Dorothy Stephens

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October 2019 Newsletter

Upcoming HAAM Events

Monthly Meeting:

Child Evangelism Fellowship – Coming to a school near you? Or already there?

Saturday, October 5th, Canad Inns Polo Park, 1405 St Matthews Avenue, 5:30 – 8:30 PM

We welcome guest speaker Nathan Prokopowich, who successfully fought to remove the Child Evangelism Fellowship (CEF) from schools in his local division. CEF is a worldwide organization dedicated to proselytizing to children in public schools.

Putting an end to this organization’s dark message can be as easy as informing the school board about exactly what CEF teaches. So please join us for what will be an insightful and informative meeting.

Full event details are here.

HAAM and Eggs Brunch

Sunday, October 20th, Salisbury House, 255 St Anne’s Road, 9:30 – 11:00 AM

Our monthly casual get-together is a great way to meet and get to know your fellow HAAMsters.

New people are always welcome. Details here.

 

Save the Dates

Monthly meeting November 16th

HAAM and Eggs Brunch November 24th

Winter Solstice Party December 14th

Check our Events calendar for the latest information on all upcoming events.

Upcoming Community (Non-HAAM) Events

Campaign Life Counter-Protest

Sunday, October 6th, Women’s Hospital (on Notre Dame), 2-3 PM

This is a Canada-wide event in response to a national anti-choice “Life Chain” event that day. In Manitoba, the protest is being organized by the Handmaids’ Local group. Visit their Facebook event page for the details.

 

Inquiring Minds: Dialogue on Death

Saturday, October 26th to Saturday, November 2nd, First Unitarian Universalist Church, 603 Wellington Crescent

This is a whole week of presentations beginning with a ‘resource fair’ on the 26th, so check their full event calendar for details. Topics include advance care planning, green burial options, how to talk about death, interfaith perspectives on death, how to plan a memorial service, understanding MAID (medical assistance in dying), and more. Note that some of the sessions require pre-registration.

Links to Non-HAAM events of interest to our members can be found on the Community Events page.

Charity of the Month – Kasese Humanist Primary School

Once a year, in the fall, our charitable donations support the Kasese Humanist Primary School in Kasese, Uganda. We have been sponsoring this little student, Bogere John, since the fall of 2015, so our first priority is to collect enough to pay his annual tuition fee. Anything that we collect above the amount needed to provide for him will be donated to the school itself, where it will go toward books, supplies, uniforms, lunches, and clinic medicines.

Kasese school serves over 700 students on 3 campuses. Bogere John attends the Bizoha campus, a nursery and primary school with about 325 kids. Unfortunately, there are many other children like him, who have been orphaned or come from disadvantaged homes and require sponsors in order to get an education. Kasese School really needs our support to continue its work!

You can follow the school and some of the students’ activities on their blog , YouTube channel, or Facebook page.

Please give generously to help these kids.

In a world where so much international charity comes with a heavy dose of proselytization, isn’t it special to be able to support a school whose motto is “With science, we can progress”?

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 on this page. Just include a note letting us know that the money is for the charity.

Latest News

We are part of a worldwide community

Don’t forget that there are associations of Humanists and atheists all over the world, and our numbers are growing. If you’re planning a trip and want to make some new friends, there are lots more non-believers out there who are just a mouse-click or phone call away.

Often you can find groups in other cities just by searching social media sites. But some of our HAAM members also have personal connections with other non-believers across the country and around the globe. So check with your fellow HAAMsters or contact our exec if you’re looking for a group or an individual elsewhere. Networking and sharing will help our community grow!

One of our members shared this experience:

I recently returned from a holiday in Newfoundland. I had never visited Newfoundland before and was thoroughly impressed by the friendliness and hospitality that I experienced. The beauty of the landscape and the unique culture is amazing. Prior to visiting, I sent a message to the website of Atheists of Newfoundland and was able to meet a member of this group for a beer and conversation. I greatly enjoyed my conversation with this person who shared with me his path to Atheism and his experience of living as an Atheist in Newfoundland. It was enlightening and enjoyable listening to him and his experiences. This conversation reinforced my belief of the importance of building a community of Atheists across Canada to share experiences and to offer support. I hope that Atheists from Newfoundland will visit Manitoba and encounter the friendship and camaraderie that I encountered.   

-Arthur Prystenski

Happy Thanksgiving

Non-believers are thankful, too, but we direct our thanks toward the people whose efforts enrich our lives. Several years ago, the American Humanist Association created this image to illustrate that idea. We shared it before, but it’s so good, it’s worth repeating.

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Have you been asked to say ‘grace’ at your Thanksgiving dinner?

If you need a ‘grace’ that’s suitable for everyone in your family (religious or not), the Humanist Association of Canada has some suggestions. Check them out.

Morden Outreach Report

This year, instead of the usual report from our intrepid President and Outreach coordinator, Pat Morrow, we have a personal story from a volunteer who sat in the booth for the first time. This volunteer is a relatively new HAAM member who came from Europe fairly recently and who needs to remain anonymous for professional reasons (i.e. they do not want to be ‘outed’ in the workplace as a non-believer or HAAM member).

You’ll find the report on our Perspectives page. When you read it you’ll see that this outreach was an experience to remember, for a number of reasons. Enjoy!

Book of the Month – The Creator and the Cosmos

The subtitle – How the Latest Scientific Discoveries Reveal God – gives away the genre. It’s a Christian apologetics book. This book was a gift from a visitor to our outreach booth at the Morden Corn and Apple Festival in August. The visitor who presented it to me at the booth was certain that I would change my mind about belief if only I would read Chapter 2, and so I promised him that I would do that.

Chapter 2 is titled My Skeptical Inquiry. It’s not very long (only 4 ½ pages). In it, the author describes how, as a child, he became intensely interested in astronomy and physics, and when he grew up he obtained degrees in both fields. All the while he was in awe of nature and continued to wonder who or what could have been responsible for it all. From there, he jumps to the cosmological argument for god: “If the universe arose out of a big bang, it must have had a beginning. If it had a beginning, it must have a Beginner. From that point on, I never doubted God’s existence.”

The chapter continues with Ross explaining that he searched for the truth in several unnamed ‘holy books’ but did not find it until he picked up a Bible. He describes the Bible as “simple, direct, and specific”, and states that in Genesis, he found a “journal-like record of earth’s initial conditions” that was “elegant and scientifically accurate”. I’ll stop quoting the book there. In the rest of the chapter – and the rest of the book – he continues to interpret and manipulate the facts to fit his firmly-held beliefs.

I am not an scientist and will not attempt to review the rest of the book. But if you’re curious, the late Victor Stenger, a particle physicist, wrote an excellent review of a previous edition way back in 1998. You can read Stenger’s critique of the actual science here. Suffice to say that Stenger called it “the latest coat of varnish on the long-decrepit argument from design”. His whole review is fascinating, even if (like me) you know next to nothing about physics or astronomy.

I’ll bring the book to the October meeting and then add it to the HAAM library. Take a look for yourself and see what you think!

-Dorothy Stephens

All our library books and DVD’s are free to borrow for paid HAAM members.
Visit the Library page to request to borrow a book or DVD, and we will make arrangements to get it to you.

 

Outreach Report – Morden 2019

This year, instead of the usual report from our intrepid President and Outreach coordinator, Pat Morrow, we have a personal story from a volunteer who sat in the booth for the first time. This volunteer is a relatively new HAAM member who originally came from Europe and needs to remain anonymous for professional reasons (i.e. they do not want to be ‘outed’ in the workplace as a non-believer or HAAM member). You’ll see from the following account that this outreach was an experience to remember, for a number of reasons. Enjoy!


This day at the Morden Corn and Apple Festival was a beautiful one for many reasons. Firstly, the trip itself was a real expedition because it was so windy, and going to the festival on my motorbike was very sportive, fighting against the air in front of me. This same wind made the day quite special because once at the festival, it was so strong that many times we had to hold onto the booth and the displays to avoid everything flying away. Thankfully, the day was also very sunny and that was promising for the fierce discussions we had to deal with!!

Of course, the main subject of the day was not the weather but the reason we gathered there, i.e. representing HAAM. Being at a booth like that for an association activity was a first time for me, and in the days before going, many questions passed through my mind. Frankly, I was wondering whether we would have some unpleasant events, or maybe some people showing aggressive behavior when seeing a booth like ours and knowing that the region may be quite religious. This religious population was well represented at the festival, with a booth very close to ours that unfortunately was very popular with the gifts they were giving to the passersby. There was also a creationist booth (I could have stopped at this one because as a scientist it would have been fun to discuss, but the conversation would have lasted hours or days or years…).

In fact no unpleasant event happened at our booth, and my feeling that we needed to protect a fortified castle, at least with halberds, vanished with time (in fact, even for such topics, when people don’t like something they are just indifferent and walk away). But we still have to be alert.

There were a few moments that stayed in my memory:

– A strange moment when a woman stood in front of our booth and meticulously took a picture of our booth without any smile. I was wondering, is she a spy, does she try to do some tracking of all the atheist places in the province of Manitoba? It was curious but she finally left as she came.

– I saw also many times some people from the very religious Hutterite community.  They were passing quickly in front of our booth, dubious. I couldn’t stop wondering – what did they think?

– An old couple to whom we explained there was nothing after death, and for them it was apparently very difficult to imagine. But they kept a smile! I was thinking that perhaps when we explain death from an atheist point of view we should inject more poetry, because to someone who believes in heaven, saying it’s not like that and you’ll be eaten by maggots and that’s it, may be harsh to swallow. I like to think we are part of the cosmos forever, so we could imagine we will be in the center of a star in a few centuries. Dorothy was telling me we can have a physicist at our funeral. I will think about it…

– A young woman (later joined by her husband) who was curious about our booth and took some information. But I finally noticed a Christian cross on her neck (I don’t know why this one was worn horizontally) and when I asked her what it was, she answered that she was for sure a Christian. Why was she interested in our booth; we didn’t have the opportunity to discuss it, so mystery…

– There was also a guy tattooed with « Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité ». He stopped at our booth and was interested in seeing our documentation. I was happy, thinking here is someone associated with the French values of republic and secularity! I asked him if he was French and he told me yes but he left quite quickly. No problem 🙂

– Finally, and this one was probably the most interesting meeting for me: a man came at the end of the day. He was telling us he was a Christian, then he became an atheist, and finally now he was back to Christian. He came with a book he wanted us to read (he actually gave it to us). (Editor’s note: see the Book of the Month in the October newsletter.)  The book was written by an astrophysicist justifying that science and religion can walk together and even, I think, that someone can completely be a believer even if they are also a scientist… This situation where a scientist is a religious believer is still for me, as a scientist myself, the biggest mystery in the world (even if I can think of a few explanations). I was listening to the discussions between him and my friends at the booth and I found it fantastic how my friends were arguing with this man explaining all the tricky contradictions there were in Christianity, and how all these things were totally incompatible with science. Tracy, who I didn’t know before because she was representing the secular community in Morden, was especially quite upset and it was nice to see her discussing all these topics; unfortunately she had to leave but was saying she would have wanted to continue the discussion much more.

  I didn’t really know what to say and I was listening to the very nice arguments my friends were giving. At a certain moment I wanted to be closer to the guy because with this wind it wasn’t always easy to catch everything that was said, so then I sat closer to him. He noticed I didn’t say a lot and perhaps was thinking I could come around to his point, so he put on his hand my leg, like “we are good friends”. It was too much for me, and finally, rather than trying to tell him all the contradictions there are in religion, I wanted to tell him something very important to me, since paradoxically, he seemed to like science very much. I told him how much religion has hurt science, and if we look at history there are billions of examples to illustrate that. I cited him the example of Galileo, who survived the Inquisition but had to renounce to his astronomical theory. (I always say that the Life of Galileo Galilei by Bertolt Brecht is a beautiful play about that, explaining the terrible weight of religion over science). Unfortunately, another Italian astronomer, Giordano Bruno, was less lucky and finished on a stake. I guess, to excuse all the scientists who believe, they are not, curiously, aware of these very established science history facts. So, as I was saying to him, religion should have at least stayed at a distance from science and never been involved in it (but religion was more politically powerful during this period…).

So the message I wanted to deliver to this man, even if it was short, was that in fact even the models of our world or our universe (or beyond: the metaphysics) are not so important for me (I know that might seem odd from a scientist). What is dramatic is that religion tried many times to literally kill scientists; now it’s more difficult because we have seen many achievements of science that can convince many people, and in general religion by its madness is associated with so much drama in history that, for this ethical reason alone, we have a duty to remember. I was telling him it’s because of that that I’m an atheist, even more than for scientific, philosophical, or metaphysical reasons.

