critical thinking

April 2020 Newsletter

Upcoming HAAM Events 

Like so many other organizations, HAAM’s upcoming events have been dramatically impacted by COVID-19.

With the health and safety of our members in mind, and following the recommendations of public health authorities, we have decided to cancel both our regular meeting and our HAAM and Eggs brunch in April due to the public health risks associated with COVID-19.

Our March meeting, which was to have featured Dr Simon Potter discussing Identity Politics, had to be canceled at the last minute because it fell during the week in which COVID-19 reached Manitoba. We would like to publicly acknowledge Canad Inns Polo Park for not charging us when we called off the March meeting on short notice. We appreciate their support! We will attempt to reschedule that topic once our meetings resume – either in May or sometime next season.

HAAM 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 Home page (haam.ca), our Facebook page, or Meetup for information and updates.

After taking a couple of years off, HAAM is again planning to enter a walking group in the Winnipeg Pride Parade, on May 31st. We are looking forward to the celebration as we show our support for Winnipeg’s GSRD (Gender, Sexual, and Relationship Diverse) community. Everyone is welcome to join us.

Our Summer Solstice party was booked for the large picnic shelter at Kildonan Park; however, events are now being canceled by the city. But by mid-June, hopefully we will be on the downside of this health crisis, and it will be safe to go ahead with it. The picnic site is large and open, with plenty of space for us to spread out.

These are the dates to save                                          

Monthly Meeting – Saturday, May 23rd (tentative)

HAAM and Eggs Brunch – TBA (when safe to resume)

Winnipeg Pride Parade – Sunday, May 31st (hopefully)

Summer Solstice Party – Sat, June 20th (fingers crossed)

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

 Charity of the Month

Because our March meeting had to be canceled, we did not collect charity donations as expected. If anyone made an online donation intended for Sunshine House, our treasurer will hang on to it until we resume our monthly meetings. We will then add your online donations to what we collect at our next meeting – whenever that is.

In the meantime, look on our Charity page for a list of the charities we have supported over the past several years. There is a lot of need right now in the city due to job losses and business closures, so please consider helping any of these worthy organizations if you are able.

Latest News

Library update

As of mid-March, our new HAAM librarians are David and Karen Donald, who have taken over from Laura Stephens and Adriana Sedlak. Thanks to Laura and Adriana for taking good care of our library over the last couple of years!

David and Karen attend most of our regular meetings, so they will be able to bring a few books to each meeting for members to peruse (once we resume meetings).

We have well over 200 books and a few DVD’s in the library, so it’s a good idea to search the catalog on our website and find something you’re interested in. On the Library page, you can search by Title (use the ‘Book Table’), Author, or Subject. Once you find something you’d like to borrow, click the ‘Borrow Book’ button (on the Book Table), or the ‘Click here’ button on the Library page, to request the item.

During this period of quarantine, the public libraries are all closed – but our HAAM Library is still OPEN! If you now have time to read (or watch a video), go ahead and send us your request. Pick-up or drop-off can be arranged within the Winnipeg area.

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

Call to Action

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

 The Federal government recently introduced amendments to Canada’s law on medical assistance in dying (MAID). The proposed amendments include permitting assisted dying for those whose death is not reasonably foreseeable, and waiving the requirement for final consent for those already approved (Audrey’s Amendment). However, patients with irremediable mental illness will still be excluded, as will mature minors and those who wish to make advance requests.

Dying With Dignity Canada is committed to ensuring that Canadians have the right to make their own choices about how they end their lives.

Please tell your Member of Parliament (MP) and your provincial Senators that you support giving Canadians access to their constitutional right to make informed end-of-life choices.

To make your voice heard, visit DyingWithDignity.ca. On that page, you’ll find more information and a link to Take Action. Just open it, add your name and address, and click ‘send’.

Surviving COVID-19

Cooped up in quarantine? Stressed out? Laid off? Working from home? Bored already? There’s enough about coronavirus already in the news, and the facts change from day to day, so we won’t try to duplicate what you’ve already heard. But we have a few suggestions that might help you pass the time and get through the crisis.

We all know what won’t help – thoughts and prayers. So try some of these ideas instead.

1 Fight misinformation

If you’re on social media these days, there are probably times that you wish you weren’t. The posts and comments can make you feel that there is no hope for humanity. But if no one challenges ridiculous, hateful, and harmful ideas, just imagine how much worse things could become.

