Upcoming HAAM Events
Saturday, July 22nd, Assiniboine Park, 6:30 PM (Note the time)
An Evening with Richard Carrier
Saturday August 19th, Canad Inns Polo Park, 7 PM
Date TBA, Birds Hill Park
And don’t forget about our Outreach at the Morden Corn and Apple Festival August 25-27.
Details for all upcoming HAAM events are on our Events page, or click the name of the event on the right sidebar.
Save the Dates
Our fall monthly meetings will be September 9th, October 14th, and November 18th, and our winter Solstice Party is booked for December 23rd. Details TBA.
Mark your calendars now so you won’t miss anything!
July Community (non-HAAM) Events
Thursday, July 13th, Canadian Museum for Human Rights, 7:15 PM
(click poster to enlarge)
Steinbach Pride March for Equality
Saturday, July 15th, 11 AM
For details on these upcoming community events, visit our new Community Events page.
Guide to Religion in Manitoba Schools
Every year, we hear concerns from parents wanting to know how to handle a situation in their child’s school related to religion. Usually the concern involves questions regarding the legality of a current practice, or complaints from parents who already know that their local school is flouting the law.
To help clarify the issues surrounding religion in Manitoba’s public schools, and provide parents with current information about what is – and is not – allowed, we have added a new web page to our site under the Resources tab. Check it out! And please provide us with your feedback so that we can add additional information to the page.
Tough Questions from the Old Testament
An encounter with a Christian apologist at our outreach booth at the Summer in the City Festival in Steinbach in June led one of our members to watch a sermon examining the character of the god of the Old Testament. Read highlights of that sermon, and our atheist’s commentary, on our Perspectives page.
Partners for Life Update
Just a reminder that if you can donate blood, please do! Summer is always a busy time for the blood banks, and Canadian Blood Services is already short. HAAM is part of the Partners for Life program, a friendly competition among businesses, schools, and community groups to show how generous their members can be. We know that Humanists are good people who donate blood! Our goal for 2017 is 25 donations, and as of the end of June we have 13, so we’re on track to meet it. Yay!
If you aren’t registered with Partners for Life, the instructions are here (or see link in right sidebar). And if you have already donated this year and weren’t registered, don’t worry. Just sign up now, and all your donations in 2017 will count toward HAAM’s total.
Steinbach Outreach Report
An Eye-Opening Weekend
Another summer outreach season is upon us. Here at HAAM we always look forward to it, but especially so this year, because for the first time, we were joined by three brand-new volunteers from the Eastman Humanist Community (EHC) in Steinbach. I would like to thank these people, especially since, being their first time doing something like this, they really didn’t know what to expect. I think I can speak for all when I say that it was a very eye-opening experience for them. A couple of comments they made that I found humorous were “That sign is causing some serious chiropractic neck adjustments” (referring to folks whose eyes read our front banner in disbelief as their feet kept moving). And later “This sign is like catnip for some Christians”. (See our 2017 Event photos for a picture of it.) After the outreach, I asked one of them for his reflections on the weekend, and he had this to say:
“During my few hours there, hundreds of people took note of the booth but most were unwilling or too shy to approach. Of those who did, it was interesting the variety of comments we received. A good number indicated that they were Christians and asked questions like:
- Where do your morals come from if you don’t have God?
- So when you die you think that there’s nothing – you just cease to exist? and
- What caused the big bang? Wouldn’t it be easier to admit that God made it?
Most encouraging, were the 25+ people who were excited to see us and who took our contact information. If only half come out to our next meeting, we’ll have to re-arrange our space to accommodate them!
A pleasant surprise were the several ‘gentle’ Christians who came by and said things like: ‘I’m sorry for the hostility you folks must be getting’ or ‘I agree with many of the things you stand for; this place needs you.’
It will be interesting to see the ripples that come from this weekend!”
I think the ripples he refers to are threefold:
- First, the impact our outreach will have on the growth of the EHC.
- Second would be the effect on our new volunteers. A second volunteer, who, from what I was able to observe, knows just about everybody in Steinbach, had many longtime friends and acquaintances of his stop by. Some seemed surprised that he was “with this group”; others saw him in the booth and just kept walking. His non-belief was previously no big secret, but I do have to admire a man who is willing to out himself so publicly.
- Third, the effect on the community. For those unfamiliar with Steinbach, the city has deep religious roots, which in the last few years have been challenged by its growth and the diversity that comes with that. Anecdote: One of our members was having a yard sale a block or two from the festival when a trio of senior ladies walked up. She asked the trio if they had been to the festival. With no further prompting one of them replied “Yes, … do you know there are atheists there!” Yup, the ripples will be interesting.
A Conversation Worth Having
For me, the best conversations seem to take place near closing time, and often with younger believers. This is pure conjecture on my part, but I think folks like that see our booth and want to talk, but it takes all weekend for them to work up the courage. I suppose in the last hours of the festival they decide: now or never. That seemed to be the case on Sunday.
Our booth was approached by a young man and a couple of his supporters, or what I prefer to call listeners. The young man was well-spoken but not rehearsed, and I do mean that as a compliment. Many visitors show up with memorized apologetic arguments; they parrot what they’ve heard but really can’t go beyond what they’ve memorized. This young man from Steinbach Christian High School asked honest non-leading questions, with a genuine interest in who we were and why we don’t believe in God.
The conversation started with the usual clearing up of misconceptions and misrepresentations about Humanism, atheism and agnosticism. In outreach this has become standard practice when engaging someone who has the limited worldview of a Christian education. I explained that Humanism isn’t a religion as there is no supernatural belief, no holy books, and no dogma. I went on to explain the fundamental differences between Humanism and many forms of Christianity, such as:
- Humanists believe we are a product of this planet, not that the planet (or the universe for that matter) was created for us.
