Humanism

July 2020 Newsletter

Event Updates

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 it will proceed as planned.

HAAM and Eggs Brunches

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

Stay connected

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

 

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

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

Latest News

11 Questions for atheists – Part 2

Last month we published an article that included submissions from our members in answer to the following “FAQ’s for non-believers”:

1. How much does it cost to become an atheist?
2. What is THE book on atheism?
3. Are atheists afraid of the Devil and Hell?
4. Where do atheists get their morals, if not from the bible?
5. How did you become an atheist?
6. If God did not create the universe, who did?
7. Why are atheists so angry?
8. Do atheists have a soul?
9. Do atheists believe in nothing?
10. If atheists don’t believe in God, what prevents them from raping, killing, and breaking the law?
Bonus question – What happens when you die?

Chad Froese took his time and submitted answers to ALL of these questions. The experiences he gained during his own journey out of conservative Christianity make his responses particularly insightful.

Take the time to read them on our Perspectives page.

Can you donate blood?

Blood donation numbers are DOWN due to the pandemic – but sick and injured people still need blood! Canadian Blood Services is open for donations, and it’s safe to donate as long as you follow the health and safety guidelines.

Note the following changes due to COVID-19 – all donors require an appointment (no walk-ins); some donation centers are closed; masks are required; and no snacks will be provided. Of course, all this could change again. To get the latest information and updates, visit blood.ca before making your appointment.

If you are able to donate, please try to do so! And make sure that your donation is credited to HAAM’s Partners for Life team. Partners for Life is a friendly competition between community organizations to see how many donations their members contribute. HAAM’s annual pledge is 25 units, and already we are up to 18!

Instructions on how to join the HAAM Partners for Life team, as well as other useful information) are here.

How will the pandemic affect religiosity? Cast your vote!

So many people are ill or dead from the Coronavirus this year. So many people are spreading or catching it at religious services. So many people are praying for health or healing – to no avail. COVID-19 is proof positive that faith doesn’t protect people from harm and that prayer doesn’t work. So religiosity will decline in the next year, right?

But wait! All this uncertainty and upheaval due to the pandemic – people sick or dying, or out of work, the downturn in the economy, and unstable governments – causes anxiety and stress. And when times are tough, faith gives people hope. So religiosity will increase in the next year, right?

The first view, that religion will decline, is expressed in a rant by an atheist on YouTube who calls herself the Angry Aging Woman. The second view, that religion will increase, is espoused by Phil Zuckerman in an article for Psychology Today.

So which is it? We are all probably rooting for the YouTuber – but Zuckerman is a professor of sociology who actually studies secular culture. Is the expert correct? Will we see increases in church attendance over the next year?

Read the article and watch the video in the links above, then let us know who you think is correct.

We’ll publish the poll results in the August newsletter. Then we can follow the news over the next few months to see who turns out to be correct.

New Essay Contest

Calling all students! Humanist Canada is holding another essay contest, open to anyone age 16-19 as of September 2020. If you know a student who has some time over the summer, and is able to express their view(s) on some important social issue that relates to secularity and Humanism, let them know that they can earn up to $1000 (first prize) or $750 (second prize) simply for putting their opinions down on paper. Entry deadline is September 30th.

Visit Humanist Canada for all the details and rules.

The winning entry in the 2019 essay contest, called “The Necessity of a Universal Basic Income in Upholding Human Freedom”, is now up on the Humanist Canada website.

 

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!

——-

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.

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

September 2019 Newsletter

Upcoming HAAM Events

Monthly Meeting – Stand Up for Science

Saturday, September 14th, Canad Inns Polo Park, 1405 St Matthews Ave, 5:30 PM

We will be welcoming a guest speaker from Evidence for Democracy to talk to us about encouraging evidence-based decision-making in public policy and ways that we can combat misinformation and ‘fake news’.

If you value reason and science-based decision-making in government, then this is a meeting you won’t wanna miss.

Details here.

HAAM and Eggs Brunch

Sunday, September 22nd, Smitty’s Polo Park, 1017 St James St, 9:30 AM

Meet and get to know your fellow HAAMsters.

New people are always welcome. Details here.

Save the Dates

Monthly meetings:

October 5th
November 16th

HAAM and Eggs Brunch:

October 20th
November 24th

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

Upcoming Community (Non-HAAM) Events

Global Climate Strike

Friday, September 27th, Manitoba Legislature, noon to 5 PM

Hosted by Manitoba Youth for Climate Action and Manitoba Energy Justice Coalition
Event details and more information on their Facebook Event page.

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

‘Charity’ of the Month – Evidence for Democracy

Occasionally we make an exception to the usual criteria for our monthly charity fundraiser, and instead support a cause that carries out valuable work but is not a registered charity. Evidence for Democracy fits this category.

