death and dying

11 Questions for Atheists – Part 2

Last month, we asked HAAM members to submit their answers to these common questions. If you missed their submissions, you can catch up by reading Part 1 now. Most of the people who responded answered one or two questions – but Chad Froese tackled ALL of them. His answers were so amazing and insightful that they merit an article in themselves. So here they are. Enjoy!

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As atheists become more numerous and visible, more believers have realized how little they know about us. I have personally been asked versions of these common questions quite a few times. In one-on-one conversations, it usually works best to ask clarifying questions, since many queries have a wide range of meanings, and sometimes have expected answers. Questions can also take people off pre-rehearsed scripts, denying the cheap thrill of a ‘gotcha’ moment and facilitating an honest conversation. Books can and have been written about each question, so without knowing the aims, knowledge base, or attention span of the questioner, these answers may be a good starting point.

  1. How much does it cost to become an atheist?

Your mileage may vary. The cost depends entirely upon the person’s personality, family, friends, church, town, state, country, and point in time. For many around the world – death. For people who live in the Bible belt of either the US or Canada – at least some family, friends, and (likely) livelihood. For most others I know – some friends and family, and a lifetime of uncomfortable conversations. For most of those, regardless of their situation – the pain of examining and giving up a childhood or even lifetime of deeply held beliefs. Few are willing to do the work, and many avoid the possibility, even though they secretly share the same troubling questions.

The benefit? Conscience. People live in misery with a guilty or unresolved conscience. People gladly sacrifice their lives to follow their conscience. The difference is hard to overstate. Many people call themselves freethinkers, which sums it up nicely – freedom to think, unconstrained by taboo. Most people’s lives don’t change a great deal, since they still live in the same broad location, culture, and time. But knowing this, they find their place in the universe; a new wonder for life, love, morality, and purpose.

  1. What is THE book on atheism?

There is no anti-Bible. There is no anti-Koran. You can make general statements about atheists, comparing them to the general public, but our differences are greater than our shared lack of belief in any god(s). Certain books by prominent atheists may be relatively popular in certain places and times, but we don’t share a common book — another feature of organized religion that we lack.

If you want to learn about atheism, read a book about atheism written by an atheist. When I wanted to know about day-age creationism, I followed the same advice and read works on the issue by old earth creationists. Keep in mind that what you read will not be representative of all atheists, but the more you read, the better the picture you’ll have. You can also engage atheists in conversation. Many organizations offer ways to Ask An Atheist, from personal chats or IMs to FAQs and YouTube videos.

  1. Are atheists afraid of the devil and hell?

Are Protestants afraid of passing through purgatory for not believing Catholic doctrine? Are Christians or Muslims afraid of going to Hades for not worshipping the Greek gods? It seems that most religious people don’t understand what it means for someone to lack belief in what they hold to be true. You can write a long list of all the things that any particular person doesn’t believe and therefore isn’t afraid of, but people generally focus only on the beliefs they currently hold–and have difficulty understanding that (and how) others aren’t affected the same way. The same holds true in politics; it’s easy to assume that people who hold different opinions are less intelligent, informed, moral, or honest.

In some cases, however, the complexity of human psychology shows up. Some ex-Christian atheists still feel that fear for a time, even though they know it is irrational. It often takes more time to untangle conditioning than to explore and dismantle indoctrination. Long-associated emotions can linger with certain smells, sounds, phrases, people, or situations that are no longer relevant. In times past, labels were given to strong negative forms of this reaction, like shell shock, which we now classify as post-traumatic stress disorder. Positive, less traumatic examples also exist – many ex-Christians still enjoy playing or listening to hymns despite the irrelevance of the archaic lyrics, because of the associated happy memories of community, childhood, or important religious celebrations.

  1. Where do atheists get their morals, if not from the Bible?

The idea that Christians get their morals from the Bible is another religious belief that atheists lack. Members of any large worldwide religion run the gamut in moral beliefs and behaviour, and every one of them will attribute their morality to their religion. From conservative to liberal, from sanctioned violence against women to supporting women’s shelters, from marching with Nazis to marching with Black Lives Matter, from committing genocide to providing disaster relief, religious people do it all, and they point to their religion to justify their actions and beliefs. Atheists don’t occupy quite as much of the spectrum, but our values and actions also span a great range.

We get most of our morals the same way religious people get the vast majority of theirs. Our morality generally reflects the culture, upbringing, social environment, politics, economic reality, country, time, and many other factors in which we live, constrained by our psychology, biology, and physical environment. We have no holy scriptures, so we have more freedom to re-examine those moral stances.

Many atheists would identify as Humanists, since atheism is about what one *doesn’t* believe, and humanism is about what one *does* believe. Humanism is a very broad set of philosophies, but it centres on affirming human abilities and responsibilities to lead ethical, purpose-filled lives that contribute to everyone else’s well-being.

  1. How did you become an atheist?

I grew up in a home in which reading was valued and questions were encouraged. The passion I had for my faith was lived out by developing a deep understanding and appreciation for theology, apologetics, and creation. Two of my guiding verses were Matthew 22:37, with an emphasis on the last word: “Love the Lord your God…with all your mind,” and 1 Peter 3:15b “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” My mother and I had constant conversations – sometimes arguments – about theology and science. I went to a Bible college with a high level of academic excellence, where I learned about the history of the Christian church and the canon of the Bible, Biblical interpretation, critical thinking, psychology, and cultural anthropology. Through this, my beliefs moved from that of an Evangelical Mennonite, to someone more comfortable in an Anglican church.

My wife and I were friends in college, and she went through her own crisis of faith, and came out trying to hold her belief in God together by sheer determination. We both worked hard to find answers to our questions and form a coherent, rational Christianity. At one point, I read a book by an atheist, Carl Sagan, finally encountering the arguments of an opponent in their own words. His premises were true, and his logic was unimpeachable, but I could not agree with his conclusions. I descended into depression for a while, at one point exclaiming to my wife that I wished God would show me some real evidence of his existence.

Finally, one day, I realized that I no longer believed god existed. I was shocked and dismayed that I had become the enemy – an atheist. I spent a great deal of time after that going back over all the apologetics and creationist literature and arguments I had previously believed, as well as their rebuttals from ex-Christians, echoing the works of philosophers, biologists, archaeologists, and Biblical scholars among others.

From there, it has been a journey of rediscovery, examining and appreciating the valuable parts of what I once believed, while carefully working out new positions on life, the universe, and everything. I have had to deal with anger at being misled by formerly trusted leaders, and mourning the loss of belief in the afterlife. I have had numerous difficult conversations with friends and family, losing some and gaining new common ground with others in the process. I began with anti-religious zeal, but eventually came to appreciate how much common ground I share with the believers who make up the majority of my social circle.

  1. If God did not create the universe, who did?

Why is it necessary for someone to create the universe? The reason humans tend to ascribe agency to everything is that we’re wired that way, not because there’s any good evidence for the universe’s creation by anything that could be described as a “whom.” Our ancestors benefitted from assuming that mysterious noises or movements were caused by another being, thus keeping them safe through precaution. Religions have simply amplified that mental shortcut into giving a simple explanation for something complex that was previously out of our ability to investigate.

We are quickly gaining more and more insight into the universe’s early days, which is opening up possibilities that sound like science fiction. The problem is that despite the many hypotheses about what started the universe’s expansion, we still have no idea what the answer will be. The honest answer to the question of why the universe exists is “we don’t know yet,” and anything else is wishful thinking. Humans have difficulty with that answer – with true mystery – which should push us to work harder towards discovering the truth.

  1. Why are atheists so angry?

Why does it matter that you see atheists express anger? Does someone’s anger devalue them and their arguments? Does it define them? Do you see atheists as less human, less intelligent, or less honest because of it? What makes you angry? Should others make similar judgments about you when you speak up against injustice?

Is anger a bad thing? There’s a lot to be angry about in this world – willful ignorance, dishonesty, corruption, injustice, selfishness, greed, prejudice, violence, etc. Most of the time, atheists share this anger with theists, because human suffering is a universal injustice. Anger is not a bad emotion. It is unpleasant, but like pain, we can respond by lashing out and hurting others, or by working to resolve the situation or change the attitude that is causing our anger.

The subject of our anger matters. Sometimes we feel it because we see people being hurt, and sometimes because others point out or threaten a privilege we’re used to exercising, one that others are denied. Atheists are among the many who see and are angered by the disproportional power and influence Christians exert in North America. Those who most benefit from this privilege, and yet are told every day to watch for persecution of their faith, view the loss of their privilege as oppression. Thus atheists appear irrationally angry, despite many others speaking the same truth.

  1. Do atheists have a soul?

If we’re referring to the supernatural belief in mind-body dualism, in which a soul is someone’s immaterial, immortal essence, then no; nobody has a soul. Humans have long had difficulty explaining the complexity of consciousness and the human mind. Greek philosophers like Plato proposed duality as an explanation, which was later developed by others like Descartes, and heavily influenced Christian theology. In the time since, we have discovered a great deal about the workings of the brain, such that a soul no longer makes sense, even if it is something we’d like to imagine. Chemical and physical changes to the brain affect one’s reasoning, emotions, memories, and personality. Diseases can completely change the person we love into someone who we don’t recognize, even someone whose soul seems to have departed. The concept of a soul is a magical idea, but ultimately a wishful one which cheapens the amazing function of our brains.

  1. Do atheists believe in nothing?

You have reached the limitation of labelling someone by what they *don’t* believe. The term atheist is useful in a world where most people believe in some type of god(s), but it really doesn’t tell you much about what fills their lives or their minds. If you want to know what someone thinks about an issue, ask. You may find out that someone is a pacifist, that someone else is a non-practicing Jew, or that I identify as a Secular Humanist. Most of us have no reason to reject the findings of science on cosmology, physics, biology, or medicine. Many of us identify as Humanists. Just like religious people, there are atheists marching with Nazis and atheists marching with Black Lives Matter. We have children, family, friends, coworkers, and sometimes fellow Humanist group members. We work, we play, we create, we love, and we die. We are human, and there is no human who has *no* thoughts about their world.

  1. If atheists don’t believe in God, what prevents atheists from raping, killing, and breaking the law?

Christians have been raping, killing, and breaking the law at a furious pace for a long time, and many are still doing so as I write this. It appears that belief in god isn’t stopping them. I have already written a bit about morality, but it bears restating that Christians are not more moral than atheists. Non-believers raise more compassionate children, we commit crimes at a lower rate, and countries in which religion is less prevalent are happier and more successful. Even within the US, states with higher rates of religiosity are poorer and more dysfunctional, including having significantly (up to 3 times) higher rates of teen pregnancy.

I have no desire to rape or kill anyone, and I assume the same is true for you. What does god have to do with that? The idea that superior morality is found in the Bible or in religious belief is something atheists simply don’t share.

Bonus question: What happens when you die?

To us, nothing. We lose consciousness and resume the dreamless sleep of nonexistence that we had before our brains developed. We live on through the impact we left on the world; in the lives we touched and the people we loved. We live on in the memories we write in other’s brains. As memories of us fade, our impact continues to spread like ripples in water, swelling out through the world for generations. With time, our nutrients will be returned to the earth and reused, to create or nourish new life to experience the universe.

11 Questions for Atheists – Part 1

If you talk to the religious in person, at an outreach or online, (or maybe they’re family), you’ll often hear the same questions over and over. A while back, I came across a list of 10 of these common questions on Facebook. What followed in the comment section was mostly snark and general ridicule, with very few people attempting to answer honestly. The few religious people in the comment section quickly exited.

Snark and ridicule have their place; I’ve used them myself. Sometimes these questions are asked as some sort of ‘gotcha’ by a religious believer or apologist trying to catch you in a contradiction or pose a question you can’t answer. Surprisingly, this particular set of questions was posted by a fellow atheist – a point lost on many of the commentators.

Yes, I know many of these questions induce maximum eye-rolling by Humanists, but it’s important to remember that many believers have never been exposed to secular thought (apart from what their pastors and priests tell them). For them, these are important and honest questions, critical to their understanding of who we are. In most cases they are worth a well-thought-out, kind, and empathetic answer.

Here is the list of questions, with answers from me and a few other members of HAAM and the Eastman Humanist Community. I invite you to formulate your own answers.

– Pat Morrow

  1. How much does it cost to become an atheist?

The flippant answer has often been “10% less than to be a Christian”, since we don’t have to tithe a portion of our income. But in truth, I think it’s probably a wash. Humanists donate to charities all the time. Their donations could amount to more than 10%, or less; where I think we come out ahead is that an atheist of limited financial means who is unable to donate doesn’t have the guilt. Also, we can feel free to give to the causes that are closest to our hearts, knowing that the money goes to the cause and not to the upkeep of a belief system.

On the other hand, the personal cost of atheism can be high. Atheists who have left cults, evangelical Christianity, and other fundamentalist religious groups often lose friends, family, jobs. They can be excommunicated or shunned. This can be devastating in the short term. In my experience, most eventually find new friends, partners, and sometimes family, but their greatest reward is that they become comfortable in their own skin. They discover the joy of knowing, not just believing. They don’t have to censor themselves, and they can talk about issues that were once considered taboo.

In short, the rewards outweigh the costs.

  1. What is THE book on atheism?

There isn’t one. There is nothing that codifies atheism, no book. Atheists are simply people who do not believe in gods. This is not to say that there aren’t works of literature that are important to us, such as those of Thomas Paine, Bertrand Russell, or Marcus Aurelius, or the latest well-thought-out ideas of any other fellow human being. Some of us discovered atheism through a critical examination of the Koran or the Bible. The books of atheism are very much the subjective opinions of each individual atheist.

  1. Are atheists afraid of the Devil and Hell?

Generally, no. It’s quite hard to fear something that we don’t believe exists. However, for people who have emerged from many years of religious belief, the fear of hell can linger, eventually fading like a bad dream.

