Humanist community

November 2017 Newsletter

Upcoming HAAM Events

Details and complete listings for all our upcoming HAAM events are on the Events page.

Bowling Extravaganza

Monday, November 13th, Chateau Bowling Lanes, 1145 Nairn Avenue, 7 PM

Details here.

 

Monthly Meeting – Is there a Right to be an A**hole?

John Stuart Mill and the Limits of Expressive Liberty

Saturday, November 18th, Canad Inns Polo Park, 1405 St Matthews Avenue, 5:30 PM

Details here.

We will be collecting donations for the Christmas Cheer Board at this meeting.

HAAM and Eggs Brunch

Sunday, November 26th, Perkins Restaurant, 1277 Henderson Highway, 9:30 AM

Details here.

 

Winter Solstice Party

December 23rd, the Belgian Club, 407 Provencher Blvd

Join us for a pot-luck dinner and Yuletide cheer, as we celebrate the end of the darkness and the return of the SUN! Everyone’s welcome, so invite your family and friends!

Further details will be in our December newsletter.

 

Upcoming Community (Non-HAAM) Events

Folklore and Truth

November 27th, 6:30 – 8 PM. Hosted by the Winnipeg Circle of Reason.

Details here.

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

 

Charity of the Month – Christmas Cheer Board

Each year, around 5,000 volunteers help the Christmas Cheer Board to provide over 18,000 Christmas hampers to needy individuals and families. Recipients include those on income assistance, low-income families, pensioners, unemployed persons, and recent immigrants.

More than half of the food and toys are donated by individuals and companies, with the rest being purchased with donated funds.

At our November meeting, we’ll be collecting monetary donations to be used for hampers.

Regardless of whether you celebrate Christmas as a religious holiday, as a secular holiday, or not at all, the end of December is a festive season in our community. Let’s help make the holiday season a merry time for everyone!

Tax receipts are available for donations over $10. If you would like to donate but cannot attend the meeting, you can do so via the Paypal button. Just include a note letting us know that the money is for the charity.

Latest News

Partners for Life Update

Two months left till year-end! It’s our last chance to push towards our goal of 25 blood donations by HAAM members in 2017. As of mid-October, we had 18 donations… so we should be able to meet our goal. If you’re a regular donor, please try to get one more donation in by the end of the year.

If you’ve never donated before, or never asked to have your donations credited to HAAM, please join our Canadian Blood Services Partners for Life team and help us reach our goal. Let’s show that Humanists care enough to donate blood!

Laura Stephens donated at a clinic held on Thanksgiving Day and took this photo.

Information about Partners for Life, and instructions for how to register, are here. And as always, if you have questions or difficulty with the registration, contact us.

Evolution vs. Creation – Christianity Tries to Stay Relevant

In October, Denis O. Lamoureux, a professor of Science and Religion from the University of Alberta, was in Manitoba to present a lecture called Beyond the “Creation vs. Evolution” Debate.

The purpose of the lecture was to demonstrate that science and religion are really NOT incompatible. It included such topics as the definition of atheism, religious views on Adam and Eve, how many scientists believe in God, the speaker’s own conversion to Christianity from atheism, and the claims of Richard Dawkins.

Did Lamoureux prove his point? Are science and religion compatible? Pat Morrow attended the lecture and reviewed it. Read his entertaining and thoughtful evaluation on our Perspectives page.

Library News

HAAM’s library is moving! In response to our ad for a new librarian, we had two volunteers who stepped up to the plate. Thanks to Laura Stephens and Adriana Sedlak for volunteering! They will share the position and ensure that a few books are brought to each meeting.

If you’re looking for a specific book or author, or a book on a specific topic, you can view our entire collection online. If you see a book or video you would like to borrow, just contact HAAM to request to have it brought to a meeting.

It’s Time to Plan for Next Year

HAAM’s executive committee is recruiting new members for 2018. We need enthusiastic people who can help us to achieve our goals of building a supportive secular community and promoting critical thinking in the larger world.

The executive committee plans and organizes our events (monthly meetings, social activities, outreach, etc.), guides policies and decisions, and plans for the future of the organization. We would love to offer more events and programs, but we need people to help out. Please consider volunteering, or accepting the offer to join if you are approached. Executive meetings are usually held monthly, but a lot of our communication and planning also takes place online, in between meetings.

Elections will be held at our AGM on January 13th, 2018. The positions of Secretary and Treasurer are up for re-election this year. We are also looking for members-at-large to help out as needed. To be eligible to serve on the executive, you must have been a HAAM member for at least 6 months prior to the election.

If you want to get in on the action, or if you are considering it and have questions, please contact us.

Book of the Month The Better Angels of our Nature

With all the depressing / fake news lately, maybe this is a good time to read a book that will inspire some optimism. The world we live in is not as bad as we think – or at least, it’s not as bad as it used to be. Don’t believe that? Then you really need to read Steven Pinker’s book The Better Angels of our Nature. At over 800 pages, it’s a long read – but hey, winter’s coming; time to settle down in the evening with a great book.

Pinker asserts that violence has been in decline over millennia, and that the present is probably the most peaceful time in history. The decline in violence is found in many domains, including military conflict, homicide, genocide, torture, criminal justice, and treatment of children, homosexuals, animals and racial and ethnic minorities.

The book covers the historical trends related to the decline of violence, psychological systems that can lead to violence, and motives that can lead people away from violence. But Pinker also notes that the level of violence is not down to zero, and warns that the decline is not guaranteed to continue.

Bill Gates declared this as his favorite book of the last decade, and the most inspiring book he’s ever read. So what are you waiting for?

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

HAAM Celebrates Halloween!

Karen and David Donald really got into the spirit of the season for our October meeting! Quite a few of our members came in costume. You’ll find more costumed HAAM members on our Gallery page.

Thanks to Rob Daly, the meeting room looked ghoulishly awesome, too! Here are just a couple of the decorations he brought.

October 2017 Newsletter

Upcoming HAAM Events

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

Monthly Meeting – Finding Humanist Thought in Indigenous Beliefs

Saturday, October 14th, Canad Inns Polo Park, 1405 St Matthews Avenue, 5:30 PM

Details here.

In the spirit of the season, we’re going to decorate the room up a bit for Hallowe’en. You’re welcome to come in costume (optional).

 

Spooky Night at Six Pines

Friday, October 20th, Six Pines (just north of Winnipeg), 7:30 PM

Note that this event is intended for ages 15+.

Make sure to read the event details before attending. 

 

HAAM and Eggs Brunch

Sunday, October 22nd, Smitty’s Restaurant, 2835 Pembina Highway (Fort Richmond), 9:30 AM

Newbies Welcome! Details here.