So what does E4D do? They promote the transparent use of evidence in government decision-making in Canada. They engage and empower the science community while cultivating public and political demand for evidence-based decision-making. They run campaigns about issues affecting science and public policy, and they educate Canadians about evidence-based decision-making. E4D’s goals include strong public policies based on science and evidence, engaged citizens, transparent, accountable government, and a culture that values science and evidence.

Organizations involved in activities that might be seen as political lobbying might not want to be registered as a charity, because that can impose restrictions on their work. E4D offers this explanation: “Evidence for Democracy is a federally registered non-profit organization. To ensure we can effectively advocate for transparent, evidence-based public policy decisions, we are not a charity and donations are not eligible for a tax credit.”

Donations for E4D will be collected at the monthly meeting. If you would like to donate but cannot attend the meeting, you can do so via the ‘Donate’ button on our website. Just include a note letting us know that the money is for the Evidence for Democracy. Note that for this month only, tax receipts will NOT be issued.

Calls to Action

Please take a minute to let your federal election candidates know that you want the next parliament to fix the flaws in Canada’s assisted dying (MAiD) law. Currently, advance requests for MAiD will not be carried out if the patient is not capable of providing consent at the time of the procedure, even if they have already been assessed and approved.

Our next Members of Parliament — no matter where they fall on the political spectrum — need to understand that they have a duty to uphold your end-of-life rights.

Dying With Dignity Canada has prepared an automated letter that makes it really easy to show your support. All you need to do is add your name and postal code and click ‘send’; it will be sent to every federal election candidate in your constituency.

Vote for Science

Let your federal election candidates know that you care about science and that you want them to support evidence-based policies and decision-making if they are elected to the next government. Scientific research benefits our health care, education, environment and economy.

Votescience.ca is a letter-writing campaign sponsored by a collaboration of Canadian scientific organizations to let politicians know that we care about science and want them to govern based on evidence and reason. It will only take you a minute to add your name and postal code to the form letter, and then copies will be sent to every federal election candidate in your constituency.

 

Latest News

What do Humanists believe?

After our August newsletter was sent last month, we had one angry subscriber who canceled their subscription in response to the article supporting reproductive choice.

If you’re uncertain about what HAAM (as an organization) endorses, please visit our website to learn more. Under the About Us tab, you will find information about Humanism and what Humanists believe. You can also read our Philosophy, Mission Statement, and Position Statements, which were written by members of our exec and voted on by the membership at our AGM several years ago.

Humanists support evidence-based decision-making, empathy, compassion, and fairness. These values generally translate into support for human rights, education, and science, resulting in consensus among most Humanists on a number of social issues. Nevertheless, there is no absolute set of personal beliefs that define Humanism, and no ‘membership test’ required to join HAAM. And of course, our newsletter is public, so anyone can subscribe, whether they agree with our positions or not.

If you still have questions, or would like to discuss any of this, we’re happy to answer – just Contact Us.

Passages

Long-time HAAM member Olga Nahirniak died on Sunday August 4th at the age of 94. She had not attended meetings in recent years due to age and health, but she kept in touch by reading the newsletter, and she came to our Summer Solstice party last year (2018), where she can be seen sitting in the front row in a pink T-shirt in the group photo.

Helen Friesen, who knew Olga well, shared this tribute:

  I was fortunate to see her and visit with her two weeks before her death at a function at the Unitarian Church. She had been in hospital for a while just before that, but she was in good spirits and enjoyed the afternoon with everybody.

  Olga was a special and spunky lady. She had a no-nonsense attitude towards beliefs that didn’t make sense to her, among them being religious beliefs, and she didn’t hesitate to say so over the years.

  I’ll remember her fondly.

Olga’s obituary can be seen at Ethical Death Care. Condolences were sent to her family on behalf of all of us at HAAM. She will be missed.

Venue update (again)

After holding three meetings at the University of Winnipeg in the spring, we received mixed reviews from members and had mixed success with the room. There were two main issues:

1. The location – On the plus side, it is central and easy to get to by bus. On the minus side, parking can be a challenge and some members expressed safety concerns about the area.

2. The room itself – On the plus side, the room is spacious, quiet, and private. On the minus side, we had major challenges with furnishings (once arriving to find that almost all the chairs and tables had been removed, and another time, that piles of boxes and paraphernalia from a previous meeting had been left in the room) and equipment (plugging in a coffee pot resulted in repeatedly blown fuses).

On reflection, the executive has decided to move our monthly meetings back to Canad Inns Polo Park for the fall. We will continue to keep an eye out for the ideal venue.

