Center for Inquiry

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Paul Kurtz was the founder of the Center for Inquiry.

The Center for Inquiry (CFI) is a nonprofit organization. Its main mission is to foster a secular society based on secular humanist values. CFI has headquarters in Amhurst, New York and Washington, DC,[1] and also has number of locations around the world.

The Center for Inquiry was founded in 1991 by Paul Kurtz and was formed by the combining of two similarly focused organizations. Namely, the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP) and the Council for Secular Humanism.

The main programs are the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry and the Council for Secular Humanism, along with the Office of Public Policy, CFI On Campus, African Americans for Humanism, and the CFI Institute.[1] The CFI Institute partners with the Graduate School of Education of the State University of New York at Buffalo to offering the accredited Ed.M. program in Science and the Public, available entirely online.[2]

CFI has numerous publications, including: Skeptical Inquirer and the Council for Secular Humanism's Free Inquiry (with a combined readership of nearly 100,000). Additional magazines at CFI are read in the U.S. (The American Rationalist), United Kingdom (The Skeptic), and Perú (New Skepticism, and The Journal of Applied Philosophy).[3] Philo: A Journal of Philosophy is a peer-reviewed academic journal which publishes original articles in all fields of philosophy. The Scientific Review of Mental Health Practice is a peer-reviewed journal in clinical psychology, psychiatry, social work, and allied disciplines.[2] CFI has a 70,000 volume library.

CFI promotes the celebration of Charles Darwin Day and Carl Sagan Day.[4] Through the Council for Secular Humanism, CFI operates the Robert Green Ingersoll Birthplace Museum at his first home in Dresden, New York.[5]

For 2015, CFI reported gross income of $5.1 million and assets at the end of that year of $1.6 million. President Ronald Lindsay drew a salary of $99,215.[6]

Center for Inquiry and accusations of sexism

See also: Atheism and sexism

A 2011 portrait of Rebecca Watson

In The Nation, Katha Pollitt wrote in ther article Atheists Show Their Sexist Side:

At the 2013 Women in Secularism conference, Ron Lindsay, CEO of the Center for Inquiry, gave what was widely regarded as a condescending lecture to the women in attendance, accusing them of feminist bullying. (After a huge outcry, he apologized. That was good.)[7]

Center for Inquiry accused of sexism by atheist Rebecca Watson

See also: Atheism and women

According to the atheist Rebecca Watson, the atheist Lawrence Krauss sexually harassed several women onboard a cruise ship conducted by the Center for Inquiry.[8] Specifically, Watson said Krauss propositioned the woman to engage in a threesome and the woman complained to CFI about the matter.[9]

Rebecca Watson indicates the CFI decided to bury this complaint and allowed Krauss to be on one of its subsequent cruises.[10]

Center for Inquiry and its lack of racial diversity

Sikivu Hutchinson criticizes Center for Inquiry's all white board of directors

See also: Western atheism and race and Atheism and racism

In 2016, the Center for Inquiry and the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science merged with the merger completed on December 31, 2016. Richard Dawkins and two of his board members joined the CFI Board.[1]

Sikivu Hutchinson speaking at the Center for Inquiry.

See also: Western atheism and race and Atheism and leadership

Atheist Sikivu Hutchinson wrote:

The recent merger of the secular organization Center for Inquiry (CFI) and the Richard Dawkins Foundation (RDF) has been dubbed atheism's supergroup moment. Acknowledging the two organizations' outsized presence in the atheist world, Religion News Service acidly declared it a "royal wedding". The partnership, which gives Richard Dawkins a seat on the CFI board, smacks of a vindication of Dawkins' toxic, reactionary brand of damn-all-them-culturally-backward-Western-values-hating- Muslims New Atheism. As one of the most prominent global secular organizations, CFI's all-white board looks right at home with RDF's lily white board and staff.[11]

The secular humanist document Human Manifesto II, which was written in 1973 by Paul Kurtz and Edwin H. Wilson, decried racism and it declared:

The beginnings of police states, even in democratic societies, widespread government espionage, and other abuses of power by military, political, and industrial elites, and the continuance of unyielding racism, all present a different and difficult social outlook. In various societies, the demands of women and minority groups for equal rights effectively challenge our generation.[12]

Atheist Kavin Senapathy on Center for Inquiry's lack of racial diversity

The atheist Kavin Senapathy wrote on the Center for Inquiry's lack of racial diversity

Last October, however, I received a letter from CFI suggesting that “we part ways” and dismissing me from my role as co-host of Point of Inquiry. I believe the dismissal was a response to my outspoken views on CFI’s negligence toward matters of race and diversity — issues that the organization has often sidestepped in the past. If that is indeed the case, it sends a discouraging message. At a moment when racist pseudoscience is making a disturbing comeback, skeptics shouldn’t shy away from talking about race — and we can’t afford to overlook the white privilege among our own ranks.

