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Today’s Boston Globe

As I mentioned here the other day, I was quoted in Sunday’s Boston Globe Magazine in a feature about Humanism. David Abel contacted me July 25 to request permission to quote my blog entry on the Harvard Humanist conference that took place back in April (during which I participated in a panel on the “next generation” of Humanism). He had chosen a few quotes of mine that were particularly critical of the conference, and he asked if I had anything more to add. I wrote (in part):

The one other thing I’d prefer be made clear is that overall I support humanism, as I made clear in the first 2/3 of that entry. Rabbi Wine (who was killed Sunday night in a car accident) really won me over by stressing the importance of providing a supportive social network for nonbelievers, basically keeping all the positive non-supernatural aspects of a church community. More info on him at

David wrote back to explain that he only wanted to hear about the dissent from people following the conference. I didn’t respond after that, because I wasn’t really interested in supporting that bias. There was so much more to it than that — it’s a little frustrating seeing your point of view boiled down to a few sentences chosen just to support someone else’s argument, but hey, that’s life.

So, overall the story could’ve come out much worse than it did. Here’s the really funny thing, though, what you don’t see in the online version of the article: there’s a sidebar item titled “Notable Skeptics.” Who would you put on that list? Randi? William of Occam? Feynman? Here’s the Boston Globe’s list, in order (they have headshots, too):

  1. Karl Marx
  2. Friedrich Nietzsche
  3. Ayn Rand
  4. Carl Sagan
  5. Kurt Vonnegut

Seriously, Boston Globe? You’re seriously going to start off a list of “prominent non-believers” with Karl Marx’s giant Ewok melon head? Where’s the companion sidebar to that, “Notable Theists,” led off by Adolf Hitler?

Anyway, that’s my story, for those of you e-mailing me to find out why I’m so down on humanists. Here’s a link to the blog entry quoted in the Globe.

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca is a writer, speaker, YouTube personality, and unrepentant science nerd. In addition to founding and continuing to run Skepchick, she hosts Quiz-o-Tron, a monthly science-themed quiz show and podcast that pits comedians against nerds. There is an asteroid named in her honor. Twitter @rebeccawatson Mastodon Instagram @actuallyrebeccawatson TikTok @actuallyrebeccawatson YouTube @rebeccawatson BlueSky

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  1. I'm not sure which would be more insulting: being grouped with Karl Marx, or grouped with Ayn Rand. Both founded ideologies, which are the opposite of skeptical thought, for one thing. On the other hand, at least they included one undeniably cool and admirable person in Carl Sagan.

  2. Well, Marx is not Sowjet Communism, so I'd come out and say Marx is not Hitler. In fact, at least in the beginning, Marx even tried to adhere to scientific quality in his theories, retracting things when he'd made a mistake.

    I'm not saying Marxism is right; there sure are misconceptions. But as implemented (for example in the USSR), it's really not Marxism at all.

  3. I would think that a much better household name than Marx would have been Houdini. It's a shame, I used to work for the Boston Globe. I hate to see such sloppiness from a company I was proud to work for.

  4. I might suggest a letter to the Editor in the hopes they may print your clarification for the benefit of regular readers (who may actually read the letters page). Couldn't hurt?

  5. I have never once had an interaction with a reporter that came off well: every single time they've distorted not just points of view but flat out facts. I had a story done on me once that was tangentially about some medical problems. They were neurological in nature. The reporter, though, decided that readers wouldn't know what neurological meant, so they changed it to HEAD PAIN. Needless to say, there was no head pain involved at all and that had nothing to do with anything.

    Most reporters are, by nature, lazy liars: they don't set out to learn, they set out on a scavenger hunt for quotes to fit into an already preconceived story.

  6. Marx was an outspoken critic of religion and his ideas shaped history, yes. But what about Twain, Freud, Darwin, Paine, Asimov, Edison, Einstein, Swift, etc? Surely they spring to mind before the likes of Ayn Rand!

    The agenda is so obvious it hurts.

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