Dorothy Stephens

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October 2018 Newsletter

Upcoming HAAM Events 

HAAM and Eggs Brunch

Sunday, September 30th, Perkins Southdale Mall, 123 Vermillion Road, 9:30 AM

Everyone’s welcome. Details here.

 

Pseudoscience! 

Saturday, October 13th, Canad Inns Polo Park, 1405 St Matthews Ave, 5:30 PM 

Wear your tinfoil hats for an evening walk through pseudoscience, woo, and all things bullsh*t. 

Details here.

 

Save the date 

November 18th   Special guest Neil Carter, who blogs as Godless in Dixie, will join us via Skype from the US Bible belt.  

Our Events calendar will be updated once we finalize the details. 

 

Charity of the Month   

Kasese, Uganda (click to enlarge)

It’s October, so that means our charity is the Kasese Humanist Primary School (KHPS). Kasese is a town of just over 100,000 people, north of Lake George and at the foot of the Rwenzori Mountains in western Uganda. It’s a growing community, in part because of increasing tourism (proximity to two national parks). Industries include copper mining and cobalt production. Kasese serves as the headquarters for the district and boasts a hospital, an airport, and a small power station.

As the brainchild of Bwambale Robert Musubaho, KHPS was founded with the help and support of Humanists in many countries. It’s run by the Kasese United Humanist Association and is open to both boys and girls ages 3-14. Since opening in 2011, the school has grown to three campuses

Rukoki (Nursery, Primary & Secondary), with 249 students
Kahendero (Nursery & Primary), with 181 students
Bizoha Muhokya (Nursery & Primary), with 281 students

Bogere John in September 2018. Look how he’s grown!

The surrounding predominantly-religious community is sometimes hostile, but Humanist values are gradually catching on, with three other Humanist schools, two health clinics, and many businesses in the area founded on the Humanist model.

The school has a Child Sponsorship Program to assist with tuition for needy, bright, disadvantaged, and vulnerable children. HAAM has been supporting a little student, Bogere John, at the Bizoha campus since 2015. We just received his most recent report card, and we’re delighted to see that he earned nearly all A’s. He appears to have caught up after a serious bout of malaria last year caused him to fall a bit behind.

Every fall, we need to collect enough money to cover his tuition for the coming year. Anything extra goes to the general school fund. Donations are required to assist with basic expenses like textbooks and school materials, building upkeep, and teacher salaries.

So we hope you will join us to support Bogere John and the Kasese Humanist Primary School. As the school’s motto says, “with science we can progress”.

Right: Bogere reading The Day the Dinosaurs Died

Please give generously! We can’t fix the whole world, but we can make a difference in the life of this child. 

Donations for the Charity of the Month will be collected at the monthly meeting. Tax receipts are available for donations over $10. If you would like to donate but cannot attend the meeting, you can do so via the ‘Donate’ button. Just include a note letting us know that the money is for the charity. 

Latest News 

HAAM is supporting science education in Manitoba 

The Canadian Fossil Discovery Centre (in Morden) is getting a new vehicle (a “fossil dig adventure van” with an “exciting Jurassic-world theme look”). This new van will travel throughout the Pembina Valley and the province for dig tours and outreach events. and be seen by tens of thousands of people each year. 

And HAAM’s name will be on it (in one of the yellow circles, shown in photo) as one of their sponsors! This is a great way for us to support scientific research and education, while getting our name out all over the province. It’s totally win-win – CFDC gets a donation towards their new van, and we get the advertising for as long as they drive it. 

Some of our longer-term members may recall that we also sponsored their last van (see the September 2014 newsletter). Watch for the new van once it hits the road! 

Manitoba’s children need your vote!

The next general municipal election will be held in Manitoba on Wednesday 24 October 2018. Are you planning to vote for school trustees in your area? Maybe you weren’t really thinking about it, because you don’t have kids in school, so you don’t follow school division news and don’t know the people who are running.

But did you know that even in Winnipeg, there are currently people sitting on public school boards who are opposed to supporting LGBTQ students? Who want creationism taught in public schools? Who oppose comprehensive sex education? Who try to sneak Christian prayers and teaching into public schools in any way they can, including supporting organizations like Samaritan’s Purse and Child Evangelism Fellowship?

In Winnipeg, these trustees usually don’t get their way because they are outvoted by other members of their boards. That’s why you don’t hear much about them. But they keep trying. If religious groups could just get enough of their members elected… So far they haven’t – yet.

Meanwhile, outside the city, especially in ‘bible-belt’ communities, it can be difficult to find ANYONE running who supports evidence-based learning and fair treatment of all students. But there are some good candidates out there – we just need to find them.

Please! Take a look at who’s running in your division. Try to find out who they are and what they stand for (even if they have been on the board for a while). You may have to google their names, search for them on social media, or ask your friends. And if you know of a good candidate, spread the word. Make the effort – and then VOTE. Quality education benefits everyone in our society – not just families with kids.

Summer Outreach report

August was very busy with two Outreach weekends in a row. August 17-19 marked our first venture to Stonewall Quarry Days, and August 24-26 was busy with our regular trip out to Morden for their Corn and Apple Festival. 

Our dauntless Outreach director, Pat Morrow, has now completed his entertaining and insightful report on those adventures. You can read all about them here.

There are more photos in our Gallery. 

 

 

Partners for Life update 

Have you donated blood recently? We’re heading into the last quarter of 2018 and hoping to meet our pledge of 25 donations from our members. Last year we exceeded it! This year, so far, we are only at 18. 

So go donate blood and save some lives! If you haven’t participated in Partners for Life before (or have never donated blood at all), all the information and links you need are here. 

 

In Memoriam – Jake van Raalte (1928-2018) 

One of our long-time members passed away this summer. Jake and his wife, Miep, were members of HAAM since the late 1990s. Miep served on the executive from approximately 2000 to 2007. She died of cancer in 2009. Jake continued to attend meetings when he could, usually preferring to sit as close to the front as possible so that he could hear and understand the speaker better. He enjoyed attending HAAM meetings for the conversation with other members and listening to the speakers, although he may not always have enjoyed the speakers equally.  

Jake enjoyed looking after their lovely property and was very proud of it. A visit to their home usually meant that we would leave knowing a bit more about all the beautiful flowers he grew. 

Jake at HAAM’s 2013 Winter Solstice party

After Miep died, Jake spent the next few years taking over all her duties and organizing her papers, books, etc. In 2012 Jake called to tell me that he had discovered a bank account he had not been aware of (or had forgotten about), and that he wanted to donate the balance in that account to HAAM. The amount was $1,500. HAAM’s executive was very happy to receive this donation and tried to come up with a significant way of thanking him. That’s when the idea of a Lifetime Membership was born. Jake was the very first member to receive it. 

Jake became ill in the last couple of years before he died and was unable to attend our meetings. He did not recognize me when I went to visit him in September of 2016. In July of this year, Jason van Raalte, Jake’s grandson, called to tell me that Jake was dying. I was able to visit Jake and Jason on the morning of July 14. Jake died later that day. 

Jake’s full obituary can be read here. Our heartfelt condolences go to Jake’s son Mike van Raalte, and grandson Jason.  

-Helen Friesen 

Video of the Month: Hell House 

Hallowe’en is coming up, so if you have never watched George Ratliff’s 2001 documentary Hell House, there’s no better time. This film is almost a ‘classic’ by now, and you might even find it funny – if you don’t find the subject too pathetic and disturbing.  

Hell House is a look at an annual Hallowe’en theater production, staged by the youth group of Trinity Church (Assemblies of God) in Texas, and seen by thousands of visitors annually. The show consists of a series of skits portraying the evils of the world, designed to scare young people into repenting and becoming Christians. The societal evils acted out in the play include everything from homosexuality to Harry Potter books. The play is followed by an emotionally-charged altar call, pleading with members of the audience to accept Jesus as their savior.  

Ratliff didn’t mock his subjects, or judge their mission and motives – but you can. Prepare to be terrified at this horrific manipulation of young minds. 

All our library books and DVD’s are free to borrow for paid HAAM members. 
Visit our library page if you would like to borrow this DVD.  

Outreach Report: Stonewall Corn and Apple?

That seems like a strange title for this report, but it was a busy August for HAAM as we did two outreach events back to back – at Stonewall Quarry Days and the Morden Corn and Apple Festival. Six days of outreach within two weeks felt like one big long event, and it was hard not to mix up the two festivals. On Friday morning of the Morden outreach, I actually turned up Highway 7 for about 100 m to drive to Stonewall (call it morning fog).  

Week One 

Stonewall Quarry Days was a first-time outreach for us. Stonewall is a small town just north of Winnipeg that is quickly becoming a bedroom community. If I had to hazard a guess, I’d say half its population makes the commute into Winnipeg for work. It’s not part of the Bible belt per se; however, it does have a lot of churches. We met quite a few like-minded thinkers there who hadn’t heard of HAAM, and as a result, I know there will be some new faces at our upcoming meetings and events. One fella I spoke with talked about starting a secular organization in Gimli, which would be terrific, but time will tell. 

Responses from the community 

Stonewall was a different outreach experience for me. It was first time that HAAM has held an outreach in a community populated with much of my extended (born-again Christian) family. That part actually went well; nephews and nieces stopped by and said hello. What was surprising were the reactions of other people I know in the community – people my age and older who would see me at the booth, make eye contact, and keep walking. One did take the time to stop and call us schmucks, and label Humanism as stupid. He came back the next day and apologized, but knowing the family, I’ll bet his wife made him… After years of talking to believers, it never ceases to amaze me how religious folks can completely lose their composure when they find out that somebody they’ve known for years is an atheist. I’m pretty sure I won’t be invited to barbeques at that guy’s place anymore, and if I am, the visit might take on a little different tone.  

Pastor Henry, a well-known retired pastor of New Life Church (the largest church in the community) stopped by the booth and chatted with me. He took the time to write about our conversation in a column in the Stonewall Argus newspaper. His report was relatively accurate, in my opinion; however, so much was left out that it leads one to a completely different understanding of the conversation, compared to what actually occurred. I felt it was worthy of a rebuttal, so I wrote a response to the paper.

Was our outreach in Stonewall worth the effort? Of course – I’m looking forward to seeing some of those new faces at upcoming meetings. 

Week Two 

One of our outreach workers trying to understand “creationist math”

Just a week later we were Morden for our annual Corn and Apple outreach. This was our seventh year there, and as far as I can recall it was our busiest and most productive. I think much of that success was related to the organizers’ decision to place us only two booths away from the Young Earth Creationist (YEC) trailer. This 17-foot tow-behind altar to stupidity, ignorance, and misinformation was a constant source of entertainment and traffic; both the YEC crowd, and our own target audience of humanists, atheists, and other like-minded thinkers. It’s my hope that with all the business cards we handed out for the Pembina Valley Secular Community, they will experience some substantial growth this year. 

Peddling creationism 

Being almost next-door to the creationist trailer, it was always interesting to see how they operate their outreach. A mostly friendly bunch worked Friday for the local crowd. In the daytime they set out little plastic dinosaurs and coloring books to entice the children and their parents to come in and see “real science”. On the weekend they changed things up for an influx of out-of-town folks; this setup consisted of a message board and a table where you could talk to a creationist. I spoke to a gentleman about where he got the data on population growth /death rates etc for his “mathematical proof” that we came from Adam and Eve. The best he could come up with was “it’s a conservative estimate”. Personally, after a little more discussion, his answer leads me to believe that it is a conservative estimate arrived at by pulling it out of his colon.  

Misrepresenting science 

The next question that day was “How do you have 65-million-year-old fossils that contain flesh, veins and blood cells, and DNA?” This was an attempt to misrepresent the 2005 work of Dr. Mary Schweitzer. I asked the gentleman at the booth if he was familiar with the work of Dr. Schweitzer, but he didn’t know who she was. Then I encouraged him to explain his question, asking “What do you tell the folks about blood, veins, and DNA found in the 65-million-year-old dinosaur bone”? After much deflection, I asked him even more directly “What do you think ‘flesh’ is in regards to the question?” “Not bone”, he replied. With a little more questioning and a little more obfuscation on his part, I could see he was getting agitated, because he was getting louder and beginning to Gish-gallop. So I left before causing an electrical fire in his brain. 

A very short time later, one of the creationist ladies brought me a free pamphlet that explained exactly what they’re teaching about Dr. Schweitzer’s work. The following is an excerpt from the pamphlet Reality Check: Round 2 – the Dating Game (published by the Somerset Bible Chapel). 

“In 2005, Dr. Mary Swcheitzer (sic) an american (sic) paleontologist, was the first to report finding soft red blood cells, stretchy blood vessels, collagen and DNA within the fossilized remains of a T-Rex… No fresh blood cells, soft tissue or intact DNA should be found in supposedly 65 million years (sic) old samples, basic chemistry and physics preclude it. So how can we find such soft tissue in such good condition? Obviously, the time when those animals died and were fossilized is much less than the supposedly 65 million years.” (emphasis mine)

Real science 

Talking to creationists and reading their literature would lead the layman to believe that, with a little salt and pepper, T-Rex’s “flesh” or “tissue” is ready for the barbecue. The actual science tells a different story. I’m no biologist or paleontologist, but anybody with Google and a modicum of scientific understanding can read about Dr. Schweitzer’s actual findings, and they are truly amazing. In her reports, flesh is not mentioned. The researchers had to dissolve rock and fossilized bone to uncover the structures they were looking at. 

– The “soft red blood cells” mentioned in the creationist pamphlet are actually heme, or the oxidized remnants of iron that was once in the blood. (Oxidized iron is commonly known as rust.) 
– The “stretchy blood vessels” are actually base proteins of collagen held together by their chemical bonds in a process we don’t completely understand (yet). 
– The “intact DNA” Is actually badly damaged, fragmented pieces of DNA found inside the collagen proteins.  

Dr. Schweitzer was even a guest speaker at the Canadian Fossil Discovery Centre in Morden recently.  

Lying for Jesus 

some of the creationist ‘literature’ we collected

It never ceases to amaze me how far creationists will go to lie for Jesus. If you enjoy reading creationist literature occasionally as I do, you will in short order notice that frequently, scientists’ names are misspelled, common names are used for scientific terms, and logical concepts are changed (e.g. a more obscure term is used, or a name is just completely made up). It’s common enough to cause one to wonder – Are they trying to change the language? Are they stupid? Or are they just trying to make it harder for people to look up accurate information? 

Visitors to the booth come in many varieties 

We have many visits to the booth by religious sorts, like the drive-by spitters (these people don’t actually spit at us, but their gestures suggest that they’d like to); the Catholics who believe that the church is ordained by God and what priests to do doesn’t matter; and of course, the many who feel that we just need Jesus! Then there are always the doctrinal disagreements that inevitably occur when two Christians from different sects visit the booth together. This year we had one Christian telling us that God sends us to hell, while the other asserted “no he doesn’t; we send ourselves”. They couldn’t seem to iron it out between themselves, but they were united in agreeing that we’re going there… somehow.  

But by far the most disturbing visit we had this August was near the end of the festival from a man and his wife? daughter? After his testimonial about how terrible he had been in his earlier life (he was a really bad dude who saw a death and did drugs… yada,yada…), he got Jesus. Right from the beginning this fella kind of gave us the creeps. Our feelings were confirmed when he turned to our outreach worker Tracy and said “Hey, you know you are really a beautiful woman, ya know the only thing stopping me from raping you is Jesus” My jaw was on the ground, but without missing a beat, Tracy says “If the only thing stopping you from raping me is Jesus, then you go right ahead and keep believing in him, and hold onto him tight”. After the guy left and the waves of creepiness dissipated, we all felt we needed a shower. 

Finding our people 

But outreach is not really about the creeps, the wacky, the delusional, or the intentionally dishonest. It’s about reaching out to our people – Humanists. To that end, I think we greatly increased the number of folks who showed interest in the Pembina Valley Secular Community. We actually found a secular counselor and therapist who resides and practices in the Morden/Winkler area. We even met some folks who would like to help out with outreach. One gentleman I talked to is a geneticist. He mentioned that he had had a conversation with the creationists, in which they asserted that they know something about genetics – and the look on their faces when he told them “actually, I am a geneticist.” I really wish I could’ve been there. 

Here’s to our volunteers 

Well that was two weekends and two outreaches. I’ve gotta thank all our volunteers: Tracy, Tony, Donna, Lawrence, Blaine, Dorothy, Adriana, Arthur, and Norm. Without all of you it wouldn’t be possible. We had lots of conversations, met a lot of new people, and I think significantly added to our Humanist community. 

– Pat Morrow

September 2018 Newsletter

Upcoming HAAM Events

HAAM and Eggs Brunch

Sunday, September 2nd, Smitty’s Garden City, 9:30 AM.

Let’s get together as we start the fall season. Details here.

Sex Education in Manitoba

Saturday, September 8th, Canad Inns Polo Park, 5:30 PM

Our guest speaker will be Bre Woligroski, Sexuality and Reproductive Health Facilitator from SERC (Sexuality Education Resource Centre MB). Details here.

 

Charity of the Month 

SERC (Sexuality Education Resource Centre) Manitoba is a community-based, non-profit, pro-choice organization dedicated to promoting sexual health through education. SERC provides inclusive, non-judgmental education about sexuality based on the belief that people have the right to accurate information on all their choices. The centre offers comprehensive and personalized consultations, education, information, and resources for a variety of sexual health topics. 

SERC’s services include 

Community education programs and workshops 
– Community consultations and outreach 
– Safer sex supplies (condom distribution) 
– Training workshops and consultations for service providers 
– Education for newcomers to Canada in multiple languages 
– Culturally based programs for indigenous youth 
– Affirming programs for LGBTTQ* community  
– Confidential email for questions 
– Lending library and online resource library 

To protest the lack of support for sexual health and rights displayed by some of our politicians, we will be making our donation in honor of Conservative MP Ted Falk (Provencher), who has publicly denounced gay rights, transgender rights, and abortion rights. Mr Falk will be notified that his stance on these issues is the inspiration for our donation.

Please donate to support responsible, comprehensive sex education! 

Donations for the Charity of the Month are accepted at any of our events.  Tax receipts are available for donations over $10. If you would like to donate but cannot attend the meeting, you can do so via the ‘Donate’ button on this page. Just include a note letting us know that the money is for the charity.

Save the dates

HAAM and Eggs Brunch, Sunday September 30th, Perkins Southdale Mall, 9:30 AM  

Monthly meetings – Saturdays at Canad Inns Polo Park from 5:30 pm – 8:30 pm 

October 14thTammy Blanchettepseudoscience and alternative medicine 

November 18th – Topic TBA.

Our Events calendar will be updated once we finalize the details for these meetings. 

Latest News 

Website contest winners

Congratulations to the winners of the What’s on our Website contest! 

Adriana Sedlak was the first person to send in the correct answers. She wins a free meal at one of our fall meetings.

Marcia Masse was the first person to send in her contest entry, but unfortunately, she had one wrong answer. She wins the consolation prize of a free drink at a meeting.    

Here are the answers:      

1. In the photo illustrating HAAM’s position on public education, what is the message written on the poster that the protester is holding? (Position Statements) Let’s teach kids to think outside the box, not fill in circles.

2. The third from last item on our list of suggested resources for people wanting to learn about evolution is a series of short YouTube videos. What is the name of this video series? (Exploring Nonbelief) Our Origins Made Easy (video series)

What is the definition of morality as stated on our website? (What is Humanism?) Morality is defined as caring about the welfare and well-being of thinking creatures.

4. What is Question #7 on our list of ‘Ten Questions Everyone Should Ask About Religion?’ (Brochures) Why are the most prayerful countries the most deprived, and not the most successful?

5. In the Atheist Bible Study, which two modern translations of the Bible were used for the readings? (Bible Study) New Living Translation and New International Version

6. Name two secular self-help organizations you could contact if you were struggling with an addiction. (Help and Advice) Any two of Life Ring, Smart Recovery, Secular Organization for Sobriety (SOS), and Secular AA

We hope that this little quiz inspired a few people to take a closer look at all the resources and information on our website. If you didn’t get around to looking, check it out now (no more prizes, though). 

Summer Outreach

August has been very busy with two Outreach weekends in a row. August 17-19 marked our first venture to Stonewall Quarry Days, and August 24-26 was busy with our regular trip out to Morden for their Corn and Apple Festival.

It was an eventful couple of weekends. We linked up non-believers in Bible belt communities with others in their area, engaged in counter-apologetics discussions with pastors, challenged creationists, and survived the theft of two of the tables from our booth.

Our dedicated Outreach coordinator, Pat Morrow, promises to have his full insightful and entertaining report on both these events ready for our next newsletter.

In the meantime, a big thank you to all our dedicated and intrepid Outreach volunteers! It’s always fun and a great learning experience, and we couldn’t do it without you.

 

Venue survey results

Thank you to everyone who responded to the recent survey about the venue for our monthly meetings.  Here’s what we learned from the responses: 

Most of the people who responded are paid HAAM members who attended at least one monthly meeting during the past season. About a third are unsatisfied with our current meeting venue at Canad Inns Polo Park, while only about 1/6 are completely satisfied. 

Over half of our respondents regard food as relatively unimportant at our meetings, although one person did note in a comment that having food or a meal encourages networking and social time. 

Almost half of those who answered would like to meet in a more family/kid friendly location, while the rest regard that as unimportant. Of course, many of our meeting topics are unsuitable or uninteresting for small children, but it would be nice to at least have a space for kids to play if parents need to bring them to a meeting. 

More than one third reported that if we found a more flexible / family-friendly meeting space, they would be more likely to attend. 

Regarding our meeting night (Saturday), there was no big demand to change it. If we did, weeknights could be considered, but Sunday mornings were a definite ‘no’. 

More than a quarter of respondents would find it helpful if our meeting location were on a major street with a bus route.  

