Paul Kurtz on The New Atheism vs. The New Secularism
Matthew C. Nisbet, Ph.D. is Associate Professor of Communication Studies, Public Policy, and Urban Affairs at Northeastern University. Nisbet studies the role of communication and advocacy in policymaking and public affairs, focusing on debates over over climate change, energy, and sustainability. Among awards and recognition, Nisbet has been a Visiting Shorenstein Fellow on Press, Politics, and Public Policy at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government, a Health Policy Investigator at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and a Google Science Communication Fellow. In 2011, the editors at the journal Nature recommended Nisbet's research as “essential reading for anyone with a passing interest in the climate change debate,” and the New Republic highlighted his work as a “fascinating dissection of the shortcomings of climate activism."
In a report on the 2007 activities of the Center for Inquiry, chair Paul Kurtz adds further to how he differentiates a positive and life affirming secular view of the world from the arguments of the so-called New Atheists. Here's what Kurtz writes:
The new atheism, so-called, provoked widespread discussion because of the publication of several new books denying the existence of God--by Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, and Victor Stenger--all contributors to Free Inquiry. Their views were not new to readers of Center for Inquiry or Prometheus Books publications; but for the first time they were presented to a broader public. They were praised by supporters and were criticized by conservative commentators who believe that the world is going to hell in a hand-basket, blaming secular liberals, notwithstanding the fact that the number of pro-God books published far exceeds those by unbelievers.
The new secularism, launched by Free Inquiry, is likewise skeptical of the claims of theistic religion, though it has a more comprehensive agenda for people who do not practice religion. It focuses primarily on: (1) the separation of church and state; (2) the secularization of ethical values; and (3) inspiration drawn from science, reason, philosophy, literature, and the arts--rather than from the books of Abrahamic religion. It appeals to large numbers of the unchurched worldwide who prefer secular, rather than otherworldly, values and who are indifferent to religion.
Although the new secularism emphasizes the methods of science, including skepticism, it offers affirmative humanist ethical values as an alternative to ancient creeds.
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