay and the Tampa Bay Coalition of Reason, where he will have a public conversation with Herb Silverman. Before the main event, Dawkins will appear at a VIP reception where each attendee will get an autographed copy of the book. See the full details here. On October 12, Dawkins comes to CFI’s Washington, DC branch for a main event and VIP reception beforehand, complete with signed books. His interviewer for the DC event will be Point of Inquiry’s own Josh Zepps. If you’re going to be close by to either of these events, don’t miss your chance to see Dawkins in person.


CFI in the Media and on the Web

candle ovijit.jpg

●   Michael De Dora contributes a moving essay to a collection at Mukto Mona commemorating the late Avijit Roy, the secular blogger and activist murdered by Islamic extremists in Bangladesh this year. 

●   Michael is also quoted in a Voice of America article on the hostility that Bangladesh’s secularists face not just from Islamists but from their own government.

●   What is “TJIPETIR”? For over a century, blocks with that mysterious word engraved on them washed ashore in Northern Europe, often believed to have come from the Titanic. At Skeptical InquirerMassimo Polidoro seeks out the real answer. 


●   Carrie Poppy attempts to “freeze her toxins out” for the Skeptical Inquirer website, enduring a cryotherapy session where “the cold was so extreme that my body didn’t seem to know what to do with it.”

●   At the Course of Reason blog, an anonymous author describes their experience in a “cult-like church” and the triumphant feeling of having escaped. 

●   David Koepsell warns about the skeptic-atheist community engaging in harmful “movement cleansing and doctrinal purges” to the detriment of achieving real goals.

●   Ben Radford answers a reader’s query about the myth about humans using only 10 percent of their brains and also reviews the new film by M. Night Shyamalan, The Visit.

●   In Skeptical Briefs, Barbara Mervine says that when it comes to those who simply insist on believing in conspiracies and pseudoscience, simply relating facts isn’t as effective as teaching skeptical thinking as a way of life.

●  CFI’s Paul Fidalgo is quoted in a Washington Post piece on the popularity of Pope Francis across religious (and nonreligious) lines.

●  Free Inquiry is noted in a story in the Washington Post on the Bible Museum funded by Hobby Lobby’s Steve Green.

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


Upcoming CFI Events


September 20:

●   The documentary Merchants of Doubt is screened at CFI–Los Angeles and CFI–Orange County, joined by the coauthor of the book that inspired the film, Erik M. Conway.

September 23:

●   Musician and comedian Roy Zimmerman performs his The Faucet’s On Fire! show for CFI–Indiana.

●   Tony Ortega, author of The Unbreakable Miss Lovely and editor of Raw Story, speaks to CFI–Northeast Ohio.

September 24:

●   Wissam Charafeddine, founder of the Muslimish Support Network, speaks to CFI–Michigan about “the curse of blasphemy in Islam.”

September 27:

●   Donna Smith of Compassion & Choices in DC and Maryland comes to CFI–DC to discuss death with dignity legislation. 

September 30:

●   Rap artist Baba Brinkman performs at CFI–Los Angeles his “Rap Guide to Religion.”

October 10:

●   Richard Dawkins comes to CFI–Tampa Bay (see news item).

October 11:

●   Dan Quinn of the Texas Freedom Network speaks to CFI–Austin about the religious right’s agenda for legislation and education.

October 12:

●   Richard Dawkins comes to CFI–DC (see news item).


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