To see the full survey results in graph format, click here.

We received 9 suggestions for new meeting places that we could consider, as well as a few other helpful comments, such as a request that we ensure any venue we consider is wheelchair accessible.  

HAAM’s executive will be exploring these suggestions over the coming weeks. In the meantime, our fall meetings will continue to be held at Canad Inns up until November. We’re looking forward to seeing you there!  

If you have any further comments or suggestions, you can always contact us by email (info@haam.ca) or via our contact form. 

Book of the Month

We have a number of books in our library about psychology and neuroscience. The study of how the mind works and why people think and behave the way they do is one of the last frontiers of modern science – there is so much yet to learn. 

Canadian psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Dr Norman Doige has spent years studying neuroplasticity, psychotherapy treatment outcomes, schizoid personality disorders, and other phenomena of the mind. In 2007 he wrote The Brain That Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science. This book contains stories of people with mental limitations or brain damage whose lives have been transformed, including blind people learning to see, IQs being raised, aging brains rejuvenated, stroke patients learning to speak, children with cerebral palsy learning to move with grace, and depression and anxiety disorders successfully treated. The publisher claims that this inspiring book will permanently alter the way we look at our brains, human nature, and human potential. 

The reviews are glowing – both from professionals (“psychiatric literary genre par excellence” – The Globe and Mail; “a remarkable and hopeful portrait of the endless adaptability of the human brain” – Oliver Sacks) and from readers (“life changing!”; “this book will empower.”; “this book gives you hope”, etc). 

Does this all sound too good to be true? Are you a bit skeptical? Have a look and decide for yourself! 

All our library books and DVD’s are free to borrow for paid HAAM members.
Visit our library page if you would like to borrow this book.  

It’s ‘Back to School’ time again

Do you have questions about religious programming and proselytization in public schools? Every year HAAM gets calls and emails from concerned parents about this issue. 

Make sure you know what the law says about religious instruction and religious clubs in the public school system. All the information you need is here. 

If you still have questions after reading it, contact us.  

August 2018 Newsletter

Upcoming HAAM Events 

Look for our members at these summer festivals in August.  

Make sure to stop by the Outreach booth and say Hi! 

 

 

Stonewall Outreach 

August 17th to 19th, Stonewall Manitoba 

HAAM begins a new Outreach this August at Stonewall Quarry Days.

Come visit us in our booth at Stonewall Quarry Days for a conversation worth having.
Details here.

Morden Outreach 

August 24th to 26th, Morden Manitoba 

This will be our seventh year doing Outreach at the Morden Corn and Apple Festival. For those who appreciate that knowledge and understanding will always be better than believing through faith, Morden offers a unique experience.

Come visit us in our booth at the Morden Corn and Apple Festival for a conversation worth having.
Details here.

Then plan to join us for brunch as we begin our fall season. 

HAAM and Eggs Brunch 

Sunday, September 2nd, Smitty’s Garden City, 2305 McPhillips Street (in Garden City Shopping Centre) 

This monthly casual get-together will be our first event of the new season. So welcome back! (or just ‘welcome’, if you’re new). Details here.

Fall meeting dates: 

Our monthly meetings are held on Saturdays at Canad Inns Polo Park from 5:30 pm – 8:30 pm. Plans for fall are underway.

September 8th 

Our guest speaker will be Bre Woligroski, a Sexuality and Reproductive Health Facilitator from Sexuality Education Resource Centre MB (SERC). 

October 14th 

Our own Tammy Blanchette will be speaking about pseudoscience and alternative medicine. 

More information about upcoming HAAM events will be posted on our Events page once we finalize the details. 

About our meetings and events 

Welcome! If you are new and just checking us out, you are welcome to attend one or two events before becoming a member. After that, if you wish to continue to participate, we ask that you support the group by joining. Our annual dues are reasonable and include a limited-income option. 

All events are subject to change, and some details may be TBA. In the event of inclement weather or unforeseen circumstances, events may be subject to cancellation or details may change. Check future newsletters, the Home page of our website, our Facebook page, or Meetup for information and updates. 

Latest News 

What’s on our Website? Take a look and enter to win! 

Have you looked at this website lately (or ever)? (Beyond checking an event post or reading this newsletter, that is.) There’s a whole lot more on here than you might realize. It’s full of helpful information and links to resources that might come in handy. 

Here is just some of what you’ll find: 

– Information about HAAM – who we are and what we stand for.  
– Information about Humanism. 
– A searchable archive of past newsletters and articles. 
– Suggested resources for people who have recently left religion or are questioning their beliefs. 
– Links to community organizations, secular charities, and local support groups. 

Win a free dinner! 

Explore our website. Then complete this short quiz.  

Be the first person to email in all the correct answers, and you will win the cost of your dinner at an upcoming HAAM meeting*. All the answers are easily found on our web pages. (Hint: The title of the page containing the answer is shown in brackets after each question.) 

* Maximum value $25. Must be used at one of our fall 2018 meetings (Sept 8, October 13, or November 17).  1) In the photo illustrating HAAM’s position on public education, what is the message written on the poster that the protester is holding? (Position Statements)

2) The third from last item on our list of suggested resources for people wanting to learn about evolution is a series of short YouTube videos. What is the name of this video series? (Exploring Nonbelief)

3) What is the definition of morality as stated on our website? (What is Humanism?)

4) What is Question #7 on our list of ‘Ten Questions Everyone Should Ask About Religion?’ (Brochures)

5) In the Atheist Bible Study, which two modern translations of the Bible were used for the readings? (Bible Study)

6) Name two secular self-help organizations you could contact if you were struggling with an addiction. (Help and Advice)

Email your answers to info@haam.ca. 

Support our monthly charity program

Our Charity of the Month program will resume in September. Please support it – your contributions will help make a difference in our community (and occasionally across the globe) and show that Humanists care! 

Religious institutions have long claimed most of the credit for charity work, but let’s face it – much of the donated money and volunteer effort they receive goes toward supporting the organizations themselves, rather than assisting those in need. And with the decline of religion and the closures of churches, secular charities are needed to make up for the decrease in legitimate charitable work once done by religion. 

There are lots of secular charities and worthy organizations out there if you look – and we look. Since setting up the Charity of the Month program about 5 years ago, our members have supported over 40 different groups. Many of these are small, local, and less well known than the organizations we associate with big fundraising lotteries, walkathons, and advertising budgets. Most of our charities were started by ordinary people who just wanted to support a cause, meet a need, or right an injustice. 

You don’t even have to attend a HAAM meeting contribute to this program! Donations to the current Charity of the Month may be made using the Donate button on this website (just add a note about what the money is for). You can also browse our list of past charities for a cause you’d like to support and donate directly via that organization’s own website. 

Book of the Month: Can believers change their minds?

One of the most frequent questions that we get asked about our Outreach program is whether the effort is worth it; i.e. does anyone ever change their mind?  

Of course, the main goal of our Outreach program isn’t to ‘deconvert’ believers. Major reasons for setting up the booth are 1) to let closeted atheists know that they are not alone and that there is a supportive community of non-believers out there for them; 2) to promote reason and critical thinking; and 3) to clear up misconceptions about atheism and Humanism, and let believers know that it is possible to be good without a god. 

But yes, we do also engage in discussion, and sometimes debate, with believers. Why bother? Does it ever make a difference, or are we just wasting our time and energy? Aren’t most fundamentalists too committed to their beliefs – or just too stupid – to see reason?  

The answer to that is an emphatic NO. Even staunch fundamentalists can change their minds. All it takes is the right question or comment to spark someone’s curiosity, or plant a seed of doubt, and start them on the path to reason. Of course, change doesn’t happen instantly; and often it occurs, not in the believer participating in the discussion, but in a bystander listening to the conversation.

If you have difficulty believing that this is possible, then you really need to read Seth Andrews‘ book Deconverted – a journey from religion to reason. Seth is the guy who created the Thinking Atheist online community, YouTube channel, and weekly podcasts. He knows what it’s like to grow up in a fundamentalist Christian home, live in a Christian community, attend a private Christian school, and work in a Christian-based business – because he did all of these. This short book, which relates the personal ‘testimony’ of his exit from religiosity in his late 30’s, will vanquish any notions you might have that religious people are too ‘stupid’ to be reasoned out of their irrational beliefs.  

Deconverted is an easy read; Seth writes in the same folksy style that he uses in his speeches and podcasts. (Check out the book trailer.) He clearly explains the triggers that planted the first seeds of his doubt in his mind, and where those led him. If you also left conservative Christianity, then you’ll relate to much of what he describes. If you didn’t, and you have a hard time understanding how people can hold such ridiculous beliefs, then you’ll gain insight from reading his story. 

Bonus: If you enjoy the book, you can hear Seth discussing it, and his experiences, on his podcast here. 

All our library books and DVD’s are free to borrow for paid HAAM members. 
Visit our library page if you would like to borrow this book.  

Share your story

Many of our members were once religious – even very religious. How they ended up leaving all that behind and finding Humanism can be a fascinating (but sometimes difficult and sad) story.

We all have our own story to tell. Sharing our stories with each other helps create community with those who have had similar experiences and fosters understanding from those who had different experiences. It helps us all realize that we are not alone. Telling our stories publicly also helps clear up some of the misconceptions that people have about atheists.

What experiences shape your story?

– Did you grow up in a religious environment (family and/or community)?
– If you were once a ‘true believer’, what triggered your first spark of doubt?
– If you left religion, when and how did you do it?
– What impact (if any) does your lack of belief have on your family relationships and friendships?
– As a non-believer, where do you turn for guidance, support, and comfort?
– What led you to become involved with HAAM?

Some of our members have already told their stories on our website. We would love to add yours to add to those already there. You can remain anonymous if you wish.  (In fact, it is particularly helpful to hear the stories of people who are not ‘out’, because it lets others in the same situation realize that they are not alone. Feel free to alter or omit any identifying details and concentrate on relating your experiences and feelings. You may wish to include an explanation of why you cannot be ‘out’.

Remember, You are Not Alone

Submit your story to info@haam.ca

All enquiries and submissions will be kept strictly confidential unless permission is given for publication.

Last chance to complete our venue survey!

Thanks to everyone who responded to the very brief survey about our meeting venue. We will be reviewing everyone’s responses and suggestions at our next executive meeting.

If you still didn’t get around to completing it, the survey will be open until the long weekend (August 6th).

We need input from as many members as possible!

Click here to respond to the Venue Survey!

July 2018 Newsletter

Upcoming HAAM Events

We’re taking July off, but we’ll be busy with Outreach in August, and we’re already planning for fall.
Mark these dates on your calendars now!

August 17th to 19th we’ll be setting up our booth at Stonewall Quarry Days for the first time this year.

August 24th to 26th we’ll be back at the Corn and Apple Festival in Morden.

 

If you’re planning to attend either of these festivals, make sure to drop by at our booth and say Hi.
New volunteers are always welcome. There’s more information about the Outreach program here.


On Sunday, September 2nd, we’ll kick off our new season with a HAAM and Eggs Brunch.

 

Fall meeting dates:

Our monthly meetings are held on Saturdays at Canad Inns Polo Park from 5:30 pm – 8:30 pm. Planning for fall is still underway. Check back later in the summer for more details.

September 8th

Our guest speaker will be Bre Woligroski, a Sexuality and Reproductive Health Facilitator from Sexuality Education Resource Centre MB (SERC).

October 14th

Our own Tammy Blanchette will be speaking about pseudoscience and alternative medicine.

November 18th   Topic TBA.

More information about upcoming HAAM events will be posted on our Events page once we finalize the details.

About our meetings and events

Welcome! If you are new and just checking us out, you are welcome to attend one or two events before becoming a member. After that, if you wish to continue to participate, we ask that you support the group by joining. Our annual dues are reasonable and include a limited-income option.

All events are subject to change, and some details may be TBA. In the event of inclement weather or unforeseen circumstances, events may be subject to cancellation or details may change. Check future newsletters, the Home page of our website, our Facebook page, or Meetup for information and updates.

Upcoming Community (Non-HAAM) Events

Steinbach Pride Parade

Saturday, 21 July, K.R. Barkman Park in Steinbach MB, 11 AM to 3 PM.

Join in the celebration of diversity in southeast Manitoba. Details on their Facebook page.

More information and links to all non-HAAM events are on our Community Events page.

 

Latest News

Feedback (still) wanted

Thanks to everyone who responded so far to our very brief survey asking for your input about our meeting venue. We have received a couple of good suggestions for alternate venues that we might consider. Our executive will be reviewing all the survey responses and suggestions when we meet again at the end of the summer.

If you meant to respond and forgot, or just didn’t get around to it, the survey will still be open until the end of July.

Click here to respond to our Venue Survey!

Calls to Action

As Humanists, we need to speak up about what matters to us.

NEW! Voice your support for essential end-of-life care options. All Canadians should have access to both palliative care and assisted dying (MAID). No one should be forced to choose between them. Details about this issue are available from DWD Canada.

Make your voice heard! Deadline is July 13th.

It’s also not too late to respond to these 3 previous Calls to Action.

Sign the petition to end the gay blood ban

Register to be an organ donor

Demand an end to faith-based health care

 

There are links to more information about all these issues on our home page. If you haven’t had time to read about them and respond yet, you can catch up this summer.

Note that the deadline to sign the petition about the gay blood ban is July 17th.

Blasphemy law update  

Are you under the impression that Canada repealed its blasphemy law last year? If so, you’re mistaken. The law is still on the books – but hopefully not for much longer.

Blasphemy is only one of several outdated laws slated for abolishment in Bill C-51, which was introduced by the federal government last year. But change is slow – the bill took most of the year to get through the House of Commons, and it’s still being reviewed in the Senate. CFI Canada has more on this story.

When the bill passes, Canada will be the eighth country to repeal or abolish its blasphemy laws in just the last decade. But Ireland could beat us to the punch – their citizens are set to vote on the issue this October. Stay tuned.

Book of the Month

Summer’s here, so read something light and funny! You may have seen Penn Jillette in a magic show, or in his TV series Penn and Teller, or even in a music video. He’s been all over the place  in show biz.

God, No! Signs You May Already Be an Atheist and Other Magical Tales is Jillette’s irreverent ramblings and personal stories about the Ten Commandments, religious food laws, magic, family, sex, house parties, scuba diving, and many more unrelated topics. It’s not a novel, but rather a series of anecdotes, suitable for bathroom reading. And it’s not really about atheism; it’s thoughts about life from someone who happens to be an atheist. This book comes with a language warning – so you’re warned.

All our library books and DVD’s are free to borrow for paid HAAM members.
Visit our library page if you would like to borrow this book.

Outreach Report – Summer in the City Festival

One of HAAM’s early forays into outreach was back in 2011; a joint venture between HAAM and the Winnipeg Skeptics at the Red River Ex. As a relatively new member, I did a few shifts, but the results of that outreach were mixed at best. Maybe it was the venue, the lack of clear goals, or too narrow a focus. I felt that, although it was enjoyable, it fell flat at accomplishing much. The next year I was asked to join HAAM’s exec, and we developed a new approach to our outreach. We would focus on promoting Humanism and countering the inherently bad ideas and misinformation propagated by religion with a healthy dose of science and skepticism. Above all, our primary goal would be to build safe, secular communities.

Jump ahead to the 2018 Summer in the City Festival and the Eastman Humanist Community (EHC), a group that HAAM, through its outreach efforts, was able to help launch about three years ago. This year, their members helped with the daily booth setup and tear down, and their volunteer contribution was huge. On Saturday, the day shift was entirely made up of EHC members, staffing the booth in their hometown. This was a first, but to really appreciate its importance, one must understand a little bit about Steinbach.

A little background

In Manitoba, Steinbach is known as the buckle of the Bible Belt. It is home to the second largest megachurch in Manitoba – Southland. Southland’s foyer is probably larger than the MTS Centre’s. Steinbach still has vibrant Mennonite roots, but its theology has diversified into just about every flavor of Christianity, the loudest being the fundamentalist evangelicals or ‘fundagelicals’. Steinbach got its first bars and lounges in 2011, just 4 years after the population climbed above 10.000, which turned the Town of Steinbach into the City of Steinbach. Many locals believe that Steinbach reported artificially low population numbers though the 80’s and 90’s, so that the town council could maintain better control. This is a claim I can’t substantiate to any great degree, but looking at population growth charts, one has to wonder. Today Steinbach’s population is 15,829, and it’s a growing and changing community. However, its council and schoolboard are still dominated by the religious, although this is slowly changing as well. The area’s MP is the evangelical Ted Falk; and its MLA is Kelvin Goertzen, the provincial heath minister who doesn’t understand human rights and officially welcomed Alex Mitala to his church. (Mitala is a Ugandan preacher who supported the ‘aggravated homosexuality’ or ‘kill the gays bill’ in Uganda.) That gives one an idea of what we can be dealing with. So when I say I’m proud of the ECH and its volunteers, I truly mean it. These folks deserve a really big hand.

Some interesting conversations

An outreach report wouldn’t be complete without a few stories of some of our interactions. I don’t engage in every conversation; that’s why it’s important for our other outreach workers to record their own stories (yes, that’s a hint, my fellow Humanists). We had our standard visitors – angry Christians, and others who just don’t know what to make of us. We also had the usual completely dishonest believers who listen, and then proceed to misrepresent what was just said and argue the stuffing right out of the strawman. But this year, Tony and Tammy engaged our first flat-earther. Ya never know if these people are serious, but this guy seemed to be. The unfortunate part is that he showed up with his son.

Saturday afternoon the EHC crew had a young, Christian woman who felt it necessary to pray for them (see “Being prayed for” below). Now I’ve been prayed at before, and every time it happens, visions of George Carlin come to mind saying “Pray for anything. But… God made a divine plan… Now you come along and pray for something. Well, suppose the thing you want isn’t in God’s divine plan. What do you want him to do? Change his plan? Just for you?… What’s the use of being God if every run-down schmuck with a two-dollar prayer book can come along and fuck up your plan?”

Contentious topics

Abortion was another popular topic for debate this year. In one such discussion it was revealed just how broken the moral compass of many in the antichoice movement are. The heavy lifting was done by Dorothy and Arthur. It became quickly apparent that this young visitor from Brandon University was devoid of any compassion for the women. He kept repeating “what about the rights of the baby; it doesn’t have a choice” (‘baby’ being defined as anything from a fertilized egg to a full-term fetus). I interjected “So you’re ok with stripping the rights of actual people and giving them to potential people”? His answer was a nonsensical “but they’re human”. He was then asked if a twelve-year-old girl who was raped by her father and became pregnant should be forced to carry the pregnancy to term. His answer was yes. I felt like ending this conversation with a swift knee to the groin… but that wouldn’t be polite. Both Dorothy and I eventually left him to Arthur, who handled the conversation with professionalism and aplomb.

The good stuff

Of course, we had many productive conversations and several repeat visitors. A fella I spoke with last year joined me when I was having lunch away from the booth. He was with family that day and didn’t want to approach the booth. The young man had lots of questions. Did you ever believe? You don’t worry about hell? He also had follow up questions from last year; not that I remembered our conversation, but he did. He was particularly bothered by the problem of evil. We had run through this before last year, with me explaining the problem, the standard Christian apologetic argument (free will), and the rational response or counter apologetic argument (Satan’s freewill). This is a fella of not much more then twenty, struggling to make his faith make sense. He said we could talk more at the Morden outreach. I gave him a card to email me anytime with his questions, but he thinks face to face is better.

Another fella showed up to thank me for our talk last year. He said he learned how to talk to us and debate better by speaking with me. I responded that I was a little confused, since I didn’t regard our talk as a debate but a discussion. What I found weird was it was just a thank-you; he didn’t have any questions or want to talk…. bit of a head scratcher. I engaged all kinds of people during this outreach, even a two-on-one by a father son preacher team – a first for me.

In the end, this outreach effort was a success. We inspired a lot of people to think; our outreach volunteers had an experience I hope they will want to repeat; our visitors conversed with atheists who aren’t shy about their nonbelief; and most importantly, a few more nonbelievers in the Bible Belt found the EHC.

– Pat Morrow

Being prayed for

I don’t know her name, but “Eve” came up and told us that she had received a word from her god to speak to us. She was nervous and flushed. Eve asked me why I was an atheist. I gave her a quick synopsis of my journey away from faith and she wondered if maybe my leaving was because I had not truly given my heart to Jesus. I felt that was a bit pompous of her, but let it go.

After a bit more banter, she asked if she could pray for us. I said, “Sure, if you want to head off and pray for us; it’s a free country.” She turned a deeper red and said, “No, I’d like to pray for all of you right here.” I told her that I would find that offensive and I didn’t think it was a good idea. She kept insisting, “God has told me to come here and pray with you”. I asked if she really heard an audible voice from her god. I thought for sure she would say she felt some kind of impulse or urge, but she confirmed it was a clear voice she could hear. At this point I began to feel sorry for her, and turned to the others in the booth and asked, “What do you think – do you want her to pray for us?” Their eyes were wide, and I could see they were casting about for some kind of appropriate response. I don’t know who, but someone replied, “I guess it’s okay…”  I asked Eve if the holy spirit could keep the prayer to a minute or less. She wanted to sit with us, so she came right into the booth and took my vacant chair and began to pray. Almost three minutes later she was done. I didn’t listen all that closely, but the gist of the prayer was that she wanted her god to show us how real he was and how deeply he cared for us. A few seconds after her “amen” she was on her way.

Her prayer moved me to ponder how jaw-droppingly insensitive people can be when they get directions from imaginary gods. It also reminded me how happy I’ve been since leaving.  Thanks, Eve!

– Gary Snider (EHC) 

There are more photos from this Outreach in our Photo Gallery.

