outreach

July 2017 Newsletter

Upcoming HAAM Events

Summer Barbecue

Saturday, July 22nd, Assiniboine Park, 6:30 PM (Note the time)

 

 

An Evening with Richard Carrier

Saturday August 19th, Canad Inns Polo Park, 7 PM    

 

 

Camping Weekend

Date TBA, Birds Hill Park

 

And don’t forget about our Outreach at the Morden Corn and Apple Festival August 25-27.

Details for all upcoming HAAM events are on our Events page, or click the name of the event on the right sidebar.

Save the Dates

Our fall monthly meetings will be September 9th, October 14th, and November 18th, and our winter Solstice Party is booked for December 23rd. Details TBA.

Mark your calendars now so you won’t miss anything!

July Community (non-HAAM) Events

Human Rights – By Design or By Default

Thursday, July 13th, Canadian Museum for Human Rights, 7:15 PM

(click poster to enlarge)

   

Steinbach Pride March for Equality

Saturday, July 15th, 11 AM

 

For details on these upcoming community events, visit our new Community Events page.

Latest News

Guide to Religion in Manitoba Schools

Every year, we hear concerns from parents wanting to know how to handle a situation in their child’s school related to religion. Usually the concern involves questions regarding the legality of a current practice, or complaints from parents who already know that their local school is flouting the law.

To help clarify the issues surrounding religion in Manitoba’s public schools, and provide parents with current information about what is – and is not – allowed, we have added a new web page to our site under the Resources tab. Check it out! And please provide us with your feedback so that we can add additional information to the page.

Tough Questions from the Old Testament

An encounter with a Christian apologist at our outreach booth at the Summer in the City Festival in Steinbach in June led one of our members to watch a sermon examining the character of the god of the Old Testament. Read highlights of that sermon, and our atheist’s commentary, on our Perspectives page.

 

 

Our name in lights at Canadian Blood Services.
Click to enlarge.

Partners for Life Update

Just a reminder that if you can donate blood, please do! Summer is always a busy time for the blood banks, and Canadian Blood Services is already short. HAAM is part of the Partners for Life program, a friendly competition among businesses, schools, and community groups to show how generous their members can be. We know that Humanists are good people who donate blood! Our goal for 2017 is 25 donations, and as of the end of June we have 13, so we’re on track to meet it. Yay!

If you aren’t registered with Partners for Life, the instructions are here (or see link in right sidebar). And if you have already donated this year and weren’t registered, don’t worry. Just sign up now, and all your donations in 2017 will count toward HAAM’s total.

Steinbach Outreach Report

An Eye-Opening Weekend

Another summer outreach season is upon us. Here at HAAM we always look forward to it, but especially so this year, because for the first time, we were joined by three brand-new volunteers from the Eastman Humanist Community (EHC) in Steinbach. I would like to thank these people, especially since, being their first time doing something like this, they really didn’t know what to expect. I think I can speak for all when I say that it was a very eye-opening experience for them. A couple of comments they made that I found humorous were “That sign is causing some serious chiropractic neck adjustments” (referring to folks whose eyes read our front banner in disbelief as their feet kept moving). And later “This sign is like catnip for some Christians”.  (See our 2017 Event photos for a picture of it.) After the outreach, I asked one of them for his reflections on the weekend, and he had this to say:

“During my few hours there, hundreds of people took note of the booth but most were unwilling or too shy to approach. Of those who did, it was interesting the variety of comments we received. A good number indicated that they were Christians and asked questions like:

  • Where do your morals come from if you don’t have God?
  • So when you die you think that there’s nothing – you just cease to exist? and
  • What caused the big bang? Wouldn’t it be easier to admit that God made it?

Most encouraging, were the 25+ people who were excited to see us and who took our contact information. If only half come out to our next meeting, we’ll have to re-arrange our space to accommodate them!

A pleasant surprise were the several ‘gentle’ Christians who came by and said things like: ‘I’m sorry for the hostility you folks must be getting’ or ‘I agree with many of the things you stand for; this place needs you.’

It will be interesting to see the ripples that come from this weekend!”