 

Upcoming Community (Non-HAAM) Events

Beyond the “Creation vs Evolution” Debate

October 12th at 7 PM and October 13th at 10 AM and 7 PM. Click for locations.

 

 

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

Latest News

Charity of the Month – Kasese Humanist Primary School

HAAM sponsors a child in Uganda by paying his annual school tuition. Our little boy is called Bogere John, and 2018 will be our third year of sponsorship. He’s a bright little kid, and smart, but he’s an orphan, and he’s had a difficult year.

His spring report card showed that in some subjects he performed only ‘fair’, while other subjects had no mark and were recorded as ‘missed’. This was in sharp contrast to his report card from the previous year, in which all subjects were good or excellent. In a letter, School Director Bwambale M Robert explained that in the middle of the term the boy got “some serious malaria and he had to miss some lessons at the school”, which was a “key factor for his sliding”.

Robert continued – “He however recovered and he is now fine. Normally in most people’s home, the health and hygiene conditions in some of our children and families is not all that fine, this becomes a root cause of some illnesses of our children… My teachers remain committed to ensuring Bogere gets back to his feet and normalize to the better and excel with his studies.” Robert also noted that Bogere’s guardian is “also not well, health-wise”.

Our executive recently received a copy of Bogere’s second term report card, and we are pleased to note that he is catching up in some subjects, although he still struggles with others. Good for him for keeping at it! For us in Canada, it’s hard to imagine the difficulties some children face to get an education.

We will be collecting for little Bogere John’s 2018 school tuition fees at our October meeting. Any extra money we collect above his tuition requirements will go to help the school itself. Please give generously!

Tax receipts are available for donations over $10. If you would like to donate but cannot attend the meeting, you can do so via the Paypal button on our website. Just include a note letting us know that the money is for the charity.

Help Wanted!

HAAM is looking for a new librarian.

Job Description and Requirements:

  • Be a regular, paid member of HAAM who attends most meetings.
  • Store and look after HAAM’s collection of just over 200 books and DVD’s. They come with their own bookshelf (it’s about 3’ wide X 6’ tall).
  • Bring a selection of books to each meeting.
  • Keep track of books as they are signed out and returned.

This is a great opportunity for someone who likes to read. The lucky volunteer will have access to ALL of our books almost ALL of the time. (To see what’s in the collection, visit our Library page.) It’s not necessary to attend every meeting; usually arrangements can be made to send books with another HAAM member if the librarian is absent.

A big thanks to Chad and Gloria Froese who have been looking after our library for over 2 years. Work-related travel and a young family is making it difficult for them to attend many meetings, but they continue to store the books until we find someone willing to take on this responsibility. Please contact us if you’re interested.

Ideas Needed – Help Us Build Community

A group of HAAM members attended the Canadian premiere of “Losing Our Religion” at Cinematheque in September. It’s a very well-made documentary about pastors struggling when they lose their faith – especially while they’re still preaching. (More info here.) If you missed the screening, or weren’t able to be there, it will air on CBC Docs (the documentary channel) in Canada on Sunday evening October 15th, with an encore showing on Wednesday evening October 18th. Check listings for local times.

Several of the peopled interviewed for the film mentioned the importance of community. We can all definitely appreciate that sentiment. It’s in part why we join HAAM and come out to the meetings. And probably the main thing people miss when they leave religion.

The producers included scenes of people taking part in the Sunday Assembly, which just seemed to come together on a whim. And they also interviewed the founder of the Houston Oasis, which is a similar freethought group. These groups host meetings which are slightly more “church-y” in feeling than our HAAM meetings, but they also include things like coffee and live music.

It’s got me thinking – about how to grow our membership and build community, and about being able to create different types of get-togethers. That just doesn’t seem possible in our current meeting space. Should we forego the meeting rooms? Perhaps give up the meal in favor of a better space? What do YOU think? Is it time for us to look for a new home? Let us know!

Donna Harris, President

New Reasonfest Videos

Our YouTube channel is gradually taking off as we have recently added two more videos. They are from our 2015 conference River City Reasonfest, which some of you may have attended. The playlist from that conference now includes:

Greta Christina – Comforting Thoughts about Death that have Nothing to do with God

Eric Adriaans – Canada’s Blasphemy Laws and Human Rights

Tracie Harris – Is Religion Good for Families?

P Z Myers – Evolution is More Complicated than you Think

Special thanks to Paul Morrow for working so hard producing and editing these videos. Check out our channel!

Call to Action – Support Fair, Secular Government

The Freedom of Thought Report is an annual survey on discrimination and persecution against non-religious people in countries around the world. It is published by the International Humanist and Ethical Union each year on December 10th, International Human Rights Day. The full report (over 500 pages) covers every country in the world.

You might not think of Canada as being a country with a significant number of human rights concerns, but the 2016 report notes several issues (details here).

These include:

  • Recognition of the supremacy of God in the constitution and the national anthem, which, although largely symbolic, has been used to argue for allowing religion or prayer in government offices.
  • Granting automatic charitable status to organizations that promote religion, while requiring secular organizations to commit to community services to attain charity status. Also, allowing religious groups the right to maintain a building fund, but requiring secular organizations to apply for such a fund and then adhere to the conditions laid down by the Charities Directorate of the CRA.
  • Partially or fully funding religious schools, many of which discriminate on religious grounds in hiring and in accepting students. In some provinces, the government provides funding to Catholic schools but denies such funding to any other religion or belief.
  • Court rulings that allow sincerely held religious beliefs to prevail over freely contracted obligations (i.e. allowing people to back out of signed contracts on the basis of religious convictions).
  • The continued presence of a blasphemy law in the Criminal Code. (This law is one of many set to be repealed in a current review, but it is not yet officially dead.)
  • Exemptions in the Criminal Code (Section 319 3b) regarding the public incitement of hatred of identifiable groups (i.e. publishing hate literature) if the opinions expressed are based on religious belief or a religious text.

In response, an e-petition (E-1264) has been registered with the House of Commons asking the federal government to investigate the systemic discrimination against non-believers in Canadian laws and regulations.

This isn’t just a formality – it’s more important than you might think. Consider that parliamentary committees hear only from witnesses that their members invite. Since they are religious, they invite religious people. Others are asked to write submissions. For example, the Canadian Heritage Committee has heard from more than five Muslim groups regarding religious discrimination, but no Humanist groups regarding the same topic.

Please sign the petition.

Add your voice to the growing number Canadians who want fair, secular government for all!

For an idea of how Canada compares on a global scale, check this ‘freedom map’.

Color scale, from most free to most oppressed, is green-yellow-orange-red-brown. Find more maps and details here.