 

Report and/or refute insane ideas from the truly deluded

Here are just couple of examples of bizarre posts shared to social media in March. (Click images to enlarge)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Above:

Thanks to our own president Pat Morrow for taking on the ‘alternative therapy’ guy.

 

 

At left:

Fundamentalists are convinced that COVID-19 means the End Times and Rapture are near. Yes, they sincerely believe this.

 

There are lots more posts like this out there. The Guardian recently profiled the reaction of America’s “religious right” to the coronavirus – and it’s downright scary.

Hemant Mehta and his team at Friendly Atheist report all kinds of news of interest to non-believers. Some of the stories they have been covering lately regarding COVID-19 would give the old National Inquirer a run for its money. Think that touching the hand of an evangelist will cure coronavirus? Or that it can be caused by people eating Biblically unclean food? How about the pastor who invited infected people to his church to be healed through prayer? There are new stories like these every day. Check out the Friendly Atheist blog for the latest.

 

 

Get the facts – and share them

Besides the truly bizarre, there is a lot of well-intended and plausible but incorrect information and speculation out there. Is the virus killed or cured by heat or cold? What about teas or essential oils? 5G technology? If you have a runny nose, does that mean it’s only a common cold? All of these claims can be fact-checked – so do it. Respond with the correct information when you see someone sharing sketchy advice or memes with no source attached. Share information only from evidence-based sources.

In March, Buzz-Feed put together a pretty good list of common rumors and hoaxes. So did FactCheck.org and Snopes. CBC News summarized what will – and will not – protect you from the virus. The US Center for Inquiry now has a Coronavirus Resource page.  And the World Health Organization is keeping their Advice for Public page up to date with a list of ‘myth busters’. Of course, there will always be new rumors, so check back to keep up as the situation evolves.

Watch out for your loved ones

It never fails that there are some people in this world who will take advantage in any situation. Scammers have already started to prey on the vulnerable during the pandemic. If you have anyone among your friends or family who is in the early stages of dementia, cognitively impaired in any way, elderly and not computer-savvy, is relatively new to Canada, or who has limited English, please keep an eye on them to ensure that they don’t become a victim.

2 Look after yourself and your family

Keep busy

If you’re stuck at home, either by yourself, or with family and/or kids, it’s important to keep busy. Take advantage of some of the special offers and free resources available during this pandemic. Here are a few:

  • Use educational opportunities from Great Courses Plus (1-month free trial), Scholastic Canada (free 21-day ‘learn at home’ package for kids), Audible (free children’s audiobooks), and Curio.ca (teaching materials).
  • Hold virtual visits with family and friends by using services like Face Time, WhatsApp, Skype, or Zoom.
  • Try to have some fun, to ward off cabin fever. Get outside for a walk and some fresh air. Dig out a puzzle or some board games. If you’re looking for more ideas, USA Today has 100 suggestions.

Talk to your kids

Our children certainly are hearing about coronavirus, either from us or somewhere else. Sometimes it’s difficult to know what to tell them about it. There’s certainly no shortage of free advice out there – some of it better than others. Here are some of the more reliable sources:

Take “Humanism 101”

Catch some of the great articles, blogs, debates, and videos produced by atheists and Humanists that you’ve never had time for. We had some great speakers at our Reasonfest conference in 2015, and they’re still up on our YouTube channel, along with a few videos of other meetings and events.

We also have compiled a list of great videos and reads on our Exploring Nonbelief page – Opinions and blogs; Information on specific topics like the Bible, apologetics, evolution, and morality; Perspectives from people who have left religion; Classic debates; and Inspirational videos. Check it out! You’ll find it educational and stimulating, it will help you to feel less alone, and it should keep you busy for a good while.

Keep in touch with your HAAMster friends

You are not alone! We’re still all here – online!  Follow us on Facebook and Twitter, check our website for news and updates, and follow us on Meetup so you’ll be notified when events resume.  We also have a private Facebook group that is not generally advertised publicly. It’s a place for Humanists in Manitoba to exchange ideas, discuss issues, explore challenges, make friends, and have some laughs. It’s a proselytizing, preaching, and troll-free zone. If you are interested in joining it, please contact us for the information.

