Upcoming HAAM Events
We’re taking July off, but we’ll be busy with Outreach in August, and we’re already planning for fall.
Mark these dates on your calendars now!
August 17th to 19th we’ll be setting up our booth at Stonewall Quarry Days for the first time this year.
August 24th to 26th we’ll be back at the Corn and Apple Festival in Morden.
If you’re planning to attend either of these festivals, make sure to drop by at our booth and say Hi.
New volunteers are always welcome. There’s more information about the Outreach program here.
On Sunday, September 2nd, we’ll kick off our new season with a HAAM and Eggs Brunch.
Fall meeting dates:
Our monthly meetings are held on Saturdays at Canad Inns Polo Park from 5:30 pm – 8:30 pm. Planning for fall is still underway. Check back later in the summer for more details.
Our guest speaker will be Bre Woligroski, a Sexuality and Reproductive Health Facilitator from Sexuality Education Resource Centre MB (SERC).
Our own Tammy Blanchette will be speaking about pseudoscience and alternative medicine.
November 18th Topic TBA.
More information about upcoming HAAM events will be posted on our Events page once we finalize the details.
About our meetings and events
Welcome! If you are new and just checking us out, you are welcome to attend one or two events before becoming a member. After that, if you wish to continue to participate, we ask that you support the group by joining. Our annual dues are reasonable and include a limited-income option.
All events are subject to change, and some details may be TBA. In the event of inclement weather or unforeseen circumstances, events may be subject to cancellation or details may change. Check future newsletters, the Home page of our website, our Facebook page, or Meetup for information and updates.
Upcoming Community (Non-HAAM) Events
Steinbach Pride Parade
Saturday, 21 July, K.R. Barkman Park in Steinbach MB, 11 AM to 3 PM.
Join in the celebration of diversity in southeast Manitoba. Details on their Facebook page.
More information and links to all non-HAAM events are on our Community Events page.
Feedback (still) wanted
Thanks to everyone who responded so far to our very brief survey asking for your input about our meeting venue. We have received a couple of good suggestions for alternate venues that we might consider. Our executive will be reviewing all the survey responses and suggestions when we meet again at the end of the summer.
If you meant to respond and forgot, or just didn’t get around to it, the survey will still be open until the end of July.
Click here to respond to our Venue Survey!
Calls to Action
As Humanists, we need to speak up about what matters to us.
NEW! Voice your support for essential end-of-life care options. All Canadians should have access to both palliative care and assisted dying (MAID). No one should be forced to choose between them. Details about this issue are available from DWD Canada.
Make your voice heard! Deadline is July 13th.
It’s also not too late to respond to these 3 previous Calls to Action.
Sign the petition to end the gay blood ban
Register to be an organ donor
Demand an end to faith-based health care
There are links to more information about all these issues on our home page. If you haven’t had time to read about them and respond yet, you can catch up this summer.
Note that the deadline to sign the petition about the gay blood ban is July 17th.
Blasphemy law update
Are you under the impression that Canada repealed its blasphemy law last year? If so, you’re mistaken. The law is still on the books – but hopefully not for much longer.
Blasphemy is only one of several outdated laws slated for abolishment in Bill C-51, which was introduced by the federal government last year. But change is slow – the bill took most of the year to get through the House of Commons, and it’s still being reviewed in the Senate. CFI Canada has more on this story.
When the bill passes, Canada will be the eighth country to repeal or abolish its blasphemy laws in just the last decade. But Ireland could beat us to the punch – their citizens are set to vote on the issue this October. Stay tuned.
Book of the Month
Summer’s here, so read something light and funny! You may have seen Penn Jillette in a magic show, or in his TV series Penn and Teller, or even in a music video. He’s been all over the place in show biz.
God, No! Signs You May Already Be an Atheist and Other Magical Tales is Jillette’s irreverent ramblings and personal stories about the Ten Commandments, religious food laws, magic, family, sex, house parties, scuba diving, and many more unrelated topics. It’s not a novel, but rather a series of anecdotes, suitable for bathroom reading. And it’s not really about atheism; it’s thoughts about life from someone who happens to be an atheist. This book comes with a language warning – so you’re warned.
All our library books and DVD’s are free to borrow for paid HAAM members.
