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FFRF announces $300,000 secular studies endowment at Pitzer College



The Freedom From Religion Foundation is delighted to announce the FFRF Secular Studies Endowment at Pitzer College in Claremont, Calif., the trailblazing home of the country’s first Secular Studies program.

The $300,000 gift, made possible thanks to a bequest by FFRF member and ardent atheist Kenneth L. Proulx, will help the Secular Studies program fulfill its mission to increase understanding of — and disseminate knowledge about — secularism, atheism, agnosticism, humanism, naturalism and freethought in societies and cultures, past and present.

Pitzer College, which is part of the Claremont Colleges, was the first college in the United States to inaugurate a Secular Studies program in 2011. Annually, more than 200 students take a secular studies course. Initiated by Professor of Sociology and Secular Studies Phil Zuckerman, the program has six affiliated faculty members representing the fields of history, philosophy, religion, science and sociology. Course offerings include “Sociology of Secularity,” “God, Darwin and Design in America,” “Fundamentalism and Rationalism” and “Anxiety in the Age of Reason.”

Pitzer’s Secular Studies program has an outsized reach, thanks to Zuckerman, founder of the program and an associate dean at Pitzer. Zuckerman has written a number of popular and academic books and papers on secularity, including Society Without God: What the Least Religious Nations Can Tell Us About Contentment (2008), Atheism and Secularity (2010), Living the Secular Life (2014), The Nonreligious: Understanding Secular People and Societies (2016), The Oxford Handbook of Secularism (with John Shook) (2017) and What It Means to Be Moral (2019). He’s a frequent contributor to Salon, the Los Angeles Times, Free Inquiry and Freethought Today.

“This amazing grant aligns perfectly with the goals of both FFRF and the Secular Studies program: to support education around secularism, atheism, and humanism,” comments Zuckerman. “It will help generate more course offerings, student and faculty research and campus programming. I am both thrilled and honored.”

The purpose of the endowment is to broaden, develop and innovate the study of nonreligious people, groups, movements, thought and cultural expressions and increase the canon of scholarship and scope of visibility of secularity.

A wide range of activities and initiatives supported by FFRF’s endowment are envisioned over the years, including course development, research stipends, student travel, distinguished speakers and panelists, symposia or conferences. The college envisions FFRF’s endowment as a lead gift in a goal to someday establish a Center of Secular Studies at Pitzer College.

“FFRF is so pleased to support the critical work of Pitzer’s Secular Studies program,” says Annie Laurie Gaylor, FFRF co-president, “because it values the study of the impact of freethought and skepticism here and worldwide. We consider Phil Zuckerman to be a national freethought treasure.”

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national nonprofit organization with more than 35,000 members and several chapters across the country. FFRF’s purposes are to protect the constitutional principle of separation between church and state, and to educate the public on matters relating to nontheism.

Pitzer College is a top-ranked liberal arts and sciences college located in Claremont, Calif. Its Secular Studies program is an interdisciplinary program focusing on manifestations of the secular in societies and cultures, past and present.

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