Paul Kurtz

On this date in 1925, Paul Kurtz was born in Newark, N.J. He became a philosopher and self-described skeptic who was a strong advocate for science and reason over all forms of superstition. Kurtz earned his undergraduate degree from New York University in 1948, and then his master's and Ph.D in philosophy from Columbia University in 1952. He taught philosophy at the State University in New York at Buffalo for over 25 years. He wrote over 40 books and founded Prometheus Books, a publishing house, in 1969. His books include Meaning and Value in a Secular Age: Why Eupraxsophy Matters (2012), Forbidden Fruit: The Ethics of Secularism (2008), The New Skepticism: Inquiry and Reliable Knowledge (1992), and In Defense of Secular Humanism (1983). Kurtz was a leader in the humanist community. The Center for Free Inquiry, which focuses on creating a secular society based on humanism and reason, was founded by Kurtz in 1991. He was also the editor of Free Inquiry magazine, founded the Center for Inquiry Transnational, and had a hand in many other humanist organizations and publications.

Kurtz enlisted in the army to fight in WWII when he was 17. He fought in the Battle of the Bulge and witnessed two concentration camps, Buchenwald and Dachau. Kurtz married Claudine Vial in 1960, and together they had four children: Valerie, Patricia, Anne, and Jonathan. Kurtz wrote in his essay The Faith of an Empathetic Humanist, “We are not confined by our planet or solar system, but are capable of exploring galactic space. Our true identity is universal; we are not defined by the isms of the past, as Christian or Jew, Hindu or Muslim, nonbeliever or believer. Rather we are defined by our humanity.” (Paul Kurtz, The Faith of an Empathetic Humanist from D. 2012.

Photo by Center for Inquiry under CC 3.0

“The key to understanding who and what we are is that our futures, as individuals, societies or cultures, are not fixed or pre-ordained by some hidden hand of god; that what will become of us depends in part on what we choose to become.”

—Paul Kurtz, “The Faith of an Empathetic Humanist” from

Compiled by Sarah Eucalano

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