Contact: Nathan Bupp
Phone: (716) 636-4869 x 218
New York, New York (October 3, 2007)—The think tank Center for Inquiry will hold a major conference, “The Secular Society and Its Enemies,” to address the alarming abandonment of Western secular values in a world increasingly mired in divisive religious strife and deadly sectarian battles. Organizers cite the abandonment of Enlightenment values by traditionalists such as Pope Benedict XVI, the rejection of secularization by social theorists, and taboos against criticizing religion among liberals, as seen in the debates surrounding the “New Atheism.”
The conference will convene November 9-11 at the New York Academy of Sciences, 7 World Trade Center, Manhattan. Presenters include some of the most prominent names of recent social commentary, including author Christopher Hitchens, lawyer/author Alan Dershowitz, astronomer Neil deGrasse Tyson, evolution advocate Eugenie Scott, social critic Wendy Kaminer, ethicist Peter Singer, authors Susan Jacoby and Nat Hentoff, and others.
“Despite the secular foundation of successful modern societies, radical religious fervor has reached an all-time high, and the world is waking up to the fact that belief can no longer be considered benign,” said Dr. Paul Kurtz, founder of the international Center for Inquiry and the Council for Secular Humanism. “When religion manifests its tenets in government, both democracy and modern science take a back seat to the voice of rigid ancient authority, and progress is halted. The importance of maintaining secular governments cannot be overstated, and we find increasing need to defend rational secularism before faith-based damages become insurmountable.”
The Center for Inquiry, publisher of Free Inquiry magazine, will call for a renewed commitment to modern secular values, including separation of religion and state, respect for individual autonomy, the public understanding of science, nonreligious foundations for ethics, and upholding secularization as the ideal model for social progress.
“All theocracies, trumpeted or clandestine, have proven to be disastrous,” Kurtz said. “When the rights of our diverse citizenry are governed by the influence of a single faith, all those outside that narrow worldview—that is, the majority—suffer, both the religious and secular.”
Located in the World Trade Center complex, the New York Academy of Sciences comprises the 40th floor of a newly constructed building overlooking the site where runaway religion made its agenda very clear in September 2001. Panel topics will include “Secularism through History from Spinoza to JFK,” “The State of Unreason in America,” “Prospects for an Islamic Enlightenment,” “Public Understanding of Science,” and “Freethinkers on America’s College Campuses.”
“Support for those who oppose religious fanaticism isn’t limited to the nonreligious,” Kurtz said. “Catholics, Protestants, and especially the world’s subjugated Muslims have a very real stake in protecting our secular society from those who would bind legislation with the Decalogue or weave Sharia law into our courts.”
For conference registration or more information, visit www.centerforinquiry.net/secularsociety.
The Center for Inquiry is a nonprofit educational organization comprising the Council for Secular Humanism (CSH), the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (CSI), and the Commission for Scientific Medicine and Mental Health (CSMMH). Headquartered in Amherst, New York, CFI strives to promote rational thinking in all aspects of life. More information may be found at www.centerforinquiry.net. ###