Here is my latest Beliefs column, from The New York Times. It is the first of a two-part series, the second to run in two weeks. Key quotation:
Mr. Kurtz, an 84-year-old who names his dogs for free thinkers throughout history, is the exiled founder of the Center for Inquiry, which is devoted to promoting humanism and criticizing religion. He founded the center’s two affiliates: the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, which investigates claims of the paranormal, like U.F.O. sightings and mental telepathy, and the Council for Secular Humanism, which promotes ethics and values without God.
And he started two magazines and a publishing house, Prometheus Books.
There are more famous opponents of supernaturalism, but none is an institution-builder like Mr. Kurtz, a retired philosophy professor. The Center for Inquiry, which assumed its name in 1991, until recently shared a budget of more than $6 million with its affiliates, and it supports campus groups, a West Coast office and branches in many American cities and in countries like England, Peru and Poland.
Which makes Mr. Kurtz’s fall Lear-like.
The rest is here.
Starting Monday evening, my debate with uber-atheist Sam Harris will go live at Economist.com, in their terrific series of online debates. Make sure to check it out, and have a good weekend. (Note: if you go to TheEconomist.com, using the definite article, you will have to look at a picture of Alan Greenspan.)
Raising vegetarian children is a topic I have written about before, somewhat sheepishly, as a vegetarian who lapses once a month or so. Now comes this much better piece, in that it is more sophisticated, from a publication of the Harvard Graduate School of Education (which they charmingly refer to as "HUGSE," pronounced hugsey). A bit of it here:
And, of course, the bigger, lagging question, he said, is why do independent vegetarians make the decision not to eat meat in the first place? He initially thought these children might have a special affection toward animals. But with pet ownership so widespread, even among meat eaters, that explanation is unlikely. Other possibilities, proposed by Harris and audience members, were that independent vegetarians have a greater understanding of suffering or are born as vegetarians. Harris also offered one more suggestion.
"Most of us receive an enormous number of messages that eating meat is a good thing, one associated with celebrations," he said. "Most of us who eat meat and look at our plates don't think about the slaughterhouse. My sense is that these children have a more complicated relationship to that plate."