Book of the Month Just Pretend

Dan Barker is the co-president of the Freedom From Religion Foundation (and a former evangelical). In this little book (only 72 pages long), he describes gods and religion to children from an atheist perspective, and explains why adults would believe in any religion at all. He refers to religions collectively as just another myth; a sort of ‘Santa Claus for grown-ups’. Because of the Santa Claus analogy, this book is not suitable for children who haven’t yet outgrown belief in a literal Santa. Its target age range would probably be 8-11 year old kids.

The book is clearly aimed at the children of families with non-believing parents. If this describes your family, and you are looking for a book to help your child understand what religion is all about, this might be a great choice. It is probably most useful as a starting point for discussion – read it along with your child and answer their questions.

It may not be appropriate for all families, depending on how much religious ideology your child has already been exposed to, and your own ideas about teaching religion and religious tolerance. Read it yourself first before deciding.

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

Charity Checkup

October through to the New Year is always a big time for charities and fund-raisers, both in the schools and in the community. There are SO many groups and causes out there – but are they all worth supporting? Before contributing, take a few minutes to learn about the charity that’s asking for your money, time, or endorsement. Read its mission statement to make sure it reflects your own values and beliefs. Some well-known, established charities make promoting religion a primary goal, component and/or requirement of their work. That’s fine if it’s what you want to support, but most of us in the Humanist community do not.

One group that operates in some Manitoba schools (and communities) is Samaritan’s Purse, which runs a shoebox donation program called Operation Christmas Child. If your child brings a note home from school asking you to support this charity, make sure to read our Religion in Schools page first to learn about its real mission.

There are plenty of charities that could use our support that are run by secular and/or religious organizations who do not evangelize the groups they serve. For some suggestions, have a look at the list of charities that HAAM has supported over the past few years.

September 2017 Newsletter

September HAAM Events

Monthly Meeting – A History of Atheism in Canada

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

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

 

 

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

Upcoming Community (Non-HAAM) Events

Advance Care Planning

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

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

 

 

Public Lecture – Refugees and Immigrants

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

 

 

 

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

Latest News

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Awake Zion, awake

Awake and trim your lamps

For the stars of heaven shall fall

And the moon shall turn into blood

And the son of man shall appear

Zion awake

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

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

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

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

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

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

Calls to Action

End Violence Against Apostates in Malaysia

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

 

 

‘Voice Your Choice’ on Assisted Dying

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

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

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

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

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

Charity of the Month – Island Lake Relief Fund

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

CBC news posted images of the devastation, like the scene shown here. Click for more photos.

Here’s how HAAM members can help:

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

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

If you are able to make a financial contribution:

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

Tax receipts are available for donations over $10. If you would like to donate but cannot attend the meeting, you can do so via the Paypal button on this page. Just include a note letting us know that the money is for the charity.

The Jesus Stick

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

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

Gold

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

Black

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

Red

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

White

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

Green

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

Maybe next year.                                                                                                                                          – Pat Morrow    

Check out our Gallery for photos of the Morden Outreach.

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

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

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

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

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

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

HAAM and Eggs Brunch

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

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

 

 

 

Did You Miss the Evening with Richard Carrier?

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

August 2017 Newsletter

Upcoming HAAM Events

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

An Evening with Richard Carrier

Did Christianity really begin without a Jesus?

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

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

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

Outreach at the Morden Corn and Apple Festival

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

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

 

 HAAM and Eggs Brunch

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

 

 

Monthly Meeting – A History of Atheism in Canada

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

 

 

Latest News

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

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

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

 

Do Human Rights come from God?

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

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

Book of the Month

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

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

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

You can listen to an interview with the author here.

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

Charity of the Month

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

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

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

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

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

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

Summer Solstice party – better late than never

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

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

It reads:

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

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

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

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

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

June 2017 Newsletter

June HAAM Events

HAAM and Eggs Breakfast

Sunday, June 4th, Smitty’s Restaurant, 580 Pembina Hwy (at Grant), 8:30 AM. Note the change of time.

 

Outreach at the Summer in the City Festival

Friday June 16th to Sunday June 18th, Steinbach, Manitoba.

 

 

Summer Solstice Party and BBQ

Saturday, June 24th, 5:30 PM, Assiniboine Park

 

There are MORE HAAM events coming up later this summer! See them all on our Events page or click on the event name in the right sidebar.

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

June Community (non-HAAM) Events

Winnipeg Pride Parade

Sunday June 4th  Both the time (11 AM) and the route have changed this year.

 

For details on this and MORE upcoming community events this summer, visit our new Community Events page.

Latest News

Coming this August – An Evening with Richard Carrier

Author and historian Richard Carrier will be touring Canada this summer, and HAAM is very excited to be hosting an evening with him on Saturday August 19th.

Richard has a Ph.D. in the history of philosophy from Columbia University, and is a published philosopher and historian, specializing in contemporary philosophy of naturalism, and in Greco-Roman philosophy, science, and religion, and the origins of Christianity. He blogs regularly, lectures for community groups worldwide, and teaches courses online. He is the author of many books including Sense and Goodness without God, On the Historicity of Jesus, Why I Am Not a Christian, Not the Impossible Faith, and Proving History, as well as chapters in several anthologies and articles in academic journals. For more about Dr. Carrier and his work see www.richardcarrier.info

Richard will be speaking to us on the topic Did Christianity Really Begin without a Jesus? At the Intersection of Skepticism and History. If you’ve heard or read his work before, you already know that Richard is not convinced that there ever was an actual historical person named Jesus. The whole of Christianity could be based on nothing more than myth! Come and hear him explain his position and ask questions about it.

If you want to check out some of Richard’s work before meeting him in person, you can borrow his book Sense and Goodness Without God from our HAAM library, or watch one of his many videos on YouTube.

  This event is still in the planning stage. Further details will be announced as they are finalized. Check the event post on our website for updates.

Meet Another Humanist!

Pamela Johnson is the latest to add her profile to our Meet the Humanist web page. If you’ve been to one of our regular meetings, you’ll be familiar with the beautiful teapot that she painted for us.

The Meet the Humanist page is our opportunity to let the world know that non-believers are just regular people, and to let closeted atheists know that they are not alone. We’re always looking for more people to add their stories. (You can remain anonymous if you wish.) Contact us if you’d like to share your story.

Atheism in Canada Has a History? Who Knew?

I had the pleasure of driving out to Morden last week to hear Peter Cantelon and his Diversitas group host, as usual, another excellent talk. This month’s presentation was given by the University of Manitoba’s Dr. Elliot Hanowski on the history of non-belief in Canada. This was a very eye-opening and informative evening; I was taken aback by the incredibly rich and vibrant history of Canadian and Manitoban secular, atheist, and Humanist groups. It is a part of Canadian culture that I, and many others, are sorely unaware of!

