Ultimate heart-ache: Secular humanists vs. atheists?

Writing in the December 2009/January 2010 issue of Free Inquiry, the magazine he founded, Kurtz declared “militant atheism is often truncated and narrow-minded…it is not concerned with the humanist values that ought to accompany the rejection of theism. The New Atheists, in my view, have made an important contribution to the contemporary cultural scene because they have opened religious claims to public examination…What I object to are the militant atheists who are narrow-minded about religious persons and will have nothing to do with agnostics, skeptics, or those who are indifferent to religion, dismissing them as cowardly.”

“While I certainly don’t believe that we ought to abandon our criticism of religious fanaticism or allow religious doctrine to dictate public policy, the future of the secular humanist and scientific rationalist movements depends upon appealing to a wider base of support,” continued Kurtz. Some 16 percent of the American population is not affiliated with any church, temple, or mosque–approximately 50 million Americans–whereas only 2 to 3 percent are estimated to be out-and-out atheists. Hence, Neo-Humanism wishes to address its message to a broader public who we believe should be sympathetic.”

Kurtz says that his new manifesto advances a new form of humanism that is not antireligious per se, nor avowedly atheist. “There are various forms of religious and non-religious beliefs in the world. On the one end of the spectrum are traditional religious beliefs; on the other ‘the new atheism.’ Not enough attention is paid to humanism as an alternative,” declares the statement.