Sunday, September 02, 2012

Paul Kurtz in Quote- Part 1

By Gary Berg-Cross
The thoughts of Paul Kurtz, one of America’s leading humanists, will be the topic of the Sept. 8th 2012 WASH MDC-organized panel. As a preparation for this I thought it interesting to provide some Kurtz quotes. These reflect some of the many subjects Kurtz has commented on over a long career. As the author of several version of the “Humanist Manifesto, including the recent Neo-Humanist statement, he’s earned the title of a modern” father of secular humanism.” As a member of the American Humanist Association, and a long-time editor of its magazine, The Humanist, he contributed to the writing of Humanist Manifesto II in 1973, which was an update on the original which his mentor John Dewey co-authored. He served as editor-in-Chief of Free Inquiry and Chairman of the Council for Secular Humanism.
Below are some quotes from these and other sources.

Free Inquiry & Tolerance
"Free inquiry entails recognition of civil liberties as integral to its pursuit, that is, a free press, freedom of communication, the right to organize opposition parties and to join voluntary associations, and freedom to cultivate and publish the fruits of scientific, philosophical, artistic, literary, moral and religious freedom." 
"Free inquiry requires that we tolerate diversity of opinion and that we respect the right of individuals to express their beliefs, however unpopular they may be, without social or legal prohibition or fear of success."
Strategy and Criticism of Religion
I am not suggesting that we should not critically examine religious claims, especially where they are patently false, injurious, and destructive. The secular world constantly needs to be defended against those who would undermine it, and we need to responsibly examine the transcendental and moral claims of supernaturalism and criticize its pretensions—especially when they impinge on personal freedoms. (from Free Inquiry May 2004)
Freedom from Religion

A key point to recognize is that one does not have to be an atheist or agnostic in order to defend the separation principle. In the United States, most Protestant denominations defend separation, as do secular Jews, liberal Roman Catholics, Unitarians, and members of other denominations. Secular humanists have many allies in this great battle. Indeed, both liberals and conservatives, believers and unbelievers, have stood firmly in support of the First Amendment. (from Free Inquiry May 2004)
Humanism and Liberation of the Human Mind

“If God is dead. Humanism is alive.”

Most humans feel the transcendent temptation, the emotional drive to festoon the universe with large-scale meaning.

“There is a broader task that all those who believe in democratic secular humanist values will recognize, namely, the need to embark upon a long-term program of public education and enlightenment concerning the relevance of the secular outlook to the human condition.” 

from  the   Humanist Declaration

Humanism and "Secular Humanism

Secularism needs to be adapted to diverse cultural conditions if it is to gain ground. I submit that we cannot legislate secularism uberhaupt without recognizing the cultural traditions in which it emerges. Accordingly, multi-secularism seems to be the best strategy to pursue: that is, adapting secular ideas and values to the societies in which they arise.
The question that I wish to raise is: What is secularism and/or the secular society?
Among the secular values that emerge today is the compelling need to develop a new Planetary Ethics. Because we must share the Earth, no entity can any longer be allowed to attempt to impose an exclusive, doctrinaire religious creed on every man and woman. We live in a multicultural world in which multi-secularism needs to be developed—in which different forms of secularism need to be adapted to the diverse cultural traditions and contexts of specific societies. Thus, we need secularized Christianity, secularized Judaism, secularized Hinduism, and even secularized Islam; all are requisite for societies to be able to cope with their problems. (from Free Inquiry May 2004)

A New Enlightenment
If we are to usher in a New Enlightenment, we need to spell out new goals to be achieved in the future. I can only briefly suggest what these might entail:
•The New Enlightenment needs to defend secularism, that is, the separation of church and state and the secularization of values.
•It must be planetary in scope, applying to all members of the human family—thus it would develop a new planetary ethics.
•It would seek to develop the public appreciation of scientific methods of inquiry and the scientific outlook.
•It would emphasize the need to use reason to resolve social differences and to lessen the resort to violence on the national and international level.
•It would defend the protection and cultivation of democracy and human rights everywhere.
•It would seek to banish poverty and disease from all parts of the globe and to reduce the disparities in income and wealth by expanding the amount of wealth and income available.
•It would focus on education and persuasion as the best methods for achieving social change, and it would make education and cultural enrichment truly universal.
•It would seek to elevate taste and appreciation, to cultivate the best of which we are capable as human beings, to achieve excellence, and improve the quality of life.
•It would seek for all people to work together to deal with global problems such as the unmeasured growth of population, environmental hazards, and global warming.
•It would seek to cultivate individual freedom consonant with the rights of others.
•While it would respect diversity and multiculturalism, it would seek always to find common ground that we may share.
•It would encourage cultivation of open societies, equal access to the media, and freedom of inquiry and research.
•It would seek to go beyond the ancient religious, ethnic, and national moral prohibitions of the past and move on to new alternatives appropriate to the contemporary world, new ethical values and principles.
•It would seek to generate and expand equality before the law and equality of opportunity for all individuals.
•It would seek to develop cooperative efforts among all segments of the world to deal with common problems.
Finally, it would exude some optimism about the human prospect, some belief that the human condition can be progressively improved, and above all, express the resolve to do so. (Free Inquiry Editorial -October/November 2005 Vol. 25, No. 6)
Life, Happiness & World View
Life, when fully lived under a variety of cultural conditions, can be euphoric and optimistic; it can be a joy to experience and a wonder to behold.
It is not the "courage to be" that we must develop as much as the "courage to become." We are responsible for our destiny. The meaning of life is not located in some hidden crevice in the womb of nature but is created by free persons, who are aware that they are responsible for their own futures and have the courage to take this project into their own hands.
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