Dr. Hanowski whisked us though the early history of non-belief, beginning with Greece, Rome, and the Middle Ages, but the main focus of his talk essentially began at the beginning of the Enlightenment Era. We learned about such famous figures as Thomas Paine, Thomas Jefferson, Voltaire, and Denis Diderot. Of course the bulk of the time was spent addressing the title topic – non-belief in Canada. What I also found interesting was to learn that so many non-believers were at the vanguard of social changes like the liberalization of the abortion and contraception laws, and the introduction of universal healthcare.

Dr. Hanowski described the large migration of non-religious settlers to BC and the long history of secular/freethought groups in early and modern Quebec. In one nineteenth century case, the wife of a secularist and Catholic Church critic asked to have her husband buried in the graveyard of a local Catholic church. It took five years and multiple court cases, but in the end she won, and was allowed to bury him in the church yard. In attendance at the funeral were some 2500 British soldiers and police, to prevent a near riot! The church members were later able to make themselves feel better by having the bishop come out and de-consecrate the small bit of ground where the heretic was buried.

In Manitoba, we heard about early twentieth-century secular movements such as the Rationalist Society, and Winnipegger Marshall J. Gauvin, who would attend priests’ sermons one week then critique them the next. He routinely had 300-600 people attend his lectures, and once debated a fundamentalist preacher to an audience of 3000.

Dr. Hanowski is a member of ISHASH (The International Society for Historians of Atheism, Secularism, and Humanism). This organization is a collection of academics dedicated to learning more about the history of us – the non-believers, Humanists, atheists, and freethinkers.

I have just barely touched on Dr. Hanowski’s entertaining and enlightening talk here, and there’s a reason for that. If you missed it, have no fear. Details still need to be worked out, but Dr. Hanowski has agreed to join us for an evening in the fall. So keep your eyes open and your calendars clear as our new meeting season picks up again in September.

You won’t want to miss this one!                                                                                                              – Pat Morrow

We’re Gearing Up for Summer Outreach

June marks the beginning of our summer outreach season. We’re all looking forward to Steinbach’s Summer in the City Festival, and we have will have a new banner at the booth to promote Humanism.

Last year was a challenging outreach, and this year we expect more of the same. But this time we will have help from some of the newly-formed Eastman Humanist Community. A few of their intrepid members will join us at the booth talking with believers and non-believers alike.

Summer in the City promises some great entertainment, with Tom Cochrane on the main stage Saturday evening. But Sunday’s performances will feature entirely Christian artists, since ‘Worship in the City’ will now become an all-day event.

Any way you slice it, this is going to be an interesting weekend! So please join us! If you’re a HAAM member, please consider helping out at the booth. Everyone who attends the festival is welcome to just pop by for a visit and say Hi.

See you out there!

Most of us read a lot of depressing news these days about issues that matter to us as Humanists. Do you get discouraged, or even avoid the news, because you feel like there’s nothing you can do about it?

Sometimes there are actions we can take, however small, to make our voices heard. Usually these involve writing to politicians or signing petitions. Please take the few minutes to make your opinion count!

New! Stop Government Funding of ‘Crisis Pregnancy Centres’

Please help us stop government funding of anti-choice groups. Here is a sample letter that you can send to Manitoba government Ministers and the Leader of the Opposition. Opinion aside, it just doesn’t make sense for governments to fund organizations that oppose legal services. Let’s make our voices heard!

Update on Canada’s Blasphemy Law

The map below shows countries that still had penalties for blasphemy in 2016 (click to enlarge). Shamefully, Canada is still on the list.

A recent Call to Action asked HAAM supporters to write to their MP’s demanding the repeal of Canada’s outdated blasphemy law. A number of us did. Here is the response one of our members received from her MP:

  Thank you for writing to me about Bill C-39 and changes to blasphemy laws. I apologize for the delay in my response.

  As you know, the Minister of Justice and Attorney General, the Honourable Jody Wilson-Raybould, is currently in the process of reforming our justice system to make it more fair, relevant and accessible. This reform involves modernizing the Criminal Code. Given that the last broad review of the criminal justice system occurred in the 1980s, an in-depth examination of how the system is currently working will assist in identifying gaps to ensure a comprehensive and modern justice system. To fulfil this commitment, the Minister is undertaking a program of consultation and engagement with stakeholders through a series of regional roundtables across the country.

  While Bill C-39 does not touch on blasphemy laws specifically, I would like to note that the Minister has referred to Bill C-39 as a first step in a larger review that will span her entire mandate. To that end, the Minister continues to act on her mandate to review our criminal justice system in a comprehensive way.

 Thank you again for writing to me about changes to blasphemy laws. If you have any further questions or comments, please do not hesitate to contact me again.      

  Sincerely,

  Dan Vandal

It’s not exactly a promise, but at least it’s an acknowledgement. Maybe it’s a start. At least her letter put the issue on one MP’s radar. We need to continue to urge the government to include the blasphemy law in that ‘larger review’ they mention.

It’s not too late to add your own voice to those who have already written. There’s more information and a link to a sample (pre-written) letter on the home page of our HAAM website. All you have to do is copy, paste, and send.

Current Calls to Action are always posted on the Home Page of our website. The only way we’ll ever make a difference is to stand up and be counted!

BOOK OF THE MONTH – Being Gay is Disgusting

Yes, that really is the title of the book. Actually, the full title is Being Gay is Disgusting – or, God Loves the Smell of Burning Fat. It’s been over 3 years since author Edward Falzon visited Winnipeg while on tour, promoting his book. So there are lots of new people in HAAM who may not have heard of it. Don’t let the title put you off – it’s intended for shock value. The book is really just an entertaining and painless way to become familiar with the first five books of the Old Testament. And yes, the well-known verses condemning homosexuality are in there, along with lots of other prohibitions that are probably less familiar.

I thought, when I first got this book, that it would be a severely abridged version of the ‘real’ Bible, but no. Edward has all the information in there, even the boring genealogies (but they’re in chart form instead of endless passages of ‘begats’). None of the sordid details are omitted, either; he only updated the language to make reading the Bible understandable and fun. It’s a great way for the ‘unchurched’, or those who have never read the Bible, to get to know what’s in there. I referred to it regularly when I read the Old Testament as part of HAAM’s Atheist Bible Study project. (Editor’s note: If you didn’t read along with us back then, you can still do it now – the reading guide and my notes are all posted at that link.) One of the best features of the book is Edward’s hilarious and insightful footnotes!

