Upcoming HAAM events

November meetingProtecting Canada’s precious natural places

Saturday, November 14st, online via Zoom, 6:45 PM

Join us this month when our guest will be Cary Hamel, Director of Conservation for the Nature Conservancy of Canada’s Manitoba Region.

Cary will be speaking about what the NCC does, why it’s important, what qualifies as a protected area, why NCC chooses to work in certain places/landscapes in Manitoba, and why these places are special.

He will also talk about some of our most endangered Manitoba habitats and species, and about NCC’s newest conservation area, an absolutely beautiful place – the Husavik coastal wetland (in photo), just a stone’s throw from Winnipeg.

All that and your questions too, so make sure to join us. If you’re a nature lover or hiker, you may learn about some hidden gems you weren’t aware of. Everyone is welcome! Please join us via Zoom.

New! Our speaker will begin at about 7 PM, but please join before that (any time after 6:30), for welcoming remarks, introductions, chatting, and social time.

To ‘attend’ (participate or just listen), EMAIL US (info@haam.ca) and we will send you the Zoom link before the meeting. You do NOT need to have your own Zoom account, just a computer, tablet, or phone to open the link.

Charity of the Month – The Nature Conservancy of Canada

The NCC is a private, non-profit organization that works to protect our country’s most precious natural places and empower people to safeguard the lands and waters that sustain life. Since 1962, the NCC and its partners have helped to protect 14 million hectares (35 million acres) for future generations.

In Manitoba, the NCC protects and manages areas in the Assiniboine Delta, Interlake, Quill Lakes, Oak Lake Sandhills, Riding Mountain, Souris River grasslands, tall grass and mixed grass prairie, and Whitemouth River regions. Most of Manitoba’s protected areas are open to the public and often right in our own backyard. These are natural gems with so much to see. For more information about the NCC visit https://www.natureconservancy.ca/en/


Please help ensure that Canada’s natural spaces, and the species they sustain, are protected. You can make a donation directly to the NCC, or through the Donate button on our HAAM website (just include a note that the money is for the Charity of the Month).

Stay connected

We can continue to interact, support each other, and maintain friendships online. If you are not a member of our private Facebook group, and would like to join it, contact us. It is open to anyone in Manitoba who identifies as a Humanist/atheist (i.e. you do not need to be a paid member of HAAM).

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

 Like so many other organizations, HAAM’s activities have been dramatically disrupted by COVID-19. We will continue to rely on evidence-based information and follow the recommendations made by Shared Health Manitoba before deciding when to resume in-person meetings and events. We encourage you to visit our website (haam.ca), our Facebook page, or Meetup for information and updates.

Events Update (and survey results)

Thanks to everyone who completed our Events Survey last month. Obviously, the questions were written before the COVID situation worsened. At this point, any discussion of in-person events, even small ones, is moot.

Here’s what we learned from the responses we received.

  • About 2/3 of respondents would be interested in attending a Zoom meeting with a speaker, and about 1/3 would be interested in participating in social chats and group discussions online.
  • About half would attend an outdoor event given the right circumstances, so maybe this is something we should explore. In winter, that’s likely to be weather-dependent, and would have to be planned on short notice. Parks, hikes, snow maze maybe? Have a suggestion? Let us know!
  • A few people would be interested in meeting for coffee or brunch if guidelines allow. Our exec will not be organizing any indoor events, but you may certainly reach out individually to your fellow HAAMsters if you’re interested in getting together with one or two others.

There were some insightful comments that helped paint a more complete picture of what some of our members are dealing with this year. They include:

  • Zoom meetings are very difficult with kids at home.
  • Zoom meetings can be impractical or impossible for atheists who are not ‘out’ to their family members, or who live in a household with believers who are unsupportive or openly hostile to non-believers.
  • Some people spend a good part of their workday on Zoom, and the last thing they want to do in the evening is sit in front of a computer again.
  • In-person socialization and connection are preferable to a computer screen.

Unfortunately, given the current health situation, there is no possibility of indoor in-person meetings for the time being We encourage people to connect on social media or individually with each other.

Based on survey responses, we will try something new for the November meeting. Please join us online prior to the speaker at 7 PM, for ‘meet and greet’ time. This will be a chance to socialize with your fellow HAAMsters, catch up on news and find out how everyone’s doing. If you’ve been a member for a while, we’d love to see you again. If you’re in our Facebook group but have never attended an in-person event, we’d love to meet you. And if you’re completely new, you’re invited to join us.

Online Events of Interest

Flatten the curve of the ‘infodemic’

Are you starved for real information about the pandemic? Skeptical Inquirer Magazine is continuing their series of online (Zoom) lectures by experts in science, skepticism, medicine, media, activism, and advocacy, all devoted to the cause of advancing science over pseudoscience, media literacy over conspiracy theories, and critical thinking over magical thinking.

