The Tree of Life

October 22, 2012

Your daily digest of news and links relevant to the secular and skeptic communities.

CFI is mourning the passing of our founder, Paul Kurtz, who died Saturday at the age of 86. We have a comprehensive obituary here, which gives a lot of detail on his work and incalculable impact on secularism, humanism, and skepticism. I actually have never met the man, being a relatively recent hire for CFI, and working remotely from home, but I still feel the loss, and I am enormously grateful for the movements he helped ignite and philosophical foundations he helped lay down — from which I and many others benefit today.

You may have noticed that other organizations and individuals were announcing the news of his passing well before we did. This was a decision by management to await formal confirmation from the Kurtz family — both to be sure of the veracity of the news and out of respect — and then to have everyone on staff here at CFI on the same page. We felt that being deliberate was more important than being fast.

Here’s more on Paul Kurtz from around the web:

Council chief Tom Flynn: “Our movement has lost a titan.”

CSI’s Ben Radford recalls some memories of Kurtz.

American Atheists calls Kurtz “a good friend and a great man.”

AHA’s Roy Speckhardt says, “The attention and guidance he gave to the humanist movement had an unmistakable global impact.”

Hemant Mehta: “Before the New Atheists went mainstream, it’s arguable that Kurtz did more to spread Humanism and skepticism than anyone else in modern history.”

Sharon Hill calls him “a great inspiration.”

Kylie Sturgess posts early videos of Kurtz.

In other news… 

C-SPAN posts video of the CFI-DC event with Salman Rushdie and Robert Siegel.

Arguments begin today in CFI’s suit against the state of Indiana to allow Secular Celebrants to solemnize marriages. Hemant and Indiana public radio have coverage.

Karen Stollznow receives death threats for criticizing a fake psychic.

Alexander Aan appeals his case to Indonesia’s supreme court on the basis that the “incitement” for which he was convicted was not his, but done by those who trumpeted and complained about his atheistic Facebook posts.

On the heels of the final presidential debate in Florida, American Atheists wheels into town with a controversial message about Mormonism.

More on the Paranormal Road Trip itinerary, as Rebecca Watson, Richard Wiseman, and Jon Ronson visit the truly weird on the way to CSICon.

Matthew J. Sharps in Skeptical Inquirer on how one’s psychological predisposition may prime you for certain “paranormal” experiences.

BBC: This past October 15, scientists, philosophers, and theologians gathered in Geneva to talk about the Higgs and its implications in those respective fields.

Psychic wins lottery, didn’t see it coming.

Censorship-by-Twitter no longer isolated to Germany.

The end is nigh: Anti-vax crusader Jenny McCarthy gets to write a newspaper column on parenting.

Who needs God when you’ve got Shakespeare? This is a must-read for theatre nerds and religion/atheism nerds alike:

For me, reading Shakespeare is like going to church, except that in place of a God I could never and wouldn’t want to believe in, I “commune,” so to speak, with a mind that seems to comprehend all others and enforces no doctrinal obedience. This community of believers embraces anyone who has ever seen, heard, or read a word of Shakespeare’s and been moved to wonder and reflection. That’s what I call a catholic church.

Here’s a fun (if exasperating) way to talk to someone who believes in astrology from Fred Clark:

When someone asks what your sign is, tell them you’re an Aries (unless you really are an Aries, in which case, tell them something else).

If they respond with a detailed description of why that’s appropriate and why, yes, you do seem to embody the classic characteristics of an Aries, admit that you were lying. Tell them you’re not really an Aries, but actually a Gemini (unless you really are a Gemini).

If they tell you that lying about your sign was a very Gemini thing to have done, and then explain how this just confirms that you really are such a total Gemini, interrupt to say that you were once again lying.

Quote of the Day

Paul Kurtz, in Free Inquiry:

The meaning of life is not to be discovered only after death in some hidden, mysterious realm. On the contrary, it can be found by eating the succulent fruit of the Tree of Life and by living in the here and now as fully and creatively as we can.


Linking to a story or webpage does not imply endorsement by Paul or CFI. Not every use of quotation marks is ironic or sarcastic, but it often is. 

Follow CFI on Twitter: @center4inquiry 

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