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North American Science, Skepticism, and Secular Humanism 5 — Backsliding: History Re-Entrenched


Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): Medium (Humanist Voices)

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): 2019/12/31

James A. Haught was born on Feb. 20, 1932, in a small West Virginia farm town that had no electricity or paved streets. During his six decades in newspaper life, he has been police reporter, religion columnist, feature writer and night city editor; then he was investigative reporter for 13 years, and his work led to several corruption convictions. He writes nearly 400 Gazette editorials a year, plus personal columns and news articles. Haught has won two dozen national newswriting awards, and is author of 11 books and 120 magazine essays. About 50 of his columns have been distributed by national syndicates. He also is a senior editor of Free Inquiry magazine. He is listed in Who’s Who in America, Who’s Who in the World, Contemporary Authors and 2000 Outstanding Intellectuals of the 21st Century. He has four children, 12 grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren. He is a longtime member of Charleston’s Unitarian Universalist Congregation. Haught continues working full-time in his 80s.

Here we talk about working for a secular democratic state.

Scott Douglas Jacobsen: How does secularism make backslides in its development?

Jim Haught: After Darwin’s great evolution breakthrough and other science advances, freethought blossomed in the late 1800s in western nations. Robert Ingersoll held skeptic lecture tours. Atheist publications arose. It was called a Golden Age of Freethought. But it subsided in the 1900s.

Jacobsen: Following from the previous question, naturally, what have been instances of this in the United States’s narrative?

Haught: After World War II, a wave of social conformity swept America and church membership soared to record highs. The 1950s were hidebound with taboos. It was a crime for stores to open on the Sabbath — or for anyone to buy a cocktail or lottery ticket — or to look at nudity in a movie or magazine — or to terminate a pregnancy. Even reading about sex was illegal. Our mayor sent police to raid stores selling “Peyton Place.” It was a felony to be gay. Blacks were confined to segregated ghettos. Jews were ostracized. Today, many fundamentalists sing praises for the “good old days” of the “moral” 1950s — a time when secularism was suppressed.

Jacobsen: Secularism is one view. Humanism is another. Secular humanism, yet another, same for skepticism, science, and Scientific Skepticism. how do Secular Humanism and Scientific Skepticism provide a view of the world as non-teleological? What does this mean for the evitability of secularism, i.e., not a necessary or guaranteed trend?

Haught: As a general rule, the more intelligent and educated people are, the less they believe supernatural things. America’s I.Q. average rises three points per decade, according to the Flynn Effect. Western people are growing smarter and more knowledgeable about science — so religion’s miracle tales are losing their power.

Jacobsen: Thank you for the opportunity and your time, Jim.

Haught: Keep the faith, baby.


In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at


© Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing 2012-Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. All interviewees and authors co-copyright their material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

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