3 Help others in your community

Donate blood

Even though many businesses are closed, it’s business as usual at Canadian Blood Services. Sick or injured people still need blood, and shortages loom as more people cancel donation appointments and stay home. The CBS website has updates and answers if you have questions or concerns about donating blood during this crisis. In general, it IS safe to donate, and your blood is needed. So if you have a bit of extra time on your hands, and you’re healthy, please make an appointment to donate.

HAAM is part of the Partners for Life program, so if you do donate blood, make sure to become part of that. Our goal is for our members to donate at least 25 units of blood this year, and so far we have 7. Everything you need to know about joining our Partners for Life group is on our website.

Support local charities that are feeling the pinch

Food banks, resource centers, and other organizations that serve the needs of disadvantaged people in our communities are seeing donations drop even as people are panic-buying and stocking up necessities for themselves.

Donations at Winnipeg Harvest are down, which has never happened before. While most of us are stockpiling toilet paper and canned goods, these charities serve vulnerable people who do not have enough resources to meet their own needs on a regular basis, let alone to purchase extra for a crisis.

HAAM has featured a number of very worthwhile organizations as our Charity of the Month over the past several years. Any or all of these could use your help now. Check the list on our Charities page and please contribute if you are able.

Assist your neighbors

Do you have everything you need? Do your neighbors? Some of them may be quarantined, or afraid to go out because of pre-existing health issues. Give them a call and see if they need anything. If you’re on social media, ask in your local community group to see if anyone needs someone to run an errand. Or join Help Next Door Manitoba.

Support local businesses and community groups

Small businesses and local arts/music groups are really hurting right now, both financially and emotionally. Many are closing, cutting hours, canceling shows, and laying off staff. As much as possible (especially considering your own circumstances), try to help them. Patronize shops in your area if you can, while maintaining social distance. And if you have purchased tickets to an event that has been canceled, donate the cost of the tickets back to the group for a tax receipt, rather than requesting a refund. Small efforts and gestures like this just might enable some of them to survive.

Update on Manitoba MP’s religious privilege

In our March newsletter, we reported that Provencher MP Ted Falk sent a religious card of condolence to a family in his constituency. HAAM exec member Arthur Prystenski wrote to Mr Falk, using HAAM letterhead, on behalf of the recipient, who feared personal reprisals for sending a personal complaint. Arthur included his own Winnipeg address on the letter, since HAAM does not have a physical mailing address.

Update – Mr Falk (or someone in his office) used the lack of a mailing address within Provencher as an excuse to ignore the point made by the letter. Their response included the following: “Mr. Falk’s constituents are his first priority.  While he receives thousands of emails from people across Canada each year, he is focused on serving residents of Provencher. If Mr. Falk is your Member of Parliament, please ensure you provide your full name and home address in your message.  Emails without this information, or emails which Mr. Falk is copied on, will be treated as an FYI unless otherwise specified.”

Of course, this completely misses the point, which was that people living within the constituency of Provencher are so surrounded by Christian privilege that they are afraid to speak up for themselves. And so it continues…

If there is any further response, we will continue to provide updates.

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.

March 2018 Newsletter

Upcoming HAAM Events

Monthly Meeting – Film Fest: Shorts Night

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

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

Click here for details.

 

HAAM and Eggs Brunch

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

Everyone’s welcome! Details here.

 

Save the Dates

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

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

June 23rdSummer Solstice Party

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

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

Upcoming Community (Non-HAAM) Events

Matt Dillahunty’s Magic and Skepticism World Tour 2018

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

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

Click here for details and ticket information.

Debate: Morality – How Should We Live Our Lives?

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

Dig Deep Fundraiser Gala for the Canadian Fossil Discovery Centre

Saturday, 28 April 2018, Morden Manitoba

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

Charity of the Month

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

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

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

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

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

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

Latest News

Proselytization in Manitoba High Schools

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

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

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

Religious clubs forming

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

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

What can I do?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Secular Help for Addictions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘O Canada’ Should Include All Canadians

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

August 2017 Newsletter

Upcoming HAAM Events

See our Events page for the details on these and all our HAAM events.

An Evening with Richard Carrier

Did Christianity really begin without a Jesus?

Saturday August 19th, Canad Inns Polo Park, 1405 St Matthews Ave, 7 – 9 PM

Note that space is limited! Click here to register in advance.

Admission is free for paid HAAM members. Non-members $5 at the door.