  1. Where do atheists get their morals, if not from the bible?

Many great tomes throughout human history have been written on morality; far too many to even touch on here. Throughout most of modern history, it was professed that morality without religion is somehow morally bankrupt. Today we know this is not true. We observe moral behaviour in all kinds of social species – ducks, dogs, zebras, monkeys, elephants and yes, human beings. Morality is about the well-being of the individual as well as the group. It isn’t a set of standards that we are given, but one that has developed, and is developing, over time.

One just has to ask the question “how far would we get if person get if everyone’s moral system allowed for raping killing and stealing as a way to get ahead?” I suggest our species wouldn’t have even gotten started.

  1. How did you become an atheist?

The answer to this question will differ for every atheist you ask. There are a myriad of reasons.
Some have left oppressive religious cults.
Some see the damage done to humanity by religious beliefs.
Others saw the absurdity of faith and the inability of religion to answer life’s questions.
Yet others, like myself, have never believed, even at points in our lives when we tried really hard. For many of us, atheism is not a position you convert to. The term ‘atheist’ is just the label given to people who have discovered there is no reason to believe in gods.

  1. If God did not create the universe, who did?

To say that the universe was created assumes a creator. As atheists, we simply don’t find the evidence for a creator convincing, so we can’t make that assumption. A better question might be: How was the universe created, if it was created at all? Carl Sagan said:

“In many cultures it is customary to answer that God created the universe out of nothing. But this is mere temporizing. If we wish courageously to pursue the question, we must, of course ask next where God comes from? And if we decide this to be unanswerable, why not save a step and conclude that the universe has always existed?”

  1. Why are atheists so angry?

I don’t think that as a group we are angry, but if we are, the anger often stems from religion’s nature of asserting its rules, laws, and doctrine over others. One just has to look at the tens of thousands of often violent splits in Christianity, because of one denomination rejecting the doctrine of another denomination. This may help to illustrate the frustration felt by non-believers who reject the imposition of religious doctrines of others.

If this question is important to the reader, there is an entire book on the subject for further reading (available in our HAAM library). Why Are You Atheists So Angry? 99 Things That Piss Off the Godless, by Greta Christina.

  1. Do atheists have a soul?

The amount of evidence for any kind of spirit, energy, or life force that continues on after we die is nil. Also, the absence of a clear definition of what a soul is would lead most atheists to believe that no, we don’t have a soul. But I do take some comfort in knowing that soul music will live on long after I’m dead.

  1. Do atheists believe in nothing?

This is a surprisingly common question asked of the HAAM folks who staff our outreach booth. It’s a question I’ve never understood. Barring mental illness, or possibly head trauma, how could anyone have no beliefs in anything?

Fellow Humanist Nathan Prokopowich answered the question this way:

  Its not that we believe in nothing, it’s that we don’t have a belief in a deity. I personally believe in humanity – as much as it screws up, we have gotten very creative in fixing things too. The simple kindness of one person helping another for no other reason than to be kind is all the belief I need. But if you want to split hairs, I can witness an act of kindness, and perform and receive an act of kindness as well. So in that instance, it’s more empirical than a belief.

 

  1. If atheists don’t believe in God, what prevents them from raping, killing, and breaking the law?

This one was answered by members of the Eastman Humanist Community:

  “What prevents atheists from raping, killing, and breaking the law is the same thing that prevents theists from doing so. The only difference is that theists attribute their lack of doing so to their god. Humans generally treat each other well because that’s what contributes to well-being. Treating each other well has nothing to do with a god, any god.

– Helen Friesen

  I personally believe in the inherent goodness of people. There are scientific studies that have shown people actually want to be nice. We do not need to be threatened by some abhorrent afterlife to do good for our family, friends, neighbours, and yes, even strangers. Doing good does make us all feel warm and fuzzy inside. Kindness is its own reward; I do not need to prove myself to some “group” or deity.

– Johanna (last name withheld)

Bonus question: What happens when you die?

One HAAM member tackled this biggie:

That is probably the question I struggled most with on my journey to becoming an atheist.

Today, I believe that my body and mind will cease to exist. And then nothing. Many things will of course happen in the world, to my family, friends, and cats. Good things and bad things. And I will not be aware of any of those things. It was hard for me to accept (quite narcissistic in hindsight), that my beautiful mind, full of ideas, dreams and memories, my constant companion for as long as I can remember, will one day be gone. Hopefully at the time of my death and not before.

 As a Christian, I was convinced that after death my consciousness would somehow continue in the afterlife, that I would be able to connect again with loved ones long gone, who would be, like me, some kind of conscious ghost.

I shed that belief only after learning more about dementia. How people suffering from dementia lose, bit by bit, their beautiful minds, until just the outside shells remain. I asked myself whether I believed that after the heart stops beating and the brain cells stop firing, there would be a magical reboot of the consciousness of the deceased. For me, the answer could only be “No”.

This also meant that I had to really let go of my loved ones and accept that they are truly gone forever.

This might sound all very bleak to a believer, but by shedding the delusion of an afterlife, I feel that I have become a better, kinder and more caring person who cherishes every moment spent with family, friends and cats.

– Caren (last name withheld)

For a different point of view, watch for Part 2 of this post – another complete set of answers to these same questions – coming up in our July newsletter.

May 2020 Newsletter

Event Updates

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

May meeting

There will be no in-person meeting in May. However, we can continue to interact, support each other, and maintain friendships online. If you are not a member of our private Facebook group, and would like to join it, contact us. It is open to anyone in Manitoba who identifies as a Humanist/atheist (i.e. you do not need to be a paid member of HAAM).

Summer Solstice party

This is/was scheduled for Saturday, June 20th. The City of Winnipeg has notified us that all group bookings at city parks are canceled up til the end of June, so we do not expect to go ahead with the picnic unless the health situation improves significantly between now and then. If distancing recommendations are relaxed, it may still be possible to have our party, or it may be rescheduled for later in the summer. Watch for further updates.

Morden Corn and Apple Festival

HAAM has held an Outreach booth at the Morden Corn and Apple Festival every summer since 2013. But sadly, this year’s festival has been canceled. We will miss it; both the fair and the Outreach booth are a lot of fun! … and it looks like there will be no Outreach events this year.

Winnipeg Pride Parade

This has been rescheduled for September 13th. We are looking forward to the celebration and showing our support for Winnipeg’s GSRD (Gender, Sexual, and Relationship Diverse) community. HAAM is entered as a walking group, and everyone is welcome to join us – so cross your fingers that by September things will be better.

HAAM and Eggs Brunches

We will resume our regularly monthly brunches only when it is safe to do so.

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

Check out these online events from CFI Canada’s ‘virtual chapter’.

The Centre for Inquiry (Canada) is holding several online presentations in May. These are free but registration is required to participate (via Zoom).

Thursday, May 7th – Discussion: Living without religion (social support)

Saturday, May 9th – Presentation: Conscientious objection in health professionals (i.e. refusing to do one’s job for religious reasons)

Sunday, May 17th – Presentation: Critical thinking about COVID-19

For more information about all these online events, and links to register, visit CFI’s MeetUp page.

Charity of the Month

Our Charity of the Month program will not resume until we are able to hold physical meetings again.

In the meantime, however, if you are able, consider supporting any of the many worthwhile local charities and community organizations that are struggling due to the pandemic. Many of them are being caught short because fundraising events have had to be canceled.

On our Charities page there is a list of charities that HAAM has supported over the past several years. Almost all of them desperately need assistance right now.

Latest News

Words of encouragement from members of our executive

We are all enduring difficult times.  COVID-19 has changed our lives, our jobs, our financial stability, our health, our social activities, our relationships, and many other things.  We are struggling. As an atheist, I am extremely thankful to my religious/non-religious friends and family members who have reached out to me to support me in these difficult times.  I have tried to reciprocate as best that I can.

I believe that we as atheists and Humanists must step up and extend a hand of friendship to people who are different from us. When we are faced with a common enemy, we should set aside out differences. Religion, politics, and other things that separate us must be put aside.  As atheists, let us promote the oneness of humanity and our interdependency.

– Arthur Prystenski

Most of us have been fortunate to have lived in this stable, peaceful country our entire lives. So our current circumstances are essentially uncharted territory. I’ve noticed that this pandemic is bringing out both the worst in people, and the best. With that in mind, these times are showing us peoples’ true colors.

We’ve heard a lot about the worst. Stories about fundamentalist preachers who claimed that their god would protect them, but they still died from the virus. Protestors who wanted to end their state lockdowns because their “freedoms” were being attacked.  People who hoarded toilet paper and hand sanitizer specifically to sell at a profit. Even people who don’t believe that COVID-19 is a real virus, but some Chinese conspiracy transmitted by 5G towers (!)

While these attitudes are indeed appalling, I’m happy to say that they don’t appear to represent the majority of people. Many more people are thinking about the impact of their actions on others. For example, the superintendent of the Dallas Independent School District stated emphatically that they won’t re-open schools just because of a government order; their first concern is the welfare of the children in their district.

Closer to home, the Canadian Mint is now making hand sanitizer, which is being distributed to the health care system. Other businesses have answered the call to make PPE such as gowns and masks.  Our federal government has made it fairly easy for those who have been laid off to access emergency funding. (And our Prime Minister even took the time to reassure us that the Easter Bunny was still going to visit.) Locally, there are many stories about neighbours helping neighbours. Volunteer groups are forming to lend a hand wherever they’re needed. More people in my neighbourhood smile and say Hello during our regular walks.  In our local Safeway, we’re beginning to laugh and joke at missing the one-way floor arrows, rather than frowning glumly and giving the other person the stink eye.

In the end, there is much to be thankful for, even now.  The technology that lets us communicate instantly (internet, phones, etc.) has really been a lifesaver (with no divine intervention required, may I add). The advanced medical care that is available for those who need it. The scientists who are now working non-stop to develop a vaccine. And no matter what their original intent, most of these actions are pure Humanist. People are caring about the other people around them.  Doing their part – their best – to help in any way that they can.  Emphatically declaring that money is not their main concern (as opposed to certain politicians). Economy be damned – we’re going to look after everyone around us – especially the poorest and most vulnerable.

We don’t know what the future will be like, post-COVID 19, but it will hopefully result in our society being just a bit better.  More people will realize the importance of science in our lives, and that the advice of experts is worth listening to. Perhaps some religious believers will wonder – just a little – why their god let so many good people die, and start to question their beliefs.  Some anti-vaxxers may finally recognize the importance of a vaccine against our most deadly diseases.  Our governments will give more importance to improving health care funding – in all areas.

I’m very happy to see the outpouring of appreciation for our unsung heroes of all stripes and industries, because we need each other to get by, and everybody’s contribution matters. And really, the only way we’re going to get through this is by helping each other.

– Donna Harris

Interested in being part of reconciliation?

Circles For Reconciliation is a local, grass-roots initiative started by U of M Dean Emeritus, Dr. Raymond Currie. Its aim is to establish trusting, meaningful relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples as part of the 94 Calls to Action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Dr. Currie worked with local Indigenous contributors to develop a 10-week sharing circle. Each Circle is made up of 10 (or so) participants, half Indigenous, half non-Indigenous. Each session consists of an opening, the reading of a different theme each week, then a discussion of the topic, followed by a closing protocol.  You can read more about the structure of the circles at www.circlesforreconcilation.ca.

Usually, these circles happen face to face – all participants sitting in a group (a circle). However, with the current situation, Circles has gone high-tech! They are now offering several Circles using Zoom meetings. They are particularly looking for Indigenous participants, in part because the Indigenous community only makes up 5% of the Canadian population. If you’re interested at all, just check out their web page for more information.

Anxious about the pandemic?

If the constant news about COVID-19 has you worried, or if being quarantined is causing you stress, and you’re looking for ways to cope that don’t involve talking to an invisible friend in the sky, then psychologist Dr. Darrel Ray, president of Recovering from Religion, may be able help. Dr. Ray recently recorded a 40-minute video with some ‘words of wisdom’. These include advice about constructive ways to deal with the stress, reassurance that you’re not alone, and pointers about future issues to watch for. The video, called Corona Virus Pub, is on YouTube.

Do you have a plan in case of serious illness?

If you’ve never thought too much about preparing an Health Care Directive (HCD), or if you’ve thought about it but procrastinated, the current COVID-19 pandemic may have spurred you to think again and wish you had done it. One feature of this disease is that people can become very ill, very quickly – too quickly to allow time for discussion before a sedative is given and a tube is stuck down their throat. So right now, everyone should have a HCD – or at the very least, have thought about it and discussed their wishes with those close to them. Don’t leave your fate to chance!

The Winnipeg chapter of Dying With Dignity holds workshops to help people learn what they need to know in order to prepare an effective HCD – but of course, those workshops are all on hold due to the pandemic. Fortunately, there are online resources that can help. So now, while a lot of other events are canceled, is a good time to consider your wishes and let your family know what you would want, so they can make decisions for you if you become seriously ill.

Dying With Dignity Canada has a COVID-19 Updates web page. It contains links to important information about the disease itself, how this pandemic is impacting health care decision-making and end-of-life choices, and suggestions for conversations to have about these decisions. DWD also has all their Advance Care Planning (ACP) information available to read and download (free). In addition to the regular ACP booklet for Manitoba, there is a special COVID-19 edition. The special edition is an abbreviated version that allows people to create a simple HCD that can be used in all provinces. It covers the most important issues relevant to the coronavirus (breathing difficulties and ventilators), and covers the basic requirements of a Health Care Directive. If you use the COVID-19 edition to prepare your HCD, it is recommended that you update that later with the full version.

You may also want to check out a new advance care planning guide called Plan Well, created by a physician in Ontario. It has loads of information that can help you to decide what type and level of care is appropriate to your medical condition and personal values – like explanations of what goes on in an ICU, the survival rates of CPR in various circumstances, etc. It’s a great resource, so check it out! Keep in mind, though, that it is not specific to Manitoba.