Here’s an excerpt from the book (with its corresponding footnote):

Genesis 14 – Big War, Abram Kicks Butt

  So anyway, there were five kings, including the kings of both Sodom and Gomorrah, who had all been subject to a king called Kedorlaomer (“Ked” to his mates). After twelve years of this, they all rebelled. In the 14th year, King Ked teamed up with three other kings and destroyed no less than four territories, plus two more on the way home.

  So the five other kings went down to the Dead Sea, which was full of slime pits, and waged war on Ked and his friends.28 They lost. Badly. When the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah fled to the hills, some of their men fell into the slime pits. The victors took all the possessions of Sodom and Gomorrah and went home. They also took Abram’s nephew, Lot, who was living in Sodom at the time.

   28You know, at this point in the Bible, only about 370 years have passed since Noah’s flood. I’ve always wondered how there can be nine kings and a Pharaoh, each with their own civilians, servants, slaves, and livestock, created from the eight people on the ark. I still haven’t worked it out – I’ll keep you posted.

The long days of summer are a great time to sit outside and read a book. Wouldn’t it be fun to be caught at the beach with a title like this? A sure conversation starter…

We have a couple of copies in our library (click here to borrow), and a few leftovers from Edward’s promotional tour to sell at $15 each, if you’d like your very own (contact us).                                                                             – Dorothy Stephens

 

February 2017 Newsletter

Upcoming Events

The Theory of Evolution in Humanistic Thought

Saturday, February 11th, Canad Inns Polo Park, 1405 St Matthews Ave, 5:30 – 8:30 PM

HAAM and Eggs Brunch

Saturday, February 25th, 9:30 AM at the Original Pancake House in the Forks Market. Note the time change – we’re meeting an hour earlier to avoid the rush.

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

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

Latest News

HAAM Condemns Religious Violence

The Humanists, Atheists, & Agnostics of Manitoba wholeheartedly condemn the violence that has devastated the Centre Culturel Islamique de Québec. We strongly believe that no matter what our ethnic origins or our religious beliefs (or non-beliefs), we are all unique human beings, and none of us deserve to undergo such horrors.

The actions of the gunman do NOT represent the views of the vast majority of Canadians. Our sympathies go out to the family and friends of all the victims, as well as anyone who is now feeling unsafe in their own house of worship. We are thinking about you.

Meet Your Executive Team for 2017

The following board members were elected at our AGM in January:

President – Donna Harris                                                                      Vice-president – Pat Morrow

Secretary – Rick Dondo                                                                         Treasurer – Henry Kreindler

Members at Large:

Tammy Blanchette                                                                                  Norm Goertzen

Tony Governo                                                                                           Sherry Lyn Marginet

Dorothy Stephens                                                                                   Jim Taylor

Mandy Wood

Welcome Mandy!

New this year!

We will be adding two new ex-officio (non-voting) members to our executive, to liaise with our rural chapters.

Helen Friesen has stepped down from HAAM’s exec after 20 years (thank you Helen!), but will now represent the Eastman Humanist Community (Steinbach area). The rep for the Pembina Valley Secular Community (Morden-Winkler area) is yet to be decided (and will likely need to remain anonymous).

Charity of the Month

In keeping with February’s theme of evolution, it’s fitting that we help our fellow creatures, since we share so much of our DNA with them. Wildlife Haven Rehabilitation Centre has been helping Manitoba wildlife since 1984.

Their mission is to

  1. Rehabilitate injured, sick and orphaned wildlife for their return back to the wild, and
  2. Educate about awareness, appreciation and peaceful coexistence with wildlife.

Rescue. Rehabilitate. Release.

Wildlife Haven is permitted to rehabilitate and care for injured, sick and orphaned birds, including raptors (eagles, hawks, owls, falcons); mammals, including rabbits, squirrels, bats, foxes, coyotes, raccoons, bobcats; and amphibians/reptiles (turtles, frogs, salamanders, snakes). People finding these animals can call for advice, or to arrange pick-up or drop-off of the animal to the centre. More info is available on their website.

Wildlife Haven also runs an educational program, featuring wildlife ambassadors such as owls, hawks and falcons, and reptiles and amphibians, suitable for schools, service clubs, community events, senior living centres, etc.

Volunteers started Wildlife Haven out of their backyards before moving to the University of Manitoba’s Glenlea Research Station in 1993. In 2008 it moved to a retired dairy barn in Île des Chênes, and in 2015, construction began on a permanent home with a wildlife rehabilitation hospital and education centre. Future plans include a waterfowl overwintering enclosure, a variety of outdoor wildlife enclosures, raptor flyways, a natural wetland pond, a prairie tall grass site and a fruit orchard for wildlife and humans to enjoy. Let’s support this valuable work!

Tax receipts are available for donations over $10. If you would like to donate but cannot attend the meeting, you can do so via the PayPal link on the right sidebar. Just include a note letting us know that the money is for the charity.

HAAM Receives a Bequest

We recently received two whole boxes of books donated by a friend of Helen Friesen‘s who passed away last fall and left his entire collection to HAAM. His name was Hank Neufeld, and Helen says that “he was a very outspoken atheist and he had a lot of books”. She traveled to Swift Current, Saskatchewan to preside at his memorial service, and brought the books back with her.

This is an interesting collection, dating back many years. A number of the books are about religious persecution and politics, and several are polemics against the Catholic Church. Quite a few have historical value, and/or are about religious history. Some bear a stamp indicating that they once belonged to the now-defunct Society of Prairie Atheists in Biggar Sask.

Our sincere condolences go out to Hank’s widow, Joyce, and all of his family, along with a huge thank-you for this wonderful donation. You can find the list of new books on our Library page.