Our goal is to make our meetings accessible to everyone. If you are one of the people who found it easier to get to the U of W, and need a ride to Canad Inns, please let us know (info@haam.ca) and we will try to arrange one for you.

Book of the Month – The Greatest Show on Earth

This 2010 book by Richard Dawkins has become a classic. He was, after all, a professor of zoology long before he became better known for his outspoken atheist activism. So in this book explaining the process of evolution, he’s really in his element. Lay reviewers repeatedly describe Dawkins’s explanations as clear and easy to understand, with plenty of illustrations and examples throughout.

72% of reviewers on Amazon.com gave this book 5 stars; 5% gave it one star. Guess who those 5% of reviewers were? Hint: They described it as ‘pure fiction’, a ‘diatribe against religion’, and ‘an attempt to brainwash the reader’. Several of them recommended books by creationist authors instead.

This book covers all the questions and topics that people ask about evolution – including missing links and transitional fossils, dating methods, the meaning of the word ‘theory’, DNA, the age of the earth, micro vs. macro, the tree of life, vestigial organs, etc.  We discuss all of these and more at our outreach booth in Morden every year.

If you’re not already familiar with these words and phrases, then you owe it to yourself to read Greatest Show on Earth. Dawkins really does make a complex subject understandable and even entertaining.

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

It’s back-to-school time 

Just a reminder: If you have children attending public school in Manitoba, and you have any questions or concerns about religious exercises or religious instruction, please read our Religion in Public Schools information page.

Every year, we get calls and letters from concerned parents, but most of your questions and concerns should be addressed on that page.

Please contact us if:

  • You have questions that are NOT answered on that page,
  • You have new information or updates that we should add to that page, or
  • Your child is attending a school that is violating the guidelines and you would like advice or support.

Morden Outreach

Well that’s a wrap – another successful summer outreach completed. Thanks to all the volunteers who staffed the booth. We have uploaded a few photos to our website gallery. A report will follow in the October newsletter.

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.  

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!

 

 

November 2016 Newsletter

Upcoming Events

The Humanism of Star Trek

Saturday, November 19th, Canad Inns Polo Park, 1405 St Matthews Avenue, 5:30 – 8:30 PM

Secular Parents’ Book Club Meeting

Thursday, November 24th, 7 – 9 PM, location TBA

Winter Solstice Party

Saturday December 17th, Heritage-Victoria Community Club, 950 Sturgeon Road, 5:30 PM


For more information on these events, check out our Events page or click on the event name in the right sidebar.

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

Latest News

Prayer at City Hall Update

no-prayerTony Governo has filed a formal complaint about the prayers at city council meetings with the Manitoba Human Rights Commission. He recently learned that his complaint has been registered. This means that it will be served on the Respondent (the City). They will be asked to provide a reply within 30 days. Then the complaint will be investigated, which could take 8-10 months from the time it is assigned. The investigator then makes a recommendation to the Board. The Board then decides to dismiss or take to next stage.

Tony was recently interviewed by CTV News about the threats he received on social media after his complaint. And also in October, Edmonton’s city council decided to comply with the Supreme Court ruling and ended the practice of opening their meetings with prayer. After contemplating a ‘moment of reflection’ instead, they ultimately decided that it made more sense to just skip the whole thing and just get down to business. Wouldn’t it be nice if Winnipeg could do the same?

If you have not previously read about this issue, you can catch up here.

Openly Secular Day is Tuesday, November 15th

openly-secularAre you openly secular? Not everyone is – and not everyone can be. Too many people cannot reveal that they no longer believe, for fear of negative repercussions from their family, business/employment, friends, or community. But if we’re ever going to reduce the stigma of being a non-believer, and dispel the notion that atheists believe in ‘nothing’, more people have to come out of the closet.

The mission of the Openly Secular Campaign is to decrease discrimination and increase acceptance of atheists and Humanists by encouraging as many people as possible to let others know that they are non-religious. November 15th is Openly Secular Day, and it’s no accident that the date is just around the beginning of the holiday season – a time when so many people get together with family and friends. The goal on that day is to have as many people as possible ‘come out’ to just one other person. If you can do this, check out their website for more information and resources, and to take the ‘One Person Pledge’.

October event recap

October was a busy month! Our evening showing of the film A Better Life: An Exploration of Joy and Meaning in a World Without God was truly inspirational. President Donna Harris opened with a brief presentation about what Humanism is and how it differs from atheism. A big thank-you goes to Kumaran Reddy for recording it for us.

For a number of people, it was their first HAAM event, and one of those new people won our door prize – a copy of the book version of A Better Life. If you were unable to attend that evening, it is possible to view the film at home for a small fee. Check it out here.

If you couldn’t make it to our meeting to learn about the Humanist Outreach program in Uganda, and HAAM’s support of a secular school there, you missed a great evening. You can read news coverage of the meeting here.