I hope the doubts this guy has, for any personal reasons, will vanish soon and that he will come back soon to atheism…

In conclusion, this day was great and I really thank HAAM for organizing such an event. I think it allows us perhaps more easily to discuss topics we like, i.e. humanism, atheism and agnosticism, because we encounter people who think differently than us, and it offers us the opportunity to explain our point of view and feel some solidarity between us for our values. Also having a booth like that and waiting with a nice smile for people to stop by, is probably one of the best ways to interest people and attract them to our cause. For sure the event was a family festival, and in these circumstances, it has to stay light.  Perhaps some additional activities could be added (I was thinking myself of doing some scientific popularization and perhaps someone else could speak about philosophy…) to trigger more curiosity/interactivity…

Name Withheld

September 2019 Newsletter

Upcoming HAAM Events

Monthly Meeting – Stand Up for Science

Saturday, September 14th, Canad Inns Polo Park, 1405 St Matthews Ave, 5:30 PM

We will be welcoming a guest speaker from Evidence for Democracy to talk to us about encouraging evidence-based decision-making in public policy and ways that we can combat misinformation and ‘fake news’.

If you value reason and science-based decision-making in government, then this is a meeting you won’t wanna miss.

Details here.

HAAM and Eggs Brunch

Sunday, September 22nd, Smitty’s Polo Park, 1017 St James St, 9:30 AM

Meet and get to know your fellow HAAMsters.

New people are always welcome. Details here.

Save the Dates

Monthly meetings:

October 5th
November 16th

HAAM and Eggs Brunch:

October 20th
November 24th

Check our Events calendar for the latest information on all upcoming events.

Upcoming Community (Non-HAAM) Events

Global Climate Strike

Friday, September 27th, Manitoba Legislature, noon to 5 PM

Hosted by Manitoba Youth for Climate Action and Manitoba Energy Justice Coalition
Event details and more information on their Facebook Event page.

Links to Non-HAAM events of interest to our members can be found on the Community Events page.

‘Charity’ of the Month – Evidence for Democracy

Occasionally we make an exception to the usual criteria for our monthly charity fundraiser, and instead support a cause that carries out valuable work but is not a registered charity. Evidence for Democracy fits this category.

So what does E4D do? They promote the transparent use of evidence in government decision-making in Canada. They engage and empower the science community while cultivating public and political demand for evidence-based decision-making. They run campaigns about issues affecting science and public policy, and they educate Canadians about evidence-based decision-making. E4D’s goals include strong public policies based on science and evidence, engaged citizens, transparent, accountable government, and a culture that values science and evidence.

Organizations involved in activities that might be seen as political lobbying might not want to be registered as a charity, because that can impose restrictions on their work. E4D offers this explanation: “Evidence for Democracy is a federally registered non-profit organization. To ensure we can effectively advocate for transparent, evidence-based public policy decisions, we are not a charity and donations are not eligible for a tax credit.”

Donations for E4D will be collected at the monthly meeting. If you would like to donate but cannot attend the meeting, you can do so via the ‘Donate’ button on our website. Just include a note letting us know that the money is for the Evidence for Democracy. Note that for this month only, tax receipts will NOT be issued.

Calls to Action

Please take a minute to let your federal election candidates know that you want the next parliament to fix the flaws in Canada’s assisted dying (MAiD) law. Currently, advance requests for MAiD will not be carried out if the patient is not capable of providing consent at the time of the procedure, even if they have already been assessed and approved.

Our next Members of Parliament — no matter where they fall on the political spectrum — need to understand that they have a duty to uphold your end-of-life rights.

Dying With Dignity Canada has prepared an automated letter that makes it really easy to show your support. All you need to do is add your name and postal code and click ‘send’; it will be sent to every federal election candidate in your constituency.

Vote for Science

Let your federal election candidates know that you care about science and that you want them to support evidence-based policies and decision-making if they are elected to the next government. Scientific research benefits our health care, education, environment and economy.

Votescience.ca is a letter-writing campaign sponsored by a collaboration of Canadian scientific organizations to let politicians know that we care about science and want them to govern based on evidence and reason. It will only take you a minute to add your name and postal code to the form letter, and then copies will be sent to every federal election candidate in your constituency.

 

Latest News

What do Humanists believe?

After our August newsletter was sent last month, we had one angry subscriber who canceled their subscription in response to the article supporting reproductive choice.

If you’re uncertain about what HAAM (as an organization) endorses, please visit our website to learn more. Under the About Us tab, you will find information about Humanism and what Humanists believe. You can also read our Philosophy, Mission Statement, and Position Statements, which were written by members of our exec and voted on by the membership at our AGM several years ago.

Humanists support evidence-based decision-making, empathy, compassion, and fairness. These values generally translate into support for human rights, education, and science, resulting in consensus among most Humanists on a number of social issues. Nevertheless, there is no absolute set of personal beliefs that define Humanism, and no ‘membership test’ required to join HAAM. And of course, our newsletter is public, so anyone can subscribe, whether they agree with our positions or not.

If you still have questions, or would like to discuss any of this, we’re happy to answer – just Contact Us.

Passages

Long-time HAAM member Olga Nahirniak died on Sunday August 4th at the age of 94. She had not attended meetings in recent years due to age and health, but she kept in touch by reading the newsletter, and she came to our Summer Solstice party last year (2018), where she can be seen sitting in the front row in a pink T-shirt in the group photo.

Helen Friesen, who knew Olga well, shared this tribute:

  I was fortunate to see her and visit with her two weeks before her death at a function at the Unitarian Church. She had been in hospital for a while just before that, but she was in good spirits and enjoyed the afternoon with everybody.

  Olga was a special and spunky lady. She had a no-nonsense attitude towards beliefs that didn’t make sense to her, among them being religious beliefs, and she didn’t hesitate to say so over the years.

  I’ll remember her fondly.

Olga’s obituary can be seen at Ethical Death Care. Condolences were sent to her family on behalf of all of us at HAAM. She will be missed.

Venue update (again)

After holding three meetings at the University of Winnipeg in the spring, we received mixed reviews from members and had mixed success with the room. There were two main issues:

1. The location – On the plus side, it is central and easy to get to by bus. On the minus side, parking can be a challenge and some members expressed safety concerns about the area.

2. The room itself – On the plus side, the room is spacious, quiet, and private. On the minus side, we had major challenges with furnishings (once arriving to find that almost all the chairs and tables had been removed, and another time, that piles of boxes and paraphernalia from a previous meeting had been left in the room) and equipment (plugging in a coffee pot resulted in repeatedly blown fuses).

On reflection, the executive has decided to move our monthly meetings back to Canad Inns Polo Park for the fall. We will continue to keep an eye out for the ideal venue.

Our goal is to make our meetings accessible to everyone. If you are one of the people who found it easier to get to the U of W, and need a ride to Canad Inns, please let us know (info@haam.ca) and we will try to arrange one for you.

Book of the Month – The Greatest Show on Earth

This 2010 book by Richard Dawkins has become a classic. He was, after all, a professor of zoology long before he became better known for his outspoken atheist activism. So in this book explaining the process of evolution, he’s really in his element. Lay reviewers repeatedly describe Dawkins’s explanations as clear and easy to understand, with plenty of illustrations and examples throughout.

72% of reviewers on Amazon.com gave this book 5 stars; 5% gave it one star. Guess who those 5% of reviewers were? Hint: They described it as ‘pure fiction’, a ‘diatribe against religion’, and ‘an attempt to brainwash the reader’. Several of them recommended books by creationist authors instead.

This book covers all the questions and topics that people ask about evolution – including missing links and transitional fossils, dating methods, the meaning of the word ‘theory’, DNA, the age of the earth, micro vs. macro, the tree of life, vestigial organs, etc.  We discuss all of these and more at our outreach booth in Morden every year.

If you’re not already familiar with these words and phrases, then you owe it to yourself to read Greatest Show on Earth. Dawkins really does make a complex subject understandable and even entertaining.

All our library books and DVD’s are free to borrow for paid HAAM members.
Visit the Library page to request to borrow a book or DVD, and we will make arrangements to get it to you. 

It’s back-to-school time 

Just a reminder: If you have children attending public school in Manitoba, and you have any questions or concerns about religious exercises or religious instruction, please read our Religion in Public Schools information page.

Every year, we get calls and letters from concerned parents, but most of your questions and concerns should be addressed on that page.

Please contact us if:

  • You have questions that are NOT answered on that page,
  • You have new information or updates that we should add to that page, or
  • Your child is attending a school that is violating the guidelines and you would like advice or support.

Morden Outreach

Well that’s a wrap – another successful summer outreach completed. Thanks to all the volunteers who staffed the booth. We have uploaded a few photos to our website gallery. A report will follow in the October newsletter.

August 2019 Newsletter

Upcoming HAAM Events 

HAAM and Eggs Brunch 

Sunday, August 18thSmitty’s Transcona, 1512 Regent Ave W, 9:30 – 11:00 AM 

Curious about who we are and what we do? Summer’s a good time to check us out. 

New people are welcome.   Details here

Morden Outreach   

Friday, August 23rd to Sunday, August 25thMorden Manitoba  

It’s Morden Corn and Apple Festival time again – and we’ll be back there in our Outreach booth!

Don’t forget to stop by and say hello; we’d love to see you!

Details here.

Save the Dates

Our Fall meetings will be – September 14th, October 5th, and November 16th 

Check our Events calendar for the latest information on all upcoming events. 

Upcoming Community (Non-HAAM) Events 

If you live in the Steinbach area or plan to be in the area, and would like to connect with another great bunch of Humanists, check out the Eastman Humanist Community 

Not all their events or meeting locations are advertised publicly. Visit their Facebook page or contact them via their website for more information. 

Links to Non-HAAM events of interest to our members can be found on the Community Events page. 

Check back periodically for updates.

Charity of the Month 

Our Charity of the Month program will resume in September. At each of our regular monthly meetings, January through May and September to November (8 times a year), we collect donations for a different charity. In 2018, we contributed over $1500 in total towards worthwhile causes. 

HAAM’s executive selects organizations that fill a wide variety of needs – animal welfare, environmental protection, science, assistance for underprivileged and/or vulnerable children and adults, education, health care, counselling and peer support groups. Once a year our donations cover the annual school tuition fee for a child in Kasese, Uganda. 

We don’t necessarily exclude charities operated by religious organizations, but we do prefer those that are secular. This helps ensure that our contributions are spent on the intended programs and not used to support religious institutions or proselytize clients. Manitoba has no shortage of worthy secular charities, many of which are small, grass-roots efforts that don’t receive a lot of publicity.  

Learn more about our Charity of the Month program, and view the list of past recipients, on the Charities web page. 

Latest News  

Partners for Life Report 

We’re just over halfway through 2019, so how are we doing with our pledge of 25 blood donations this year from our members? As of the end of July, we are at 13 donations – so just about halfway. 

If you are due to give blood, or haven’t given in a while, or have never given blood before – this is the time! The blood bank always runs low in mid-summer because regular donors may be away on vacation, so let’s help Canadian Blood Services top up their supply! 

More information about the Partners for Life program, and instructions on how to sign up, are on our website 

(P.S. Information about Manitoba’s organ donor registry is on the same page.) 

Book of the Month – How to Start Your Own Religion 

Philip Athans usually writes fantasy, science fiction, and horror books. He also wrote a Guide to Writing Fantasy & Science Fiction, which contains advice about how to create sci-fi and fantasy settings, including plausible invented religions.  

Keep that in mind as you read How to Start Your Own Religion: Form a Church, Gain Followers, Become Tax-Exempt, and Sway the Minds of Millions in Five Easy Steps. This book promises to teach you how to gather the flock, invent mysterious rituals, recruit celebrity spokespeople, and make a blood sacrifice. Is it tongue-in-cheek? Maybe… but truth is often stranger than fiction or fantasy, right? You’ll understand all the mechanics of propaganda and brainwashing by the time you finish the book. Please just don’t try them out on your fellow HAAM members! 

All our library books and DVD’s are free to borrow for paid HAAM members. 
Visit the Library page to request to borrow a book or DVD, and we will make arrangements to get it to you. 

Get the Facts about Abortion and Stand Up for Choice 

With the recent release of the anti-choice movie Unplanned, and right-wing politicians trying to make reproductive rights an issue in this fall’s federal election, abortion is in the news this summer in a way that it hasn’t been since the 1980s.  