If you have concerns about what care decisions or requests are appropriate for your circumstances, call your physician’s office to discuss them. Most clinics are doing telephone or virtual appointments. If you have questions about Health Care Directives, contact the Winnipeg chapter of Dying With Dignity.

Abortion Caravan anniversary celebrations

Like just about everything else this spring, the festivities that were being planned to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the abortion caravan to Parliament Hill have been disrupted due to the pandemic. Most of the physical events that were scheduled in cities across Canada have been canceled. However, you can still expect to see and hear news about this game-changing event in Canadian history, when a group of young women from Vancouver drove to Ottawa, gathering support along the way to protest the restrictive law.

Any time is a good time to stand up and voice your support for the right of a woman to control her own body, but this year, in the first two weeks of May, expect to see it in the news and  on social media. Here is the Facebook event page.

Don’t forget about our library

HAAM’s 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 in the Winnipeg area.

On our 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.

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

Seen around town

Donna Harris took this photo of the window at her local Safeway store because she appreciated the happy sentiment.

We’re all in this mess together, so it’s nice to see our neighbors sharing messages of hope and support. In the words of Dr. Bonnie Henry, BC’s provincial health officer: “This is our time to be kind, to be calm, and to be safe.”

 

 

 

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.

January 2020 Newsletter

Upcoming HAAM Events

AGM and Monthly meeting – Leaving Faith Behind

Saturday, January 11th, Canad Inns Polo Park, 1405 St Matthews Avenue

We will begin our meet-and-greet time early, at 4:30 PM, to accommodate the AGM at 5:00 PM. Dinner will be after the meeting, at around 6:00, followed by a brief regular meeting at about 6:45 and our speaker at 7:00.

Please come to the AGM! – we need your support and input as we plan for the coming year.

Our guest speaker at the meeting will be Jeffrey Olsson. Jeff will be talking about his personal journey out of religion. There will be plenty of time for Q & A, and we would love to hear your stories about leaving faith behind, as well as your questions.

More details in the Event Post.

We will be collecting hygiene products for our Charity of the Month at this meeting. Keep reading for details.

HAAM and Eggs Brunch

Sunday, January 19th, Original Pancake House, The Forks, 9:30 – 11:00 AM

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

Note the location – We move around the city every month.

New people are always welcome. More details in the Event Post

Spring meetings are booked

Sat, February 8
Sat, March 14
Sat, April 4
Sat, May 23

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

Charity of the Month – West Central Women’s Resource Centre

The West Central Women’s Resource Centre is located on Ellice Avenue near Maryland, in the Spence neighborhood.

What resources does the centre offer? A better question might be – what doesn’t it offer? Here is a sampling of its services:

  • Drop-in services – coffee, snacks, socialization, phones, computer access, showers, hygiene supplies, information, and referrals
  • Food – coffee and tea always on, breakfast and lunch 3 days a week, dinner twice a week
  • Childminding while parents are in the building
  • Housing and income assistance for women experiencing homelessness or housing insecurity
  • Indigenous programming – healing retreats, sharing circles, traditional activities like drumming and beading, teaching by community elders, ceremonies, and more
  • Training and skill-building for employment
  • Immigrant settlement services, including assistance with finding housing, child care, health care, language classes, employment, and community programs and services

On Wednesday afternoons, the centre hosts a ‘hygiene giveaway’. Every Wednesday – even when holidays like Christmas and New Year’s Day happen to fall on Wednesdays. Because if you need a shower and lack supplies, it really doesn’t matter what day it is. Think about that…

At our January meeting, we’ll be collecting supplies for that hygiene program. Please bring shampoo, soap, toothpaste, deodorant, pads and tampons, sunscreen, hand lotion, lip balm, and bug spray. They also need accessories like razors and nail clippers. New, unopened items only, and full sizes are preferred (i.e. not travel sizes or little bottles from hotel rooms).

Here’s a link to their full list of needs: Hygiene items needed

If you would like to contribute but cannot make it to the meeting, you can make a donation by credit card via the ‘Donate’ button on our website. Just include a note that the money is for hygiene supplies for the January charity.

Tax receipts will be issues for donations over $10.

Upcoming Community (Non-HAAM) Events

Brainy Brunch Breakfast

Members of the Eastman Humanist Community (Steinbach and area) get together for brunch on the first Sunday of every month. They meet at 9:30 AM at Smitty’s Restaurant in the Clearspring Centre (145 Park Road W) in Steinbach.

They would welcome HAAM members who are interested in socializing with other Humanists and supporting and encouraging non-believers living in the Bible Belt.

For more information about the brunch, contact eastmanbrainybrunch@gmail.com.

For current information on all upcoming non-HAAM events, visit our Community Events page.

Latest News

President’s Message

It seems like only yesterday that I attended my first HAM meeting; my youngest was just out of high school and I was trying to figure out what this Humanist thing was about. Today I’m a Grampa and writing the year-end president’s message. Boy time does fly!

HAAM was founded as the Humanist Association of Manitoba (HAM) by Cecil Drummond Muldrew (1923 – 2004), a truly amazing individual who I wish I could’ve met. Cec (as he was known) is listed by the Manitoba Historical Society as one of our Memorable Manitobans. Cec was followed as president by Helen Friesen, Barrie Webster, Jeffrey Olsson and Donna Harris… Today’s HAAM is just the latest of several Humanist organizations in Manitoba going back to the 1920s, with the Winnipeg Rationalist Society, and later, Marshall J. Gauvin’s Winnipeg Humanist Society. So in my first year as president, I’ve had some pretty big shoes to fill.

HAAM has come a long way since it’s inception. Back then, meetings were generally just a few people getting together socially to talk about the issues of the day and what could be done. Today, HAAM has a solid membership base, and with the advent of social media, a broad range of supporters from around the province, the country, and even internationally. We have helped found Humanist groups in Eastern Manitoba, the Pembina Valley, and Brandon. Our outreaches have connected with thousands of people, with many folks discovering they were probably Humanists long before they knew what the word meant. We’ve been able to hook up people needing help with trained secular counselors and therapists. Our members have donated thousands of dollars to lesser known but vital local charities. Most notable among our charitable projects is, of course, Kasese Humanist Primary School in Kasese, Uganda, and our sponsored child Bogere John, who I am happy to announce completed his school year just last month and has advanced to grade two. All this wouldn’t be possible without our members and our small but dedicated group of volunteers.

But we could be doing more.

If we could expand out volunteer base, we would be able to expand our programming and charitable work. HAAM needs folks to help out with the day-to-day running of the organization as well as our special projects, of which we have several upcoming. So as we make our way into HAAM’s 24th year, I’m using my year-end president’s message to ask you, our members, to step up and help out.

We can’t do it without you.

Hope to see you at a meeting soon.

Pat Morrow

Free courses in Humanism

Humanism isn’t a synonym for atheism, and not all atheists are Humanists. If you’re not clear about the difference between Humanism and atheism, there is some basic information about Humanism on HAAM’s website. Our What is Humanism? page includes links to videos and further reading, and a free-to-download e-book about Humanism from Humanists UK.

The American Humanist Association recently announced online courses in Humanism. Their basic courses are free, and topics include science, psychology, politics, ethics, and more. Advanced courses require a fee, and include celebrant training for weddings and memorial services, Humanist parenting, feminism, and racial justice.

HAAM cannot endorse any of these courses without actually reading the content, but they look interesting and promising. If any of our readers sign up and take them, we’d love to hear your feedback.

Passages: Remembering a former HAAM member

Just in time for the New Year, as we reflect on the past and wonder what’s ahead in 2020, we have a heartwarming story about friendships made at HAAM, sent in by one of our members. Read it on the Perspectives page.

 

Call to Action – End of Life Choices should be a choice!

Tell Canada’s federal Justice Minister to remove the unconstitutional ‘reasonably foreseeable’ rule from Canada’s assisted dying law immediately. This clause has already been found unconstitutional in Quebec. Now it’s time for Parliament to restore the rights of suffering Canadians who are discriminated against under the federal assisted dying law.

Read more about this issue, and add your name, at dyingwithdignity.ca/revise-the-law.

Memberships are now due

HAAM’s mission is to build a secular community where non-believers can feel safe and supported. We stand up for progressive secular values and provide social connections for non-believers in Manitoba. Your membership fees enable HAAM to continue this mission.

HAAM has no paid staff. All the work that goes into keeping the group operating – like planning and hosting events, offering outreach programs, producing this newsletter and maintaining our website, posting and monitoring social media content, maintaining financial records, responding to questions and emails, etc – is done by volunteers. But every year, there are basic expenses we need to meet, like meeting space, equipment and supplies for events, printing and postage, and administration fees for our website, banking, and PayPal accounts.

If you have not already joined HAAM, please become a member today! Fees are affordable and include a ‘limited income’ option (as low as $10 a year) if applicable. Memberships can be renewed anytime by credit card using the ’Donate’ button, by cheque in the mail, or by cash or cheque at any event.

If you have already joined or renewed – thank you! We look forward to seeing you at our next event.

Remember that memberships must be paid before (or at) the AGM if you want to participate in the meeting.

Book of the Month – Living the Secular Life

Start the New Year off with something inspirational! Phil Zuckerman is a sociology professor who specializes in studying secular culture. He literally studies how and why people are ‘good without a god’.

The various chapters in Living the Secular Life – New Answers to Old Questions examine what non-religious people believe about, and how they deal with, universal human issues like morality, society and community, death and dying, child-rearing, and times of crises. Using both research and anecdotes, Zuckerman demonstrates that a secular life can be ethical and full of joy and wonder. Readers repeatedly report that they gained confidence, inspiration, and encouragement from this book, and that it’s a wonderful guide for living a happy, productive secular life.

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.

2019 in Review

Every year at this time we look back on all that HAAM members have enjoyed and accomplished over the last 12 months. A glance at the calendar for 2019 shows that HAAM members have been very busy – or at least, those who participated in all these activities were very busy. If you live in the Winnipeg area, and you didn’t participate – why not? Keep reading to see what you missed, and make it your New Year’s Resolution to get out and join us in the New Year!

Meetings – In addition to being social gatherings, our monthly meetings provide a forum for learning and discussing a wide variety of topics and social issues. This year, we tackled secular funerals, science in the public arena, community patrols, religion in public schools, gender identity, women’s rights, and the incompatibility of science and religion.

News – Our monthly newsletter covered the repeal of Canada’s blasphemy law (finally!), a Winnipeg newspaper ‘selling out’ to cover religious news, the legal challenge to prayers at city hall, religion in Manitoba courtrooms, and our president’s interview for Canadian Atheist.

Community – We gathered for Sunday brunch in every month except June and December. We chatted and opined with each other on social media, and shared blogs and personal stories. We mourned the loss of members past and present. We networked and socialized (in person and online) with secular folks from the Eastman Humanist Community and around the country. We experimented (unsuccessfully) with a new meeting venue.

Celebrations – We recognized Darwin Day (Feb), World Humanist Day (June), and World Human Rights Day (Dec). Many of our members attended or participated in local Pride festivals in the summer and celebrated secular versions of Thanksgiving and Christmas. We held parties for the Summer and Winter Solstices.

Activism – HAAM participated in campaigns to protect the rights of Canadians and promote progressive decision-making by those in government. We supported access to assisted dying, reproductive rights for women, science and evidence-based election candidates, and government action on climate change.

Education – On our website and in our newsletter, we shared news and information about Humanist values, religion in public schools, health care directives, organ donation, facts about abortion, and summer camps suitable for secular kids.

Library – HAAM has over 250 books (and a few DVDs) in our library, with a different one featured in each monthly newsletter. In 2019, the featured books covered apologetics, evolution, Humanism, secular holidays, religious parody, Christian fundamentalism, philosophy, anthropology, and pseudoscience.

Outreach – HAAM members spoke with dozens of visitors at summer fairs in Steinbach and Morden, and explained Humanism to a high school class in Grunthal and residents of senior’s home in Winnipeg. We also reached hundreds of followers and supporters online via Facebook, Twitter, and MeetUp.

Charities – HAAM doesn’t exist just as a social club. As Humanists, we care for other life on this planet. Over the past year, we supported lots of causes and organizations that help make this world a better place. Blood donations, health care for the vulnerable trans community, endangered owls, swimming lessons for immigrant children, community patrols in Winnipeg’s inner city, end-of-life choices, safe havens for at-risk youth, and of course, primary education for children in Uganda.

 

Here’s to 2020!

 

Background vector created by katemangostar – www.freepik.com

November 2019 Newsletter

Upcoming HAAM Events

Monthly Meeting – Gender and Sexual Identity for Dummies

Saturday, November 16th, Canad Inns Polo Park, 1405 St Matthews Avenue, 5:30 – 8:30 PM

We try our best to understand the latest science and the social and ethical aspects of gender and sexual identity, but the subject remains quite confusing for many of us. Is it genetics, brain chemistry, environment, or something else that makes human sexuality what it is?

We welcome Dr Neil McArthur, Director of the Centre for Professional and Applied Ethics at the University of Manitoba, to help us sort it all out. Details here.

HAAM and Eggs Brunch

Sunday, November 24th, Original Pancake House, 2220 McGillivray Blvd, 9:30 – 11:00 AM

Our monthly casual get-together is a great way to meet and get to know your fellow HAAMsters.
The location changes every month so that the same people don’t always get stuck having to cross town.

Details here.

Save the Dates! 

Winter Solstice Party December 14th.

Monthly meeting and AGM – January 11th

HAAM and Eggs Brunch – January 19th

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

About our Events

Welcome! Our regular monthly meetings are always open to the public. Come early for dinner, drinks, or just to visit. Our social and (optional) dinner time begins at 5:30. Meeting is at 6:30 followed by the presentation at about 7:00 PM. Late-comers and drop-ins are welcome, so if you can’t make it on time or stay till the end, don’t worry. You can eat during the meeting if you’re late – the buffet is open till 8 PM.

