Claremont, Calif. (March 31, 2021)—The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) has awarded Pitzer College a $300,000 gift to establish the FFRF Secular Studies Endowment. This gift will help Pitzer’s Secular Studies program fulfill its mission to increase understanding of—and disseminate knowledge about—secularism, atheism, agnosticism, humanism, naturalism, and freethought in societies and cultures, past and present.
Pitzer Professor of Sociology and Secular Studies Phil Zuckerman launched the College’s Secular Studies program in 2011—the first program of its kind in the US. At the time, college catalogs were rife with religious studies departments, but there wasn’t an equivalent field of study for the nonreligious. The new program captured the attention of media outlets from The New York Times to The Guardian.
A decade after its founding, more than 200 students enroll in Secular Studies courses each year. Faculty affiliated with the interdisciplinary program represent the fields of history, philosophy, religion, science, and sociology. Course offerings include “Sociology of Secularity,” “God, Darwin, and Design in America,” “Fundamentalism and Rationalism,” and “Anxiety in the Age of Reason.” In 2016, Pitzer received the American Humanist Association’s University Award for Philosophical Diversity for being “a trailblazer in its attention to the study of secularism and humanism in our society.”
With the new FFRF endowment, Pitzer will continue to pioneer the study of the nonreligious, increasing the canon of scholarship and expanding the visibility of secularity.
“FFRF is so pleased to support the critical work of Pitzer’s Secular Studies program,” says Annie Laurie Gaylor, FFRF co-president, “because it values the study of the impact of freethought and skepticism here and worldwide. We consider Phil Zuckerman to be a national freethought treasure.”
Zuckerman, who is an associate dean of faculty, is the author or editor of more than a dozen books, including Living the Secular Life, Society Without God: What the Least Religious Nations Can Tell Us About Contentment, and What It Means to Be Moral. He writes “The Secular Life” blog for Psychology Today and is a frequent contributor to Salon, the Los Angeles Times, Free Inquiry, and Freethought Today.
Zuckerman envisions the FFRF endowment supporting a wide range of activities and initiatives over the coming years.
“This amazing grant aligns perfectly with the goals of both FFRF and the Secular Studies program: to support education around secularism, atheism, and humanism,” says Zuckerman. “It will help generate more course offerings, student and faculty research, and campus programming. I am both thrilled and honored.”
The $300,000 gift to establish the FFRF Secular Studies Endowed Fund was made possible by a bequest from Kenneth L. Proulx, described by the foundation as an “FFRF member and ardent atheist” who loved to read and explore new ideas.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national nonprofit organization with more than 35,000 members and several chapters across the country. FFRF works to educate the public on matters relating to non-theism and to protect the constitutional principle of separation between church and state.