Cause & Effect: The Center for Inquiry Newsletter

Cause & Effect: The CFI Newsletter - No. 55

May 6, 2016

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 2016-05-06 at 11.14.54 AM.pngA Progress Report on an Amazing Year

One of the reasons CFI decided to launch Cause & Effect was because there needed to be a new way to keep the community up to date with the wide array of activities and events going on in the CFI universe, be it international work, lobbying Capitol Hill, local events, new magazine releases, media appearances, and so much more. But this newsletter is meant to cover a two-week period at a time. What’s the best way to encapsulate all the CFI does, and all that it’s accomplished, over the course of an entire year?

This is why CFI has its annual Progress Report, and the latest edition was released just last week—and it is quite a document. Subtitled “In Dark Times, Keeping the Flame of Reason Alight,” this report showcases what CFI has been able to achieve with your support, during a year full of incredible victories and gut-wrenching tragedies. From persecution and violence against secularists around the world to the twisting of “religious freedom” in the U.S.; from the battle against anti-vax and homeopathic boondoggles to milestone celebrations of the freethought community; and from a consolidation of CFI’s three main organizations at the beginning of the year to the merger with the Richard Dawkins Foundation at the beginning of the next. It’s all there.

So if you want to better understand the breadth of CFI’s work, or want to show your friends and family just what this “Center for Inquiry” thing is all about, check out the 2015 Progress Report now, and share it with others. And thank you for making all of the things within its pages possible.


KD_9251_1280.jpgLeading the Charge for Justice in Bangladesh

The attacks against secularists and other religious minorities in Bangladesh have not abated. In fact, April was the deadliest month yet, with the murders of four more people. The response from the Bangladesh government has been, quite simply, appalling, with the prime minister and other officials condemning the slain secularists for their criticisms of religion, and no efforts being made to protect the fundamental rights or the lives of those under threat.

Last month, CFI and other organizations pushed the State Department to engage more directly and forcefully with the Bangladesh government on this issue. It also so happened that one of the latest victims, LGBT activist Xulhaz Mannan, had also been an employee of the U.S. Embassy in Bangladesh. This added to the pressure on the Department and Secretary John Kerry to take some action, and indeed he has been expressing his concerns personally to the prime minister.

The time had come, however, to shine an even brighter light on this human rights emergency and to confront Bangladesh directly for their negligence in defending their own people and their callousness in blaming the dead for their own murders. This week, the Center for Inquiry led a truly powerful coalition of human rights organizations and eminent scholars and activists to demand that Bangladesh pursue justice for the victims of these attacks, that they defend their obligations to uphold freedom of expression and belief for all of their people, and that they cease their suggestions that these grisly murders were of the victims’ own making. Specifically, the joint statement urges Bangladesh officials to “stop citing religion as a justification to refuse the rights of certain Bangladeshis in public statements.”

Signatories to this joint statement, drafted by CFI’s Michael De Dora, included luminaries such as Reza Aslan, Sam Harris, Steven Pinker, Maryam Namazie, Richard Dawkins, and Maajid Nawaz, among many others, and organizations such as Freedom House, the PEN American Center, and the 21st Century Wilberforce Initiative, plus allies within the freethought movement such as American Atheist, the Secular Coalition for America, the American Humanist Association, and others.

More supporters of this cause are signing on every day, and you can too. By signing this petition, you can add your name to those distinguished individuals calling for freedom and justice in Bangladesh.


csiconsquareish.pngCSICon 2016 Is Real…and We Can Prove It!

It’s time for skeptics everywhere to gather in a town full of magical thinking! 

This week it was announced that CSICon 2016, the year’s biggest skeptics’ conference, will take place October 27–30 in Las Vegas! Get set to bring your critical mind to the City of Light, where you’ll hear from the icons of skepticism, such as the amazing James Randi, evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, science education champion Eugenie Scott, memory expert Elizabeth Loftus, physicist Lawrence Krauss, climate scientist Michael Mann, The New Yorker’s Maria Konnikova, and so many more.

The conference will take place in the stellar Excalibur Hotel and Casino and will feature amazing presentations, illuminating workshops, a Halloween costume party, and, being that this is the Excalibur, a joust dinner at the Tournament of Kings.

This is no illusion; it’s really happening. Investigate it for yourself, and register right now.


6ZKk72hl.jpgWomen in Secularism 4 Is Coming in September!

Few events in the freethought world have sparked as much conversation, debate, and inspiration as CFI’s Women in Secularism conferences. It’s been almost two years since the third such conference, and the time has come to reconvene on this pivotal topic. 

Women in Secularism 4 will be taking place September 23–25 in Arlington, VA, and there is a lot to talk about: The intrusion of religion into women’s lives in the U.S., including how it prevents access to abortion and contraception; violence against women around the world who are religious dissidents or who refuse to let dogma relegate them to second-class status; the role of “safe spaces” within a movement that champions free expression; and so much more.

Appearing at the fourth Women in Secularism conference are such brilliant speakers as Rebecca Goldstein, Julia Sweeney, Bonya Rafida Ahmed, Melanie Brewster, Wendy Kaminer, Kavin Senapathy, and many more. 

So don’t wait. Register for this highly anticipated conference now.


News from HQ and the CFI Community

lyzFrom the Reason Rally to CFI: Lyz Liddell Coming On Board

You already know that the 2016 Reason Rally is shaping up to be an event that will make the first Reason Rally seem like a picnic on the lawn, with appearances from people such as Johnny Depp, Carolyn Porco, Bill Nye, Amber Heard, and members of the Wu-Tang Clan. This is in addition to the many side events surrounding the rally, such as the mini-conference, advocacy days, and after-party. Who on Earth could possibly manage all of this?

