Looking Back — Vol 39. No. 1

35 Years Ago in Free Inquiry

“As humanists, surely we do not wish to develop according to the model of the classical religions. Though these religions have provided a social structure, a moral framework, and psychological comfort for their adherents, humanism is not and should not be a denomination or sect competing with others. We reject the notion of ethnic identification; we have none. We are committed to a universal ideal. We do not have an exclusive cultural heritage but consider ourselves part of world culture. We are opposed to and have not built churches and accredited clergy … . We do not enforce strict rules of conduct or require a creed or dogma. More important, we do not pretend to have an ‘inspiring message,’ nor a charismatic leader.

“Our model is not Moses, Jesus, or Muhammad, but Socrates.”

—Paul Kurtz, “The Future of Humanism”
Free Inquiry, Volume 3, No. 4 (Fall 1983)

Editor’s Note: In a lengthy editorial, Free Inquiry founder Paul Kurtz described humanism as a failing movement in view of the small size and stature of its national organizations. After analysis of the histories of the three major Western religious traditions, he concluded that the religious model was bankrupt and could offer no guidance for building a humanism of the future.


25 Years Ago in Free Inquiry

“The safest thing to do to ensure (but still not guarantee) your funeral wishes will be carried out is to tell them to as many friends and relatives as possible. In that way, the few who might want to thwart those wishes will be overwhelmed by the sentiments of those who knew what was really wanted. Many freethinkers may want no ceremony at all, either in a funeral parlor, crematorium, or at a cemetery. This is, of course, a valid option, but it should be specified in writing and made known to your friends and relatives. …

“If you think that once you are dead nothing that can occur to your body or memory matters, then you need do nothing about planning for your death. Unfortunately, it can and does happen that a freethinker is given a full religious send-off. I know personally of at least ten cases … .”

—Gordon Stein, “Freethinkers’ Funerals,”
Free Inquiry, Volume 13, No. 4 (Fall 1993)

Editor’s Note: Gordon Stein was a cofounder and later a senior editor of Free Inquiry, the longtime editor of The American Rationalist, the foremost freethought bibliographer of his generation, and the founding director of the Center for Inquiry Libraries. This article appeared as part of a feature on humanist ceremonies and the different ways secular men and women opt to—or not to—celebrate them.


35 Years Ago in Free Inquiry “As humanists, surely we do not wish to develop according to the model of the classical religions. Though these religions have provided a social structure, a moral framework, and psychological comfort for their adherents, humanism is not and should not be a denomination or sect competing with others. We …

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