* * * UPDATE: Read Dr. Roy’s final article for Free Inquiry, to be published in the upcoming April/May issue: “The Virus of Faith.” [PDF] * * *
We at the Center for Inquiry are shocked and heartbroken by the brutal murder of our friend Dr. Avijit Roy in Bangladesh, it is speculated at the hands of
Islamic militants. Dr. Roy was a true ally, a courageous and eloquent defender of reason, science, and free expression, in a country where those values
have been under heavy attack.
Dr. Roy was the founder of the website Mukto-mona, an online network of freethinkers of mainly Bengali and
South Asian descent, as well as the author of several books, and a contributor to our own magazine Free Inquiry and our Free Thinking
blog. When seven Bangladeshi atheist bloggers were arrested for blasphemy in 2013, Dr. Roy worked closely with us to connect us with the bloggers and their
families, focus the international community’s attention on the injustice, and help organize and promote protests around the world.
According to news reports, Dr. Roy and his wife Rafida Ahmed Bonna, also a freethought writer, were attacked while leaving a book fair at Dhaka University by several unidentified
assailants, who witnesses say “hacked at them mercilessly.” Both were brought to Dhaka Medical College Hospital where Dr. Roy died, and Bonna is being
treated for her severe injuries. Dr. Roy has long been at the receiving end of death threats, been publicly accused of “defaming Islam,” and violence
against him has been encouraged by Islamic militants.
“I cannot overstate how great a loss this is,” said Michael De Dora, CFI’s chief UN representative and friend of Dr. Roy. “Avijit was brilliant, yes, and a devoted advocate of free expression and secularism, but also just a very good person. Avijit was
an inspiration to countless other freethinkers, in Bangladesh and around the world, and he was an inspiration to me. I valued our friendship deeply, as I
valued his contributions to our shared mission. I will miss him, and the global freethought community will feel the impact of his loss. His example will no
doubt continue to shine.”
The Center for Inquiry urges the authorities of Dhaka and Bangladesh to thoroughly investigate this crime and bring the perpetrators to justice. While it
is not known for certain what motivated this attack, surely this tragedy must spur a serious discussion among officials in Bangladesh about free
expression, and the roots of the kind of violent extremism that would so brutally take away such a valued member of its society.
We extend our deepest condolences to Rafida Ahmed Bonna, and we sincerely hope she receives both justice and a quick and full recovery.
Read Dr. Roy’s Free Inquiry article, co-authored with his daughter Trisha Ahmed: “Freethought Under Attack in Bangladesh”
Read Dr. Roy’s guest post at our Free Thinking blog: “No Flag Large Enough to Cover the Shame”
* * *
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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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
New York Times Covers CSI on Skeptics vs. Science Deniers
At the end of 2014, almost fifty fellows of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (a program of the Center for Inquiry) signed a joint statement, drafted by physicist Mark Boslough, urging the media to refrain from referring to those who refuse to accept the reality of climate change as “skeptics,” and instead label them by what they are: science deniers. With names like Bill Nye, Ann Druyan, and Lawrence Krauss attached to the statement, many media outlets took note, including the Washington Post, National Journal, and ThinkProgress.
Thanks in large part to the supporting efforts of our allies such as Forecast the Facts, and also due to the more recent controversy over those who reject the science behind vaccinations, the call to rescue the word skeptic from science deniers has continued to spur debate and conversation well into 2015. Last week, that conversation reached the New York Times, where columnist Justin Gillis covered the debate, and refered to the positions of climate change “contrarians” as “scientifically ludicrous.” This engendered further attention from Joe Romm at ThinkProgress, Ross Pomeroy at RealClearScience, and the editors of the Montreal Telegram, and now it seems likely that this is a topic of discussion that has only begun, and it’s an argument we are well positioned to win.
Come to REASON FOR CHANGE in Buffalo (After the Snow Melts, of Course)
Yes, there is a good chance that you live in a part of the U.S. that is absolutely overwhelmed with snow. CFI’s headquarters in Buffalo is no exception (and perhaps the exemplar). But don’t forget: summer is only a few months away. The snow will melt, the sun will shine (even in Buffalo!), and before you know it, it’ll be time for our big Reason for Change conference! It’s happening June 11–15, 2015, in Buffalo, with featured speakers that include Rebecca Goldstein, Susan Jacoby, Richard Dawkins, Phil Zuckerman, Michael Specter, and Leighann Lord, among a whole host of other brilliant experts, activists, and thinkers.