Solstice Party

Our celebration was an overwhelming success in its new venue at Kildonan Park.

to Rob Daly for being such a great BBQ chef!

  More photos of the Solstice party in our Photo Gallery.

June 2018 Newsletter

Upcoming HAAM Events 

Summer in the City Outreach 

Friday, June 15th to Sunday June 17th, Steinbach MB 

Our annual Outreach at the Summer in the City Festival. Drop in and say Hi! Details here.

Summer Solstice Party 

Saturday, June 23rd, Kildonan Park, 5:00 – 9:00 PM 

New location! Everyone is welcome! Details here.

Save the Dates 

Mark your calendars now so you won’t miss anything!  

Fall meeting dates:   September 8th     October 13th     November 17th  

Details about all upcoming HAAM events are on our Events page. 

Upcoming Community (Non-HAAM) Events 

Winnipeg Pride Parade 

Sunday, June 3rd, Manitoba Legislative Building. Rally at 10 AM and parade at 11. 

The parade marks the finale of Pride Week. 

More information and links to all non-HAAM events are on our Community Events page. 

Latest News 

Feedback wanted 

We’ve been holding our regular monthly meetings on Saturday evenings at Canad Inns Polo Park for the last several years now. It’s a great venue in many ways, but not necessarily ideal for our group. Three main drawbacks are that  

1. we can’t bring in any outside food, even for special celebrations;  

2. we cannot make noise that would be heard in the dining area or the next meeting room (which pretty much rules out music of any kind); and 

3. a hotel meeting room is not particularly spacious or kid/family friendly.  

The perfect meeting space

Here is what we would ideally be looking for:  

1. location – reasonably central (ie not on the outskirts of the city), safe area, on or close to a major route, parking available, no religious affiliation (ie not a church) 

2. reasonable cost  

3. capacity – at least 50 people 

4. availability – Saturday evenings? is there any other time or day we could consider? Sunday morning or a week night?  

5. the ability to bring own food if we want, such as for treats, special occasions, or pot lucks 

6. more kid/family friendly space

7. no noise restriction (ie ability to play music) 

We need your input!

Our executive has been exploring other options, so far without success. We would like your opinions and suggestions. Are you happy with the current location? Does it matter to you if there is food/a meal available at each meeting? Do you know of a place that you think might be more suitable? Would a change of location make you more, or less, likely to attend? What if we found a great location that was not available Saturday evenings? Would you come on a week night? Sunday morning? 

Let us know what you think! Please complete this short (2 minute) survey to help us plan for next season.

 

Stealing Reason: Christianity’s Theft of Human Values 

If you were unable to make it to our May meeting, you missed an excellent presentation by our own Pat Morrow about the false claims that Christians make while trying to claim credit for scientific and moral progress.  

Good news – Pat’s talk is now uploaded to our YouTube channel. Check it out!  

Partners for Life Update

Sign at Confusion Corner in Winnipeg in May

Summer’s here – and that means that Canadian Blood Services will be facing their annual blood shortage as regular donors travel or relax at the lake.

HAAM participates in the Partners for Life program, with an annual pledge of 25 donations from our members. As of mid-May, we had 11 donations… so we’re on track to meet that goal. Maybe we can even surpass it! If you’re a blood donor, please make the effort to donate over the summer.

If you’ve never donated before, or never asked to have your donations credited to HAAM, please join our Canadian Blood Services Partners for Life team and help us reach our goal. Let’s show that Humanists care enough to donate blood!

Information about Partners for Life, and instructions for how to sign up, are here. And as always, if you have questions or difficulty with the registration, contact us. 

Video of the Month 

Summer’s here, so that means it’s Outreach season – and HAAM certainly won’t be the only group doing outreach. Religious organizations and lobby groups will have booths at small town fairs all over Manitoba. You can usually count on finding evangelical Christians, anti-choice groups, and creationists. 

These organizations are very well funded by their supporters, and they put on large and splashy displays, with flashy professionally produced posters and leaflets to hand out. Answers in Genesis, the US-based creationist organization responsible for the Creation Museum and the Ark Encounter in Kentucky, usually has a whole trailer full of sophisticated schlock at the Morden Corn and Apple Festival. But don’t think that these beliefs are unique to the US. Creationism and science-denial in general is wide-spread in Manitoba’s Bible Belt communities – even in Morden, home of the Canadian Fossil Discovery Centre. Some of our members were indoctrinated with creationism as children. If you haven’t taken it seriously up until now, you need to get out more.  

Want a primer on some of the wacky stuff creationists believe? HAAM has a copy of Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, the propaganda film in which Ben Stein dismisses evolution (and science in general) as a conspiracy to keep God out of laboratories and schools. Why not borrow it to watch at home this summer, where you can have a good laugh (or a good cry, or maybe just a couple of drinks) while you’re watching. Warning – this film is pretty bad. It links evolution to Nazism and misrepresents interviews with science advocates like Michael Shermer and Richard Dawkins. Its initial rating on Rotten Tomatoes was 9%. Roger Ebert called it “cheerfully ignorant and manipulative”. But Christianity Today gave it 3 out of 4 stars. 

Love it, hate it, or just laugh at it – this film will provide you with some insight into the creationist mindset. Maybe it will even inspire you to join us in our outreach booth to promote science and reason. 

All our library books and DVD’s are free to borrow for paid HAAM members. 
Visit our library page if you would like to borrow this video.  

Looking for a Summer Camp? 

Summer’s here – and every year we get asked about children’s summer camps. We’ve written about this topic before, so here’s a summary of what we know. 

Almost all overnight children’s summer camps in Manitoba are directly run by religious organizations. A few others are targeted at specific populations (ie kids with disabilities). The following are the only camps we are aware of that are unaffiliated with religious groups: 

  • Camp Wannakumbac up at Clear Lake (Keystone Agricultural Producers) 
  • Camp Stephens (YMCA) in the Whiteshell 
  • Caddy Lake Girl Guide Camp (girls only, but membership in Girl Guides is not required) 
  • Camp Manitou (True North Youth Foundation) – mostly day camps, but some overnight camps 
  • Camp Wasaga at Clear Lake (families only). 

Disclaimer – noting that a camp is not affiliated with a religious group cannot guarantee that it will be 100% secular. Last summer a member who sent her child to Camp Wannakumbac reported to us that they still recite ‘grace’ at mealtimes.  

Do you have experience with, or knowledge of, children’s summer camps that would help our members?
We’d appreciate your feedback so that we can pass the information along to other families.  

HAAM Venue Survey

Feedback wanted

We’ve been holding our regular monthly meetings on Saturday evenings at Canad Inns Polo Park for the last several years now. It’s a great venue in many ways, but not necessarily ideal for our group. Three main drawbacks are that

1. we can’t bring in any outside food, even for special celebrations;

2. we cannot make noise that would be heard in the dining area or the next meeting room (which pretty much rules out music of any kind); and

3. a hotel meeting room is not particularly spacious or kid/family friendly.

The perfect meeting space

Here is what we would ideally be looking for:

1. location – reasonably central (ie not on the outskirts of the city), safe area, on or close to a major route, parking available, no religious affiliation (ie not a church)

2. reasonable cost

3. capacity – at least 50 people

4. availability – Saturday evenings? is there any other time or day we could consider? Sunday morning or a week night?

5. the ability to bring own food if we want, such as for treats, special occasions, or pot lucks

6. more kid/family friendly space

7. no noise restriction (ie ability to play music)

We need your input!

Our executive has been exploring other options, so far without success. We would like your opinions and suggestions.

Are you happy with the current location? Does it matter to you if there is food/a meal available at each meeting? Do you know of a place that you think might be more suitable? Would a change of location make you more or less likely to attend? What if we found a great location that was not available Saturday evenings? Would you come on a week night? Sunday morning?

Let us know what you think! Please complete this short (2 minute) survey to help us plan for next season.

May 2018 Newsletter

Upcoming HAAM Events 

Stealing Reason: Christianity’s Theft of Human Values 

Saturday, May 12th, Canad Inns Polo Park, 5:30 – 8:30 PM 

Our own Pat Morrow will talk about Christian apologetic claims regarding the scientific revolution and slavery. His presentation will demonstrate that progress is not due to any gods, but rather to human effort.  Details here.

HAAM and Eggs Brunch 

Saturday, May 26th, Red Top Inn, 219 St Mary’s Road, 9:30 AM 

Our monthly casual get-together. Everyone’s welcome. Details here.

 

Save the Dates 

June 15-17 – Outreach at the Summer in the City Festival (Steinbach) 

June 23rdSummer Solstice Party 

 

Details for all upcoming HAAM events are on our Events page. 

Upcoming Community (Non-HAAM) Events 

Interbelief Reasoning Dialogue: “What Weaponizes Beliefs?”

Thursday, 3 May, St James Assiniboia Public Library (note change of date)

Presented by the Winnipeg Circle of Reason.

Advance Care Planning – what you need to know

Saturday, May 12th, St Boniface Public Library, 1:30 PM.

Learn more about your rights as a patient, and how to increase the chances of your wishes being respected in a health crisis and/or at the end of life. Registration required. More information here.

Winnipeg Pride Parade 

Sunday, June 3rd, Manitoba Legislative Building.

Rally at 10 AM and parade at 11. 

 

More information and links to all these non-HAAM events are on our Community Events page. 

Charity of the Month  

Just in time for Mothers Day! They say you can’t spoil a baby – but let’s try.  

You Can’t Spoil a Baby has been providing baby supplies to Manitoba families in need since 2011. Its goal is to show families that they are valued by their community by providing them with no-strings-attached gifts to help them care for their baby. 

YCSAB is run 100% by volunteers. The concept is simple:  

Donors can either contribute their once-loved baby items to one of YCSAB’s more than 40 drop-off spots for volunteers to combine into gifts, or follow guidelines provided by YCSAB to make and deliver their own gift using items they collect. Each gift includes items that will help a family through their baby’s first year – a set of newborn to 18 month baby clothes, one ‘big-ticket’ item (like a crib, stroller, or exersaucer), a few other helpful accessories (like feeding, bathing and diapering supplies, blankets, and toys), and a big sibling gift if the family has other children.  

Families who need assistance need to apply for a gift early in pregnancy (the wait list is close to 6 months). Most of the expectant parents who apply do not have friends or family to give them baby items, are single parents or young couples living on Income Assistance, are newcomers to Canada who are starting over, are leaving abusive relationships, or have had a series of tough breaks and need help. In addition to the gift of baby clothes and baby items, YCSAB provides families with an online list of local resources to help with the high costs of raising children. 

YCSAB accepts money as well as gently used baby items that help with the first two years of life. Their highest need items are always sleepers/pajamas in sizes 6-18 months. Used items are encouraged to promote reuse, but they won’t turn away new ones. A list of accepted items can be found on their website. Please check it carefully, as some items must comply with safety regulations. You can bring your donations to our meeting. If you have very large items, or cannot make it to the meeting, let us know and we’ll arrange for pickup and/or transport of your items. 

Donations for the Charity of the Month will be collected at the meeting. Tax receipts are available for donations over $10. If you would like to donate but cannot attend the meeting, you can do so via the ‘Donate’ button. Just include a note letting us know that the money is for the charity. 

Call to Action 

There’s a new petition to the House of Commons urging the government to re-examine the ban against gay men donating blood.  

The current law makes anyone (male or female), who has had sex with a man who has had sex with another man within the last year ineligible to donate. Obviously, this is a sensitive issue and there is a lot more to the law than just politics. Blood donation regulations need to be evidence-based, in order to protect us all. That’s why the screening for prospective donors includes questions about drug use, travel history, tattoos, and whether their job involves caring for monkeys.

But when it comes to sexual practices, the law focuses on demographics instead of behaviors – banning ALL gay men, even those in monogamous, long-term relationships, from donating blood. On the other hand, straight people are not excluded from donating regardless of the number of sexual partners they have had – as long as the donor believes that all those partners are also straight. Doesn’t this seem illogical?  

The rationale for the current guidelines and the history behind them are clearly explained on the Canadian Blood Services’ website here and here. In summary, the rules used to be much stricter – a lifetime ban on gay men donating blood was in place until 2013. Since then, CBS has gradually been relaxing the standards as more data is obtained. The current one-year ban was initiated in 2016. Of course, we all want to avoid another fiasco like the tainted blood scandal of the 80’s and 90’s that made people sick, cost millions of dollars, and diminished confidence in the safety of Canada’s blood supply. 

But it would make more sense to screen all donors for at-risk practices instead of just banning a whole group of people, and it appears that CBS is gradually moving in that direction. Recently, donors were given a survey asking if they would be willing to answer more detailed questions about their sexual practices as part of donor screening, or whether such intimate questions would discourage them from donating at all.   

The survey question asked: Please state how comfortable you would be answering questions on these topics in order to donate blood or plasma: 

– Saying the number of partners you have had in the last 6 months 
– Saying if you have had ANAL sex with anyone in the last 6 months 
– Saying if you used a condom every time you had sex in the last 6 months 
– Saying if you used the internet or social media (eg Facebook or Tinder) to seek a partner for sexual intercourse in the last 6 months) 
– And several more similar questions 

The answer choices were ‘completely comfortable’, ‘somewhat comfortable’, ‘somewhat uncomfortable’, ‘completely uncomfortable’, and ‘this would stop me from donating’.  

If having to answer these questions deters some people from donating, wouldn’t it stand to reason that most of those who are deterred are those who participate in high-risk behaviors? And wouldn’t that be a good thing? It’s interesting to think about. 

If you support encouraging CBS to focus on behaviors rather than on demographics in their donor screening, please sign the petition. It’s open for signature until July 17th 

Click here to sign the petition. 

And if you ARE currently eligible to donate, please do. HAAM is a member of CBS Partners for Life program. Learn more about it here, and sign up now! 

Latest News 

Your Health Care – What You Don’t Know Can Hurt You

According to the Health Care Directives Act of Manitoba, a health care directive (HCD) is a legal document that must be respected by your medical team in the event that you can’t speak for yourself. Also, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms states that all competent adult Canadians have the right to refuse or discontinue treatment.

But did you know that both your HCD and your right to refuse treatment can be ignored by your medical team under certain circumstances? For example, you might have comfort in the fact that you’ve written down and signed your wish not to be resuscitated, in the event that you collapse and someone calls an ambulance. However, what paramedics have told us is that not only will they not take the time to stop and read a HCD when treating a patient in an emergency, but they also can’t respect your request. That’s because they can’t verify your signature, your state of mind, or your competency when you signed it. To be considered valid, a DNR (do not resuscitate) order must be obtained from and signed by your doctor (and even then, there is still some uncertainty about whether it will be followed). And once the patient arrives at the hospital, and let’s say regains consciousness, the patient’s request to refuse treatment could be ignored by staff until a psychiatrist confirms the patient’s competence. So even if it’s your worst fear to wake up in hospital hooked up to machines, that could be exactly what happens in spite of your best efforts to communicate your wishes.

What can I do about this?

So what can you do to prevent such a situation from happening? Well, first of all, do you HAVE a signed HCD in the first place? If not, you can download one for free from End of Life Planning Canada (via DWD Winnipeg chapter), make sure you’ve chosen a proxy who is willing to get LOUD if your wishes are not being respected. Neither of these will likely help with the paramedics, but they will certainly help once you arrive at the hospital. Second, do you have a card in your wallet that states who your proxy is and where to find your HCD? And finally, have you discussed your end-of-life wishes with all of your friends and family? The more backup you have, the safer it will be (legally) for medical staff to respect your proxy’s instructions.

What about MAID?

It is currently not legal to list Medical Assistance in Dying as one of your requests in your health care directive, since your HCD only comes into effect if you can’t communicate, and you can’t have assistance to die unless you’re able to consent when the time comes to administer the drugs. The DWD Canada blog states

“In 2016, an Ipsos Reid poll of 2,530 Canadians found a surprisingly strong level of support for allowing MAID in our HCDs, with no statistically significant regional variations. Approval was high among supporters of the three leading federal parties, especially supporters of the New Democratic Party (84%) and the Liberal Party of Canada (83%). Three out of four Conservative supporters (74%) were in favour, too. 78% of Catholics and 73% of Protestant Christians support allowing Canadians with a grievous and irremediable illness to make advance requests for physician-assisted dying. Sample sizes for people of other faiths weren’t large enough to allow for statistically significant comparisons.

Other poll questions presented different possible scenarios involving advance consent for assisted dying. About eight in 10 (82%) Canadians said they would support physician-assisted dying for patients who have a scheduled assisted death, and were competent at the time of the request, but who lose competence before the request can be carried out (for example, in the case of a patient who falls into a coma just days before the scheduled provision of aid in dying). Seven in 10 (71%) Canadians would support allowing a patient without a diagnosis for a grievous and irremediable illness to make an advance request for physician-assisted dying that would be honoured if certain pre-stated conditions were met.”

Learn more!

If you’d like to be fully informed and complete your HCD, join us for our next workshop on Advance Care Planning, May 12th at the St Boniface Library at 1:30 PM. Become an empowered patient! For more information, and to register (required), contact DWD Winnipeg Chapter.                                                          – Cheri Frazer

Event Review – Debate: Morality 

In April I attended the Feakes vs. Kay morality debate held at Winnipeg’s New Life Sanctuary Church. Darren Kay is a local Humanist writer with an interest in the big questions. John Feakes is the pastor of the aforementioned church. He’s a Young Earth Creationist with a master’s degree in theology from the Columbia Evangelical Seminary (readers are free to look that one up).  

The debate question was “How should we live our lives?”. It asks which is the better framework for forming an ethical morality – Christianity or secularism. 

As far as the calibre of the debate, this was not Wilberforce versus Huxley. Part of the problem was the nature of the question. Feakes was tasked with arguing for the proposition that “Christianity is ethically superior to secularism” whereas Kay was tasked with the negative “Christianity is not ethically superior to secularism”.  Taking the negative put Kay in the situation of having to disprove Feakes’s position and at the same time argue his own. In addition, neither position was clearly defined – whose version of Christianity? and what do we mean by secularism? Feakes did try to define secularism in his rapid-fire slideshow, by displaying every definition of it from many sources.  

For me, the quality of any debate is in its opening statements and initial rebuttals. I found this debate quite formulaic and pre-scripted (or maybe I’ve just watched far too many of them). Feakes opened with the standard creationist shotgun debating technique (AKA the Gish Gallop). Kay did a good job of trying to explain the nature of secular morality, but with the limited time available I think some points were not as clear as they could’ve been, and were therefore missed by the folks who most needed to hear them.  

In formal debate, after the opening arguments come the rebuttals. This is a chance for one to respond to the arguments that were just presented by one’s opponent. Great debaters such as Christopher Hitchens would often do their rebuttals from memory or with just a few notes.  The rebuttal requires debaters to think on their feet, although on occasion, visual aids could be incorporated if one is familiar enough with their opponent’s points to anticipate them. However, in this debate, both sides used fully prepared PowerPoint presentations, which offered the odd spectacle of each of them rebutting arguments that their opponents had not presented. As a result, the rebuttals were disappointing. At some points the evening took on a lecture feel rather than a debate. 

You can find the full video of the evening here on YouTube. It will help those unfamiliar with the moral argument to become better informed, but if you’re looking for the thrust and parry of a traditional debate, this may not be for you.                                                                                                        Pat Morrow  

Library News – Interlibrary loans now available

The Eastman Humanist Community (EHC), based in Steinbach, is growing and now has its own small library. It makes sense to pool our resources – sharing is what Humanists do, right? So HAAM and the EHC have recently reached an agreement to allow inter-library loans between the two groups.

Our own HAAM library is now up to almost 250 items (books and DVD’s), available to all paid members. So check it out!  But if we don’t have the book you are looking for, you are now welcome to check out the EHC’s library as well. If you find something there that you would like to borrow, contact HAAM. We will make arrangements with the EHC to obtain the item for you the next time someone from either group is traveling between Steinbach and Winnipeg.

Book of the Month Bad Science: Quacks, Hacks, and Big Pharma Flacks 

If you’re concerned about the current anti-intellectualism trend that is making people vulnerable to propaganda, advertising, and quackery in medicine, religion, and politics, then you’ll find this book encouraging.  

Ben Goldacre writes in easy to understand language about the importance of learning to think critically when evaluating scientific claims, in order to separate promotional propaganda from reality. He covers research topics like placebos, double-blind studies, and sample sizes, so that you can recognize bad science when you see it.  

Read about detox baths, ear candling, ‘whole brain learning’, homeopathy, the MMR vaccine scare, cosmetics, vitamin supplements, anti-oxidants, cognitive bias, the misuse of statistics, celebrity endorsements, and more. It’s an entertaining book for anyone interested in the practical uses – and abuses – of science.  

All our library books and DVD’s are free to borrow for paid HAAM members. 
Visit our library page if you would like to borrow this book. 

HAAM President Donna Harris onstage with Matt Dillahunty during his recent visit. What an awesome show!

 

 

End the Gay Blood Ban

There’s a new petition to the House of Commons urging the government to re-examine the ban against gay men donating blood.

The current law

The current law makes anyone (male or female), who has had sex with a man who has had sex with another man within the last year ineligible to donate. Obviously, this is a sensitive issue and there is a lot more to the law than just politics. Blood donation regulations need to be evidence-based, in order to protect us all. That’s why the screening for prospective donors includes questions about drug use, travel history, tattoos, and whether their job involves caring for monkeys.

But when it comes to sexual practices, the law focuses on demographics instead of behaviors – banning ALL gay men, even those in monogamous, long-term relationships, from donating blood. On the other hand, straight people are not excluded from donating regardless of the number of sexual partners they have had – as long as the donor believes that all those partners are also straight. Doesn’t this seem illogical?

Why can’t gay men donate blood?