The Ripple Effect

I think the ripples he refers to are threefold:

  • First, the impact our outreach will have on the growth of the EHC.
  • Second would be the effect on our new volunteers. A second volunteer, who, from what I was able to observe, knows just about everybody in Steinbach, had many longtime friends and acquaintances of his stop by. Some seemed surprised that he was “with this group”; others saw him in the booth and just kept walking. His non-belief was previously no big secret, but I do have to admire a man who is willing to out himself so publicly.
  • Third, the effect on the community. For those unfamiliar with Steinbach, the city has deep religious roots, which in the last few years have been challenged by its growth and the diversity that comes with that. Anecdote: One of our members was having a yard sale a block or two from the festival when a trio of senior ladies walked up. She asked the trio if they had been to the festival. With no further prompting one of them replied “Yes, … do you know there are atheists there!” Yup, the ripples will be interesting.

A Conversation Worth Having

For me, the best conversations seem to take place near closing time, and often with younger believers. This is pure conjecture on my part, but I think folks like that see our booth and want to talk, but it takes all weekend for them to work up the courage. I suppose in the last hours of the festival they decide: now or never. That seemed to be the case on Sunday.

Our booth was approached by a young man and a couple of his supporters, or what I prefer to call listeners. The young man was well-spoken but not rehearsed, and I do mean that as a compliment. Many visitors show up with memorized apologetic arguments; they parrot what they’ve heard but really can’t go beyond what they’ve memorized. This young man from Steinbach Christian High School asked honest non-leading questions, with a genuine interest in who we were and why we don’t believe in God.

The conversation started with the usual clearing up of misconceptions and misrepresentations about Humanism, atheism and agnosticism. In outreach this has become standard practice when engaging someone who has the limited worldview of a Christian education. I explained that Humanism isn’t a religion as there is no supernatural belief, no holy books, and no dogma. I went on to explain the fundamental differences between Humanism and many forms of Christianity, such as:

  • Humanists believe we are a product of this planet, not that the planet (or the universe for that matter) was created for us.
  • Generally, Humanists are passionate about their epistemology (the study of knowledge and belief); we can’t accept an idea on faith alone – we really need to know that our beliefs are true.
  • Christianity demands obedience to God; to love and serve God is considered a good thing. With Humanism, doubting and questioning everything is considered a good thing.

Finally, I explained to him that as Humanists, we believe that science and the scientific method are the best ways to tell fact from fiction, which is why most, if not all, Humanists today are atheists. To which he exclaimed that “science doesn’t disprove God, so how do atheists say there is no god?” After running through the argument (again) that generally atheists don’t claim there is no God, I did try to explain to them the concept of a strong atheism (the assertion that God does not exist).

Certain concepts of gods can’t exist because they are logically incoherent. I offered the student the simple example of an all-loving god who allows the creation that he loves to go to a place of eternal torment/torture that he created. This god can’t logically exist (unless we bastardize the definition of love into meaninglessness). I then asked him for his definition of love and he started to go into the free will argument that love is allowing choice. I completely agree that allowing choice is part of love; however for me, a better definition of love is what we find in 1 Corinthians 13 “(Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude…”) I said that if we are going to define torturing someone forever as being kind, we will have to redefine that word, too. (It seems that God is violating his own holy word.)

By now I could tell the student was getting a little flustered, so I listened to his description of the free will argument, which was pretty good for being off-the-cuff. When he got to the part where God cannot make himself known to us by appearing in person because it will take away our free will, I asked him, “Does Satan have free will?”, to which he gave me a nod in agreement. I continued “But Satan has intimate knowledge of God. If I have the story straight, Satan used to work for God and saw him in person, but yet Satan still has free will. If seeing God in the flesh (so to speak) does not affect Satan’s free will, why would it affect ours?”

His flustered look was starting to become real stress, so we switched to book recommendations. He recommended C.S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity and asked me if I had read it. I told him I had not, but that I have read many other books and articles about Lewis’s arguments. I recommended The Trouble With Religion by Sophie Dulesh; she takes a mighty whack at deconstructing Lewis’s ideas in chapter one, so he doesn’t have to read the whole book.