- Generally, Humanists are passionate about their epistemology (the study of knowledge and belief); we can’t accept an idea on faith alone – we really need to know that our beliefs are true.
- Christianity demands obedience to God; to love and serve God is considered a good thing. With Humanism, doubting and questioning everything is considered a good thing.
Finally, I explained to him that as Humanists, we believe that science and the scientific method are the best ways to tell fact from fiction, which is why most, if not all, Humanists today are atheists. To which he exclaimed that “science doesn’t disprove God, so how do atheists say there is no god?” After running through the argument (again) that generally atheists don’t claim there is no God, I did try to explain to them the concept of a strong atheism (the assertion that God does not exist).
Certain concepts of gods can’t exist because they are logically incoherent. I offered the student the simple example of an all-loving god who allows the creation that he loves to go to a place of eternal torment/torture that he created. This god can’t logically exist (unless we bastardize the definition of love into meaninglessness). I then asked him for his definition of love and he started to go into the free will argument that love is allowing choice. I completely agree that allowing choice is part of love; however for me, a better definition of love is what we find in 1 Corinthians 13 “(Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude…”) I said that if we are going to define torturing someone forever as being kind, we will have to redefine that word, too. (It seems that God is violating his own holy word.)
By now I could tell the student was getting a little flustered, so I listened to his description of the free will argument, which was pretty good for being off-the-cuff. When he got to the part where God cannot make himself known to us by appearing in person because it will take away our free will, I asked him, “Does Satan have free will?”, to which he gave me a nod in agreement. I continued “But Satan has intimate knowledge of God. If I have the story straight, Satan used to work for God and saw him in person, but yet Satan still has free will. If seeing God in the flesh (so to speak) does not affect Satan’s free will, why would it affect ours?”
His flustered look was starting to become real stress, so we switched to book recommendations. He recommended C.S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity and asked me if I had read it. I told him I had not, but that I have read many other books and articles about Lewis’s arguments. I recommended The Trouble With Religion by Sophie Dulesh; she takes a mighty whack at deconstructing Lewis’s ideas in chapter one, so he doesn’t have to read the whole book.
We continued for a while about the good bits and the bad bits of Christianity, and how we can find many of the good bits of Christianity in many other religions, which both pre-date and post-date Christianity. I could tell that this young man really cared about what he believed in, and I think he really began to understand some of the immorality and absurdity of the Christian religion. Of course, what he does with this information is entirely up to him, and I wish him luck on whatever path he chooses. But from his body language, facial expressions, and the way he asked questions, I feel this was a conversation very much worth having. For me, it was one conversation that made the entire weekend worthwhile. – Pat Morrow
The Conversation Worth Having (Christopher Hitchens)
Demand an End to “Faith-Based” Health Care
Religiously-affiliated health care institutions are denying patients access to Medical Assistance in Dying (MAID) in Canada because of the beliefs of the religious boards controlling their policies. This is infringing on the ability of patients in those facilities to access a legal procedure, resulting in seriously ill and dying patients being subjected to prolonged suffering. Partisan policy should have no place in publicly-funded institutions that are required to serve all Manitobans.
Our website has all the information you need to get up to speed on this issue, including links to recent news articles for more background information. You will also find a sample letter that you can send to the hospital and government representatives, along with contact information for them.
Please add your voice to support the growing number of Manitobans who believe that government should remain neutral on matters of religion and that no religion should receive preferential treatment over another religion, or the lack of religion.
This is OUR publicly funded health care system, and we need to hold our elected representatives responsible for ensuring that it serves everyone. Demand better!
Book Film of the Month
Heart of the Beholder is a 2005 drama film written and directed by Ken Tipton, based on Tipton’s own experience as the owner of a chain of videocassette rental stores in the 1980’s. Tipton and his family had opened the first videocassette rental stores in St. Louis in 1980; their business was largely destroyed by a campaign of Christian fundamentalists who objected to the chain’s carrying Martin Scorsese’s film The Last Temptation of Christ for rental.
Heart of the Beholder features Michael Dorn (Worf from Star Trek) and a very early performance by Chloe Grace Moretz as a child actress. It won “Best Feature Film” awards at several film festivals. Critical comments included “It is in many ways a politically charged film as it touches on issues of freedom of speech, religious beliefs and all-out fanaticism”. Here is the original trailer.
Thanks to Karen and David Donald for the donation.
Visit our library page if you would like to borrow this DVD.
Why is Religion Controlling Access to Medical Care?
You’ve probably heard and read about the situation at St Boniface Hospital in Winnipeg, where a Catholic-controlled board of directors was ‘stacked’ in order to vote down a proposal to allow Medical Assistance in Dying (MAID) on the premises. This is a serious concern, especially since St Boniface Hospital is only one of a number of ‘faith-based’ health care facilities in Manitoba and across Canada that are restricting access to legal services. So far, the provincial government has shown no inclination to step in. It’s time for the majority of Canadians who support MAID to speak up and demand that something change.
Important points about MAID
No health care worker is required to participate
In Manitoba, MAID is the responsibility of a specialized team of physicians, nurses, pharmacists, and social workers who travel from site to site carrying out interviews and examinations with patients who request an assisted death. They subsequently carry out the procedure on site. Health care workers in those facilities are not expected to participate in the assisted death of patients in their care. Indeed, they specifically have the right remove themselves from the area based on conscientious objection to the procedure. Individual people have rights – but buildings don’t. What faith-based institutions are doing is refusing to allow the procedure to take place on their premises – even if their own staff are not involved.
