The avuncular Flynn – pictured above during a 2017 YouTube promotion of his book The Trouble With Christmas and a CFI programme called Secular Rescue, held numerous leadership roles during his more than thirty years with the the CFI.
Secular Rescue was created to:
Provide emergency assistance to writers, bloggers, publishers, and activists who face threats due to their beliefs or expressions regarding religion.
Flynn was also the Director of the Robert Green Ingersoll Birthplace Museum and the Freethought Trail, and former Executive Director of the Council for Secular Humanism.
The CFI described him as:
The beating heart of the Center for Inquiry and indeed the wider freethought movement. A stark rationalist and staunch atheist if ever there was one, Tom was nonetheless brimming with enthusiasm, curiosity, bold ideas, and perhaps most of all, humor.
He had a deep love and encyclopedic knowledge of freethought history and devoted himself to the preservation and rediscovery of American freethought’s great untold stories.
Said Robyn E Blumner, President and CEO of the Center for Inquiry:
Tom didn’t believe in magic, but he was magical. How else to describe this unlikely combination of brilliance, charm, vision, and roll-up-your-sleeves accomplishment?
He was a virtuoso of the written word, penning not only countless articles and essays but also science fiction novels and his defiantly revelatory The Trouble with Christmas.
Flynn, said Blummer:
Revelled in his various public personas, whether as a pugnacious stoker of controversy, a stubborn atheist curmudgeon (as with his infamous “Anti-Claus” alter-ego), or a wisecracking, avuncular coworker. But at his core, Tom was a man excited about big ideas, regardless of their popularity or public acceptance, and he was eager to share those ideas, bringing to them his unmatched combination of scholarship, eloquence, and humor.
He saved the legacy of the Great Agnostic, Robert Green Ingersoll, from obscurity. He carried the torch for atheism, secular humanism, and clear-eyed rationality for decades with his powerful and copious writings and speeches – undoubtedly helping to cause the Rise of the Nones. All while cracking jokes and delighting everyone in his orbit. And how lucky we were to be part of it.
Edward Tabash, veteran freethought activist and chair of the Center for Inquiry, added that:
Flynn’s death is a tragedy of epic proportions for everyone who cares about the equality of atheists anywhere in the world. He was our conscience against religious bigotry. He was our conscience against irrational action and thought.
His razor sharp humor and wit were simply unmatched. The best way that we can honor Tom’s memory and all the magnificent work that he did is to continue to devote ourselves to ending religious bigotry anywhere and everywhere.
The CFI tribute provides a number of useful links that show the marvels of Flynn contributions to the world of freethought, including an archive of his articles for Free Inquiry (1985–2021).
In his tribute to Flynn, Friendly Atheist Hemant Mehta, above, yesterday wrote:
For those who aren’t familiar with him, consider this: Long before the ‘New Atheist’ books were widespread and before the internet allowed people to learn about life with God much more easily, many people discovered Secular Humanism through magazines like Free Inquiry after stumbling across it at their local libraries.
Tom began contributing to that publication in 1985 and spent more than three decades working to influence readers, introducing many of them to freethought. He also knew when to stir the pot; he was, after all, the sort of person who would come into work on Christmas because he believed there was no reason to take a day off for a Christian holiday.
I had the opportunity to do an internship with the Center for Inquiry in 2004 and I was fortunate to meet this man whose articles I’d been reading for years. He turned out to be exactly as I’d imagined, which is a testament to his talent as a writer: He knew how to put his entire personality in those articles.
The Center for Inquiry (CFI) is a nonprofit educational, advocacy, and research organisation headquartered in Amherst, New York, with executive offices in Washington, DC.
It is also home to the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science, the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, and the Council for Secular Humanism. The Center for Inquiry strives to foster a secular society based on reason, science, freedom of inquiry, and humanist values.