Protesting the movie Unplanned in Cornwall, Ontario

If you’re seeing anti-choice memes and articles posted on social media and want to be able to respond to them, or if you’re just wondering what the facts are behind all the propaganda and hype, here are some suggestions for reading. 

Need accurate information? 

Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights (formerly Planned Parenthood Canada) has an excellent fact sheet called Common Myths About Abortion. It includes responses to common anti-choice rhetoric, like ‘there is no abortion law in Canada’, ‘post-abortion syndrome’, and many others. 

Dr Jen Gunter is a Winnipeg-born ob-gyn who writes about sex and science on social media. A recent article in Chatelaine magazine called her ‘the most important truth-teller in women’s health’. On her own website, Wielding the Lasso of Truth, Dr Gunter has addressed topics like a fetus’s ability to feel pain, late-term abortions, ‘abortion-pill reversal’, and more. Read those posts here. 

The Women’s Health Clinic in Winnipeg has a web page that provides information about local access to abortion, as well as FAQ’s about both medical and surgical abortions, birth control options, and after-care. 

Hearing a lot about that new movie? 

Unplanned has been widely critiqued for being manipulative and scientifically inaccurate. There is no shortage of disparaging reviews, in either the mainstream media or the blogosphere, for this compendium of dis-information. Both the Huffington Post and Glamour magazine interviewed medical experts about the inaccuracies in the film, and the Globe and Mail called it a ‘disgusting piece of propaganda’.  

Got kids asking questions? 

Valerie Tarico, an ex-evangelical Christian and psychologist in Seattle, writes about “religious fundamentalism, gender roles, reproductive empowerment, and the intersection of these three”. One of her posts addressed how to talk to your kid about abortion  (including on a personal level, if you have had one yourself). 

Take Action! 

The attack on reproductive rights is escalating.  Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights currently has two ways in which you can show your support for reproductive rights in Canada. Help bust the myths, expose the lies, and support everyone’s right to choose! 

1. Don’t support Unplanned by spending money to watch it! (If you want to know what’s in it, a reporter for MacLean’s Magazine watched it so you don’t have to.) Instead, donate the cost of the movie ticket ($12) to the Norma Scarborough Emergency Fund. This fund provides travel and accommodation for people who need to travel to access abortion services and would otherwise not be able to afford an abortion. 

Click here to donate the price of a movie ticket in protest of Unplanned 

2. Stand up for Choice! Commit to resist political attacks on rights that have been won through decades of activism. HAAM has already signed on as an organization, but you can count yourself in as an individual, too. 

Click here to count yourself in as part of the resistance 

July 2019 Newsletter

Upcoming HAAM Events

HAAM and Eggs Brunch 

Sunday, July 21st, Salisbury House Garden City, 787 Leila Avenue, 9:30 – 11:00 AM.

Our monthly casual get-together is a great way to meet and get to know your fellow HAAMsters. 

New? Curious about who we are and what we do? Summer’s a good time to check us out. 

Click here for event details.

 

Save the Dates 

HAAM and Eggs Brunch – August 18th  

Outreach at the Morden Corn and Apple Festival – August 23rd to 25th  

Fall meeting dates – September 14th, October 5th, and November 16th 

Check our Events calendar for the latest information on all upcoming events. 

Upcoming Community (Non-HAAM) Events 

Steinbach Pride Parade – July 6th  

Links to event details are on our Community Events page. 

Latest News   

Religion still present in Manitoba courtrooms 

Bibles are still routinely being used in Manitoba courtrooms. Should they be? This question was raised by a HAAM member who was recently summoned to appear as a witness. Along with the subpoena, she received an information sheet which includes the following instruction: 

“When you are asked to testify, you will go to the front of the courtroom to be sworn in. The court clerk will ask you to take the Bible in your right hand, state your full name and swear to tell the truth. You must give your name and promise to tell the truth, but you do not have to swear on a Bible if you do not want to.”  

similar document intended for participants in small claims court states:

“You and your witnesses are required to give evidence under oath or affirmation. A Bible is available in the courtroom, or you may affirm to tell the truth without swearing an oath on the Bible. If you or your witnesses wish to make an oath on another sacred object or sacred book, please bring it with you to court.”  

Seriously? Doesn’t this violate the principle of privacy and impartiality? It means that participants in court cases are being identified to spectators (and more importantly, jurors, lawyers, and judges) according to their religious beliefs – or lack thereof. That alone could cause prejudice before the witness even speaks.  

The Winnipeg Free Press published an excellent editorial on this subject back in January, after the RCMP added the option of allowing witnesses to testify while holding an eagle feather rather than a holy book. A nice gesture, and well-meaning, but what’s next? Can someone swear on their lucky rabbit’s foot? Their favorite baseball card? This is not to say that witnesses should not be allowed to bring their favorite holy book, eagle feather, security blanket, or any other object that gives them comfort – but why does the rest of the room need to see it? And what is its relevance to telling the truth?  Is it any less of a crime to lie when testifying if one has not sworn on a holy book? Is there any evidence that people who swear on a holy book or object are more honest than those who don’t? And why should one religion’s holy book be provided by the courts, while members of other religions must provide their own?    

Why is any of this necessary at all? It’s just one more tradition that needs to be consigned to the trash heap of history. Eliminating religious rituals from the courtroom will help keep our justice system impartial and fair for everyone.

Outreach Report – World Religions Class 

On June 12thHeather Murray and Helen Friesen (both from the Eastman Humanist Community) and I visited the Grade 12 World Religions class at Green Valley High School in Grunthal, Manitoba.  HAAM has been invited for the previous 6 years to speak to this class.  The class had previously heard presentations from representatives of various Christian denominations, and Jewish and Islamic faiths. This was the first time that Heather, Helen and I had been involved.   

The class was small, with only 9 students.  It appeared that all students considered themselves to be Christian.  We did a short presentation describing HAAM and the EHC and our personal backgrounds.  We then talked about our paths to atheism or non-belief. This led to a question and answer session in which most of the students participated actively.  I was especially interested in the discussion of sexism in the bible. Some of the students defended some of the more controversial passages, while other students expressed more progressive views.  Some students already had thoughts about the traditional male-dominated leadership that is present in many churches.   

I found this opportunity to engage with young students very worthwhile and would recommend that HAAM and EHC continue to participate in this event.                                                                                –  Arthur (last name withheld) 

Editor’s Note: This speaking engagement was part of HAAM’s ongoing Ask an Atheist program. We’re happy to arrange to have someone to speak to any school or community group and answer questions about atheism and Humanism. See our Outreach page for more information.

 

Book of the Month – What is Humanism?

If you’re a secular parent looking for ways to explain your value system, there aren’t very many books out there to help you, but here’s a good one. A member recently brought to our attention this colorful little (48 pages) book about Humanism by Michael Rosen and Annemarie Young. You might recognize Rosen as a well-known children’s author (does “Going on a Bear Hunt” ring a bell?), but here he tackles more serious subject matter in a light-hearted way. When this book was published in 2015, the British Humanist Association crowd-funded a campaign to provide it free to British schools, and by mid-2017, almost 4000 schools had requested a copy 

What is Humanism? How do you live without a god? And other big questions for kids explains Humanist values like empathy, critical thinking, human rights, and social responsibility, in positive terms and without bashing religion. It examines topics traditionally handled by religion, like the meaning of life, ceremonies marking birth and death, the origins of life, where we get our morals from, and what is consciousness. It includes open-ended discussion questions designed to develop critical thinking skills 

The age range for this book of course depends on individual children and circumstances, but it’s likely best suited for late elementary and middle school (about grades 4-8). However, it would also be a great introduction to Humanism for teens and adults who have had limited exposure to perspectives or beliefs outside their own religious communities. 

HAAM does not yet have a copy of this book, but we intend to get one. In the meantime, it’s readily available at the Winnipeg Public Library (13 copies). Summer is a great time to discuss life’s big issues with your kids. Happy reading! 

Outreach Report – Summer in the City

For the first time, the Humanist outreach booth at the Steinbach festival was completely staffed by members of the Eastman Humanist Community, and by all accounts, it was a great success. Volunteers reported that there were some productive conversations and positive reactions from visitors, as well as the usual critics and shocked expressions from passers-by.  

The EHC developed their own signs, pamphlets and banners for the booth. Congratulations to all involved! 

June 2019 Newsletter

Upcoming HAAM Events 

Outreach at Summer in the City 

Friday June 14th – Sunday June 16th, Steinbach  

If you’re out enjoying Steinbach’s Summer in the City Festival this June, be sure to stop at the Humanist outreach booth to chat and offer your support.

Details here.

Summer Solstice Party 

Saturday June 22nd, 5-9 PM, Kildonan Park 

Relax and celebrate the Summer Solstice with your fellow HAAMsters! 

Everyone is welcome!

Make sure to read the full event post so you’ll know what to bring.

Save the Dates 

HAAM and Eggs Brunch

July 21st and August 18th  

NEW! We’ve scheduled two brunches over the summer for whoever’s around. (You’re not going to be away for the WHOLE summer, are you? Lucky you, if you are!) Most of us will be in town for at least part of the summer, so why not get together? Catch up on the news or meet a new friend over breakfast.  

As usual, we rotate these brunches around the city so that no one has to drive across town all the time. The July brunch will be in the Garden City area and August one will be in Transcona.  

Mark your calendar now so you won’t forget.  

Outreach at the Morden Corn and Apple Festival

August 23rd to 25th  

Check our Events calendar for the latest information on all upcoming events. 

Upcoming Community (Non-HAAM) Events 

Celebrate Pride! Whether we identify as part of the Gender, Sexual, and Relationship Diverse (GSRD)* community or not, we can all celebrate human diversity, show our support, and enjoy the party! 

*GSRD is Pride Winnipeg’s new preferred identity acronym for what most of us know as LGBTQ etc. Iincludes everyone without needing to add more and more letters. 

Winnipeg Pride Parade – June 2nd  

Morden Pride Parade – June 22nd

Steinbach Pride Parade – July 6th  

Links to the details about these events are on our Community Events page. 

Latest News

June 21st is World Humanist Day! How will you celebrate?  

World Humanist Day had its origins in the 1980’s, when the American Humanist Association created it as both a way to spread awareness and share the positive values of Humanism, and as a day for Humanists to gather and socialize with one another. It is now celebrated internationally. Learn more about World Humanist Day from Humanists International (formerly known as the International Humanist and Ethical Union).  

Let everyone know that you’re proud and happy to be a Humanist! On June 21st, plan to share Humanism with your friends, family, and social media networks.  The What is Humanism? page on HAAM’s website has lots of information about what Humanism is and what Humanists believe, plus short videos and links to other pages for further reading. So share away! 

Prayer at City Hall – Update   

If you’re a long-time HAAM member or newsletter reader, you might remember that back in September 2016, Tony Governo began a legal challenge to Winnipeg City Hall’s longstanding practice of opening council meetings with prayers, which continued even after the Canadian Supreme Court ruled such prayers unconstitutional (see City Flouts Supreme Court Ruling on Prayer) 

It’s been almost 3 years since the last update, but this case is not over. Tony recently reported that the Manitoba Human Rights Commission dismissed his complain, so his next step is a judicial review. He would welcome a pro bono lawyer. If anyone knows of a lawyer who might be able to help, please contact HAAM. 

Coathangers? Never again! 

After being relatively quiet for several decades, the abortion ‘debate’ is rearing its ugly head in Canada, as anti-choice lobbyists are emboldened by recent political gains in the US. There have been clashes between opposing protestors in several major Canadian cities, so don’t for one second think that it can’t or won’t eventually happen in Winnipeg. Get ready to dust off your old protest signs and fight for reproductive rights in Canada yet again. 

Women and agencies affected by these new barriers to health care need our help and support. Here are some suggestions for actions you can take and organizations that could benefit from either donations or volunteers. Every effort helps, even if it’s just a public declaration of solidarity. 

Locally 

– Consider donating to or volunteering at the Women’s Health Clinic, the Sexuality Education Resource Centre (SERC), or Klinic Community Health Centre, all of which provide impartial, evidence-based pregnancy counselling options, including abortion services or referrals. 

Nationally 

– Support the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada and Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights (and follow them on social media to stay up to date on current needs and issues). 

– Work to support progressive candidates for the upcoming federal election this fall, and then VOTE! Before choosing a candidate, think about the direction you want our country to take. No politician is perfect, so we need to consider our priorities.  Let’s not turn back the clock on reproductive choice – or any other hard-won progress.

Internationally 

– If you feel moved to help women in the US states (Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, and Ohio, so far) with abortion bans, here are some information and links about how to do that.  