The rationale for the current guidelines and the history behind them are clearly explained on the Canadian Blood Services’ website here and here. In summary, the rules used to be much stricter – a lifetime ban on gay men donating blood was in place until 2013. Since then, CBS has gradually been relaxing the standards as more data is obtained. The current one-year ban was initiated in 2016. Of course, we all want to avoid another fiasco like the tainted blood scandal of the 80’s and 90’s that made people sick, cost millions of dollars, and diminished confidence in the safety of Canada’s blood supply.

Is there an alternative?

It would make more sense to screen all donors for at-risk practices instead of just banning a whole group of people, and it appears that CBS is gradually moving in that direction. Recently, donors were given a survey asking if they would be willing to answer more detailed questions about their sexual practices as part of donor screening, or whether such intimate questions would discourage them from donating at all.

The survey question asked: Please state how comfortable you would be answering questions on these topics in order to donate blood or plasma:
– Saying the number of partners you have had in the last 6 months
– Saying if you have had ANAL sex with anyone in the last 6 months
– Saying if you used a condom every time you had sex in the last 6 months
– Saying if you used the internet or social media (eg Facebook or Tinder) to seek a partner for sexual intercourse in the last 6 months)
– And several more similar questions
The answer choices were ‘completely comfortable’, ‘somewhat comfortable’, ‘somewhat uncomfortable’, ‘completely uncomfortable’, and ‘this would stop me from donating’.

Going forward

If having to answer these questions deters some people from donating, wouldn’t it stand to reason that most of those who are deterred are those who participate in high-risk behaviors? And wouldn’t that be a good thing? It’s interesting to think about.

If you support encouraging CBS to focus on behaviors rather than on demographics in their donor screening, please sign the petition. It’s open for signature until July 17th.

Click here to sign the petition

And if you ARE currently eligible to donate, please do. HAAM is a member of CBS Partners for Life program. Learn more about it here, and sign up now!

April 2018 Newsletter

Upcoming HAAM Events 

Pre-Dillahunty Drinks 

Sunday, April 8th, King’s Head Pub, 120 King Street, 6 PM 

Will you be attending Matt Dillahunty’s Magic and Skepticism show that evening? (details for that are on our ‘Community Events’ page). 

If so, meet us for drinks first! Details here.

Monthly Meeting – What’s Wrong with Private Schools? 

Saturday, April 14th, Canad Inns Polo Park, 5:30 – 8:30 PM 

Guest speaker Steve Lecce, from the Centre for Professional and Applied Ethics at the U of M, will address the issue of public funding for private schools in Manitoba. 

Details here.

HAAM and Eggs Brunch 

Sunday, April 29th, Original Pancake House at the Forks, 1 Forks Market Road, 9:30 AM 

Our monthly casual get-together. Details here.

 

Save the Dates 

May 12th (Monthly Meeting) – Stealing Reason: Christianity’s Theft of Human Values 

June 23rdSummer Solstice Party 

Mark your calendars now so you won’t miss anything!  

Details for all upcoming HAAM events are on our Events page. 

Upcoming Community (Non-HAAM) Events 

Matt Dillahunty’s Magic and Skepticism World Tour 2018 

Sunday, 8 April 2018, Burton Cummings Theatre, 364 Smith St 

Event information and link to get tickets is here.

Debate: Morality – How Should We Live Our Lives? 

Saturday, 21 April 2018, New Life Sanctuary Church, 618 Muriel Street 

Dig Deep Fundraiser Gala for the Canadian Fossil Discovery Centre 

Saturday, 28 April 2018, Morden Manitoba 

More information on these and more upcoming non-HAAM events is on our Community Events page.  

Charity of the MonthPathways to Education 

Pathways to Education is an innovative program that partners with governments, communities, schools, and volunteers to help youth from low-income communities stay in school, graduate, and achieve their full potential.  

In Winnipeg, Pathways to Education operates in the North Point Douglas, Lord Selkirk Park, and William Whyte neighbourhoods (see map), where people of Aboriginal descent make up over 70 per cent of high school families. All students in this catchment area are eligible to participate in the program from grades 9 through 12, regardless of their academic performance or economic circumstance. There is no cost to participants. 

Many kids in this area have the potential to succeed but face barriers to education created by poverty. These include insufficient financial means, lack of positive role models in the community, absence of parental support, or integration into a new country and culture. 

The Pathways program includes financial support (transit and meal vouchers, scholarships and internships); academic support (tutoring and assistance transitioning to post-secondary education); social support (group mentoring and career exploration); and personal support and advocacy. 

An evaluation of the program by an independent consulting firm estimated that society’s return on Pathways is about $24 for every $1 invested, and a total benefit of about $600,000 for every graduate – in addition to the obvious personal and social benefits of breaking the cycle of poverty. So let’s help make this happen! 

Donations for the Charity of the Month will be collected at the meeting. Tax receipts are available for donations over $10. If you would like to donate but cannot attend the meeting, you can do so via the ‘Donate’ button. Just include a note letting us know that the money is for the charity. 

Latest News 

Understanding Evolution from Animal Limbs 

On our recent visit to Grunthal to address students at Green Valley High, one of the young men stated (paraphrasing slightly) “you say we share like 99.8% of our DNA with monkeys.  Well, I’m not a banana.  We share 50% of our DNA with bananas. I’m not a banana”. 

eohippus

I’m glad to report that most of the other students found his statement thoroughly amusing. But really, I don’t truly know how much science these young people are learning in school.  I don’t think I learned very much science from school. I know I did learn some from pop culture, because I really liked animals. I always watched Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom, and I never missed Joan Embery from the San Diego Zoo when she appeared on The Tonight Show.  

I distinctly remember a diagram of the history of equine evolution, right from Eohippus (shown) to modern horses. I remember the toe patterns. It always made sense to me. I never questioned that life develops over time; it seemed so… obvious. And I’ve always appreciated the diagrams of arm/limb structure. The number and arrangement of bones is a pattern that runs through all tetrapods – animals with four limbs.  

There are obviously variations, but the same pattern is visible in diverse animal species, including humans (top left), whales (top right), lizards (bottom left), and birds (bottom right). Learn more about these limbs here. 

But nowhere did I see that demonstrated more clearly to me than a recent Facebook post with a simple image of a cross-section of an elephant’s foot. I was shocked at how that looked exactly like a human foot, on tiptoe, encased in a “boot” of flesh. To me, the links between living things are patently obvious. I don’t know about you, but I’m quite happy knowing that I share 50% of my DNA with a banana. – Donna Harris 

Sending Our Get Well Wishes 

One of our founding members has been in hospital recently. Olga Nahirniak has been a HAAM member ‘from the beginning’ (in the mid-1990’s). At that time, the group was named just HAM (Humanist Association of Manitoba).  

Now in her 90’s, Olga continues to receive and read our newsletter every month, although she has not been able to make it out to an event for the last couple of years.  

Helen and John Friesen went to visit her in hospital in early March. Olga was very appreciative of their visit and thanked them several times for coming. They passed on greetings from all our members, and Olga asked them to return the greetings saying she thought about all of us often. She’s such a sweet lady and a remarkable person! 

Olga is back home now. Members who attended the March meeting signed a get-well card to let her know we’re thinking about her. 

Olga is in this photo, taken at the 2013 Summer Solstice party (it’s also in the slide show on the home page with the caption ‘Humanism is Inclusive’). She’s in the front row, at right, seated on her walker, wearing dark pants and a red jacket. We miss you Olga!    

Summer Solstice 2013

Understanding and Completing an Advance Care Plan 

The Winnipeg chapter of Dying with Dignity has a 2-hour workshop on how to fill out your ACP (aka a health care directive or living will). An effective ACP indicates your wishes about your care should something bad happen and you can’t speak for yourself. Many people arrive at hospitals with either no instructions in writing, or with a paragraph written in language too vague for doctors to act upon. Don’t assume that just because your spouse knows your wishes that that’s what will happen in an emergency. Dying With Dignity Canada has many years of experience in helping people express their wishes clearly in an Advance Care Plan. 

The complete DWD Advance Care Plan kit and information booklet is available to anyone to download free. However, based on past presentations and reports from patients, families, and health care professionals, there are lots of questions and many issues that need further elaboration and interpretation – hence the need for this workshop. Topics addressed in the presentation include: 

  • Legal issues around ACP’s, including the difference between an ACP and a Power of Attorney 
  • Patient rights including right to refuse treatment 
  • How to choose a proxy decision maker 
  • How to ensure that your wishes are carried out  
  • Comparing a Living Will prepared by a lawyer to a standard hospital form, and the Manitoba government form 
  • Discussing common but imprecise phrases such as “heroic measures” and “artificial means” 
  • Walking through the ACP kit and the Health Care Directive form in detail 
  • How to complete the form / how to make copies 
  • What to do (and what NOT to do) with your HCD after it’s completed 
  • Resources for those who want further information or guidance 

The next class will be offered once there is sufficient interest expressed. Please RSVP to the Winnipeg Chapter of Dying With Dignity to indicate your interest. You will be contacted later to arrange a suitable date and time. 

Book of the Month – Not the Impossible Faith  

Historian Richard Carrier offers a point-by-point rebuttal of the frequent assertions by apologists that Christianity could not have taken hold in the ancient world unless its claims were true, and that theirs is not just another man-made religion. 

Carrier examines the sociology of the ancient world and demonstrates that Christianity did not require miracles to succeed. The book explains that Christianity’s early converts were the poor and outcast, but that its adaptability allowed it to grow and eventually reach the upper classes. 

Each chapter addresses a different question, such as: who would believe in a crucified god, who would join an intolerant cult, and who would follow an executed criminal? 

This is a fascinating book for those interested in the origins of Christianity. 

All our library books and DVD’s are free to borrow for paid HAAM members. 

Visit our library page if you would like to borrow this book. 

Stephen Hawking 1942-2018 

Farewell to a “brilliant and extraordinary mind”.  (Theresa May)  

*** 

“Have fun out there among the stars.” (Barack Obama)

March 2018 Newsletter

Upcoming HAAM Events

Monthly Meeting – Film Fest: Shorts Night

Saturday, March 10th, Canad Inns Polo Park, 5:30 – 8:30 PM

We’ll be sharing a series of short videos on a variety of topics. Suitable for pre-teens and up.

Click here for details.

 

HAAM and Eggs Brunch

Sunday, March 18th, Stella’s on Pembina, 1463 Pembina Hwy, 9:30 AM

Everyone’s welcome! Details here.

 

Save the Dates

April 14th (Monthly Meeting) – What’s Wrong with Private Schools?

May 12th (Monthly Meeting) – Stealing Reason: Christianity’s Theft of Human Values

June 23rdSummer Solstice Party

Mark your calendars now so you won’t miss anything!

Details for all upcoming HAAM events are on the Events page. 

Upcoming Community (Non-HAAM) Events

Matt Dillahunty’s Magic and Skepticism World Tour 2018

Sunday, 8 April 2018, Burton Cummings Theatre, 364 Smith St

Do you have your tickets yet? Lots of HAAM members are going. Don’t be left out!

Click here for details and ticket information.

Debate: Morality – How Should We Live Our Lives?

Saturday, 21 April 2018, New Life Sanctuary Church, 618 Muriel Street

Dig Deep Fundraiser Gala for the Canadian Fossil Discovery Centre

Saturday, 28 April 2018, Morden Manitoba

More information on these upcoming non-HAAM events is on our Community Events page.

Charity of the Month

Manitoba doesn’t end at the perimeter highway, so our donations shouldn’t either. After all, we are the Humanists, Atheists, and Agnostics of Manitoba – not just Winnipeg. So this month, for a change, we’re venturing outside the city.

Blue Sky Opportunities Inc. is a non-profit organization in Altona, committed to maximizing the independence of adults with intellectual disabilities.

Blue Sky’s vocational program provides training and employment, followed by ongoing workplace support and mentoring for its clients. Their projects include the manufacture of wooden products (pallets, crokinole boards, clothes dryers, custom woodwork, fencing, and furniture); the assembly of combine feeder and elevator chains; blue box and cardboard pickup in the area; lawn care services for local businesses and private homes; and the operation of an e-waste collection site. They also do contract work (such as product assembly, packaging, electrical wire assembly, paper shredding, and rug weaving) for local businesses, and assist with special projects and peak work loads.

Blue Sky also offers non-vocational programming in the areas of communication, physiotherapy, life skills and recreational activities to enhance the quality of life. Their life skills program focuses on activities such as meal preparation, cleaning, laundry and bicycle safety. They currently operate 10 homes in Altona, as well as providing supports for people living in their own home within the community.

Blue Sky Opportunities relies on fundraising to provide the capital needed to support their programs and facilities. They recently completed a new Recycling and Chain Assembly Building (in photo), and donations will be used to pay off the mortgage owing on it.  Let’s do what we can to help!

Donations for the Charity of the Month will be collected at the meeting. Tax receipts are available for donations over $10. If you would like to donate but cannot attend the meeting, you can do so via the ‘Donate’ button. Just include a note letting us know that the money is for the charity.

Latest News

Proselytization in Manitoba High Schools

Manitoba’s anti-bullying legislation is intended to provide a safe and inclusive environment for all students regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation, etc. Although initially, the most significant social issue prompting the development of the legislation was opposition to Gay-Straight Alliances (GSA’s) in high schools, the guidelines apply equally to all student groups and clubs.

A government publication titled Safe and Caring Schools: Respect for Diversity Policies outlines the application of this legislation. (The full document can be downloaded here.) It applies to all Manitoba public schools, and publicly-funded private schools. The FAQ’s in Appendix E (page 26) make it clear that

“…students wanting to form a religiously based student-led group would be accorded equality of opportunity to do so. Students should be allowed to form after-school clubs or have activities based on religion, as long as membership is voluntarily open to any student in the school and the activities of the group are conducted in a safe and inclusive manner. The club should be used as a vehicle to discuss issues that have an impact on the members as students. It is important to recognize that such groups are like any other club that is available at a school except they have a religious connection. Therefore, they should be treated the same as any other student-initiated club in the school such as a GSA, chess club, astronomy club, or judo club.” (emphasis ours)

Religious clubs forming

A coalition of youth pastors, known as the Manitoba Youth Workers Network (MYWN), is taking advantage of this opportunity to spread Christianity to public schools. They have collaborated to develop an outreach program aimed at Winnipeg high school students. The way it works is that these youth pastors are training teenage members of their own churches to evangelize directly to their classmates at school. The training is based on the new Alpha Youth Series program, a series of flashy apologetics videos targeting young people. The next step is for these teen evangelists to launch student-led Alpha programs in their own high schools. They believe that “Jesus is calling [them] to reach the city”.

In January 2018, the MYWN completed their first ‘training’ course with 70 teens from churches around Winnipeg, eager to encourage their friends to ‘come to Christ’. There are Alpha programs running in at least three Winnipeg high schools already. Expect more to appear. You might find that your teenager has joined a group like this before you even knew it existed.

What can I do?

Clearly, it’s not enough to raise your children in a secular home and think that by the time they are teens, they won’t be gullible enough to listen to fairy tales.

Teach them critical thinking skills. Encourage them to be skeptical and to ask questions.

Make sure that they learn about other belief systems and world religions.

Teach your kids how to think, not what to think.

Remember, critical thinking skills apply not just to religion, but to miracle cures, conspiracy theories, get-rich-quick schemes, fad diets….

Our Religion in Public Schools page has been updated with this information. Look there to learn about more ways that religion insinuates itself into Manitoba public schools.

Secular Help for Addictions

In addition to requests for the names of secular mental health professionals, we’ve recently had several inquiries about secular addictions counselling and support groups. Here are the names of some organizations with members in the Winnipeg area, supplied by one of our members who works in addictions counselling.

Secular AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) There is an AA group in Winnipeg called ‘Beyond Belief’, which meets weekly in a St Vital church. (They are not affiliated with the church. They only rent the space for their meetings.) They still use the 12-step program, but they take out the references to god and a higher power. There is good recovery at this meeting, which is mostly made up of atheists and non-believers.

O.S. (Secular Organizations for Sobriety) welcomes anyone sincerely seeking sobriety from alcohol addiction, drug addiction and behavioural and/or process addictions. Weekly meetings are held in two Winnipeg locations.

SMART Recovery helps people recover from all types of addictive behaviors, including alcoholism, drug abuse, substance abuse, drug addiction, alcohol abuse, gambling addiction, cocaine addiction, and addiction to other substances and activities. The Winnipeg group meets weekly.

LifeRing Secular Recovery an abstinence-based, worldwide network of individuals seeking to live in recovery from addiction to alcohol or to other non-medically indicated drugs. There are no in-person meetings in Winnipeg at present; however, LifeRing offers online meetings, online chat groups, and literature.

You can also contact the Manitoba Addictions Helpline at 1-855-662-6605 or mbaddictionhelp.ca.

The names of these organizations have been added to the Help and Advice page for future reference. The addictions counsellor also supplied our executive with some contact and meeting information for the local groups. Contact us if you would like this information. (All enquiries will be kept strictly confidential.)

‘O Canada’ Should Include All Canadians

The official lyrics for Canada’s national anthem were recently updated (despite opposition from conservatives) to make them more inclusive of women. At least it’s a step in the right direction – but it’s not enough. The new words still exclude two significant segments of the Canadian population.

Results from the 2016 census show that more than one fifth of our citizens were born in a foreign country – so Canada is not their ‘native land’. And on the 2011 census (data on religion is only collected every 10 years), almost one quarter of Canadians reported no religious affiliation. Shouldn’t all Canadians be able to sing their national anthem without feeling like second-class citizens?

Here’s some good news. If you change just a couple more words, you can sing a truly inclusive version of O Canada. “O Canada for Everyone” lyrics can be found on the Secular Connexion Séculière website. The additional changes are in the lines “our home and cherished land”, and “we’ll keep our land glorious and free”. It’s that easy.

Click here to see the complete inclusive lyrics in both official languages.

Book of the Month – Robert Latimer: A Story of Justice and Mercy

Who remembers this photo of Robert Latimer with his seriously disabled daughter Tracy? Their story dominated the news in the mid to late 1990’s, after he ended Tracy’s life rather than subject her to another painful surgery. Was he really guilty of murder, or is ‘mercy killing’ ever justified? And was it necessary for the parole board to treat him with such vindictiveness, years later?

In this book, reporter Gary Bauslaugh, who followed the Latimer case from the beginning, describes the two trials, discusses the conflicting views of Latimer’s sympathizers and detractors, and examines the ethical and legal dilemmas raised by the case. Bauslaugh makes an excellent case for the application of mercy to those caught in horrific circumstances.

All our library books and DVD’s are free to borrow for paid HAAM members.
Visit our library page if you would like to borrow this book. 

February 2018 Newsletter

Upcoming HAAM Events

Monthly Meeting – Animal Attraction 

Saturday, February 10th, Canad Inns Polo Park, 5:30 – 8:30 PM 

February 12th is International Darwin Day, so we focus on science and nature at our February meetings.  

This year’s meeting will be about sex. Click here for details and more information.

 

HAAM and Eggs Brunch 

Sunday, February 25th, Original Pancake House (Polo Park), 1445 Portage Avenue, 9:30 AM 

Join us for our regular Sunday morning brunch. Details here.

See complete event listings and details for all upcoming HAAM events on our Events page. 

 

Upcoming Community (Non-HAAM) Events 

Matt Dillahunty’s Magic and Skepticism World Tour 2018 

Sunday, 8 April 2018, Burton Cummings Theatre, 364 Smith St 

 

For details on this and all upcoming non-HAAM events, visit our Community Events page. 

 

 

Charity of the Month CARE Cat Community Outreach Program 

C.A.R.E. (Cat Advocacy Rescue & Education) is a non-profit organization made up of concerned animal lovers and veterinary professionals who work to alleviate the serious cat overpopulation by spaying and neutering cats. The program was founded in 2011 in response to the overwhelming number of stray and feral cats in the North End of Winnipeg. Since then, CARE has spayed/neutered more than 900 feral, stray, and low-income owned cats; over 700 at Machray Animal Hospital and the rest through the Winnipeg Humane Society’s SNAP (Subsidized Spay and Neuter Program). 

In partnership with The Winnipeg Humane Society and Winnipeg Animal Services, CARE helps people get their cats fixed year-round. The funding for these surgeries comes from the FixIt Grant; money raised directly from cat licensing.  

Winnipeg residents are essentially paying for these cats’ surgeries, so only cats within city limits qualify for the program. Through CARE, low-income families can get their kitty spayed or neutered, tattooed, licensed and vaccinated for only $5!!!!  

HAAM member Heather McDonell is one of the veterinarians who works with CARE, and it was our Charity of the Month once before, way back in Sept 2013, so we’re happy to help them again. The group is always looking for additional donations, as well as volunteers to transport cats to and from the clinics, since most of the people the program serves can’t afford vehicles or taxis. CARE has no website, just social media, as this is a grassroots effort. Visit their Facebook page or call the office at 204-421-7297 to make an appointment or obtain more information.  

Donations for the Charity of the Month will be collected at the meeting. Tax receipts are available for donations over $10. If you would like to donate but cannot attend the meeting, you can do so via the PayPal button. Just include a note letting us know that the money is for the charity. 

Latest News 

Film Fest Ideas Wanted 

Our annual Film Fest will take place at the March 10th meeting, and we’re currently looking for films. Suggestions are welcome.  

If you know of a film that your fellow Humanists might like (something funny, provocative, inspirational, or educational), let us know. Length can be anything from a couple of minutes to a full movie (but not a really long movie). 

More details to follow in the March newsletter. 

Seeking Secular Therapists 

We have again had a request from someone seeking a counsellor or psychologist who does not invoke religion or suggest prayer during treatment. A while back, we started a list with the names of a few such professionals for future referrals – but we currently only have 3 names on it. There must be way more than 3 mental health professionals in Manitoba who don’t include religion as part of their practice.  