Outreach at the Morden Corn and Apple Festival

Friday August 25th – Sunday August 27th, Stephen Street, Morden Manitoba

Friday and Saturday 10 AM to 10 PM; Sunday noon to 5:30 PM

 

 HAAM and Eggs Brunch

Sunday September 3rd, The Park Café (in Assiniboine Park beside the duck pond), 9:30 AM.

 

 

Monthly Meeting – A History of Atheism in Canada

Saturday, September 9th, Canad Inns Polo Park, 5:30 PM

 

 

Latest News

It’s that time of year again! We’re planning for the upcoming season.

Is there a topic you’d like to learn about, or a speaker you’d like to hear at an upcoming meeting? An issue you’d like to discuss at a Round Table? A book you’d like to read or present at a Book Club? A video you think would be great for next year’s Film Fest? A community event you think our members might be interested in? An opportunity for outreach? A fun activity that would benefit the community? A charity that we should support? An event you can help out with?

We welcome our members’ ideas and involvement. Contact us with your suggestions – or even better, come to any event and talk to an executive member about it in person.

 

Do Human Rights come from God?

 A curious and committed group of HAAMsters attended the debate Human Rights – By Design or By Default at the Canadian Museum of Human Rights in July. It was part of an apologetics conference hosted by Ravi Zacharias International Ministries, so they were greatly outnumbered by the 400+ Christian conference attendees.

It was worth going just to support and hear Dr. Christopher DiCarlo, representing the Humanist position. Luke Delaney took on the challenging task of reviewing the evening, and he has some insightful comments. You can read his take on the evening here.

Book of the Month

For this month’s featured book, we turn to the category of Skepticism and Pseudoscience. Encouraging people to think critically about their beliefs is always a major focus of our outreach activities – and we expect that this summer in Morden will be no exception.

But the need for critical thinking applies not only to religion but to many other facets of life, and Guy P. Harrison addresses quite a number of these in his book 50 Popular Beliefs That People Think Are True. He believes that “our world could be a little better – and a lot less crazy – if more people simply understood how science works and appreciated the protective value of skeptical thinking in everyday life.” Amen to that.

Read about psychics, the faked moon landing, TV preachers asking for money, homeopathy, bigfoot, Holocaust deniers, alternative medicine, ghosts, the power of prayer, the Bermuda triangle… Each section is only 5-10 pages; perfect for reading a bit at a time over the rest of the summer.

You can listen to an interview with the author here.

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

Charity of the Month

For over 4 years HAAM has been supporting a charitable cause or group at each of our monthly meetings. In total, we have supported almost 40 different agencies, including food banks, shelters and resources for marginalized populations, animal rescues, environmental projects, children’s camps, science education, social/peer support groups, and international aid.

Why do we support a Charity of the Month? Because we are not just atheists; we are Humanists. The mere absence of a god belief does not make someone a good person – one’s actions do. Humanism includes caring about the welfare and well-being of others, supporting human rights, valuing education, respecting the environment, and generally trying to make this world a better place.

A number of popular memes mock the futility of prayer as a means of solving human problems. “I’ll pray for you” accomplishes nothing in the real world. But consider the implication of those memes – if prayer is useless, then some other action is required. HAAM’s Charity of the Month program gives us opportunities to ‘put our money where our mouth is’.

We support 9 or 10 charities per year, via a donation box at meetings. Loose change or small bills are always welcome – it all adds up. But if you can’t make it to the meeting, you can also contribute via PayPal using the ‘donate’ button on our website (just include a message about where the money is to go).

Tax receipts are issued for donations of $10 or more. So making a small donation each month will get you a nice little tax deduction at the end of the year, plus the satisfaction of having helped support a variety of worthwhile community projects and causes.

Watch for our Charity of the Month program to resume in September. We welcome suggestions for future charities that meet our criteria. More information, including a list of all the organizations we have supported, is on our Charities page.

Summer Solstice party – better late than never

Our rained-out Solstice party, rescheduled as a summer barbecue, was almost rained out for a second time! Thankfully, the rain let up in late afternoon before we got there, which makes us luckier than the folks from the apostolic church who rented the site earlier in the day.

Rob Daly was our master BBQ chef this year for the first time. After dinner, Pat Morrow (left in photo) presented him with a copy of one of our new outreach posters, featuring Rob’s words of wisdom about living a ‘godless’ life.

It reads:

A godless life is one without needless guilt; it’s taking responsibility for one’s own mistakes.