If you are new and just checking us out, you are welcome to attend one or two events before becoming a member. After that, if you wish to continue to participate, we ask that you support the group by joining. Our annual dues are reasonable and include a limited-income option.

All events are subject to change, and some details may be TBA. In the event of inclement weather or unforeseen circumstances, events may be subject to cancellation or details may change. Check the Home page of our website, our Facebook page, or Meetup for information and updates.

Charity of the Month –Trans Health Klinic

In keeping with the theme of this month’s meeting topic, we have chosen the Trans Health Klinic (a program of Klinic Community Health Centre) as our charity.

Klinic provides care to Trans individuals > 16 ½  years of age seeking transitioning care (hormone start and surgery) living in Manitoba, and to all individuals who fall under the Transgender and/or Non-binary umbrella: inclusive of Two-spirit, Agender, Bigender, Genderqueer, Gender fluid, and more.

The program includes medical treatment and surgical referrals (some procedures cannot be performed in Manitoba), education, and both professional and peer counselling and support. Trans Health Klinic also offers education and guidance to other health professionals (e.g. family doctors) who provide primary care to their clients.

The Trans Klinic’s current needs are chest binders for their exchange program, equipment and learning materials for their teaching groups, equipment for pre and post op care, and funding for community education about gender diversity.

Let’s help them out with some of these needs!

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

Latest News

Respecting one another’s pronouns

Most of us are by now aware that sex is no longer viewed by scientists and medical professionals as strictly binary (i.e. male and female). If you’re interested in learning more about the components of sex and gender, there is some great information available from the World Health Organization.

As awareness of gender diversity increases, more and more people are learning about the importance of respecting each other’s identities. Many workplaces, educational institutions, and community organizations are developing policies around terms of address. In some environments, everyone is being asked to declare their own pronouns, to ensure that everyone is referred to correctly and respectfully and no one is singled out.

In keeping with the Humanist values of respect and inclusiveness, we are proposing to update HAAM’s position statement on human rights to include a statement about respecting gender identity and pronouns.

Notice of proposed amendment to Position Statements

HAAM’s Position Statements on a number of social issues were approved by our members at the AGM in January 2014. They are posted on the website under the About Us tab (along with our Mission Statement and Philosophy). The section on human rights currently reads: “HAAM opposes legislation that seeks to discriminate against people on the basis of gender, race, age, mental or physical disability, religious belief or lack thereof, sexual orientation, or gender identity. We believe that laws and regulations that limit or deny freedoms and rights must have a valid, secular foundation.” The proposed amendment would insert the following sentence after the word ‘identity’:

We respect people’s gender identity and pronouns”.

This revision will require approval from our membership at the AGM in January 2020. All paid members of HAAM are eligible to vote at the AGM. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact us.

Expanding our supportive, secular community

For the past year, the Eastman Humanist Community has been organizing breakfast gatherings on the first Sunday of the month in Steinbach.  On two occasions I decided to drive out to join the group and to support their efforts. The breakfast groups are small, ranging from 2 to 12 people.

The drive out to Steinbach was pleasant, lasting 45 minutes from my home to the restaurant. The food was nothing exciting – the same breakfast that you get in Winnipeg. I did enjoy meeting with and learning from people from a smaller community living in a more powerful religious environment. My observation is that EHC members face challenges different from us in larger communities. Being open about non-belief or atheism has both professional and familial consequences that we do not experience in more secular communities. This emphasizes to me the importance of supportive groups such as the EHC.

I intend to continue to join my friends in the EHC for their breakfast gatherings whenever I can. I encourage other HAAM members to consider a pleasant drive to Steinbach on the first Sunday of the month to support the EHC. Please contact EHC at eastmanhumanists.ca/  and they will provide you with the location and meeting time.

– Arthur Prystenski

Partners for Life and Organ Donor Update

HAAM pledged 25 blood donations from our members in 2019, and at the end of October we have 22. Can three more people donate before the New Year?  Come on – we can do this!

If you haven’t donated before, or aren’t familiar with the Partners for Life program, keep reading and click the arrow below for all the info you need.

Do you still have an old organ donor card (maybe like the one in the photo, or on the back of your Manitoba Health card) in your wallet? It’s obsolete. Paper cards have not been issued for at least two years, and the organ donor registry is now entirely online. This ensures that it’s up-to-date and available to any medical professional when it’s needed, anywhere in Manitoba.

The online registry might be a problem for some folks who still aren’t comfortable with computerized forms. If you know someone like this, please let them know that they can call the organ donor registry office by phone (204-787-1897) and speak directly to a staff member who will enter their information manually.

ALL Manitobans are encouraged to sign up for the organ donation registry. Signing up means only that you are giving permission for the use of your organs. Don’t worry about whether or not you think you might qualify. Decisions about suitability are made by health professionals at the time of death or near-death.

 

for instructions on how to sign up for these programs, as well as more information and links to Canadian Blood Services (blood donations) and Sign Up for Life (organ donation).

 

Book of the Month – Do You Believe in Magic?

This book is subtitled Vitamins, Supplements, and All Things Natural: A look behind the curtain. I picked it up last year at a conference because the author, Dr. Paul Offit, was there and was signing copies.  When I got home, I took a long time to get around to actually reading it. But it turned out to be fascinating, for two main reasons – 1) Offit explains the science behind a lot of pseudoscience (i.e. the reasons why it doesn’t work); and 2) because he doesn’t outright condemn all ‘alternative medicine’ as I assumed he would. Instead, he describes the specific ways in which alternative therapies can be harmful, and how in some cases they may actually help:

“Both have their place. The problem comes when mainstream healers dismiss the placebo response as trivial, or when alternative healers offer placebos instead of lifesaving medicines, or charge an exorbitant price for their remedies, or promote therapies as harmless when they’re not, or encourage magical thinking and scientific denialism at a time when we can least afford it.” (p. 255)

You know the book has hit its mark when it inspires purveyors of woo-woo to attack it. The one-star reviews on Amazon are fun to read – here are a few samples: “Offit is a shill for allopathic medicine also called modern medicine (AKA the medical mafia)”; “As soon as the term “alt” medicine appears, you know this will be a work of propaganda.”; and “Lies & half-truths with some clever fabrication thrown in. Author makes money off vaccines but never discloses his conflict of interest.” There are 67 reviews like that. Some reviewers ranted for several paragraphs.

Offit covers topics like acupuncture, mega-vitamins, chronic Lyme disease, laetrile, and more. We know that all of these have been proven ineffective and sometimes dangerous, but if you want to understand why, this is your book. Offit doesn’t use complicated language in his writing; his references to the applicable scientific studies are included in an appendix, so the book is an easy and entertaining read.                                                                                                         – Dorothy Stephens

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

 Do you have a Health Care Directive?

Do you know who legally gets to make medical decisions for you if you are too ill to speak for yourself?

Do you know the difference between a health care directive and a power of attorney? How about the difference between a patient advocate and a health care proxy?

Is it legal to stop a life-saving treatment after it has already started? And if so, who gets to decide?

If you were seriously ill or injured, would your family know what treatments you would want (or not want)? Would you want them to have to guess? Could they all agree about what to do?

How are requests for Do Not Resuscitate handled in hospital? In the community? (Can I just get a “DNR” tattoo on my chest?)

Which medical treatments are considered ‘heroic measures’?

If I write a health care directive, what am I supposed to do with it after it’s done?

If you can’t answer all these questions, or have never even thought about them, it’s time to learn about Advance Care Planning. Don’t think you’re too young to worry about it – none of us knows what will happen an hour from now. Advance care planning isn’t just for people who are old or dying – it’s a plan for your future health care if you become seriously injured or ill.

On the Winnipeg chapter of Dying With Dignity website, you can download a free complete Advance Care Planning kit, read sample health care directives, and find other useful info. The chapter will be also hosting workshops on ACP’s in the new year. These presentations explain everything in the kit (and more), plus provide an opportunity to ask questions. It may be more than you’ll ever want or need to know… but it will also give you (and your family) peace of mind once you’ve completed the process.

If you’re interested in a workshop, contact the Winnipeg chapter of DWD to be notified of upcoming dates and times.

October 2019 Newsletter

Upcoming HAAM Events

Monthly Meeting:

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

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

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

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

Full event details are here.

HAAM and Eggs Brunch

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

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

New people are always welcome. Details here.

 

Save the Dates

Monthly meeting November 16th

HAAM and Eggs Brunch November 24th

Winter Solstice Party December 14th

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

Upcoming Community (Non-HAAM) Events

Campaign Life Counter-Protest

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

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

 

Inquiring Minds: Dialogue on Death

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

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

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

Charity of the Month – Kasese Humanist Primary School

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

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

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

Please give generously to help these kids.

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

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

Latest News

We are part of a worldwide community

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

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

One of our members shared this experience:

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

-Arthur Prystenski

Happy Thanksgiving

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

.

 

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

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

Morden Outreach Report

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

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

Book of the Month – The Creator and the Cosmos

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

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

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

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

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

-Dorothy Stephens

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

 

May 2019 Newsletter

Upcoming HAAM Events

Options in Death Care for Non-Believers 

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

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

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

HAAM and Eggs Brunch 

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

New people welcome! Details here.

Save the Dates 

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

Summer Solstice Party – June 22ndKildonan Park 

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

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

Upcoming Community (Non-HAAM) Events 

Winnipeg Pride Parade – June 2nd  

Steinbach Pride Parade – July 6th  

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

Charity of the Month – Dying With Dignity Winnipeg Chapter 

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

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

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

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

Latest News  

Partners for Life Update 

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

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

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

Outreach at Local Seniors’ Residence

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

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

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

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

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

On the Web – Explore Nonbelief 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have an Idea for a HAAM Event?

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

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

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

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

Last Chance to enter the Humanist Canada essay contest 

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

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

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

March 2019 Newsletter

Upcoming HAAM Events

Super Secret Shorts

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

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

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

Click here for details.

 

HAAM and Eggs Brunch

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

Our monthly informal get-together. All welcome.

Click here for details.

Save the Dates

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

Summer Solstice Party – June 22nd 

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

Upcoming Community (Non-HAAM) Events

Advance Care Plans (Health Care Directives)

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

Click here for details and to register.

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

Charity of the Month

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

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

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

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

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

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

Calls to Action

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

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

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

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

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

 

to read more and sign the letter.

 

Stand up for Access to Reproductive Health Care

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

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

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

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

 

to download and add your name to the letter.

 

Latest News   

Check out this blog by local Humanists

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thinking about Summer yet?

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

Overnight camps

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

Day camps

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

Please help HAAM help other families

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

Video – Religion in Manitoba Public Schools

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

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

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

January 2019 Newsletter

Upcoming HAAM Events

Options in Death Care for Nonbelievers (and our AGM)

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

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

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

 

HAAM and Eggs Brunch

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

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

Details here.

 

Save the Date 

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

Check our Events calendar for latest information.

Latest News

Charity of the Month – Ndinawe Youth Resource Centre 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your HAAM President’s 2018 Message

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

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

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

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

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

Peace and happiness to all.                                                                                                        – Donna Harris

New Meeting Venue

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

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

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

room 2M70

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

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

Essay contest!

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

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

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

Complete contest details are available on the Humanist Canada website.

Blasphemy law update

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

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

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

Book of the Month: Ideas that Matter 

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

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

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

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

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

Year in Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2019 Membership Fees are Now Due

Please join or renew today.

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

Visit the Join Us page for more information.

 

 

 

 

November 2018 Newsletter

Upcoming HAAM Events 

Monthly Meeting – Godless in Dixie 

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

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

Details here.

 

HAAM and Eggs Brunch 

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

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

Details here.

Winter Solstice Party

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

Save the date!

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

 

Calls to Action 

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

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

Gay Conversion Therapy

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

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

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

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

Advance Requests for Medical Assistance in Dying

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

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

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

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

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

Forcing patients to transfer for assisted dying

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

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

Charity of the Month The Bear Clan Patrol 

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

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

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

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

​- promoting and providing safety; 

– conflict resolution; 

– mobile witnessing and crime prevention; 

– maintaining a visible presence on the streets; 

– providing an early response to situations; and 

– providing rides, escorts and referrals.  

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

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

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

Latest News 

Não acredita em Deus?

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

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

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

Não acredita em Deus? Você não está sozinho

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Book of the Month: Godless 

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s that time of year again…

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

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

October photos

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

May 2018 Newsletter

Upcoming HAAM Events 

Stealing Reason: Christianity’s Theft of Human Values 

Saturday, May 12th, Canad Inns Polo Park, 5:30 – 8:30 PM 

Our own Pat Morrow will talk about Christian apologetic claims regarding the scientific revolution and slavery. His presentation will demonstrate that progress is not due to any gods, but rather to human effort.  Details here.

HAAM and Eggs Brunch 

Saturday, May 26th, Red Top Inn, 219 St Mary’s Road, 9:30 AM 

Our monthly casual get-together. Everyone’s welcome. Details here.

 

Save the Dates 

June 15-17 – Outreach at the Summer in the City Festival (Steinbach) 

June 23rdSummer Solstice Party 

 

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

Upcoming Community (Non-HAAM) Events 

Interbelief Reasoning Dialogue: “What Weaponizes Beliefs?”

Thursday, 3 May, St James Assiniboia Public Library (note change of date)

Presented by the Winnipeg Circle of Reason.

Advance Care Planning – what you need to know

Saturday, May 12th, St Boniface Public Library, 1:30 PM.

Learn more about your rights as a patient, and how to increase the chances of your wishes being respected in a health crisis and/or at the end of life. Registration required. More information here.

Winnipeg Pride Parade 

Sunday, June 3rd, Manitoba Legislative Building.

Rally at 10 AM and parade at 11. 

 

More information and links to all these non-HAAM events are on our Community Events page. 

Charity of the Month  

Just in time for Mothers Day! They say you can’t spoil a baby – but let’s try.  