– Donate to international aid organizations that support and include abortion services as part of women’s health care and family planning. Two such organizations are Plan Canada and Ipas 

If we don’t defend our hard-won rights, opponents will be eager to take them awayHandwringing won’t accomplish anything, and we all know that prayer won’t either, so we need to do something more practical

Stand up for women’s health care – donate, volunteer, speak out! 

Book of the Month – The World Until Yesterday 

Jared Diamond’s books about human societies are always fascinating and informative. Much of his perspective is personal, gleaned from the decades he has spent working in New Guinea. In The World Until Yesterday – What can we learn from traditional societies?, he offers insights into the lives of some of the last remaining people in the world who are still living in traditional bands and tribes, the way that everyone lived until around 10,000 years ago.  

Is there anything worthwhile to learn from these ‘primitive’ peoples? How do they resolve conflicts, raise children, care for their elderly, solve problems, communicate, work, and look after their health?  Diamond compares those societies to the typical WEIRD (western, educated, industrialized, rich, and developed) societies we know today. His experience provides him with a wealth of knowledge and personal anecdotes to illustrate his points. 

Jared Diamond’s illustrious career as a professor of geography in California has included studies in physiology, evolutionary biology, and biogeography. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the American Philosophical Society. His awards include the National Medal of Science and a Pulitzer Prize. 

All our library books and DVD’s are free to borrow for paid HAAM members. 
Visit the Library page to request to borrow a book or DVD, and we will make arrangements to get it to you.

 

May 2019 Newsletter

Upcoming HAAM Events

Options in Death Care for Non-Believers 

Saturday, May 11th, Room 2M70, University of Winnipeg, 515 Portage Ave, 5:30 PM (Note the location!)

We’ll be talking about death care, ceremonies and services, and what’s new in the funeral industry in Canada.

Special guest will be Shane Neufeld of Integrity Death Care. Details here

HAAM and Eggs Brunch 

Sunday, May 26thOriginal Pancake House at The Forks, 9:30 – 11:00 AM 

New people welcome! Details here.

Save the Dates 

Outreach at the Summer in the City Festival in Steinbach – June 14th to 16th 

Summer Solstice Party – June 22ndKildonan Park 

Outreach at the Morden Corn and Apple Festival – August 23rd to 25th  

Check our Events calendar for the latest information on all upcoming events. 

Upcoming Community (Non-HAAM) Events 

Winnipeg Pride Parade – June 2nd  

Steinbach Pride Parade – July 6th  

For more information on these events, visit our Community Events page. 

Charity of the Month – Dying With Dignity Winnipeg Chapter 

Dying With Dignity Canada is the national human-rights charity committed to improving quality of dying, protecting end-of-life rights, and helping Canadians avoid unwanted suffering.  Most of us are by now familiar with their work in providing support to adults wishing to die on their own terms, advocating for rules governing medical assistance in dying (MAiD) that respect the rights of patients, educating Canadians about advance care planning and legal end-of-life options, and supporting health care practitioners who provide MAiD.

In addition to the national office in Toronto, DWD Canada has chapters in each province (and in larger provinces, major cities) that provide for needs and concerns arising in their area.

The Winnipeg chapter of Dying With Dignity is active in the areas of education, patient advocacy and support, and the witnessing of MAiD applications. We aim to be revenue-neutral, taking in only as much as we spend, but there are costs we need to be reimbursed for by head office. These include printing Health Care Directives and training and event posters, and reimbursement for the cost (gas and meals) of travel outside of Winnipeg for speaking engagements, training, and witnessing of MAiD applications. Our current goal is to obtain funding for a toll-free telephone number so patients can arrange for witnesses for their MAiD applications without our volunteer coordinators exposing their personal phone numbers to the public.

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 on our websiteJust include a note letting us know that the money is for the charity. 

Latest News  

Partners for Life Update 

Summer is coming, and that always means that Canadian Blood Services will be scrambling to keep their supplies stocked up. If you are able to donate over the summer, please help out! If you’re not sure if you’re eligible, or you’ve never donated before, take this 2-minute eligibility quiz. Then follow the links on the quiz page to find out more about blood donations and book your first appointment. 

HAAM is part of the Partners for Life program, which creates incentive for members of participating organizations to donate. We have set an annual target of 25 donations from HAAM members and supporters. There is no prize if we meet it, except for bragging rights and the satisfaction of helping others. Make sure to enroll in Partners for Life if you give blood, so that your donation will be counted towards our annual goal. All the information you need is on the HAAM website (and bonus information about the online organ donor registry is included on the same page).  

As of mid-April, we are at 6 donations, so we have a way to go to reach 25 by the end of the year. Give now! 

Outreach at Local Seniors’ Residence

Outreach doesn’t just happen at our booths at summer festivals, although of course, those are our major opportunities. But the “Ask an Atheist” speaker program is available all year round and available to any group that is interested in learning about atheism and Humanism. Usually this involves high school ethics or world religion classes.

On April 23, Jeffrey Olsson was invited to speak to an audience of seniors at the Portsmouth Retirement Residence, as part of a series of talks they were holding about different religious beliefs. Jeff’s presentation covered atheism, and topics related to the use of critical thinking skills, such as Epistemology (the study of knowledge, or how we know what is true), Faith, Logical Fallacies, and the Scientific Method.

Jeff stressed the importance of everyone taking time to evaluate their own beliefs in a critical light, and to consider if their beliefs are suitable for life in a truly diverse society. He also stressed the importance of judging your own beliefs, while respecting the right for others to hold to their own.

Finally, Jeff’s own personal journey away from faith to non-belief was discussed, and he reflected on the effects that the Canadian Residential School system had on his own faith, the faith of other clergy, and his family.

Jeffrey Olsson is a member and past president of HAAM, and a former Anglican Priest. His book Leaving Faith Behind, about his journey out of the faith, is in our Library.

On the Web – Explore Nonbelief 

Summer’s coming, and for a lot of us, that means a break from routine and a chance to relax and unwind. Maybe you’ll find time to do a bit of reading or watch a few videos. Want to learn more about Humanism and Atheism? If you’re relatively new to the Humanist community, are still questioning religion, or have left faith behind fairly recently, you may have a lot of questions about living as a non-believer.   

You’ll find lots of answers if you look at the Resources menu on HAAM’s website. There are downloadable/printable copies of the brochures we hand out to the public at our Outreach booth, links to information about Humanism and atheism, the names of local and online secular support groups and services, a network of secular organizations, and discussions about religious involvement in Manitoba schools and health care facilities. 

The Exploring Nonbelief page has recently been updated. It contains links to over 50 videos, blogs, podcastsnews and reference sites, and articles about Humanism and atheism. Topics covered include the Bible, counter-apologetics (refuting religious claims)science and evolution, and resources that will inspire you to be a proud and happy Humanist. There is also a list of excellent videos addressing the most common question that non-believers get asked – where we get our morals from. By the time you finish exploring the material on HAAM’s Exploring Nonbelief page, you’ll be well prepared to answer questions about morality – and a lot more besides. Happy reading! 

Book of the Month – Fact or Friction: Where the Known meets the Unknown 

In this collection of 14 essays, Skeptic Magazine editor Michael Shermer examines the personal barriers and biases that plague and propel science, especially when scientists push against the unknown. What do we know and what do we not know? How does science respond to controversy, attack, and uncertainty? When does theory become accepted fact? 

Several personal tales are included, from Shermer’s days as a student and evangelical Christian to his growing interest in science and skepticism. But the book isn’t only a display of his experiences; it’s ammunition we can all use when dealing with misleading or manipulative teachings. 

Topics range from a fascinating discussion of the controversy several years ago over a group of atheists and skeptics attempting to label themselves ‘The Brights‘, to an analysis of the true cause of the mutiny on the Bounty. Shermer discusses the witchcraft hysteria in Europe and the colonies from 1560-1620, and then demonstrates a striking parallel between that and the Satanic cult/false memory mass delusions of the late 1980s and early 1990s. There are also essays on “heresies of science” and “spin-doctoring science”, which are a depressing indication of how the public lacks understanding of what science does and has done. 

The individual articles in this book make it perfect for several short reads, (i.e. ‘bathroom reading’). 

All our library books and DVD’s are free to borrow for paid HAAM members. 
Visit the Library page to request to borrow a book or DVD, and we will make arrangements to get it to you. 

Have an Idea for a HAAM Event?

Summer hasn’t even started, but we’re already thinking about fall meetings and events. Is there a topic you’d like to learn about, or a speaker you’d like to hear at an upcoming meeting? A social issue, a hot topic, or a book you’d like to discuss at an informal get-together? It doesn’t have to be only about atheism or Humanism. There are lots of other topics and concerns of relevance to Humanists – like separation of religion and government, science, public education, freedom of speech, human rights, environmental stewardship, reproductive rights, and end-of-life choices.

Have you seen a video you think would be great for next year’s Film Fest? Do you know of a community event you think our members might be interested in? An opportunity for outreach? A fun group activity? A secular charity that could use our support?

HAAM members come from every imaginable background. Most of us are former believers who are very familiar with religion, but we come from all denominations of Christianity, as well as other faiths. Then again, some of our members grew up in secular homes and have never been religious at all. So our knowledge level and interests vary widely.

Let us know what interests you. Contact us with your suggestions – or, better yet, come to an event and chat with a member of our executive in person.

Last Chance to enter the Humanist Canada essay contest 

Students! Write an essay on any topic related to Humanism that would be of interest. $8,000 in total prize money to be awarded to the winning essays. 

If you’re not a student, tell your favorite student about this contest!  

Deadline to enter is May 15th. See Humanist Canada for details and rules.  

April 2019 Newsletter

Upcoming HAAM Events 

The Bear Clan Patrol – Reclaiming Our Streets 

Saturday, April 13th, Room 2M70, University of Winnipeg, 515 Portage Ave, 5:30 PM 
(Note Location!) 

The Bear Clan is changing minds, changing people, and changing the world for the better. We hope you’ll join us to learn more about it.

Click here for details about our guest speaker, and the location, food and drink, and parking.

HAAM and Eggs Brunch 

Sunday, April 28thThe Park Café (beside the duck pond at Assiniboine Park), 9:30 – 11:00 AM 

Our monthly casual get-together is a great way to meet and get to know your fellow HAAMsters. 

Details here.

Save the Dates 

Monthly meeting – May 11thOptions in Death Care for Non-Believers (rescheduled from January) 

HAAM and Eggs Brunch – May 26th

Summer Solstice Party – June 22ndKildonan Park 

Check our Events calendar for the latest information on all upcoming events. 

Upcoming Community (Non-HAAM) Events 

Advance Care Plans (Health Care Directives) 

Presented by members of the Dying with Dignity Winnipeg Chapter. 

Next workshop will be held Saturday, April 13 at 10:30 AM at the Henderson Library. 

Click here for details and to register. 

Save the Date

Winnipeg Pride Parade – June 2nd

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

Charity of the Month – Bear Clan Patrol 

Learning about the vital work done by the Bear Clan Patrol is what motivated us to ask their executive director James Favel to address our group. We’ll be collecting funds at our April meeting to support their efforts. 

The Patrol works at preventing crime and providing a sense of safety, solidarity and belonging to the communities they serve. The concept behind their strategy is simple – community people working with the community to provide personal security in the inner city in a non-threatening, non-violent, non-judgmental and supportive way. 

Be Part of Change

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 on our websiteJust include a note letting us know that the money is for the charity. 

Latest News  

Strategic Planning with Humanist Canada 

At the end of February, I met with the board members of Humanist Canada to help facilitate their efforts at strategic planning. They recognized that they needed to decide on what their priorities will be for the near future. They decided on several goals, and the steps to get there. 

I personally haven’t had much contact with Humanist Canada. I just remember many years back it being a complicated thing – mainly regarding membership fees. I will admit, they have a bit of work to do, but this is a new board, new leadership, and they have some clear ideas on how to improve and grow the organization. For one thing, they are the only national humanist organization in Canada, and the longest lived. Humanist Canada has been around for 50 years. As the national organization, they can organize campaigns and spread the word about important issues.  

The main activity of Humanist Canada is their Officiant program. They have licensed humanist officiants who perform weddings, funerals, and baby namings. However, this program is limited to Ontario, because Ontario is the only province in Canada which recognizes marriages performed by Humanist officiants. In other provinces, marriages must either be solemnized by a religious representative or a government official (either a marriage commissioner, justice of the peace or similar). In British Columbia and Quebec, governments have refused to recognize Humanist officiants. In other provinces, the bureaucracy simply may have not been asked to answer the question yet. 

