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Infidels, Freethinkers, Humanists, and Unbelievers
Kurtz, Paul (1925 - )
"Homo religiosus invents religious symbols, which he venerates and worships to save him from facing the finality of his death and dissolution. He devises paradise fictions to provide succor and support.... In acts of supreme self-deception, at various times and in various places he has been willing to profess belief in the most incredible myths because of what they have promised him."

-- Paul Kurtz


Paul Kurtz is Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at the University at Buffalo (SUNY), but is best known for his prominent role in the United States skeptical community.

He is founder and chairman of the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP), the Council for Secular Humanism, the Center for Inquiry and Prometheus Books.

He is editor in chief of Free Inquiry magazine, a publication of the Council for Secular Humanism. He was co-president of the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU). He is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and Humanist Laureate and president of the International Academy of Humanism. As a member of the American Humanist Association, he contributed to the writing of Humanist Manifesto II. The asteroid (6629) Kurtz was named in his honor.

Kurtz received his bachelor's degree from New York University, and the Master's degree and Doctor of Philosophy degree from Columbia University. Kurtz was left-wing in his youth, but has said that serving in the United States Army in World War II taught him the dangers of ideology. He saw the Buchenwald and Dachau concentration camps after they were liberated, and became disillusioned with Communism when he encountered Russian slave laborers who had been taken to Nazi Germany by force but refused to return to the Soviet Union at the end of the war.

According to some accounts Kurtz was largely responsible for the secularization of Humanism. Before Kurtz embraced the term "Secular Humanism," which had received wide publicity through fundementalist Christians in the 1980s, Humanism was more widely percieved as a religion that did not include the supernatural. This can be seen in the first article of the original Humanist Manifesto which refers to "Religious Humanists" and by Charles and Clara Potter's influential 1930 book Humanism: A New Religion.

Kurtz used the publicity generated by fundementalist preachers to grow the membership of the Council of Secular Humanism, as well as strip the religious aspects found in the earlier Humanist movement.

In 1999 Kurtz was given the International Humanist Award by the IHEU.

Kurtz is the publisher of over 650 articles or reviews and has authored and edited over 40 books.

Kurtz believes that the nonreligious members of the community should take a positive view on life. Religious skepticism, according to Paul Kurtz, is only one aspect of the secular humanistic outlook. The term "eupraxophy" was coined by Kurtz as a nonreligious philosophy that embraces ethical, exuberant, and rational living to promote the betterment of the human condition.

Quotations

"As I see it, creative achievement is the very heart of the human enterprise.... The destiny of man, of all men and of each man, is that he is condemned to invent what he will be -- condemned if he is fearful but blessed if he welcomes the great adventure. We are responsible in the last analysis, not simply for what we are, but for what we will become; and that is a source of either high excitement or distress."

"Human life has no meaning independent of itself. There is no cosmic force or deity to give it meaning or significance. There is no ultimate destiny for man. Such a belief is an illusion of humankind's infancy. The meaning of life is what we choose to give it. Meaning grows out of human purposes alone. Nature provides us with an infinite range of opportunities, but it is only our vision and our action that select and realize those that we desire.... Thus the good life is achieved, invented, fashioned in an active life of enterprise and endeavor. But whether or not an individual chooses to enter into the arena depends upon him alone. Those who do can find it energizing, exhilarating, full of triumph and satisfaction. In spite of failures, setbacks, suffering, and pain, life can be fun."

"The beginning of wisdom is the awareness that there is insufficient evidence that a god or gods have created us and the recognition that we are responsible in part for our own destiny. Human beings can achieve this good life, but it is by the cultivation of the virtues of intelligence and courage, not faith and obedience, that we will most likely be able to do so."

"We need to be skeptical of utopianists who offer unreliable totalistic visions of other worlds and strive to take us there. We need some ideals, but we also need to protect ourselves from the miscalculations and misadventures of visionaries."

"The skeptic has no illusions about life, nor a vain belief in the promise of immortality. Since this life here and now is all we can know, our most reasonable option is to live it fully."