Patients cannot choose their hospital
In our publicly-funded health care system, patients frequently do not have the opportunity to choose the hospital in which they are treated. Many services are consolidated at certain sites and not offered at others – so even if a patient presents to the emergency room at the hospital of their choice, they could end up being transferred to another. Ambulances are directed to hospitals according to both service and bed availability, so in an emergency, the patient has no say whatsoever. This means that all publicly-funded hospitals must be able and willing to accommodate all patients.
This is not a criticism of the hospital or its staff
Neither HAAM nor anyone in the media is criticizing the staff or the care provided at St Boniface Hospital. The staff there are dedicated professionals who provide excellent care, and the majority of them support their patients’ right to make their own health care decisions. Indeed, several staff members have bravely spoken out publicly to advocate for their patients’ comfort and autonomy. The issue at stake is the control of hospital policy by a religious board of directors. There is no place for that in a public hospital, and the board should be removed.
Not happy with the current situation?
Speak up about it! Here’s a sample letter that you can use to make your views known. Copy and send as is, or edit and personalize it. Or phone instead if you wish, and use this letter for talking points.
Contact information follows at the end.
I’m writing you today as a concerned citizen regarding the issue of publicly-funded, faith-based hospitals denying tax-paying Canadians the right to Medical Assistance in Dying (MAID). I’m sure you agree that Canada has, is, and will continue to be defined as a Cultural Mosaic. This term represents what is at the very strength and heart of our nation – namely our diversity represented by people of many cultures and faiths, and increasingly those who choose no faith at all.
I am asking that you take action to ensure that this defining characteristic is not rendered meaningless and continually violated by the partisan agreement signed by the Manitoba government in 1996 allowing faith-based facilities to “maintain their respective mission, vision and culture” to the detriment of patient care. In this agreement, our government showed deference to one faith over others, and empowered the Catholic Health Corporation to supersede the right of choice for dying patients of all or no faiths, in clear violation of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
- Section 2(a) of the Charter grants: freedom of conscience and religion.
- Section 7 of the Charter grants: Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of the person and the right not to be deprived thereof except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice.
- Section 12 of the Charter grants: Everyone has the right not to be subjected to any cruel and unusual treatment or punishment.
While the Charter guarantees the rights of individuals to religious freedom, it does not guarantee that right to publicly-funded institutions. By continuing to honor this agreement, the Manitoba government is allowing publicly-funded faith-based hospitals to violate the rights and freedoms of every qualifying patient who would choose to receive MAID, by denying them the liberty to make this end-of-life choice, and subjecting them to cruelty via prolonged suffering. I see nothing in the Charter, and quite the opposite, that gives the Catholic Health Corporation the right or authority to impose its religious views on Canadians, or to withhold services on that basis as a public entity, and in so doing, deny freedom of conscience to its patients.
I am asking that steps be taken by this government to enforce our Charter rights and revoke this agreement on those grounds. Further, I ask that steps be taken to make the regional health authorities responsible for the oversight of health care in the province so that all Manitobans have equal access to all health care options, regardless of their own religious or cultural affiliation or that espoused by the health care facility, in keeping with the non-partisan spirit of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. I am asking you to support the individual’s right of conscience in making end-of-life decisions that will preserve their dignity and prevent the cruelty of unnecessary suffering.
I look forward to hearing what you and your government are prepared to do to resolve what is an unconscionable state of affairs in our hospitals.
Manitoba premier Brian Pallister: firstname.lastname@example.org or 204-945-3714
Minister of Health, Kevin Goertzen: email@example.com or 204-945-3731
Since assisted dying falls under federal jurisdiction, contact the federal government as well.
Minister of Health Jane Philpott: Jane.Philpott@parl.gc.ca or 613-992-3640
Send a copy to your own MP: Find your MP here
St Boniface Hospital
And of course, don’t forget to tell St Boniface Hospital exactly what you think of their board’s shenanigans.
firstname.lastname@example.org or 204-237-2067
June HAAM Events
HAAM and Eggs Breakfast
Sunday, June 4th, Smitty’s Restaurant, 580 Pembina Hwy (at Grant), 8:30 AM. Note the change of time.
Outreach at the Summer in the City Festival
Friday June 16th to Sunday June 18th, Steinbach, Manitoba.
Summer Solstice Party and BBQ
Saturday, June 24th, 5:30 PM, Assiniboine Park
There are MORE HAAM events coming up later this summer! See them all on our Events page or click on the event name in the right sidebar.
You can find past events by using the ‘Search this Site’ tool, also in the right sidebar.
June Community (non-HAAM) Events
Winnipeg Pride Parade
Sunday June 4th Both the time (11 AM) and the route have changed this year.
For details on this and MORE upcoming community events this summer, visit our new Community Events page.
Coming this August – An Evening with Richard Carrier
Author and historian Richard Carrier will be touring Canada this summer, and HAAM is very excited to be hosting an evening with him on Saturday August 19th.
Richard has a Ph.D. in the history of philosophy from Columbia University, and is a published philosopher and historian, specializing in contemporary philosophy of naturalism, and in Greco-Roman philosophy, science, and religion, and the origins of Christianity. He blogs regularly, lectures for community groups worldwide, and teaches courses online. He is the author of many books including Sense and Goodness without God, On the Historicity of Jesus, Why I Am Not a Christian, Not the Impossible Faith, and Proving History, as well as chapters in several anthologies and articles in academic journals. For more about Dr. Carrier and his work see www.richardcarrier.info
Richard will be speaking to us on the topic Did Christianity Really Begin without a Jesus? At the Intersection of Skepticism and History. If you’ve heard or read his work before, you already know that Richard is not convinced that there ever was an actual historical person named Jesus. The whole of Christianity could be based on nothing more than myth! Come and hear him explain his position and ask questions about it.
