Kurtz, upbeat and optimistic, was former editor of The Humanist magazine from 1967 to 1978 and co-wrote the Humanist Manifesto II, as well as wrote the Humanist Manifesto 2000, and many books on the subject of humanism. Later he became editor-in-chief of Free Inquiry magazine.
In 1973 he worked with Edwin H. Wilson and the American Humanist Association to create the draft of what would become the Humanist Manifesto II (an updated Humanist Manifesto III was adopted in 2003).
Prior to 1973, he worked with the American Humanist Association (AHA) on the Board of Directors from 1968-1981 and then after 1981 he started the Council for Secular Humanism (CSH) and eventually the Center for Inquiry (CFI), a humanist "think tank". He was also the president of Prometheus Books.
Roy Speckhardt, the executive director of the AHA said, “Paul Kurtz worked tirelessly for decades to see secular humanism become accepted as an alternative philosophy to traditional religion. The attention and guidance he gave to the humanist movement had an unmistakable global impact.”
Through his various books, articles, and upbeat optimism Kurtz influenced and taught many people about humanism. He wrote over 800 articles and 40 books, as well as guest spoke on various podcasts, on the Humanist News Network/Humanist Hour and Point of Inquiry, as well as other shows. He also started the Institute for Science and Human Values in 2010.
“Humanism has been shaped by many people since the beginning of the 20th century, and Paul Kurtz was one of the greatest contributors to the development of our nontheistic philosophy,” Speckhardt said.
Hemant Mehta, the Friendly Atheist, reflects on meeting Kurtz:
Personally, Kurtz was very kind to me during the time I was an intern at the Center for Inquiry, long before this website started and when I was just getting my feet wet in this movement. I’ve told this story before, but one of my fondest memories of my time there was getting to know Kurtz away from the business side of everything. He took me and another intern out to dinner one night and regaled us with incredible stories.
In 2010, Kurtz wrote a new statement called Neo-humanist Statement of Secular Principles and Values: Personal, Progressive, and Planetary. He offered sixteen recommendations for a humanist world and declared that “our planetary community is facing serious problems that can only be solved by cooperative global action.”
“These are the vital principles and values that a secular, personal, progressive, and planetary humanism proposes for humanity,” Kurtz wrote about his statement. “Today the campaign for equal rights and for a better life for everyone knows no boundaries. This is a common goal for the people of the world, worthy of our highest aspirations.”
The AHA reports about awarding him the Humanist Lifetime Achievement Award and the rest of his life history:
In 2007 the American Humanist Association presented Kurtz with the Humanist Lifetime Achievement Award. During his acceptance speech, he stated, “I am a secular humanist because I am not religious. I draw my inspiration not from religion or spirituality, but from science, ethics, philosophy, and the arts.”
After leaving the Center for Inquiry and the Council for Secular Humanism, Kurtz established the Institute for Science and Human Values in 2010, a humanist think tank based in Tampa, Fl.
Kurtz was born on Dec. 21, 1925 in Newark, New Jersey. He received his BA from New York University in 1948. Columbia University was next, where in 1949 he earned his MA and his Ph.D. in philosophy was awarded in 1952.
Kurtz later became Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at the State University of New York at Buffalo. That post followed time teaching at Vassar, Trinity, and Union colleges, as well as the New School for Social Research.
He coined the word “Eupraxsophy” and inspiring people with the “courage to become” whatever we want, including a good humanist, with the basic spirit of the human being, living the good life and enjoying the exuberance of life.
Kurtz coined the term eupraxsophy (originally eupraxophy) to refer to philosophies or lifestances such as secular humanism and Confucianism that do not rely on belief in the transcendent or supernatural. Aeupraxsophy is a nonreligious lifestance or worldview emphasizing the importance of living an ethical and exuberant life, and relying on rational methods such as logic, observation and science (rather than faith, mysticism or revelation) toward that end. The word is based on the Greek words for "good", "practice", and "wisdom". Eupraxsophies, like religions, are cosmic in their outlook, but eschew the supernatural component of religion, avoiding the "transcendental temptation," as Kurtz puts it. Although critical of supernatural religion, he has attempted to develop affirmative ethical values of naturalistic humanism.
CFI gives an obituary with a short version of his life story.