We continued for a while about the good bits and the bad bits of Christianity, and how we can find many of the good bits of Christianity in many other religions, which both pre-date and post-date Christianity. I could tell that this young man really cared about what he believed in, and I think he really began to understand some of the immorality and absurdity of the Christian religion. Of course, what he does with this information is entirely up to him, and I wish him luck on whatever path he chooses. But from his body language, facial expressions, and the way he asked questions, I feel this was a conversation very much worth having. For me, it was one conversation that made the entire weekend worthwhile.                                        – Pat Morrow

The Conversation Worth Having (Christopher Hitchens)

Demand an End to “Faith-Based” Health Care

Religiously-affiliated health care institutions are denying patients access to Medical Assistance in Dying (MAID) in Canada because of the beliefs of the religious boards controlling their policies. This is infringing on the ability of patients in those facilities to access a legal procedure, resulting in seriously ill and dying patients being subjected to prolonged suffering. Partisan policy should have no place in publicly-funded institutions that are required to serve all Manitobans.

Our website has all the information you need to get up to speed on this issue, including links to recent news articles for more background information. You will also find a sample letter that you can send to the hospital and government representatives, along with contact information for them.

Please add your voice to support the growing number of Manitobans who believe that government should remain neutral on matters of religion and that no religion should receive preferential treatment over another religion, or the lack of religion.

This is OUR publicly funded health care system, and we need to hold our elected representatives responsible for ensuring that it serves everyone. Demand better!

Book Film of the Month

Heart of the Beholder is a 2005 drama film written and directed by Ken Tipton, based on Tipton’s own experience as the owner of a chain of videocassette rental stores in the 1980’s. Tipton and his family had opened the first videocassette rental stores in St. Louis in 1980; their business was largely destroyed by a campaign of Christian fundamentalists who objected to the chain’s carrying Martin Scorsese’s film The Last Temptation of Christ for rental.

Heart of the Beholder features Michael Dorn (Worf from Star Trek) and a very early performance by Chloe Grace Moretz as a child actress.  It won “Best Feature Film” awards at several film festivals. Critical comments included “It is in many ways a politically charged film as it touches on issues of freedom of speech, religious beliefs and all-out fanaticism”.  Here is the original trailer.

Thanks to Karen and David Donald for the donation.

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

 

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

 

May 2017 Newsletter

Upcoming HAAM Events

Solar Energy 101

Saturday, May 13th, Canad Inns Polo Park, 1405 St Matthews Ave, 5:30 PM

 

 

Introduction to Outreach

Thursday May 25th, Sir William Stephenson Library, 765 Keewatin St, 6:30 – 8:30 PM

 

 

HAAM and Eggs Brunch

Sunday, June 4th, Smitty’s Restaurant, 580 Pembina Hwy (at Grant), 9:30 AM.

 

For more information on these and all our upcoming 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.

Upcoming Community (non-HAAM) Events

Winnipeg Comedy Showcase

Friday, May 19th, Park Theatre, 698 Osborne St, 9 PM

 

Public Lecture – Secular/Atheist Movements in Canada

Wednesday, May 24th, Canadian Fossil Discovery Centre, Morden MB, 7 PM

Winnipeg Pride Parade

                                         Sunday June 4th

For details on these and more upcoming community events, visit our new Community Events page.

Latest News

We’re Gearing Up for Summer Outreach

HAAM’s Outreach booth will be heading out into Manitoba’s Bible Belt again this summer. We’ll have volunteers at Steinbach’s Summer in the City Festival in June, and at the Morden Corn and Apple Festival in August. (Check our Events page for details.)

The main purpose of outreach is to connect with nonbelievers who may not know that there is a large community here for them. We also promote Humanism and encourage questioning and critical thinking.  We love to engage in conversations with people about what they believe and why they believe it, and we welcome questions about Humanism and atheism. Conversation topics usually include the Bible, morality, science (especially evolution), LGBTTQ issues, and anything else on our visitors’ minds.

We need lots of manpower to staff these booths for each of these 3-day festivals, as they are always busy. Please consider joining us and helping out. It’s an interesting and rewarding experience, and a great learning opportunity. Outreach helps build bridges to understanding other worldviews, and it’s a great way to get to know some of your fellow HAAM members as we sit at the booth together.

If you have never done any outreach before, it can sound more intimidating than it really is. Talking to people in person is generally much more respectful than exchanges on social media. Shifts can be as short as 2-3 hours if that’s all the time you can spare, or up to 12 hours if you’re available for the whole day. That’s not as long as it sounds; the time passes VERY quickly once you get involved in a deep conversation.