Visit our library page if you would like to borrow this book.
Outreach Report – Summer in the City Festival
One of HAAM’s early forays into outreach was back in 2011; a joint venture between HAAM and the Winnipeg Skeptics at the Red River Ex. As a relatively new member, I did a few shifts, but the results of that outreach were mixed at best. Maybe it was the venue, the lack of clear goals, or too narrow a focus. I felt that, although it was enjoyable, it fell flat at accomplishing much. The next year I was asked to join HAAM’s exec, and we developed a new approach to our outreach. We would focus on promoting Humanism and countering the inherently bad ideas and misinformation propagated by religion with a healthy dose of science and skepticism. Above all, our primary goal would be to build safe, secular communities.
Jump ahead to the 2018 Summer in the City Festival and the Eastman Humanist Community (EHC), a group that HAAM, through its outreach efforts, was able to help launch about three years ago. This year, their members helped with the daily booth setup and tear down, and their volunteer contribution was huge. On Saturday, the day shift was entirely made up of EHC members, staffing the booth in their hometown. This was a first, but to really appreciate its importance, one must understand a little bit about Steinbach.
A little background
In Manitoba, Steinbach is known as the buckle of the Bible Belt. It is home to the second largest megachurch in Manitoba – Southland. Southland’s foyer is probably larger than the MTS Centre’s. Steinbach still has vibrant Mennonite roots, but its theology has diversified into just about every flavor of Christianity, the loudest being the fundamentalist evangelicals or ‘fundagelicals’. Steinbach got its first bars and lounges in 2011, just 4 years after the population climbed above 10.000, which turned the Town of Steinbach into the City of Steinbach. Many locals believe that Steinbach reported artificially low population numbers though the 80’s and 90’s, so that the town council could maintain better control. This is a claim I can’t substantiate to any great degree, but looking at population growth charts, one has to wonder. Today Steinbach’s population is 15,829, and it’s a growing and changing community. However, its council and schoolboard are still dominated by the religious, although this is slowly changing as well. The area’s MP is the evangelical Ted Falk; and its MLA is Kelvin Goertzen, the provincial heath minister who doesn’t understand human rights and officially welcomed Alex Mitala to his church. (Mitala is a Ugandan preacher who supported the ‘aggravated homosexuality’ or ‘kill the gays bill’ in Uganda.) That gives one an idea of what we can be dealing with. So when I say I’m proud of the ECH and its volunteers, I truly mean it. These folks deserve a really big hand.
Some interesting conversations
An outreach report wouldn’t be complete without a few stories of some of our interactions. I don’t engage in every conversation; that’s why it’s important for our other outreach workers to record their own stories (yes, that’s a hint, my fellow Humanists). We had our standard visitors – angry Christians, and others who just don’t know what to make of us. We also had the usual completely dishonest believers who listen, and then proceed to misrepresent what was just said and argue the stuffing right out of the strawman. But this year, Tony and Tammy engaged our first flat-earther. Ya never know if these people are serious, but this guy seemed to be. The unfortunate part is that he showed up with his son.
Saturday afternoon the EHC crew had a young, Christian woman who felt it necessary to pray for them (see “Being prayed for” below). Now I’ve been prayed at before, and every time it happens, visions of George Carlin come to mind saying “Pray for anything. But… God made a divine plan… Now you come along and pray for something. Well, suppose the thing you want isn’t in God’s divine plan. What do you want him to do? Change his plan? Just for you?… What’s the use of being God if every run-down schmuck with a two-dollar prayer book can come along and fuck up your plan?”
Abortion was another popular topic for debate this year. In one such discussion it was revealed just how broken the moral compass of many in the antichoice movement are. The heavy lifting was done by Dorothy and Arthur. It became quickly apparent that this young visitor from Brandon University was devoid of any compassion for the women. He kept repeating “what about the rights of the baby; it doesn’t have a choice” (‘baby’ being defined as anything from a fertilized egg to a full-term fetus). I interjected “So you’re ok with stripping the rights of actual people and giving them to potential people”? His answer was a nonsensical “but they’re human”. He was then asked if a twelve-year-old girl who was raped by her father and became pregnant should be forced to carry the pregnancy to term. His answer was yes. I felt like ending this conversation with a swift knee to the groin… but that wouldn’t be polite. Both Dorothy and I eventually left him to Arthur, who handled the conversation with professionalism and aplomb.