It’s a life where one’s actions are deemed ‘good’ by their benefit and ‘bad’ by their harm, and are evaluated not by the product of bronze age penmanship, but by the application of critical thought and reason.

It’s a life where the only intolerance is directed toward ignorance and the suffering it causes.

A godless life is where education and a broadened understanding of the human condition are seen as ideals to strive for.

Considering the weather and date, we had a great turnout. There are more photos on our gallery page.

March 2017 Newsletter

Upcoming Events

Atheist Comedy Night

Saturday, March 11th, Canad Inns Polo Park, 5:30 – 8:30 PM

 

 

 

HAAM and Eggs Brunch

Sunday, March 19th, 10:00 AM at the Perkins restaurant in Madison Square (305 Madison at Ness, just west of Polo Park).

 

 

2017 Atheist Film Festival

Saturday, April 1st, Millennium Library (Carol Shields Auditorium, 2nd floor)

Doors open 2:45 pm. Films start at 3 pm.

 

 

For more information on these and future 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.

Latest News

Meet our new family members!

click to enlarge

Following the presentation by Maysoun Darweesh of the Manitoba Interfaith Immigration Council (MIIC) at our meeting in November, my wife Carmen and I have become hosts for a family of new Canadians. They are from the city of Idlib (in red on map), in the Idlib Governorate in Syria, located just 59 km southwest of Aleppo. They arrived in Canada on January 1, 2016.

We applied to and were accepted for the MIIC’s “Host Matching Program”. We will be their newest and, as it turns out, their first Canadian friends! Khaled and Asmahan are parents to three lovely young children ranging in age from 18 months to 8 years old. Khaled was most recently a truck driver at home, but considers himself a construction worker. Asmahan is mainly a stay-at-home mother, but she has some serious bead working, knitting, and crocheting skills that we will be able to tell you more about after we get to know them better.

Their area in Syria and their city saw some of the earliest fighting in the Syrian Civil War. Much of their town has been destroyed in the conflict, including ruins dating from thousands of years ago. My heart goes out to them, already, just for this. Their eldest, a daughter, is in grade 3 at her local school. She wants to be a doctor, a teacher or a paleontologist (she is in her dinosaur phase!). She is very bright and her English is already surprisingly good. The middle child, a boy, attends kindergarten, is shy, and we only saw him get animated after we had been together for about an hour and a half. Their youngest child, another girl, slept most of the time we were together, but we saw her playing with her siblings as well.

Both parents come from large families. Khaled is the youngest of ten, while Asmahan is third youngest of 12. While their surviving parents seem to be still residing in Idlib, their siblings are dispersed across the region, Europe, and now, North America. Their story is not unusual in this respect. They are able to maintain some contact by phone and over the Internet.

During the thirteen months they have been in Canada, they have had no sustained contact with anyone here. We will become their family, since it seems they have none left in Syria, either. I am expecting many people to be called upon to help as needs become apparent. Khaled has applied for a special program at RRC that will give him special instruction in both English and in construction. It will also place him afterward! If he can get into that program, it will be a big step to making this family self-sufficient. Asmahan could sell some of her crafts. I am hoping to help her make those connections. Both parents are studying English at the Seven Oaks Adult ESL school. They have a vehicle, which they do not use very much, and Asmahan is learning to drive.

Our discussions led to us to understand that they already appreciate the secular nature of life in Canada. They were subjected to various kinds of discrimination in their homeland and in Lebanon. They also saw its effects on others. While they are nominally Muslim, I expect the Humanist aspect of our world view will appeal to them as they come to understand how we come to be so accepting of our differences.

We expect to get the family out to do some normal family things, like tobogganing and skating. Other ideas will come as we get to know them better. As far as we can tell, they have never even been to the zoo! It takes a village to support a family, and I know HAAM members are already stepping up to help. I would like to hear from anyone reading this article who would like to be included in the work required to acclimate this young family to their new permanent home.

P.S., They all love cats! That means our Ringo will have more family to contend with now.

Please let us know if you are interested in helping this family.                                                                                     – Rick Dondo

Does Your Advance Care Plan Include Spiritual Care?

With the recent legalization of assisted dying (now commonly known as MAID – medical aid in dying), you may have seen in the news lately that some publicly-funded health care facilities are refusing to allow MAID on their premises because of their religious affiliation. This has led to questions from our members about the influence of religion in public hospitals. Most of us don’t get to choose which hospital we are taken to when we are ill – so how do you feel about being admitted to a faith-based facility?

