Paul Kurtz: Wikis


Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Paul Kurtz
Born December 21, 1925(1925-12-21)
Newark, New Jersey, United States United States
Alma mater New York University
Columbia University
Known for Committee for Skeptical Inquiry
Council for Secular Humanism

Paul Kurtz (born December 21, 1925 in Newark, New Jersey) is Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at the State University of New York at Buffalo, but is best known for his prominent role in the United States skeptical community. He has been called "the father of secular humanism."[citation needed]

He is founder and chairman of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, formerly the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP), the Council for Secular Humanism, the Center for Inquiry and Prometheus Books. Taught at Vasser, Trinity, and Union colleges, and the New School for Social Research.

He is editor in chief of Free Inquiry magazine, a publication of the Council for Secular Humanism. He was co-president of the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU). He is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and Humanist Laureate and president of the International Academy of Humanism. As a member of the American Humanist Association, he contributed to the writing of Humanist Manifesto II. Former editor of The Humanist, 1967-78. The asteroid (6629) Kurtz was named in his honor.


Early years

Kurtz received his bachelor's degree from New York University, and the Master's degree and Doctor of Philosophy degree from Columbia University. Kurtz was left-wing in his youth, but has said that serving in the United States Army in World War II taught him the dangers of ideology. He saw the Buchenwald and Dachau concentration camps after they were liberated, and became disillusioned with Communism when he encountered Russian slave laborers who had been taken to Nazi Germany by force but refused to return to the Soviet Union at the end of the war.[citation needed]

Secular humanism

Kurtz was largely responsible for the secularization of humanism.[citation needed] Before Kurtz embraced the term "secular humanism," which had received wide publicity through fundamentalist Christians in the 1980s, humanism was more widely perceived as a religion (or a pseudoreligion) that did not include the supernatural. This can be seen in the first article of the original Humanist Manifesto which refers to "Religious Humanists" and by Charles and Clara Potter's influential 1930 book Humanism: A New Religion.

Kurtz used the publicity generated by fundamentalist preachers to grow the membership of the Council for Secular Humanism, as well as strip the religious aspects found in the earlier humanist movement. He founded the Center for Inquiry in 1991. There are now some 40 Centers and Communities worldwide, including in Los Angeles, Washington, New York City, London, Amsterdam, Warsaw, Moscow, Beijing, Hyderabad, Toronto, Dakar, Buenos Aires and Kathmandu.

In 1999 Kurtz was given the International Humanist Award by the IHEU.

Kurtz is the publisher of over 800 articles or reviews and has authored and edited over 45 books.

Kurtz believes that the nonreligious members of the community should take a positive view on life. Religious skepticism, according to Paul Kurtz, is only one aspect of the secular humanistic outlook.


Kurtz coined the term eupraxsophy (originally eupraxophy) to refer to philosophies or lifestances such as secular humanism and Confucianism that do not rely on belief in the transcendent or supernatural. A eupraxsophy is a nonreligious lifestance or worldview emphasizing the importance of living an ethical and exuberant life, and relying on rational methods such as logic, observation and science (rather than faith, mysticism or revelation) toward that end. The word is based on the Greek words for "good", "practice", and "wisdom." Eupraxsophies, like religions, are cosmic in their outlook, but eschew the supernatural component of religion, avoiding the "transcendental temptation," as Kurtz puts it. Although critical of supernatural religion, he has attempted to develop affirmative ethical values of naturalistic humanism.[1]

Critique of the paranormal

Another aspect in Kurtz’s legacy is his critique of the paranormal. In 1976 CSICOP started Skeptical Inquirer, its official journal. Like Martin Gardner, Carl Sagan, Isaac Asimov and others, Kurtz has popularized scientific skepticism and critical thinking about claims of the paranormal. Kurtz wrote:

[An] explanation for the persistence of the paranormal, I submit, is due to the transcendental temptation. In my book by that name, I present the thesis that paranormal and religious phenomena have similar functions in human experience; they are expressions of a tendency to accept magical thinking. This temptation has such profound roots within human experience and culture that it constantly reasserts itself.[2]

In The Transcendental Temptation, Kurtz analyzes how provable are the claims of Jesus, Moses, Muhammad as well as the founders of religions on American soil such as Joseph Smith and Ellen White. He also evaluates the antics of the most famous modern psychics and what he believes are the fruitless researches of parapsychologists. The Transcendental Temptation is considered among Kurtz's most influential writings.[3]

On 19 April 2007 Kurtz appeared on Penn & Teller's television show Bullshit! arguing that exorcism and Satanic cults are "hype and paranoia."[4]


  • Toward a New Enlightenment: The Philosophy of Paul Kurtz (Tim Madigan, editor; Vern Bullough, Introduction), 1994, Transaction, ISBN 1-56000-118-6
  • The Humanist Alternative (Paul Kurtz, editor), 1973, Prometheus Books, ISBN 0-87975-013-8
  • Exuberance: An Affirmative Philosophy of Life 1978, Prometheus Books, ISBN 0-87975-293-4
  • A Secular Humanist Declaration 1980, ISBN 0-87975-149-5
  • The Transcendental Temptation: A Critique of Religion and the Paranormal, 1986 ISBN 0-87975-645-4
  • A Skeptic's Handbook of Parapsychology (Paul Kurtz, editor), 1985, Prometheus Books, ISBN 0-87975-300-5
  • Forbidden Fruit: The Ethics of Humanism, 1988, Prometheus Books, ISBN 0-87975-455-5
  • The New Skepticism: Inquiry and Reliable Knowledge, 1992, Prometheus Books, ISBN 0-87975-766-3
  • The Courage to Become, 1997, Praeger/Greenwood, ISBN 0-275-96016-1
  • Living Without Religion: Eupraxophy ISBN 0-87975-929-1
  • In Defense of Secular Humanism ISBN 0-87975-228-9
  • Challenges to the Enlightenment: In Defense of Reason and Science by Paul Kurtz, et al., 1994 ISBN 0-87975-869-4
  • Skepticism and Humanism: The New Paradigm, 2001 ISBN 0-7658-0051-9
  • Science and Religion by Paul Kurtz, et al., 2003 ISBN 1-59102-064-6
  • Affirmations: Joyful And Creative Exuberance, 2004 ISBN 1-59102-265-7
  • What Is Secular Humanism?, 2006 ISBN 1-59102-499-4
  • Embracing the Power of Humanism, 2000, Rowman & Littlefield, ISBN 0-84769-966-8
  • Humanist Manifesto 2000, 2000, ISBN 1-57392-783-X

See also


  1. ^ Cooke, Bill. Dictionary of Atheism, Skepticism, & Humanism, Prometheus Books, 2006, page 175. "Eupraxsophy stands for 'a set of convictions and practices offering a cosmic outlook and an ethical guide to life'."
  2. ^ Quarter Century of Skeptical Inquiry, Paul Kurtz (Skeptical Inquirer July 2001)
  3. ^ Paul Kurtz to Receive Award From Univ. of Buffalo
  4. ^ "on 5, Episode 5: Exorcism". Bullshit! ( 19 April 2007. Retrieved 2007-05-22. 

5. Madigan, Timothy J. (ed.). Promethean love: Paul Kurtz and the humanistic perspective on love. Newcastle, UK: Cambridge Scholars Press, 2006. xii, 327 p.

External links

Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address