THE CENTER for Inquiry has frequently been criticized for its indifference to matters of race, diversity, and social justice. That indifference is reflected in its demographics. At the last three CSIcons, I was the only non-white presenter in the lineup. The Center’s 10-member board of directors includes just one non-white person and two women.[13]

In response to atheist Kavin Senapathy's criticism of CFI's lack of racial diversity, CFI pulled all the articles/episodes of Senapathy from their website.[14]

Center for Inquiry's website loss of Google referral web traffic

See also: Internet atheism

The Center for Inquiry's website lost a large majority of its Google referral web traffic from its peak Google referral traffic according to the leading web marketing website SEMRush.

Google uses over 200 factors to evaluate the quality and the relevance of a website to various topics.

Demographics of web visitors to the Center for Inquiry website. Majority of its web visitors are men

See also: Atheist websites appear to receive significantly less traffic from women

According to, the Center for Inquiry website receives a majority of its web traffic from men.[15]

Richard Dawkins and Center for Inquiry translation project to reach more Muslims

See also: The Translations Project and Atheism vs. Islam and The God Delusion

The Guardian reported about Richard Dawkins' book The God Delusion:

Richard Dawkins is responding to what he called the “stirring towards atheism” in some Islamic countries with a programme to make free downloads of his books available in Arabic, Urdu, Farsi and Indonesian.

The scientist and atheist said he was “greatly encouraged” to learn that the unofficial Arabic pdf of the book had been downloaded 13m times. Dawkins writes in The God Delusion about his wish that the “open-minded people” who read it will “break free of the vice of religion altogether”. It has sold 3.3m copies worldwide since it was published in 2006 – far fewer than the number of Arabic copies that Dawkins believes to have been downloaded illegally.

The Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science recently merged with the Washington DC-based Center for Inquiry. Dawkins said the CFI decided on “a more systematic programme” of translating his work in ebook form following “stirrings toward atheism in Iran and other Islamic countries”. It will be the first time his work has been made available in Arabic, Urdu, Farsi and other languages of Islamic countries.[16]

The Center for Inquiry indicates on its website:

Announcing The Translations Project, a program of the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science, part of the Center for Inquiry.

The books of Richard Dawkins—including River Out of Eden, The Magic of Reality, The Blind Watchmaker, and The God Delusion—are being professionally translated into languages such as Arabic, Urdu, Farsi, and Indonesian and made available to download free of charge.[17]

Richard Dawkins' Twitter post about a video comparing feminism to radical Islam

See also: Atheism vs. Islam

Stephanie Zvan is an atheist blogger at Freethought Blogs. She wrote an open letter to the Center for Inquiry about the events surrounding the Dawkins' Twitter post relating to a video comparing feminism to radical Islam that "CFI now has a harassment denialist on its board, a harassment denialist who has tied his denialism to his work at your organization."[18]

For more information, please see: Dawkins' disinvitation to speak at a skeptics conference due to a feminism/Islam controversy

Center for Inquiry's infighting and ouster of founder Paul Kurtz

See also: Atheist factions

Paul Kurtz's former office at the Center for Inquiry Transnational, Amherst, NY

Currently, there is an ideological struggle within the secular humanism faction of atheism concerning how militant the movement should be which primarily arose post New Atheism movement which is a more militant form of atheism. (see also: Militant atheism and Atheist factions). Paul Kurtz was against the secular humanism movement becoming more militant but some newer followers of secular humanism disagree with Kurtz.[19]

Austin Dacey, a United Nations representative for Center for Inquiry and figure in the Atheism 3.0 movement criticized the New Atheism movement for insisting on the removal of religion from the public square on grounds that doing so would shield religion from criticism and circumvent debate on morality.[20]

On October 10, 2010, a contentious exchange between members of the Secular Humanism faction of atheism founded by Paul Kurtz and the atheist Ron Lindsay was caught on tape.Video - Part oneVideo - Part 2 During the exchange Ron Lindsay said that infighting has been occurring within the Secular Humanism faction of atheism for years.[21]

A Paul Kurtz supporter said that Kurtz was censored by Ron Lindsay and his supporters and driven out of the organization that he founded (Center for Inquiry).[22]

