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Announcing “Reason for Change” – A Transformative Conference for 2015

Dear friends,

Fostering critical thinking has always been at the core of CFI’s mission. But critical thinking is not an end in itself. It’s a tool. It’s a means to effect change, to trans…

The European Commission has announced it will take no further action against the UK Government after investigating complaints, submitted by the National Secular Society, regarding state funded ‘faith schools’ legislation and European employment laws.

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The European Commission has announced it will take no further action after investigating complaints, submitted by the National Secular Society, regarding UK state funded ‘faith schools’ legislation and European employment laws.

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During a debate introducing the Sex and Relationships Education (Curriculum) Bill to parliament this week, Conservative MP Philip Davies blamed “sex education fanatics” for a rise in unwanted pregnancies since the 1970s, and called for “less sex educat…

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The National Secular Society has welcomed new government measures announced yesterday to crackdown on the practice of female genital mutilation.

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Cause & Effect is the biweekly newsletter of the Center for Inquiry community, covering the wide range of work that you help make possible.

The Main Events

Screen_Shot_2014-10-08_at_125254_PM.pngA Thank You from our Allies in Uganda: “We Can Now Afford to Dream Again.”

This past summer, we called upon you to help our humanist allies in Uganda, the Humanist Association for Leadership, Equity, and Accountability (HALEA). Their Kampala-based office was robbed of everything of value and a security guard was severely beaten. (Happily, the guard is recovering well.) We activated our SHARE program (the Skeptics and Humanists Aid and Relief Effort) to assist them in getting themselves back up and running, and other freethought groups lent their support as well. 

There’s good news: You made a real difference, raising over $6,000 for their rebuilding efforts. We heard directly from HALEA’s own Kato Mukasa, who wrote to update us on the progress they’ve made in rebuilding and redoubling their crucial efforts in Uganda, which include helping at-risk youth who are victims of a terrible intertwining of crime, violence, and superstition.  

“Once again, allow me extend my sincere appreciation to you all,” writes Mukasa. “Thanks to team CFI, HALEA can now afford to dream again.” You can read more about it at our Free Thinking blog.


Terry, John, Reba at their wedding.jpgMarriage Equality Makes Huge Strides

There were major developments on the marriage equality front over the past couple of weeks, most notably as the Supreme Court declined to hear appeals in seven cases regarding same-sex marriage, covering the states of Virginia, Utah, Oklahoma, Indiana, and Wisconsin. As a result, a majority of the U.S. population now lives in a state in which marriage equality is the law. We applauded this tectonic shift, noting that remaining legal barriers to marriage equality are unfortunately rooted in outmoded religious dogma. Ron Lindsay said in our statement, “We look forward to the day when the Supreme Court rules affirmatively that all Americans, regardless of sexual orientation, possess the right to marry the partner they love.”

This week saw a wonderful combination of marriage equality victories, as CFI–Indiana’s Reba Boyd Wooden, director of our Secular Celebrant program, legally solemnized the wedding of Terry Yoder and John Combs, who have been a couple for 35 years. In July of this year, CFI won its appeal to allow Secular Celebrants to solemnize marriages in Indiana, and same-sex marriage was made officially legal in the state earlier this month. This is the first same-sex wedding solemnized by a Secular Celebrant in Indiana’s history. Congratulations, Terry and John!

(By the way, you can train to become a Secular Celebrant yourself this Saturday in Indianapolis!)


News from HQ and the CFI Community

220px-Ben_Radford.jpgCSI’s Ben Radford Profiled by Fast Company

Dubbed the “actual ghostbuster” and a rising star in the Skeptic-with-a-capital-”S” community, the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry’s own Benjamin Radford is profiled by business magazine Fast Company as part of its “Most Creative People” series. Checking in with him at “his messy home office” in New Mexico, reporter Lessley Anderson gives an overview of Ben’s work with CSI and Skeptical Inquirer, as well as his books, his writings at Discovery News, and his investigative approach as he “plods rationally and skeptically toward the truth.” The piece also serves as a good introduction to the skeptical movement to a general audience, reminding readers of our association with figures like Carl Sagan and Isaac Asimov. Congrats, Ben!

Screen Shot 2014-10-17 at 11.46.33 AM.png
Astrobiology and Extremist Theology on the Latest Episodes of Point of Inquiry

How would human civilization respond to the discovery of extraterrestrial life? Would we react differently to the detection of mere microbes versus the confirmation of alien intelligence? This is a question being taken seriously by scientists (and theologians, it turns out), and it’s the subject of the latest Point of Inquiry, as Josh Zepps talks to astrobiologist Steven J. Dick.

Lindsay Beyerstein, meanwhile, explores the theological motivations of ISIS, or the “Islamic State” with Dr. Adam Silverman, an expert in criminology and political science and a Cultural Advisor to the U.S. Army War College with extensive knowledge of the region’s culture. 


Screen Shot 2014-10-07 at 1.59.59 PM.pngSkeptical Inquirer Counters Doctor-Bashing Clichés

The November/December issue of Skeptical Inquirer is out, and it features a handy and unvarnished rebuttal of common attacks on doctors and “Western medicine” made by the proponents of alt-med. Renowned skeptic and former Air Force flight surgeon Harriet Hall chooses 44 dubious arguments against science-based medicine (such as “doctors are in the pocket of Big Pharma,” and “doctors ignore the whole person in favor of treating symptoms”) and picks them apart with concision and wit. The new issue also is on newsstands and in app stores now!


Debbie Goddard on panel.JPG“Moving Social Justice” Conference at CFI–L.A.