To help prepare, we’re holding an information session for new Outreach volunteers on Thursday May 25th. Everyone is welcome! But if you want to volunteer and can’t attend, let us know and we’ll work something else out. Even if you are not interested in or are unsure about participating in Outreach, this session may help you to navigate difficult conversations with religious family and friends. There’s also lots more information about outreach on this website. If you have questions, don’t hesitate to contact us! Or just show up at the May meeting and ask in person. Outreach coordinator Pat Morrow (or any of our other experienced Outreach people) will be happy to chat with you.

Speaking of Outreach – Updated Brochures Available

Just in time for the annual summer outreach season, all of our informational brochures have been revised and updated. These are the little pamphlets that we print to hand out to curious visitors at our booth. For some of these people, it is literally the first time they have encountered a real, live non-believer. It’s great for them to have something tangible to pick up and peruse later.

New! We’ve recently added a brochure explaining the meaning of common scientific terms. What’s the difference between a fact, a law, a hypothesis, and a theory (or are they all basically the same thing)? Don’t know for sure? Most of the visitors at our booth don’t, either – that’s why they disparagingly refer to evolution as ‘just a theory’. This little pamphlet should help with the confusion.

All of these brochures are also available on our website. If you, or someone you know, is curious, you can always direct them there, where the brochures can be viewed online (or you can print your own copies to hand out if you wish).

The list of titles reflects the most common topics we get asked about – Humanism, Atheism, and (most common of all) Where do you get your morals from? And then of course, evolution and science, with trees commonly pointed out as proof of creation. (That’s the reason we have an entire brochure dedicated to trees.)

Take a look – and go ahead and share!

Enjoy our April meeting? Want to hear more?

The video clip that was shown was taken from this presentation, Disproving Gods with History and Science, by Richard Carrier. Carrier has a PhD in ancient history, and his whole speech (39 minutes) is well worth the listen. He contends that a historical Jesus never existed, and that the biblical character is based on a compilation of myths.

The secular scholar with the opposing viewpoint (that an historical Jesus did exist, even though he wasn’t divine), also mentioned at the meeting, is Bart Ehrman. Ehrman is a professor of religious studies at the University of North Carolina and a former fundamentalist Christian. Here’s a clip of him reading from his book Did Jesus Exist?

There’s lots more to this debate, and it may never be settled – but it’s fascinating.

Breaking News – We’ve just heard that Richard Carrier is planning to tour Canada this summer. If he stops in Winnipeg, we’ll be sure to let you know. Stay tuned!

Charity of the Month – Women’s Health Clinic

For over 30 years, the Women’s Health Clinic (WHC) has provided support to women in the areas of prenatal and postpartum care and counselling, newborn care and parenting, nutrition and eating disorders, birth control and unplanned pregnancy, abortion services, sexual health educator training, and general mental health counselling. Most services are offered free or on a pay-what-you-can basis.

The clinic’s Pregnancy Prevention and Safer Sex (PPaSS) program provides supplies to those who can’t afford them otherwise. The program currently offers copper IUDs, condoms, birth control pills, dental dams, and emergency contraception. Unfortunately, due to its high cost, the clinic is not able to offer the hormone-based IUD (Mirena).

The PPaSS program is largely funded through donations from clients and community members, and demand typically exceeds supply. Donations help more people access the supplies they need to care for their sexual and reproductive health.

WHC tries to make sure that everyone who wants an abortion can access one. While the surgical abortion procedure is covered through Manitoba Health, other related expenses often make it challenging for northern and rural Manitobans to access abortion services in Winnipeg. The clinic always welcomes and appreciates donations to WHC’s Client Emergency Fund to help cover costs for travel and accommodations. When necessary, they are also willing to negotiate the fee for clients who aren’t covered by Manitoba Health and don’t have other health coverage. In their commitment to improving access to abortion, they will not turn someone away who is unable to pay for the procedure.

WHC has not yet begun to offer Mifegymiso (the abortion pill, also called medical abortion). The cost isn’t currently covered by Manitoba Health and clients must pay $350. The clinic is committed to working with the government to make medical abortion an accessible healthcare service for more Manitobans.

Support for sexual healthcare and reproductive choice are key values for most Humanists. Our donation will be directed towards the PPaSS program. Let’s do what we can to help women in our community.

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.

March for Science

A few hearty souls from HAAM braved the cool weather to participate in the Winnipeg March For Science on April 22nd. Despite the snow, those who attended were treated to several great speakers.