November 19th – Combating Fortunetelling Fraud (aka Psychic Fraud) – Bob Nygaard, a private investigator, builds a criminal case against self-proclaimed psychics, and describes the impediments that often exist when trying to bring these fraudsters to justice.

December 3rd – A Series of Fortunate Events: Chance and the Making of the Planet, Life, and You – the awe-inspiring story of the surprising power of chance in our lives and the world, with guest Sean B Carroll.

These lectures are free but require advance registration. Visit Skeptical Inquirer Presents, to learn more about these topics and to register. Recordings of the previous lectures are available on the same site (scroll down below ‘upcoming events’).

Presentations from CFI Canada

The ‘Virtual Branch’ of CFI Canada holds regular online secular chats and support groups for people Living Without Religion. They also host occasional presentations on some varied and provocative topics.

November 7th – Canada’s underground astronaut – Homo naledi team member Marina Elliott takes us along her incredible journey into the Dinaledi cave in the Cradle of Humankind in South Africa.

November 21st – The appropriation of sex education by Conservative populism – What lessons can we learn from the Ford government’s repeal of the comprehensive sex education curriculum in Ontario?

December 3rd – Bad science in consumer health products and services – Explore the various ways in which consumer health products and services are regulated in Canada.

Visit CFI Canada’s Virtual branch MeetUp page for more information and to register for these events. If you missed any of the previous presentations and want to catch them on video, check out CFI’s Youtube channel.

Latest News

Has 2020 burned you out yet?

This is the year that began with the wildfires in Australia. That was before coronavirus hit, and before George Floyd was heard saying “I can’t breathe”. Now we are watching a fiasco unfold in the aftermath of the US federal election. Is there anyone, anywhere, who has not experienced excessive stress this year? Cabin fever, illness or loss, loneliness, working from home with kids and pets underfoot, cancellation of holiday and vacation plans, lay-offs or unemployment, and engaging with anti-mask ‘covidiots’ on social media are taking a toll on all of us.

This is a good time to remember that YOU ARE NOT ALONE. Winter is just starting, and it will be a long one. We all need to take care of ourselves and each other. HAAM will not be holding in-person events any time soon – and neither will any other club or organization. We need to find other ways to connect.

Here are some suggestions for getting through the winter. Try a few (or all) of them – what do we have to lose?

  1. Remember that it’s not only OK – it’s important to look after yourself. As the saying goes, you can’t pour from an empty cup. You have to care for yourself first, in order to have something to offer others. Get adequate rest, use breathing exercises, yoga, or meditation to help relax, and don’t be too hard on yourself.
  2. Get outside regularly. If it’s possible, depending on where you live, get out into nature (ie a park-type area as opposed to city streets). Fresh air and mother nature have been demonstrated to improve mental health. Try the 1000 Hours Outside challenge to help get yourself motivated and track your progress.
  3. If it’s not safe to go to the gym, just walk. It’s amazing how much difference ordinary walking can make to your health and well-being if you do it regularly.
  4. Eat healthy – at least most of the time. Indulging in junk food might be comforting, but you’ll only end up feeling more sluggish (and guilty) later.
  5. Limit your time on news websites and social media – and especially avoid or limit the time you spend reading or replying to comments. We all know that 5% of commentors contribute 95% of the hatred, misinformation, and vitriol. Trying to refute it all will lead you to a bottomless pit of misery.
  6. Reach out and (virtually) touch someone. If you have a solid network of supportive family and friends – great. But also remember that you are part of the HAAM community. We have a private Facebook group for news, discussions, sharing, and venting frustrations. Let’s use it to reach out to each other and be supportive where we can. (Email HAAM for the info if you’re not yet part of that.)

Book Report

The Naked Man Flees: Timeless Truths from Obscure Parts of the Bible

Michael Zwaagstra is a high schoolteacher with a degree in theological studies from Liberty University. He lives and works in the Steinbach area.

In his new book, Zwaagstra attempts to use obscure stories from the Bible (what he calls “Timeless Truths”) as examples or metaphors for how to live the Christian faith. Here are some of the main stories and characters he is writing about and what he expects his readers to glean from them.