Chapters and Affiliates 

The current HC board would like to start increasing their membership and re-vamping their affiliate and chapter program. Established groups like HAAM could become affiliates of HC while maintaining their own autonomy and their own websites. Smaller, less formal groups could become chapters and have their own web page on the HC site.  

Paying a membership fee to be an affiliate of HC would give HAAM access to other resources, such as a webinar series that HC is hoping to launch this year. And that’s one of the issues being debated. What would the benefits be to local groups for becoming HC affiliates? Would affiliated groups get discounts for the webinars, or some number free? Humanist Canada is still deciding. But I would like to recommend that HAAM consider joining HC as an affiliate.  

– Donna Harris 

Library News  New Books 

Past president Jeff Olsson has been cleaning house again and donating his books to HAAM, and as a result, our library continues to grow. His most recent donation includes four books by Carl Sagan, so if you’re a fan, you’re in luck!    

Carl Sagan was an American astronomer and astrophysicist best-known for popularizing science. He published over 600 scientific papers and 20 books, created the hit TV series Cosmos, and wrote the science fiction novel Contact (on which the movie is based). 

The four new additions by Sagan are: 

Broca’s Brain: Reflections on the Romance of Science – A collection of articles that Sagan originally wrote way back in the ‘70s. Topics include intelligent robots, the discovery of extraterrestrial life, pseudo-science, kooks and charlatans, and spirituality. 

Comet – everything you ever wanted to know about comets, beautifully illustrated, and written in language a non-scientist can understand. 

Cosmic Connection: An Extraterrestrial Perspective – Sagan’s views about the possibility of life on other planets. He was optimistic that there may be thousands of advanced civilizations in our galaxy, and billions of galaxies. 

Varieties of Scientific Experience: A Personal View of the Search for God – Published posthumously, this is the text of a series of lectures originally given in the ‘80s. This book has been described as a way to balance scientific reality and the natural spiritualism of humankind. 

Add these titles to the six books by Sagan that we already had in our library (Billions and BillionsCosmosDemon-Haunted World, Dragons of EdenPale Blue Dot, and Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors), and we now have an impressive collection of his work. 

Our Growing Collection 

There are now over 250 items in our HAAM library. You can see the complete list of 20 recent additions or browse the entire collection on our Library page.  

Have you got any great books at home that other HAAM members might be interested in? We will accept gladly accept gently used books for our library. Just bring them to any meeting or event. 

All our library books and DVD’s are free to borrow for paid HAAM members. 
Visit the Library page to request to borrow a book or DVD, and we will make arrangements to get it to you. 

$8,000 in prize money available in Humanist Canada essay contest

Students! Write an essay on any topic related to Humanism that would be of interest.

If you’re not a student, tell your favorite student about this contest!

The entry deadline has been extended to May 15th. See Humanist Canada for details and rules.

Winnipeg Free Press sells out to ‘Faith Groups’ 

HAAM past-president Donna Harris recently wrote a letter to the editor of the Winnipeg Free Press in response to an article on their Faith page. The newspaper did not publish her letter – but we will. Here it is:  

Re: Generous Faith Groups fund more religious journalism 

I am extremely disappointed in the Free Press for pandering to local faith groups in order to continue and expand religious journalism. 

First, why faith groups? They don’t represent a sizable proportion of the population. What about the quarter of Winnipeggers who have no religious affiliation? Why isn’t their voice being heard? We may have freedom of religion in our country, but that also means freedom from religion as well. I, personally, do not read the Free Press to learn which congregations did what. 

Considering that religious reporting is largely navel-gazing, I don’t see how this is a step forward in reporting. Claiming “a continuous exchange of ideas and a profitable debate based on real and correctly reported facts”, is the complete antithesis of what religion provides. Honestly, religion is based on our early fears and ignorance. For example, when early people didn’t know what the lights in the sky were, or why people sometimes just dropped dead, they assumed an agency, which became myth, and then god. We didn’t have an answer for many things, so god did it. But we are now light years beyond that type of thinking. Actively relying on religion to find answers to today’s problems doesn’t go any farther than “thoughts and prayers”, and that, sadly, means nothing. 

Instead, we should see far more reporting on skepticism, scientific issues and other real, fact-based topics. Too much space is already devoted to topics that are dubiously supernatural – “woo-woo” if you will – and belong firmly in our superstitious past (horoscopes, anyone?).  

Please be assured that I mean no offense to believers. I know that many faith groups do tremendous service to our society, and those volunteers work very hard. But that’s the point. It’s people helping other people – no god is required. 

Lastly, it breaks my heart because I’ve been a Winnipeg Free Press since the death of the Tribune back in the 80’s, but I’m seriously considering cancelling my subscription.   

Did you miss the March meeting?

It’s way more fun to attend the meeting to enjoy the films with others and discuss them. But if you couldn’t make it, here are the links to the short films that were shown:

 

 

 

 

End public funding for pseudo-science

Many of us were outraged to hear recently that the Canadian government is funding international aid to Honduras to teach homeopathy.

PLEASE SPEAK UP about this!

CFI Canada has prepared this summary of the problem, along with the information about who to write to. Here is their article.


International Aid and Homeopathy

Chagas disease (American trypanosomiasis) is an insect-borne tropical disease that begins with flu-like symptoms and can end with heart failure for 20-30% of those infected. There are pharmaceutical treatments available which can reduce symptoms (and have up to a 90% cure rate for infants and young children). But recently, Global Affairs Canada allocated $350,000 to send volunteer homeopathic practitioners to Honduras to provide homeopathic “treatments”. Perhaps the Global Affairs staff mean well. Perhaps they believe there is some link between the group they are funding and the (well-known effective humanitarian organisation) Doctors without Borders. But homeopathy is pure quackery — there is not even a feasible mechanism for homeopathic “medicines” to work, because they contain no active ingredients.

This is clearly a misuse of our tax-supported international aid money, and we encourage readers to contact the Minister of International Development by email to

Marie-Claude.Bibeau@parl.gc.ca (Twitter: @mclaudebibeau), or by postal mail to:

Mme. Marie Claude Bibeau
Confederation Building, Suite 407
House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0A6

You may also wish to contact your local MP.

CFI Canada would like people to notify them if you have sent an electronic or paper letter, and if you received a response. They’ll post a selection on their website. info@centreforinquiry.ca

Seanna Watson, CFI Canada


Write now!

Tell the federal government that this is not OK. Unless you want to write your own letter or include additional information, you can pretty much just copy from their article into your email.

Copy it from the beginning up to the line “This is clearly a misuse of our tax-supported international aid money“. Then add that you are demanding that the government stop funding dangerous pseudo-science.

Add your name and contact info, address your letter to the Minister and your own MP, and include a bcc to CFI (optional).

Stand up for science and evidence-based decision-making. Do it now while it‘s fresh in your mind. It should only take about a minute of your time. 

March 2019 Newsletter

Upcoming HAAM Events

Super Secret Shorts

Saturday, March 9th, Canad Inns Polo Park, 1405 St Matthews Ave, 5:30 PM

HAAM’s annual film night, featuring a series of short films on a variety of topics.

But don’t ask what the films will be – it’s top secret.

Click here for details.

 

HAAM and Eggs Brunch

Sunday, March 24th, Pony Corral Pier 7 (1700 Pembina Hwy), 9:30 AM

Our monthly informal get-together. All welcome.

Click here for details.

Save the Dates

Monthly meetings April 13th and May 11th. Topics TBA.

Summer Solstice Party – June 22nd 

Check our Events calendar for the latest information on all upcoming events.

Upcoming Community (Non-HAAM) Events

Advance Care Plans (Health Care Directives)

Presented by members of the Dying with Dignity Winnipeg Chapter.
Next workshops will be held – 
Saturday, March30 at 1:00 PM in Steinbach 
Saturday, April 13 at 10:30 AM in Winnipeg (at the Henderson Library)

Click here for details and to register.

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

Charity of the Month

On the downside of a brutally cold Manitoba winter, we’re all looking forward to summer – sunshine, waterparks, and beaches. But summer can be a dangerous time for kids who don’t know how to swim. Every year, there are drownings at Manitoba lakes – and the victims are likely to be newcomers to Canada.  

Recent immigrants (adults as well as children) are four times more likely than Canadian-born citizens to be unable to swim. There are lots of possible reasons – they may have escaped unrest or war, spent time in refugee camps, come from an area where swimming pools were only available to the very rich, or just never lived near lakes or water.    

Several tragic drowning accidents in the past couple of years have prompted calls for swimming classes for new immigrants. Regular swim classes can be impractical for families struggling to learn English, adapting to a new culture, and living on a tight budget until they get established.  

Enter a new charity created last year to help at-risk Manitoba kids enjoy the water safely. Ready, Set, Swim is a community-based foundation that provides swimming lessons to children ages 6 to 18. It operates on the principle that knowing how to swim is not a luxury – it’s a life-saving skill for everyone! Basic swimming lessons are offered free of charge to newcomers and low-income families. Children are accepted by referral and given a swimsuit, a towel, a swim bag, and shampoo. Bathing suits will be culturally appropriate if necessary, and translators assist both the kids and their parents. There is also a classroom component for the parents to teach them about water safety. 

Let’s help get some needy kids ready for a fun and safe summer!  

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 on the sidebarJust include a note letting us know that the money is for the charity. 

Calls to Action

Support “Audrey’s Amendment” to Canada’s Assisted Dying law

Canada’s current law on medical assistance in dying (MAiD) requires that patients must be mentally competent at the time of the procedure, even if they have previously been assessed and approved. That means that someone who applies and is approved, but who chooses not to go ahead with the procedure immediately after approval, may lose the right to receive MAiD if their condition deteriorates and they lose competency.

That’s the situation that Halifax’s Audrey Parker found herself in this past fall. She was dying of metastatic breast cancer, applied for MAiD, and was approved. But she delayed the procedure, hoping to enjoy one more Christmas with her family. In October, however, she learned that the cancer had spread to her brain. Fearing that the growing cancer might soon affect her cognition, she decided to go ahead with MAiD before Christmas rather than risk losing her mental capacity to consent and being forced to die a prolonged and uncomfortable death.

Audrey died with medical assistance on November 1st, but before her death, she went public with her story to protest the unfairness of the legislation. Now people across the country are asking for the federal government to pass “Audrey’s Amendment” to the assisted dying law. It would allow an exception to the consent requirement for people in the category of ‘assessed and approved’. Applicants would still need to be mentally competent to consent at the time of the application and assessments, but if they lose capacity after approval, due to progression of their illness or the medications need for comfort, the procedure could still be carried out.

Please add your voice to those who are asking for this change! Dying With Dignity Canada has drafted a form letter to the federal justice minister – all you have to do is add your name and click ‘send’ (you can also add a personal note if you wish).

 

to read more and sign the letter.

 

Stand up for Access to Reproductive Health Care

Mifegymiso (the abortion pill) has allowed greater accessibility to reproductive rights across Canada – except in Manitoba and Saskatchewan, which are the only provinces not providing universal coverage for the medication. In Manitoba, mifegymiso is currently available free of charge only at the Women’s Hospital (HSC) and the Women’s Health Clinic (both in Winnipeg) and at Brandon Regional Health Centre. This creates unnecessary barriers for rural and remote women, a group that already experiences difficulty accessing reproductive health services.

Please add your voice to others asking our provincial government to provide universal coverage for Mifegymiso for all women in Manitoba.

Join this letter-writing campaign. Don’t worry! You do NOT have to write a letter – that’s already been done. All you need to do is download it, add your name, and then send it to the campaign organizers. The signed letters will be forwarded to Cameron Friesen, Manitoba’s Minister of Health, and Rochelle Squires, Minister responsible for the Status of Women.

After downloading the letter, make sure to add your info to both copies of it (one for each cabinet minister). Then just save and send.

 

to download and add your name to the letter.

 

Latest News   

Check out this blog by local Humanists

HAAM’s partner organization based in Steinbach, the Eastman Humanist Community, continues to grow and thrive in the Bible Belt. They hold regular meetings and informal get-togethers, have their own small lending library, and have started a blog with contributions from their members.

In the most recent blog post, EHC president Gary Snider considers two aspects of human evolution – why did we evolve such large brains when other animals did not, and what effect did past changes in climate have on our evolution? In previous posts, Heather Murray evaluated claims commonly made by conspiracy theorists about ‘Big Pharma’; Helen Friesen pondered why so many people long for the ‘good old days’ when they were demonstrably not great at all; and Jordan Kroeker caught up on some of the science education denied to him by his Christian upbringing. Take a look! 