Outreach Report: World Religions Class

January brought us out to Green Valley School in Grunthal, Manitoba for what has become a biannual visit to Michael Zwaagstra’s high-school class. This was a first for me of sorts, as we usually meet with his Ethics class; this was our first time speaking to his World Religions class. It was also the first time I teamed up with fellow HAAM member Tammy Blanchette. I hope to see more of Tammy in outreach. When it came to the Q & A portion of the class, I often found myself thinking “Geez, I wish I’d thought to answer the question that way.” As has been mentioned in the past, we do these classes in pairs (just like the Mormons). This is not so much for mutual support or even safety, but because Humanism is a very diverse belief system – if you’re just beginning to understand it, it helps to hear different perspectives.
The demographic of the Grunthal area is Christian, and the students we have talked to over the past five years or so are exclusively Christian. Michael Zwaagstra himself is an excellent educator, and judging from his personal writings and the exchanges I have read and engaged in with him, he is an unabashed Christian. Knowing that, and after reading a previous syllabus from his class, I realize that these classes have a definite Christian bias. But I still have to offer kudos to Mr Zwaagstra, as he is giving young people the opportunity to meet many who don’t share their worldview. He has had Jews, Muslims, Hindus, and yes, Christians, come visit his classes. In the Manitoba school system there are a few other schools that offer a world religions-type class, but to my knowledge no one else brings in guest speakers who allow the students to, as they say, “get it from the horse’s mouth”.  In today’s world, it’s imperative for each of us to understand at least the basics of each other’s beliefs, and it baffles my mind that more schools don’t make comparative religion a requirement. Mr. Zwaagstra and other educators are working to remedy that.
The class was about thirty students this time. Most every year they are asked to look into Humanism and check out our website before our visit. Much to my delight and surprise, this year they actually did (that has never happened before). Based on their questions, it seems that most of them stuck to just the website, which is unfortunate. Humanism has a deep, rich history to be explored. I would have preferred that they learn more about the humanistic ideas of the ancients, spanning the great societies of Greece, Rome, India, and the Far East. Or they could take a more modern approach and examine ever-evolving documents such as the Humanist Manifesto (I, II, and III). And of course, the Amsterdam Declaration of 2002, which covers the fundamental principles of Humanism today.
Over the few years I’ve been doing this, the classes seem to follow a pattern – Introduction, Presentation, and then a Q & A (to which no one ever wants to ask the first question). Once the first question is out there, the gates open, but this too follows a pattern – about 30% of the class asks 100% of the questions. I often wonder about the students who remain silent. Are they indoctrinated to the point that they think we are ‘of the devil?’ Are some of them closeted atheists who fear they might be outed if they ask the wrong question? I suppose it could be that some kids just don’t like asking questions, or possibly don’t even want to be there. But the latter I find hard to believe, since this is an elective course.

Tammy and I fielded all the usual questions – where we come from, the Big Bang theory, morality, and what we do in outreach. Since it seems they kept their research primarily to HAAM’s website, we spoke about some of the content of the site, such as a public exchange about faith and the historicity of the exodus between myself and Mr Zwaagstra. Some students had questions regarding the article I wrote about Southland Church’s connection to churches that support the Ugandan Anti-Homosexuality Act (better known as the kill-the-gays bill). This was of special interest to a few of the students who attend Southland Church.

As these conversations go, they sometimes turn to the unusual. We talked about such concepts as speaking in tongues and being ‘slain in the spirit ‘. Both are backed by the ‘solid evidence’ of personal experience and what some believe is empirical evidence in the form of this Nightline video.

These parts of the discussion can be quite difficult, especially when talking to young people who have had these ideas reinforced for most, if not all, of their lives. This is why just talking about what we believe and why we believe it in outreach is so important. We’re under no illusions that we can change the minds of believers; it’s their right to believe what they choose. But through discussion and debate we can light the spark of critical thinking and rational thought. And that will create a better world for all of us.

In Brief

HAAM Joins Human Rights Hub

We are now listed as a member organization on the new Human Rights Hub of Winnipeg. The Human Rights Hub provides a central space to coordinate and promote the events and activities of the many individuals and groups in Winnipeg taking action on human rights issues! Their website includes a calendar for human rights events; current employment and volunteer opportunities; profiles of Winnipeg organizations active in human rights issues; and a blog to learn what organizations are up to in our city. Check it out!

Our First Brunch was a Big Success!

What a lovely, bright morning at the Forks. It was Pat Morrow who said “I’m going to invite folks to a brunch.  Doesn’t really matter if anyone shows up, I’ll be there.” Well, the night before the RSVPs totaled 22 people. By our count, 27 Humanists showed up at the Original Pancake House at the Forks! Pat had the wait staff scrambling to seat all of us.

It was a great opportunity for good food and good conversation.  We had a mix of long term members, a few who we haven’t seen in a while, and some new faces as well!  Grant and I sat by a young couple with their toddler. They were really kind and interesting. Let’s hope they come out to a regular meeting.

By a fluke/coincidence, we also met another new person, just because there wasn’t room left for her to sit!  She was there to join another Meetup group, but they had no more seats at their table. She asked if she could sit with us and we all said sure!! Turns out, she’s one of “us”. And according to Mandy Wood, she was “amazing” and a pleasure to talk with. Click here for a photo of a few of the attendees.

We’ll definitely do a brunch again. Thank you to everyone who came out! And special thanks to Pat for organizing the morning.                                                                                                                                                              – Donna Harris

We’re Standing Up for Sexual Health and Reproductive Rights Worldwide

On January 23rd 2017, in one of his first acts as President, Donald Trump re-enacted the Global Gag Rule, prohibiting foreign NGOs receiving U.S. assistance related to family planning and reproductive health from using non-U.S. funding to provide abortion services, information, counseling, or referrals, and from engaging in advocacy for access to safe abortion services. Trump’s version of the Global Gag Rule is even more extreme than past administrations, and will extend to all global health assistance provided across US departments.

In response, Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights drafted a public statement calling on the Government of Canada and other sexual and reproductive rights allies to increase development financing in this area and to champion these issues within diplomatic efforts. The statement will be shared with Prime Minister Trudeau, Minister of International Development Marie-Claude Bibeau, and Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland.

HAAM has added its name to the list of signatories who support the statement.

Call to Action! Please write to your MP to add your individual support. Click here for a template letter.

Book of the Month

In The Bonobo and the Atheist, primatologist Frans de Waal relates personal accounts of his work with primate species. He has spent years studying the similarities and differences between primate social societies and our own, concentrating mostly on morality, empathy, sympathy, altruism and a few other behaviours that many mistakenly deem as solely human attributes.

As a result of these studies, De Waal argues that moral behavior does not begin and end with religion but is in fact a product of evolution. His research demonstrates that human kindness is a biological feature of our species and not something that has to be imposed on us by religious teaching.

Nevertheless, De Waal defends religion in this book, (even although he is an atheist himself), referring to it as cultural scaffolding that builds upon and enhances biologically innate moral rules. He appears to accept the view of science and religion as ‘non-overlapping magisteria’. This has resulted in some interesting critical reviews, particularly from non-believers who are angry with him for giving religion a pass.

Is De Waal too soft on religion, or are his critics just bitter, as De Waal’s defenders claim? Why not read it and decide for yourself? Find it in our Library.

HAAM Takes On Apologetics

Two of our members were recently interviewed by a Christian pastor who wants to understand the worldview of non-believers so that he can coach his parishioners to refute it. That experience makes for a very interesting report from Pat Morrow.