There is no requirement that therapists be non-believers; only that they use evidence-based, secular treatment methods in their professional practice. We do not post their names publicly due to professional regulations and ethics.  

If you are aware of a secular therapist whose name we can add to our list, please Contact Us. All correspondence will be kept strictly confidential. Note that providing a referral cannot be construed as an endorsement by HAAM. 

Library News  

Our past-president Jeff Olsson has again been busy cleaning off shelves, and he’s made another large donation to the HAAM library – books, this time. Jeff is well-read and has eclectic taste in subject matter. There’s something here for everyone – ethics and philosophy, astronomy and climate science, atheist humor, psychology and psychoanalysis, skepticism and counter-apologetics (defending non-belief), history and archaeology. Here are just a few of the books he donated:  

-The Caged Virgin: An Emancipation Proclamation for Women and Islam (Ayaan Hirsi Ali) 

-Cool It: The Skeptical Environmentalist’s Guide to Global Warming 

-Everything You Know About God Is Wrong: The Disinformation Guide to Religion 

-God, No!: Signs You May Already Be an Atheist and Other Magical Tales (Penn Jillette) 

-God’s Problem: How the Bible Fails to Answer Our Most Important Question–Why We Suffer (Bart Ehrman) 

-In Search of Time: Journeys Along a Curious Dimension 

-Lucifer Principle: A Scientific Expedition into the Forces of History 

-The Psychopathology of Everyday Life (Freud) 

-Right to Die: A Neurosurgeon Speaks of Death with Candor 

-Universe: A Journey from Earth to the Edge of the Cosmos 

-Why I Am Not a Christian: Four Conclusive Reasons to Reject the Faith (Richard Carrier) 

-Why People Believe Weird Things: Pseudoscience, Superstition, and Other Confusions of Our Time 

Check out the complete list on our Library page. Thank you again, Jeff! 

All our library books and DVD’s are free to borrow for paid HAAM members.  

Call to Action – No Funding for Anti-choice, Anti-LGBTQ2+ Groups 

Please add your voice in support of human rights 

The BC Humanist Association haslaunched a petition in support of new application requirements for the Government of Canada’s Canada Summer Jobs program. 

The program provides wage subsidies to employers to hire high school and post-secondary students. The new policy requires applicants to attest that neither the job nor the employer’s “core mandate” are contrary to human rights, including reproductive rights and the rights of transgender Canadians. 

Until now, many churches, bible camps and other faith-based organizations could apply for funding under the program, some received tens of thousands of dollars in support to hire summer staff. Religious organizations are still eligible for the funding, but those groups must now affirm their support for safe access to abortion and LGBTQ2+ rights. 

Unhappy with the change, some conservative faith groups are suing the government claiming religious discrimination. 

While we’d hope to see an end to public funding going to religious organizations entirely, ensuring that public funds aren’t given to groups that work to undermine fundamental human rights is a positive step. 

It’s important for the government to hear from Canadians who support these actions, not just the small but vocal lobby for the religious right. 

Sign the petition:No funding for anti-choice, anti-LGBTQ2+ groups 

We’ll submit the petition to the government by February 2, 2018, when applications close for the Canada Summer Jobs program. 

In Humanism, Ian Bushfield
Executive Director BC Humanist Association  

And while we’re on the subject…  

Publicly Funded Groups Must Respect Human Rights  

You won’t want to miss Pat Morrow’s analysis of the ‘kerfuffle’ that has developed as conservative religious groups protest their loss of permission to use public money to undermine the rights of others.

Click here to read Pat’s article. 

 

Being an Ethical Omnivore 

Those not in attendance for our January presentation missed out on a remarkable speaker, Dr. Charlene Berkvens, who singlehandedly runs her 80-acre farm in addition to working a full-time job as a veterinarian. An engaging and interesting guest speaker, the considerable amount of Q and A and group participation throughout attested both to the quality of her presentation and devotion to her life’s work.  

Dr. Berkvens’ accomplishments and dedication to her passions of animal welfare and environmentally sustainable farming practices are truly inspiring, and take their mandate from the principles of permaculture (sustainable agriculture that renews natural resources and enriches local ecosystems) and the 5 Freedoms of Animal Welfare, which are:
1) Freedom from hunger and thirst
2) Freedom from discomfort
3) Freedom from pain, injury and disease
4) Freedom to behave normally (according to their species)
5) Freedom from fear and distress 

By the end of Dr. Berkvens’ presentation, there was no room left for ambiguity. Animal welfare and sustainable farming practices are inextricably tied to human interests, in terms of both our health and that of the land. It will take the willingness of ethical consumers, who critically examine their choices, to drive change. In the end, cheap food is not really cheap.    — Rob Daly 

Learn more about  Charlene’s farm – the Fostering Change Farm, by visiting its website or Facebook page. For those interested in supporting sustainable farms with their grocery dollars, Dr. Berkvens provided us with the following list of local food sources in Manitoba, along with links to some of the topics covered, after her presentation:  

Direct Farm Manitoba – list of many local, direct marketing farmers in Manitoba as well as farmers’ markets, etc. 

Harvest Moon Local Food Marketplacesustainably produced, fair local foods directly from local farms 

Bouchee Boucher – restaurant and butcher supporting local farmers 

Feast Cafe Bistro – restaurant that supports local farmers and features local and First Nations foods 

Stella’s – restaurant with some dishes using local food 

Prairie 360 – restaurant with some dishes using local food 

Prairie Box – business that delivers weekly fresh meals with local food  

For more information on some of the ideas / concepts we discussed: 

Holistic Resource Management 

Polyface Farms (Joel Salatin) 

Verge Permaculture 

I would also encourage folks to check out and support: 

The Manitoba Burrowing Owl Recovery Program  

Fort Whyte Centre, Oak Hammock Marsh, The Forks, and Assiniboine Park are great places to enjoy wildlife and the environment in the Winnipeg area.  

A few others to consider checking out include: 

Manitoba’s Tall Grass Prairie Preserve 

Nature Conservancy of Canada (Manitoba) 

As well as the many, many beautiful provincial parks and of course, Riding Mountain National Park. 

A Primer on Assisted Dying in Manitoba 

Medical Assistance In Dying (MAID) has been legal in Canada for 18 months now, but the process and guidelines are poorly understood. Here’s what people need to know: 

 * Manitoba has one centralized MAID team that serves the entire province. Other provinces require that your doctor initiate the evaluation and application process. Here, if you have a terminal diagnosis or a disease that causes you enduring and increasing suffering, you are free to contact the MAID team yourself to discuss whether you might qualify and find out what the next steps are. 

 * MAID is not part of the palliative care program in Manitoba. If you are receiving palliative care and you mention that you might be interested in MAID, it doesn’t mean they’ll start the inquiry for you; it’s best to contact the MAID team yourself or to ask a friend or family member to help you make contact. 

  * You do NOT (and should not) have to wait until your body begins to fail before you apply. The application process takes a minimum of 2 weeks, and some patients wait so long that they end up missing the window of opportunity and suffering needlessly in death. 

  * After you make initial contact with the MAID team and they agree you might qualify, they arrange for your first assessment. The assessment team usually consists of a doctor, a nurse, and a social worker. The team interviews you and reviews your medical records. One part of that interview involves speaking with you alone to be sure you’re not being coerced into applying. 

  * An appointment is then arranged with the second assessment team, composed of a different doctor, nurse, and social worker. The two teams don’t communicate with each other about you (the patient) until after both assessments are finished. 

  * After both assessments are complete, the two assessment teams meet and compare notes. If they agree that you qualify, then they recommend that you fill in an application form for medical assistance in dying. 

  * The application form must be signed by the patient (or a proxy, if the patient is physically incapable of signing) in the presence of two independent witnesses. An independent witness is defined as someone who is over the age of 18, a Canadian citizen, not a beneficiary of the patient’s will, and not involved in the patient’s health care. These are the same requirements for serving as a proxy. 

  * Once the application form is filled out, a mandatory waiting period of 10 days begins. You are eligible to receive the service on day 11 after the application form was signed, assuming that in the meantime, the assessment teams have approved you for the service. Note that these 10 days must be “clear” days, meaning that you are mentally coherent; these ‘clear’ days do not have to be consecutive, however. 

  * A significant proportion of MAID applicants do not know two people who are not named in their will, not involved in their health care, and/or who would be appropriate for other reasons to serve as witnesses. Members of Humanist groups across Canada (including many members of HAAM), have been serving as witnesses. Most of these volunteer witnesses also belong to their local chapter of Dying with Dignity. 

  * On the day that you choose to die, you must be mentally coherent and capable of giving consent. Nobody else can give this consent on your behalf, and you cannot consent in advance. 

  * The process of assisting someone to die involves having the MAID provider insert two intravenous lines (one as backup), and deliver 4 drugs through those lines. In Manitoba, this is the only approved method used. The drugs put the patient into a deep sleep and then into a coma, and then cause the heart to stop.

  * Most insurance companies accept the cause of death as being the underlying medical condition, but you should check with your insurance provider to be sure, since those who list the cause of death as suicide can withhold life insurance payments for 2 years after death. 

For links to the MAID team, related legal information, and more, visit the Dying With Dignity Winnipeg Chapter’s website at https://dwdwinnipeg.weebly.com.

— Cheri Frazer is co-coordinator of the Winnipeg Chapter of Dying with Dignity 

2018 HAAM Executive 

The following members were elected at our January AGM.  

President: Donna Harris   Vice President: Pat Morrow 

Secretary: Name Withheld*   Treasurer: Henry Kreindler 

Members at Large: Tammy Blanchette, Rob Daly, Norm Goertzen, Tony Governo, Sherry Lyn Marginet, and Dorothy Stephens. 

Welcome Rob Daly to the team!  

For future reference, the list of executive members can always be found here. 

Thanks to all who attended the AGM.

*Sadly, not everyone can safely identify publicly as non-religious. 

 

Don’t forget to renew your membership! (click here)  

Publicly Funded Groups Must Respect Human Rights

The January 25th edition of the Steinbach Carillon published a column by Michael Zwaagstra regarding the attestation that applicants for the Federal Summer Jobs Program are required to sign before receiving public money. (The column is behind a paywall.) Mr Zwaagstra is a teacher, a Steinbach city councillor, an evangelical Christian, and a contributor to the Frontier Centre for Public Policy (a conservative think tank based in Winnipeg). Most of the religious concerns he expressed were alleviated by the federal government’s clarification notice, announced just two days before the column was published, and probably not reviewed in time for the paper’s deadline.

Normally I wouldn’t respond to what the religious right has to say about abortion, or about how someone else’s rights offend them, but the column makes some errors, as well as mentioning HAAM, so I thought I’d offer this response.

Thought Police?

Zwaagstra referred to the attestation as an “ideological purity test”, and stated “it’s one thing to withhold funds based on an activity, it’s another entirely to withhold funds based on a belief”. Since the clarification was released, we can all see this issue is about the former criterion. The actual statement that prospective employers must sign reads as follows: “I attest that… Both the job and the organization’s core mandate respect individual human rights in Canada, including the values underlying the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms as well as other rights. These include reproductive rights and the right to be free from discrimination on the basis of sex, religion, race, national or ethnic origin, colour, mental or physical disability, sexual orientation, or gender identity or expression.” (P. 21 Sec 4.5 of the Canada Summer Jobs Applicant Guide)

It seems anti-choice groups and the religious right believe that signing the attestation is a violation of their religious freedoms when it clearly is not. No one is telling them what they have to believe. The statement does ask them to affirm the rights of the LGBTQ community and the reproductive rights of women. Mr. Zwaagstra may feel that this is just a euphemism for “unfettered abortion on demand”, but anyone familiar with abortion services in this country knows the expression “abortion on demand” is just rhetoric for the credulous. Just try to get an abortion on demand. (For anyone wondering just what reproductive rights are, the Women’s Legal, Education, and Action Fund has a good description.)

Acknowledgement ≠ Endorsement

Essentially, what we have here is the religious right treating the constitution like their holy books – picking and choosing the bits they like and reinterpreting or discarding the rest. To use an analogy – as Humanists we support freedom of religion; this is a fundamental right we acknowledge without hesitation. This not to say that we support the genital mutilation of young girls* and boys, or the promotion of ignorance like young earth creationism, climate change denialism, opposition to vaccines, and other anti-scientific views supported wholly or in part by religion and religious believers. Nor do we support scaring children with tales of eternal damnation, or prolonging the suffering of those who seek medically assisted death. Support for the right to freedom of religion is not the same as support for religious actions or ideas. Support for women’s rights is not support for abortion.

As I said, in his column Zwaagstra mentions HAAM, and the link to the petition in support of the summer jobs program requirements currently posted on our website. While I am flattered he thinks it’s our petition, it is not. It was developed by Ian Bushfield and the BC Humanist association (which is clearly stated). Zwaagstra goes on to quote Ian: “While we’d hope to see an end to public funding going to religious organizations entirely, ensuring that public funds aren’t given to groups that work to undermine fundamental human rights is a positive step.” I fully support Ian’s quote. But Zwaagstra continues with the fallacious assertion that this is a “stepping stone to eliminate all public support for faith-based organizations”. It’s not; there is no hidden HAAM agenda.

Who should qualify for public funds?

Religious organizations should not be allowed (or denied) public money just because they are religious organizations. If Zwaagstra had read a little more of our website, he might understand our position a little better. We support a different charity every month, and one of our selection criteria is that “the charity or service must be secular, or if associated with a religious or faith-based organization, its services must be provided without proselytization of clients.” HAAM has supported Agape Table and Welcome Place. Both organizations have ties with faith-based groups but don’t promote religion or discriminate in the delivery of their services. Yes, Mr Zwaagstra, HAAM has given money to faith-based organizations, so why would we oppose public money going to religious groups for charity purposes? However, religious organizations that exist primarily to proselytize, promote bad ideas, or limit others’ human rights should not be eligible for public money. The difference is in the details.

In Winnipeg we have Siloam Mission, which receives public money in part to help the homeless. Although the organization is faith-based and staffed mostly by Christians, they are all about providing services to the less fortunate. They don’t proselytize or make attending religious services a condition. They accept people as they are – any colour, any place in society, and it doesn’t matter the sexual orientation. Public money would be permissible in this situation.

On the other hand, a Christian organization called Samaritans Purse bills itself as a charity giving presents to needy children around the world. All the while their primary goal is to evangelize to these children; the gifts are just bait. Organizations like this should not get public money. Nor should faith-based groups like ‘pregnancy crisis centres‘ that disseminate misinformation.

What if the situation were reversed?

Zwaagstra goes on to wonder how HAAM would react if a future government made everyone sign an attestation to “the supremacy of God and the rule of law” in order to receive public money. Although we find the phrase “supremacy of God” mentioned in the preamble to the constitution, unlike women’s rights the supremacy of God holds no legal weight. It is not a right, so the analogy doesn’t hold… it doesn’t even make sense.

click to enlarge

But it’s an interesting thought experiment. When this future government announces their new ‘supremacy of God’ attestation, and after the laughter dies down, the question would be “whose god?” Ultimately the idea of the supremacy of a god is an absurd idea, and Mr. Zwaagstra would be quite right. It would be a violation of our charter rights. A court challenge would be incredibly exciting, as the government would have to first pick which god is the right one, and then demonstrate its supremacy. The irony is that this would be a violation of Zwaagstra’s freedom of religion if the god they chose turned out not to be his, and a violation of everyone else’s if it was. (The Canadian Secular Alliance has more about the history and absurdity of the ‘supremacy of God’ clause in our constitution and why it should be removed.)

In the end, the government could have been clearer on what was meant in the attestation, but really this kerfuffle has much to do with the theology of certain sects of Christianity. When you combine a loss of privilege with the theological need to be persecuted and a mission to stop abortion at all costs, one can’t help but go looking for something to be offended about.

Pat Morrow is Vice President of HAAM

*Note that although FGM is illegal in Canada, it is still practiced by some religious sects.

Update

30 January 2018

In addition to sharing the petition started by the BC Humanist Association, HAAM was one of 80 pro-choice and human rights groups from across Canada that signed an open letter in support of the government’s move to require groups seeking funding through the Canada Summer Jobs program to respect human rights.

A lawsuit by an anti-choice group requesting an injunction preventing the attestation from taking effect was dismissed in court for lack of grounds.

No Funding for Anti-choice, anti-LGBTQ2+ Groups

Please add your voice in support of human rights

The BC Humanist Association has just launched a petition in support of new application requirements for the Government of Canada’s Canada Summer Jobs program.

The program provides wage subsidies to employers to hire high school and post-secondary students. The new policy requires applicants to attest that neither the job nor the employer’s “core mandate” are contrary to human rights, including reproductive rights and the rights of transgender Canadians.

Until now, many churches, bible camps and other faith-based organizations could apply for funding under the program, some received tens of thousands of dollars in support to hire summer staff. Religious organizations are still eligible for the funding but those groups must now affirm their support for safe access to abortion and LGBTQ2+ rights.

Unhappy with the change, some conservative faith groups are suing the government claiming religious discrimination.

While we’d hope to see an end to public funding going to religious organizations entirely, ensuring that public funds aren’t given to groups that work to undermine fundamental human rights is a positive step.

It’s important for the government to hear from Canadians who support these actions, not just the small but vocal lobby for the religious right.

Sign the petition: No funding for anti-choice, anti-LGBTQ2+ groups

We’ll submit the petition to the government by February 2, 2018, when applications close for the Canada Summer Jobs program.

In Humanism

Ian Bushfield
Executive Director
BC Humanist Association

January 2018 Newsletter

Upcoming HAAM Events

How to be an Ethical Omnivore and our Annual General Meeting

Saturday, January 13th, Canad Inns Polo Park

We’ll be learning about animal welfare and ethics, sustainable agricultural practices, and environmentally friendly food choices.

Full meeting description and scheduled times for the speaker and the AGM are in the event post.

HAAM and Eggs Brunch

Sunday, January 28th, Perkins Restaurant, 1615 Regent Ave W, 9:30 AM

Join us! Details here.

 

See complete event listings and details for all upcoming HAAM events on our Events page.

Upcoming Community (Non-HAAM) Events

Matt Dillahunty’s Magic and Skepticism World Tour 2018

Sunday, 8 April 2018, Burton Cummings Theatre, 364 Smith St

 

For details on this and all upcoming non-HAAM events, visit our Community Events page.

 

Charity of the Month The Laurel Centre

The Laurel Centre (formerly The Women’s Post Treatment Centre) provides individual and group counselling to women who have experienced childhood and/or adolescent sexual abuse. Many adult women have mixed feelings about talking to anyone about their childhood – because it hurts too much. Adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse often experience difficulties in later life, including depression, anxiety, drug and/or alcohol problems, gambling, or feelings of worthlessness, loneliness, isolation, or being ‘different’, ‘bad’ or ‘evil’. The Centre recognizes compulsive coping behaviours, including addictions, as being some of the long-term consequences of unresolved trauma.

95% of teenage prostitutes have been sexually abused. Check out the Did You Know? page of the centre’s website for more shocking statistics on the frequency and impact of childhood sexual abuse.

The Laurel Centre provides individual, group, youth, and couples counselling; outreach to at-risk and street youth; short-term crisis intervention; parenting classes for survivor moms; and awareness training for professionals dealing with sexual abuse.

The Centre receives approximately 75% of its funding from the Manitoba Government and The United Way of Winnipeg. Fundraising and donations are necessary to make up the rest, and ensure that the work of the centre can continue. Let’s do what we can to help.

Donations for the Charity of the Month will be collected at the meeting. Tax receipts are available for donations over $10. If you would like to donate but cannot attend the meeting, you can do so via the Paypal button. Just include a note letting us know that the money is for the charity.

Latest News

President’s Message

I can’t say that I’ll be sad to see 2017 go, but we have certainly ended the year with a couple of definite “wins”.

We took out holiday ads in both The Carillon (Steinbach) and the Pilipino Express (Winnipeg) newspapers. Even though we had to tone down the ad so it wasn’t “offensive” to religious sensibilities, it is a first for our group. We also placed an ad on Facebook, (click to enlarge) which reached over 7,300 people!

Tony Governo spearheaded our donation of blankets to the Main Street Project, made possible with donations that you have so generously given us.

I am so happy and thrilled to know you! Thanks to all of our members who support us by participating and coming out to our events, and to everyone on our executive team, who are all truly amazing. I wish each and every one of you the very best of all things in 2018.  Happiness, health and, most especially, love.                                  – Donna Harris

Partners for Life Update

HAAM members are awesome! 😍 For the first time ever, we met our annual pledge of 25 blood donations. In fact, we exceeded it, with 28!!! If you donated blood in 2017, give yourself a pat on the back, and think about all the lives you helped save.

If you weren’t part of this success, join the Canadian Blood Services’ Partners for Life program now and your 2018 blood donations will be credited to HAAM. Details about the program are here.

Show Me the Evidence

Believers take note – if you are presenting your beliefs to those who don’t already share them (atheists, agnostics, or members of any religion other than your own), you must be prepared to offer evidence for your claims. Expect to have your evidence critically examined before being accepted. If you cannot make your beliefs appear reasonable to an outsider, then perhaps you should re-examine them yourself. (The idea of applying the same skepticism to our own beliefs as we do to the beliefs of other faiths is known as the ‘outsider test for faith’. The phrase was coined by John W. Loftus in his book of the same name.)

HAAM’s Pat Morrow recently examined the evidence for God offered by a Christian apologist who visited one of our outreach booths. Did it pass the ‘outsider test’? Read the answer – and the full story – here.