One person could, and after the rally, she’s coming to CFI. This week CFI announced that Lyz Liddell, executive director of the 2016 Reason Rally, will join the Center for Inquiry as its new director of programming, starting in late July. Lyz will take the reins of some of the big initiatives of CFI and its partner-in-merger, the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science, such as the Openly Secular campaign—which Lyz helped manage back when it was launched. 

Lyz won the respect of the freethought community after seven years directing programming at the Secular Student Alliance, and she is currently displaying her considerable competence and drive as she leads the ever-growing Reason Rally. Clearly, she will be an excellent addition to CFI.

Speaking of the Reason Rally, the program for the Reason Rally’s mini-conference on June 5 has been announced, with speakers and panelists including Annabelle Gurwitch, Barbara Ehrenreich, Julia Sweeney, Lawrence Krauss, and a special keynote address from Bonya Ahmed, the courageous and inspiring Bangladeshi-American writer and activist who survived the attack that took the life of her husband, Avijit Roy. It is not to be missed, so sign up now.


poooi.pngPoint of Inquiry on Being Single and Being Distracted

CFI’s podcast Point of Inquiry has two new episodes that look at how a rapidly changing world with shifting norms and expectations impact our lives. Lindsay Beyerstein welcomes journalist Rebecca Traister to the show to discuss marriage, or the lack thereof, and the ascent of the single woman. Traister’s new book, All the Single Ladies: Unmarried Women and the Rise of an Independent Nation, examines the shift from a culture in which marriage was an expectation of young women to one in which marriage is being delayed more than ever and often outright rejected. 

Then, Josh Zepps speaks to Dr. Ned Hallowell, a leading expert on, well, being distracted. Hallowell explains what it’s like to have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), or, as he puts it, a “race car brain with bicycle brakes,” but in the context of a world that has grown ever more distracting. When all of us have our attention pulled in countless directions, and focus is difficult to achieve as a general rule, aren’t we all a little ADHD? This episode takes a closer look at the spectrum of distraction. 


Chris Shelton.JPGL. Ron Hubbard Relative and an Ex-Scientologist Lift the Veil on the Church

A jam-packed theater and lobby of about 150 attendees came to CFI–Los Angeles to hear from Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard’s great-grandson, Jamie DeWolf, and ex-Scientologist and author Chris Shelton. The pair revealed much of the dark side of this secretive religion and its eccentric founder. 

Sordid tales and discussions about the oppressive tactics of the Church of Scientology were told through stories and a performance by DeWolf, a teaching artist, vaudevillian showman, and filmmaker from Oakland. Shelton, who has chronicled his twenty-seven years in the organization through a blog and YouTube channel and in his new book, Scientology from A to Xenu, delivered a stirring lecture, and the two took part in a panel discussion with therapist Rachel Bernstein. These fascinating talks were recorded and will be posted online in the near future. 


Highlights from CFI on the Web and in the Media


● Carrie Poppy explodes the myth that men, not women, are bearing the brunt of online harassment, showing how catchy headlines and shallow reading can lead to bad conclusions.  

● In Skeptical Inquirer, Sadri Hassani digs through the pages of Deepak Chopra’s Quantum Healing, revealing Chopra’s reliance on—and sudden distancing from—Maharishi Mahesh Yogi

● Joe Nickell was interviewed and took listener questions on the Coast to Coast AM radio show, discussing all things paranormal. Who better? 

● Ben Radford is skeptical of the notion of the great “national conversations” we are expected to have around thorny issues of serious importance and assembles the opinions of some noted skeptics to weigh in ... but not nationally.

● David Koepsell writes of apocalyptic thinking about the future, positing that we can choose to take responsibility to make the future the one we want it to be. 

● In a commencement address published in Skeptical Inquirer, Elizabeth Loftus tells of her experiences in smashing some of our illusions about the human memory, where she learned that “science is never dispassionate.”

● Stephen Law invites a discussion in a blog post about Islamophobia and antisemitism, inquiring about which claims and statements qualify as bigoted and why.

● In a piece for the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry in both English and Spanish, Alejandro Borgo shows us an example of the “professionalization” of exorcisms in Argentina. 

● Is Apple inadvertently funding pseudoscience? Stuart Vyse reveals the company’s well-intentioned but misguided support of a particular autism treatment, “Rapid Prompting Method,” or RPM.

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


Upcoming CFI Events


May 11:

●   Dan Linford discusses why he believes in “humanocentric ethics” at CFI–Michigan.

May 13:

●   Atheist Experience host Matt Dillahunty comes to CFI–Transnational in Amherst, NY, to discuss the lessons he’s learned debating religious believers for over a decade.

May 15:

●   Cecily Hintzen and Susan Johnston of the Compassion and Choices End of Life Option Act Access Campaign speak to CFI–Los Angeles and CFI–Orange County.

May 16:

●   CFI–Austin hosts a presentation on the topic “Talking across Difference: Why Gender Matters.”

May 25:

●   Brandy Johnson of the Michigan College Access Network speaks to CFI–Michigan about the need for more post-secondary education in the changing job market.


Thank you!

Everything we do at CFI is made possible by you and your support. Let’s keep working together for science, reason, and secular values.  Donate today!

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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, the Council for Secular Humanism, and will soon be home to the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science. The mission of CFI is to foster a secular society based on science, reason, freedom of inquiry, and humanist values. Visit CFI on the web at