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.


SS: Islam and Islamophobia

English: Sam Harris
English: Sam Harris (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Nederlands: Afbeelding van een (voormalig) lid...
Nederlands: Afbeelding van een (voormalig) lid van de VVD (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Title: ISLAM and the future of tolerance
Author: Sam Harris and Maajud Nawaz
Publisher: Harvard University Press, 2016
Review by Bob Lane

This book is an important and exciting contribution to the discussion of religion in general, Islam in particular, the future of civilization, and intelligent respectful debate. The discussion began with a meeting of the two contributors at a debate in 2010 (The Intelligence Squared Debate) in which Nawaz debated Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Douglas Murray. At a dinner party following the debate Harris, when prompted by Ayaan, directs a long critical comment to Nawaz which challenges him to clarify his position: “You seem obliged to pretend that the doctrine [Islam] is something other that it is -for instance, you must pretend that jihad is just an inner spiritual struggle, whereas it’s primarily a doctrine of holy war. I’d like to know whether this is, in fact, he situation as you see it. Is the path forward a matter of pretending certain things are true long enough and hard enough so as to make them true?”

Those kinds of tough questions are what make Sam Harris an important voice in the ongoing discussion of atheism and religion. Harris is tough minded. From that dinner debate comes the book: an intelligent and open, respectful discussion of the terrible problems facing us in the 21st century. Maajid Nawaz states his goal, “what I seek to do is build a mainstream coalition of people who are singing from the same page.” Muslims and non-Muslims can, he opines, be united by “a set of religion-neutral values . . . the universality of human, democratic, and secular … values” which will allow us to arrive at common ground.

[Published here.]

Continue reading




The Somali-born author and human rights campaigner Ayaan Hirsi Ali is an unequivocal figure. Admired by many secularists for her fearless denunciation of Islamic fundamentalism, she is loathed not just by Islamic fundamentalists but by many western liberals, who find her rejection of Islam almost as objectionable as her embrace of western liberalism.
Confronted by the tribal, patriarchal and religious confines of her upbringing in east Africa, where she suffered female genital mutilation, and the liberty of the Netherlands, where she sought asylum from an arranged marriage, she chose the cultural values of her adopted home over those she had inherited. Not only did she turn her back on her native religion, she became one of its most articulate and vehement critics.

Unquestionably, Hirsi Ali poses challenging questions about whether American liberals should be fighting harder for the rights of Muslim women in countries where they are oppressed, and she is fearless in using shock tactics to jump-start a conversation. Blasphemy is an essential part of any religious reform, she argues, and defends her right to speak bluntly. “I have taken an enormous risk by answering the call for self-reflection,” Hirsi Ali has said, in response to critics who find her tone abrasive. “I have been convinced more than ever that I must say it in my way only and have my criticism.” There is no denying that her words are brave. Whether they are persuasive is another matter. [Read the review here.]

Or read the New York Times review here.

And/or the review in The Humanist here.

Reza Aslan – Media matters

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Is religious belief a matter of choice?


English: Atheist Bus Campaign creator Ariane S...
English: Atheist Bus Campaign creator Ariane Sherine and Richard Dawkins at its launch in London. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Recently Richard Dawkins tweeted a brief comment about Muslims and science pointing out that Cambridge had produced more Nobel Prize winners in science than the entire Muslim world. This in turn prompted an attack in the Independent by Owen Jones accusing Dawkins of bigotry dressed up as non-belief.

The best review of the discussion is at “Choice in Dying” and is worth reading and thinking about.

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Religion, Politics, and Society

English: Based on data from a 2006 poll by the...
English: Based on data from a 2006 poll by the Pew Research Center, this graph records the distribution of feelings of U.S. Muslims on the topic of suicide bombings, separated by age group. Pew Research Center release at (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The World’s Muslims: Religion, Politics and Society

POLL April 30, 2013

Executive Summary

A new Pew Research Center survey of Muslims around the globe finds that most adherents of the world’s second-largest religion are deeply committed to their faith and want its teachings to shape not only their personal lives but also their societies and politics. In all but a handful of the 39 countries surveyed, a majority of Muslims say that Islam is the one true faith leading to eternal life in heaven and that belief in God is necessary to be a moral person. Many also think that their religious leaders should have at least some influence over political matters. And many express a desire for sharia – traditional Islamic law – to be recognized as the official law of their country.

Go to the study.

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