You Can’t Spoil a Baby has been providing baby supplies to Manitoba families in need since 2011. Its goal is to show families that they are valued by their community by providing them with no-strings-attached gifts to help them care for their baby. 

YCSAB is run 100% by volunteers. The concept is simple:  

Donors can either contribute their once-loved baby items to one of YCSAB’s more than 40 drop-off spots for volunteers to combine into gifts, or follow guidelines provided by YCSAB to make and deliver their own gift using items they collect. Each gift includes items that will help a family through their baby’s first year – a set of newborn to 18 month baby clothes, one ‘big-ticket’ item (like a crib, stroller, or exersaucer), a few other helpful accessories (like feeding, bathing and diapering supplies, blankets, and toys), and a big sibling gift if the family has other children.  

Families who need assistance need to apply for a gift early in pregnancy (the wait list is close to 6 months). Most of the expectant parents who apply do not have friends or family to give them baby items, are single parents or young couples living on Income Assistance, are newcomers to Canada who are starting over, are leaving abusive relationships, or have had a series of tough breaks and need help. In addition to the gift of baby clothes and baby items, YCSAB provides families with an online list of local resources to help with the high costs of raising children. 

YCSAB accepts money as well as gently used baby items that help with the first two years of life. Their highest need items are always sleepers/pajamas in sizes 6-18 months. Used items are encouraged to promote reuse, but they won’t turn away new ones. A list of accepted items can be found on their website. Please check it carefully, as some items must comply with safety regulations. You can bring your donations to our meeting. If you have very large items, or cannot make it to the meeting, let us know and we’ll arrange for pickup and/or transport of your items. 

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. 

Call to Action 

There’s a new petition to the House of Commons urging the government to re-examine the ban against gay men donating blood.  

The current law makes anyone (male or female), who has had sex with a man who has had sex with another man within the last year ineligible to donate. Obviously, this is a sensitive issue and there is a lot more to the law than just politics. Blood donation regulations need to be evidence-based, in order to protect us all. That’s why the screening for prospective donors includes questions about drug use, travel history, tattoos, and whether their job involves caring for monkeys.

But when it comes to sexual practices, the law focuses on demographics instead of behaviors – banning ALL gay men, even those in monogamous, long-term relationships, from donating blood. On the other hand, straight people are not excluded from donating regardless of the number of sexual partners they have had – as long as the donor believes that all those partners are also straight. Doesn’t this seem illogical?  

The rationale for the current guidelines and the history behind them are clearly explained on the Canadian Blood Services’ website here and here. In summary, the rules used to be much stricter – a lifetime ban on gay men donating blood was in place until 2013. Since then, CBS has gradually been relaxing the standards as more data is obtained. The current one-year ban was initiated in 2016. Of course, we all want to avoid another fiasco like the tainted blood scandal of the 80’s and 90’s that made people sick, cost millions of dollars, and diminished confidence in the safety of Canada’s blood supply. 

But it would make more sense to screen all donors for at-risk practices instead of just banning a whole group of people, and it appears that CBS is gradually moving in that direction. Recently, donors were given a survey asking if they would be willing to answer more detailed questions about their sexual practices as part of donor screening, or whether such intimate questions would discourage them from donating at all.   

The survey question asked: Please state how comfortable you would be answering questions on these topics in order to donate blood or plasma: 

– Saying the number of partners you have had in the last 6 months 
– Saying if you have had ANAL sex with anyone in the last 6 months 
– Saying if you used a condom every time you had sex in the last 6 months 
– Saying if you used the internet or social media (eg Facebook or Tinder) to seek a partner for sexual intercourse in the last 6 months) 
– And several more similar questions 

The answer choices were ‘completely comfortable’, ‘somewhat comfortable’, ‘somewhat uncomfortable’, ‘completely uncomfortable’, and ‘this would stop me from donating’.  

If having to answer these questions deters some people from donating, wouldn’t it stand to reason that most of those who are deterred are those who participate in high-risk behaviors? And wouldn’t that be a good thing? It’s interesting to think about. 

If you support encouraging CBS to focus on behaviors rather than on demographics in their donor screening, please sign the petition. It’s open for signature until July 17th 

Click here to sign the petition. 

And if you ARE currently eligible to donate, please do. HAAM is a member of CBS Partners for Life program. Learn more about it here, and sign up now! 

Latest News 

Your Health Care – What You Don’t Know Can Hurt You

According to the Health Care Directives Act of Manitoba, a health care directive (HCD) is a legal document that must be respected by your medical team in the event that you can’t speak for yourself. Also, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms states that all competent adult Canadians have the right to refuse or discontinue treatment.

But did you know that both your HCD and your right to refuse treatment can be ignored by your medical team under certain circumstances? For example, you might have comfort in the fact that you’ve written down and signed your wish not to be resuscitated, in the event that you collapse and someone calls an ambulance. However, what paramedics have told us is that not only will they not take the time to stop and read a HCD when treating a patient in an emergency, but they also can’t respect your request. That’s because they can’t verify your signature, your state of mind, or your competency when you signed it. To be considered valid, a DNR (do not resuscitate) order must be obtained from and signed by your doctor (and even then, there is still some uncertainty about whether it will be followed). And once the patient arrives at the hospital, and let’s say regains consciousness, the patient’s request to refuse treatment could be ignored by staff until a psychiatrist confirms the patient’s competence. So even if it’s your worst fear to wake up in hospital hooked up to machines, that could be exactly what happens in spite of your best efforts to communicate your wishes.

What can I do about this?

So what can you do to prevent such a situation from happening? Well, first of all, do you HAVE a signed HCD in the first place? If not, you can download one for free from End of Life Planning Canada (via DWD Winnipeg chapter), make sure you’ve chosen a proxy who is willing to get LOUD if your wishes are not being respected. Neither of these will likely help with the paramedics, but they will certainly help once you arrive at the hospital. Second, do you have a card in your wallet that states who your proxy is and where to find your HCD? And finally, have you discussed your end-of-life wishes with all of your friends and family? The more backup you have, the safer it will be (legally) for medical staff to respect your proxy’s instructions.

What about MAID?

It is currently not legal to list Medical Assistance in Dying as one of your requests in your health care directive, since your HCD only comes into effect if you can’t communicate, and you can’t have assistance to die unless you’re able to consent when the time comes to administer the drugs. The DWD Canada blog states

“In 2016, an Ipsos Reid poll of 2,530 Canadians found a surprisingly strong level of support for allowing MAID in our HCDs, with no statistically significant regional variations. Approval was high among supporters of the three leading federal parties, especially supporters of the New Democratic Party (84%) and the Liberal Party of Canada (83%). Three out of four Conservative supporters (74%) were in favour, too. 78% of Catholics and 73% of Protestant Christians support allowing Canadians with a grievous and irremediable illness to make advance requests for physician-assisted dying. Sample sizes for people of other faiths weren’t large enough to allow for statistically significant comparisons.

Other poll questions presented different possible scenarios involving advance consent for assisted dying. About eight in 10 (82%) Canadians said they would support physician-assisted dying for patients who have a scheduled assisted death, and were competent at the time of the request, but who lose competence before the request can be carried out (for example, in the case of a patient who falls into a coma just days before the scheduled provision of aid in dying). Seven in 10 (71%) Canadians would support allowing a patient without a diagnosis for a grievous and irremediable illness to make an advance request for physician-assisted dying that would be honoured if certain pre-stated conditions were met.”

Learn more!

If you’d like to be fully informed and complete your HCD, join us for our next workshop on Advance Care Planning, May 12th at the St Boniface Library at 1:30 PM. Become an empowered patient! For more information, and to register (required), contact DWD Winnipeg Chapter.                                                          – Cheri Frazer

Event Review – Debate: Morality 

In April I attended the Feakes vs. Kay morality debate held at Winnipeg’s New Life Sanctuary Church. Darren Kay is a local Humanist writer with an interest in the big questions. John Feakes is the pastor of the aforementioned church. He’s a Young Earth Creationist with a master’s degree in theology from the Columbia Evangelical Seminary (readers are free to look that one up).  

The debate question was “How should we live our lives?”. It asks which is the better framework for forming an ethical morality – Christianity or secularism. 

As far as the calibre of the debate, this was not Wilberforce versus Huxley. Part of the problem was the nature of the question. Feakes was tasked with arguing for the proposition that “Christianity is ethically superior to secularism” whereas Kay was tasked with the negative “Christianity is not ethically superior to secularism”.  Taking the negative put Kay in the situation of having to disprove Feakes’s position and at the same time argue his own. In addition, neither position was clearly defined – whose version of Christianity? and what do we mean by secularism? Feakes did try to define secularism in his rapid-fire slideshow, by displaying every definition of it from many sources.  

For me, the quality of any debate is in its opening statements and initial rebuttals. I found this debate quite formulaic and pre-scripted (or maybe I’ve just watched far too many of them). Feakes opened with the standard creationist shotgun debating technique (AKA the Gish Gallop). Kay did a good job of trying to explain the nature of secular morality, but with the limited time available I think some points were not as clear as they could’ve been, and were therefore missed by the folks who most needed to hear them.  

In formal debate, after the opening arguments come the rebuttals. This is a chance for one to respond to the arguments that were just presented by one’s opponent. Great debaters such as Christopher Hitchens would often do their rebuttals from memory or with just a few notes.  The rebuttal requires debaters to think on their feet, although on occasion, visual aids could be incorporated if one is familiar enough with their opponent’s points to anticipate them. However, in this debate, both sides used fully prepared PowerPoint presentations, which offered the odd spectacle of each of them rebutting arguments that their opponents had not presented. As a result, the rebuttals were disappointing. At some points the evening took on a lecture feel rather than a debate. 

You can find the full video of the evening here on YouTube. It will help those unfamiliar with the moral argument to become better informed, but if you’re looking for the thrust and parry of a traditional debate, this may not be for you.                                                                                                        Pat Morrow  

Library News – Interlibrary loans now available

The Eastman Humanist Community (EHC), based in Steinbach, is growing and now has its own small library. It makes sense to pool our resources – sharing is what Humanists do, right? So HAAM and the EHC have recently reached an agreement to allow inter-library loans between the two groups.

Our own HAAM library is now up to almost 250 items (books and DVD’s), available to all paid members. So check it out!  But if we don’t have the book you are looking for, you are now welcome to check out the EHC’s library as well. If you find something there that you would like to borrow, contact HAAM. We will make arrangements with the EHC to obtain the item for you the next time someone from either group is traveling between Steinbach and Winnipeg.

Book of the Month Bad Science: Quacks, Hacks, and Big Pharma Flacks 

If you’re concerned about the current anti-intellectualism trend that is making people vulnerable to propaganda, advertising, and quackery in medicine, religion, and politics, then you’ll find this book encouraging.  

Ben Goldacre writes in easy to understand language about the importance of learning to think critically when evaluating scientific claims, in order to separate promotional propaganda from reality. He covers research topics like placebos, double-blind studies, and sample sizes, so that you can recognize bad science when you see it.  

Read about detox baths, ear candling, ‘whole brain learning’, homeopathy, the MMR vaccine scare, cosmetics, vitamin supplements, anti-oxidants, cognitive bias, the misuse of statistics, celebrity endorsements, and more. It’s an entertaining book for anyone interested in the practical uses – and abuses – of science.  

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. 

HAAM President Donna Harris onstage with Matt Dillahunty during his recent visit. What an awesome show!

 

 

April 2018 Newsletter

Upcoming HAAM Events 

Pre-Dillahunty Drinks 

Sunday, April 8th, King’s Head Pub, 120 King Street, 6 PM 

Will you be attending Matt Dillahunty’s Magic and Skepticism show that evening? (details for that are on our ‘Community Events’ page). 

If so, meet us for drinks first! Details here.

Monthly Meeting – What’s Wrong with Private Schools? 

Saturday, April 14th, Canad Inns Polo Park, 5:30 – 8:30 PM 

Guest speaker Steve Lecce, from the Centre for Professional and Applied Ethics at the U of M, will address the issue of public funding for private schools in Manitoba. 

Details here.

HAAM and Eggs Brunch 

Sunday, April 29th, Original Pancake House at the Forks, 1 Forks Market Road, 9:30 AM 

Our monthly casual get-together. Details here.

 

Save the Dates 

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 our 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 

Event information and link to get tickets is here.

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 and more upcoming non-HAAM events is on our Community Events page.  

Charity of the MonthPathways to Education 

Pathways to Education is an innovative program that partners with governments, communities, schools, and volunteers to help youth from low-income communities stay in school, graduate, and achieve their full potential.  

In Winnipeg, Pathways to Education operates in the North Point Douglas, Lord Selkirk Park, and William Whyte neighbourhoods (see map), where people of Aboriginal descent make up over 70 per cent of high school families. All students in this catchment area are eligible to participate in the program from grades 9 through 12, regardless of their academic performance or economic circumstance. There is no cost to participants. 

Many kids in this area have the potential to succeed but face barriers to education created by poverty. These include insufficient financial means, lack of positive role models in the community, absence of parental support, or integration into a new country and culture. 

The Pathways program includes financial support (transit and meal vouchers, scholarships and internships); academic support (tutoring and assistance transitioning to post-secondary education); social support (group mentoring and career exploration); and personal support and advocacy. 

An evaluation of the program by an independent consulting firm estimated that society’s return on Pathways is about $24 for every $1 invested, and a total benefit of about $600,000 for every graduate – in addition to the obvious personal and social benefits of breaking the cycle of poverty. So let’s help make this happen! 

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 

Understanding Evolution from Animal Limbs 

On our recent visit to Grunthal to address students at Green Valley High, one of the young men stated (paraphrasing slightly) “you say we share like 99.8% of our DNA with monkeys.  Well, I’m not a banana.  We share 50% of our DNA with bananas. I’m not a banana”. 

eohippus

I’m glad to report that most of the other students found his statement thoroughly amusing. But really, I don’t truly know how much science these young people are learning in school.  I don’t think I learned very much science from school. I know I did learn some from pop culture, because I really liked animals. I always watched Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom, and I never missed Joan Embery from the San Diego Zoo when she appeared on The Tonight Show.  

