Tom Flynn, editor of Free Inquiry, author and secular humanist leader, dies at 66

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(RNS) – Tom Flynn, former executive director of the Council for Secular Humanism and editor of Free Inquiry magazine, has passed away.

He was 66 years old.

Flynn’s death was announcement Monday (August 23) by the Center for Inquiry, a nonprofit organization that strives to “foster a secular society founded on reason, science, freedom of inquiry and humanistic values.” Described as a “colleague, teacher and friend,” Flynn had been affiliated with the center for over 30 years.


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“An austere rationalist and a staunch atheist if there is one, Tom was nonetheless overflowing with enthusiasm, curiosity, daring ideas and perhaps above all humor,” reads the centre’s press release announcing the death. by Flynn. “He had a deep love and encyclopedic knowledge of the history of free thought and was dedicated to the preservation and rediscovery of the great untold stories of American free thought.”

Flynn also directed the Robert Green Ingersoll Birthplace Museum, which commemorates the 19th century orator and lecturer known as “the great agnostic”.

A prolific writer, Flynn was known for his essays on atheism, religion, and secular ideals, as well as his satirical science fiction novels, known as The Messiah Trilogy. He wrote “The Trouble With Christmas”, featuring the Anti-Claus, a character with a “prank hat” that Flynn sometimes disguised himself in.

Flynn was known for his friendship, dedication, and sense of humor.

“Tom didn’t believe in magic, but he was magic,” Robyn E. Blumner, president and CEO of the Center for Inquiry, said in a statement. “How else would you describe this unlikely combination of sparkle, charm, vision and accomplishment of rolling up your sleeves?”

Edward Tabash, president of the Center for Inquiry, described Flynn as “our conscience against religious bigotry.”


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“His humor and sharp wit were simply unmatched,” Tabash said in a statement. “The best way to honor Tom’s memory and all the wonderful work he has done is to continue to dedicate ourselves to ending religious bigotry anywhere and everywhere.”

In a 2017 blog post titled “What Secular Humanism Means to Me,” Flynn, who grew up in a traditional Catholic home, described becoming a secular humanist as an act of empowerment.

“In my opinion, the realization that existence is purely physical – not only that there is no supernatural, but that there is no spirit beside which the physical world has to come second – perhaps the greatest emancipation of all. It frees me to cherish this life on its own terms, ”he wrote. “I must no longer devalue my existence as a prologue in the blink of an eye to unlimited perpetuity where, if only because of its incalculably larger scale, the real meaning must reside. “

Flynn also disagreed with those who believe that morality is related to religion. Humanists, he argued, are free to develop “a truly relevant morality, rooted in the real world and in the physical and social consequences of life as humans experience it”.

“For lay humanists, the obligation to live morally is in no way diminished; it is as real to us as it is to any believer, ”he wrote. “But as secular humanists we define the terms of what is moral using reason, compassion, common sense and the wisdom of our species. Freed from the imperative of being on God’s side, we can finally take our own.

Flynn is survived by his wife, Sue.

This is a developing story and will be updated.


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