Last weekend, skeptics and atheists tackled issues of racism, sexism, and homophobia during the first annual Moving Social Justice Conference at CFI–Los Angeles. Organized by the organization People of Color Beyond Faith and led by activist and author Sikivu Hutchinson, the two-day conference featured speakers and panelists from around the country, including CFI’s Director of Outreach Debbie Goddard, Prof. Anthony Pinn from Rice University, and Jenn Taylor of the Black Atheists of Philadelphia. Speakers and panelists engaged in spirited discussions about issues such as discrimination, economic inequality, and how the freethought movement can better address the concerns and needs of minority communities. The conference was previewed in an interview by Chris Stedman with Hutchinson, and a report by Kimberly Winston, at Religion News Service.


sagan-fellowship.jpgCelebrating Sagan in November

November 9th is a pretty special day for all of us at CFI, because that’s when we celebrate the best tour guide the cosmos has ever had. Carl Sagan Day is coming November 9th, so get out your turtle necks and corduroy blazers and start making plans to celebrate the man who helped billions of people revel in the beauty and wonder of the cosmos. Click over to our Carl Sagan Day resource page for ideas and resources for the big day, and show your enthusiasm by sharing this image meme with your social networks.



Highlights from CFI on the Web


●   October 21 would have been the 100th birthday of Martin Gardner, who many think of as “the father of modern skepticism.” In commemoration, Skeptical Inquirer has published several of Gardner’s classic articles for the magazine in a special online collection. At the Free Thinking blog, our director of libraries Tim Binga looks back on Gardner’s work and how it has been preserved. 

●   Our legal director Nick Little guest-posts at the Alliance for Justice’s website on religious rights in the context of prisons. 

●   At our Safe and Secular blog, Ed Beck takes a look at new data on Canadians’ views of assisted dying, showing overwhelming support, with religious beliefs being a major differentiator in poll responses.

●   Michael De Dora, back from his work in Geneva at the UN Human Rights Council, gives a recap of last month’s policy work at CFI. As always, there was a lot of activity on all fronts.

●   In Skeptical Inquirer, Charles M. Wynn Sr. looks to bridge divides between science and religion by encouraging practitioners of both to see the parallels and similarities between them. “No one is immune from at least some reluctance to be wrong.”  

●   At the CFI Free Thinking blog, our director of education David Koepsell looks at how we manage work and life in the 21st century and wonders at “a two-hundred-fifty year old model of work and leisure that is no longer workable, not realistic, nor even necessary.”  

And of course, you can keep up with news relevant to skeptics and seculars every weekday with The Morning Heresy.

CFI in the Media


●   At VICE, CFI–DC’s Simon Davis explores rituals of suffering (like the Ice Bucket Challenge) in an interview with anthropologist Dimitris Xygalatas, and examines the panic over the virus that’s not Ebola, enterovirus D68, with an interview with virologist Vincent Racaniello.

●   Brandon Withrow of Toledo Faith & Values attended the big CFI–Northeast Ohio conference “Science Peers into the Future” and brought back a most excellent report

●   The Daily Journal profiles our own Reba Boyd Wooden, director of CFI–Indiana, on her work as the head of our Secular Celebrant program (it’s paywalled, but with nice pictures). 

●   Longreads.com has a reading list of articles about leaving one’s faith behind and includes a piece by Dean Roth, who founded the Beyond Faith support group with CFI–NYC


Upcoming CFI Events

October 18:

     •  A Secular Celebrant training workshop will be held in Indianapolis at CFI–Indiana.

October 19:

     •  CFI Board Chair and veteran secular activist Edward Tabash speaks to CFI–Los Angeles on “The Religious Right: Stronger Than Ever Before.”

October 21:

     •  CFI–NYC holds a panel discussion on “the day-to-day challenges and victories of living a secular life in a faith-based society,” with participants Chris Stedman, Leighann Lord, Don Albert, and Rev. Kathleen Green.

October 25:

     •  CFI–Indiana celebrates its 15th anniversary with an open house.

November 8:

     •  CFI–DC holds its Eighth Anniversary Celebration & Fundraiser, with Jeff Sharlet and Leighann Lord.


Don’t forget to SAVE THE DATE for CFI’s 2015 National Conference! Mark June 11–14, 2015, on your calendars—it’s time to come home. Join us in Amherst, New York, next summer for our biggest conference of the year, a reunion of skeptics, seculars, humanists, and atheists, all coming together where it all began—the headquarters of the CFI family of organizations, where Free Inquiry and Skeptical Inquirer were launched thirty-five and (almost) forty years ago. Stay tuned for more details.

Thank you!

Everything we do at CFI is made possible by you and your support. Let’s keep working together for science, reason, and secular values.  Donate today!

I Support Reason, Science, and Freedom of InquiryFortnightly updates not enough? Of course they’re not.

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Cause & Effect: The Center for Inquiry Newsletter
is edited by Paul Fidalgo, Center for Inquiry communications director.

The Center for Inquiry (CFI) is a nonprofit educational, advocacy, and research organization headquartered in Amherst, New York, with executive offices in
Washington, D.C. It is also home to both the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry and the Council for Secular Humanism. The mission of CFI is to foster a
secular society based on science, reason, freedom of inquiry, and humanist values. CFI’s web address is www.centerforinquiry.net.


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The National Union of Students’ National Executive Committee has rejected a motion condemning the Islamic State and endorsing solidarity with the Kurds and Iraqi people after opponents branded it “Islamophobic”.

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A school placed in special measures following the Birmingham ‘Trojan Horse’ affair has received 100 letters from parents requesting that their children be withdrawn from collective worship, it has emerged.

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Ofsted has denied claims that it acted inappropriately after an association of Orthodox schools accused it of leaving young girls “traumatised” following a school inspection.

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A Christian academic has called for special “conscience clauses” for Christians in laws of which they do not approve.

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