Secular Awards


Forkosch Awards Honor the Best in Secular Humanist Writing 

Since 1988, CFI’s Council for Secular Humanism has presented the Morris D. and Selma V. Forkosch Awards, honoring the books and Free Inquiry articles that best represent and advance the values and ideals of secular humanism. Last week, the winners for 2015 and 2016 were bestowed upon a truly brilliant collection of works that range from the scholarly and academic to the deeply personal.

The 2016 Morris D. Forkosch book award was given to Ali A. Rizvi for The Atheist Muslim: A Journey from Religion to Reason, in which he both recounts his own story of doubt and discovery, and seeks to reconcile a cultural Islam with a modern, progressive world. Rizvi took to Twitter to express his gratitude, calling CFI “an amazing organization.” (Rizvi was just the subject of a profile in a recent article at The Atlantic.) Sociologist Phil Zuckerman, head of secular studies at Pitzer College, won the Selma V. Forkosch article award for his Free Inquiry piece “Secularism and Social Progress.”

The book award for 2015 went to Mark A. Smith for Secular Faith: How Culture Has Trumped Religion in American Politics, a look at how religion has been compelled to adapt with the times, even more so than it has defined those times. Leah Mickens was the winner of the 2015 award for best Free Inquiry article for “Theology of the Odd Body: The Castrati, the Church, and the Transgender Moment,” which considers the Catholic Church’s sixteenth-century reliance on castrated male singers, contrasted with its current rigid notions of gender conformity.

Our congratulations to all the winners, with an eager eye to the next award-worthy works of secular humanist thought.






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Review – Scandalous Knowledge: Science, Truth, and the Human
by Barbara Herrnstein Smith
Duke University Press, 2006
Review by Bob Lane

Evaluation, interpretation, mimesis, excellence, rationality itself; all of these are under attack these days.  It is a scandal.  In part the groundwork of this attack comes out of philosophical skepticism which attempts to build a theory of knowledge on the claim that nothing can be known.  In the resulting subjectivist world of phenomenology those things which can be known are supposed to be our own precepts, or our own feelings.  If only we introspect long enough or with the help of our therapists seek the invisible we will have a better sense of I-self.  You can see straightaway that if the skeptic claims that nothing can be known then she can not even get her theory of knowledge started since, by her own claim, she can not know that nothing can be known!  I claim against the skeptic that we can know all kinds of things about the world, ourselves, and about all sorts of objective conditions or states of being.  Knowledge of this sort, public, verifiable, accessible, is a necessary condition for interpretation and evaluation.  Value depends upon understanding; it is not something of a different logical category that is added on to a set of facts.  The facts of a situation or a work of art do not march by our consciousness followed by a valuation any more than the platoons and companies march by followed by the regiment.  There can be no description of experience without some conceptualization, interpretation, and commentary.  To the extent that works of art or works of science are descriptions of experience (or guesses at that description) they too depend upon conceptualization, interpretation, commentary, and evaluation.  Concerns like these immediately throw us into the current crisis in epistemology.

Read the review here.