Paul Kurtz is not one of the “new atheists,”but he is a first-rate skeptic, having published 50 books on various topics, many of them relating to religion and skepticism. I wrote a rather detailed post about him last month. Kurtz is founder and chair emeritus of the Center for Inquiry.
In this 30-minute CFI interview with DJ Grothe, Kurtz expressed that he is not “an atheist,” and that one can be a secular humanist without being in “atheist.” Kurtz describes himself as a “non-theist,” an “agnostic,” and a “skeptic.” He stresses that people should define themselves by what they do believe, yet to call oneself an atheist is to attempt to define oneself by what one does not believe. He mentioned that while 3% of Americans are atheists, almost 9% of Americans are agnostic, while yet others are skeptical or “religiously indifferent.”
Kurtz indicates that as a skeptic, he is always willing to look at the evidence, and this is an important part of who he is. He also believes we should all be grounded by a genuine concern for fellow humans. In fact, he suggested that he’s thinking about abandoning the term “secular humanism,” and replacing it with “empathic humanism.” Good will toward others should be the starting point of any ethical system. We should be focusing our efforts on affirming life, and achieving social justice.
Kurtz points out that there are such things as “fundamentalist atheists,” who he describes as “embittered atheists,” people who were “bruised” by religion. These people “bore me now.” He is tired of “nasty, in-your-face atheists.” These are people who spend too much energy rejecting mythologies of other people. They often engage in intolerant ridicule that borders on “pornographic.” According to Kurtz, we can disagree with each other, but we must always do so respectfully. To the extent that we engage in sharp parody and prejudice, this will not further our goals. In fact, Kurtz expressed that he was appalled that CFI supported “blasphemy day.” This amounts to “ridiculing” many sincere people. It is not a civilized mode of discussion.
Kurtz went out of his way to acknowledge that he had many friends who were practicing members of various religious faiths. He believes in engaging people of other faiths with respectful and reasoned dialogue. “We don’t want to be religious bigots.”
About the Author (Author Profile)Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.
Sites That Link to this Post
- Neo-Humanist Statement of Secular Principles | Dangerous Intersection | March 24, 2010
- Sekulært angrep. Del 1 | Garden of Serendipity | January 16, 2012