Watch this short (2 minute) video message from Robert Bwambale of Kasese Humanist School.

Here is our sponsored student, John Bogere, saying hello to us.

Religious Exercises in Schools?

religion-in-schoolJust a reminder – Section 84(8) of the Manitoba Public Schools Act reads “If a petition asking for religious exercises, signed by the parents or guardians of 75% of the pupils in the case of a school having fewer than 80 pupils or by the parents or guardians of at least 60 pupils in the case of a school having an enrolment of 80 or more pupils, is presented to the school board, religious exercises shall be conducted for the children of those parents or guardians in that school year.”

This petition must come from the parents/community, NOT the school. The Minister of Education has ruled that public schools must be non-sectarian and that staff at the school cannot participate in recruiting students for prayer groups by contacting parents or sending home permission slips to be signed. It has come to our attention that some schools are still doing this, and one school division recently ended the practice simply because a parent brought it to the attention of the superintendent.

If this is still happening at your child’s school, we would like to know about it. Please contact us.

Call to Action – Speak up about Operation Christmas Child

shoeboxIf you’re involved in a school or other organization that collects for Operation Christmas Child, there are some very good reasons NOT to participate – even if you’re Christian (and especially if you’re not).

Find out more here, here, and here.

Spread the word!

 

 

Book of the Month – Pale Blue Dot

pale-blue-dot-bookWith Star Trek as our meeting topic, this seems like a good month to feature a book about our place in the universe. We have a copy of Carl Sagan’s 1994 classic Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space. The title is, of course, based on the famous photograph of the same name – a picture of the Earth from 4 billion miles away, taken by Voyager 1 in 1991 as it approached the outer limits of our solar system.

The book begins by examining the idea that humans think they are uniquely important in this vast universe. Sagan continues by exploring our solar system in detail, and discussing the possibility of life on other planets, suggesting that our very survival may depend on the wise use of other worlds. He argues that in order to save the human race, space colonization and terraforming (the hypothetical process of deliberately modifying the atmosphere, temperature, surface topography or ecology of another planet or moon to make it habitable by Earth-like life) should be considered.

Watch this very moving tribute to Sagan and the Pale Blue Dot, produced by Seth Andrews (The Thinking Atheist). It’s only 5 minutes long.

Charity of the Month – The North Point Douglas Women’s Centre

north-point-douglasThe North Point Douglas Women’s Centre is just east of Main Street, near Dufferin Avenue. The address alone provides a wealth of information about the clients it serves. Its mission is to promote a safe, healthy, vibrant community for women and families, by offering programs designed to provide support, training, resources, and opportunities to women in the area. The centre arose out of a project sponsored by the Social Planning Council of Winnipeg in 2000, to address problems caused by poverty and a lack of resources. Today it is a community hub where women and their families gather.

computer-point-douglasPrograms include

  • A drop-in safe space with snacks, activities, computer and phone access, laundry facilities, and a clothing and household items collection
  • Counselling and domestic violence recovery support
  • A neighborhood oven for community baking and events
  • Community safety programs
  • Health, fitness, and nutrition programs
  • Support and referrals for women dealing with stressors such as shelter, employment, emergency food and clothing, school, Child and Family Services involvement, legal help, Employment and Income Assistance disputes, daycare, etc.

What to Donate

Currently, the centre has a particular need for the following items that they go through very quickly

  • Feminine hygiene products
  • Diapers
  • Baby formula

Please bring these items to the monthly meeting and we will deliver them to the centre. Of course, money likely wouldn’t be turned down, either. Tax receipts are available for donations over $10. If you would like to donate but cannot attend the meeting, you can do so via the PayPal link on the right sidebar. Just include a message letting us know that the money is for the charity.

Partners for Life Update

donate-blood

Yay! HAAM members are now up to 15 donations for 2016! We have 11 members registered in the program, 7 of whom have donated at least once this year. We’re still just ahead of Steinbach Bible College, (with 13 donations), and there are almost 2 months to go! Let’s get a few more units in by New Year.

There’s no prize for donating blood – just bragging rights and the satisfaction that comes from knowing that Humanists are helping their fellow humans. So get out there and do it!

You can donate at the main clinic on William Ave (across from HSC) during their regular hours (Mon 10-2 and 3:30-7:30; Tues 1:30-7; and Wed-Sat 8-2), or attend one of these mobile clinics in the Winnipeg area.

Here are two new points worth noting (thanks Janine Guinn):

  1. The recommended time between donations for women is being increased to 84 days, because of the ongoing risk of low hemoglobin. (The interval for men remains at 56 days.)
  2. If you book an appointment at least 48 hours ahead, you can now have your pre-donation health questions sent by email and complete them online before you go, saving a bunch of time.