If you want to check out some of Richard’s work before meeting him in person, you can borrow his book Sense and Goodness Without God from our HAAM library, or watch one of his many videos on YouTube.
This event is still in the planning stage. Further details will be announced as they are finalized. Check the event post on our website for updates.
Meet Another Humanist!
Pamela Johnson is the latest to add her profile to our Meet the Humanist web page. If you’ve been to one of our regular meetings, you’ll be familiar with the beautiful teapot that she painted for us.
The Meet the Humanist page is our opportunity to let the world know that non-believers are just regular people, and to let closeted atheists know that they are not alone. We’re always looking for more people to add their stories. (You can remain anonymous if you wish.) Contact us if you’d like to share your story.
Atheism in Canada Has a History? Who Knew?
I had the pleasure of driving out to Morden last week to hear Peter Cantelon and his Diversitas group host, as usual, another excellent talk. This month’s presentation was given by the University of Manitoba’s Dr. Elliot Hanowski on the history of non-belief in Canada. This was a very eye-opening and informative evening; I was taken aback by the incredibly rich and vibrant history of Canadian and Manitoban secular, atheist, and Humanist groups. It is a part of Canadian culture that I, and many others, are sorely unaware of!
Dr. Hanowski whisked us though the early history of non-belief, beginning with Greece, Rome, and the Middle Ages, but the main focus of his talk essentially began at the beginning of the Enlightenment Era. We learned about such famous figures as Thomas Paine, Thomas Jefferson, Voltaire, and Denis Diderot. Of course the bulk of the time was spent addressing the title topic – non-belief in Canada. What I also found interesting was to learn that so many non-believers were at the vanguard of social changes like the liberalization of the abortion and contraception laws, and the introduction of universal healthcare.
Dr. Hanowski described the large migration of non-religious settlers to BC and the long history of secular/freethought groups in early and modern Quebec. In one nineteenth century case, the wife of a secularist and Catholic Church critic asked to have her husband buried in the graveyard of a local Catholic church. It took five years and multiple court cases, but in the end she won, and was allowed to bury him in the church yard. In attendance at the funeral were some 2500 British soldiers and police, to prevent a near riot! The church members were later able to make themselves feel better by having the bishop come out and de-consecrate the small bit of ground where the heretic was buried.
In Manitoba, we heard about early twentieth-century secular movements such as the Rationalist Society, and Winnipegger Marshall J. Gauvin, who would attend priests’ sermons one week then critique them the next. He routinely had 300-600 people attend his lectures, and once debated a fundamentalist preacher to an audience of 3000.
Dr. Hanowski is a member of ISHASH (The International Society for Historians of Atheism, Secularism, and Humanism). This organization is a collection of academics dedicated to learning more about the history of us – the non-believers, Humanists, atheists, and freethinkers.
I have just barely touched on Dr. Hanowski’s entertaining and enlightening talk here, and there’s a reason for that. If you missed it, have no fear. Details still need to be worked out, but Dr. Hanowski has agreed to join us for an evening in the fall. So keep your eyes open and your calendars clear as our new meeting season picks up again in September.
You won’t want to miss this one! – Pat Morrow
We’re Gearing Up for Summer Outreach
June marks the beginning of our summer outreach season. We’re all looking forward to Steinbach’s Summer in the City Festival, and we have will have a new banner at the booth to promote Humanism.
Last year was a challenging outreach, and this year we expect more of the same. But this time we will have help from some of the newly-formed Eastman Humanist Community. A few of their intrepid members will join us at the booth talking with believers and non-believers alike.
Summer in the City promises some great entertainment, with Tom Cochrane on the main stage Saturday evening. But Sunday’s performances will feature entirely Christian artists, since ‘Worship in the City’ will now become an all-day event.
Any way you slice it, this is going to be an interesting weekend! So please join us! If you’re a HAAM member, please consider helping out at the booth. Everyone who attends the festival is welcome to just pop by for a visit and say Hi.
See you out there!
Most of us read a lot of depressing news these days about issues that matter to us as Humanists. Do you get discouraged, or even avoid the news, because you feel like there’s nothing you can do about it?
Sometimes there are actions we can take, however small, to make our voices heard. Usually these involve writing to politicians or signing petitions. Please take the few minutes to make your opinion count!
Please help us stop government funding of anti-choice groups. Here is a sample letter that you can send to Manitoba government Ministers and the Leader of the Opposition. Opinion aside, it just doesn’t make sense for governments to fund organizations that oppose legal services. Let’s make our voices heard!
Update on Canada’s Blasphemy Law
The map below shows countries that still had penalties for blasphemy in 2016 (click to enlarge). Shamefully, Canada is still on the list.
A recent Call to Action asked HAAM supporters to write to their MP’s demanding the repeal of Canada’s outdated blasphemy law. A number of us did. Here is the response one of our members received from her MP:
Thank you for writing to me about Bill C-39 and changes to blasphemy laws. I apologize for the delay in my response.
As you know, the Minister of Justice and Attorney General, the Honourable Jody Wilson-Raybould, is currently in the process of reforming our justice system to make it more fair, relevant and accessible. This reform involves modernizing the Criminal Code. Given that the last broad review of the criminal justice system occurred in the 1980s, an in-depth examination of how the system is currently working will assist in identifying gaps to ensure a comprehensive and modern justice system. To fulfil this commitment, the Minister is undertaking a program of consultation and engagement with stakeholders through a series of regional roundtables across the country.
