Tom Flynn is Executive Director of the Council for Secular Humanism, and the Editor of Free Inquiry magazine. A journalist, novelist, entertainer, and folklorist, Flynn is the author of numerous articles for Free Inquiry, many addressing church-state issues, as well as the best-selling The Trouble With Christmas, about which he has made hundreds of radio and TV appearances in his role as the curmudgeonly “anti-Claus.” He is also the author of the critically acclaimed anti-religious black comedy science fiction novels, Galactic Rapture and Nothing Sacred. His latest work, The New Encyclopedia of Unbelief, is a comprehensive reference work on the history, beliefs, and thinking of America’s fastest growing minority: those who live without religion.
In this discussion with D.J. Grothe, Tom Flynn talks about his new role as Executive Director of the Council for Secular Humanism, and the relationship of that organization with the Center for Inquiry, including contrasting the Council’s grassroots network of secular humanist and freethought societies with the growing network of Centers for Inquiry throughout North America. He describes the Council’s and CFI’s new jointly sponsored Campaign for Free Expression. He explores the philosophical underpinnings of the Council for Secular Humanism, which includes advocating for and defending a nonreligious life stance rooted in science, naturalistic philosophy and humanist ethics. He criticizes the impulse among some secularist activists to avoid the term “atheism,” because secular humanism presumes atheism, and he argues that secular humanists should “come out” as atheists. He explains why secularist or science activists in the political arena who strategically avoid the term “atheist” may appear to be disingenuous. But then he contrasts secular humanism with atheism, arguing that “atheism is just the beginning.” He details new survey results showing that the fastest growing cognitive minority group and the only life-stance minority group that has grown over the last eight years in all fifty States is the nonreligious, and argues that between 8-10% of the U.S. population are “hard seculars,” those who are explicitly atheist, agnostic, secular humanist, as opposed to people who are merely “unchurched.” He explores the possibility of more elected officials “coming out” as atheists and secular humanists, and more atheists and secular humanists getting elected to public office. And he details some factors he thinks will indicate in the near future that secular humanism and atheism have become more widely acceptable in our society.