Upcoming HAAM Events
Monthly Meeting – Godless in Dixie
Saturday, November 17th, Canad Inns Polo Park, 1405 St Matthews Ave, 5:30 PM
Our special guest for the evening (via Skype) will be Neil Carter, a public-school teacher and former evangelical Christian who lives in Mississippi.
HAAM and Eggs Brunch
Sunday, November 25th, Original Pancake House, 1445 Portage Avenue, 9:30 AM
Our monthly casual get-together is a great way to meet and get to know your fellow HAAMsters.
Winter Solstice Party
Saturday, December 15th, Norwood Community Club, 87 Walmer St, Winnipeg, 6 PM
Save the date!
Our Events calendar will be updated once we finalize the details.
Calls to Action
There are 3 new petitions to sign, all in just the last month!
As Humanists, we need to support and speak up about what matters to us. Our collective voices can make a difference.
Gay Conversion Therapy
A group in Lethbridge has launched a petition to the House of Commons calling for a nation-wide ban on ‘gay conversion therapy’ (the pseudoscientific practice of trying to change a person’s sexual orientation from homosexual or bisexual to heterosexual using psychological or spiritual interventions).
This petition seeks to make conversion therapy a criminal offence across Canada. It is already illegal in Manitoba, Ontario, Nova Scotia, the city of Vancouver, and several US states. A nation-wide ban would aid enforcement of provincial/local laws where it is currently illegal, since practitioners tend to operate covertly. This CBC news article has more background information on the issue.
The petition is open for signatures until January 18th, 2019.
Advance Requests for Medical Assistance in Dying
Current legislation requires that Canadians requesting Medical Assistance in Dying (MAID) be mentally competent at the time of the actual procedure. A patient who meets the criteria and receives approval, but whose cognition deteriorates after the paperwork is completed, will no longer eligible, and their procedure will be canceled. Advance requests for assisted dying, such as a health care directive asking for MAID to be performed at a later date if certain conditions are met, are presently illegal and will not even be considered.
A growing number of people are claiming that the law is unfair and demanding that their wishes be respected, and some of those affected by the prohibition against advance requests are now speaking out.
Recently, a BC family who lost a loved one to Alzheimer’s Disease launched a petition calling for the House of Commons to amend the Criminal Code to allow advance requests for medically assisted dying.
Please sign now to support personal autonomy in medical decision-making for all Canadians.
This petition is open for signatures until January 30th, 2019.
Forcing patients to transfer for assisted dying
Publicly funded hospitals and long-term care facilities across the country, controlled by faith-based boards, are requiring vulnerable and seriously ill patients to travel to another institution to receive an assisted death. Some will not even allow assessments or interviews about assisted death on their premises. St Boniface Hospital in Winnipeg is one of a number of institutions in Manitoba that restricts access.
Publicly funded institutions should not be allowed to restrict the legal rights of Canadians. Please tell your premier to put an end to this practice.
Charity of the Month – The Bear Clan Patrol
Winnipeg is home to one of the five largest urban Indigenous populations in the world, heavily concentrated in certain inner-city neighborhoods on Treaty 1 territory. The Bear Clan originated in the 1990’s, motivated by the ongoing need to assume the traditional responsibility to provide security to the Aboriginal community. The Bear Clan draws its direction solely from traditional Aboriginal philosophies and practices.
The Bear Clan Patrol is a community-based solution to crime prevention, providing a sense of safety, solidarity, and belonging to both its members and to the communities they serve. This is achieved in a non-violent, non-threatening, non-judgmental and supportive manner primarily through relationship building and reconciliation.
The Patrol works in harmony with the broader community rather than in conflict with it, and in a relationship that encourages rather than seeking to defeat leadership as it emerges at a local level. Its members believe that it is critical to develop the knowledge and skills of young people, as they will inherit the current conditions.
- promoting and providing safety;
– conflict resolution;
– mobile witnessing and crime prevention;
– maintaining a visible presence on the streets;
– providing an early response to situations; and
– providing rides, escorts and referrals.
Currently there are well over 375 men and women involved with the Patrol on a volunteer basis. The Bear Clan has been in the news a number of times lately for the vital work they are doing. The organization continues to grow, recently opening an office on Selkirk Avenue and expanding their territory to include the West Broadway area.
Please support this incredible organization! Their efforts make this city a better place for all of us.
Donations for the Charity of the Month will be collected at the monthly meeting. Tax receipts are available for donations over $10. If you would like to donate but cannot attend the meeting, you can do so via the ‘Donate’ button on this page. Just include a note letting us know that the money is for the charity.
Não acredita em Deus?
Communities are not always defined by geography. We hear and read so much about the difficulties experienced by non-believers in Bible-belt towns south of Winnipeg. But what if your religious group is bound together by language and culture rather than town limits? There are many ethnic communities in Manitoba whose members are not confined to a single district, town, or neighborhood.
HAAM exec member Tony Governo belongs to one such community – he and his family are Portuguese. Winnipeg’s Portuguese community has over 11,000 members, and they are overwhelmingly (95-97%) Roman Catholic.