While Bill C-39 does not touch on blasphemy laws specifically, I would like to note that the Minister has referred to Bill C-39 as a first step in a larger review that will span her entire mandate. To that end, the Minister continues to act on her mandate to review our criminal justice system in a comprehensive way.
Thank you again for writing to me about changes to blasphemy laws. If you have any further questions or comments, please do not hesitate to contact me again.
It’s not exactly a promise, but at least it’s an acknowledgement. Maybe it’s a start. At least her letter put the issue on one MP’s radar. We need to continue to urge the government to include the blasphemy law in that ‘larger review’ they mention.
It’s not too late to add your own voice to those who have already written. There’s more information and a link to a sample (pre-written) letter on the home page of our HAAM website. All you have to do is copy, paste, and send.
Current Calls to Action are always posted on the Home Page of our website. The only way we’ll ever make a difference is to stand up and be counted!
BOOK OF THE MONTH – Being Gay is Disgusting
Yes, that really is the title of the book. Actually, the full title is Being Gay is Disgusting – or, God Loves the Smell of Burning Fat. It’s been over 3 years since author Edward Falzon visited Winnipeg while on tour, promoting his book. So there are lots of new people in HAAM who may not have heard of it. Don’t let the title put you off – it’s intended for shock value. The book is really just an entertaining and painless way to become familiar with the first five books of the Old Testament. And yes, the well-known verses condemning homosexuality are in there, along with lots of other prohibitions that are probably less familiar.
I thought, when I first got this book, that it would be a severely abridged version of the ‘real’ Bible, but no. Edward has all the information in there, even the boring genealogies (but they’re in chart form instead of endless passages of ‘begats’). None of the sordid details are omitted, either; he only updated the language to make reading the Bible understandable and fun. It’s a great way for the ‘unchurched’, or those who have never read the Bible, to get to know what’s in there. I referred to it regularly when I read the Old Testament as part of HAAM’s Atheist Bible Study project. (Editor’s note: If you didn’t read along with us back then, you can still do it now – the reading guide and my notes are all posted at that link.) One of the best features of the book is Edward’s hilarious and insightful footnotes!
Here’s an excerpt from the book (with its corresponding footnote):
Genesis 14 – Big War, Abram Kicks Butt
So anyway, there were five kings, including the kings of both Sodom and Gomorrah, who had all been subject to a king called Kedorlaomer (“Ked” to his mates). After twelve years of this, they all rebelled. In the 14th year, King Ked teamed up with three other kings and destroyed no less than four territories, plus two more on the way home.
So the five other kings went down to the Dead Sea, which was full of slime pits, and waged war on Ked and his friends.28 They lost. Badly. When the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah fled to the hills, some of their men fell into the slime pits. The victors took all the possessions of Sodom and Gomorrah and went home. They also took Abram’s nephew, Lot, who was living in Sodom at the time.
28You know, at this point in the Bible, only about 370 years have passed since Noah’s flood. I’ve always wondered how there can be nine kings and a Pharaoh, each with their own civilians, servants, slaves, and livestock, created from the eight people on the ark. I still haven’t worked it out – I’ll keep you posted.
The long days of summer are a great time to sit outside and read a book. Wouldn’t it be fun to be caught at the beach with a title like this? A sure conversation starter…
Upcoming HAAM Events
Dying and Rising Gods Before Jesus
Saturday, April 8th, Canad Inns Polo Park, 1405 St Matthews Avenue, 5:30 – 8:30 PM.
HAAM and Eggs Brunch
Saturday, April 29th, Perkins Restaurant, 2142 McPhillips St (just south of Garden City Shopping Centre), 9:30 AM
For details on these and more upcoming events, check out our Events page or click on the event name in the right sidebar.
Upcoming Community (non-HAAM) Events
March for Science
Saturday, April 22nd, Manitoba Legislature, 1 PM
Future Community Events
Friday, May 19th – Winnipeg Comedy Showcase, with our own Rollin Penner
Wednesday, May 24th – Public Lecture – Secular/Atheist Movements in Canada
For details on these and more upcoming community events, visit our new Community Events page.
Ask An Atheist Day
The official date is Thursday April 20th, but during the month of April, we are inviting anyone to ask us anything, anytime – so go ahead and think up your toughest questions! Details are on the home page of our website.
If you are ‘out’ as an atheist, and would like to participate in this event as an individual, feel free to use one of the following images (created by the Secular Student Alliance) on social media to encourage your friends to ask you their questions. (Or you can refer people to the HAAM website if you don’t want to answer yourself.)
Click images to enlarge and download.
Can Faith and Science Co-Exist?
According to Betteridge’s Law of Headlines (any headline that ends in a question mark can be answered by the word ‘no’), the answer would obviously be ‘no’. But that’s not the opinion of Dr. Patrick Franklin, a professor of theology who gave a lecture on the subject in March.
HAAM’s Pat Morrow drove out to Morden to listen. Pat’s report on the evening’s discussion mentions Bible verses, creationists, Richard Dawkins, pedophile priests, the garden of Eden, Galileo, and an ode to flowers. How do these all tie in together? Read his fascinating and informative account here. It appears on our Perspectives page.
Charity of the Month in Action
The Canadian Fossil Discovery Centre was our Charity of the Month in September 2014. Back then, they were raising money to replace their old van, and promised that donations of $250 or more would be recognized with a decal on the new van as an indication of that sponsorship. HAAM members came through with the required amount, but we never saw the result until recently.
When Pat Morrow was in Morden for the Diversitas Lecture held at the museum, he noticed the new van in the parking lot and snapped this photo (click to enlarge). That’s great advertising for HAAM – and a nice little reminder, especially in a Bible Belt town, that non-believers can be charitable, too.
