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