In an article he wrote for the local Portuguese newspaper, O Mundial, this past summer (June/July issue), Tony described what it’s like to be a non-believer in a community whose social activities center almost exclusively around the church. Here is his English translation:
Não acredita em Deus? Você não está sozinho
(Do not believe in God? You are not alone)
Our culture, both in Portugal and in the Portuguese community of Manitoba, is deeply immersed in religion, specifically in Catholicism. Just look at our publications and see our “cultural” events. Contrary to popular belief, we are not all believers.
A national survey conducted in 2011, entitled Religious Identities in Portugal: representations, values and practices, indicates that 3.2% of respondents are indifferent, 2.2% are agnostics, and 4.1% are atheists. The Canadian census of 2011 shows that in Manitoba, one in four is irreligious, with 26.5%.
Non-believers can go by any number of labels. Some choose to be identified as atheists, secular humanists, agnostics, skeptics, or free thinkers. They lack belief in any deity, afterlife, judgments, and rewards, or any other idea related to the supernatural. And they are among you; they are your co-workers, friends, or family.
Many Portuguese Catholics were determined and conditioned by their family and not exactly by belief or conviction. For this reason, there are many atheists sitting in the pews.
Leaving the closet as an unbeliever is an act of courage in a remarkably religious community. You should only leave if it is safe to do so. If you are still dependent on your family, it is wiser to stay in the closet. Whether in or out of the closet, know that you are not alone.
We are free not to believe. We are free to question.
If you would like to meet other non-believers with a similar mind, check out the website haam.ca – Humanists, Atheists, and Agnostics of Manitoba.
The newspaper printed Tony’s article (click image to enlarge), and in the spirit of supporting freedom of expression and constructive dialogue, the editor also added some of her own ideas about the piece. She also graciously offered to “open up O Mundial to a thoughtful exploration of belief” by inviting other readers to share their views as long as they are “respectful and kind.”
However, since the article ran, no responses have been received – either positive or negative. No protests, no letters to the editor, no emails to HAAM. Makes one wonder what subscribers thought when they read it… No way is Tony the only non-believer in Winnipeg’s entire Portuguese community. Perhaps there is just no one else willing to risk being outed, or to tackle deep subjects. In every community, someone has to be the first to come out.
At least in HAAM, Tony, you know you’re not alone!
Book of the Month: Godless
Since our meeting topic this month will be about adjusting to life after religious deconversion, here’s another perspective you might like to read, from someone who left Christianity some time ago. The full title of the book – Godless: How an Evangelical Preacher Became One of America’s Leading Atheists – pretty much describes its content.
Dan Barker was an evangelical Christian for about 19 years as a youth and young adult. He served as the pastor of a charismatic church and wrote a musical for Sunday School children that is still earning him royalties 40 years later! But he threw that all away in 1984 when he suddenly announced to his family and friends that he had become an atheist. How did that happen? How does someone go from speaking in tongues to becoming the co-president of the Freedom From Religion Foundation?
Barker explains in this tell-all book. Spoiler alert – speaking in tongues isn’t evidence of god(s) or anything supernatural. The book is an easy and enjoyable read. Barker writes as he speaks, in an unpretentious, even folksy style. If you’re not familiar with him, this 5-minute clip from one of his best-known speeches will give you an idea.
Godless also contains Barker’s famous Easter Challenge, first issued in 1990. The challenge is simple – reconcile the 4 Gospel accounts of Easter Day into a coherent narrative. No one has been successful (so far), but you can have a little fun reading about it.
If you are a former believer, you will undoubtedly relate to many of the author’s feelings and experiences, and if you were never a ‘true believer,’ Barker will help you understand the evangelical mindset. Either way, you’ll find this book deeply insightful.
All our library books and DVD’s are free to borrow for paid HAAM members.
Visit our library page if you would like to borrow this book.
It’s that time of year again…
Every year around this time, someone contacts us about a school or community organization collecting gifts or money for shoebox gifts for Operation Christmas Child. If you are not familiar with this project or the organization that runs it, you can learn all about it on our Religion in Public Schools web page.
Make sure you understand the goals of Operation Christmas Child before deciding to contribute. The take-home point is that it’s primarily an evangelical Christian organization… the shoebox gifts are just a means to proselytize.
Tammy and Luc Blanchette donned their tinfoil hats in preparation for Tammy’s presentation on pseudoscience. Great presentation, Tammy!
There’s also a photo from the meeting in our Gallery.
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
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.
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.
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).
- 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.
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.
- Our Charity of the Month program goes international
- Hospital chaplains
- Outreach report from a bible belt school
- Member reaction to our meeting about Aboriginal issues
- and more…
Addendum: For more on hospital chaplains and an update on the article in this newsletter, see Privacy Issues in Spiritual Care.
- 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
- HAAM members display their Pride and celebrate the Summer Solstice – lots of photos!
- We will begin reading the New Testament and get together to discuss the historicity of Jesus
- Was Hitler an atheist?
- and more news and updates
We’re busy – you’re busy. We’re cold – you’re cold. But it’s Winnipeg and we’re used to the winter weather, right? Find out what’s happening with the Humanists, Atheists & Agnostics of Manitoba by reading our latest newsletter. Cheers!
The April Newsletter! No regular meeting this month! Instead, we’re hosting a Public Discussion on Manitoba Bill 18, the Anti-Bullying legislation. Also in this month’s issue: Why Sage House is a valuable resource. Pat Morrow tells us to be “out” as an atheist. And more! (picture is from the March 28th Bill 18 rally).