The good stuff
Of course, we had many productive conversations and several repeat visitors. A fella I spoke with last year joined me when I was having lunch away from the booth. He was with family that day and didn’t want to approach the booth. The young man had lots of questions. Did you ever believe? You don’t worry about hell? He also had follow up questions from last year; not that I remembered our conversation, but he did. He was particularly bothered by the problem of evil. We had run through this before last year, with me explaining the problem, the standard Christian apologetic argument (free will), and the rational response or counter apologetic argument (Satan’s freewill). This is a fella of not much more then twenty, struggling to make his faith make sense. He said we could talk more at the Morden outreach. I gave him a card to email me anytime with his questions, but he thinks face to face is better.
Another fella showed up to thank me for our talk last year. He said he learned how to talk to us and debate better by speaking with me. I responded that I was a little confused, since I didn’t regard our talk as a debate but a discussion. What I found weird was it was just a thank-you; he didn’t have any questions or want to talk…. bit of a head scratcher. I engaged all kinds of people during this outreach, even a two-on-one by a father son preacher team – a first for me.
In the end, this outreach effort was a success. We inspired a lot of people to think; our outreach volunteers had an experience I hope they will want to repeat; our visitors conversed with atheists who aren’t shy about their nonbelief; and most importantly, a few more nonbelievers in the Bible Belt found the EHC.
– Pat Morrow
Being prayed for
I don’t know her name, but “Eve” came up and told us that she had received a word from her god to speak to us. She was nervous and flushed. Eve asked me why I was an atheist. I gave her a quick synopsis of my journey away from faith and she wondered if maybe my leaving was because I had not truly given my heart to Jesus. I felt that was a bit pompous of her, but let it go.
After a bit more banter, she asked if she could pray for us. I said, “Sure, if you want to head off and pray for us; it’s a free country.” She turned a deeper red and said, “No, I’d like to pray for all of you right here.” I told her that I would find that offensive and I didn’t think it was a good idea. She kept insisting, “God has told me to come here and pray with you”. I asked if she really heard an audible voice from her god. I thought for sure she would say she felt some kind of impulse or urge, but she confirmed it was a clear voice she could hear. At this point I began to feel sorry for her, and turned to the others in the booth and asked, “What do you think – do you want her to pray for us?” Their eyes were wide, and I could see they were casting about for some kind of appropriate response. I don’t know who, but someone replied, “I guess it’s okay…” I asked Eve if the holy spirit could keep the prayer to a minute or less. She wanted to sit with us, so she came right into the booth and took my vacant chair and began to pray. Almost three minutes later she was done. I didn’t listen all that closely, but the gist of the prayer was that she wanted her god to show us how real he was and how deeply he cared for us. A few seconds after her “amen” she was on her way.
Her prayer moved me to ponder how jaw-droppingly insensitive people can be when they get directions from imaginary gods. It also reminded me how happy I’ve been since leaving. Thanks, Eve!
– Gary Snider (EHC)
There are more photos from this Outreach in our Photo Gallery.
Our celebration was an overwhelming success in its new venue at Kildonan Park.
to Rob Daly for being such a great BBQ chef!
More photos of the Solstice party in our Photo Gallery.
June HAAM Events
HAAM and Eggs Breakfast
Sunday, June 4th, Smitty’s Restaurant, 580 Pembina Hwy (at Grant), 8:30 AM. Note the change of time.
Outreach at the Summer in the City Festival
Friday June 16th to Sunday June 18th, Steinbach, Manitoba.
Summer Solstice Party and BBQ
Saturday, June 24th, 5:30 PM, Assiniboine Park
There are MORE HAAM events coming up later this summer! See them all on our Events page or click on the event name in the right sidebar.
You can find past events by using the ‘Search this Site’ tool, also in the right sidebar.
June Community (non-HAAM) Events
Winnipeg Pride Parade
Sunday June 4th Both the time (11 AM) and the route have changed this year.
For details on this and MORE upcoming community events this summer, visit our new Community Events page.