And when the sun does shine over Western New York, it means all of the extra events surrounding the main conference will be all the more enjoyable, with Niagara Falls, the Freethought Trail, and motor coach tours of historic Buffalo.
We’ve been posting news about the conference, as well as showcasing particular speakers and events, at the conference’s official website. You can follow all of it, just like a regular blog, on Tumblr. You can stay up to date with all the action by clicking the “+ FOLLOW” button on the upper right of the conference website. The complete schedule of events has just been posted, and when you see it, you’ll see why this conference is going to be like no other.
So don’t let the snow distract you—don’t put off saving your place at this unmissable event! Register right now!
Terror, Violence, and the Challenge to the Freedom
Religion and terror were horribly intertwined over the past couple of weeks, as deeply shocking instances of murderous violence spurred at least in part by religious differences rattled the world: twenty-one Egyptian Coptic Christians beheaded by Islamic State jihadists in Libya; two people killed and more wounded by an Islamic radical in Copenhagen during a discussion on blasphemy; and three young Muslim students in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, were murdered by a man who professed to be an “anti-theist.”
On Chapel Hill specifically, CFI’s president and CEO, Ron Lindsay, talked to Michelle Boorstein of the Washington Post about the tense relations between atheism and Islam. At our Free Thinking blog, Michael De Dora advises that the secular community try to learn from the tragedy without taking ownership or placing blame on anyone other than the shooter.
While each act of violence was technically unrelated to the others, they all share a common theme of utter intolerance of those whose beliefs are different, and therefore unacceptable, to the perpetrators. In each case, an absolute refusal to coexist with those who hold different ideas about the practice or discussion of religion led to terror and death. We sadly found ourselves releasing two statements in as many weeks to respond to and reflect on these events.
After the events in Copenhagen and Libya, we declared that these tragedies would not dampen our resolve. “We will, as we always have, remain steadfast in our pursuit of the right to free expression and belief for all, whether or not we agree with those beliefs. We will continue to champion the right to satire, blasphemy, and all manner of peaceful criticism of religion and other sacredly held ideas.” And after the Chapel Hill murders, Ron Lindsay said, “Despite our differences in beliefs, we are all part of the global human community, and we are all responsible for each other.”
News from HQ and the CFI Community
Point of Inquiry, the Podcast for Body and Soul
Point of Inquiry, the flagship podcast of CFI, has spent the last couple of weeks demystifying two often-inscrutable subjects: sex and the soul.
Josh Zepps has a fascinating conversation with psychology professor Julien Musolino, author of The Soul Fallacy: What Science Shows We Gain From Letting Go of Our Soul Beliefs. They discuss the nonexistence of any kind of immortal essence within us, and how belief in such a thing only holds us as a species back.
From the spiritual to the bodily, Lindsay Beyerstein welcomes YouTube sex-ed star Laci Green to dispel all manner of myths about the social and biological aspects of sex. It’s a very frank conversation indeed, as well as a funny one, which made it just perfect for Valentine’s Day.
Learn the Ropes of Freethought Activism: Be a CFI Intern!
If you’re a student, or you know a student who’s smart, curious, and skeptical, we’ve got a number of great opportunities to get involved in the freethought movement while getting some serious experience in leadership and organizing.
Our outreach team at CFI headquarters in Amherst, NY, is looking for two summer interns who will be trained in campus outreach, grassroots organizing, event planning, management, and other skills useful in nonprofit advocacy.
In addition, CFI’s Office of Public Policy in Washington, DC, is looking for one intern to get experience in formal political lobbying, grassroots organizing, international relations, networking, event planning, and other related skills.
Finally, CFI–Michigan has no fewer than five exciting internship positions available in Grand Rapids!
Our previous interns have been truly stellar and continue to make our community proud. Come join us! Learn more about these internship programs here.
Secular Celebrant Bill Introduced in Ohio Senate
CFI–Northeast Ohio is taking secular activism right to the Statehouse as they champion a new bill in the Ohio Senate that would allow Secular Celebrants, such as those certified by CFI, to solemnize marriages. Nonreligious Americans scored a major victory for equality last year when a federal district court declared that the state of Indiana could not bar couples with secular worldviews from having their marriages solemnized by a Secular Celebrant. The introduction of Ohio’s SB-50, brought by State Sen. Michael J. Skindell, is part of the next big step in this march to equal treatment of nonbelievers. The news was covered by the Associated Press and Ohio public radio. If you live in Ohio, you can help make this bill a reality by responding to our action alert and contacting your state senator.
Camp Inquiry 2015 Announced!
