35 Years Ago in Free Inquiry
“Did Jesus offer a pattern of statecraft for future readers? On the basis of the evidence in the Gospels the answer must be negative. In spite of all the efforts by Christian interpreters to provide a clue to the meaning of the ‘Render to Caesar’ utterance, it remains an enigmatic one-liner, probably best understood as a device to avoid a prolonged, debilitating debate. … The rather extensive array of references by Jesus to kings, armies, rulers, laws, and the like serve to remind the reader of the political context in which Jesus operated. Jesus’s use of such illustrations may not be used to pinpoint a theory of statecraft. The Gospels offer no evidence of a philosophy of state on the part of either Jesus or those who remembered his words. If one wishes to enlist Jesus in support of any form of government, that person must appeal not to specific sayings but to a spirit manifest in the Gospels.”
—Paul Kurtz, “Finding a Common Ground between Believers and Unbelievers,”
Free Inquiry, Volume 5, no. 3 (Summer 1985)
Editor’s Note: Free Inquiry founder and editor-in-chief Paul Kurtz (1995–2012) offered these remarks on April 19, 1985, as part of his introduction to the celebrated FI conference “Jesus in History and Myth” at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. The conference, led by Gerald Larue and R. Joseph Hoffmann, reignited interest in the historicity of Jesus and by some accounts influenced the formation of the well-known Jesus Seminar. Larue (initially) and Hoffmann (beginning in 2003) chaired the Council’s Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Religion, whose founding was announced at the Ann Arbor conference.
25 Years Ago in Free Inquiry
“Hope is radically different from faith. To hope is not to assume that things will be better, but to be sustained by the sense that they can be better and to act accordingly. … [T]o be human is not only to adapt to circumstances, but to seek, recognize, and seize the opportunity to alter them. Seeking the opportunity means beginning with an act of imagination that can only be fulfilled through determination and rational striving, integrating all our human potentials. … [W]hile we insist that wishes don’t come true by themselves, let’s remember that reason is rudderless without them.”
—Molleen Matsumura, “To Dream Is Human,”
Free Inquiry, Volume 15, no. 3 (Summer 1995)
Editor’s Note: Molleen Matsumura was an author, editor, and local secular humanist activist. She served as president of the Secular Humanists of the East Bay and as an associate editor of Free Inquiry. She contributed a long-running column titled “Sweet Reason” to the Council’s former newsletter Secular Humanist Bulletin. She coauthored books, including Raising Freethinkers: A Practical Guide for Parenting Beyond Belief. From 1993 to 2001, she was Network Project Director of the National Center for Science Education (NCSE). She died in 2012 at age sixty-four.