Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Mourning the loss of a great Humanist

by Gary Berg-Cross

As many will know Paul Kurtz, often called the father of modern secular humanism, died Saturday Oct. 20th . There have been many outpourings of grief and sympathy as well as a celebration of his life.  WASH MDC had a panel honoring his thought and contributions earlier in the year and there have been several write-ups on this Blog (e.g. Kurtz by Edd Doerr or one on his thoughts) about Paul’s thoughts.

On his death he Associated Press article lauded him as a secular humanist and religion skeptic :
“A prolific author and organizer, Kurtz also founded the not-for-profit Committee for Skeptical Inquiry and Council for Secular Humanism, as well as the secular humanist magazine Free Inquiry and Skeptical Inquirer magazine, which takes on such topics as alien sightings, paranormal claims and homeopathic remedies. Most recently, he formed the Institute for Science and Human Values (ISHV).”  

The New York Times called him a Humanist Publisher noting his founding of Prometheus Books noting that he taught philosophy at the University at Buffalo, part of the State University of New York, from 1965 until his retirement as professor emeritus in 1991. They also noted:

In 1973, as editor of the magazine The Humanist, Professor Kurtz drafted what came to be known as Humanist Manifesto II, in which he updated a 1933 document by addressing issues that the earlier document, which was largely a critique of theism, had failed to touch on, among them nuclear arms, population control, racism and sexism.

John Shook provided a tribute to Paul on the CFI site, which included this:

Paul Kurtz’s philosophizing has never been just about negativity. If the limitations of faith can be charted, it is because the finest achievements of human reason have brought us farther and higher. Kurtz’s living naturalism is a philosophical achievement to stitch together a cohesive worldview from what all of the sciences are telling us, yielding an optimistic outlook for growing meaning and value, and a fulfilling ethical life for every person.

D.J. Grothe of the James Randi Educational Foundtion and a colleague wrote:

Paul Kurtz was not only my dear friend, but an inspiration. His humanity, his passion, his creativity and his organizational skills were the be
bedrock of a number of international organizations, and he worked tirelessly to grow the worldwide skeptics and humanist movements. In this respect, his impact remains unrivaled. His death is deeply felt and he will be sorely missed.”

Nathan Bupp, who was mentored by Paul and worked with him at ISHV, provided this snippet from Paul’s affirmative life that included great intellectual adventures at SUNY Buffalo:

"In 1987, Dr. (Paul) Kurtz was asked by the Chicago Tribune what he would do if he ever encountered God. 'I’d immediately pass out pamphlets, asking God to change the furniture in the universe and reorder it in a more just way,' he said, before adding: 'This is hypothetical, of course.'”

(from The Washington Post, 10/23/12)

Paul will be missed, but like many great people he has given us a legacy to work with if we have the wisdom to build on it.

Photo from NYT Obit article

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