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

January 2017 Newsletter

Upcoming Events

Are You Recovering from Religion?

Saturday, January 14th, Canad Inns Polo Park, 1405 St Matthews Ave.

We will begin with our meet-and-greet time at 4:30 PM in order to accommodate the AGM at 5:00. Dinner will follow at 6:00, and then our regular meeting and speaker at 6:45.

Please join us for the AGM – and don’t forget to bring your donations for the Warm Winter Clothing Drive.

For more information on this and all our 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.

Charity of the Month

In keeping with the meeting theme, our January charity is Recovering from Religion.

RfR exists to help those questioning or leaving their faith with support, resources, community, and most of all, hope. Many people have a difficult time rebuilding their lives after leaving religion. They feel isolated and alone, and struggle to put aside harmful ideas and emotions. Others suffer real-life consequences, such as marital discord, threats to employment, or a disappearing social circle. Some are even threatened that their kids will be taken away, and teens have been kicked out of their parents’ homes after admitting their unbelief.

RfR offers three main programs:

  • The Hotline Project operates in the US and Canada to listen to people’s concerns and offer compassion and support.
  • The Secular Therapy Project connects clients with evidence-based counsellors who will not invoke prayer as part of treatment.
  • RfR also facilitates an expanding network of local and online peer support groups, including specialty groups for preachers’ kids and spouses in mixed marriages.

Our contributions will assist RfR to continue to expand their much-needed work.

  Tax receipts are available for donations over $10. If you would like to donate but cannot attend the meeting, you can do so via the PayPal link on the right sidebar. Just include a note letting us know that the money is for the charity.

HAAM and Eggs Brunch

Sunday, January 29th, 10:30 AM at the Original Pancake House in the Forks Market.

Latest News

President’s Message

Happy New Year, One and All!  May we each have a happy and healthy 2017.

2016 was, for many people, a challenging year, on both a public and personal level. And I will admit that keeping a positive outlook has been difficult when we’ve been faced with example after example of the worst that humanity has to offer.  It can bring us to the point of despair, full of uncertainty about the future, and all that negativity can eat away at one’s heart and “soul”. I share that sense of frustration that makes you just want to shout out loud at the computer or TV screen and yell “What the F*** are you thinking?” These have been tough times, indeed, for evidence-driven, rational thought. It’s impossible to reason with someone who thinks truth is only opinion.

But perhaps this is the time for us to sit down, take a deep breath, and step back.  Take as big a news break as we can handle. Place more emphasis on positive news, rather than negative. No, we can’t change the entire world, not by ourselves. But we can make a difference, one step at a time, in our own corner of the world. Perhaps we can attend a rally, volunteer our time, help a neighbour – whatever we can take on.

To that end, I’d like all HAAM members to remember that we are a community, where we can be ourselves and enjoy the company of our fellow Humanists and atheists. This New Year, let’s try to spend more time enjoying that community. More conversation, more interaction, and more smiles.

It’s also beneficial for us to remind ourselves of how good our lives are. At times, we can lose sight of all our advantages – such as living in a society where openly admitting that we’re non-believers won’t land us in jail (or worse).

Sometimes I need to be reminded, but when I start thinking about it, I am so grateful for everything I have, especially our local Humanist community. It feels better to pull together rather than to focus on what’s missing. Let’s do more to support each other and our community this year.                                                                                                                                                      – Donna Harris

Update – Can You Help Us Help a Refugee Family?

Last month we asked if HAAM supporters would be interested in assisting with a refugee settlement project (see the December newsletter if you missed the details). So far two families have expressed interest in taking part, and they are currently obtaining more information. Is anyone else interested? Let us know if you are, and we’ll connect you up. It would be great to have more people involved.

 

 

Event Report: Write for Rights

On December 10, 2016, International Human Rights Day, HAAM marked the anniversary of the adoption of the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948 by aligning our local efforts with a global campaign organized for several years now by Amnesty International Canada and its international parent. We did this with a modest and last-minute event held at the St James Library. It was one of over 2,000 registered events across Canada.

The purpose of the Write for Rights campaign is to mobilize millions of people around the world on International Human Rights Day. The campaign uses the power of letter-writing to influence world leaders to protect individuals or communities whose human rights have been denied.

We chose this activity largely based both on its potential impact on the respect for Human Rights and the fact that everyone can participate. You don’t need to have previous experience with Human Rights or Amnesty International to do so. HAAM and Amnesty always welcome all those who are keen to keep shining the light on Human Rights.

AI has experience demonstrating the fact that letter-writing works! Visit their Success Stories page for just a few examples. They have found that such letter-writing efforts have led to positive results in approximately one-third of the cases. But they’ve also learned that it takes persistence; some countries can be more responsive than others, and some high‑profile prisoners of conscience face repeat arrests.

Among the cases chosen from the thousands known to AI in the world, it was both notable and disturbing that the situation at the proposed “Site C Dam” in the Peace River Valley in Canada was chosen as a showcase for the event. You can find out more about all the cases and causes that were the focus of letters last year at the dedicated web site. That page also provides access to a wide range of resources that tell you more about the campaign and letter-writing events.

So far, 21,200+ letters were reported written in and sent from Canada, with more than 2.3 million actions worldwide in support of the campaign. Would YOU like to make a difference in how the world resolves these situations? If so, then it is still not too late to write a letter. Tell some friends!

We plan to hold a similar event in 2017 with more planning and preparation. We hope to see you there!

In Brief

John Bogere’s report card

HAAM is pleased to report that our sponsored child at the Kasese Humanist Primary School in Uganda has completed his last year in the ‘baby’ class and received an excellent report card (click image to enlarge). HAAM has paid his tuition for the coming school year, when he will join the ‘middle’ school children.

Outreach

Pat Morrow and Tammy Blanchette will be heading out to the Steinbach area to speak to another World Religions class about Humanism later this month. It’s a large class and we have been told that the students are eager for debate, so we expect it to be fascinating.

On the Horizon (events in the planning stages)

  • Can Humanism Replace Religion?
  • The Regressive Left – a Roadblock to Progress?
  • Outreach training

Watch for dates and details TBA.

Speak out against objectionable Anti-Choice Ads

An anti-choice group is attempting to run graphic and offensive ads on transit buses in several Canadian cities. Please speak out against them now, or Winnipeg may be next.

All the details and info you need are here and here.

 

Book of the Month

Since Dr Darrel Ray will be our January speaker, we have ordered his book The God Virus for our library. This book has 195 positive reviews on amazon.com – just check out the titles of the reviews to get a feel for its reception among ex-Christians: “This is a WOW! Book! Get ready for an epiphany!”; “Probably the best book on religion”; “I had a major Aha moment”; “This book is the vaccine!”; “Helped me see the light”; “Life-changing”; and a quite a few reviews that begin with “Must-read!”.