Call to Action – Demand that Canada’s Blasphemy Law be Repealed
The crime of blasphemous libel (Criminal Code Section 296) is still on the books in Canada. It was the subject of a petition in 2016. In the government’s response to that petition, on January 30, 2017, Minister of Justice Jody Wilson-Raybould indicated that the blasphemy law would be reviewed along with other outdated laws as part of a broad review of the justice system.
Now that review is underway. Government Bill C-39, an act to repeal provisions and remove passages of the Criminal Code that have been ruled unconstitutional (‘zombie laws’), is currently before the House of Commons. It addresses such varied issues as duelling, abortion, practicing witchcraft, and water-skiing – but nothing about blasphemy. Why not?
The current “zombie law” bill may be the best opportunity to advance secular human rights Canadian secularists are likely to see. Don’t let it pass! Write to your Member of Parliament and demand the repeal of Canada’s blasphemy law.
Click here for a sample letter that you can use or edit if you wish.
Opinion – Why Do Refugees Cross the Border? (and why should we help them?)
I’m thinking right now about all the Facebook memes and comments posted about people’s individual struggles in life. How we don’t really know what people are going through, what battles or demons they may be fighting; you know the ones.
Do these memes only apply to us? You and I who are lucky enough to have been born in Canada; you and I who see the world only through the lens of Facebook; you and I with our first world problems; you and I who have never lived in war-torn countries; you and I who have never had to fear for our lives, and especially the lives of our children; you and I who are not fleeing discriminatory policies and outright hatred from the government of a country that once used to be a beacon of hope. We do not know the individual stories of these people until we actually hear and assess them. The fact that they are coming from the USA right now is the result of the policies of the vile Trump administration.
Canada is a rich country that can afford to accommodate immigrants and refugees as well as do more to look after our own homeless and poverty stricken people. It is not an either/or issue for me. It is only a matter of political and collective will.
I am a descendant of people who came to Canada under what was then an open-door policy based on race and ethnicity. My people, for the most part, were not refugees; they were economic migrants – looking for a better life for themselves and their children. Knowing this, I for one have a hard time slamming the door in the face of newcomers, especially if it means turning back desperate asylum-seekers and children at the border.
Immigrants and refugees cost us money on arrival, but once established, they pay rich dividends that far exceed their initial cost to Canada. If it’s the cost of supporting refugees that concerns us, I can only imagine the billions of dollars and vast infrastructure needed to really seal off and secure our borders if we wish to stop people walking across.
As far as the lengthy wait for immigrants who pursue the application process, for the most part these people and their children are not in any physical danger. Canada has a problematic legal immigration process that favours people who are well off. That needs to be changed.
So, yeah, what about all these silly memes about our personal struggles… while we sit in our comfortably warm homes, and live and work in a safe country. – Bob Russell
Charity of the Month – Welcome Place
The Manitoba Interfaith Immigration Council (MIIC) had its beginnings in the years following WWII, when “displaced persons” had to declare their religious affiliation to enter the country. Back then, each denomination sought to help their own people integrate into Canada. Over time, as common goals and interests emerged, these groups began to work together, eventually becoming the MIIC. For nearly 70 years, MIIC has welcomed, reunited, and settled refugee families from all over the world.
Today, MIIC’s services include:
- Assistance with settlement
- Information about and orientation to life in Canada
- Referrals to community services like English classes, employment counseling, financial and legal support, etc.
- Interpretation/translation, counseling, advocacy and support
- Information about Provincial and Federal Government services such as healthcare and social services
- Life skills training
- Orientation to neighborhoods and transportation (like public transit and climate information)
- Personal financial help (like budgeting, shopping, and banking)
- Education about emergency preparedness (like child safety, fire, food, pedestrian, winter)
Newly arrived government-assisted refugees are temporarily housed at Welcome Place Residence (521 Bannatyne Ave, in photo), in self-contained and furnished apartments with access to on-site support. Except that this year, Welcome Place is full and struggling to keep up with the demands for its accommodations and services, due mainly to the influx of asylum-seekers escaping the USA. By early March, they had already assisted almost 200 new refugees, including pregnant women and unaccompanied minors.
To try to meet this increasing demand, MIIC launched a new fund-raising campaign in March, called #Open Your Hearts – A Celebration of Humanity. Their goal is to raise $300,000.00. Every little bit helps – can we help them reach their goal?
Tax receipts are available for donations over $10. If you would like to donate but cannot attend the meeting, you can do so via the PayPal link on the right sidebar. Just include a note letting us know that the money is for the charity.
Book of the Month
Among the donated books added to our library last month is a little gem entitled The World’s Sixteen Crucified Saviors; Or, Christianity Before Christ, by Kersey Graves. Since many people will be celebrating Easter this month, a book that examines ‘heathen gods’ that predate Christ sounds fascinating. But get this – it was written in 1875! That’s not a typo; even way back then, there were skeptics and freethinkers.
Graves asserted that Jesus was not an actual person, but a creation largely based on earlier stories of deities. This book was a forerunner to the increasingly popular Christ-as-a-myth theories, and its ideas have been used in the documentaries The God Who Wasn’t There, The Pagan Christ, Zeitgeist: The Movie, and Religulous.
The gods discussed in this book include those from Egypt, India, Syria, Mexico, Tibet, and Babylon, and all share at least some of the following traits we associate with Jesus, including miraculous or virgin births, being born on December 25, having stars point to their birthplaces, being visited by shepherds and magi as infants, fleeing from death as children, spending time in the desert, having disciples, performing miracles, being crucified, descending into hell, appearing as resurrections or apparitions, and ascending into heaven.
