CFI On Campus FAQ

What is Center for Inquiry On Campus?

CFI On Campus unites student freethinkers, skeptics, secularists and humanists and their groups on campuses across North America and around the world. The Center for Inquiry is dedicated to building student freethought communities and promoting humanism, critical thinking, and scientific inquiry. We defend civil liberties, church-state separation and religious freedom from the religious right and other opposing forces. The main goal of CFI On Campus is to promote and defend reason, science and freedom of inquiry in education and in relation to student issues.

What is freethought?

“Freethought” is the name of an American intellectual and cultural movement that can be traced back to the writings of the founders of our nation, the philosophers of the French and German Enlightenment, and the secular populists of the 19th century. A freethinker is a person who forms his or her judgments about religion using reason rather than relying on tradition, authority, faith, or established belief. Members of the freethought movement strive to free the mind of ignorant presuppositions and superstitions and are generally secular and humanist in outlook. “Freethought” is sometimes used to include more than one movement, in that some people view atheism, skepticism, evidence-based reasoning, and science supporters as freethought and freethinkers.

Are you a religious organization? Are you a cult?

No. The campus freethought movement is a nonreligious student movement dedicated to promoting reason, not religion; science, not pseudoscience; the poetry of reality, not faith. Freethinkers emphasize reason and scientific inquiry, individual freedom and responsibility, human values and compassion, and the need for tolerance and cooperation.

Are you an atheist organization?

No. Most (but not all) of our members doubt or disbelieve any God’s existence. We are a secular organization, but many of our allies on religious freedom issuesa nd separation of church and state are religious. Everyone is welcome to join us as long as they support our mission. However, criticism of religious dogma is only a part of what defines the Center for Inquiry On Campus. Aside from skepticism of religion, the Center for Inquiry promotes religious liberty, the ethical ideals of secular humanism, and science education.

Are you anti-Christian or anti-religious?

No. CFI believes in academic freedom, freedom of conscience and freedom of inquiry, and does not resist presenting rational and scientific critiques of religious, paranormal, and pseudo-scientific claims. There are no “sacred-cows,” including religion. The Center for Inquiry opposes attempts to force beliefs on others. However, we promote and defend church-state separation and religious liberty: the right of every person to believe and worship as he or she pleases, or not to do so at all. As such, CFI is not anti-Christian or anti-religious, but does, however, strongly oppose the politicization of personal religious beliefs as well as opposing attempts to bring religion into public education, or to change science education standards to include pseudo-science and creationism in schools.

What about “spirituality”?

Properly defined, the term “spiritual” may accurately describe some members of the Center for Inquiry. Freethinkers reject spiritual claims that deal with the supernatural. Spiritualists and “New Agers,” who speak of spiritual forces or spiritual ways of knowing reality, reject reason in favor of tradition, speculation or mystical experience. Because of this, they wouldn’t be considered freethinkers. If the word “spiritual” is used to refer to a strong sense of emotion, such as a deep appreciation of the arts or a sense of wonder and awe at the beauty of the universe (i.e.: the “poetry of science”), it is compatible with freethought. Many famous freethinkers, atheists and humanists, such as Carl Sagan and Richard Dawkins, talk emotionally about their respect and awe for the size and age of the universe, the beauty of science or the power of the arts, and use the word “spiritual” in this sense.

Who can become part of CFI On Campus?

The Center for Inquiry welcomes all college and high school students and student organizations that support our mission. Some members are religious students who are interested in freethought and related issues. Others are supporters of one part of our mission, but are unsure about other aspects and either choose to focus on certain topics, or are open to discussing things that that are unsure about. Everyone is welcome! You need only to abide by our standards for respect and discourse as well as upholding our mission in regards to science, reason, and secular values.

What if I want to join but I’m still in high school?

CFI On Campus provides organizing resources for high school students. Our number of high school affiliate groups is always growing and we are happy to coordinate with younger students. For more information, contact a Center for Inquiry campus organizer.