Library News

Looking for a good movie or TV show to watch this winter? We’ve just added a whole bunch of ‘new’ DVD’s to the HAAM library. Past-president Jeff Olsson recently cleaned off some shelves and donated everything he’s finished watching. He had lots of good stuff, including:

All 8 seasons of Penn and Teller’s Bullsh*t (TV series debunking pseudoscientific ideas, paranormal beliefs, and popular fads);
Guns, Germs, and Steel (Jared Diamond’s Pulitzer-prize winning examination of why some civilizations have survived and conquered others, while others struggle);
Expelled – No Intelligence Allowed (propaganda film in which Ben Stein claims that evolution is a scientific conspiracy to keep God out of laboratories and classrooms);
Collision (documentary about the debates between atheist Christopher Hitchens and Christian apologist Douglas Wilson);
An Inconvenient Truth (documentary about Al Gore’s campaign to educate citizens about global warming);
-and more.

Check out the complete list on our Library page. Thank you, Jeff!

Humanists Helping the Homeless

Just in time for the cold weather, thanks to some generous donations, HAAM was able to donate 100 new blankets (from Ikea) to the Main Street Project. Executive members Dorothy Stephens, Tony Governo, and Sherry Lyn Marginet (in purple) were there to deliver the blankets. Thanks Tony for leading this project!

The Story Behind our Ad in The Carillon

The Carillon is a weekly newspaper published by Derksen Printers in Steinbach, Manitoba, focusing on local Southeastern Manitoba news. HAAM ran an ad for one week (in both the print and online editions) starting on December 7 – but it almost didn’t run at all.

We had inquired about a Christmas ad, and made preliminary arrangements (like the section of the paper we wanted it to appear in) back at the end of September. Yet when we submitted the final copy, which included the phrase “Go ahead and skip church!”, the publisher deemed it too provocative and declined to run it. We asked our contact at the paper, who had previously responded to our queries without delay, what was offensive about the ad, and whether The Carillon would entertain any other ad we’d propose. No response was received.

The Carillon is owned by The Winnipeg Free Press, so we decided to ask the VP of the WFP in charge of advertising why the ad had been rejected. The reply, provided by the publisher of The Carillon, stated that they would be “finished” if they were seen supporting such a message in their faith-based community, even if it was tongue-in-cheek. This prompted us to write to the Free Press one more time. We indicated that we know there are numerous humanis

ts, atheists, and agnostics living in the area. We explained that denying our ad would be a violation of Manitoba’s Human Rights Code (section 13-1: No person shall discriminate with respect to any service, accommodation, facility, good, right, licence, benefit, program or privilege available or accessible to the public or to a section of the public, unless bona fide and reasonable cause exists for the discrimination). We also added that perhaps the rejection of our ad would be a newsworthy item for some other news outlet.

We then received another response from the Free Press, doubling down on their position to reject the ad, and stating that a decision made in one of their markets may not be the same as one made in another market. However, the response ended with an encouragement to revise our message to be more amenable to The Carillon’s publisher.

With this in mind, we revised our message to simply say “This Christmas just be good for goodness’ sake! Happy Holidays from the Humanists, Atheists and Agnostics of Manitoba!” The Carillon then questioned why our name was being spelled out in the revised ad, when the original message had ended with just the HAAM logo in the bottom corner. We had to explain that the original message would have been provocative enough to prompt people to look us up, but the new message didn’t have that effect; hence, we wanted people to know who the message was from. The publisher accepted our rationale, explaining that he was only being cautious; since he would be the person who had to deal with any calls about it, he needed to understand the reason for the change.

All this trouble for just one small ad suggesting that people don’t need to attend church to be ‘good’.  Change comes slowly in regions where religion has enjoyed many years of privilege.

To the best of our knowledge, there weren’t any complaints after the ad was published. But it must have provoked some curiosity about non-believers, because not long after, both HAAM and the Eastman Humanist Community were contacted by a reporter from The Carillon asking about the new Humanist group in the Bible Belt. That article ran in the December 29th edition. You can read it on their website here.                                                                                                                                                     – Tony Governo

Letter of Encouragement to Upcoming G7 Summit

Canada will be hosting the G7 conference in June 2018. In advance of the summit, a number of Canadian organizations are working to ensure that sexual and reproductive health and rights remain central to the Canada’s priorities. Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights, the Canadian Council for International Co-operation, CARE Canada, and the Climate Action Network – Canada collaborated to prepare a letter encouraging Prime Minister Trudeau to ensure that three specific issues remain squarely on the G7 agenda:

  • supporting refugees, migrants and displaced peoples,
  • tackling climate change and its impacts on poor and marginalized communities and
  • ensuring the sexual and reproductive health and rights of all people.

These issues have often evaded consensus among G7 leaders, and recent trends suggest this will continue to be a challenge for Canada’s G7 Presidency. The letter calls on the government to not only defend progress achieved in recent years and decades on these issues, but also to create opportunity to address remaining gaps in the future.

Likeminded groups in Canada were invited to add their names to the major signatories, and HAAM was pleased to add its support on behalf of our members.

You can read the full text of the letter here.

Year in Review

At year-end we look back at all we’ve accomplished over the past 12 months – and it’s always amazing to see how much it adds up to. We’re a busy bunch! Here’s a quick list:

The Greek god Dionysus

Meetings: Educational and/or inspiring topics included recovering from religion, evolution in Humanistic thought, an atheist comedy night, dying and rising gods before Jesus, solar energy, the historicity of Jesus, atheism in Canada, indigenous spirituality, and the limits of free speech.

Social events: We introduced the HAAM and Eggs brunch last January, and it has become a regular and favorite casual gathering. We also hosted a film festival, parties for the summer and winter solstices, and a bowling night. We celebrated a ghoulish Hallowe’en and attended the film premiere of Losing Our Religion.

Calls to Action: In 2017, HAAM members were called upon to make their opinions known on a number of important issues through petitions and/or letter-writing campaigns. We spoke out against graphic anti-choice ads, supported sexual health and reproductive rights worldwide, demanded the repeal of Canada’s blasphemy law, protested government funding for anti-choice ‘crisis pregnancy centres’, fought against ‘faith-based’ healthcare, defended apostates worldwide, voiced our choice for assisted dying, and demanded fair secular government. Our members also expressed their Humanist values by donating blood, joining the Human Rights Hub, pledging organ donations, marching for science, and attending pride parades.

Timely topics: Our newsletters and articles covered religious violence, religion in public hospitals and schools, the struggles of refugees, religious trauma, the progress of our sponsored child in Uganda, and the origins of Xmas traditions.

Outreach: We have connections with other Humanist/atheist organizations across North America, and in 2017 we added a group in Houston, Texas. Our members attended and reported on religious conferences and presentations about Christian apologetics, faith vs. religion, tough questions from the Old Testament, the origin of human rights, and creation vs evolution. We hosted information booths at summer fairs in Steinbach and Morden, spoke to a world religions class in Grunthal, and launched a series of ads during the Christmas season.

Charities: In 2017 we supported Recovering from Religion, Wildlife Haven, Rainbow Resource Centre, Welcome Place, Women’s Health Clinic, the Island Lake forest fire relief fund, Kasese Humanist school (Uganda), the Christmas Cheer Board, and Koats for Kids.

Hats off to everyone who helped, participated, attended, and financially supported all these efforts! If you missed any of our 2017 happenings, and want to catch up, you can find the details in past newsletters. And make sure to join our activities in 2018!

We had a great time at the Solstice party!

More photos in the 2017 Gallery.

 

 

 

 

Just a reminder that 2018 memberships are now due. You can join or renew online, by mail, or in person at any meeting or event. Our fee structure includes a low-income option, if this applies to you.

Visit the Join Us page for membership information and online renewal.

 

 

 

 

Show Me the Evidence

Believers take note – if you are presenting your beliefs to those who don’t already share them (atheists, agnostics, or members of any religion other than your own), you must be prepared to offer evidence for your claims. Expect to have your evidence critically examined before being accepted. If you cannot make your beliefs appear reasonable to an outsider, then perhaps you should re-examine them yourself. (The idea of applying the same skepticism to our own beliefs as we do to the beliefs of other faiths is known as the ‘outsider test for faith’. The phrase was coined by John W. Loftus in his book of the same name.)

HAAM’s Pat Morrow recently examined the evidence for God offered by a Christian apologist who visited one of our outreach booths. Did it pass the ‘outsider test’? Keep reading…

Got a Claim? Let’s Hear It!

Very often, during our summer outreaches, we get folks offering claims for their many beliefs, which range from the possible to the absurd. Some claims I dismiss immediately as nonsensical, or file under “not worth my time to research” (e.g. flat earth, moon landing hoax, Jewish zombies walking around Jerusalem). Many visitors make claims of a theological nature, and explain that they have evidence for their claims, they just can’t recall it or don’t have it with them. This is OK, as I wouldn’t be able to produce the all evidence for my beliefs on demand either.

Usually at this point, I offer them a business card, ask them to email me their info and the evidence for their claim, and tell them that I will be happy to read it. This is not to dismiss them; if someone is willing to offer reasonable evidence for what they believe, I will read what they have to say. It’s just rare that anybody actually follows through and sends us the information, and when they do, it’s often just the latest book title of some Christian apologist trying to make 500-year-old arguments relevant. (Example: At another outreach, we had a Muslim who claimed scientific “truths” in the Quran. I asked him where to find them, and he sent me a link to a three-and-a-half-hour video of Muslim apologist Zakir Naik! That is not what I would consider reasonable.) 

GORD’S LETTER

We met Gord at our Morden outreach this summer. An older gentleman who spent a little more than an hour at our booth, he is a Christian who holds the type of views on women’s rights and science that make a Humanist’s blood boil. Fortunately, that evening our booth was attended by two young women well-equipped for that discussion, one being a scientist, and the other well-versed in the abortion debate through having worked for a women’s rights organization. I’m sure Gord would disagree, but his argument was lost seconds after he stated his position. For my part, throughout our galloping discussion I tried to make note of the arguments he was putting forward for each of his views. Which essentially broke down to these: 

  1. DNA is mentioned in the Bible. (DNA as proof of God)
  2. Human life begins at conception. (abortion is bad)
  3. Slaves were treated well in the Bible. (the Bible is good)

When I asked for the evidence for each of those claims, he said of course – the answers are in the Bible, and he would send them to me. Unlike most Christians who say they’re going to send me something, to Gord’s credit he actually did. This is his letter (real name redacted) 

Hi
We were discussing DNA. David said “Your eyes saw even the embryo of me, and in your book all its parts were down in writing”. Psalm 139:16.
The Mosaic Law clearly revealed that life begins, not at birth, but much earlier. It showed that killing a fetus could incur the death penalty. Note this law “You must give soul for soul” (Exodus 21:22- 23) Thus, the unborn child in the womb is alive and is a living soul. See what Job says at Job 31:14-15.
While Isaac’s wife Rebekah was pregnant with twins Jehovah uttered a prophecy about the two boys struggling in her womb suggesting that he already saw traits in them that would have far- reaching effects. Genesis 25:22-23 and Romans 9:10-13.
That slaves were treated well. Exodus 21:2-6, Leviticus 25:42-43, and Deuteronomy 15:12-18.
I respect a person’s choices in life; however, if we want to get life we need to follow the words in John 3:16 (please read).
Gord

Setting aside the Bible, could truth or evidence for anything be groomed from the writings of the largely anonymous authors of a 1700-year-old book, of which we have no original copies? But Gord was talking about the Bible, so I thought it would be worth looking at the Biblical evidence for each of his claims. 

The ARGUMENTS 

1. DNA is mentioned in the Bible (DNA as proof of God)

Gord offered Psalm 139:16 “Your eyes looked upon my embryo, and everything was recorded in your book. The days scheduled for my formation were inscribed, even though not one of them had come yet.” (ISV) It is interesting that Gord quoted the only translation that uses the term ‘embryo’. It’s also worth noting that the wording would suggest that if one has lived 0 days one is not yet alive. It seems that a verse that is supposed to prove that DNA is mentioned in the Bible actually supports the idea that life does not begin at conception. Other translations are similar:  

“Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be”. (NIV) 

“You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.” (NLT) 

“Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; And in Your book were all written The days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them”. (NASB) 

In much of Christian scholarship, Psalm 139 is used to support the belief that God knows us well and has a plan for us even before we are born. How someone manages to see it as a reference to DNA is unconvincing to say the least, and stretches credulity to its absolute limit. Sorry Gord, but if your god wanted us to know about DNA he could’ve described it a lot better. 

Of course, as with many who engage in apologetics there is always the risk of getting a case of “the CLAT’ (Christian Lag in Apologetic Timing), a phrase I coined to describe the interval of time between new scientific knowledge and the development of an apologetic for it; that dark time between an empirical discovery and when apologists match it to a verse in the Bible. Famous Christian apologist William Lane Craig has had ‘the CLAT’ for years with no sign of relief. ‘The CLAT’ is evident in Gord’s argument, as DNA is not the mystery it was 30 years ago. We have an excellent understanding of how DNA could have developed (and probably did). Apologists are usually not familiar with RNA World theory, which says that RNA came first, and protein and DNA were later developments. The perceived probability of RNA developing naturally in an Origin-of-Life scenario got a big boost in 2009 with the publication of a newly-discovered pathway, described in Synthesis of activated pyrimidine ribonucleotides in prebiotically plausible conditions by Powner, Gerland & Sutherland, (Nature 459, 239-242 (14 May 2009) | doi:10.1038/nature08013). Or to put it in the simplest of terms, DNA can develop on its own; no god required. 

2. Human life begins at conception (abortion is bad)

It was hard to pin down Gord’s exact positions on this one, but he offered as evidence Exodus 21:22-23 – “If men strive, and hurt a woman with child, so that her fruit depart from her, and yet no mischief follow: he shall be surely punished, according as the woman’s husband will lay upon him; and he shall pay as the judges determine.” (KJV) Interestingly, scholars and translators cannot agree on the meaning of ‘her fruit depart from her’. (The original Hebrew translates literally as ‘so her children come out’.) Does this refer to a miscarriage, or merely a premature birth? The answer depends on which translation of the Bible you read. The punishments are outlined in verses 23-25, but the phrase ‘soul for soul’ does not appear in any of these translations. 

Regardless of interpretation, this passage demonstrates that an unborn child /foetus / baby is of less worth than that of the woman. A “life for a life” applies only to the woman; whereas the loss of a foetus (“ the fruit”) only requires a monetary penalty. But don’t take my word for it – here is a fairly short article that explains the verse from the religion that actually wrote the Old Testament and understands ancient Jewish law. 

The other verses Gord offers (Gen 25:22-23, Romans 9:10-13, and Job 31: 14-15), I can’t comment on, since to me, they don’t seem to demonstrate in any way that life begins at conception. 

3. Slaves were treated well in the Bible (the Bible is good)

“Slaves were treated well” Exodus 21:2-6, Leviticus 25:42-43, and Deuteronomy 15: 12-18 

I think it’s important to look at these verses to see what Gord’s idea of “treated well” is. These are verses that many fundamentalists and evangelicals cite, but they either don’t read them or don’t understand them.  

It’s important to understand that there are two types of slavery in the Bible – one in which a Jew enslaves another Jew, and another where a Jew enslaves a non-Jew. Exodus 21:2-6 deals with the former. 

“If you buy a Hebrew slave, he may serve for no more than six years. Set him free in the seventh year, and he will owe you nothing for his freedom. If he was single when he became your slave, he shall leave single. But if he was married before he became a slave, then his wife must be freed with him. If his master gave him a wife while he was a slave and they had sons or daughters, then only the man will be free in the seventh year, but his wife and children will still belong to his master. But the slave may declare, ‘I love my master, my wife, and my children. I don’t want to go free.’ If he does this, his master must present him before God. Then his master must take him to the door or doorpost and publicly pierce his ear with an awl. After that, the slave will serve his master for life.” (NLT) 

You’ll notice the verse doesn’t say very much about the treatment of slaves other than that they can go free after seven years. What is interesting is what is allowed by this perfect, all-loving moral lawgiver that Christians call a god. 

1 You can own other people as property. This alone would have God thrown into prison in today’s society. 

2 The loophole. Giving a male slave a wife while in slavery virtually guarantees the man’s servitude for life, as the wife and any children remain the property of the slave owner. This is absolutely immoral to us today, but it was A-OK by God. Popular Christian apologetics state “well this was for a different time” and “you can’t judge scripture by today’s morals”. This puts Christianity in a difficult position, as it makes people nowadays more moral than the God of the Bible. If this is the case, why do we need God?

Gord ignores the rest of Exodus 21. Verses 7-9 explain how to sell your daughter into sex slavery properly.

Verses 20-21 tell us how much force God allows when we beat our slaves. Verse 26 gives us pointers on how to beat slaves. (Hint, stay away from the head.)  

In the end, Exodus is probably the worst book of the Bible to demonstrate that “slaves were treated well”, as Gord stated. I would invite him to actually read it.  

Gord’s second offering, Leviticus 25:42-43, regarding the enslavement of non-Hebrews, doesn’t get much better: “The people of Israel are my servants, whom I brought out of the land of Egypt, so they must never be sold as slaves. Show your fear of God by not treating them harshly.” (NLT) Sounds pretty good eh? Almost like God is against selling people as slaves… till you read the next bit: “However, you may purchase male and female slaves from among the nations around you. You may also purchase the children of temporary residents who live among you, including those who have been born in your land. You may treat them as your property, passing them on to your children as a permanent inheritance.” How, and in what context, is purchasing human beings treating them well?  

Gord also offers Deuteronomy 15:12-18, which is a biblical cut past job of Exodus 21:2-6, just a slightly extended version that applies only to freeing Hebrew slaves. Non-Hebrew slaves will never have the chance for freedom. I won’t bother to go into it but I do invite those interested to have a look. Reading the Bible online at Bible Hub or Bible Gateway is recommended, as with these websites, you can easily compare a variety of translations.  

OBSERVATIONS  

So what is to be made of all this? Gord, like so many Christians who believe their god and his word is perfect, are blinded by their faith. They either twist themselves in knots to justify their beliefs, or simply ignore large portions of Scripture. If Gord had actual theological training, I would be tempted to accuse him of lying for Jesus. Unfortunately, as with many evangelical Christians, one must consider them victims of those who do lie for Jesus. Gord is free to believe whatever he chooses; however, he is perpetuating a myth that corrupts his moral compass, causes him to believe the absurd, diminishes his respect for human beings and makes him ignorant and ill-informed about science and human rights. 

Eternal Life – Gift or Threat? 

Gord leaves us with the scriptural passage seen on everything from billboards to American football players – John 3:16 – and asks us to read it, so I did. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (NIV) I don’t know what Gord figured I would get from this verse. To a Humanist, it is at best unconvincing and nonsensical; at worst, it’s threatening and immoral.  

First of all, who wants eternal life? I mean, we might find something to do for the first thousand years, but the next billion? trillion? It’s really not something I would look forward to. Knowing our lives are finite is one of the ideas that makes life worth living. This life is too precious to spend it worrying about the next one. Frankly, living forever would be, well, depressing.  

In Christian theology, God is the creator of all things, including the rules that we are supposed to live by. This god felt that the best way to atone for people breaking the rules that he created was to slowly torture a human being as a blood sacrifice. I think that any reader of this article, Christian or not, could come up with better, more moral ways to fix the problem, if they were given the opportunity to play the role of a loving, omnipotent god. Especially if they had fabricated the problem themselves in the first place. In the end, John 3:16 really only demonstrates that people today have better morals then the god many of them believe in. 

Christians also claim that this murder / torture / death is a free gift that God gives us so that we can have eternal life and be free of our sins forever. However, if we read a little further on, to John 3:36, we find that if we don’t accept this free gift – if we don’t believe in Jesus Christ – we will suffer God’s wrath, which, for many Christians, means burning in hell forever. God comes off as a sort-of mafia boss here, essentially saying ‘Believe in Jesus and accept the gift of eternal life, and if you don’t I’ll blow your brains out’ (ii.e. send you to Hell). Doesn’t exactly make it a gift, or free, does it? Sounds more like extortion. 

CONCLUSION 

As with most Christians, Gord’s not a bad guy. I would invite him to read his Bible without the help of priests or apologists. He just may find that it is not the moral word of God that it’s purported to be. In fact, he may come to the realization that many of us have already reached – you can live a better, more moral life without it.                               – Pat Morrow

 

December 2017 Newsletter

Upcoming HAAM Events

Winter Solstice Party

December 23rd at the Belgian Club, 407 Provencher Blvd, 5:30 PM

Please bring an item for the potluck supper.

Optional – bring your favorite board game.

More details here.

See complete event listings and details for all upcoming HAAM events on our Events page.

Charity of the Month – Koats for Kids

Koats for Kids is a United Way program that collects and distributes winter outerwear to needy families. They collect new or gently used winter jackets (clean with working zippers), ski pants, boots, hats, scarves, and mittens. All sizes are needed – from infant to toddler to youth.

Please bring your donations to our Winter Solstice Party! We’ll collect them up and drop them off at the depot. 

Call to Action Register Your Intent to be an Organ Donor

The Organ Donor Registry is now online!

Organ and tissue donation in Manitoba have gone high-tech. Paper ‘organ donor’ wallet cards are no longer considered adequate, because they are not recorded in any database and may not be available when needed. Instead, Manitoba Health now recommends that you register your wishes online to ensure that they will be known – if and when you ever qualify to donate.

Register your consent to donate at Sign Up for Life.ca. Your information will be recorded and stored in the secure Manitoba eHealth database. In the event of your death or imminent death, your decision will be shared with your family so that they can honor your wishes. Donation will not take place without your family’s consent.

How does it work?

You can register if you are 18 years of age or older and have a valid Manitoba Health Card. You can donate organs and tissues (heart, liver, kidneys, pancreas, lungs, small bowel, stomach, corneas, heart valves, pericardium, bone, cartilage, tendons, ligaments and skin) for transplant. You can also indicate whether or not you would want your organs or tissues to be used for medical education or scientific research purposes.