Just as an ACP (Advance Care Plan) provides for your wishes to be respected in regards to medical care and treatment, perhaps it’s also worthwhile to make your wishes regarding ‘spiritual care’ clearly known if you feel strongly about that. It’s pretty simple to do this. Your Manitoba Health card must be presented whenever you require medical treatment. So if you have an ACP, or any other wishes or requests, just note that in writing and keep it with your Manitoba Health card.

A sample card is shown here (click images to enlarge).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dying With Dignity used to mail out these cards out with ACP packages. They don’t mail cards anymore, but you can easily make a similar one yourself and include the same information – the names of people to call in an emergency to make medical decisions for you, the name and phone number of your family physician, your signature, and the location of your ACP if you have one. On the back of this one it says “I am an atheist. If I am hospitalized, I do not want any clergy or chaplain visits”, followed by initials.

Making sure your wishes are known and clearly stated can save a lot of grief and hassle later.

  We have written about spiritual care in hospitals before – check the October 2016 newsletter if you missed the articles.

Charity of the Month

    It’s been several years since the Rainbow Resource Centre was our Charity of the Month, so it’s overdue – and their current need couldn’t be greater. Recent and ongoing political upheaval in the USA is leading members of the LGBTTQ community there to seek asylum in Canada, and as a result, RRC is overwhelmed with calls for information and counselling.

RRC was busy enough even before this latest crisis. Since its inception as the ‘Campus Gay Club’ at the U of M in the early 1970’s, it has been a leader and important resource for the gay and lesbian community, providing community services, education, outreach and political awareness, and activism.

RRC offers support to the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Two-Spirit, Intersex, Queer, Questioning and Ally (LGBTTQ*) population of Manitoba and North Western Ontario through counselling and peer support groups; provides education and training for schools, school divisions, and GSA’s (gay-straight alliances); hosts events, workshops, and social activities for clients of all ages; and houses and coordinates a wealth of resources, including a library, a toll-free phone line, and links to LGBTTQ-friendly crisis centres, legal aid, peer support groups, health care, and more.

RRC depends on donations to help keep all these operations going for the long haul, and now to assist refugees as well. Please lend your support to this worthy cause!

 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.

Partners for Life Update

Have you donated blood yet this year? Canadian Blood Services’ Partners for Life program is a friendly competition among organizations, schools, and businesses to encourage their members to donate blood. We just got our participation report for 2016, and HAAM did really well, especially since we didn’t even promote it until mid-summer. Fourteen HAAM members have enrolled in the program, and those members gave a total of 19 units of blood, or 76% of our goal of 25 units.

Can we reach that goal this year? There have been 3 donations already in 2017, so we should easily be able to get to 25, if

  1. Those 14 members each donate twice, and/or
  2. A few more HAAM members sign up.

All the information you need is here on our website. There’s also a handy link to that info on the right sidebar of our Home Page for future reference.

By donating blood, you can not only save someone’s life (enough reward in itself, right?), but show the world that Humanists are good people (who donate blood).

Upcoming clinics: 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 check the list of mobile clinics at the top of any page on the CBS website.

Video Links from our Darwin Day meeting

If you weren’t at our February meeting, you missed a great presentation by Pat Morrow about how the advancement of science contributes to a Humanistic worldview. At the end, several people in the audience asked for links to the short videos he showed about evolution. Here they are:

The first three are from a video series called Genetics and Evolution, by Stated Clearly.

The last video was a clip of a speech by Richard Dawkins comparing the worldview of someone whose religious belief prevents him from accepting reality to someone whose commitment to truth requires him to reject a long-held belief when new evidence against it is presented.

If you are interested in learning more, there are links to additional videos and other resources, including the complete Genetics and Evolution video series, on our Exploring Nonbelief web page. Check it out!

P.S. If you weren’t at the meeting to get a piece of Darwin’s birthday cake, you can at least see a photo of it in our Gallery.