  • Abraham shoos vultures away from the carcasses he has split in half for God, and he is willing to sacrifice his son Isaac on the alter. The Bible says God counted that all for righteousness, since Abraham did it through faith to please and trust God. (Genesis 22) The author reminds readers that works are part of faith, and that it is important to back up words with actions.
  • Moses does not circumcise his son, and God tries to kill Moses for the disobedience, but his wife cuts off the boy’s foreskin and so God refrains from killing Moses. The wife calls Moses the bloody bridegroom. (Exodus 4) The author points out how important it is to completely obey God’s commands.
  • Gideon, after a great victory, becomes proud and makes himself a priestly ephod (a garment usually only worn by priests), and so things go downhill from there for Gideon. (Judges 8) The author points out that after victory we should not let our guard down. He reminds and admonishes readers to stay humble and keep on trusting God.
  • The Ephraimites were upset that Gideon had not invited them to join in the army, and then when Jephthah delivers Israel from the Ammonites, the Ephraimites are even more smug in their attitude. The Ephraimites threaten to burn down Jephthah’s house. This causes Jephthah’s army to retaliate, and in the end 42,000 Ephraimites are killed. (Judges 12) The author again points out that it is better to be humble and that Christians should show their faith by what they do.
  • David escapes from Saul by joining the enemies of Israel, the Philistines. David tells the Philistine king that he is raiding Israel, while in reality he is exterminating the enemies of Israel; killing every man, woman, and child to prevent any news from coming back to the king. (1 Samuel 27) The author points out that this is a message about how God was a shield to David, just like he is to Christians in all their dilemmas.
  • God punishes Israel by sending a three-year famine after Saul is dead, in retaliation for what Saul did to the Gibeonites. David asks the Gibeonites what they would accept as compensation for the wrong done by Saul. They request seven sons of Saul whom they could execute by hanging for the crime. (2 Samuel 21) The author points out points out to the readers how temporary sinful pleasure might cause a lot of people to suffer, even to other generations.
  • God commissions Elijah to anoint Hazael to be King of Syria, but Elijah never got to do it, so his successor Elisha does the anointing. Elisha tells Hazael how wicked he will be to the Israelites. He will kill the young men with the sword, dash in pieces the little ones, and rip open the pregnant women. (2 Kings 8) The author points out to the readers that God is sovereign over the universe. Nothing happens outside of his control. “I form the light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the Lord who does all these things” (Isaiah 45:7) God has reasons for the circumstances he places in the their lives, and they need to trust God to make their paths straight.
  • Jonah disobeys God by not going to city of Nineveh to announce its impending doom. Jonah is angry at God and sails the opposite way, so God causes a storm to come. The ship is ready to sink and everyone is imploring their god for help. Jonah tells the sailors that it is his fault, and they should throw him overboard. They reluctantly do that, and the storm subsides. God then sends a fish (or whale) to swallow Jonah. Jonah prays to God, not really to rescue him but to thank him. For three days Jonah is in the creature’s belly before it vomits him out. (Jonah 1) The author reminds the readers that it is very important that when God calls them to a task, ministry, or whatever, that they should trust God and follow that command.
  • Jesus told a story about an unclean spirit that leaves a person and then wanders around, eventually coming back and finding the person it left clean and empty. The unclean spirit then finds seven other spirits worse than itself, and they all move into the person, making him worse off than before. (Luke 24) The author reminds his readers that if they want to be protected from the attacks of Satan, they must do more than just housecleaning, they must let the Holy Spirit control their lives.

My opinion of this book

I did not read the whole book. I could not read it all. It reminded me too much about how I used to believe the Bible, hook, line, and sinker. I understood what the author wanted the reader to get, but I also saw him as being religiously delusional, just as I used to be. He accepts these Bible stories as literal, historical truth. For example, regarding the story of Jonah, he writes:

Obviously, this is an extremely improbable series of events, or seemingly so to people today. A great fish just happens to swallow Jonah, keeps him alive in the belly for three days, and vomits him onto the shore of Nineveh. But then, of course, miracles are highly improbable events! That’s why they are called miracles.

It is only by rejecting the possibility of miracles that skeptics can reject the story as completely implausible. However, if God is capable of creating the universe out of nothing, parting the Red Sea, curing people of disease, and raising people from the dead, he is certainly able to make a sea creature swallow Jonah and keep him alive for three days until he gets dropped off at Nineveh. As Jesus later said, “With God all things are possible.” (Matt 19:26) – page 82

I actually became sad and angry, knowing that a public high school teacher believes the Bible is history, accepts such tales as fact, and thinks that these terrible stories provide meaningful truths to base one’s life on.

– Peter Enns is a Humanist and former believer living in Manitoba’s Bible belt

Reminder – our library is still open

It’s going to be a long winter, and with a lot of events canceled, most of us will have time to read. So check out our HAAM library collection online. You can browse by author, subject, or title. Contact us if you’d like to borrow a book and we’ll find a way to get it to you (within the Winnipeg area).

Borrowing privileges are limited to paid HAAM members.