Coming this August – An Evening with Richard Carrier
Author and historian Richard Carrier will be touring Canada this summer, and HAAM is very excited to be hosting an evening with him on Saturday August 19th.
Richard has a Ph.D. in the history of philosophy from Columbia University, and is a published philosopher and historian, specializing in contemporary philosophy of naturalism, and in Greco-Roman philosophy, science, and religion, and the origins of Christianity. He blogs regularly, lectures for community groups worldwide, and teaches courses online. He is the author of many books including Sense and Goodness without God, On the Historicity of Jesus, Why I Am Not a Christian, Not the Impossible Faith, and Proving History, as well as chapters in several anthologies and articles in academic journals. For more about Dr. Carrier and his work see www.richardcarrier.info
Richard will be speaking to us on the topic Did Christianity Really Begin without a Jesus? At the Intersection of Skepticism and History. If you’ve heard or read his work before, you already know that Richard is not convinced that there ever was an actual historical person named Jesus. The whole of Christianity could be based on nothing more than myth! Come and hear him explain his position and ask questions about it.
If you want to check out some of Richard’s work before meeting him in person, you can borrow his book Sense and Goodness Without God from our HAAM library, or watch one of his many videos on YouTube.
This event is still in the planning stage. Further details will be announced as they are finalized. Check the event post on our website for updates.
Meet Another Humanist!
Pamela Johnson is the latest to add her profile to our Meet the Humanist web page. If you’ve been to one of our regular meetings, you’ll be familiar with the beautiful teapot that she painted for us.
The Meet the Humanist page is our opportunity to let the world know that non-believers are just regular people, and to let closeted atheists know that they are not alone. We’re always looking for more people to add their stories. (You can remain anonymous if you wish.) Contact us if you’d like to share your story.
Atheism in Canada Has a History? Who Knew?
I had the pleasure of driving out to Morden last week to hear Peter Cantelon and his Diversitas group host, as usual, another excellent talk. This month’s presentation was given by the University of Manitoba’s Dr. Elliot Hanowski on the history of non-belief in Canada. This was a very eye-opening and informative evening; I was taken aback by the incredibly rich and vibrant history of Canadian and Manitoban secular, atheist, and Humanist groups. It is a part of Canadian culture that I, and many others, are sorely unaware of!
Dr. Hanowski whisked us though the early history of non-belief, beginning with Greece, Rome, and the Middle Ages, but the main focus of his talk essentially began at the beginning of the Enlightenment Era. We learned about such famous figures as Thomas Paine, Thomas Jefferson, Voltaire, and Denis Diderot. Of course the bulk of the time was spent addressing the title topic – non-belief in Canada. What I also found interesting was to learn that so many non-believers were at the vanguard of social changes like the liberalization of the abortion and contraception laws, and the introduction of universal healthcare.
Dr. Hanowski described the large migration of non-religious settlers to BC and the long history of secular/freethought groups in early and modern Quebec. In one nineteenth century case, the wife of a secularist and Catholic Church critic asked to have her husband buried in the graveyard of a local Catholic church. It took five years and multiple court cases, but in the end she won, and was allowed to bury him in the church yard. In attendance at the funeral were some 2500 British soldiers and police, to prevent a near riot! The church members were later able to make themselves feel better by having the bishop come out and de-consecrate the small bit of ground where the heretic was buried.
In Manitoba, we heard about early twentieth-century secular movements such as the Rationalist Society, and Winnipegger Marshall J. Gauvin, who would attend priests’ sermons one week then critique them the next. He routinely had 300-600 people attend his lectures, and once debated a fundamentalist preacher to an audience of 3000.
Dr. Hanowski is a member of ISHASH (The International Society for Historians of Atheism, Secularism, and Humanism). This organization is a collection of academics dedicated to learning more about the history of us – the non-believers, Humanists, atheists, and freethinkers.
I have just barely touched on Dr. Hanowski’s entertaining and enlightening talk here, and there’s a reason for that. If you missed it, have no fear. Details still need to be worked out, but Dr. Hanowski has agreed to join us for an evening in the fall. So keep your eyes open and your calendars clear as our new meeting season picks up again in September.