Everyone can register to be a donor regardless of age, medical condition or sexual orientation. Your decision to register should not be based on whether YOU think you would be eligible or not. Eligibility is determined by the health care team after a patient’s death.

Thanks to Karen Donald for the tip!

Latest News

Bill Favors Religion over Patient Rights

Having sat through a community hearing at the Manitoba Legislature on the issue of Bill 34, The Medical Assistance in Dying (Protection for Health Professionals and Others) Act on the evening of November 6th, I’d like to share some observations, comments, and take-away points from what was said. It should be noted that I learned about this hearing at the very last possible minute, and I’m uncertain as to whether the speakers were there by invitation or whether there had been an option for the public to sign up ahead of time to speak. As such, I can’t account for the small number of speakers calling for amendments, vs. the majority, who called for keeping the bill as is. Of the 16 speakers, only 3 (Dr. Alewyn Vorster, representing the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Manitoba; Mary J. Shariff, from the Faculty of Law, University of Manitoba; and Cory Ruf of Dying with Dignity Canada), advocated for amending the bill with clearer language that removes ambiguity, out of concern that a broad interpretation of the bill could result in denial of MAID information, referrals, and services to Manitoba patients.

Of the 13 speakers in favor of the bill as presented (two representatives from Catholic organizations, 10 doctors, and a private citizen), all cited personal religious beliefs as part of their presentations, in addition to many other arguments. Their most common arguments and concerns centered on personal religious conviction/conscience, the Hippocratic Oath, fear of health care professionals being required to make MAID referrals, reprisal should they refuse to do so, patient abandonment, assertions that medication is adequate to maintain comfort until “natural” death occurs, and the belief that “there is no crisis of access”. Most maintained that they wouldn’t do anything to block access to MAID services, and while all stated that they wouldn’t make a direct referral to the MAID team, most (with a couple of exceptions) were willing to refer patients to a third party who would.

Since When Do Institutions have Rights?

From what I learned during a previous conversation with my MLA, Andrew Micklefield (who was in attendance), and certainly from what was shared at this hearing, it’s clear that there is a disconnect between Health Minister Kelvin Goertzen’s statement, “We will protect the rights of institutions”, and the real-life ramifications of that statement for patients who are now forced into a potentially agonizing, painful, and certainly undignified transfer of service to another hospital if they opt for MAID while in a faith-based facility in Manitoba. As an example, to quote one speaker, Dr. Albert Chudley (a Professor of Pediatrics and Child Health, as well as Biochemistry and Medical Genetics, at the University of Manitoba, and who ironically professed to have taught clinical ethics), the bill “doesn’t diminish patient rights”, “transfer remains an option”, and “patients are not in pain”. Dr. Ann McKenzie, amidst stories of personal tragedy and appeals to the Hippocratic Oath, is of the opinion that vulnerable patients who choose MAID as an end of life option “lose time with family” and create trauma for those who remain.

Is there a duty to refer?

In conclusion, when asked by Andrew Swan, an opposition MLA who supports the bill, if the Health Minister would require health professionals to provide MAID referrals, Goertzen stated that he doesn’t believe health professionals (including nurses, pharmacists etc.) should be required to make referrals. The Minister said the government would “support the rights of institutions… not at the expense of access”; however, he did not acknowledge that failing to provide information and referral directly impacts that access. The provincial government is siding with publicly-funded, faith-based hospitals that are denying on-site access to MAID services, which is a violation of the Charter Rights of Manitobans. This bill sets the rights of religious institutions above patient dignity and humane end-of-life care.

All clauses of Bill 34 were passed, unamended.                                                                                                 – Rob Daly

Is Christmas really a Christian Holiday?

If you celebrate and enjoy Christmas, don’t feel guilty about it. There’s no need to give it up just because you no longer view it as a religious holiday. Some of the following details may be disputable, because sources vary, and it’s difficult to pinpoint the exact origins of customs and rituals that date back to antiquity and cross cultures. But this much is clear – Most of the traditions we associate with Christmas either originated in pre-Christian myths or have absolutely NOTHING to do with Christianity.

It’s all about the solstice

Winter Solstice is the longest night of the year. Ancient astronomers were able to detect that after the solstice, the days became longer and the noonday sun rose higher in the sky.  This was interpreted as a promise that warmth would return once more to the Earth. Numerous pre-Christian cultures and Pagan religions celebrated the return of the Sun and honored a birth or rebirth of one of their gods or goddesses on or near the solstice. These included Attis (Roman), Dionysus (Greek), Osiris (Egyptian), and Mithra (Persian). Saturnalia (the Festival of Saturn) was celebrated from December 17 to 23 throughout the Roman Empire. Many of these celebrations included fertility rituals and symbols intended to encourage Mother Earth to begin reproducing again.

In the late 3rd century the Roman Emperor Aurelian blended Saturnalia with the birth celebrations of savior gods from other religions into a single holy day (December 25th), so it was relatively easy to incorporate the celebration of Jesus’ birth.

These are Pagan? Really?

It’s no surprise, then, that quite a few of our modern Christmas traditions have Pagan roots. Here are a few examples:

Feasting and partying – Saturnalia was the liveliest of the ancient Roman festivals. The celebration included days off work, street parties, candles, gifts, and greenery. Saturn was the god of agriculture, so feasting was an appropriate way to celebrate the fruits of the harvest.

Mistletoe and Holly – Mistletoe was considered a magical plant and a fertility symbol by many ancient cultures, so people used to practice ‘fertility rituals’ underneath it; nowadays we usually just kiss. The complimentary colors of red and green represent male and female, and we still see them in the holly leaves with their red berries used in Christmas wreaths.

Santa Claus is partly based on myths that predate St Nicholas. The Norse god Odin is often pictured as an old man with a white beard and long cloak. Odin led a hunting party through the skies, riding an eight-legged horse. In winter, children would leave their boots near the chimney, filled with carrots or straw for the horse, and in return, Odin would leave a little gift in the boot. In Celtic Neopaganism, the Holly King and the Oak King fight a battle each summer and winter solstice, with each reigning half the year. Depictions of the Holly King often look remarkably like a sort of woodsy Santa Claus.

Caroling originated with the practice of wassailing – traveling through fields and orchards in the middle of winter, singing and shouting to drive away any spirits that might inhibit the growth of future crops.

Gift-giving – During Saturnalia, it was tradition to give children gifts of wax figures that represented the sacrifices made to Saturn to wish for a bountiful harvest.

Evergreens – Romans decorated their homes with bits of greenery during Saturnalia. Pines and firs were cherished as a symbol of life and rebirth in the depth of winter, and were traditionally hung around doorways and windows. Egyptians used palm fronds instead.

Fruitcake comes from Egypt. Once baked, it lasts a looooong time without going bad, so it was often placed as an offering on the tomb of a loved one.

The Yule log originates in Norway. The Norse believed that the sun was a giant wheel of fire which rolled away from the earth, and then began rolling back again on the winter solstice. To celebrate the return of the sun each year, they would light a Yule log and let it burn all night long. Once the log was burned in the hearth, the ashes were scattered about the house to protect the family within from hostile spirits.

Decorated trees – During Saturnalia, on the eve of the Midwinter Solstice, Roman priests would cut down a pine tree, decorate it, and carry it ceremonially to the temple celebrations. Pagan families would bring a live tree into the home so the wood spirits would have a place to keep warm in the cold winter months; food and treats were hung on the branches for the spirits to eat.

  Most Humanists enjoy the various celebrations and traditions around the Winter Solstice, regardless of their origins. So

from all of us at HAAM – whatever you celebrate!

Countdown to 2018

Please support HAAM with your Membership

Membership renewal for 2018 is now open. Please note that HAAM operates on a calendar year, meaning that membership fees are due in January. First time members who join between October and December pay the full fee but their membership includes the upcoming year. If you are one of those brand new members, this notice does not apply to you. Everyone else needs to become a member or renew.

We count on membership revenues to support HAAM’s continuing work in creating community and providing a voice for non-believers. Fees are affordable and include a ‘limited income’ option if applicable. Please support the group that supports you! Memberships are payable anytime by credit card using the PayPal link on our website, by cheque in the mail, or by cash or cheque at any event. More information about membership and renewal is on our website.

If you plan to attend our AGM in January, dues MUST be paid in order to vote.

Become Involved!

Get to know your fellow Humanists and help us develop a supportive community. Do you have a suggestion for a meeting topic or social event? An issue you’d like to discuss? A charity you think we should support? Do you have a talent to share? Can you help out with a specific task, project, or event? To keep our group active and interesting, we need YOUR input and help.

Watch for our New Ads

On Saturday, December 7th, HAAM will be running a seasonal ad in the local Steinbach newspaper, The Carillon. It will appear in both the print edition (on the front page of Section C), and in the online edition. We will also be running an ad on Facebook in December.

If you want a sneak preview, check out the banner image on our Facebook page.

Watch for our ads – and when you see them, please share them to spread the word! 

Stressed Out About the Upcoming Holidays?

Do you live in a religious community, or with religious family members? Is the holiday season stressful for you because of it? Are family get-togethers uncomfortable? A little guide called Being Openly Secular During the Holidays might be helpful. Topics include managing stress, adhering to holiday traditions, and dealing with religious family. It also contains a secular grace and some links to further resources.

We also covered this topic in last year’s December newsletter.

Book of the Month Salt Sugar Fat

Here’s a book that might give you pause before you dig into too much holiday party food – Salt Sugar Fat, by Michael Moss. After reading it, you probably won’t want to dig into quite so much holiday party food.

How much of our food comes from cardboard boxes, plastic packaging, fast food restaurants, take out, microwaves, lunch meats, processed cheese, cookies, candy bars, etc.? If you don’t know, or feel uneasy about the answer, you may not want to know.

Moss looks into labs where scientists calculate the “bliss point” of sugary beverages, unearths marketing techniques taken straight from tobacco company playbooks, and talks to concerned insiders who make startling confessions. Just as millions of “heavy users” are addicted to salt, sugar, and fat, so too are the companies that peddle them. You will never look at a nutrition label the same way again.

Get a head start on your New Year’s resolutions! If you read this book now, guaranteed you’ll be making different (and better) choices in 2018.

Visit our library page if you would like to borrow this book.  

Is There a Right to be an A**hole?

At our (packed) November meeting, U of M professor Steve Lecce spoke about free speech. His awesome presentation was followed by a lively Q and A. If you couldn’t attend, you can now catch it on our YouTube channel.

 

November 2017 Newsletter

Upcoming HAAM Events

Details and complete listings for all our upcoming HAAM events are on the Events page.

Bowling Extravaganza

Monday, November 13th, Chateau Bowling Lanes, 1145 Nairn Avenue, 7 PM

Details here.

 

Monthly Meeting – Is there a Right to be an A**hole?

John Stuart Mill and the Limits of Expressive Liberty

Saturday, November 18th, Canad Inns Polo Park, 1405 St Matthews Avenue, 5:30 PM

Details here.

We will be collecting donations for the Christmas Cheer Board at this meeting.

HAAM and Eggs Brunch

Sunday, November 26th, Perkins Restaurant, 1277 Henderson Highway, 9:30 AM

Details here.

 

Winter Solstice Party

December 23rd, the Belgian Club, 407 Provencher Blvd

Join us for a pot-luck dinner and Yuletide cheer, as we celebrate the end of the darkness and the return of the SUN! Everyone’s welcome, so invite your family and friends!

Further details will be in our December newsletter.

 

Upcoming Community (Non-HAAM) Events

Folklore and Truth

November 27th, 6:30 – 8 PM. Hosted by the Winnipeg Circle of Reason.

Details here.

For information on upcoming non-HAAM events, visit our Community Events page.

 

Charity of the Month – Christmas Cheer Board

Each year, around 5,000 volunteers help the Christmas Cheer Board to provide over 18,000 Christmas hampers to needy individuals and families. Recipients include those on income assistance, low-income families, pensioners, unemployed persons, and recent immigrants.

More than half of the food and toys are donated by individuals and companies, with the rest being purchased with donated funds.

At our November meeting, we’ll be collecting monetary donations to be used for hampers.

Regardless of whether you celebrate Christmas as a religious holiday, as a secular holiday, or not at all, the end of December is a festive season in our community. Let’s help make the holiday season a merry time for everyone!

Tax receipts are available for donations over $10. If you would like to donate but cannot attend the meeting, you can do so via the Paypal button. Just include a note letting us know that the money is for the charity.

Latest News

Partners for Life Update

Two months left till year-end! It’s our last chance to push towards our goal of 25 blood donations by HAAM members in 2017. As of mid-October, we had 18 donations… so we should be able to meet our goal. If you’re a regular donor, please try to get one more donation in by the end of the year.

If you’ve never donated before, or never asked to have your donations credited to HAAM, please join our Canadian Blood Services Partners for Life team and help us reach our goal. Let’s show that Humanists care enough to donate blood!

Laura Stephens donated at a clinic held on Thanksgiving Day and took this photo.

Information about Partners for Life, and instructions for how to register, are here. And as always, if you have questions or difficulty with the registration, contact us.

Evolution vs. Creation – Christianity Tries to Stay Relevant

In October, Denis O. Lamoureux, a professor of Science and Religion from the University of Alberta, was in Manitoba to present a lecture called Beyond the “Creation vs. Evolution” Debate.

The purpose of the lecture was to demonstrate that science and religion are really NOT incompatible. It included such topics as the definition of atheism, religious views on Adam and Eve, how many scientists believe in God, the speaker’s own conversion to Christianity from atheism, and the claims of Richard Dawkins.

Did Lamoureux prove his point? Are science and religion compatible? Pat Morrow attended the lecture and reviewed it. Read his entertaining and thoughtful evaluation on our Perspectives page.

Library News

HAAM’s library is moving! In response to our ad for a new librarian, we had two volunteers who stepped up to the plate. Thanks to Laura Stephens and Adriana Sedlak for volunteering! They will share the position and ensure that a few books are brought to each meeting.

If you’re looking for a specific book or author, or a book on a specific topic, you can view our entire collection online. If you see a book or video you would like to borrow, just contact HAAM to request to have it brought to a meeting.

It’s Time to Plan for Next Year

HAAM’s executive committee is recruiting new members for 2018. We need enthusiastic people who can help us to achieve our goals of building a supportive secular community and promoting critical thinking in the larger world.

The executive committee plans and organizes our events (monthly meetings, social activities, outreach, etc.), guides policies and decisions, and plans for the future of the organization. We would love to offer more events and programs, but we need people to help out. Please consider volunteering, or accepting the offer to join if you are approached. Executive meetings are usually held monthly, but a lot of our communication and planning also takes place online, in between meetings.

Elections will be held at our AGM on January 13th, 2018. The positions of Secretary and Treasurer are up for re-election this year. We are also looking for members-at-large to help out as needed. To be eligible to serve on the executive, you must have been a HAAM member for at least 6 months prior to the election.

If you want to get in on the action, or if you are considering it and have questions, please contact us.

Book of the Month The Better Angels of our Nature

With all the depressing / fake news lately, maybe this is a good time to read a book that will inspire some optimism. The world we live in is not as bad as we think – or at least, it’s not as bad as it used to be. Don’t believe that? Then you really need to read Steven Pinker’s book The Better Angels of our Nature. At over 800 pages, it’s a long read – but hey, winter’s coming; time to settle down in the evening with a great book.

Pinker asserts that violence has been in decline over millennia, and that the present is probably the most peaceful time in history. The decline in violence is found in many domains, including military conflict, homicide, genocide, torture, criminal justice, and treatment of children, homosexuals, animals and racial and ethnic minorities.

The book covers the historical trends related to the decline of violence, psychological systems that can lead to violence, and motives that can lead people away from violence. But Pinker also notes that the level of violence is not down to zero, and warns that the decline is not guaranteed to continue.

Bill Gates declared this as his favorite book of the last decade, and the most inspiring book he’s ever read. So what are you waiting for?

Visit our library page if you would like to borrow this book.

HAAM Celebrates Halloween!

Karen and David Donald really got into the spirit of the season for our October meeting! Quite a few of our members came in costume. You’ll find more costumed HAAM members on our Gallery page.

Thanks to Rob Daly, the meeting room looked ghoulishly awesome, too! Here are just a couple of the decorations he brought.

Evolution vs. Creation – Christianity Tries to Stay Relevant

What the Heck is ‘Evolutionary Creationism’?

At the beginning of the documentary Losing Our Religion, philosopher Daniel Dennett says “Religion Is going through a profound revolutionary period and we’re right in the middle of it”. I agree, and I think this is happening on many fronts and in many religions. Just recently, I had a front row seat to view a small part of this revolution. I attended a lecture titled Beyond the ‘Evolution vs Creation’ Debate, hosted by the Canadian Scientific & Christian Affiliation, at the U of M.

The speaker was Dr. Denis O. Lamoureux, who holds three doctoral degrees (in dentistry, theology, and biology). No one who attended could forget that, as he brought the point up several times in his lecture. He’s a self-admitted Bible-believing, born-again, Evangelical Christian. He is also an evolutionary creationist, which, as he stated during his talk, “sounds like an oxymoron” (probably because it is). Evolutionary creationism is defined by Dr. Lamoureux as the claim that “the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit created the universe and life through an ordained, sustained, and design-reflecting evolutionary process”.

Dr. Lamoureux explained that the lecture he was presenting that evening is one he gives to his first-year university (theology?) students. It is specifically designed to help Christians who struggle with the concept of evolution. That point that would become blatantly obvious during the course of the evening. We were given handouts to follow along.

A Few Definitions

Before we go much further, we need to review some of the definitions included in Dr. Lamoureux’s handout. Curiously, I found some of them just accurate enough to support his argument.

Dichotomy Division of an issue into two simple positions
Caused by ‘black-and-white’ & ‘either/or’ thinking
Secular Humanism Belief that humans alone determine morals
Conflation Sloppy blending of distinct ideas into one simple idea
Teleology Belief the world has plan & purpose
Dysteleology Belief the world has NO plan & purpose
Evolution Scientific theory that natural processes over billions of years produced all living organisms, including humans
Creation Belief that the world is the product of the Creator

A False Dichotomy?

Lamoureux began with the problem of conflict between science and religion that he believes many people become stuck in, and he spent the bulk of the lecture attempting to explain how this is a false dichotomy. He didn’t clearly define either religion or science, other than to state that one tells the how, the other tells us the who. Nor did he define another popular word used throughout the lecture – faith. This would have been a helpful clarification; instead, this oversight allowed him conflate all three into one sloppy mess. If one were to believe the ideas put forward in this lecture, every idea is faith-based to varying degrees – religion, science, even atheism – thus validating his assertion that the religion vs. science debate is a false dichotomy.

But science vs. religion is NOT a false dichotomy. Science is a process used by humans to give them an accurate picture of the universe. Data (evidence) from this process contributes to the body of knowledge that we also call science. With that knowledge, we can build a better mousetrap, or a better, more moral society. Religion, on the other hand, is a belief system based on assertions, moral proclamations, and faith. Faith, as defined in the Bible, is belief without evidence.

 

Science in the Bible

click to enlarge

I think Dr. Lamoureux understands that religion and science are very different things. To his credit, he stated several times during the course of the lecture that the Bible is not a book of science. But then he confused the issue by claiming that the Biblical model of a three-tier universe (with waters below, a flat circular earth, and more water above, held in the sky by the firmament) can be considered “ancient science”, when in fact it’s not science at all but ignorance.  The writers of the Bible knew nothing of hydrology, geology, or the laws of planetary motion. For them, the earth was a flat circle, because that’s what it looked like. The ocean was blue and so was the sky. Water fell from the sky so there must be an ocean up there. Such beliefs were considered common sense at the time, but they were not based on science. The authors of those passages didn’t test their observations or engage the scientific method. Opinion and navel gazing are not science.

I can see why Dr. Lamoureux developed this lecture for Christians struggling with evolution, because when you believe you have the one true religion, you’re stuck in a simple either/or position. Many Christians find themselves in the uncomfortable position of having to choose either reality or superstition. Dr. Lamoureux tries to remedy this cognitive dissonance by blending reality and superstition – often with absurd results.

Does this look like it was well-designed?

click to enlarge

One of the possible solutions Lamoureux offers is that evolution is teleological (with a plan and purpose). He gives no evidence for this, of course. I believe that evolution is dysteleological (without plan or purpose), as this seems to be where the evidence leads. One just has to look at the laryngeal nerve in a giraffe, and see how it makes a 15 foot round trip from the brain, down the neck into the chest cavity, and back up to the larynx. From a design point of view, this makes absolutely no sense whatsoever – but it makes perfect sense when one understands evolutionary biology. There are thousands of other examples which demonstrate that if there is any divine design, plan, or purpose to biological evolution, the designer is confused (or just an idiot).

 

Are Scientists Still ‘Keeping the Faith?’

Lamoureux frequently made statements like “This scientist believes in God and he’s a Christian” or “That theologian believes in evolution”. I suppose that was for the benefit of the crowd of Christian attendees, but really, science doesn’t care what you believe. I wasn’t surprised at Lamoureux’s Christian bias; he made it clear that he’s a Christian and that the lecture was intended to help Christians. However, I was surprised at the lack of effort spent on attempting to understand science vs. the time devoted to explaining theology. He did finally get to some science… kinda. He cited a study which he claims shows that 40% of leading American scientists believe in a personal God. The study (Larson and Witham, 1997) was published in the journal Nature. I was unable to read the original article as it is stuck behind a $200 pay wall. However, I was able to garner information from one secular source and the many, many Christian sources that reference this study, and they generally concur.

