Tag: Free Inquiry

Expelled founder Paul Kurtz explains his departure from the Center for Inquiry

October 2, 2010 | By | 14 Replies More
Expelled founder Paul Kurtz explains his departure from the Center for Inquiry

On May 18, 2010 the Center for Inquiry, the Council for Secular Humanism and the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry jointly announced that they had accepted the resignation of Paul Kurtz from each of these boards. Kurtz, who had founded each of these three organizations, had been serving on each of the boards, and as well as serving as Chair Emeritus of CSH and as Editor in Chief of CSH’s flagship publication, Free Inquiry. In the joint announcement, the boards recognized Dr. Kurtz for his “decades of service to the Council for Secular Humanism, the Center for Inquiry (CFI), and its other affiliates.” This same announcement also contained the following statement:

At Paul Kurtz’s behest, CFI and its affiliates began years ago to organize a leadership transition. Moreover, in recent years the board had concerns about Dr. Kurtz’s day-to-day management of the organization.

As a long-time subscriber to Free Inquiry and Skeptical Inquirer, I was familiar with many of the writings of Paul Kurtz, but I had never before spoken with him or corresponded with him. As a result of reading his articles at Free Inquiry, I was also aware that there was internal tension at those organizations (e.g., see here , here, and here).

After reading about his resignation, I emailed a short note to Mr. Kurtz to wish him well in light of the announcement of his resignation. I also asked him whether he would allow me to interview him with regard to the announcement. He agreed:

[Note: CFI’s CEO Ron Lindsay responded to the following interview of Paul Kurtz here.]

EV: To what extent was your resignation from the Center for Inquiry voluntary?

PK: It was done voluntarily, but under great duress.

[caption id="attachment_14572" align="alignright" width="150" caption="Paul Kurtz (Permission by Wikimedia Commons)"][/caption]


EV: What were your titles and job duties prior to your resignation.

PK: I founded the modern skeptics movement and sustained it for over three and a half decades. I had been the Chairman of the Center for Inquiry, the Council for Secular Humanism and the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry. In June, 2008, I was made “Emeritus” and stripped of any authority. Since 1980, I was Editor-in-Chief for Free Inquiry, but starting in June 2008, I no longer had any authority. I never received any compensation working for these organizations. I worked as a volunteer, living off savings I accrued while working as a philosophy professor. In fact, my wife and I donated more than $2 million dollars over the years to CFI, CSH and CSI. We were the second largest donors to these organizations. Over the years, I helped to raise over $40 million for the Center for Inquiry.

EV: I saw the announcement of your resignation in the August/September, 2010 issue of Free Inquiry. Why didn’t you publish any explanation regarding your resignation in Free Inquiry?

PK: Tom Flynn and the CFI Board refused to run my letter of resignation in Free Inquiry or any of the Websites of CFI. It was censorship, clear and simple. I was censored four times, beginning in June 2008.

[More . . . ]

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Hunger and Hypocrisy

November 24, 2009 | By | 15 Replies More
Hunger and Hypocrisy

Peter Singer offered this challenge in the Oct/Nov issue of Free Inquiry (not available on-line):

Imagine that you are walking through a park past a shallow ornamental pond, and you notice that a child has fallen into that pond and seems to be in danger of drowning. You look around for the parents or the babysitter, but there is no one in sight. What should you do?

Obviously, you should rush into the pond and save the life of the child. But wait a minute–you are wearing your most expensive shoes, and you don’t have time to kick them off. They will be ruined if you go into the pond with them on. Do your shoes make a difference in your decision? Everyone agrees that they don’t. You can’t let a pair of shoes mean more than a child’s life.

So how about giving just the cost of an expensive pair of shoes to an organization that is saving lives in developing countries? I don’t think it is any different than saving the child in the shallow pond. Yes, it is different psychologically but not morally. Distance doesn’t make someone’s life less valuable.

Singer’s implicit assumption is that your dollars are fungible. When you spend a dollar on a luxury, it is dollar that you could have spent to save the life of a dying child. In other words, dollars don’t come pre-categorized such that some dollars can only be spent on luxuries. You cannot escape this logic. Therefore, If Jesus (or whatever God you might believe in) were watching, you closely, and you knew it, you couldn’t possibly pay $300 for a pair of shoes when perfectly adequate $100 shoes were also available and when you knew (as you always do know) that the other $200 could be used to save the lives of innocent children.

I get frustrated with those who think that the commandment “Do not kill” is not being violated by those who spend excessive money on fancy clothes, cars or houses (or buy any luxury) in the same world where children are dying every day and those deaths are preventable.

That said, I don’t think that “Do not kill” is a workable rule. It rings nicely to simple ears because it is phrased uncategorically, but we really need a new rule that recognizes that we are not exactly a nation of murderers when we buy a steady stream of unnecessary luxuries (especially at Christmas time), but it’s something like that when we completely unhinge our consciences from our wallets, which so many of us in sanctimonious American do almost every day.

I don’t really know how to articulate such a rule, but I do want to take this moment to recognize this undeniable fact as part of my “Life is Real” campaign: Every day, most of us in American choose to buy things with dollars that could be used for saving the lives of real children. That’s the way things are down here on planet Earth, and going around claiming that “Do not kill” only means don’t shoot or stab innocent people doesn’t change things one bit.

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Paul Kurtz: Belief in God is not essential for moral virtue.

November 25, 2008 | By | Reply More
Paul Kurtz:  Belief in God is not essential for moral virtue.

Paul Kurtz is the chairman and founder of the Center for Inquiry and the Editor-in-Chief of FREE INQUIRY Magazine.   He is also a prolific author.   Kurtz is featured in a Washington Post article entitled, “Belief in God Essential for Moral Virtue?”  This is a succinct article that is well worth reading.  Kurtz goes to lengths […]

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The recipe for religion gone bad

April 6, 2008 | By | Reply More
The recipe for religion gone bad

In “The Death of Conscience (Part One),” (Free Inquiry, April/May 2008 –not available online) Shadia B. Drury makes it clear that not all religion is bad.  She recognizes the religious backdrop to the successful efforts to repeal slavery, to promote civil rights and to create the Red Cross. “As these examples show, religion cannot simply […]

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