Right now, science is under attack from several directions, and it needs our help. Those of us who understand that science is the best way we have to know the world around us, need to speak up and remind our leaders and elected officials of the need for evidence-based policies. If we each speak up and let our beliefs be known, perhaps we can influence those in power to make real change.                                                                    – Donna Harris

 

More photos in our Gallery.

 

 

Book of the Month

Spring is here, so read something fun! How about Quirkology: How We Discover the Big Truths in Small Things, by Richard Wiseman. Light reading – but not mindless reading. Wiseman sounds like a fascinating character; he has a PhD in psychology and is also a practicing magician. He conducts research into unusual areas of psychology, or as he calls it, the ‘backwaters of the mind’, including deception, luck, and the paranormal. He also has a very entertaining YouTube channel. Here’s a sample, (only 2 minutes long, and amazing – how does he do that?).

In his book, Wiseman explores the quirky science of everyday life and the oddities of human behavior, like the tell-tale signs that give away a liar, the secret science behind speed-dating and personal ads, and what a person’s sense of humor reveals about the innermost workings of his or her mind. How strange is the human mind? Read this book and you’ll find out!

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

New Community Events Page

You may have noticed that we have a new, separate page on our website for ‘Community Events‘. This is to distinguish our HAAM events from those of other organizations that we encourage our supporters to attend or participate in.

If you are aware of an event that you think our readers might like to know about, please contact us with the details. We will share it, subject to approval from the executive. Consideration will be given to events that are consistent with our Mission and Position Statements, (and to events that warrant our attention and interest because they directly oppose our Mission and Position Statements).

Film Festival Recap

If you could not attend the Prairie Infidel Film Fest and are interested in finding the films, here they are.

Rubai (2013), 12 min – As her classmates prepare for their First Holy Communion, Rubai announces that she is an atheist and refuses to participate.

Deathbed: the Musical (2011), 6 min – An old man sits in a nursing home, waiting to die. A devoutly religious man, he firmly believes he will receive his due reward in the afterlife. While reflecting on his own virtues and thinking of the world to come, a nurse, nearing the end of a long, arduous shift, brings his breakfast.

Bacon & God’s Wrath (2015), 9 min – An elderly Jewish woman tastes bacon for the first time.

The Man From Earth (2007), 1 h, 27 min – An impromptu goodbye party for Professor John Oldman becomes a mysterious interrogation after the retiring scholar reveals to his colleagues he has a longer and stranger past than they can imagine. This movie is available on Hoopla, which is free to anyone with a Winnipeg Public Library card.

 

 

 

 

 

 

March 2017 Newsletter

Upcoming Events

Atheist Comedy Night

Saturday, March 11th, Canad Inns Polo Park, 5:30 – 8:30 PM

 

 

 

HAAM and Eggs Brunch

Sunday, March 19th, 10:00 AM at the Perkins restaurant in Madison Square (305 Madison at Ness, just west of Polo Park).

 

 

2017 Atheist Film Festival

Saturday, April 1st, Millennium Library (Carol Shields Auditorium, 2nd floor)

Doors open 2:45 pm. Films start at 3 pm.

 

 

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

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

Latest News

Meet our new family members!

click to enlarge

Following the presentation by Maysoun Darweesh of the Manitoba Interfaith Immigration Council (MIIC) at our meeting in November, my wife Carmen and I have become hosts for a family of new Canadians. They are from the city of Idlib (in red on map), in the Idlib Governorate in Syria, located just 59 km southwest of Aleppo. They arrived in Canada on January 1, 2016.

We applied to and were accepted for the MIIC’s “Host Matching Program”. We will be their newest and, as it turns out, their first Canadian friends! Khaled and Asmahan are parents to three lovely young children ranging in age from 18 months to 8 years old. Khaled was most recently a truck driver at home, but considers himself a construction worker. Asmahan is mainly a stay-at-home mother, but she has some serious bead working, knitting, and crocheting skills that we will be able to tell you more about after we get to know them better.

Their area in Syria and their city saw some of the earliest fighting in the Syrian Civil War. Much of their town has been destroyed in the conflict, including ruins dating from thousands of years ago. My heart goes out to them, already, just for this. Their eldest, a daughter, is in grade 3 at her local school. She wants to be a doctor, a teacher or a paleontologist (she is in her dinosaur phase!). She is very bright and her English is already surprisingly good. The middle child, a boy, attends kindergarten, is shy, and we only saw him get animated after we had been together for about an hour and a half. Their youngest child, another girl, slept most of the time we were together, but we saw her playing with her siblings as well.