You won’t want to miss this one! – Pat Morrow
We’re Gearing Up for Summer Outreach
June marks the beginning of our summer outreach season. We’re all looking forward to Steinbach’s Summer in the City Festival, and we have will have a new banner at the booth to promote Humanism.
Last year was a challenging outreach, and this year we expect more of the same. But this time we will have help from some of the newly-formed Eastman Humanist Community. A few of their intrepid members will join us at the booth talking with believers and non-believers alike.
Summer in the City promises some great entertainment, with Tom Cochrane on the main stage Saturday evening. But Sunday’s performances will feature entirely Christian artists, since ‘Worship in the City’ will now become an all-day event.
Any way you slice it, this is going to be an interesting weekend! So please join us! If you’re a HAAM member, please consider helping out at the booth. Everyone who attends the festival is welcome to just pop by for a visit and say Hi.
See you out there!
Most of us read a lot of depressing news these days about issues that matter to us as Humanists. Do you get discouraged, or even avoid the news, because you feel like there’s nothing you can do about it?
Sometimes there are actions we can take, however small, to make our voices heard. Usually these involve writing to politicians or signing petitions. Please take the few minutes to make your opinion count!
Please help us stop government funding of anti-choice groups. Here is a sample letter that you can send to Manitoba government Ministers and the Leader of the Opposition. Opinion aside, it just doesn’t make sense for governments to fund organizations that oppose legal services. Let’s make our voices heard!
Update on Canada’s Blasphemy Law
The map below shows countries that still had penalties for blasphemy in 2016 (click to enlarge). Shamefully, Canada is still on the list.
A recent Call to Action asked HAAM supporters to write to their MP’s demanding the repeal of Canada’s outdated blasphemy law. A number of us did. Here is the response one of our members received from her MP:
Thank you for writing to me about Bill C-39 and changes to blasphemy laws. I apologize for the delay in my response.
As you know, the Minister of Justice and Attorney General, the Honourable Jody Wilson-Raybould, is currently in the process of reforming our justice system to make it more fair, relevant and accessible. This reform involves modernizing the Criminal Code. Given that the last broad review of the criminal justice system occurred in the 1980s, an in-depth examination of how the system is currently working will assist in identifying gaps to ensure a comprehensive and modern justice system. To fulfil this commitment, the Minister is undertaking a program of consultation and engagement with stakeholders through a series of regional roundtables across the country.
While Bill C-39 does not touch on blasphemy laws specifically, I would like to note that the Minister has referred to Bill C-39 as a first step in a larger review that will span her entire mandate. To that end, the Minister continues to act on her mandate to review our criminal justice system in a comprehensive way.
Thank you again for writing to me about changes to blasphemy laws. If you have any further questions or comments, please do not hesitate to contact me again.
It’s not exactly a promise, but at least it’s an acknowledgement. Maybe it’s a start. At least her letter put the issue on one MP’s radar. We need to continue to urge the government to include the blasphemy law in that ‘larger review’ they mention.
It’s not too late to add your own voice to those who have already written. There’s more information and a link to a sample (pre-written) letter on the home page of our HAAM website. All you have to do is copy, paste, and send.
Current Calls to Action are always posted on the Home Page of our website. The only way we’ll ever make a difference is to stand up and be counted!
BOOK OF THE MONTH – Being Gay is Disgusting
Yes, that really is the title of the book. Actually, the full title is Being Gay is Disgusting – or, God Loves the Smell of Burning Fat. It’s been over 3 years since author Edward Falzon visited Winnipeg while on tour, promoting his book. So there are lots of new people in HAAM who may not have heard of it. Don’t let the title put you off – it’s intended for shock value. The book is really just an entertaining and painless way to become familiar with the first five books of the Old Testament. And yes, the well-known verses condemning homosexuality are in there, along with lots of other prohibitions that are probably less familiar.
I thought, when I first got this book, that it would be a severely abridged version of the ‘real’ Bible, but no. Edward has all the information in there, even the boring genealogies (but they’re in chart form instead of endless passages of ‘begats’). None of the sordid details are omitted, either; he only updated the language to make reading the Bible understandable and fun. It’s a great way for the ‘unchurched’, or those who have never read the Bible, to get to know what’s in there. I referred to it regularly when I read the Old Testament as part of HAAM’s Atheist Bible Study project. (Editor’s note: If you didn’t read along with us back then, you can still do it now – the reading guide and my notes are all posted at that link.) One of the best features of the book is Edward’s hilarious and insightful footnotes!