Graves’ ideas have since been critiqued and refined by modern scholars like Richard Carrier, but why not take a look at the ‘original’ Jesus-myth book just for fun? Visit our library page if you would like to borrow it.
The Humanism of Star Trek
Saturday, November 19th, Canad Inns Polo Park, 1405 St Matthews Avenue, 5:30 – 8:30 PM
Secular Parents’ Book Club Meeting
Thursday, November 24th, 7 – 9 PM, location TBA
Winter Solstice Party
Saturday December 17th, Heritage-Victoria Community Club, 950 Sturgeon Road, 5:30 PM
For more information on these events, check out our Events page or click on the event name in the right sidebar.
You can find past events by using the ‘Search this Site’ tool, also in the right sidebar.
Prayer at City Hall Update
Tony Governo has filed a formal complaint about the prayers at city council meetings with the Manitoba Human Rights Commission. He recently learned that his complaint has been registered. This means that it will be served on the Respondent (the City). They will be asked to provide a reply within 30 days. Then the complaint will be investigated, which could take 8-10 months from the time it is assigned. The investigator then makes a recommendation to the Board. The Board then decides to dismiss or take to next stage.
Tony was recently interviewed by CTV News about the threats he received on social media after his complaint. And also in October, Edmonton’s city council decided to comply with the Supreme Court ruling and ended the practice of opening their meetings with prayer. After contemplating a ‘moment of reflection’ instead, they ultimately decided that it made more sense to just skip the whole thing and just get down to business. Wouldn’t it be nice if Winnipeg could do the same?
If you have not previously read about this issue, you can catch up here.
Openly Secular Day is Tuesday, November 15th
Are you openly secular? Not everyone is – and not everyone can be. Too many people cannot reveal that they no longer believe, for fear of negative repercussions from their family, business/employment, friends, or community. But if we’re ever going to reduce the stigma of being a non-believer, and dispel the notion that atheists believe in ‘nothing’, more people have to come out of the closet.
The mission of the Openly Secular Campaign is to decrease discrimination and increase acceptance of atheists and Humanists by encouraging as many people as possible to let others know that they are non-religious. November 15th is Openly Secular Day, and it’s no accident that the date is just around the beginning of the holiday season – a time when so many people get together with family and friends. The goal on that day is to have as many people as possible ‘come out’ to just one other person. If you can do this, check out their website for more information and resources, and to take the ‘One Person Pledge’.
October event recap
October was a busy month! Our evening showing of the film A Better Life: An Exploration of Joy and Meaning in a World Without God was truly inspirational. President Donna Harris opened with a brief presentation about what Humanism is and how it differs from atheism. A big thank-you goes to Kumaran Reddy for recording it for us.
For a number of people, it was their first HAAM event, and one of those new people won our door prize – a copy of the book version of A Better Life. If you were unable to attend that evening, it is possible to view the film at home for a small fee. Check it out here.
If you couldn’t make it to our meeting to learn about the Humanist Outreach program in Uganda, and HAAM’s support of a secular school there, you missed a great evening. You can read news coverage of the meeting here.
Watch this short (2 minute) video message from Robert Bwambale of Kasese Humanist School.
Here is our sponsored student, John Bogere, saying hello to us.
Religious Exercises in Schools?
Just a reminder – Section 84(8) of the Manitoba Public Schools Act reads “If a petition asking for religious exercises, signed by the parents or guardians of 75% of the pupils in the case of a school having fewer than 80 pupils or by the parents or guardians of at least 60 pupils in the case of a school having an enrolment of 80 or more pupils, is presented to the school board, religious exercises shall be conducted for the children of those parents or guardians in that school year.”
This petition must come from the parents/community, NOT the school. The Minister of Education has ruled that public schools must be non-sectarian and that staff at the school cannot participate in recruiting students for prayer groups by contacting parents or sending home permission slips to be signed. It has come to our attention that some schools are still doing this, and one school division recently ended the practice simply because a parent brought it to the attention of the superintendent.
If this is still happening at your child’s school, we would like to know about it. Please contact us.
Call to Action – Speak up about Operation Christmas Child
If you’re involved in a school or other organization that collects for Operation Christmas Child, there are some very good reasons NOT to participate – even if you’re Christian (and especially if you’re not).
Spread the word!
Book of the Month – Pale Blue Dot
With Star Trek as our meeting topic, this seems like a good month to feature a book about our place in the universe. We have a copy of Carl Sagan’s 1994 classic Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space. The title is, of course, based on the famous photograph of the same name – a picture of the Earth from 4 billion miles away, taken by Voyager 1 in 1991 as it approached the outer limits of our solar system.
The book begins by examining the idea that humans think they are uniquely important in this vast universe. Sagan continues by exploring our solar system in detail, and discussing the possibility of life on other planets, suggesting that our very survival may depend on the wise use of other worlds. He argues that in order to save the human race, space colonization and terraforming (the hypothetical process of deliberately modifying the atmosphere, temperature, surface topography or ecology of another planet or moon to make it habitable by Earth-like life) should be considered.
Watch this very moving tribute to Sagan and the Pale Blue Dot, produced by Seth Andrews (The Thinking Atheist). It’s only 5 minutes long.
Charity of the Month – The North Point Douglas Women’s Centre
The North Point Douglas Women’s Centre is just east of Main Street, near Dufferin Avenue. The address alone provides a wealth of information about the clients it serves. Its mission is to promote a safe, healthy, vibrant community for women and families, by offering programs designed to provide support, training, resources, and opportunities to women in the area. The centre arose out of a project sponsored by the Social Planning Council of Winnipeg in 2000, to address problems caused by poverty and a lack of resources. Today it is a community hub where women and their families gather.