"I believe that a person should take an affirmative outlook. There are always problems in life, old and new, uncertainties, and unexpected contingencies. The optimal way to deal with this is not to give up in despair, but to move ahead using the best intelligence and resources that we have to overcome adversity."


Paul Kurtz is Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at the University at Buffalo (SUNY), but is best known for his prominent role in the United States skeptical community.

He is founder and chairman of the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP), the Council for Secular Humanism, the Center for Inquiry and Prometheus Books.

He is editor in chief of Free Inquiry magazine, a publication of the Council for Secular Humanism. He was co-president of the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU). He is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and Humanist Laureate and president of the International Academy of Humanism. As a member of the American Humanist Association, he contributed to the writing of Humanist Manifesto II. The asteroid (6629) Kurtz was named in his honor.

Kurtz received his bachelor's degree from New York University, and the Master's degree and Doctor of Philosophy degree from Columbia University. Kurtz was left-wing in his youth, but has said that serving in the United States Army in World War II taught him the dangers of ideology. He saw the Buchenwald and Dachau concentration camps after they were liberated, and became disillusioned with Communism when he encountered Russian slave laborers who had been taken to Nazi Germany by force but refused to return to the Soviet Union at the end of the war.

According to some accounts Kurtz was largely responsible for the secularization of Humanism. Before Kurtz embraced the term "Secular Humanism," which had received wide publicity through fundementalist Christians in the 1980s, Humanism was more widely percieved as a religion that did not include the supernatural. This can be seen in the first article of the original Humanist Manifesto which refers to "Religious Humanists" and by Charles and Clara Potter's influential 1930 book Humanism: A New Religion.

Kurtz used the publicity generated by fundementalist preachers to grow the membership of the Council of Secular Humanism, as well as strip the religious aspects found in the earlier Humanist movement.

In 1999 Kurtz was given the International Humanist Award by the IHEU.

Kurtz is the publisher of over 650 articles or reviews and has authored and edited over 40 books.

Kurtz believes that the nonreligious members of the community should take a positive view on life. Religious skepticism, according to Paul Kurtz, is only one aspect of the secular humanistic outlook. The term "eupraxophy" was coined by Kurtz as a nonreligious philosophy that embraces ethical, exuberant, and rational living to promote the betterment of the human condition.

Quotations

"As I see it, creative achievement is the very heart of the human enterprise.... The destiny of man, of all men and of each man, is that he is condemned to invent what he will be -- condemned if he is fearful but blessed if he welcomes the great adventure. We are responsible in the last analysis, not simply for what we are, but for what we will become; and that is a source of either high excitement or distress."

"Human life has no meaning independent of itself. There is no cosmic force or deity to give it meaning or significance. There is no ultimate destiny for man. Such a belief is an illusion of humankind's infancy. The meaning of life is what we choose to give it. Meaning grows out of human purposes alone. Nature provides us with an infinite range of opportunities, but it is only our vision and our action that select and realize those that we desire.... Thus the good life is achieved, invented, fashioned in an active life of enterprise and endeavor. But whether or not an individual chooses to enter into the arena depends upon him alone. Those who do can find it energizing, exhilarating, full of triumph and satisfaction. In spite of failures, setbacks, suffering, and pain, life can be fun."

"The beginning of wisdom is the awareness that there is insufficient evidence that a god or gods have created us and the recognition that we are responsible in part for our own destiny. Human beings can achieve this good life, but it is by the cultivation of the virtues of intelligence and courage, not faith and obedience, that we will most likely be able to do so."

"We need to be skeptical of utopianists who offer unreliable totalistic visions of other worlds and strive to take us there. We need some ideals, but we also need to protect ourselves from the miscalculations and misadventures of visionaries."

"The skeptic has no illusions about life, nor a vain belief in the promise of immortality. Since this life here and now is all we can know, our most reasonable option is to live it fully."

"I believe that a person should take an affirmative outlook. There are always problems in life, old and new, uncertainties, and unexpected contingencies. The optimal way to deal with this is not to give up in despair, but to move ahead using the best intelligence and resources that we have to overcome adversity."

 
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