CFI maintains that a mosque near Ground Zero, in and of itself, is no worse than a church, temple, or synagogue. It is undeniable that the 9/11 terrorists were inspired by their understanding of Islam, and that currently there are far more Islamic terrorists in the world than terrorists of other faiths, but the deeper threat confronting humanity is not confined to Islam. To the contrary, it is presented by all religions. Religious morality is based on faith and authority, with the authority often being a sacred text cobbled together long ago that readily lends itself to contradictory interpretations. The Bible and the Koran have been used to justify almost everything, from mass slaughter of those with other beliefs, to slavery, to oppression of women and gays and lesbians, to the throttling of scientific research—as evidenced by the recent halt to stem-cell research. Faith will continue to harm and kill, whether it is in Oklahoma City or New York City, until people stop basing their conduct on imaginary divine commands and accept their responsibility to reason together. To honor those killed by faith fanatics, Ground Zero and its immediate vicinity should be kept free of any newly constructed house of worship — of any religion.This statement triggered a storm of controversy in the blogosphere. The main objection was that CFI is adopting an anti-religious stance that sounds intolerant. I agree.
I'm a proud member of the Centre for Inquiry Canada but I'm less than pleased with the American version. The people speaking and writing for CFI USA don't speak for me. This included Paul Kurtz, founder of CFI, before he was ousted.
CFI USA soon realized they had goofed. Today they sent out a revised statement [CFI Releases a Clarification and Revision of Statement on Ground Zero Controversy]. Here's the last paragraph of today's (August 29th) statement.
CFI’s unequivocal support for the legal right of Muslims to place a community center near Ground Zero does not imply that CFI views the new center as an event to be celebrated. To the contrary, CFI is committed to the position that reason and science, not faith, are needed to address and resolve humanity’s problems. All religions share a fundamental flaw: they reflect a mistaken understanding of reality. On balance, CFI does not consider houses of worship to be beneficial to humanity, whether they are built at Ground Zero or elsewhere.Yeah, right. It's better but it's still silly. I look forward to a time when nobody wants to built houses of worship but until that time they are free to build them wherever they want, as far as I'm concerned. The "revised" (i.e. backpedeling) statement is better but it still sounds like CFI USA is against building of houses of worship when they should be advocating rationality and skepticism.
I wish there was a way to give up my membership in the international organization but retain my membership in the Centre for Inquiry Canada.