- A drop-in safe space with snacks, activities, computer and phone access, laundry facilities, and a clothing and household items collection
- Counselling and domestic violence recovery support
- A neighborhood oven for community baking and events
- Community safety programs
- Health, fitness, and nutrition programs
- Support and referrals for women dealing with stressors such as shelter, employment, emergency food and clothing, school, Child and Family Services involvement, legal help, Employment and Income Assistance disputes, daycare, etc.
What to Donate
Currently, the centre has a particular need for the following items that they go through very quickly
- Feminine hygiene products
- Baby formula
Please bring these items to the monthly meeting and we will deliver them to the centre. Of course, money likely wouldn’t be turned down, either. Tax receipts are available for donations over $10. If you would like to donate but cannot attend the meeting, you can do so via the PayPal link on the right sidebar. Just include a message letting us know that the money is for the charity.
Partners for Life Update
Yay! HAAM members are now up to 15 donations for 2016! We have 11 members registered in the program, 7 of whom have donated at least once this year. We’re still just ahead of Steinbach Bible College, (with 13 donations), and there are almost 2 months to go! Let’s get a few more units in by New Year.
There’s no prize for donating blood – just bragging rights and the satisfaction that comes from knowing that Humanists are helping their fellow humans. So get out there and do it!
You can donate at the main clinic on William Ave (across from HSC) during their regular hours (Mon 10-2 and 3:30-7:30; Tues 1:30-7; and Wed-Sat 8-2), or attend one of these mobile clinics in the Winnipeg area.
Here are two new points worth noting (thanks Janine Guinn):
- The recommended time between donations for women is being increased to 84 days, because of the ongoing risk of low hemoglobin. (The interval for men remains at 56 days.)
- If you book an appointment at least 48 hours ahead, you can now have your pre-donation health questions sent by email and complete them online before you go, saving a bunch of time.
Note that you must register with the Partners for Life program in order for your donation to be credited to HAAM. Click here for more information and instructions on how to sign up.
We Need You!
It’s time to start looking ahead again to the upcoming year. Please consider volunteering to serve on our executive! We need people who are enthusiastic about building a supportive community, promoting a secular society with fairness for all, and advocating for critical thinking in the larger world. If you can contribute ideas, energy, time, and/or effort, you’re welcome to join us! The more committed people we have, the more we can accomplish.
Meetings are usually held monthly, (dates and times determined by mutual availability), with online contact in between. Please consider volunteering, or accepting the offer to join if you are approached. Many hands make light work, and enable HAAM to offer more events and programs, and make a bigger difference to our members and community.
Elections will be held at our AGM on January 14th – so you have some time to think about it or talk to members of our current executive if you have questions.
Outreach has been very busy since our last newsletter. Tony Governo and Tammy Blanchette have been out to speak to another high school class in southern Manitoba. I enjoyed meeting with a local hospital chaplain who is taking a class on world religions in an effort to become better at his job in spiritual care. His overall goal was to learn how to best to approach a “Humanist/atheist person” (his words) with regards to their spiritual care. It was a helluva starting point, but the ensuing discussion was interesting for two people who are, metaphorically speaking, from different planets.
A little later in October, Donna Harris and I (with Todd De Ryck along as an observer) spoke to a U of W class called “Crises in Faith” – an exploration of five major contemporary critiques of religion. We explained the usual atheism and Humanistic philosophy. The students’ questions were sometimes challenging, and as often happens when discussing philosophy, the conversation goes off in the strangest directions. We found ourselves having to explain why, when making societal decisions, both religious and non-religious people are welcome at the table of ideas, but religion itself shouldn’t and can’t be granted special privileges. I also found myself in the really odd position of explaining why the national socialism of the Nazis in the middle of the twentieth century was not a secular government. This is why we love outreach and especially visiting school classes; you really don’t know what someone will say next.
We’re looking forward to November and our visit to the newly formed Steinbach Humanist group; that should be fun. – Pat Morrow
When Good Intentions Cross Ethical Lines
- 2015 Year in Review and President’s Message
- Outreach Reports
- Which community leader doesn’t seem interested in speaking to our members?
- HAAM helps sponsor a refugee family
- and more…
- Updates on the stories we’ve been following on religion in our public institutions,
- Details about all our upcoming events (including speakers who will be appearing at our River City Reasonfest conference in September), and
- A link to view the presentation on the Ethics of Religion if you missed it at our May meeting.
Get up to date with all the HAAM comings and goings…
Click and read!
- Our buses are still roaming the city streets, but they won’t be around much longer! Find out who won a prize for the first picture submitted.
- A.C. Grayling was a hit with HAAM. Find out about his visit to Winnipeg.
- Learn more about what Arthur Schafer has to say on the topic of dying with dignity.
- And much more…
Go ahead! Click and read the October newsletter!
It’s Super Secular September in Manitoba!!
- Our transit advertising hits the streets of Winnipeg
- We announce our Bus Photo Contest
- Volunteers venture out to Morden and live to tell the tale! (that’s Dorothy and Diana in the pic to the right)
- We still have great events happening this month, so read on!
- Canadian Blood Services is on high alert – and donations are urgently needed. HAAM is part of the Partners for Life program. Find out how you can make your blood donation count.
- We’re doing it! Making our dream of a Winnipeg Atheist bus advertising campaign a reality!
- In September, Dying With Dignity is holding a special presentation.
Find out more in the August newsletter
The April Newsletter! No regular meeting this month! Instead, we’re hosting a Public Discussion on Manitoba Bill 18, the Anti-Bullying legislation. Also in this month’s issue: Why Sage House is a valuable resource. Pat Morrow tells us to be “out” as an atheist. And more! (picture is from the March 28th Bill 18 rally).