Note that you must register with the Partners for Life program in order for your donation to be credited to HAAM. Click here for more information and instructions on how to sign up.

We Need You!

help-wantedIt’s time to start looking ahead again to the upcoming year. Please consider volunteering to serve on our executive! We need people who are enthusiastic about building a supportive community, promoting a secular society with fairness for all, and advocating for critical thinking in the larger world. If you can contribute ideas, energy, time, and/or effort, you’re welcome to join us! The more committed people we have, the more we can accomplish.

Meetings are usually held monthly, (dates and times determined by mutual availability), with online contact in between. Please consider volunteering, or accepting the offer to join if you are approached. Many hands make light work, and enable HAAM to offer more events and programs, and make a bigger difference to our members and community.

Elections will be held at our AGM on January 14th – so you have some time to think about it or talk to members of our current executive if you have questions.

Outreach Report

outreach logoOutreach has been very busy since our last newsletter. Tony Governo and Tammy Blanchette have been out to speak to another high school class in southern Manitoba. I enjoyed meeting with a local hospital chaplain who is taking a class on world religions in an effort to become better at his job in spiritual care. His overall goal was to learn how to best to approach a “Humanist/atheist person” (his words) with regards to their spiritual care. It was a helluva starting point, but the ensuing discussion was interesting for two people who are, metaphorically speaking, from different planets.

A little later in October, Donna Harris and I (with Todd De Ryck along as an observer) spoke to a U of W class called “Crises in Faith” – an exploration of five major contemporary critiques of religion. We explained the usual atheism and Humanistic philosophy. The students’ questions were sometimes challenging, and as often happens when discussing philosophy, the conversation goes off in the strangest directions. We found ourselves having to explain why, when making societal decisions, both religious and non-religious people are welcome at the table of ideas, but religion itself shouldn’t and can’t be granted special privileges. I also found myself in the really odd position of explaining why the national socialism of the Nazis in the middle of the twentieth century was not a secular government. This is why we love outreach and especially visiting school classes; you really don’t know what someone will say next.

We’re looking forward to November and our visit to the newly formed Steinbach Humanist group; that should be fun.                                                                                                                                   – Pat Morrow

When Good Intentions Cross Ethical Lines

This article appears on our Perspectives page. You can read it here.

July 2016 Newsletter

bigotryIn this issue:

  • 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…

July newsletter

 

March 2016 Newsletter

uupromisesIn this issue:

  • 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…

March newsletter

January 2016 Newsletter

In this issue:

  • 2015 Year in Review and President’s Message
  • Outreach Reports
  • Which community leader doesn’t seem interested in speaking to our members?
  • HAAM helps sponsor a refugee family
  • and more…

January newsletter

October 2015 Newsletter

Niigaan SinclairIn this issue:

  • We welcome Niigaan Sinclair to our next meeting to discuss aboriginal issues and concerns
  • Photos of River City Reasonfest
  • What do lard and warm socks have in common? Our Charity of the Month needs both items
  • HAAM welcomes the Centre for Inquiry to Manitoba
  • The niqab – yes or no? One of our members weighs in

And more…

October newsletter

Bittersweet Humanism

There are millions of posts on Facebook. Recently, I came across this post on a page simply called Atheism. It really hit home with me. It was written by Andrew Cutlip after a religious friend of his said non-believers don’t believe in anything except their own non-belief. Many of us have heard variations of this claim by religious believers. It angered him, but also got him thinking about how incredibly difficult it must be for a believer to be able to place themselves in our shoes.

It’s a beautiful short essay I felt needs to be shared. So without further ado, this is Andrew Cutlip’s guest post. ~ Pat Morrow

Bittersweet Humanism

Bittersweet HumanismAt times I hear some people wonder aloud, either honestly or rhetorically, about how hollow existence must be for an atheist. How not believing we have a divine creator or any hope for an afterlife must make our lives dismal and sad. How not having any handed-down meaning means we don’t have any meaning at all.

I can understand how someone who has never experienced what it’s like to be an atheist might not be able to wrap their mind around it, and those who suddenly find themselves in that position would be terrified of its implications.

After all, losing all notions of an afterlife means grieving for past loved ones all over again. We don’t afford ourselves the luxury of pretending at all, and so the loss of a loved one truly is a loss for us. We bear the full weight of someone’s passing, and also bear the burden of knowing that we too will have the same fate. So I can see why people might be perplexed to see atheists act out with so much passion for others and for life itself, with a mounting suspicion that this state surely must make us feel bitter, and not being able to see why we find life to be so sweet. What they can’t see is the redeeming value of what living with no illusions allows us.

