Tom Flynn

On this date in 1955, author and editor Thomas W. Flynn was born to Sally (McCarty) and Richard Flynn in Erie, Pa. He was the only child of two only children who “kept a fairly strict Catholic household,” he later said. He earned a bachelor’s degree at Xavier University, a Jesuit school in Cincinnati, before renouncing Catholicism while living in Milwaukee and reading the Dresden Edition of “The Works of Robert G. Ingersoll” (“The Trouble With Christmas” by Tom Flynn)

Flynn worked as a corporate and industrial filmmaker and as an advertising account executive. He volunteered with the Council for Democratic and Secular Humanism (later the Council for Secular Humanism) in Buffalo, N.Y. He joined council staff in 1989, was named editor of Free Inquiry in 2000 and became executive director in 2009. He designed and directed the Robert Ingersoll Birthplace Museum, which opened in 1993 at Ingersoll’s home in Dresden, N.Y.

In “The Trouble with Christmas” (1993), described as a “deep dive into Christian history,” Flynn said he “pulled the plug on Christmas” in 1984. One chapter is titled “The Babe and the Bathwater.” In a “Point of Inquiry” interview (Nov. 14, 2011), he said, “If you’re a serious atheist and you know, you no longer worship the babe, sooner or later you let go of the bathwater, and that’s what I did.”

“What do you do on Christmas?” was one of the four recurring questions Flynn got from Christian challengers. The others: 1.) If there’s no god, how did you/living things/the universe get here? 2.) If there’s no hell, what keeps you from robbing/raping/killing to your heart’s content? 3.) Without a supernatural order, isn’t your life drab and meaningless? (Blog entry, “A Seasonal Reflection,” Dec. 16, 2016)

Flynn blogged for the Center for Inquiry as “Advocatus Diaboli” from 2008 to 2017. He wrote two satirical science fiction novels: “Galactic Rapture” (2000), about the rise of a false messiah on a ruined, quarantined world, and its sequel four years later, “Nothing Sacred.” He edited “The New Encyclopedia of Unbelief” (897 pages, 2007).

He died unexpectedly at age 66 while living with his wife Susan Gibbons in Williamsville, N.Y. (D. 2021)

Freedom From Religion Foundation