I distinctly remember a diagram of the history of equine evolution, right from Eohippus (shown) to modern horses. I remember the toe patterns. It always made sense to me. I never questioned that life develops over time; it seemed so… obvious. And I’ve always appreciated the diagrams of arm/limb structure. The number and arrangement of bones is a pattern that runs through all tetrapods – animals with four limbs.  

There are obviously variations, but the same pattern is visible in diverse animal species, including humans (top left), whales (top right), lizards (bottom left), and birds (bottom right). Learn more about these limbs here. 

But nowhere did I see that demonstrated more clearly to me than a recent Facebook post with a simple image of a cross-section of an elephant’s foot. I was shocked at how that looked exactly like a human foot, on tiptoe, encased in a “boot” of flesh. To me, the links between living things are patently obvious. I don’t know about you, but I’m quite happy knowing that I share 50% of my DNA with a banana. – Donna Harris 

Sending Our Get Well Wishes 

One of our founding members has been in hospital recently. Olga Nahirniak has been a HAAM member ‘from the beginning’ (in the mid-1990’s). At that time, the group was named just HAM (Humanist Association of Manitoba).  

Now in her 90’s, Olga continues to receive and read our newsletter every month, although she has not been able to make it out to an event for the last couple of years.  

Helen and John Friesen went to visit her in hospital in early March. Olga was very appreciative of their visit and thanked them several times for coming. They passed on greetings from all our members, and Olga asked them to return the greetings saying she thought about all of us often. She’s such a sweet lady and a remarkable person! 

Olga is back home now. Members who attended the March meeting signed a get-well card to let her know we’re thinking about her. 

Olga is in this photo, taken at the 2013 Summer Solstice party (it’s also in the slide show on the home page with the caption ‘Humanism is Inclusive’). She’s in the front row, at right, seated on her walker, wearing dark pants and a red jacket. We miss you Olga!    

Summer Solstice 2013

Understanding and Completing an Advance Care Plan 

The Winnipeg chapter of Dying with Dignity has a 2-hour workshop on how to fill out your ACP (aka a health care directive or living will). An effective ACP indicates your wishes about your care should something bad happen and you can’t speak for yourself. Many people arrive at hospitals with either no instructions in writing, or with a paragraph written in language too vague for doctors to act upon. Don’t assume that just because your spouse knows your wishes that that’s what will happen in an emergency. Dying With Dignity Canada has many years of experience in helping people express their wishes clearly in an Advance Care Plan. 

The complete DWD Advance Care Plan kit and information booklet is available to anyone to download free. However, based on past presentations and reports from patients, families, and health care professionals, there are lots of questions and many issues that need further elaboration and interpretation – hence the need for this workshop. Topics addressed in the presentation include: 

  • Legal issues around ACP’s, including the difference between an ACP and a Power of Attorney 
  • Patient rights including right to refuse treatment 
  • How to choose a proxy decision maker 
  • How to ensure that your wishes are carried out  
  • Comparing a Living Will prepared by a lawyer to a standard hospital form, and the Manitoba government form 
  • Discussing common but imprecise phrases such as “heroic measures” and “artificial means” 
  • Walking through the ACP kit and the Health Care Directive form in detail 
  • How to complete the form / how to make copies 
  • What to do (and what NOT to do) with your HCD after it’s completed 
  • Resources for those who want further information or guidance 

The next class will be offered once there is sufficient interest expressed. Please RSVP to the Winnipeg Chapter of Dying With Dignity to indicate your interest. You will be contacted later to arrange a suitable date and time. 

Book of the Month – Not the Impossible Faith  

Historian Richard Carrier offers a point-by-point rebuttal of the frequent assertions by apologists that Christianity could not have taken hold in the ancient world unless its claims were true, and that theirs is not just another man-made religion. 

Carrier examines the sociology of the ancient world and demonstrates that Christianity did not require miracles to succeed. The book explains that Christianity’s early converts were the poor and outcast, but that its adaptability allowed it to grow and eventually reach the upper classes. 

Each chapter addresses a different question, such as: who would believe in a crucified god, who would join an intolerant cult, and who would follow an executed criminal? 

This is a fascinating book for those interested in the origins of Christianity. 

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. 

Stephen Hawking 1942-2018 

Farewell to a “brilliant and extraordinary mind”.  (Theresa May)  

*** 

“Have fun out there among the stars.” (Barack Obama)

February 2018 Newsletter

Upcoming HAAM Events

Monthly Meeting – Animal Attraction 

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

February 12th is International Darwin Day, so we focus on science and nature at our February meetings.  

This year’s meeting will be about sex. Click here for details and more information.

 

HAAM and Eggs Brunch 

Sunday, February 25th, Original Pancake House (Polo Park), 1445 Portage Avenue, 9:30 AM 

Join us for our regular Sunday morning brunch. Details here.

See complete event listings and details for all upcoming HAAM events on our 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 

 

For details on this and all upcoming non-HAAM events, visit our Community Events page. 

 

 

Charity of the Month CARE Cat Community Outreach Program 

C.A.R.E. (Cat Advocacy Rescue & Education) is a non-profit organization made up of concerned animal lovers and veterinary professionals who work to alleviate the serious cat overpopulation by spaying and neutering cats. The program was founded in 2011 in response to the overwhelming number of stray and feral cats in the North End of Winnipeg. Since then, CARE has spayed/neutered more than 900 feral, stray, and low-income owned cats; over 700 at Machray Animal Hospital and the rest through the Winnipeg Humane Society’s SNAP (Subsidized Spay and Neuter Program). 

In partnership with The Winnipeg Humane Society and Winnipeg Animal Services, CARE helps people get their cats fixed year-round. The funding for these surgeries comes from the FixIt Grant; money raised directly from cat licensing.  

Winnipeg residents are essentially paying for these cats’ surgeries, so only cats within city limits qualify for the program. Through CARE, low-income families can get their kitty spayed or neutered, tattooed, licensed and vaccinated for only $5!!!!  

HAAM member Heather McDonell is one of the veterinarians who works with CARE, and it was our Charity of the Month once before, way back in Sept 2013, so we’re happy to help them again. The group is always looking for additional donations, as well as volunteers to transport cats to and from the clinics, since most of the people the program serves can’t afford vehicles or taxis. CARE has no website, just social media, as this is a grassroots effort. Visit their Facebook page or call the office at 204-421-7297 to make an appointment or obtain more information.  

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 PayPal button. Just include a note letting us know that the money is for the charity. 

Latest News 

Film Fest Ideas Wanted 

Our annual Film Fest will take place at the March 10th meeting, and we’re currently looking for films. Suggestions are welcome.  

If you know of a film that your fellow Humanists might like (something funny, provocative, inspirational, or educational), let us know. Length can be anything from a couple of minutes to a full movie (but not a really long movie). 

More details to follow in the March newsletter. 

Seeking Secular Therapists 

We have again had a request from someone seeking a counsellor or psychologist who does not invoke religion or suggest prayer during treatment. A while back, we started a list with the names of a few such professionals for future referrals – but we currently only have 3 names on it. There must be way more than 3 mental health professionals in Manitoba who don’t include religion as part of their practice.  

There is no requirement that therapists be non-believers; only that they use evidence-based, secular treatment methods in their professional practice. We do not post their names publicly due to professional regulations and ethics.  

If you are aware of a secular therapist whose name we can add to our list, please Contact Us. All correspondence will be kept strictly confidential. Note that providing a referral cannot be construed as an endorsement by HAAM. 

Library News  

Our past-president Jeff Olsson has again been busy cleaning off shelves, and he’s made another large donation to the HAAM library – books, this time. Jeff is well-read and has eclectic taste in subject matter. There’s something here for everyone – ethics and philosophy, astronomy and climate science, atheist humor, psychology and psychoanalysis, skepticism and counter-apologetics (defending non-belief), history and archaeology. Here are just a few of the books he donated:  

-The Caged Virgin: An Emancipation Proclamation for Women and Islam (Ayaan Hirsi Ali) 

-Cool It: The Skeptical Environmentalist’s Guide to Global Warming 

-Everything You Know About God Is Wrong: The Disinformation Guide to Religion 

-God, No!: Signs You May Already Be an Atheist and Other Magical Tales (Penn Jillette) 

-God’s Problem: How the Bible Fails to Answer Our Most Important Question–Why We Suffer (Bart Ehrman) 

-In Search of Time: Journeys Along a Curious Dimension 

-Lucifer Principle: A Scientific Expedition into the Forces of History 

-The Psychopathology of Everyday Life (Freud) 

-Right to Die: A Neurosurgeon Speaks of Death with Candor 

-Universe: A Journey from Earth to the Edge of the Cosmos 

-Why I Am Not a Christian: Four Conclusive Reasons to Reject the Faith (Richard Carrier) 

-Why People Believe Weird Things: Pseudoscience, Superstition, and Other Confusions of Our Time 

Check out the complete list on our Library page. Thank you again, Jeff! 

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

Call to Action – No Funding for Anti-choice, Anti-LGBTQ2+ Groups 

Please add your voice in support of human rights 

The BC Humanist Association haslaunched a petition in support of new application requirements for the Government of Canada’s Canada Summer Jobs program. 

The program provides wage subsidies to employers to hire high school and post-secondary students. The new policy requires applicants to attest that neither the job nor the employer’s “core mandate” are contrary to human rights, including reproductive rights and the rights of transgender Canadians. 

Until now, many churches, bible camps and other faith-based organizations could apply for funding under the program, some received tens of thousands of dollars in support to hire summer staff. Religious organizations are still eligible for the funding, but those groups must now affirm their support for safe access to abortion and LGBTQ2+ rights. 

Unhappy with the change, some conservative faith groups are suing the government claiming religious discrimination. 

While we’d hope to see an end to public funding going to religious organizations entirely, ensuring that public funds aren’t given to groups that work to undermine fundamental human rights is a positive step. 

It’s important for the government to hear from Canadians who support these actions, not just the small but vocal lobby for the religious right. 

Sign the petition:No funding for anti-choice, anti-LGBTQ2+ groups 

We’ll submit the petition to the government by February 2, 2018, when applications close for the Canada Summer Jobs program. 

In Humanism, Ian Bushfield
Executive Director BC Humanist Association  

And while we’re on the subject…  

Publicly Funded Groups Must Respect Human Rights  

You won’t want to miss Pat Morrow’s analysis of the ‘kerfuffle’ that has developed as conservative religious groups protest their loss of permission to use public money to undermine the rights of others.

Click here to read Pat’s article. 

 

Being an Ethical Omnivore 

Those not in attendance for our January presentation missed out on a remarkable speaker, Dr. Charlene Berkvens, who singlehandedly runs her 80-acre farm in addition to working a full-time job as a veterinarian. An engaging and interesting guest speaker, the considerable amount of Q and A and group participation throughout attested both to the quality of her presentation and devotion to her life’s work.  

Dr. Berkvens’ accomplishments and dedication to her passions of animal welfare and environmentally sustainable farming practices are truly inspiring, and take their mandate from the principles of permaculture (sustainable agriculture that renews natural resources and enriches local ecosystems) and the 5 Freedoms of Animal Welfare, which are:
1) Freedom from hunger and thirst
2) Freedom from discomfort
3) Freedom from pain, injury and disease
4) Freedom to behave normally (according to their species)
5) Freedom from fear and distress 

By the end of Dr. Berkvens’ presentation, there was no room left for ambiguity. Animal welfare and sustainable farming practices are inextricably tied to human interests, in terms of both our health and that of the land. It will take the willingness of ethical consumers, who critically examine their choices, to drive change. In the end, cheap food is not really cheap.    — Rob Daly 

Learn more about  Charlene’s farm – the Fostering Change Farm, by visiting its website or Facebook page. For those interested in supporting sustainable farms with their grocery dollars, Dr. Berkvens provided us with the following list of local food sources in Manitoba, along with links to some of the topics covered, after her presentation:  

Direct Farm Manitoba – list of many local, direct marketing farmers in Manitoba as well as farmers’ markets, etc. 

Harvest Moon Local Food Marketplacesustainably produced, fair local foods directly from local farms 

Bouchee Boucher – restaurant and butcher supporting local farmers 

Feast Cafe Bistro – restaurant that supports local farmers and features local and First Nations foods 

Stella’s – restaurant with some dishes using local food 

Prairie 360 – restaurant with some dishes using local food 

Prairie Box – business that delivers weekly fresh meals with local food  

For more information on some of the ideas / concepts we discussed: 

Holistic Resource Management 

Polyface Farms (Joel Salatin) 

Verge Permaculture 

I would also encourage folks to check out and support: 

The Manitoba Burrowing Owl Recovery Program  

Fort Whyte Centre, Oak Hammock Marsh, The Forks, and Assiniboine Park are great places to enjoy wildlife and the environment in the Winnipeg area.  

A few others to consider checking out include: 

Manitoba’s Tall Grass Prairie Preserve 

Nature Conservancy of Canada (Manitoba) 

As well as the many, many beautiful provincial parks and of course, Riding Mountain National Park. 

A Primer on Assisted Dying in Manitoba 

Medical Assistance In Dying (MAID) has been legal in Canada for 18 months now, but the process and guidelines are poorly understood. Here’s what people need to know: 

 * Manitoba has one centralized MAID team that serves the entire province. Other provinces require that your doctor initiate the evaluation and application process. Here, if you have a terminal diagnosis or a disease that causes you enduring and increasing suffering, you are free to contact the MAID team yourself to discuss whether you might qualify and find out what the next steps are. 

 

 * MAID is not part of the palliative care program in Manitoba. If you are receiving palliative care and you mention that you might be interested in MAID, it doesn’t mean they’ll start the inquiry for you; it’s best to contact the MAID team yourself or to ask a friend or family member to help you make contact. 