What makes this book so great? Ray explains the concept of religion metaphorically as a virus. Using this metaphor throughout the book, he describes how some of the strategies that religion uses to survive and propagate are very similar to actual, biological viruses. The virus metaphor is useful in explaining the psychology of religion and its practical effects on individuals and societies. The author speaks of the importance of “vectors” (priests, ministers, etc.) in propagating religious ideas, and how religious people and organizations will protect those “vectors” even in the case of crimes or abuses. He then goes on to discuss guilt, control, sexual repression, anxiety and neuroticism, and the influence of religion on life, culture, and politics.

This book really is a game-changer. The way that Ray explains the psychological effects of religion helps ex-believers realize that the emotional baggage they are carrying around has a real scientific basis and that they are really not crazy to feel the way they do. If you have left religion and still suffer from the emotional aftermath; if you feel betrayed or conned by childhood indoctrination; or if you wonder how you could have ever been so brainwashed – quit beating yourself up and read this book. It will validate your experience and help you to move forward.

Year in Review

2016 was quite a year – tumultuous for the world, and very busy and exciting for HAAM. Here’s just a brief recap what took place in our little corner of the universe (You can see pictures from many of these events in our photo gallery):

  • At our monthly meetings, we learned about evolution, how to talk to believers, the Unitarian Universalist Church, the Humanism of Star Trek, protecting our lakes, secular parenting, the Ark Encounter in Kentucky, electric vehicles, and Humanist schools in Uganda.
  • In our community, we celebrated Darwin Day, International Human Rights Day, and Openly Secular Day; formed a private support group for secular parents; launched a new Humanist group in Steinbach; awarded a Life Membership to Helen Friesen; learned a Humanist Grace; found Joy & Meaning in a World Without God; and commiserated with each other on social media about the American election results.
  • Our Outreach crew were exceptionally busy, meeting the public at the U of M, the Steinbach Summer in the City Festival, and the Morden Corn and Apple Festival; and speaking to private groups at the Circle of Reason, the Pembina Valley Secular Community, and high school classes in the Bible Belt.
  • We supported charitable causes as diverse as refugee sponsorship, the Lake Winnipeg Foundation, a secular summer camp, Pride Winnipeg, a Humanist school in Uganda, disadvantaged university students, an inner-city women’s centre, a safe neighborhood initiative, and the Canadian Fossil Discovery Centre.
  • We hosted a film fest, a spaghetti dinner, and movie nights. Our members toured the Canadian Museum of Human Rights, participated in the Winnipeg Pride Parade and the Steinbach Pride March, attended Regina’s Shift to Reason conference, and donated blood.
  • On the web, our members opined about debating apologists, toxic comments on social media, the new Winnipeg Police Services’ chapel, spiritual care in public hospitals, a Manitoba church that has ties to violent anti-gay organizations, and the cognitive dissonance exhibited by religious scientists. We added more information and resources to our What is Humanism and Outreach pages, and developed another brochure for outreach events.
  • New additions to our Library included Richard Dawkins’ autobiography Brief Candle in the Dark; Dan Barker’s inspirational book Life Driven Purpose; Seth Andrews’ lighthearted look at beliefs Sacred Cows, a reference book on world religions – The Religions Book; and our first entry in the ‘apologist’ category – One Heartbeat Away: Your Journey Into Eternity, by Mark Cahill.
  • Our supporters stood up for Medical Aid in Dying, diversity and anti-bullying programs in Manitoba schools, reproductive choice, and inclusive, secular government; and we spoke out against blasphemy laws and proselytizing in public schools.

Whew! That’s a lot for one year! And we couldn’t have done it – and can’t continue to do it – without YOU! Another year is just beginning, and we need your SUPPORT, your MEMBERSHIP FEES, your IDEAS, your ENERGY, and your PARTICIPATION to make great things continue to happen.

All the details on how you can make friends, become involved, support evidence-based decision-making and secular government, and become part of our Humanist community are on our Join Us page – but if you still have questions, contact us!

Here’s to 2017! See you at the AGM!

(Note: Membership fees must be paid if you plan to participate/vote at the AGM).

August 2016 Newsletter

donate blood3In this issue:

  • Support the Partners for Life blood donation program
  • Why do people still attend church? Creating strong Humanist communities
  • What happens at a secular wedding (or other celebration)?
  • The god of cancer – does prayer work?
  • and more…

August Newsletter

May 2016 Newsletter

hateIn this issue:

  • HAAM shows our Pride as we support the LGBTTQ community and stand up to bullying in Manitoba schools
  • Does summer camp have to mean Bible camp? We look at what’s out there for our kids
  • We’re gearing up for summer Outreach
  • HAAM opposes attempts to reintroduce legislation that could affect access to abortion

and more…       May 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

February 2016 Newsletter

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

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

In this issue:

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

February newsletter

 

January 2016 Newsletter

syrian-demoIn 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

February 2015 Newsletter

UoM booth Jan15We’re busy – you’re busy.  We’re cold – you’re cold.  But it’s Winnipeg and we’re used to the winter weather, right?  Find out what’s happening with the Humanists, Atheists & Agnostics of Manitoba by reading our latest newsletter.  Cheers!

February newsletter

May 2014 Newsletter

2013-06-02_GayPride3In our May issue:

– Our next meeting topic:  “Dealing with Religion in the Workplace”.  Don’t miss it!

– MORE upcoming events!  Mark your calendar

– Find out how you can join in our latest project!  Operation “Read The Bible”.

Read it right here!

February 2014 Newsletter

Nemo smHappy Darwin Day!

Check out the news for February!

  • What happened at the multi-faith panel discussion?
  • Why are we in a different room for the February meeting?
  • Why was our tabling/outreach event at the University of Manitoba so interesting!

Read the February news:

December 2013 Newsletter

round tableIn this issue:

  • Winter Solstice Party!
  • What’s so important about Secular Morality?  It was discussed at our Round Table event (pic. at right)
  • Our November meeting was truly inspirational.  Read all about it!

November 2013 Newsletter

Death smallIn the November issue:

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

Click below and read the November newsletter!

Upcoming HAAM Events
  1. HAAM and Eggs Brunch

    November 26 @ 9:30 am - 11:00 am
  2. Winter Solstice Party

    December 23 @ 5:30 pm - 11:30 pm
Other Upcoming Events

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

Save the Dates!

2018 Monthly Meetings
January 13th (AGM)
February 10th
March 10th (Film Festival)
April 14th
May 12th

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