These realizations show us how precious and important life and loving each other is, because of how fleeting it is. Just like how watching children grow up in the blink of an eye makes that brief period in their lives so special, this is how an atheist views life in general. We are unable to take our lives for granted or each other for granted. How many more times will you look up at the night sky and see a full moon surrounded by millions of stars? Maybe a hundred, or maybe a dozen. Maybe this will be your last time. How many times will you be moved by a song? How many more trips to new places will you be able to visit in your life? To be an atheist is to know that nothing in life, no matter how small, is trivial. Every smile you give and receive, every person you comfort, every single moment in life has so much more value. And this is where humanism emerges.

Every person we come across in life is someone we can learn from and feel privileged to know, since we are all together on this one planet, in this one particular moment in time. A humanist knows that our common humanity is the one thing we all can share and work toward upholding. And in the end, when we pass, we can do so knowing that we led a life that was full of love, full of caring for others like us, full of meaning that we created for ourselves. A humanist’s version of heaven is knowing that those we leave behind will remember us fondly and warmly.

Andrew Cutlip is an engineer, husband and father residing in Northern California.

What is a Humanist?

pat mDefinition

The Oxford English Dictionary defines humanism as a “rationalist outlook or system of thought attaching prime importance to human rather than divine or supernatural matters.” Humanism can be described as a godless philosophy based on reason and compassion.

A more in depth definition is one described by the BHA (British Humanist Association). The word humanist has come to mean someone who:

-trusts to the scientific method when it comes to understanding how the universe works and rejects the idea of the supernatural (and is therefore an atheist or agnostic)
-makes their ethical decisions based on reason, empathy, and a concern for human beings and other sentient animals
-believes that, in the absence of an afterlife and any discernible purpose to the universe, human beings can act to give their own lives meaning by seeking happiness in this life and helping others to do the same.

If this sounds like you, congratulations, you’re a humanist.

Characteristics

Humanism is an open ended quest. It seeks to provide answers to life’s questions based on the best available knowledge and philosophy. But sometimes the best available knowledge still leaves a lot of unanswered questions. Humanist views are open to change and are constantly evolving. Humanists don’t expect the one, final, absolute truth to be revealed to them. On the contrary, they hold that all opinions are fallible and provisional, and that free inquiry and debate are essential to the process of learning and developing. Thus, humanists value tolerance, pluralism, and critical inquiry as positive and beneficial qualities in society.

The humanist reliance on science and common sense often means many people are humanists without realizing it! Hundreds of millions of people around the world agree with the humanist philosophy of living a happy and productive life, based on reason and compassion. These tacit humanists reach similar conclusions without meeting like-minded people or reading particular texts. They work out their humanist life stance independently by learning what science has discovered, by examining supernatural claims, and by sharing in our universal human values.

History

Humanism is a fairly new name for a very old philosophy. The basic principles of humanism – skepticism of supernatural claims and an emphasis on living a fulfilling and ethical life without religion – have been embraced by a wide variety of thinkers in different cultures for thousands of years. But not until the twentieth century did the word “humanism” become the common term for this worldview.

Throughout history, public expressions of humanist ideas have often been suppressed and destroyed, and, at other times, such ideas have probably been voiced only in private. Sometimes the strongest remaining indications of humanist thinking in a society are seen in the work of artists or in the arguments of apologists who are defending religious orthodoxy against the skeptics of the day. (An interesting example still quoted today is the Old Testament statement that “The fool hath said in his heart that there is no god” [Psalm 14]. This insult suggests that even in Bronze-age Jewish society, atheist thinking was prevalent enough to motivate religious teachers to attack it!)

Humanistic philosophy has a long history. Important humanist traditions include the great teachers and philosophical movements of Ancient China and India between two and three thousand years ago; the philosophies of classical Greece and Rome, which survived in the Muslim world during the European Dark Ages and Medieval period, finally returning to Europe in the Renaissance; and the flowering of scientific and humanist thought in the eighteenth-century Enlightenment. The Lokayata movement in India -1000 BCE, criticized the Hindu religion of the day and developed a naturalistic philosophy of the cosmos.

Chinese philosophers, sixth century BCE, were also notable for their development of humanistic ethical philosophies. Their criticism of supernatural claims was often sly. The great Taoist teacher Lao Tse (early to middle of the sixth century BCE) indicated his skepticism about supernatural claims when he said, “If lightning is the anger of the gods, the gods are concerned mostly with trees.”

