Tony Ortega returned to his former stomping grounds in Phoenix on his book tour for The Unbreakable Miss Lovely: How the Church of Scientology Tried to Destroy Paulette Cooper (see my review in eSkeptic) on September 15. Tony’s talk, sponsored by the Barrett Honors College Downtown Campus and held at the Walter Cronkite Theater, recounted his personal story of starting in journalism in the city where L. Ron Hubbard developed Scientology, and how he came to write about Scientology after first seeing their involvement in a lawsuit against then-Phoenix-based cult deprogrammer Rick Ross (see, for example, Tony’s December 19, 1996 New Times story, “What’s $2.995 Million Between Former Enemies?”). One story led to another, and further opportunities to write about Scientology arose after he moved to Los Angeles to write for New Times L.A.
New Times eventually acquired the Village Voice. Tony became its editor in 2007 and brought with him experience in bringing stories to an online format. His first foray into daily-updated content for the Voice was to pore through the archives and reprint interesting stories from the past, which he enjoyed but did not attract much readership. When he started writing daily about Scientology in 2011, however, readership exploded. He has written on the topic every day since then, first at the Voice and, beginning in late 2012, at his own blog, the Underground Bunker, where he has broken numerous stories about the Church of Scientology as it has continued to lose long-time members and leaders.belief, religion, Scientology, skepticism, Tony Ortega
The Los Angeles Times noted yesterday evening that University of Southern California religion and gerontology professor emeritus Gerald A. Larue (b. June 20, 1916, d. September 17, 2014) has died at age 98. He was a long-time supporter of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry and the Council for Secular Humanism, heading the latter’s Committee for the Scientific Examination of Religion from its founding in 1983 until handing over the reins to R. Joseph Hoffmann in 2003. Larue was also on the editorial board of Skeptic magazine from its founding in 1992 to its most recent issue.
Larue was the author of numerous books and articles on biblical history and archaeology, criticism of religion, and death and dying. He had been an ordained minister in the United Church of Canada, leading congregations from 1945 to 1953. In 1958 he joined the USC faculty as a professor of biblical history and archaeology, and joined the gerontology faculty in 1981, retiring in 2006. From 1980 to 1988, he was the first president of the Hemlock Society, a position he was asked to take after being the only other person at the organizing meeting besides founder Derek Humphry to be willing to join an organization that explicitly argued for the right to assisted suicide.CSICOP, Gerald Larue, Noah's Ark hoax, obituary, Skeptic
In May 1976, the first major modern skeptical organization in the United States was formed at a special meeting of the American Humanist Association (AHA). The Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP, now known as the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, or CSI) was established under the joint leadership of co-chairmen Paul Kurtz, a philosopher at the State University of New York at Buffalo and editor of AHA’s The Humanist magazine, and Marcello Truzzi, a sociologist at Eastern Michigan University. The two co-chairmen had different ideas about what the goals of the organization should be—Paul Kurtz wanted to publish a popular magazine and respond to a “rising tide of irrationality” exemplified by a high rate of belief in astrology, while Truzzi wanted to publish an academic journal that was open to both proponents and critics of paranormal claims.CSICOP, history of skepticism, Marcello Truzzi, Paul Kurtz, skepticism