Book of the Month

   It’s comedy month, so here’s something fun. Not all of the books in our library are serious and educational; we also have a few about popular culture, including Me of Little Faith by comedian Lewis Black. Raised as a non-practicing Jew, Black noticed unsettling parallels between religious rapture and drug-induced visions while attending college in the 1960’s, and since then has turned an increasingly skeptical eye toward the politicians and televangelists who don the cloak of religious rectitude to mask their own moral hypocrisy. The more than two dozen short essays in this book include hilarious experiences with rabbis, Mormons, gurus, and psychics. Black pokes fun at every religious figure and issue he can – the Catholic Church, Mormons, people who commit suicide in the name of faith, Jews, and of course Jesus and God. Find it in our Library.

 

Outreach Report from Houston Atheists

I worked on this newsletter while on vacation in Roatan, Honduras. Here’s a little personal note about that trip.

We booked our flights, via Chicago and Houston, long before we had any inkling of Trump becoming president, so we experienced a lot of anxiety about traveling to the US when the time finally came. I spent an hour before we left deleting all the memes, news articles, and videos I had shared on Facebook mocking Trump and criticizing the US government – just in case my phone or laptop was searched. But we passed through airport security without a hitch, except for my husband being asked for his Social Insurance Number. He did remember most of it, after a couple of attempts; what might the customs officer have asked or done if he had not? I felt guilty, in solidarity with everyone who is not white, about not being stopped and searched.

  We spent our layover day in Houston at the Museum of Natural Sciences, figuring that if we were going to spend any tourist dollars in Texas, they might as well be directed toward science and education. The museum’s paleontology exhibit is comprehensive and about the size of a football field. I saw Tiktaalik! (in photo) There were references to evolution in almost every display, and the museum was packed with school children on tours. I heard a guide state that they get 600,000 kids a year through there on school field trips. That just doesn’t jive with what we hear about scientific ignorance and rampant creationism.

In the evening we joined a group of people from the Houston Atheists at a pub. There were about a dozen attendees, so we spent an interesting couple of hours comparing notes about our groups’ activities and ideas. They are a loosely-knit organization that mainly uses Meet-Up to advertise small social gatherings at various venues around the city. Not surprisingly, their main focus right now is political activism and separation of church and state issues. One of their members is a high school teacher, so he was able to shed some light on the religion-in-schools issues we read so much about in the media. He said there’s a huge urban-rural split (sound familiar?) in worldviews, with most of the anti-science attitude and push for creationism coming from outside the major cities. He also explained that there is a huge discrepancy in the quality of the education among public schools, depending mainly on the socio-economic level and ethnicity of the communities they serve; but that generally, what we read about represents the egregious infractions of a small minority.

Overall, we experienced no trouble on our one day in Texas; but like several members of the Houston Atheists warned – venture outside the city limits and it’ll be a different story. Not one I’m particularly yearning to read.

One final note – I was asked to toss in a fish picture, so here’s a photo of a seahorse from Roatan. They’re a rare and special sight, and we saw several. Fun fact – when seahorses mate, the female deposits the eggs into a pouch on the male’s abdomen. His body swells and he incubates the eggs until they hatch. Now doesn’t that sound like ‘intelligent design’?       – Dorothy Stephens

HAAM Takes On Apologetics – Part 2

Two of our members were recently interviewed by a pastor for a church conference designed to teach Christians how to defend their faith to non-believers.

In Part 2 of his report, Pat Morrow describes his weekend at that conference. Both parts of his report appear on our Perspectives page. You can read Part 2 here.

April 2016 Newsletter

abortion signsIn this issue:

  • Our Outreach team discusses stories and hot-button social issues with high school students
  • A new interfaith group springs up in Winnipeg – does it live up to its name?
  • We’ll be considering the health of our local lakes at our next meeting
  • And MORE…

April newsletter

November 2013 Newsletter

Death smallIn the November issue:

  • Our October meeting was chilling and spooky. (Member Heather M. in the picture to the right)
  • What is the Faith response to Dying with Dignity?  Find out in this month’s issue.
  • Allan Gregg talks religion and reason at the U of W.
  • Our November meeting focus is all about YOU!
  • Find out what atheists do at book clubs and round tables…

Click below and read the November newsletter!

October 2013 Newsletter

BUS all members cuWow!  After a hot September, time to cool down as we roll into October.

  • 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!

August 2013 Newsletter

Partners for LifeIn the August issue:

  • 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

EHC-logo
Save the Dates!

Monthly meeting 

September 19th, 7 PM – online

HAAM and Eggs Brunches

Watch for an announcement about brunch (outside on a patio).

Other Upcoming Events

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

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