A jewel in the crown of CFI is our annual Camp Inquiry, a weeklong adventure for kids emphasizing discovery, fun, and critical thinking at beautiful Camp Seven Hills in Holland, NY, August 2–8. The theme for Camp Inquiry 2015 is “To Believe or Not to Believe,” looking at ways young people can deal with the barrage of information they consume day after day in the digital age and how they can determine for themselves what’s true, what’s false, and what’s just noise. Check out CampInquiry.org for more information. Registration starts soon!
CFI in the Media
● CFI Communications Director Paul Fidalgo talks to Iain Thomson at The Register about Prince Charles‘s reported advocacy of Raif Badawi in Saudi Arabia, and our disappointment that such advocacy did not come from the President of the United States.
● CFI–Los Angeles Executive Director Jim Underdown has been on the podcast scene, as a guest on The Thinking Atheist podcast, along with “Skepdoc” Harriet Hall and “Science Babe” Yvette Guinevere, and on The Momo Show, with hosts Mo Gaffney and Morgan Walsh.
● MLive covers CFI–Michigan‘s involvement in a dispute over a religious sign in a public park, with quotes from Assistant Director Jennifer Beahan.
● Covered by The Guardian: CFI’s Michael De Dora joins figures such as Richard Dawkins, Carolyn Porco, Hemant Mehta, Daniel Dennett, and others to urge the Irish government to hold a referendum on its blasphemy law.
● The Ocean County Register learns about the myths surrounding Friday the 13th from our own Joe Nickell.
● The Christian Times covers CFI’s opposition to an Indiana bill giving faith-based organizations getting state funding to discriminate in hiring based on religion.
● Coastal Carolina University’s paper The Chanticleer introduces its readers to African Americans for Humanism.
Highlights from CFI on the Web
● At the Huffington Post, Ron Lindsay argues that President Obama’s alleged prevarications about his support (or lack thereof) of same-sex marriage are far more serious than the tall tales of NBC news anchor Brian Williams, a mere TV personality. “Either we strive for a democracy in which the candidates are honest with the voters, or we should strip away all pretense and just treat political campaigns as carnivals in which the candidates are rival barkers, spinning fabulous tales about what lies inside the tent, and we, the citizenry, are the marks.”
● Skeptical Inquirer posts its cover feature by Harriet Hall, which looks at 44 separate anti-science, “doctor-bashing” arguments and picks them apart one by one.
● CFI Legal Director Nick Little takes a tough look at the actions of Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore and his threats to punish state judges who issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Nick says such brazen rejection of federal authority could amount to “insurrection,” and if so, “he should be arrested, charged, and tried.”
● CFI Education Director David Koepsell looks at the interference of politics and commercial interests with academia and holds out hope that “Enlightenment values” can still be realized “through innovative new manners of research and dissemination of knowledge.”
● CFI–UK’s Stephen Law, meanwhile, sees enlightenment as a kind of inoculation, writing, “If we want to protect young people from being indoctrinated into … poisonous belief systems, our best defence is not to get our own indoctrination in first, but rather to give each of them some immunity to that sort of indoctrination.”
● Ben Radford critically examines the claims made by dating site eHarmony of being scientifically sound and also makes a case study of media misinformation of an episode of PBS’s Nova.
● Joe Nickell weighs in on the recent investigations into bogus “nutritional supplements” being hawked by major retailers.
And of course, you can keep up with news relevant to skeptics and seculars every weekday with The Morning Heresy.
Upcoming CFI Events
● CFI–Indiana screens a collection of short films on the realities of homelessness.
● Day of Solidarity for Black Nonbelievers. Several events are planned with CFI branches and other groups, including CFI–DC and CFI–Northeast Ohio.
● Ron Lindsay discusses the Religious Freedom Restoration Act with CFI–Austin.
● Meredith Osborne speaks to CFI-Michigan about The Innocence Project, which looks to exonerate those convicted of crimes using DNA evidence.
● CFI–Los Angeles hosts a screening of the film Dear White People.
● Ron Lindsay is a featured speaker at the Texas Secular Convention.
● Pulitzer Prize–winning historian Edward J. Larson presents on the topic of George Washington and the religion of the Founding Fathers to CFI–Los Angeles.
● Ron Lindsay discusses his book The Necessity of Secularism with CFI–Fort Lauderdale.
● Ron Lindsay brings his lecture tour to CFI–Tampa Bay.
● Ron Lindsay presents to CFI–Tallahassee.
● Douglas E. Hill talks about pyramid and Ponzi schemes with CFI–Orange County.
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!
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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.
Continue reading …