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In memoriam: Tom Flynn was Free Inquiry editor, secular humanist leader

Tom Flynn gives a presentation on the Freethought Trail at the Center For Inquiry, in Amherst, N.Y., in 2014.
(Photo by Monica Harmsen/Creative Commons)

Tom Flynn, editor of Free Inquiry magazine and former executive director of the Council for Secular Humanism, died unexpectedly Aug. 23 at age 66.

Tom was born Aug. 18, 1955, in Erie, Pa. He earned his bachelor’s degree at Xavier University.

Wikipedia details when Tom “converted” to atheism and how he began a lifetime of secular humanism activism: “Acknowledging that he had become an atheist in 1980 while residing in Milwaukee, he visited Milwaukee’s downtown library, looked up ‘atheism’ in the card cataloge, and found the so-called Dresden Edition of The Works of Robert G. Ingersoll on the open stacks. Reading Ingersoll’s florid Gilded Age speeches in defense of agnosticism and atheism confirmed him in his identity as an atheist and kindled his desire to become a public activist for unbelief.”

A statement on Tom’s death from the Center for Inquiry said: “A stark rationalist and staunch atheist if ever there was one, Tom was nonetheless brimming with enthusiasm, curiosity, bold ideas, and perhaps most of all, humor. He had a deep love and encyclopedic knowledge of freethought history and devoted himself to the preservation and rediscovery of American freethought’s great untold stories.”

Flynn also directed the Robert G. Ingersoll Birthplace Museum, which commemorates the 19th-century orator and speaker known as “The Great Agnostic.”

Flynn was also known for his essays on atheism, religion and secular ideals, as well as his satirical science fiction novels, known as the Messiah Trilogy. He wrote The Trouble With Christmas, featuring the Anti-Claus. 

“Tom didn’t believe in magic, but he was magical,” Robyn E. Blumner, president and CEO of the Center for Inquiry, said in a statement. “How else to describe this unlikely combination of brilliance, charm, vision, and roll-up-your-sleeves accomplishment?”

Adds Annie Laurie Gaylor, FFRF co-president, “As well as being a leading expert on Ingersoll, Tom was just plain funny and fun to be around. He and his work will be greatly missed.”