The most famous of these teachers is Confucius. The Confucians tried to replace traditional religious beliefs with an ethical system focused on responsibility to family and society. About the same time humanistic thought was beginning to flourish in ancient Greece and Rome. Pythagoras, Aristotle, Socrates, and Epicurus were some of the great thinkers of that time. Epicurus suggested that two things prevent people from trying to live a full and happy life: fear of the gods and fear of an afterlife. But the materialist philosophy of the Atomists removed the fear of the supernatural and the fear of death. Socrates, or what is known as the Socratic Method can be seen as profoundly humanistic in the way it encourages untrammeled inquiry that is open to all parties. The great religious prophets of human history claimed to bring “God’s truth” and absolute commandments; whereas Socrates is famous for saying he knew nothing and brought not answers, but a method of questioning.

As we have seen, humanism has no country or culture of origin, nor did it spring from any political view. Humanism is simply a product of us, the human animal and our willingness to be honest with ourselves.

What does humanism offer?

Your beliefs inform your actions; that is to say, what you believe very much informs how you behave. Untrue beliefs often give us answers that are untrue. The result can be bad answers and behaviour. All the while the people engaged in this behavior think they’re doing the right thing for the right reasons. We all have an interest to make sure beliefs are true, or as true as possible. Humanism offers a way to get to those truths.

Humanism offers a way rid ourselves of the things that separate us – like the in-group out-group mentality of religion and politics. If we are to make the rules that govern us, we have to make sure those rules apply equally to all people, not just ones of a certain gender, religion or creed. The rights of the individual are paramount, however they must be tempered with empathy and compassion as well as a responsibility to each other. Humanism offers a realization that we have a responsibility to our natural environment as well, our responsibility to our fellow humans who exist now and the ones who will come in future generations. Humanism takes into account the bigger picture for the success of our species.

Humanism offers and endorses the scientific method as the best tool to understand the universe around us. The value we have placed on it is well founded. Without it, we simply wouldn’t have the world we have today, with all of its modern comforts and conveniences.

Finally, humanism seeks to maximize human happiness and understanding. It can free us from what Christopher Hitchens called the “mind forged manacles” of religion and supernatural belief and that truly is a benefit to all of us.

Compiled and adapted from various sources by Pat Morrow

January 2014 Newsletter

Welcome to a new year!  The 2014 Newsletter is here.

Upcoming this month:  our Annual General Meeting, a book club, a multi-faith panel discussion… and more!

Our own Diana Goods (pic on right) will be participating in a public Panel Discussion.  You can show your support by attending!

Click the link below to read…

Hope For the Future: a Humanist Perspective

Hope whats religions

Religion is dying. It has been a slow and long and sometimes painful death, and it will continue for some time. It started a very long time ago with great thinkers like Democritus and Epicurus, continued later with reformers like Martin Luther, who I’m sure will be familiar to many. The Age of Reason gave us names such as Baruch Spinoza, John Locke, Isaac Newton and Thomas Hobbes. These men, along with others, enabled our species to truly start understanding the world around us. Their works helped loosen the grip of the church and began our long march to better societal systems. No longer would we have to resort to the supernatural. Slowly, we opened to a new truth, an empirical truth, a real truth. One that could be discovered using the tools of science.

During this long, slow and painful death religion has come a long way as well. I would venture to say most of the world religions don’t believe their scriptures as they once did. This is easily demonstrated. Just try to find a Christian who endorses slavery as the Abrahamic faiths did not even two hundred years ago. Lightning bolts, volcanoes and droughts are no longer evidence of angry gods. Physical and mental illness are no longer the realm of demonic possession, spirits or jinns. Reason, science and critical thinking have given us a better understanding of these things. Our understanding of the world around us has propelled us to the point where we are the dominant species on this planet. A role that we are, in some respects, ill prepared for.

There are portions of the population who opt for the comfort of un-falsifiable beliefs, as they turn their heads away from the beauty and harshness that is reality.

Science doesn’t care about your personal hang ups or biases, even your supernatural beliefs. It is simply a tool to better understand what actually exists. That understanding has brought us great advancements in medicine, life expectancy and every modern convenience we enjoy. Unfortunately, it has also given us many new and horrible ways to kill each other on a massive scale.

One of the greatest fears is as religion dies, the un-falsifiable belief systems will be harnessed to this technology with dire consequences. In the Middle East we have one religion bent on the destruction of another. One has weapons of mass destruction, the other is eager to obtain them. Faith against Faith is unfortunately all too common in our world. For me it is hard to fathom that in this day and age a large portion of our planet could be reduced to a cinder by someone claiming he did it on direct revelation from his god.

Some may feel the fear of mass death may be not so much of a worry. They may say “We’re smarter than that.” I hope they’re right but as religion dies there are other ways it’s harming us.

