Today, August 11th, is the birthday of one of the most amazing and influential leaders of the freethought movement. Robert Green Ingersoll (August 11, 1833 – July 21, 1899) was born in Dresden, NY, a mere two-hour drive from the current Center for Inquiry headquarters. I recently had the chance to visit the Robert Ingersoll Museum, the birth place and historic home that is maintained by the Council for Secular Humanism. The home was purchased and restored and is currently filled with Ingersoll’s work as well as period-specific artifacts and pieces of local history. I asked a few of my fellow freethinkers to go on a field trip to see the museum. In all, nine of us piled into two cars and took off to learn more about this amazing thinker and orator who was known as "The Great Agnostic."
There’s certainly no revelation in saying that those working to expose pseudo-science or speak in favour of scepticism and atheism can attract harsh criticism. But it doesn’t lessen the seriousness of death threats against those in our community.
The Status Quo The virtues of cooperative work (frequently referred to as interfaith) with religious groups are widely noted and assented to in the secular community. You can improve your community service by adding many more volunteers to the effort. Better still, you can humanize yourself to people who might hold a narrow, two-dimensional stereotype of atheists (and vice-versa). Eventually, through this, you might even diminish the discord between religious and secular people at scale.
Whenever we consider the question of school officials addressing matters of belief, we run into problems with where the lines are going to be drawn and whether or not it is okay for a professor or teacher to challenge the spiritual beliefs of a student. Just the thought of beliefs usually conjures up pictures of spirituality and other ways of thinking that many skeptics and freethinkers would call non-scientific or irrational. But is that the only way that we can interepret the idea of beliefs?
This past weekend I was lucky enough to attend the 2011 Secular Student Alliance Annual Conference. Among the speakers was American Atheist president David Silverman, and it was a speech I thoroughly enjoyed. His talk focused on inspiring us secular youth; emphasizing how we are the future, and how the future looks good. I couldn't agree more, and found the talk pretty inspirational.