Here’s an excerpt from the book (with its corresponding footnote):
Genesis 14 – Big War, Abram Kicks Butt
So anyway, there were five kings, including the kings of both Sodom and Gomorrah, who had all been subject to a king called Kedorlaomer (“Ked” to his mates). After twelve years of this, they all rebelled. In the 14th year, King Ked teamed up with three other kings and destroyed no less than four territories, plus two more on the way home.
So the five other kings went down to the Dead Sea, which was full of slime pits, and waged war on Ked and his friends.28 They lost. Badly. When the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah fled to the hills, some of their men fell into the slime pits. The victors took all the possessions of Sodom and Gomorrah and went home. They also took Abram’s nephew, Lot, who was living in Sodom at the time.
28You know, at this point in the Bible, only about 370 years have passed since Noah’s flood. I’ve always wondered how there can be nine kings and a Pharaoh, each with their own civilians, servants, slaves, and livestock, created from the eight people on the ark. I still haven’t worked it out – I’ll keep you posted.
The long days of summer are a great time to sit outside and read a book. Wouldn’t it be fun to be caught at the beach with a title like this? A sure conversation starter…
- Outreach report from our first Summer in the City
- Bigotry is a lifestyle choice
- Commenting on social media? Think twice!
- Is blasphemy a victimless crime? Stand up for free speech!
- and more…
- How does Humanism differ from Unitarian Universalism?
- Our U of M Outreach proved a little unusual this year…
- Can saying the wrong thing land you in jail?
- and more…
We’re busy – you’re busy. We’re cold – you’re cold. But it’s Winnipeg and we’re used to the winter weather, right? Find out what’s happening with the Humanists, Atheists & Agnostics of Manitoba by reading our latest newsletter. Cheers!
For the record, as a statement of our values, we at HAAM wholeheartedly denounce the violence wrought in Paris, France, by terrorists who attacked the offices of Charlie Hebdo. This cold-blooded act of murder is offensive to our beliefs and is causing us much heartache and grief. Our sympathies go out to all of those impacted by this tragedy.
There is no guarantee in the world that, as adults, we will never be insulted, offended, or hurt by the actions of others. We can protest, exchange insults, write letters, start a law suit, or take any number of other actions in response. Violence, however, is not an acceptable reaction. Acts of terrorism are especially heinous, being anonymous.
While we may not be fans of the brand of satire practised by Charlie Hebdo, we still assert and agree with their right to freedom of speech.
Right now, we may feel helpless, wondering what action we can take; what can we do to help stop these kinds of events. At HAAM, as a positive action we have decided to support the Centre for Inquiry and Humanist Canada in their efforts to repeal Canada’s archaic and useless blasphemy laws.
In conclusion, we would like to just remind those reading of the names of the twelve victims. May their loss not be in vain.
- Frédéric Boisseau, 42, building maintenance worker
- Franck Brinsolaro, 49, Protection Service police officer
- Cabu (Jean Cabut), 76, cartoonist
- Elsa Cayat, 54, psychoanalyst and columnist of Jewish religion
- Charb (Stéphane Charbonnier), 47, cartoonist, columnist, and editor-in-chief
- Philippe Honoré, 74, cartoonist
- Bernard Maris, 68, economist, editor, and columnist
- Ahmed Merabet, 42, a Muslim police officer of Algerian descent
- Mustapha Ourrad, 60, copy editor, Muslim French-Algerian
- Michel Renaud, 69, guest at the meeting
- Tignous (Bernard Verlhac), 57, cartoonist.
- Georges Wolinski, 80, cartoonist born in Tunisia of Jewish descent
- Our buses are still roaming the city streets, but they won’t be around much longer! Find out who won a prize for the first picture submitted.
- A.C. Grayling was a hit with HAAM. Find out about his visit to Winnipeg.
- Learn more about what Arthur Schafer has to say on the topic of dying with dignity.
- And much more…
Go ahead! Click and read the October newsletter!