There are some 4200 different religions being practiced in the world today. Everything from magic crystals, animism, paganism to the big monotheistic Abrahamic faiths. Many of these religions have fragmented further into thousands of sects, all believing that they have the right answers either because of divine revelation or an extensive study of ancient stories. According to the world Christian encyclopedia, Christianity alone has some 33,000 different denominations. All of them believing they have cornered the market on the truth. One has to wonder why a god who has a message for us would make such a muddled mess of getting his point across.

All of these belief systems have one thing in common and that is faith. With faith you can believe your religion is the religion of peace. The very same scriptures read by another believer can tell him to behead the infidel. Some holy books inform their believers that gay men and women should be killed or jailed. At the same, time other believers consider the same people to be valuable members of society who should enjoy all the same rights as others. For the believer any position is justifiable when taken on faith, and that’s the danger.

There is another aspect of faith: not just the belief without evidence, but belief in spite of the evidence.

If we just confine our scope to North America, today we have faith-based belief systems such as intelligent design and young earth creationism. A wholly asinine and dishonest system of thought that is presently growing a generation of scientific illiterates, dumbing down the population and leaving our children less equipped to deal with the realities of modern life.

In the state of Texas, a state dominated by fundamentalist/evangelical Christianity, religion has influenced their schools to teach abstinence-only sex education. It’s interesting to note that Texas comes in second in the United States for the amount of unwanted pregnancies and is first for repeat unwanted pregnancies.

Texas’s fundamentalist Christian ideas of abstinence-only education, defunding family planning clinics, its war on reproductive rights, and limiting access to contraception will result in what the Texas State Health Commission calls a “baby boom” of 24,000 unplanned pregnancies for 2014-15. Most of those will be young, undereducated unwed mothers. Many of them will be forced into using social services to get by, thus becoming a burden to the taxpayer. The kicker is we know how to fix this. Proper education of young adults about contraception, sex, and sexually transmitted diseases brings down the rate of abortions, unwanted pregnancies and STDs, and that’s a simple fact.

I would say my greatest fear would be the damage religion can do as it slowly fades away. Time and time again we see that faith-based ideas don’t work and very often increase the harm to others at great cost. But there are ideas that do work.

Evolution has enabled us to grow larger brains, and we have slowly begun to realize that in order to remedy human problems there must be real human solutions. Appeals to the divine, the nonexistent, just won’t work anymore (not that they ever really have). Answers informed by faith are completely ineffective and often harmful. The inability of religion to solve problems has forced us to find those solutions on our own, and our ability to find these answers brings us to the hope Humanists have for the future.

Wherever a society brings in basic human rights, education, the empowerment of women and a reasonable social safety net, supernatural beliefs decrease. Humanism discards the concept that an idea is good simply because someone has thought it divinely inspired. Ideas must stand on their own merit. They must be scrutinized by reason and tested by science. As we look around the world, time and time again we find that the societies that are more humanistic, atheistic and secular score higher by every measure of societal health.

A 2005 meta study by Gregory S. Paul on religion and societal health revealed that religion does not lead to a healthier society. The study demonstrated that Western democracies (secular, less religious societies) score higher in life expectancy and lower in rate of sexually transmitted disease, lower in unwanted pregnancy rates, lower incarceration rates, lower child mortality rates…the list goes on. This study may not demonstrate that religion is necessarily bad for society, but it does show that religion and faith-based belief systems may make us feel better but are ill-equipped to give useful answers to real problems. As Sam Harris stated in his book The End of Faith, “no society has ever advanced by becoming more religious”, and for most thinking human beings this has become axiomatic.

What gives me hope? As a society we are becoming less violent. It may come as a surprise to many, but it’s true. Author and psychologist Stephen Pinker lays out in his book The Better Angels of Our Nature a very good case for how our societies are becoming more peaceful and less violent, contrary to what many believe or have been taught by their religious leaders. Fortunately Armageddon is cancelled due to lack of interest.

What gives me hope? Human rights. The United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights is far superior in every way and more moral than any religious text today. Developed and discussed by people from all backgrounds more than 50 years ago, it remains a document that our species needs to aspire to.

What gives me hope? The goodness of human beings. The increase of the percentage of the population who believe that we are not born with a black mark on our heart. The ones who understand we have no debt to pay for “Original Sin”. The ones who have quit shopping for redemption and started shopping for knowledge in the ultimate big box store we call the universe.

– Pat Morrow

September 2013 Newsletter

It’s Super Secular September in Manitoba!!

Morden Dorothy Diana smThis month:

  • Our transit advertising hits the streets of Winnipeg
  • We announce our Bus Photo Contest
  • Volunteers venture out to Morden and live to tell the tale! (that’s Dorothy and Diana in the pic to the right)
  • We still have great events happening this month, so read on!
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Save the Dates!

HAAM and Eggs Brunches

on hold due to COVID-19

Other Upcoming Events

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

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