A friend of mine referred me to this article at superscholar.org about the recent 30th anniversary conference that The Center For Inquiry held in Los Angeles this past October. There seems to be a lot of disagreement among the influential in the movement advocating secular humanism.
Despite calls for unity at the conference, a significant amount of disagreement about where secular humanism needs to go was evident. During the last session, a sharp exchange occurred between the founder of The Center for Inquiry and The Counsel for Secular Humanism, Paul Kurtz, and Ron Lindsay, the current CEO and President of these organizations.
Kurtz, using the microphone set up for the audience, cited at length a recent LA Times article exposing a “rift within the Center for Inquiry.” “That rift” Kurtz said, quoting the article, “cracked open recently when Paul Kurtz, a founder of the secular humanist movement in America, was ousted as chairman of the Center for Inquiry, an organization of the Counsel for Secular Humanism. One factor leading to this ouster, was the perception that Kurtz was on the — and this is quoting Thomas Flynn — was on the mellowing side of the movement.” Unlike some secular humanists who envision the destruction of religion, Kurtz advocates for accommodation with religion.
Kurtz stated that he had been censored for the first time in his life, and that this was through the CFI, an organization he founded, in that they refused to publish his letter of resignation as well as his neo-humanist statement of secular principles and values. He said that his ouster resulted in the “worst two years of my life.” Toni Van Pelt, who had opened the Office of Public Policy for the CFI, defended Kurtz and lamented his censorship and forced resignation by Lindsay. This was followed with simultaneous booing and applause from the audience. Several panelists, including Jennifer Michael Hecht and Sean Faircloth, left the stage during this exchange.
There are videos following that have audio of the exchange between Paul Kurtz and Ron Lindsay’s argument. Kurtz appears to be an accomodationist, and Lindsay advocates conflict with regard to engaging religious people. It seems that those secular humanists advocating the conflict model can’t help but be in conflict with each other. Kurtz was censored and forced out, of an organization that he created, by Ron Lindsay. Censored because the Center For Inquiry wouldn’t publish his neo-humanist statement of secular principles and values, and forced to resign because he wasn’t militant like Lindsay, as the LA Times article explains. These folks eat their own. This reminds me of Antony Flew, who was accused of suffering from dementia when he denounced his atheism by the same folks that used him for their own purposes of promoting atheism. If you can’t defeat someone in argument, then just marginalize them and undermine them and then their argument won’t matter. Kurtz hasn’t converted, yet he isn’t militant enough to suit the militant secular humanists like Lindsay. Listen to the exchange on the videos, Lindsay is obviously disdainful and disrespectful to Paul Kurtz, the man who is responsible for starting the organizations to even allow Lindsay a job in the first place. And this infighting is interesting, because secular humanists are supposed to be advocates for humanity and human values, you know, things like mutual dignity and respect, that humans are the measure of all things, but in reality, secular humanists have an aversion against humans who do not think like they do. The militant ones have an aversion against those who have respect for their fellow religious humans, and of course against the religious. Secular Humanism is really secular anti-humanity. It’s really tribalism. They cannot agree on even how to disagree, and they form their little tribal alliances. They have more divisions between themselves than the religious because they have no guiding principles or positive doctrine to follow. Positive doctrine is a limiting thing, and a program based on a negative, such as not believing in religion or not believing the supernatural or not believing in objective morality, doesn’t say what you should believe in, and therefore it is not really uniting because it’s not limiting. If you want to draw a giraffe, you must draw it with a long neck, that is a positive limiting doctrine. If you’re tying to conceive and invent a new animal to draw, anything goes, and ask ten people and you’ll get ten different opinions on how it should look. The only thing they may agree on is that it should be draw, and then the infighting starts.
PZ Myers is a good example. He is a Gnu atheist who cannot agree with Chris Mooney on how they ought to engage religious people. Myers advocates confrontation all the way, all the way even to confronting Chris Mooney, who supports accommodating the religious, but they share the same purpose of promoting secular humanism. The old mantra, the enemy of my enemy is my friend, is not true with folks like Myers. The enemy of my enemy is my enemy is his mantra. Everyone is an enemy who doesn’t stand in his echo chamber and yell what he wants them to yell. His hateful rhetoric is obviously directed at just about everyone:
Shouldn’t we move beyond just reacting to every assault by Idiot America on science education, and honestly look at the root causes of this chronic malignancy and do something about it? The sea our country is drowning in is a raging religiosity, wave after wave of ignorant arguments and ideological absurdities pushed by tired dogma and fervent and frustrated fanatics.
Idiot America? Religious folks are frustrated fanatics? These aren’t the religious American folks I know. This is advocating secular humanist values by advocating humanity? The sad irony is that secular humanism is anything but supportive of humanity. The majority of humans throughout recorded history have been religious. The naked disdain folks like Myers and Lindsay have for religious people quite frankly makes them anti-humanist, because it makes them anti-human by disparaging a treasured aspect of the majority of human existence, and that is having faith in something higher than themselves. Indeed the majority of people would say that their religious belief is their most treasured aspect of their lives throughout history, and therefore the most important part of humanity. His philosophy of scientism is ignorant, Gnu atheism is ideologically absurd, and that science ought to be practiced when science cannot produce an ought is both an ignorant and ideologically absurd philosophy. Really Myers has a philosophy for how he sees the world, not a scientific proof, let’s be clear about that. And on that topic anyone can speak, a scientific training gives a man’s opinion on a worldview no added value.