The study was titled “Scientists are still keeping the faith”. Larson sent out 1,000 surveys to randomly chosen scientists listed in the index of “American Men and Women of Science”, a database of more than 120,000 leading scientists in the USA and Canada. The report of the study indicates that “more than 600” of the surveys were returned; since we don’t know the exact number, we’ll go halfway between 600 and 700 and say that 650 were returned, for a response rate of approximately 0.54% of the 120,000 scientists the study defines as leading. So Dr. Lamoureux is basing his claim that 40% of leading American scientists believe in a personal god, on a 20 year old study with a less than 1% sample of said scientists.

Personally, I would feel less than honest, extrapolating to that extent using an old study with such a small sample, and without knowing more about the methodology (perhaps religious scientists were more likely to respond?). But I can see where faith would help one to believe it.

Does any of this even matter?

During the talk, I found myself wondering “What’s the point of bringing up so many scientists?” The theme of the lecture was science vs. religion, not scientists vs. religion. Science is the best process for discovering what is true about the natural world, and it is a self-correcting method that consistently gives us accurate, reliable results. This is in contrast to religion, a faith-based process that relies on the unfalsifiable to assert a ‘truth’ that could mean anything. What people believe on faith has little or nothing to do with testing what we can know though reason, evidence and experimentation. If this lecture taught us anything, it is that human beings are quite adept at compartmentalization and carrying two or more contradictory beliefs with little discomfort.

Personal Testimony

Another sizable part of the evening was spent listening to Dr. Lamoureux speak about his personal journey. This was also where the presentation started to take on the feel of a standard Christian apologetics conference. Like many apologists, throughout his lecture he used Richard Dawkins as a yardstick to measure all atheists by, and to represent what they believe. Which I suppose might not be so bad, except that he often got what Richard Dawkins believes, wrong.

We heard how young Dr. Lamoureux left Christianity and became an atheist, just like Richard Dawkins. In his own words, “by 1977, I was Richard Dawkins“. His journey to atheism started in his early university at dental school. He relayed the story of how he treated women badly (“If anyone was to treat my sister the way I treated women, I would phone up my three brothers and go see this guy”). Then there were the drugs and parties that left him feeling his life was vacuous, empty, and unclean. He found Jesus while in the army, and apparently sealed the deal by reading the Book of John. He later discovered young earth creationism, but in 1994 settled on his present theological position as an evolutionary creationist.

Nothing New Here

Lamoureux’s story is remarkably similar to other apologists who relate stories of when they were atheists – all their stories carry the same account of immorality and emptiness. This is not to doubt his own account of his life, but his testimony is so common that one could turn its major points into a checklist (and some of us do!). It would be my suggestion that Lamoureux’s ill-treatment of women and feelings of emptiness were not due to his atheism, but possibly that he was simply a misogynistic asshole in his younger years.

The Q & A

A good Q & A can add greatly to the substance of the presentation. Through unscripted answers, one can get a feel for who the presenter is and the quality of their argument. Points that I like to consider in a Q & A are

  • are the questions answered directly?
  • Is a question sidestepped or given a long rambling answer?
  • are concepts explained clearly, or are they obfuscated?

A Historical Adam and Eve?

The first question asked was about Dr. Lamoureux’s stance on Adam and Eve, since we know from genetics, geology, anthropology and other sciences that we did not all come from a single man and woman. (The geologic record shows that there were millions of animal species long before the first humans showed up. If Adam and Eve had been on the planet at the time of creation, human bones should be discovered alongside stegosaurus and trilobites.) Dr. Lamoureux never did answer the question, but he offered several possibilities, none of which he actually committed to endorsing. It’s worth noting that, as a scientist, he still even mentions some of these possibilities, since science has already demonstrated that the Biblical Adam and Eve never existed.

1 Adam and Eve have no connection to evolution.

2 God picks two pre-humans (Australopithecines? Homo habilis?) and instills spiritual characteristics, moral culpability and the Spirit of God

3 Many Adams and many Eves evolved, whole populations of them!

4 The Genesis 2 story is an allegory containing “spiritual truths”, and didn’t actually happen.

It is noteworthy that the only one of these possibilities for which there is evidence either way is the first one. He does suggest a book called Four Views on the Historical Adam to further explain this conundrum, if readers feel so inclined.

Is anyone here a physics major?

We also we heard the standard question “how could the eye evolve” and other similar topics, which I felt that someone with a PhD in biology could have answered quite a bit better. Then we had the still-popular Second Law of Thermodynamics question, asked by an Evangelical high school teacher (for Pete’s sake!). I was saddened to find that Lamoureux, with all his experience and education, was unable to give any answer beyond asserting that evolution doesn’t violate the Second Law of Thermodynamics. Since this this such a common creationist argument, I will offer an explanation.

 Creationist argument: The Second Law of Thermodynamics states that entropy (disorder) increases over time. The development of complex plant and animal life from inanimate chemicals requires an increase in order, which violates this law. Therefore, a complex system of life requires a Creator or designer. **Insert chosen god here**

Scientific response: This law only applies to an isolated system, where no energy or matter leaves or enters. The earth is not an isolated system – it is an open system. It receives outside heat and light from sun, allowing life to arise and fueling simple organisms so that they can become more complex. Maybe the ancient Egyptians were right – it’s not the son that is God but the sun is God?

There’s a simple, short explanation of this argument and response in the following video clip.

Misrepresenting an entire Community

Probably the most disappointing part of Dr. Lamoureux’s lecture was his misrepresentation of the atheist / Humanist / secular community – our community. This is where when he went full Christian apologist, and distorted what most of us believe. The misrepresentation starts very early on in the lecture; if you look under the last column (dysteleological evolution) on his handout, he makes some blatantly false assumptions. I’m sure if we searched hard enough we could find an atheist or Humanist who fits Lamoureux’s description, but it would be near impossible. I don’t claim to be a spokesperson for all Humanists, but I can provide a better explanation of our beliefs than the what’s in the pigeonhole that Lamoureux, with his kindergarten-level understanding of atheism, puts us in.

Wrong Assumptions

Here are some of Dr. Lamoureux’s assumptions about what atheists believe. I won’t touch on all of his points, just the more problematic ones.

1 There is no plan or purpose to the universe. He’s quite correct on this point – basic elements, noble gases, and rocks have no minds so they cannot form purpose. However, when those elements and noble gases come together to form life, those life forms (such as animals), can form a plan and purpose.

2 Design is a delusion. Nope, we see the appearance of design in many things. We just don’t believe it requires an intelligent designer.

3 The universe and life developed through natural processes and blind chance. Despite Lamoureux’s conflation of Big Bang cosmology and abiogenesis, he’s wrong on both counts. Random chance may play a part, but we simply don’t know how it all started.

We know that abiogenesis (the beginning of life) must have started with simple chemicals. Elements bond together, so it may be that given the right conditions, the development of life is the inevitable consequence of chemistry. If that’s the case, then life will develop wherever those conditions exist in the universe, making this a natural process – not blind chance. There could be thousands of planets with life of some sort; we just haven’t discovered them yet.

Defining Atheism

Throughout the lecture, Lamoureux referred to atheism as a world view. I pressed him on this point during the Q & A, as atheism is not, and has never has been, a worldview. According to Lamoureux, he tells his students that atheism is a claim that there is no God, and that it’s a claim based on faith. He asserts that atheism is a metaphysical claim, the same as his Christian faith. This is an incorrect accusation, based on what is known as ‘strawman apologetics’. In an attempt to shift the burden of proof, he completes this misrepresentation by asserting that Richard Dawkins holds this view. I pointed out that Dawkins does not state decisively that god does not exist, and that Dawkins lays out his views quite clearly in his book The God Delusion (page 50).

Lamoureux then went on to explain to me – an atheist – what the word ‘atheist’ means. “’a’ meaning ‘no’, and ‘theist’ meaning ‘God’”, he said; in other words, he defines atheism as the assertion that there is no god. His definition is just correct enough to support his claim. However, the prefix ‘a’ can mean ‘without’ as well as ‘no’, so the word ‘atheism’ only refers to lack of belief in god(s), not necessarily a declaration that there aren’t any. Matt Dillahunty does an excellent job of explaining this on the Atheist Experience TV show.

Other definitions that might be helpful

Atheism: godless, without a god; from the ancient Greek ἄθεος (átheos). Derived from the prefix ‘a’ (without), and ‘theos’ (god). This is the definition HAAM uses in our outreach.

Theism: belief in the existence of a god or gods. Merriam Webster (MW)

Atheism: lack of belief or a strong disbelief in the existence of a god or any gods (MW)

Atheist: A person who disbelieves or lacks belief in the existence of God or gods. (Oxford English Dictionary, dictionary.com, and others)

When we see the way that the Greek prefix ‘a’ used in other words, the fallaciousness of Dr. Lamoureux’s argument becomes apparent. The word asymmetrical (not symmetrical) does not imply that symmetry does not exist, nor does the word atypical (not typical) mean that typicality does not exist. I would ask Dr. Lamoureux – does apolitical (not political) mean there is no such thing as politics?

Taking the High Road

Unfortunately, even after explaining that one can’t make a world view out of a singular disbelief; after demonstrating (and having him agree) that atheists can have fundamentally opposing worldviews; and after demonstrating that Richard Dawkins, the poster child he uses for atheism, doesn’t hold the beliefs the beliefs that Lamoureux claims he does – Lamoureux continues to use his own definition of an atheist.

Despite this obvious dishonesty, we as Humanists will continue to do our best to take the high road and engage with religious people based on what they do believe, rather than what someone may assert that they do (or don’t) believe. Who knows, maybe Dr. Lamoureux will invite me to his church and we can dance and “take up snakes” together – oh wait…

The March of Progress

Dr. Lamoureux opened his lecture with a lengthy quote from Thomas Henry Huxley, known as ‘Darwin’s bulldog’. The quotation was used to demonstrate that Huxley was stuck in a false dichotomy between science vs. faith, when he was really just describing the real dichotomy between science and superstition. A portion of the quote really resonated with me – “…history records that whenever science and orthodoxy have been fairly opposed, the latter has been forced to retire from the lists, bleeding and crushed if not annihilated; scotched, if not slain.”

One just has to look at the various arguments put forward by holy men over the last thousand years. As science has progressed, one by one they have all had to bow to the nature of reality. As scientific discoveries stack up, it has always been religion that has eventually had to adjust to new knowledge; never in human history has it been the other way.

Religion loses every time

Religion, especially conservative Christianity, is losing the battle on every front, and has been for a long time – consider interracial marriage (1950’s/60’s) women’s rights and contraception (60’s/70’s) abortion (70’s), gay rights (80’s), marriage equality (2000’s), or the right to an assisted death (2010’s.) Religion’s loss of the power it once had means that it can no longer dictate what is right, what is true, and what is moral. Religious leaders spend much of their time trying to reconcile their supernatural beliefs with scientific reality.

In this lecture I heard a self-proclaimed Evangelical, conservative, born-again Christian state that Genesis is probably allegory, Adam and Eve may not have existed, and the concept of original sin may be a just ‘spiritual truth’. Talk about being “forced to retire”! Some of the basic tenets of Christianity, which people were tortured and killed over for millennia, are now just fluffy ‘spiritual truths’, to be interpreted freely. Indeed, this religion is going through some profound changes.

Conclusion

Many religious people, especially in conservative and Evangelical Christianity communities, have come to understand that to remain relevant in the modern world, their unfalsifiable supernatural beliefs need to adapt to what can be empirically demonstrated. For me, this was the take-home point of the evening. Despite the shortcomings of this lecture, I really hope that Christians will continue the conversation. I will share the Canadian Scientific and Christian Affiliation’s work with the many young earth creationists we encounter during our outreach efforts. If they can reason a few more folks out of believing in a literal Bible; if they can get believers to dump science denial and accept the realities of the natural world; if they can help to render Christianity less harmful – then they will accomplish a great deal in making it a better world for all of us.

Honest dialogue is needed

Finally, a few words of warning to those who engage in spreading misinformation and disinformation about non-believers. Atheist and Humanist organizations are filled with former Christians as well as apostates from other religions. Many of those people join partly because they investigate atheism and Humanism on their own, and find out they have been lied to about our community. Atheist, Humanist, and similar organizations are growing. If we want to ever be able to have an honest dialogue and an open exchange of ideas, religious organizations, apologists, and folks like Dr. Lamoureux need to stop misrepresenting who we are and what we believe. Until they’re able to do that, they will simply perpetuate the stereotype of Christians who engage in lying for Jesus.

Pat Morrow

October 2017 Newsletter

Upcoming HAAM Events

Details and complete listings for all our upcoming HAAM events are on our Events page.

Monthly Meeting – Finding Humanist Thought in Indigenous Beliefs

Saturday, October 14th, Canad Inns Polo Park, 1405 St Matthews Avenue, 5:30 PM

Details here.

In the spirit of the season, we’re going to decorate the room up a bit for Hallowe’en. You’re welcome to come in costume (optional).

 

Spooky Night at Six Pines

Friday, October 20th, Six Pines (just north of Winnipeg), 7:30 PM

Note that this event is intended for ages 15+.

Make sure to read the event details before attending. 

 

HAAM and Eggs Brunch

Sunday, October 22nd, Smitty’s Restaurant, 2835 Pembina Highway (Fort Richmond), 9:30 AM

Newbies Welcome! Details here.

 

Upcoming Community (Non-HAAM) Events

Beyond the “Creation vs Evolution” Debate

October 12th at 7 PM and October 13th at 10 AM and 7 PM. Click for locations.

 

 

For details on all upcoming non-HAAM events, visit our Community Events page.

Latest News

Charity of the Month – Kasese Humanist Primary School

HAAM sponsors a child in Uganda by paying his annual school tuition. Our little boy is called Bogere John, and 2018 will be our third year of sponsorship. He’s a bright little kid, and smart, but he’s an orphan, and he’s had a difficult year.

His spring report card showed that in some subjects he performed only ‘fair’, while other subjects had no mark and were recorded as ‘missed’. This was in sharp contrast to his report card from the previous year, in which all subjects were good or excellent. In a letter, School Director Bwambale M Robert explained that in the middle of the term the boy got “some serious malaria and he had to miss some lessons at the school”, which was a “key factor for his sliding”.

Robert continued – “He however recovered and he is now fine. Normally in most people’s home, the health and hygiene conditions in some of our children and families is not all that fine, this becomes a root cause of some illnesses of our children… My teachers remain committed to ensuring Bogere gets back to his feet and normalize to the better and excel with his studies.” Robert also noted that Bogere’s guardian is “also not well, health-wise”.

Our executive recently received a copy of Bogere’s second term report card, and we are pleased to note that he is catching up in some subjects, although he still struggles with others. Good for him for keeping at it! For us in Canada, it’s hard to imagine the difficulties some children face to get an education.

We will be collecting for little Bogere John’s 2018 school tuition fees at our October meeting. Any extra money we collect above his tuition requirements will go to help the school itself. Please give generously!

Tax receipts are available for donations over $10. If you would like to donate but cannot attend the meeting, you can do so via the Paypal button on our website. Just include a note letting us know that the money is for the charity.

Help Wanted!

HAAM is looking for a new librarian.

Job Description and Requirements:

  • Be a regular, paid member of HAAM who attends most meetings.
  • Store and look after HAAM’s collection of just over 200 books and DVD’s. They come with their own bookshelf (it’s about 3’ wide X 6’ tall).
  • Bring a selection of books to each meeting.
  • Keep track of books as they are signed out and returned.

This is a great opportunity for someone who likes to read. The lucky volunteer will have access to ALL of our books almost ALL of the time. (To see what’s in the collection, visit our Library page.) It’s not necessary to attend every meeting; usually arrangements can be made to send books with another HAAM member if the librarian is absent.

A big thanks to Chad and Gloria Froese who have been looking after our library for over 2 years. Work-related travel and a young family is making it difficult for them to attend many meetings, but they continue to store the books until we find someone willing to take on this responsibility. Please contact us if you’re interested.

Ideas Needed – Help Us Build Community

A group of HAAM members attended the Canadian premiere of “Losing Our Religion” at Cinematheque in September. It’s a very well-made documentary about pastors struggling when they lose their faith – especially while they’re still preaching. (More info here.) If you missed the screening, or weren’t able to be there, it will air on CBC Docs (the documentary channel) in Canada on Sunday evening October 15th, with an encore showing on Wednesday evening October 18th. Check listings for local times.

Several of the peopled interviewed for the film mentioned the importance of community. We can all definitely appreciate that sentiment. It’s in part why we join HAAM and come out to the meetings. And probably the main thing people miss when they leave religion.

The producers included scenes of people taking part in the Sunday Assembly, which just seemed to come together on a whim. And they also interviewed the founder of the Houston Oasis, which is a similar freethought group. These groups host meetings which are slightly more “church-y” in feeling than our HAAM meetings, but they also include things like coffee and live music.

It’s got me thinking – about how to grow our membership and build community, and about being able to create different types of get-togethers. That just doesn’t seem possible in our current meeting space. Should we forego the meeting rooms? Perhaps give up the meal in favor of a better space? What do YOU think? Is it time for us to look for a new home? Let us know!

Donna Harris, President

New Reasonfest Videos

Our YouTube channel is gradually taking off as we have recently added two more videos. They are from our 2015 conference River City Reasonfest, which some of you may have attended. The playlist from that conference now includes:

Greta Christina – Comforting Thoughts about Death that have Nothing to do with God

Eric Adriaans – Canada’s Blasphemy Laws and Human Rights

Tracie Harris – Is Religion Good for Families?

P Z Myers – Evolution is More Complicated than you Think

Special thanks to Paul Morrow for working so hard producing and editing these videos. Check out our channel!

Call to Action – Support Fair, Secular Government

The Freedom of Thought Report is an annual survey on discrimination and persecution against non-religious people in countries around the world. It is published by the International Humanist and Ethical Union each year on December 10th, International Human Rights Day. The full report (over 500 pages) covers every country in the world.

You might not think of Canada as being a country with a significant number of human rights concerns, but the 2016 report notes several issues (details here).

These include:

  • Recognition of the supremacy of God in the constitution and the national anthem, which, although largely symbolic, has been used to argue for allowing religion or prayer in government offices.
  • Granting automatic charitable status to organizations that promote religion, while requiring secular organizations to commit to community services to attain charity status. Also, allowing religious groups the right to maintain a building fund, but requiring secular organizations to apply for such a fund and then adhere to the conditions laid down by the Charities Directorate of the CRA.
  • Partially or fully funding religious schools, many of which discriminate on religious grounds in hiring and in accepting students. In some provinces, the government provides funding to Catholic schools but denies such funding to any other religion or belief.
  • Court rulings that allow sincerely held religious beliefs to prevail over freely contracted obligations (i.e. allowing people to back out of signed contracts on the basis of religious convictions).
  • The continued presence of a blasphemy law in the Criminal Code. (This law is one of many set to be repealed in a current review, but it is not yet officially dead.)
  • Exemptions in the Criminal Code (Section 319 3b) regarding the public incitement of hatred of identifiable groups (i.e. publishing hate literature) if the opinions expressed are based on religious belief or a religious text.

In response, an e-petition (E-1264) has been registered with the House of Commons asking the federal government to investigate the systemic discrimination against non-believers in Canadian laws and regulations.

This isn’t just a formality – it’s more important than you might think. Consider that parliamentary committees hear only from witnesses that their members invite. Since they are religious, they invite religious people. Others are asked to write submissions. For example, the Canadian Heritage Committee has heard from more than five Muslim groups regarding religious discrimination, but no Humanist groups regarding the same topic.

Please sign the petition.

Add your voice to the growing number Canadians who want fair, secular government for all!

For an idea of how Canada compares on a global scale, check this ‘freedom map’.

Color scale, from most free to most oppressed, is green-yellow-orange-red-brown. Find more maps and details here.

Book of the Month Just Pretend

Dan Barker is the co-president of the Freedom From Religion Foundation (and a former evangelical). In this little book (only 72 pages long), he describes gods and religion to children from an atheist perspective, and explains why adults would believe in any religion at all. He refers to religions collectively as just another myth; a sort of ‘Santa Claus for grown-ups’. Because of the Santa Claus analogy, this book is not suitable for children who haven’t yet outgrown belief in a literal Santa. Its target age range would probably be 8-11 year old kids.

The book is clearly aimed at the children of families with non-believing parents. If this describes your family, and you are looking for a book to help your child understand what religion is all about, this might be a great choice. It is probably most useful as a starting point for discussion – read it along with your child and answer their questions.

It may not be appropriate for all families, depending on how much religious ideology your child has already been exposed to, and your own ideas about teaching religion and religious tolerance. Read it yourself first before deciding.

Visit our library page if you would like to borrow this book.

Charity Checkup

October through to the New Year is always a big time for charities and fund-raisers, both in the schools and in the community. There are SO many groups and causes out there – but are they all worth supporting? Before contributing, take a few minutes to learn about the charity that’s asking for your money, time, or endorsement. Read its mission statement to make sure it reflects your own values and beliefs. Some well-known, established charities make promoting religion a primary goal, component and/or requirement of their work. That’s fine if it’s what you want to support, but most of us in the Humanist community do not.

One group that operates in some Manitoba schools (and communities) is Samaritan’s Purse, which runs a shoebox donation program called Operation Christmas Child. If your child brings a note home from school asking you to support this charity, make sure to read our Religion in Schools page first to learn about its real mission.

There are plenty of charities that could use our support that are run by secular and/or religious organizations who do not evangelize the groups they serve. For some suggestions, have a look at the list of charities that HAAM has supported over the past few years.

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Upcoming HAAM Events
  1. HAAM and Eggs Brunch

    October 28 @ 9:30 am - 11:00 am
  2. Monthly Meeting – Godless in Dixie

    November 17 @ 5:30 pm - 8:30 pm
Save the Dates!

HAAM and Eggs Brunches

October 28th

November 25th

Other Upcoming Events

For community events of interest to HAAM members, click here.

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