Looking Back – Volume 39 No. 2

35 Years Ago in Free Inquiry

“… the question of the sacrifice of innocent life in war … I find an extremely difficult problem. Temperamentally I am inclined to the simple view (to misquote one of the late Michael Flanders’s characters) that ‘killing people is wrong,’ but I have to recognize that, until mankind finds some reasonable way of settling differences other than by military force, the appalling damage that one Hitler can do to millions of innocent persons makes it difficult to maintain that other innocent lives must never be risked in order to stop the likes of him. But there I must leave the matter, cherishing the hope that the human race will soon find a better way of settling disputes than the idiotic process of multiplying the production of lethal instruments as the only way of preventing their use.”

—Barbara Wootton, “Reflections of a Lifelong Agnostic,”
Free Inquiry, Volume 3, No. 4 (Fall 1983)

Editor’s Note: Barbara Wootton, Baroness Wootton of Abinger (1897–1988) was a British criminologist and sociologist. In 1958, she was appointed to the House of Lords under the Life Peerage Act, becoming one of its first woman members. An ethical utilitarian and an early advocate for physician-assisted suicide, she nonetheless opposed abortion on other-than-religious grounds and was removed as a vice president of the then–British Humanist Association.

25 Years Ago in Free Inquiry

“… If Jesus did not say most of the things attributed to him, he might have said anything one would wish to attribute to him. If our picture of Jesus is marred by so much wear and tear, so much varnish and so much new paint that the original image is irrecoverable, then he might have looked like anybody. … The Jesus of the Westar project and the new new quest is a talking doll with a questionable repertoire of thirty-one sayings: pull a string and he blesses the poor.”

—R. Joseph Hoffmann,
“Jesus Through the Looking Glass: An Update on the Who-Was-Jesus Movement,”
Free Inquiry, Volume 14, No. 1 (Winter 1993–94)

Editor’s Note: R. Joseph Hoffmann is a historian of early Christianity who cohosted Free Inquiry’s influential 1985 conference “Jesus in History and Myth” at the University of Michigan. He has held academic positions all over the world, including as director of the Center for Inquiry Institute and cofounder of its Jesus Project (2007–2009). In this article, Hoffmann commented on the “new new quest for the historical Jesus,” then of current interest among scholars. The “Westar project” he mentions became better known as The Jesus Seminar.


35 Years Ago in Free Inquiry “… the question of the sacrifice of innocent life in war … I find an extremely difficult problem. Temperamentally I am inclined to the simple view (to misquote one of the late Michael Flanders’s characters) that ‘killing people is wrong,’ but I have to recognize that, until mankind finds …

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