Paul Kurtz on the Future of Secular Humanism

A couple months ago, some shit went down between Center for Inquiry founder (and father of Secular Humanism) Paul Kurtz and former CFI leader R. Joseph Hoffmann.

Kurtz wrote an article on “The Future of Secular Humanism in America” in the latest issue of Free Inquiry.

While discussing the three decades since the Council for Secular Humanism was founded, he is still publicly upset over his ousting:

I recount the history of our movement because our publications constantly bring in new readers, many of whom may not know what an uphill battle it has been to build these institutions. But more pointedly, today we have reached a critical new junction; for I have been replaced as chairman of the Council for Secular Humanism, CSI, and the Center for Inquiry, a position that I held since our founding.

What I have found — much to my dismay, even at the Center for Inquiry — is that competitive battles for self-aggrandizement and personal advantage are inescapable. These tendencies, I hasten to add, exist in the broader consumer-capitalist-corporate culture in which we live, where egoistic self-interest is the norm rather than the quest for the common good or the recognition of our empathetic responsibilities to others. I recognize that all social institutions experience power plays and that not only corporations but churches and temples are affected by the competitive rat race. Hence, the frontier for the Center for Inquiry movement as I view it is whether secular humanism can achieve a new level of moral excellence. As I move on from my former role as founder and chairman of the Center for Inquiry movement, I stand on the sidelines hoping that my creation is able to mature in wisdom and develop a new eupraxsophy of quality. We must move beyond the battle with the Religious Right, important as that has been. We need a new agenda if we are to survive, and that is the development of a new morality as part of the emerging planetary community of humankind.

I do have a fondness for Kurtz, as I wrote about here. But the more his frustration gets aired publicly, the more damage it does to the product he loves.

Ironically, as he writes this, Kurtz says “What is important about secular humanism today is its positive outlook.”

It’s hard to focus on that, though. Instead of discussing the future of Secular Humanism in America, the whole article seems geared toward rehashing the immediate past.

  • http://yrif.org Joel

    I always hated the term “secular humanism,” and now that I’ve read his collectivist, hippie-dippie summary of it (“realization and enhancement of human fulfillment, a renaissance ideal of ethical good where human enlightenment comes first”) I’m not too fond of the idea either.

    I think I’ll stick with “atheism.”

  • llewelly

    Few people outside the Humanist community are paying attention to this tempest in a teapot.

  • http://www.noonespecial.ca/cacophony Tao Jones

    Well, we should also question the premises of our culture to ensure they are still relevant today with our nonbelief.

    “Go forth and multiply” is clearly something our culture is doing, but should we be?

  • Anonymous

    But the more his frustration gets aired publicly, the more damage it does to the product he loves.

    That’s a lot to read into two mentions of his ousting in a large article. Maybe airing his frustrations damages his product; maybe not. (And if you’re right, now that I think of it, wouldn’t others calling attention to his public frustrations do even more damage to the product he loves?)

    The way Kurtz probably sees it, the product has already been damaged by those who “forced him out of office,” and any diatribes by him are an attempt to minimize that damage in the future. The article sounds like a call upon his readership to be vigilant to make sure that CSH does not devolve into just another “combatative atheist organization” or exclusively “separation of church and state” group.

    Ironically, as he writes this, Kurtz says “What is important about secular humanism today is its positive outlook.”

    It’s hard to focus on that, though. Instead of discussing the future of Secular Humanism in America, the whole article seems geared toward rehashing the immediate past.

    The few who care about it at all are probably more interested in the Jerry Springer drama than any flowery self-help oratory about “positive outlook.”

  • Ron in Houston

    that competitive battles for self-aggrandizement and personal advantage are inescapable

    An atheist using their atheism for self-aggradizement or personal advantage? I’m shocked, shocked I tell you.

  • http://www.irrationaltheorist.blogspot.com quantum_flux

    90% Egoism and 10% Altruism is the routine of champions my friend.


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