Lindsay claimed, however, that Kurtz voluntarily resigned from the organization he founded and Kurtz was never censored. Furthermore, Lindsay said that Kurtz's idea of a "planetary federation" was impractical.[22] Kurtz countered that he was never allowed to publish why he resigned from the organization and that he was censored by the organization that he founded.[22]

Criticism of the Center for Inquiry in relation to its financial management

See also: Atheist organizations and scandals

David Gorski at Scienceblogs wrote about atheist/skeptic organizations and financial mismanagement:

In any case, this makes me wonder: What is it about rationalist/skeptic groups that make them seemingly have such a hard time running their organizations well from a financial standpoint? After all, just a couple of months ago the Center for Inquiry (CFI) sent out letters desperately begging for more contributions. The reason was that CFI had one large benefactor whose yearly contribution funded approximately 20-25% of the yearly CFI budget. As clueless as I may be about finances, even I know that you don’t use such donations to run the operating expenses of an organization, because you can’t count on them from year to year and it’s too big a chunk. You use this money for special short-term projects and a rainy day fund. Not surprisingly, when this mysterious donor stopped donating earlier this year, suddently CFI was in deep doo-doo from a financial standpoint, prompting the desperate plea for donations and deep budget cuts. I realize that the down economy has played havoc with many nonprofit and charitable organizations, but these issues with skeptical organizations seem to go beyond just that.[23]

Richard Dawkins, who is on the Center of Inquiry's board of editors, accused one of the staff of the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science of embezzlement.[24] See: Atheist organizations and scandals and Atheism and stealing

Center for Inquiry's affiliated programs

  • The Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (CSI)
  • Council for Secular Humanism
  • Secular Islam [25]
  • CFI On Campus [26]
  • The Freethought Books Project - Disseminates atheist/skeptic literature to prison inmates[27]

See also

External links


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Two Great Freethought Organizations Are Now One (December 31, 2016). Retrieved on January 10, 2017.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Education. Retrieved on January 10, 2017.
  3. Publications and Libraries. Retrieved on January 10, 2017.
  4. "CFI 2014 Annual Report", p. 6. Retrieved on January 10, 2017. 
  5. "CFI 2014 Annual Report", p. 11. Retrieved on January 10, 2017. 
  6. Center for Inquiry IRS Form 990 (PDF). Retrieved on January 10, 2017.
  7. Atheists Show Their Sexist Side by Katha Pollitt, The Nation
  8. Jeffrey Epstein, Lawrence Krauss, and Firing your Heroes into the Sun" by Rebecca Watson
  9. Jeffrey Epstein, Lawrence Krauss, and Firing your Heroes into the Sun" by Rebecca Watson
  10. Jeffrey Epstein, Lawrence Krauss, and Firing your Heroes into the Sun" by Rebecca Watson
  11. #AtheismSoWhite: Atheists of Color Rock Social Justice by Sikivu Hutchinson
  12. Humanist Manifesto II
  13. Opinion: The Skeptics Movement Can’t Afford to Ignore Racial Inequality by Kavin Senapathy
  14. The depth of CFI’s commitment to free speech can only be measured with an atomic force microscope by PZ Myers
  15. Demographics of web visitors to the Center for Inquiry website -
  16. Richard Dawkins to give away copies of The God Delusion in Islamic countries, The Guardian
  17. The Books of Richard Dawkins, Professionally Translated for Free Access in the Muslim World, Center for Inquiry website
  18. Dawkins Goes Denialist: An Open Letter to the CFI Board by Stephanie Zvan at Freethought Blogs
  19. Redirecting a Long Life of Godlessness
  20. Multiple references:
    Ledewitz, Bruce (2011). Church, State, and the Crisis in American Secularism. Indiana University Press. Retrieved on 23 July 2011. “And Burke also refers to Austin Dacey, who wants religion to be free to remain in the public square, in part at least, "to criticize it."” 
    • Burke, Daniel. "Atheism 3.0 finds a little more room for religion", USA Today, 19 October 2009. “Atheists who insist that religion be removed from the public square are doing themselves a disservice, argues Austin Dacey, a former United Nations representative for the staunchly secularist Center for Inquiry and author of The Secular Conscience: Why Belief Belongs in Public Life. A godless public square not only shields religion from public criticism, it also circumvents a broader debate on morality, he argues.” 
  21. Kurtz and Ron Lindsay Argument Audio Part Two
  22. 22.0 22.1 22.2 Kurtz and Ron Lindsay Argument Audio Part Two
  23. Richard Dawkins sues Josh Timonen, Posted by David Gorski on October 24, 2010
  24. An ungodly row: Dawkins sues his disciple
  25. About Secular Islam
  26. CFI On Campus
  27. About the Freethought Books Project