Ethics & Values
…since the Renaissance, secularity in the ethical domain has been growing in influence. Secularists do not look to salvation and confirmation of the afterlife as their overriding goal, but rather focus on temporal humanist values in the here and now—happiness, self-realization, joyful exuberance, creative endeavors and excellence, the actualization of the good life—not only for the individual but for the greater community. (from Free Inquiry May 2004)
Far from living in a moral vacuum, secular humanists “wish to encourage wherever possible the growth of moral awareness.” (The quote comes from “A Secular Humanist Declaration,” the Council for Secular Humanism’s founding document, authored by Paul Kurtz.)
“common moral decencies” (include) qualities including integrity, trustworthiness, benevolence, and fairness. These qualities are celebrated by almost every human religion, not because God ordained them, but because human beings cannot thrive in communities where these values are ignored.
Free Inquiry into Science
Not the least among secular values of course is free inquiry and freedom of scientific research, the very basis of science and technology. Religious censorship or limitation—such as that intelligent-design advocates seek to impose on scientific theories of evolution—is unacceptable. The free mind is vital for the open society. If one wants to pursue scientific inquiry, then one needs to abide by methodological naturalism: objective standards of evidence, rational coherence, and experimental testing are quite independent of the Bible or Qur’an. (from Free Inquiry April/May 2004)

Skepticism (The New York Times called him "a skeptic of everything but fact.")

"a skeptic is one who is willing to question any claim to truth, asking for clarity in definition, consistency in logic, and adequacy of evidence." Skepticism and Humanism by Paul Kurtz

“I would like to introduce another term into the equation, a description of the religious "unbeliever" that is more appropriate. One may simply say, "I am a skeptic." This is a classical philosophical position, yet I submit that it is still relevant today, for many people are deeply skeptical about religious claims.
Skepticism is widely employed in the sciences. Skeptics doubt theories or hypotheses unless they are able to verify them on adequate evidential grounds. The same is true among skeptical inquirers into religion. The skeptic in religion is not dogmatic, nor does he or she reject religious claims a priori; here or she is simply unable to accept the case for God unless it is supported by adequate evidence.” From
Why I Am a Skeptic about Religious Claims
Life, Happiness & World View
As I see it, creative achievement is the very heart of the human enterprise. It typifies the human species as it has evolved, particularly over the past forty to fifty thousand years: leaving the life of the hunter and the nomad, developing agriculture and rural society, inventing industry and technology, building urban societies and a world community, breaking out of the earth's gravitational field, exploring the solar system and beyond. The destiny of humankind, of all people and of each person, is that they are condemned to invent what they will be - condemned if they are fearful but blessed if they welcome 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. Free Inquiry magazine, Volume 18, Number 3.
Facing Death
…each person must face death: life has meaning only if we realize that it will end. It is in viewing one's life as a complete whole that one sees it for what it is: what I accomplished and did well; whether I fulfilled some of my dreams and plans; whether I enjoyed life, made friends, fell in love, worked for a beloved cause, and so forth. I should have no false hopes about death, but I should do what I can to ward it off. Indeed, health is a first condition if one is to live well. We must not be deluded by a belief in immortality but should face death realistically. A free person worships the creative life as the ultimate good. But when death comes, he or she will accept it with equanimity, if with sorrow; and he or she will realize that in the face of death the only thing that really counts is what has been the quality of life, and what has been given to or left for others.
Image Credits

1 comment:

Gary Berg-Cross said...

Paul passed away Oct. 21st 2012, but his words, thoughts and inspiration live on.