  * You do NOT (and should not) have to wait until your body begins to fail before you apply. The application process takes a minimum of 2 weeks, and some patients wait so long that they end up missing the window of opportunity and suffering needlessly in death. 

  * After you make initial contact with the MAID team and they agree you might qualify, they arrange for your first assessment. The assessment team usually consists of a doctor, a nurse, and a social worker. The team interviews you and reviews your medical records. One part of that interview involves speaking with you alone to be sure you’re not being coerced into applying. 

  * An appointment is then arranged with the second assessment team, composed of a different doctor, nurse, and social worker. The two teams don’t communicate with each other about you (the patient) until after both assessments are finished. 

  * After both assessments are complete, the two assessment teams meet and compare notes. If they agree that you qualify, then they recommend that you fill in an application form for medical assistance in dying. 

  * The application form must be signed by the patient (or a proxy, if the patient is physically incapable of signing) in the presence of two independent witnesses. An independent witness is defined as someone who is over the age of 18, a Canadian citizen, not a beneficiary of the patient’s will, and not involved in the patient’s health care. These are the same requirements for serving as a proxy. 

  * Once the application form is filled out, a mandatory waiting period of 10 days begins. You are eligible to receive the service on day 11 after the application form was signed, assuming that in the meantime, the assessment teams have approved you for the service. Note that these 10 days must be “clear” days, meaning that you are mentally coherent; these ‘clear’ days do not have to be consecutive, however. 

  * A significant proportion of MAID applicants do not know two people who are not named in their will, not involved in their health care, and/or who would be appropriate for other reasons to serve as witnesses. Members of Humanist groups across Canada (including many members of HAAM), have been serving as witnesses. Most of these volunteer witnesses also belong to their local chapter of Dying with Dignity. 

  * On the day that you choose to die, you must be mentally coherent and capable of giving consent. Nobody else can give this consent on your behalf, and you cannot consent in advance. 

  * The process of assisting someone to die involves having the MAID provider insert two intravenous lines (one as backup), and deliver 4 drugs through those lines. In Manitoba, this is the only approved method used. The drugs put the patient into a deep sleep and then into a coma, and then cause the heart to stop.

  * Most insurance companies accept the cause of death as being the underlying medical condition, but you should check with your insurance provider to be sure, since those who list the cause of death as suicide can withhold life insurance payments for 2 years after death. 

For links to the MAID team, related legal information, and more, visit the Dying With Dignity Winnipeg Chapter’s website at https://dwdwinnipeg.weebly.com.

— Cheri Frazer is co-coordinator of the Winnipeg Chapter of Dying with Dignity 

2018 HAAM Executive 

The following members were elected at our January AGM.  

President: Donna Harris   Vice President: Pat Morrow 

Secretary: Name Withheld*   Treasurer: Henry Kreindler 

Members at Large: Tammy Blanchette, Rob Daly, Norm Goertzen, Tony Governo, Sherry Lyn Marginet, and Dorothy Stephens. 

Welcome Rob Daly to the team!  

For future reference, the list of executive members can always be found here. 

Thanks to all who attended the AGM.

*Sadly, not everyone can safely identify publicly as non-religious. 

 

Don’t forget to renew your membership! (click here)  

December 2017 Newsletter

Upcoming HAAM Events

Winter Solstice Party

December 23rd at the Belgian Club, 407 Provencher Blvd, 5:30 PM

Please bring an item for the potluck supper.

Optional – bring your favorite board game.

More details here.

See complete event listings and details for all upcoming HAAM events on our Events page.

Charity of the Month – Koats for Kids

Koats for Kids is a United Way program that collects and distributes winter outerwear to needy families. They collect new or gently used winter jackets (clean with working zippers), ski pants, boots, hats, scarves, and mittens. All sizes are needed – from infant to toddler to youth.

Please bring your donations to our Winter Solstice Party! We’ll collect them up and drop them off at the depot. 

Call to Action Register Your Intent to be an Organ Donor

The Organ Donor Registry is now online!

Organ and tissue donation in Manitoba have gone high-tech. Paper ‘organ donor’ wallet cards are no longer considered adequate, because they are not recorded in any database and may not be available when needed. Instead, Manitoba Health now recommends that you register your wishes online to ensure that they will be known – if and when you ever qualify to donate.

Register your consent to donate at Sign Up for Life.ca. Your information will be recorded and stored in the secure Manitoba eHealth database. In the event of your death or imminent death, your decision will be shared with your family so that they can honor your wishes. Donation will not take place without your family’s consent.

How does it work?

You can register if you are 18 years of age or older and have a valid Manitoba Health Card. You can donate organs and tissues (heart, liver, kidneys, pancreas, lungs, small bowel, stomach, corneas, heart valves, pericardium, bone, cartilage, tendons, ligaments and skin) for transplant. You can also indicate whether or not you would want your organs or tissues to be used for medical education or scientific research purposes.

Everyone can register to be a donor regardless of age, medical condition or sexual orientation. Your decision to register should not be based on whether YOU think you would be eligible or not. Eligibility is determined by the health care team after a patient’s death.

Thanks to Karen Donald for the tip!

Latest News

Bill Favors Religion over Patient Rights

Having sat through a community hearing at the Manitoba Legislature on the issue of Bill 34, The Medical Assistance in Dying (Protection for Health Professionals and Others) Act on the evening of November 6th, I’d like to share some observations, comments, and take-away points from what was said. It should be noted that I learned about this hearing at the very last possible minute, and I’m uncertain as to whether the speakers were there by invitation or whether there had been an option for the public to sign up ahead of time to speak. As such, I can’t account for the small number of speakers calling for amendments, vs. the majority, who called for keeping the bill as is. Of the 16 speakers, only 3 (Dr. Alewyn Vorster, representing the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Manitoba; Mary J. Shariff, from the Faculty of Law, University of Manitoba; and Cory Ruf of Dying with Dignity Canada), advocated for amending the bill with clearer language that removes ambiguity, out of concern that a broad interpretation of the bill could result in denial of MAID information, referrals, and services to Manitoba patients.

Of the 13 speakers in favor of the bill as presented (two representatives from Catholic organizations, 10 doctors, and a private citizen), all cited personal religious beliefs as part of their presentations, in addition to many other arguments. Their most common arguments and concerns centered on personal religious conviction/conscience, the Hippocratic Oath, fear of health care professionals being required to make MAID referrals, reprisal should they refuse to do so, patient abandonment, assertions that medication is adequate to maintain comfort until “natural” death occurs, and the belief that “there is no crisis of access”. Most maintained that they wouldn’t do anything to block access to MAID services, and while all stated that they wouldn’t make a direct referral to the MAID team, most (with a couple of exceptions) were willing to refer patients to a third party who would.

Since When Do Institutions have Rights?

From what I learned during a previous conversation with my MLA, Andrew Micklefield (who was in attendance), and certainly from what was shared at this hearing, it’s clear that there is a disconnect between Health Minister Kelvin Goertzen’s statement, “We will protect the rights of institutions”, and the real-life ramifications of that statement for patients who are now forced into a potentially agonizing, painful, and certainly undignified transfer of service to another hospital if they opt for MAID while in a faith-based facility in Manitoba. As an example, to quote one speaker, Dr. Albert Chudley (a Professor of Pediatrics and Child Health, as well as Biochemistry and Medical Genetics, at the University of Manitoba, and who ironically professed to have taught clinical ethics), the bill “doesn’t diminish patient rights”, “transfer remains an option”, and “patients are not in pain”. Dr. Ann McKenzie, amidst stories of personal tragedy and appeals to the Hippocratic Oath, is of the opinion that vulnerable patients who choose MAID as an end of life option “lose time with family” and create trauma for those who remain.

Is there a duty to refer?

In conclusion, when asked by Andrew Swan, an opposition MLA who supports the bill, if the Health Minister would require health professionals to provide MAID referrals, Goertzen stated that he doesn’t believe health professionals (including nurses, pharmacists etc.) should be required to make referrals. The Minister said the government would “support the rights of institutions… not at the expense of access”; however, he did not acknowledge that failing to provide information and referral directly impacts that access. The provincial government is siding with publicly-funded, faith-based hospitals that are denying on-site access to MAID services, which is a violation of the Charter Rights of Manitobans. This bill sets the rights of religious institutions above patient dignity and humane end-of-life care.

All clauses of Bill 34 were passed, unamended.                                                                                                 – Rob Daly

Is Christmas really a Christian Holiday?

If you celebrate and enjoy Christmas, don’t feel guilty about it. There’s no need to give it up just because you no longer view it as a religious holiday. Some of the following details may be disputable, because sources vary, and it’s difficult to pinpoint the exact origins of customs and rituals that date back to antiquity and cross cultures. But this much is clear – Most of the traditions we associate with Christmas either originated in pre-Christian myths or have absolutely NOTHING to do with Christianity.

It’s all about the solstice

Winter Solstice is the longest night of the year. Ancient astronomers were able to detect that after the solstice, the days became longer and the noonday sun rose higher in the sky.  This was interpreted as a promise that warmth would return once more to the Earth. Numerous pre-Christian cultures and Pagan religions celebrated the return of the Sun and honored a birth or rebirth of one of their gods or goddesses on or near the solstice. These included Attis (Roman), Dionysus (Greek), Osiris (Egyptian), and Mithra (Persian). Saturnalia (the Festival of Saturn) was celebrated from December 17 to 23 throughout the Roman Empire. Many of these celebrations included fertility rituals and symbols intended to encourage Mother Earth to begin reproducing again.

In the late 3rd century the Roman Emperor Aurelian blended Saturnalia with the birth celebrations of savior gods from other religions into a single holy day (December 25th), so it was relatively easy to incorporate the celebration of Jesus’ birth.

These are Pagan? Really?

It’s no surprise, then, that quite a few of our modern Christmas traditions have Pagan roots. Here are a few examples:

Feasting and partying – Saturnalia was the liveliest of the ancient Roman festivals. The celebration included days off work, street parties, candles, gifts, and greenery. Saturn was the god of agriculture, so feasting was an appropriate way to celebrate the fruits of the harvest.

Mistletoe and Holly – Mistletoe was considered a magical plant and a fertility symbol by many ancient cultures, so people used to practice ‘fertility rituals’ underneath it; nowadays we usually just kiss. The complimentary colors of red and green represent male and female, and we still see them in the holly leaves with their red berries used in Christmas wreaths.

Santa Claus is partly based on myths that predate St Nicholas. The Norse god Odin is often pictured as an old man with a white beard and long cloak. Odin led a hunting party through the skies, riding an eight-legged horse. In winter, children would leave their boots near the chimney, filled with carrots or straw for the horse, and in return, Odin would leave a little gift in the boot. In Celtic Neopaganism, the Holly King and the Oak King fight a battle each summer and winter solstice, with each reigning half the year. Depictions of the Holly King often look remarkably like a sort of woodsy Santa Claus.

Caroling originated with the practice of wassailing – traveling through fields and orchards in the middle of winter, singing and shouting to drive away any spirits that might inhibit the growth of future crops.

Gift-giving – During Saturnalia, it was tradition to give children gifts of wax figures that represented the sacrifices made to Saturn to wish for a bountiful harvest.

Evergreens – Romans decorated their homes with bits of greenery during Saturnalia. Pines and firs were cherished as a symbol of life and rebirth in the depth of winter, and were traditionally hung around doorways and windows. Egyptians used palm fronds instead.

Fruitcake comes from Egypt. Once baked, it lasts a looooong time without going bad, so it was often placed as an offering on the tomb of a loved one.

The Yule log originates in Norway. The Norse believed that the sun was a giant wheel of fire which rolled away from the earth, and then began rolling back again on the winter solstice. To celebrate the return of the sun each year, they would light a Yule log and let it burn all night long. Once the log was burned in the hearth, the ashes were scattered about the house to protect the family within from hostile spirits.

Decorated trees – During Saturnalia, on the eve of the Midwinter Solstice, Roman priests would cut down a pine tree, decorate it, and carry it ceremonially to the temple celebrations. Pagan families would bring a live tree into the home so the wood spirits would have a place to keep warm in the cold winter months; food and treats were hung on the branches for the spirits to eat.

  Most Humanists enjoy the various celebrations and traditions around the Winter Solstice, regardless of their origins. So

from all of us at HAAM – whatever you celebrate!

Countdown to 2018

Please support HAAM with your Membership

Membership renewal for 2018 is now open. Please note that HAAM operates on a calendar year, meaning that membership fees are due in January. First time members who join between October and December pay the full fee but their membership includes the upcoming year. If you are one of those brand new members, this notice does not apply to you. Everyone else needs to become a member or renew.

We count on membership revenues to support HAAM’s continuing work in creating community and providing a voice for non-believers. Fees are affordable and include a ‘limited income’ option if applicable. Please support the group that supports you! Memberships are payable anytime by credit card using the PayPal link on our website, by cheque in the mail, or by cash or cheque at any event. More information about membership and renewal is on our website.

If you plan to attend our AGM in January, dues MUST be paid in order to vote.

Become Involved!

Get to know your fellow Humanists and help us develop a supportive community. Do you have a suggestion for a meeting topic or social event? An issue you’d like to discuss? A charity you think we should support? Do you have a talent to share? Can you help out with a specific task, project, or event? To keep our group active and interesting, we need YOUR input and help.

Watch for our New Ads

On Saturday, December 7th, HAAM will be running a seasonal ad in the local Steinbach newspaper, The Carillon. It will appear in both the print edition (on the front page of Section C), and in the online edition. We will also be running an ad on Facebook in December.

If you want a sneak preview, check out the banner image on our Facebook page.

Watch for our ads – and when you see them, please share them to spread the word! 

Stressed Out About the Upcoming Holidays?

Do you live in a religious community, or with religious family members? Is the holiday season stressful for you because of it? Are family get-togethers uncomfortable? A little guide called Being Openly Secular During the Holidays might be helpful. Topics include managing stress, adhering to holiday traditions, and dealing with religious family. It also contains a secular grace and some links to further resources.