Are you a partisan organization?

No. The Center for Inquiry is a non-profit educational organization that is not affiliated with any particular party or political figure. There are classical liberals, fiscal conservatives, libertarians, Republicans, Democrats, social democrats, socialists and Marxists who support our aims – promoting and defending reason, science and freedom of inquiry in education.

What is CFI’s overall stance on political issues?

As a non-profit, non-partisan, educational organization, CFI is not permitted by IRS regulations to engage in certain types of political activity. While CFI has taken positions on some politically-charged issues, not every member or affiliated campus group agrees with every position. The Center for Inquiry recognizes and appreciates differences of political and social opinion among its members. Generally, CFI values individual freedom and civil liberties, while striving to make reason and secular values, rather than religious faith, the foundation on which a political position is based. CFI has taken positions on several related issues that have been attacked on religious-political grounds, such as supporting church-state separation and religious liberty, LGBTQ rights, women’s rights and reproductive freedom, freedom of speech and conscience, and the defense of academic freedom.

Does Center for Inquiry ally itself with other organizations?

CFI collaborates with many outside organizations that have overlapping interests and goals. Such organizations include Americans United for Separation of Church and State, the First Amendment Taskforce, The Secular Web, and the National Center for Science Education. The Center for Inquiry continues to strive to bridge the gap between individuals and groups that support its mission.

Can my group join as it is now, or must I start a separate CFI affiliate group?

Your group can join as it is now. The Center for Inquiry unites many student groups across the world. To become associated with the Center for Inquiry, existing groups need only to affiliate. If there is no freethought-related group in your area, consider working with the staff and volunteers at the Center for Inquiry to start one. Click here to view our affiliation form.

Does affiliation cost anything?

Affiliation is free. We ask only that groups effectively and efficiently use the resources that the Center for Inquiry provides. The Center for Inquiry encourages donations, and as a 501(c)3 non-profit educational organization, all donations are tax-deductible. Make a donation to support the Center for Inquiry.

How is CFI On Campus funded?

CFI On Campus receives funding through private donations and through sponsorship by the Center for Inquiry.

What is the administrative structure for CFI On Campus?

CFI On Campus is directed by staff at the Center for Inquiry Transnational. For details about getting involved with the Center for Inquiry On Campus at a national and/or international level, contact a campus organizer.

How much control does Center for Inquiry exercise over its member groups?

None. CFI exercises no official control over the campus groups that affiliate with it. Each group directs its own activities and preserves its independence and autonomy. The Center for Inquiry does provide occasional networking, promotional, programmatic and administrative direction, in cooperation with local group leaders and members. Since groups are affiliates and not “chapters,” you choose everything your group does.

If I don’t have a group already, how can I start one?

The Center for Inquiry is eager to help you start a CFI affiliate group on your campus. This usually involves advertising on your campus and gathering interested students, then approaching the college administration for official recognition of the group. CFI provides manuals and other resources detailing the formation of new CFI affiliate groups and the maintenance of existent ones. For a copy of the manual and assistance getting started, contact a campus organizer, or check our resources page to see what is available to you.

How can I get more involved?

There are many opportunities for groups or individuals to become more actively involved with CFI. All members can send submissions to the CFI On Campus Campus Inquirer email newsletter or Course of Reason blog and organize or attend the Center for Inquiry national or regional conferences. Additionally, members can get involved in activism, campaigns and outreach programs sponsored by CFI. Contact us for more information, or take a minute to view our about pageresources page, and list of affiliated campus groups.

Are there other, similar groups individuals in my area?

CFI has groups and contacts on hundreds of high school and college campuses worldwide. In addition, since the Center for Inquiry has a network of freethought, secular humanist, and skeptic societies throughout the world, there are bound to be many like-minded people in your area. For information about individuals and groups in your area, see our affiliates page or contact us.