Paul Kurtz has died

Paul Kurtz, from Wikimedia CommonsPaul Kurtz (1925-2012), the great Humanist and founder of many organizations including the Center for Inquiry, the Council for Secular Humanism, and the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, has passed away.  He was the author of the Humanist Manifesto 2000, and long-time editor of The Humanist and Free Inquiry.

While the kind of Humanism Kurtz represents is primarily Secular Humanism, rather than Religious or Spiritual Humanism, the man made great strides for Humanists of all stripes.

Dr. Kurtz gave an interview shortly before he passed away, and had this to say:

EV: Why do atheists need to focus on positive moral values, and not simply “atheism” and separation of church and state?

PK: This agenda is too limited. It marginalizes other issues of great importance. Atheists need to be committed to a moral compass, given the fact that totalitarian atheists (and secularists) have sometimes used terror to achieve their ends; it’s important that the means be ethical. In short, it is vital that we move beyond atheism. We need to develop, articulate, and defend ethical and moral alternatives, drawing upon science and humanistic wisdom, that speak specifically to human questions and concerns. We need to appeal to both the head and the heart. My basic point has remained the same: We need to defend and explicate a positive agenda of humanism — relevant to all. It needs to be constructive, prescriptive, and ethical. I have enunciated this view in virtually all of my writings. We cannot merely offer to the world negative critiques of religion. We have to be FOR something as well. We have to speak directly to the human condition.

As that quote demonstrates, Kurtz was a great proponent of moving beyond criticism of religion and embracing issues of social justice and humanitarian concern.  While that is to be expected from Humanism, it has not always been put into practice as much as it should be, perhaps.  Kurtz’ statement of Neo-Humanist principles and values lists sixteen recommendations:


  • aspire to be more inclusive by appealing to both non-religious and religious humanists and to religious believers who share common goals;
  • are skeptical of traditional theism;
  • are best defined by what they are for, not what they are against;
  • wish to use critical thinking, evidence, and reason to evaluate claims to knowledge;
  • apply similar considerations to ethics and values;
  • are committed to a key set of values: happiness, creative actualization, reason in harmony with emotion, quality, and excellence;
  • emphasize moral growth (particularly for children), empathy, and responsibility;
  • advocate the right to privacy;
  • support the democratic way of life, tolerance, and fairness;
  • recognize the importance of personal morality, good will, and a positive attitude toward life;
  • accept responsibility for the well-being of society, guaranteeing various rights, including those of women, racial, ethnic, and sexual minorities; and supporting education, health care, gainful employment, and other social benefits;
  • support a green economy;
  • advocate population restraint, environmental protection, and the protection of other species;
  • recognize the need for Neo-Humanists to engage actively in politics;
  • take progressive positions on the economy; and
  • hold that humanity needs  to move beyond ego-centric individualism and chauvinistic nationalism to develop transnational planetary institutions to cope with global problems—such efforts include a strengthened World Court, an eventual World Parliament, and a Planetary Environmental Monitoring Agency that would set standards for controlling global warming and ecology.

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