FaithWorld

Paul Kurtz, leading advocate of secular humanism, dead at 86

October 23, 2012

(Paul Kurtz, 19 October 2006/Center for Inquiry)

Paul Kurtz, a leading U.S. philosopher who devoted his life to fighting prejudice against people who reject belief in a god and promoting a non-religious stance in life, has died at the age of 86.

The secular humanist Center for Inquiry (CFI), which he founded in 1991, said the one-time SUNY Buffalo university professor – who as a young soldier helped liberate the Dachau concentration camp in 1945 – died in Amherst, New York, at the weekend.

“He was one of the most influential figures in the humanist and skeptical movements from the late 1960s through the first decade of the 21st century,” said an obituary issued by CFI -which he had left over a succession dispute in 2010.

Kurtz was especially important for founding in 1969 the not-for-profit publishing house Prometheus Books that issues works critical of religion that many other publishers are reluctant to handle. In recent years, the U.S.-based Prometheus has brushed aside threats to publish studies on the origins of Islam that question the traditional history of the faith, and on the situation of atheists and agnostics in Muslim countries.

Kurtz, born into a New York Jewish family in 1925, wrote or edited more than 50 books on ethics without religion, critiques of religion and the paranormal, and on skepticism, or the challenging of received wisdom. When receiving a lifetime award for his work in 2007, he declared: “I am a secular humanist because I am not religious. I draw my inspiration not from religion or spirituality but from science, ethics, philosophy and the arts.”

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