(American Humanist Association photo.)
Paul Kurtz (December 21, 1925 - October 20, 2012) was a prominent American skeptic and secular humanist. He was Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at the State University of New York at Buffalo, having previously also taught at Vassar, Trinity, and Union colleges, and the New School for Social Research. (Click for additional information.)
A skeptic is one who is willing to question any claim to truth, asking for clarity in definition, consistency in logic, and adequacy of evidence.
Atheism, like agnosticism and skepticism, can be a dignified posture when it is based on careful reflection and civilly expressed. It should not be mean- spirited. Many of us prefer a kinder and gentler form of secular humanism.
Each person must face death: life has meaning only if we realize that it will end.
Far from living in a moral vacuum, secular humanists wish to encourage wherever possible the growth of moral awareness.
Homo religiosus invents religious symbols, which he venerates and worships to save him from facing the finality of his death and dissolution. He devises paradise fictions to provide succor and support... In acts of supreme self- deception, at various times and in various places he has been willing to profess belief in the most incredible myths because of what they have promised him.
Human life has no meaning independent of itself. There is no cosmic force or deity to give it meaning or significance. There is no ultimate destiny for man. Such a belief is an illusion of humankind's infancy. The meaning of life is what we choose to give it.
Humanists hold that ethical values are relative to human experience and need not be derived from theological or metaphysical foundations.
I believe that a person should take an affirmative outlook. There are always problems in life, old and new, uncertainties, and unexpected contingencies. The optimal way to deal with this is not to give up in despair, but to move ahead using the best intelligence and resources that we have to overcome adversity.
Life, when fully lived under a variety of cultural conditions, can be euphoric and optimistic; it can be a joy to experience and a wonder to behold.
Most humans feel the transcendent temptation, the emotional drive to festoon the universe with large-scale meaning.
No deity will save us; we must save ourselves.
Reason and intelligence are the most effective instruments that humankind possesses. There is no substitute: neither faith nor passion suffices in itself.
Secular humanism is avowedly non-religious. It is a eupraxsophy (good practical wisdom), which draws its basic principles and ethical values from science, ethics, and philosophy.
The beginning of wisdom is the awareness that there is insufficient evidence that a god or gods have created us and the recognition that we are responsible in part for our own destiny. Human beings can achieve this good life, but it is by the cultivation of the virtues of intelligence and courage, not faith and obedience, that we will most likely be able to do so.
The meaning of life is not to be discovered only after death in some hidden, mysterious realm; on the contrary, it can be found by eating the succulent fruit of the Tree of Life and by living in the here and now as fully and creatively as we can.
The skeptic has no illusions about life, nor a vain belief in the promise of immortality. Since this life here and now is all we can know, our most reasonable option is to live it fully.
Three key humanist virtues are courage, cognition, and caring- not dependence, ignorance, or insensitivity to the needs of others.
We need to be skeptical of utopianists who offer unreliable totalistic visions of other worlds and strive to take us there. We need some ideals, but we also need to protect ourselves from the miscalculations and misadventures of visionaries.