Book of the Month – Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement 

Quiverfull is a conservative Christian movement whose adherents view all children as a gift from god. Its name comes from Psalm 127, verses 3-5: 

3 Children are a gift from the Lord;
they are a reward from him.
4 Children born to a young man
are like arrows in a warrior’s hands.
5 How joyful is the man whose quiver is full of them!
He will not be put to shame when he confronts his accusers at the city gates. (NLT) 

Quiverfull followers eschew all forms of birth control, even ‘natural family planning’. In 2009, journalist Kathryn Joyce explored the fascinating world of the families who are part of this movement in her book QuiverfullInside the Christian Patriarchy Movement. Professional reviewers referred to her discussion as ‘echoes of The Handmaid’s Tale’, ‘frightening’, ‘insightful’, ‘riveting and deeply disturbing’, and ‘a corner of the Christian right that has taken misogyny to sadomasochistic extremes’. Readers who relate to the content or have had personal experience with Quiverfull families use words like ‘nightmare’, ‘abuse’, ‘cult’, ‘brainwash’, and ‘trigger’ in their reviews. Readers who were not previously familiar with the concept use words like ‘yikes’, ‘scary’, and ‘unbelievable’.  

If you have only a superficial understanding of what it’s like to live in a conservative Christian bubble, then this book will open your eyes. It’s a subject worth learning about. Proponents of the Quiverfull movement would love to repeal suffrage and dismantle civil rights laws; the rest of us ignore that at our own peril. 

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.   

Thinking about Summer yet?

Spring is almost upon us, and if you have school-aged kids, that means you’re probably already thinking about what to do with them over the summer. We get questions every spring about children’s summer camps.

Overnight camps

If you’re looking for an overnight summer camp, your choices as a secular parent are pretty limited. Most of what we know was summarized in our June 2018 newsletter. But if you have questions or are looking for more info, please contact HAAM. Some of our members have provided references and anecdotal information, and we can pass that along to you.

Day camps

Now there are way more options, as long as you book early. Many secular organizations host day camps, and they represent a wide variety of interests. Check out the camps offered by the Children’s Museum, the Manitoba Museum, Fort Whyte Alive, the Assiniboine Park Zoo, the Wellness Institute, the YMCA, the U of M (Minu U), the Manitoba Theatre for Young People, the Winnipeg Gymnastics Centre, the Humane Society, Mad Science of Manitoba, Camp Manitou, Oak Hammock March, and the Winnipeg Art Gallery. Something for everyone, and most of these are educational, too.

Please help HAAM help other families

Lastly, if you have experience (whether positive or negative) with any camp (day or overnight) that might help other secular families, please let us know and we’ll make a note of it in our ‘summer camp info’ file for future reference. All correspondence is confidential.

Video – Religion in Manitoba Public Schools

Back in 1986, Chris Tait was the high school student who bravely challenged the existing practice of daily prayer and Bible readings in Manitoba’s public schools, by remaining seated at his desk and refusing to participate. His court challenge eventually led to the Manitoba Schools Act being amended in 1992, banning mandatory school prayer. Chris is now a lawyer and continues to follow the issue of religion in public schools. In 2012, he was the guest speaker at a HAAM meeting, where he talked about his experiences and about how some schools (especially in ‘Bible Belt’ communities) were still breaking the rules.

We recently came across a video of that meeting, posted to YouTube by past-president Jeff Olsson on his own page. Thanks for saving it, Jeff! It has how been uploaded to the HAAM YouTube channel.

Has the situation improved at all in the last few years? It would be nice to hope that Manitoba schools are becoming more inclusive and impartial, but anecdotal reports usually suggest otherwise. If you have  information about what’s happening now, we’d love to hear from you.

February 2019 Newsletter

Upcoming HAAM Events

The Incompatibility of Science and Religion

Saturday, February 16th, Canad Inns Polo Park, 1405 St Matthews Ave, 5:30 PM

Can science and faith to co-exist peacefully? We welcome scientist Dr. Simon Potter to talk about his experiences.

Click here for details.

HAAM and Eggs Brunch

Sunday, February 24th, Perkins Restaurant, 1277 Henderson Hwy, 9:30 AM

Our monthly informal get-together. All welcome.

Click here for details.

Save the Dates

Monthly meeting – Video Night, Saturday March 9thCanad Inns Polo Park, 5:30 PM. More info TBA.

Check our Events calendar for the latest information on all upcoming events.

Upcoming Community (Non-HAAM) Events

Advance Care Plans (Health Care Directives)

Presented by members of the Dying with Dignity Winnipeg Chapter.

Next workshops in Winnipeg will be held on Saturdays at 10:30 AM –
February 16 at the Fort Garry Library, and April 13 at the Henderson Library.

There will also be a workshop in Steinbach on Saturday March 30 at 1:00 PM.

Click here for details and to register.

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

Charity of the Month

The Manitoba Burrowing Owl Recovery Program

Did you know that burrowing owls do NOT actually burrow? They get their name because they nest in burrows, but they cannot dig the burrows themselves. They rely on animals like badgers, foxes, gophers, and ground squirrels to dig burrows for them.

So what happens when land is cultivated and farmers exterminate ‘pests’ like foxes and gophers? You guessed it… There are fewer than a dozen pairs of burrowing owls left in Manitoba, and fewer than 800 left in all of Canada.

And yet a single family of burrowing owls can eat 1800 rodents and 7000 insects during a summer. Wouldn’t it be better to encourage the owls to flourish?

The Manitoba Burrowing Owl Recovery Program studies these owls, and in 2010, began reintroducing breeding pairs to southwestern Manitoba. The program also offers educational presentations to increase public awareness of the owls and the importance of grassland conservation, and works with landowners who have suitable habitat to encourage protection for the owls.

You can see burrowing owls in ‘person’ at the Assiniboine Park Zoo and Fort Whyte Alive.

Let’s give a hoot about our fellow creatures and help these beneficial little birds get re-established in our grasslands.

  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.

Latest News

Election results from our AGM

Meet your new HAAM executive for 2019:

President – Pat Morrow
Secretary – Cheri Frazer
Treasurer – Henry Kreindler

Members at Large are Tammy Blanchette, Norm Goertzen, Tony Governo, Donna Harris, Sherry Lyn Marginet, Arthur Prystenski, Caren Schramm, Dorothy Stephens, and one other who needs to remain anonymous.

Many thanks to Donna Harris for serving as President for the past 6 years! (And also for staying on as a member-at-large.) You’ll find a list of our executive (with photos) here.

Reminder – Humanist Canada Essay Contest

Don’t forget to encourage your favorite teenager to enter this competition. There is $4000 in total prize money. Open to all Canadian high school students. Entry deadline is March 1st. Complete contest details are available on the Humanist Canada website.

 

Partners for Life Report (blood donations)

We pledge 25 donations a year, and in 2018 we came SO close! At year end, we had 24.

Let’s get off to a great start to meet our goal this year! If you haven’t donated recently (or ever), do it now!

Click here for all the information you’ll need to get started. (Everyone is welcome to participate; you don’t have to be a paid HAAM member, just a supporter.)

Support Science – Celebrate Darwin Day

February 12th is Charles Darwin’s 210th birthday, and International Darwin Day – a global celebration of science and humanity. Darwin Day inspires people throughout the world to reflect and act on the principles of intellectual bravery, perpetual curiosity and hunger for truth as embodied in Charles Darwin. More info, including educational resources, are at DarwinDay.org.

Today, more than ever, we need to stand up for science!

Spread the word! (click image to enlarge)

 

HAAM President interviewed for Canadian Atheist

One of Pat Morrow’s first assignments as our new president was an interview for the  Canadian Atheist website. In addition to discussing his own beliefs and background, Pat took the opportunity to tell readers a little bit about HAAM.

“Everybody has issues and goals that are important to them and they all overlap. What’s important is we harness these passions and all work together. Not just inside our local organizations but all across the country.”

Awesome interview, Pat! Inspirational, positive, and insightful!

Make sure to read the whole interview.

Book of the Month: Why Evolution is True

If you’ve left conservative Christianity (or any other religion, for that matter), you may now accept evolution, but still not really understand how and why it’s true. Or maybe you understand the basics, but have a hard time explaining them and coming up with examples to demonstrate your points when challenged by a creationist. Then this book is for you!  Author Jerry Coyne is Professor Emeritus in the Department of Ecology and Evolution at the University of Chicago, where he specialized in evolutionary genetics – so he knows his stuff. Why Evolution is True provides a succinct summary of the facts supporting the theory of natural selection, and reviewers note that you don’t have to be a scientist to understand it.

Coyne explains the basics of evolution in just under 300 pages. He covers the geological and fossil history that corroborates it; how fossils came to be; missing links and transitional fossils; animal vestiges; embryonic development; bad design; bio-geographic separation; dimorphism; dead genes; genetic drift; sexual selection; and the evolution of the modern-day human. There’s also a great glossary of terms at the back.

Along the way, Coyne also discusses (and refutes) common creationist arguments, such as that `everything happens by chance’, and misinterpretation of dating methods.

Why Evolution is True has been called “one of the best current books on evolutionary theory”. It’s a clear look at a complex subject. You’ll want to have this material in your knowledge base.

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.

Meeting Venue Update (decisions, decisions…) 

We’ll be back at Canad Inns Polo Park for our February and March meetings, since the U of W was booked for only one meeting as a trial of the venue. So what was the verdict?  

On the plus side for the room at the U of W: it’s centrally located and on major bus routes, the meeting room is larger, it’s quiet and private, we can serve food and drinks, members can bring their own food and drinks (which makes attending more affordable), and noise level isn’t an issue.  

On the minus side: parking isn’t as convenient, and the table set-up made it difficult to socialize and mingle.  

On balance, there were more positives than negatives, so we’ve decided to try the U of W again, hopefully for our meetings in April and May. We plan to re-organize the tables to facilitate socializing, and maybe get a pot of coffee going… As with any major decision, we will never be able to please everyone 100%.  

Stay tuned for updates. When meeting dates and locations are confirmed, they’ll be posted on our Events page 

Why doesn’t God make himself Known?

Good question. It was posed online to Peter Enns, who is a member of HAAM’s Steinbach offshoot, the Eastman Humanist Community.

You can read his answer on our Perspectives page. What would your answer be?

 

Why doesn’t God make himself known?

Peter Enns (aka The Village Atheist), a member of HAAM’s partner group, the Eastman Humanist Community, was asked the following question on Quora:

If God created the Earth and wanted humans to know that he created it, why did he not write an indestructible Bible instead of having humans write it for him? 

This was his response:

This is a very valid and good question. Thank you for asking it. 

I read one answer claiming that if God had written the book himself it would make us like robots, and we wouldn’t have free will. That is a cop out. We often hear that God is a loving father. Well I had a loving father; he was there for me physically, and that didn’t take my free will away. I could love him or refuse to love him; I could obey him or refuse to obey him (which I admit I often did), but I always loved him, and he loved me. Now what if he had been absent from my life, and only left me a book about himself, but not written by himself? A book that told me his rules that I should obey, and also that he loved me, but it had a catch – if I didn’t believe that the book came from him, and that he loved me, he would someday come and burn me alive. Of course, the book also stated that if I believed in the book and believed that he loved me, he would give me a mansion. Do you think I would believe the book actually came from my Dad, and therefore follow it? I might have as a little boy, but as soon as I became old enough to reason and think for myself, I think I would doubt that the book came from my Dad, and I doubt that I would take it seriously. Would you? 

Your question is exactly what people need to ask. It is a well thought-out question; we should ask those type of questions. They lead to critical thinking; they lead to searching for answers; they lead to advancement in human thinking; they lead to truth about what the cosmos is and how it works. 

Every writ or script ever written about God, god or gods has been written by humans, so humans like you and I have written scriptures about countless gods. Many of those gods have gone on to be considered part of ancient mythological writings, which we don’t take seriously anymore, and the reason is that people have asked questions like yours. But some scriptures and gods survived (or evolved from) ancient religions, and more were created by humans as time went on. Thanks to questions like yours, we will (and are) finding out that the ancient gods aren’t much different from modern gods and religions. The gods themselves are silent; the only noise we hear comes from the spokespeople. Every God, god or gods have one thing in common – they can’t survive without spokespeople. So the verdict is out and the options are very few. Your question supports the case and is one of the questions we need to ask in court. Will God, god or gods enter the witness stand and answer your question? I doubt it; only the spokespeople will answer, but they are all bringing different writings to present as evidence, and those writings all contradict each other.  

So what are the options that the court must agree on, since the missing person or persons has not been found to testify? 