We also covered this topic in last year’s December newsletter.

Book of the Month Salt Sugar Fat

Here’s a book that might give you pause before you dig into too much holiday party food – Salt Sugar Fat, by Michael Moss. After reading it, you probably won’t want to dig into quite so much holiday party food.

How much of our food comes from cardboard boxes, plastic packaging, fast food restaurants, take out, microwaves, lunch meats, processed cheese, cookies, candy bars, etc.? If you don’t know, or feel uneasy about the answer, you may not want to know.

Moss looks into labs where scientists calculate the “bliss point” of sugary beverages, unearths marketing techniques taken straight from tobacco company playbooks, and talks to concerned insiders who make startling confessions. Just as millions of “heavy users” are addicted to salt, sugar, and fat, so too are the companies that peddle them. You will never look at a nutrition label the same way again.

Get a head start on your New Year’s resolutions! If you read this book now, guaranteed you’ll be making different (and better) choices in 2018.

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

Is There a Right to be an A**hole?

At our (packed) November meeting, U of M professor Steve Lecce spoke about free speech. His awesome presentation was followed by a lively Q and A. If you couldn’t attend, you can now catch it on our YouTube channel.

 

September 2017 Newsletter

September HAAM Events

Monthly Meeting – A History of Atheism in Canada

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

Complete event listings and details for all this and all upcoming HAAM events are on our Events page.

 

 

You can find past events by using the ‘Search this Site’ tool, also in the right sidebar.

Upcoming Community (Non-HAAM) Events

Advance Care Planning

Thursday September 21st, The Reh-Fit Centre, 1390 Taylor Avenue, 1:00 – 3:30 PM

Who will speak for you if you can’t speak for yourself? Advance registration is required.

 

 

Public Lecture – Refugees and Immigrants

Wednesday, Sept 27th, Canadian Fossil Discovery Centre, Morden, 7 – 9 PM

 

 

 

For details on these and more upcoming non-HAAM events, visit our Community Events page.

Latest News

Solar Eclipse 2017 – A traumatic event for some of our members

Sometimes HAAM members get asked why we publicly challenge religion and why we are so angry about it. The following Facebook status, posted on the day of the recent solar eclipse, perfectly illustrates the answer. We fight because, unfortunately, the type of anguish expressed in this post is common among survivors of childhood religious indoctrination (brainwashing). Instilling this level of fear in children whose minds have not yet developed the ability to think critically about what they are being taught is psychological abuse. We frequently hear similar stories in person from many of our members. Decades later, the PTSD remains.

The post is copied and pasted to protect the privacy of the HAAM member who shared it. The event described occurred almost 30 years ago.

I vividly remember seeing a partial eclipse as a child (not sure when?) and the terror I felt because we were reading the Bible and singing, “When the skies of heaven shall fall and the moon shall be turned into blood, the sons of God shall arise, Zion awake.”

I’m sitting here remembering and feeling how terrified I was as a child because it could have been the end of the world, as we were told, and I was told that meant that I would be tortured for my faith. I can still see the pictures of people being tortured, and being told that would happen to me to try to get me to deny Christ – stretching, ripping off nails, gouging out eyes and ripping out intestines. I saw these AS A CHILD. Was told it would happen to me AS A CHILD.

I’m feeling sick and I’m shaking with the memory, and how it makes me feel today. It is irrational to feel fear as what I really feel is amazement at seeing a partial eclipse. But brainwashing goes deep, and this is the first time I’m thinking about this and feeling it as an adult. I’m feeling the lasting trauma of emotional abuse and how it shaped my mind. This is so sick. *tears*

A google search for the quoted line (“when the skies of heaven shall fall…”) turned up several hymns containing those or similar lyrics. One version is this (not the exact hymn that our HAAM member sang as a child):

Awake Zion, awake

Awake and trim your lamps

For the stars of heaven shall fall

And the moon shall turn into blood

And the son of man shall appear

Zion awake

As to which Bible verse these lyrics are based on, there are over a dozen verses that refer to the darkening of the sun, moon, stars, or some combination of these. Three specifically mention the moon turning blood red – an obvious reference to an eclipse.

  • Joel 2:31 The sun will be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood, before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.
  • Acts 2:20 The sun will be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood, before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord.
  • Revelation 6:12-13 The sun turned black like sackcloth made of goat hair, the whole moon turned blood red, and the stars in the sky fell to earth.

Seriously, there are only two conclusions we can draw from these verses.

1 The writer of Acts (ostensibly Luke, but in fact, scholars don’t really know who wrote Luke and Acts, although they know the same person wrote both books) plagiarized the book of Joel.

2 People living 2,000 years ago didn’t understand what an eclipse was.

Are apologists still peddling this fear and nonsense today? You betcha! (see book cover, right) And as long as they do, Humanists will continue to promote science, reason, and critical thinking as the best ways to understand the world. This is the only way we can ever hope to diminish the kind of fear and ignorance that leads to otherwise loving families scaring innocent children out of their wits and traumatizing them for life.

Calls to Action

End Violence Against Apostates in Malaysia

Members of an atheist group in Malaysia are facing death threats and government-sponsored “re-education” after their photos were seen in a Facebook post. Click here for the story, and a sample letter that you can write to urge an end to the intolerance of apostasy.

 

 

‘Voice Your Choice’ on Assisted Dying

The federal government is studying the possible impacts of allowing medical assistance in dying (MAID) for three groups of Canadians who don’t currently qualify:

  • Those who will be excluded unless the law is changed to allow for advance requests;
  • Individuals whose primary medical condition is a mental illness; and
  • Mature minors.

Dying With Dignity is seeking submissions from Canadians who have personal concerns or stories to tell about how the current restrictions on MAID have already unfairly restricted (or may, in future, restrict) choices in dying for themselves or someone they know.

Click here for more information about this campaign. Deadline for submissions is September 15th.

If you don’t have a personal story to tell right now, but still want to add your voice to those of others who support advance requests for assisted dying, click here.

Charity of the Month – Island Lake Relief Fund

Once again, wildfires in northern Manitoba have forced the evacuation of several communities in the Island Lake area (northeast). As many as 5,000 people have been flown out of the Wasagamack, St. Theresa Point, and Garden Hill First Nations. They are staying in temporary accommodations and emergency shelters in Winnipeg, Brandon, and Portage. Many left home with little or no possessions, and are relying on charities for assistance while they are away.

CBC news posted lots of images of the devastation. You can see them here.

Here’s how HAAM members can help:

If you have needed items to donate, you can take them directly to one of the following locations. (Please do not bring them to the HAAM meeting.)

  • The Island Lake Tribal Council, at 338 Broadway, is accepting diapers, water, baby formula, condensed milk and other toiletries. They don’t need any more clothes or blankets.
  • The Ma Mawi Chi Itata Centre, at 445 King St., is accepting donations of clean clothing (especially men’s clothing), non-perishable food, diapers, kids’ toys, and hygiene products.

If you are able to make a financial contribution:

The Me-Dian Credit Union (formerly the Metis Credit Union of Manitoba) has started an Island Lake Relief Fund. It’s accepting donations to help with short-term costs for the evacuees. We will be collecting donations at our September 9th HAAM meeting and forwarding them to this fund.

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

The Jesus Stick

Sanded wood with tapered ends, and a small leather lace with five plastic beads tied onto it. That’s the Jesus Stick that was handed out by the hundreds at the Morden Corn and Apple Festival this year. These walking sticks are supposed to symbolize your walk with Jesus. Now normally I wouldn’t bother with booths like this; it’s not my habit to visit Christian booths just to annoy people. However, we had several Christians come by our HAAM booth and mention that we really need to hear their message. So myself and fellow Humanist Laura Stephens, not wanting to decline the invite, decided we’d go over and get ourselves a Jesus stick.

They’re not completely free. When you get to the booth, you stand in line with others until you hear their message, and only after you listen to the message, do they cough up a stick. So with that in mind, I thought when I got to the front of the line “maybe I’ll make this guy work for it a little”. Both Laura and I offered full disclosure when we walked up – we told the fella were Humanists and atheists, and had been encouraged by Christians with sticks to hear their message. So here is the message about the five beads on the stick (click to enlarge photo):

Gold

The first bead is gold and symbolizes heaven and God’s plan for you. After the fellow explained the first bead, and how heaven is a paradise, I asked him “suppose I accept all this and get saved, how am I supposed to enjoy paradise when my kids are burning in hell because they’re atheists too?” All the fellow could do was to quote some scripture that, to me, seemed to indicate that everybody gets in to heaven. Then he moved on to the next bead.

Black

Black symbolizes the sin of man in the world, our fall from grace, and how the wages of sin is death… but that you could be saved from this because God sent his son, the “sinless Jesus”, to pay our debt. So I asked the fella “if Jesus was completely sinless, how come the New Testament said ‘slaves obey your earthly masters’? It seems to me that the Bible was endorsing slavery and the ownership of other people, and that would, in my books, be a sin.” His answer was a Bible story from Philemon, where Paul sends a runaway slave back to his master. This was somehow supposed to demonstrate that Jesus didn’t support slavery. So I asked “how on earth does sending a slave back to his master demonstrate that anything has changed?” His answer – “because the slave had turned into a Christian” – was even more baffling. And he was on to the next bead.

Red

Red symbolizes the blood of Jesus and his death on the cross, his resurrection, and his payment for our sins. Later Laura mentioned to me that at this part of his spiel she really wanted to say “resurrected? So he really only gave up a long weekend?”… I wish she had, as I’m sure the fella’s reaction would’ve been priceless. I took a pause in his speech to ask him why he would think that human sacrifice could pay for someone else’s crimes (that they didn’t actually commit), and why anyone would think a human sacrifice is good. Any good and moral person who was alive at the time would have done everything in their power to stop the slow torture of another human being. His comeback for that was a nervous (or possibly uncomfortable) smile, and he replied “it was a different time and Jesus was the perfect sacrifice. He gave his life for you”.

White

The white bead symbolizes purity and the need to repent and ask for forgiveness. I mentioned to him that this is one of the big differences for us as Humanists. When we do wrong, we try to right those wrongs ourselves and ask for forgiveness from those we have wronged. It seems to me that asking for forgiveness from a supernatural God is the easy way out. To which our Christian potential stick-giver could only a muster a somewhat subdued “ahuh”.

Green

Green symbolizes growing in Christ. I let him have this one; after all it was his booth and he had suffered enough. It didn’t escape Laura’s attention that the fella gave us our sticks and let us go before getting to the second card. The second card (shown at right, click to enlarge) is where he explains how and what to pray to ask Jesus to come into our hearts. This was a bummer, ‘cause I had all kinds of questions about prayer.

Maybe next year.                                                                                                                                          – Pat Morrow    

Check out our Gallery for photos of the Morden Outreach.

Book of the Month – The New Atheism: Taking a Stand for Science and Reason

Victor J. Stenger grew up in a Catholic working-class neighborhood in New Jersey. He earned a PhD in physics in 1963 and enjoyed a long and successful career in particle physics. He was also a long-time and well-known advocate of skepticism, philosophical naturalism, and atheism; a fierce critic of intelligent design and pseudoscience (even being once sued by Uri Geller for questioning Geller’s psychic powers); and a public speaker and debater, taking on apologists like John Lennox and William Lane Craig.

Stenger didn’t mince words in his criticism of religion. His statement about religion flying people into buildings is often quoted online. He argued that absence of evidence for God is, indeed, evidence of absence, when the evidence should be there and is not.

Stenger’s 2009 book The New Atheism is a well-argued defense of non-belief. He summarizes the main points made by the New Atheists (Dawkins, Harris, Hitchens, and Dennett), and offers up a few more arguments of his own. Along the way, Stenger also discusses his critics’ arguments — and offers excellent rebuttals to them. This book is an great primer for godless newbies; it’s not overly philosophical, and it provides easy-to-understand arguments to use if you’re ever in a religious debate.

Stenger died in 2014 at the age of 79. His soul doesn’t live on, but his written works continue to encourage others to take a stand for science and reason. The 2009 lecture based on this book at the time of its release is on YouTube.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-laUz7hQZw0

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

HAAM and Eggs Brunch

Our informal weekend brunches are a great way to get to know your fellow Humanists. Here’s a photo of our September brunch in the cafe at Assiniboine Park.

Our next brunch will be on Sunday, October 22nd, but we haven’t chosen a location yet. We’ve been rotating locations around the city for variety, and so that the same people don’t always have to drive across town. Do you have a favorite place to suggest for a future brunch?  Let us know.

 

 

 

Did You Miss the Evening with Richard Carrier?

We had a packed – almost ‘standing room only’ room for Dr. Carrier’s speech on the historicity of Jesus and the origins of Christianity. If you were unable to attend, you can now catch it on our YouTube channel.

Demand an End to “Faith-Based” Health Care

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.

Suggested recipients

Manitoba government

Manitoba premier Brian Pallister: premier@leg.gov.mb.ca or 204-945-3714

Minister of Health, Kevin Goertzen: minhsal@leg.gov.mb.ca or 204-945-3731

Send a copy to your own MLA: Find your MLA here and then click on his/her name here for contact info.

Federal Goverment

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.

info@stbhf.org or 204-237-2067

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.

June 2016 Newsletter

8a504244-27af-465d-b72b-92999de7774cIn this issue:

  • Medical aid in dying becomes legal
  • Perspective on the Canadian Museum for Human Rights
  • New Outreach plans
  • Summer reading suggestions
  • and more…

June Newsletter

 

February 2016 Newsletter

Jeff Olsson with "Bruce" at the Canadian Fossil Discovery Centre

Jeff Olsson with “Bruce” at the Canadian Fossil Discovery Centre

In this issue:

  • A Life Membership Presentation
  • Conversations with Believers
  • Outreach reports
  • Update on medically assisted dying
  • and more….

February 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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