  1. God, or god, or gods, if they exist, are incapable of revealing themselves, and humans are incapable of discovering them. 
  2. God, or god, or gods, if they exist, do not want to be revealed and are making sure that humans will not discover them. 
  3. God (or god, or gods) don’t exist.

There are no other options. Only God, or god, or gods, if they exist, are able to once and for all end this thousands-of-years-old debate. But so far, all we hear are the spokespeople, who all believe that their god(s) is the real deal. Also, as you can see, every option produces zero gods for us to encounter. So really, as far as we are concerned, every option is the same. 

Peter has given us permission to publish this article and use his name because, as he explains in a paraphrase of Romans 1:16

For I am not ashamed of the TRUTH, because it is the power of KNOWLEDGE that brings peace to everyone who believes; not AN IMAGINARY GOD OR GODS.

My revised version of that verse. Emphasis mine.

(Compare Romans 1:16 – For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. NIV)

January 2019 Newsletter

Upcoming HAAM Events

Options in Death Care for Nonbelievers (and our AGM)

Saturday, January 12th, at the U of W, beginning at 5:00 PM

Have you ever thought much about what you want when you die? Wondered what’s legal? What’s available in Manitoba? Our guest Shane Neufeld has over 20 years in the funeral industry. He has answers, lots more useful information, and stories…

Be sure to read the full event post for important details about the time, location, and dinner.

 

HAAM and Eggs Brunch

Sunday, January 20th, Denny’s Restaurant, 1750 Sargent Ave, 9:30 AM

Our monthly casual get-together is a great way to meet and get to know your fellow HAAMsters.  

Details here.

 

Save the Date 

The Incompatibility of Science and Religion, Saturday February 16th. Details here

Check our Events calendar for latest information.

Latest News

Charity of the Month – Ndinawe Youth Resource Centre 

You have probably never heard of Ndinawe, but it’s been around for about 25 years, helping (mainly) Indigenous kids in Winnipeg’s William Whyte neighborhood. It’s been in the media recently because of its newest program, Tina’s Safe Haven, a 24/7 drop-in space named for Tina Fontaine, who was murdered in 2014 at the age of 15. Her family believe that she might be alive today if a place like this had been available to her.  

Tina’s Safe Haven is only one of several culturally appropriate programs for at-risk youth offered by Ndinawe. They also have

– a transitional living program for 16 and 17 year-olds who need to learn the life skills necessary to live as independent adults;
– a support program for families of youth engaged in risk-taking behaviors (gang involvement, violence, substance abuse);
educational support for teenagers who have been out of school (dropped out, in the Youth Centre, suspended), and who wish to transition back into the school system;
– and a safe house that provides 24/7 shelter and basic necessities for children and youth who are living on the streets, at risk of exploitation, or just need a place to stay. 

In addition, they offer counseling services, train former sex trade workers to become accredited in youth and child care, and provide outreach and community monitoring (focusing on gang activity, high-risk addresses, and sexual exploitation). 

It’s an overwhelming challenge. Let’s help strengthen our community by supporting these vital programs. 

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. 

Your HAAM President’s 2018 Message

Greetings everyone! It’s the end of another year, and I have to say it was a busy one.  We continued our outreach efforts, our regular HAAM and Eggs brunches, and our monthly meetings.  Once again, we had some top-notch speakers.  Hearing from Neil Carter by Skype went especially smoothly, thanks to the help of our awesome volunteers.

This group has grown since I first started attending over 10 years ago, and it’s also shifted membership somewhat. We need to continue welcoming younger and increasingly diverse members, as they add so much to the strength of our group.

To that end, it’s time for me to move on, and turn over the title of President to someone else. I’ve had a great run as President, (I won’t list my mis-steps here, but there were a few), but it’s time for fresh blood and fresh ideas.  I’ve appreciated everyone who has helped out over the years, especially all the members of the executive team.

Volunteers are the heart and soul of this group, so if you believe that you’ve gotten anything from this organization, please consider volunteering in any capacity.

In conclusion, I leave with these words of (semi) wisdom:  to continue being a true Humanist, please continue to stand up for love, decency, and inclusion, and don’t give hate any more room to grow. Try to understand others and their points of view, especially in this age of instant messages and social media. Always stay skeptical.  Don’t believe anything until you’re satisfied it’s true. And last, in a less wordy version of the Golden Rule – don’t be a dick.

Peace and happiness to all.                                                                                                        – Donna Harris

New Meeting Venue

Remember that survey about our meeting venue way back in the summer? We received several suggestions for new locations to consider. HAAM’s executive looked at all of them, so thanks to everyone who contributed their ideas.

The survey responses suggested that changing our meeting time from a Saturday evening to a different evening would not improve attendance (and Sunday mornings proved even less popular), so we will continue to meet on Saturday evenings. 

Almost all the venue suggestions were for banquet or bingo halls, legion branches, or community clubs. None of those turned out to be feasible because of high cost and limited availability. On Saturday evenings they are mostly booked for socials, banquets, weddings, and other parties, and the rents are way beyond our budget.  

room 2M70

The most promising recommendations were from the couple of people who suggested that we consider meeting at one of the universities. One respondent works at the U of W and was able to supply additional info about room rentals and support our application, so we’re trying that out for the January meeting.

The U of W has the advantages of being central, on major bus routes, and completely accessible. We can bring our own food and make a little noise without disturbing others. We hope you’ll come out to our January meeting and help us evaluate this new space. We’ll be looking for feedback from those who attend. 

Essay contest!

Humanist Canada just announced an essay contest for high school students, to promote the logical thinking and communication skills valued by humanists.

Write a 7,500 – 15,000 word essay, in either English or French, on any interesting and relevant topic related to Humanism. Submit your entry before 01 March 2019, and you’ll have a chance to win a share of the $4000 in total prize money that’s being awarded (prize for the best essay in each language is $1,000). Entrants need not be Canadian citizens, as long as they attend a Canadian high school and are born after 30 September 1999.

If you’re not personally eligible to enter, please share this contest with your favorite teenager. Let’s encourage our young people to put their writing skills to work, promote Humanism, and win some scholarship money to help with their education. Essays may also be published later in Humanist Canada’s magazine.

Complete contest details are available on the Humanist Canada website.

Blasphemy law update

Great news! Canada’s archaic blasphemy law has finally been repealed. Canada now joins England, Norway, the Netherlands, Malta, Iceland, Denmark, France, and Ireland – all of which have repealed blasphemy laws in the past 10 years.

Bad news! There’s still a good part of the world where you can be imprisoned or even put to death for blasphemy. Look at this map – green (recently repealed); yellow (local restrictions); orange (legal restrictions); red (prison); brown (death penalty).

Click here for a complete and interactive version of the map with more information. It’s great to celebrate progress, but clearly, there’s still a lot more work to be done.

Book of the Month: Ideas that Matter 

This winter, tackle something a little meatier than what you might choose if you were heading to the beach. British philosopher A.C. Grayling writes about complicated ideas with style and eloquence. In Ideas that Matter: A Personal Guide for the 21st Century, Grayling discusses a multitude of concepts (from Absolutism to Zeitgist), that broadly fall into three main categories:  

– Fundamentalism (religious belief not subject to compromise);
– Globalism (the world becoming more interconnected); and
– Bioethics (ethical issues raised by the advance of science and medicine).

Read about altruism, cloning, consumerism, feminism, neo-conservatism, secularism, tolerance, vegetarianism, and many more ‘ideas that matter’. Topics are arranged alphabetically, and each is discussed in just a few pages, so if you keep the book for a few weeks, you could treat it as a sort of intellectual ‘bathroom reader’.   

For each entry, Grayling describes the idea and then offers his own commentary on it. How many of his opinions do you share? How many do you disagree with – and can you explain why? This book will have you examining – and sometimes reconsidering – your current beliefs. 

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 

Year in Review

2018 was another very successful year. Over the past 12 months, our members have:

–  Learned about being ethical eaters, the sex lives of animals, the laws governing assisted dying, religious private schools, evidence for evolution, advance care planning, how apologists view morality, comprehensive sex education, pseudoscience, and what it’s like to be an atheist in a Bible Belt community.

–  Socialized over drinks and Sunday morning brunches, celebrated Darwin’s birthday, attended our annual Film Fest, met Matt Dillahunty on tour, and held parties for the summer and winter solstices.

–  Donated to organizations that counsel victims of sexual abuse, operate a cat spay and neuter program, provide work opportunities for Manitobans with intellectual disabilities, support low-income students, provide baby gear for low-income parents-to-be, teach comprehensive sex education, and provide community policing. We also paid the annual school tuition for our sponsored child in Kasese, Uganda, helped fund a new vehicle for the Fossil Discovery Centre in Morden, gave blood, and signed up to be organ donors.

–  Reached out to a wider audience by placing a Christmas message in newspapers and on social media, setting up information booths at summer festivals in Steinbach, Stonewall, and Morden, attending local debates and speeches held by religious apologists, speaking to high school students, advertising on the new Fossil Discovery Centre’s vehicle, and writing an article for a local ethnic community newspaper.

–  Stood up for issues that matter to Humanists. Our members wrote letters and signed petitions encouraging governments and community leaders to tackle climate change, support reproductive rights, refugees, and the LGBT community, ban gay conversion therapy, repeal blasphemy laws, approve advance requests for MAID, adopt inclusive lyrics for O Canada, accept blood donations from gay men, allow a full range of end-of-life options, and end faith-based health care. We encouraged our members to vote for progressive school trustee candidates, and our own celebrations became ‘greener’ as we move to become less wasteful.

–  Supported each other by sharing ideas, advice, personal stories, knowledge of resources like secular therapists and secular help for addictions, and information about religion in public schools and summer camps. We expanded our lending library and extended its reach to include members of the Eastman Humanist Community, and we wished long-time members good health and farewell.

Whew – No wonder it felt busy! If you missed any of these stories, you’ll find them all in our Newsletter Archive.

Now we’re looking forward to another great year. Please support HAAM with your membership fees as well as your participation and input. We need you! With a larger group of supporters and volunteers we can accomplish even more in 2019!

2019 Membership Fees are Now Due

Please join or renew today.

You can pay online using the PayPal link on our website, or by cash or check in person at any event.

Visit the Join Us page for more information.

 

 

 

 

December 2018 Newsletter

Upcoming HAAM Events 

Winter Solstice Party 

Saturday, December 15th, Norwood Community Centre, 87 Walmer St 

Door opens at 5:30 – potluck supper at 6:00

Make sure to read the full event post for important information about what to bring.

 

Saturday, January 12th – AGM and monthly meeting (topic TBA)  

Sunday, January 20th – next HAAM and Eggs Brunch 

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

 Latest News 

With the approach of the New Year, it’s membership renewal time.  HAAM operates on a calendar year, meaning that our membership fees come due in January.

NEW members who join HAAM for the first time this fall (between September 1st and December 31st) pay the full annual fee but are considered paid up for 2019.  Everyone else needs to renew. 

Our membership fees are affordable and include a ‘limited income’ option if applicable (and they haven’t gone up in 10 years!). Memberships can be renewed anytime by credit card using the PayPal link on our website, by cheque in the mail, or by cash or cheque at any event.  

What’s the money for? 

HAAM is entirely run by volunteers, but like every organization, we have expenses that need to be met just to keep afloat. They’re pretty minimal. Here’s a brief run-down of what your membership dollars are spent on. 

Rental space – our biggest expense. We need a place to hold our meetings and other events. There’s even a fee to reserve the picnic site for our summer Solstice party.  

Guest speakers – Many of the guest speakers at our meetings don’t cost anything. Others receive a small honorarium, depending on their circumstances. Very occasionally, we book a professional speaker. Regardless of whether the speaker receives any compensation, we always cover the cost of their dinner while attending the meeting. 

Equipment – miscellaneous stuff we need for our meetings and events. Most of these items are one-time expenses (like a video projector), but this past summer we had to replace 2 folding tables that were stolen from our Outreach booth in Stonewall. 

Supplies for social events – like food and condiments for our summer Solstice party 

Community Outreach – fees for booth rentals at summer fairs, printing costs for brochures, business cards, and posters, and an occasional advertisement or donation to a Humanist cause or charity 

Office supplies – stationary, printing, postage 

Administration – fees for maintaining our website, bank, MeetUp, and PayPal accounts 

We count on our members to support HAAM’s continuing work in providing a community for non-believers. A larger membership base also gives us a larger voice in the public sphere.  

We don’t turn people away if they cannot afford a membership – but it’s a pretty good deal. How many organizations can you join for as little as $10 per year? Please support the group that supports you!  

 Note – if you plan to participate in our AGM in January, dues MUST be paid in order to vote. 

Suggestions welcome

Your HAAM executive is busy planning meetings and events for the winter/spring season.

Got any ideas? Is there a topic you’d like to learn about, or a speaker you’d like to hear? An issue you’d like to discuss? Do you know of an opportunity for outreach? A fun group activity?

We welcome our members’ ideas and involvement. Contact us with your suggestions – or just show up at one of our events. We’d be happy to chat with you in person.

 

Ways to celebrate the winter solstice

December is dark, and we can’t change that. So why not embrace the darkness, instead of letting it get you down?

Here are a few suggestions for how to do that (besides attending our Solstice Party, of course):

  1. Curl up by the fire and relax with some mulled wine
  2. Cover a pinecone with peanut butter and hang it on an evergreen tree for the birds
  3. Or decorate a whole tree for the birds if you have one
  4. Take a walk after dark and look up at the stars
  5. Meditate over hot tea and a sugar cookie
  6. Make an old-fashioned orange pomander
  7. Turn off the lights and have a feast by candlelight
  8. Print this picture and color it (click it to enlarge and download)
  9. Make an evergreen wreath
  10. Stay up all night to welcome the return of the sun

 

Book of the Month: I’m Dreaming of a Black Christmas 

Bah Humbug! Comedian Lewis Black is sick of all the syrupy yuletide marketing ad nauseam that is shoved down people’s throats after Labor Day. In this short book, he delivers a stinging indictment of the greed and hypocrisy of the ‘holiday season’, with some warmth and humor mixed in to temper the message. 

Black has made a career of talking about subjects that make other people squeamish, and this book is no different. He tackles our obsession with the over-priced, over-hyped, over-sentimentalized, and over-rated holiday season, ripping into traditions like Christmas cards, dinners, toys, advertising, shopping, trees, carols, and gifts. His suggestions to improve this time of year – spend time with your friends, give to others, and quit letting advertisers, retailers, and religious fanatics dictate how to spend the holidays.

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 

Godless in Dixie

Were you unable to attend our November meeting with special guest Neil Carter (Godless in Dixie)? You missed a great conversation! But thanks to Paul Morrow, we got it all on tape. You can catch it on our YouTube channel.

And while you’re on our YouTube Channel, check out some of the videos from previous guest speakers. There’s some great stuff on there.
The ratings winner so far is Richard Carrier’s talk from last summer about the historicity of Jesus, with almost half a million views. But there are also great presentations on religious schools, the ethics of counter-apologetics, blasphemy laws, grieving without religion, the limits to freedom of speech, Humanist values, and more.

Reminder

Make your voice heard!

Don’t forget the Calls to Action from last month’s newsletter.

There are links 3 petitions to sign. Links to all of them are on our Home page.

 

 

November 2018 Newsletter

Upcoming HAAM Events 

Monthly Meeting – Godless in Dixie 

Saturday, November 17th, Canad Inns Polo Park, 1405 St Matthews Ave, 5:30 PM 

Our special guest for the evening (via Skype) will be Neil Carter, a public-school teacher and former evangelical Christian who lives in Mississippi.

Details here.

 

HAAM and Eggs Brunch 

Sunday, November 25th, Original Pancake House, 1445 Portage Avenue, 9:30 AM 

Our monthly casual get-together is a great way to meet and get to know your fellow HAAMsters.  

Details here.

Winter Solstice Party

Saturday, December 15th, Norwood Community Club, 87 Walmer St, Winnipeg, 6 PM

Save the date!

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

 

Calls to Action 

There are 3 new petitions to sign, all in just the last month!

As Humanists, we need to support and speak up about what matters to us. Our collective voices can make a difference.

Gay Conversion Therapy

A group in Lethbridge has launched a petition to the House of Commons calling for a nation-wide ban on ‘gay conversion therapy’ (the pseudoscientific practice of trying to change a person’s sexual orientation from homosexual or bisexual to heterosexual using psychological or spiritual interventions).  

This petition seeks to make conversion therapy a criminal offence across Canada.  It is already illegal in Manitoba, Ontario, Nova Scotia, the city of Vancouver, and several US states. A nation-wide ban would aid enforcement of provincial/local laws where it is currently illegal, since practitioners tend to operate covertly. This CBC news article has more background information on the issue.  

The movement to ban conversion therapy is gathering steam. Please sign now to add your support for outlawing this dangerous practice. 

The petition is open for signatures until January 18th, 2019. 

Advance Requests for Medical Assistance in Dying

Current legislation requires that Canadians requesting Medical Assistance in Dying (MAID) be mentally competent at the time of the actual procedure. A patient who meets the criteria and receives approval, but whose cognition deteriorates after the paperwork is completed, will no longer eligible, and their procedure will be canceled. Advance requests for assisted dying, such as a health care directive asking for MAID to be performed at a later date if certain conditions are met, are presently illegal and will not even be considered.

A growing number of people are claiming that the law is unfair and demanding that their wishes be respected, and some of those affected by the prohibition against advance requests are now speaking out.

Recently, a BC family who lost a loved one to Alzheimer’s Disease launched a petition calling for the House of Commons to amend the Criminal Code to allow advance requests for medically assisted dying.

Please sign now to support personal autonomy in medical decision-making for all Canadians.

This petition is open for signatures until January 30th, 2019.

Forcing patients to transfer for assisted dying

Publicly funded hospitals and long-term care facilities across the country, controlled by faith-based boards, are requiring vulnerable and seriously ill patients to travel to another institution to receive an assisted death. Some will not even allow assessments or interviews about assisted death on their premises. St Boniface Hospital in Winnipeg is one of a number of institutions in Manitoba that restricts access.

Publicly funded institutions should not be allowed to restrict the legal rights of Canadians. Please tell your premier to put an end to this practice.

Charity of the Month The Bear Clan Patrol 

Winnipeg is home to one of the five largest urban Indigenous populations in the world, heavily concentrated in certain inner-city neighborhoods on Treaty 1 territory. The Bear Clan originated in the 1990’s, motivated by the ongoing need to assume the traditional responsibility to provide security to the Aboriginal community. The Bear Clan draws its direction solely from traditional Aboriginal philosophies and practices. 

The Bear Clan Patrol is a community-based solution to crime prevention, providing a sense of safety, solidarity, and belonging to both its members and to the communities they serve. ​This is achieved in a non-violent, non-threatening, non-judgmental and supportive manner primarily through relationship building and reconciliation.  

The Patrol works in harmony with the broader community rather than in conflict with it, and in a relationship that encourages rather than seeking to defeat leadership as it emerges at a local level. Its members believe that it is critical to develop the knowledge and skills of young people, as they will inherit the current conditions. 

The Bear Clan’s mission is to provide restoration and maintenance of harmony within the community by: 

​- promoting and providing safety; 

– conflict resolution; 

– mobile witnessing and crime prevention; 

– maintaining a visible presence on the streets; 

– providing an early response to situations; and 

– providing rides, escorts and referrals.  

Currently there are well over 375 men and women involved with the Patrol on a volunteer basis. ​The Bear Clan has been in the news a number of times lately for the vital work they are doing. The organization continues to grow, recently opening an office on Selkirk Avenue and expanding their territory to include the West Broadway area.  

Please support this incredible organization! Their efforts make this city a better place for all of us. 

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 on this page. Just include a note letting us know that the money is for the charity. 

Latest News 

Não acredita em Deus?

Communities are not always defined by geography. We hear and read so much about the difficulties experienced by non-believers in Bible-belt towns south of Winnipeg. But what if your religious group is bound together by language and culture rather than town limits? There are many ethnic communities in Manitoba whose members are not confined to a single district, town, or neighborhood.

HAAM exec member Tony Governo belongs to one such community – he and his family are Portuguese. Winnipeg’s Portuguese community has over 11,000 members, and they are overwhelmingly (95-97%) Roman Catholic.

In an article he wrote for the local Portuguese newspaper, O Mundial, this past summer (June/July issue), Tony described what it’s like to be a non-believer in a community whose social activities center almost exclusively around the church. Here is his English translation:

Não acredita em Deus? Você não está sozinho

(Do not believe in God? You are not alone)

Our culture, both in Portugal and in the Portuguese community of Manitoba, is deeply immersed in religion, specifically in Catholicism. Just look at our publications and see our “cultural” events. Contrary to popular belief, we are not all believers.

A national survey conducted in 2011, entitled Religious Identities in Portugal: representations, values ​​and practices, indicates that 3.2% of respondents are indifferent, 2.2% are agnostics, and 4.1% are atheists. The Canadian census of 2011 shows that in Manitoba, one in four is irreligious, with 26.5%.

Non-believers can go by any number of labels. Some choose to be identified as atheists, secular humanists, agnostics, skeptics, or free thinkers. They lack belief in any deity, afterlife, judgments, and rewards, or any other idea related to the supernatural. And they are among you; they are your co-workers, friends, or family.
Many Portuguese Catholics were determined and conditioned by their family and not exactly by belief or conviction. For this reason, there are many atheists sitting in the pews.

Leaving the closet as an unbeliever is an act of courage in a remarkably religious community. You should only leave if it is safe to do so. If you are still dependent on your family, it is wiser to stay in the closet. Whether in or out of the closet, know that you are not alone.

We are free not to believe. We are free to question.
If you would like to meet other non-believers with a similar mind, check out the website haam.ca – Humanists, Atheists, and Agnostics of Manitoba.

The newspaper printed Tony’s article (click image to enlarge), and in the spirit of supporting freedom of expression and constructive dialogue, the editor also added some of her own ideas about the piece. She also graciously offered to “open up O Mundial to a thoughtful exploration of belief” by inviting other readers to share their views as long as they are “respectful and kind.”

However, since the article ran, no responses have been received – either positive or negative. No protests, no letters to the editor, no emails to HAAM. Makes one wonder what subscribers thought when they read it… No way is Tony the only non-believer in Winnipeg’s entire Portuguese community. Perhaps there is just no one else willing to risk being outed, or to tackle deep subjects. In every community, someone has to be the first to come out.

At least in HAAM, Tony, you know you’re not alone!

 

Book of the Month: Godless 

Since our meeting topic this month will be about adjusting to life after religious deconversion, here’s another perspective you might like to read, from someone who left Christianity some time ago.  The full title of the book – Godless: How an Evangelical Preacher Became One of America’s Leading Atheists – pretty much describes its content. 

Dan Barker was an evangelical Christian for about 19 years as a youth and young adult. He served as the pastor of a charismatic church and wrote a musical for Sunday School children that is still earning him royalties 40 years later! But he threw that all away in 1984 when he suddenly announced to his family and friends that he had become an atheist. How did that happen? How does someone go from speaking in tongues to becoming the co-president of the Freedom From Religion Foundation? 

Barker explains in this tell-all book. Spoiler alert – speaking in tongues isn’t evidence of god(s) or anything supernatural. The book is an easy and enjoyable read. Barker writes as he speaks, in an unpretentious, even folksy style. If you’re not familiar with him, this 5-minute clip from one of his best-known speeches will give you an idea.  

Godless also contains Barker’s famous Easter Challenge, first issued in 1990. The challenge is simple – reconcile the 4 Gospel accounts of Easter Day into a coherent narrative. No one has been successful (so far), but you can have a little fun reading about it. 

If you are a former believer, you will undoubtedly relate to many of the author’s feelings and experiences, and if you were never a ‘true believer,’ Barker will help you understand the evangelical mindset. Either way, you’ll find this book deeply insightful. 

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 that time of year again…

Every year around this time, someone contacts us about a school or community organization collecting gifts or money for shoebox gifts for Operation Christmas Child. If you are not familiar with this project or the organization that runs it, you can learn all about it on our Religion in Public Schools web page.

Make sure you understand the goals of Operation Christmas Child before deciding to contribute. The take-home point is that it’s primarily an evangelical Christian organization… the shoebox gifts are just a means to proselytize.

October photos

The Canadian Fossil Discovery Centre in Morden now has their new van, with HAAM’s name on the back as one of their sponsoring organizations.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tammy and Luc Blanchette donned their tinfoil hats in preparation for Tammy’s presentation on pseudoscience. Great presentation, Tammy!

There’s also a photo from the meeting in our Gallery.

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.

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Upcoming HAAM Events
  1. HAAM and Eggs Brunch

    October 20 @ 9:30 am - 11:00 am
  2. Gender and Sexual Identity for Dummies

    November 16 @ 5:30 pm - 8:30 pm
Save the Dates!

Next Meeting

Nov 16th

HAAM and Eggs Brunch

Oct 20th and Nov 24th

Winter Solstice Party

December 14th

Other Upcoming Events

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

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