Both parents come from large families. Khaled is the youngest of ten, while Asmahan is third youngest of 12. While their surviving parents seem to be still residing in Idlib, their siblings are dispersed across the region, Europe, and now, North America. Their story is not unusual in this respect. They are able to maintain some contact by phone and over the Internet.

During the thirteen months they have been in Canada, they have had no sustained contact with anyone here. We will become their family, since it seems they have none left in Syria, either. I am expecting many people to be called upon to help as needs become apparent. Khaled has applied for a special program at RRC that will give him special instruction in both English and in construction. It will also place him afterward! If he can get into that program, it will be a big step to making this family self-sufficient. Asmahan could sell some of her crafts. I am hoping to help her make those connections. Both parents are studying English at the Seven Oaks Adult ESL school. They have a vehicle, which they do not use very much, and Asmahan is learning to drive.

Our discussions led to us to understand that they already appreciate the secular nature of life in Canada. They were subjected to various kinds of discrimination in their homeland and in Lebanon. They also saw its effects on others. While they are nominally Muslim, I expect the Humanist aspect of our world view will appeal to them as they come to understand how we come to be so accepting of our differences.

We expect to get the family out to do some normal family things, like tobogganing and skating. Other ideas will come as we get to know them better. As far as we can tell, they have never even been to the zoo! It takes a village to support a family, and I know HAAM members are already stepping up to help. I would like to hear from anyone reading this article who would like to be included in the work required to acclimate this young family to their new permanent home.

P.S., They all love cats! That means our Ringo will have more family to contend with now.

Please let us know if you are interested in helping this family.                                                                                     – Rick Dondo

Does Your Advance Care Plan Include Spiritual Care?

With the recent legalization of assisted dying (now commonly known as MAID – medical aid in dying), you may have seen in the news lately that some publicly-funded health care facilities are refusing to allow MAID on their premises because of their religious affiliation. This has led to questions from our members about the influence of religion in public hospitals. Most of us don’t get to choose which hospital we are taken to when we are ill – so how do you feel about being admitted to a faith-based facility?

Just as an ACP (Advance Care Plan) provides for your wishes to be respected in regards to medical care and treatment, perhaps it’s also worthwhile to make your wishes regarding ‘spiritual care’ clearly known if you feel strongly about that. It’s pretty simple to do this. Your Manitoba Health card must be presented whenever you require medical treatment. So if you have an ACP, or any other wishes or requests, just note that in writing and keep it with your Manitoba Health card.

A sample card is shown here (click images to enlarge).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dying With Dignity used to mail out these cards out with ACP packages. They don’t mail cards anymore, but you can easily make a similar one yourself and include the same information – the names of people to call in an emergency to make medical decisions for you, the name and phone number of your family physician, your signature, and the location of your ACP if you have one. On the back of this one it says “I am an atheist. If I am hospitalized, I do not want any clergy or chaplain visits”, followed by initials.

Making sure your wishes are known and clearly stated can save a lot of grief and hassle later.

  We have written about spiritual care in hospitals before – check the October 2016 newsletter if you missed the articles.

Charity of the Month

    It’s been several years since the Rainbow Resource Centre was our Charity of the Month, so it’s overdue – and their current need couldn’t be greater. Recent and ongoing political upheaval in the USA is leading members of the LGBTTQ community there to seek asylum in Canada, and as a result, RRC is overwhelmed with calls for information and counselling.

RRC was busy enough even before this latest crisis. Since its inception as the ‘Campus Gay Club’ at the U of M in the early 1970’s, it has been a leader and important resource for the gay and lesbian community, providing community services, education, outreach and political awareness, and activism.

RRC offers support to the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Two-Spirit, Intersex, Queer, Questioning and Ally (LGBTTQ*) population of Manitoba and North Western Ontario through counselling and peer support groups; provides education and training for schools, school divisions, and GSA’s (gay-straight alliances); hosts events, workshops, and social activities for clients of all ages; and houses and coordinates a wealth of resources, including a library, a toll-free phone line, and links to LGBTTQ-friendly crisis centres, legal aid, peer support groups, health care, and more.

RRC depends on donations to help keep all these operations going for the long haul, and now to assist refugees as well. Please lend your support to this worthy cause!

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

Partners for Life Update

Have you donated blood yet this year? Canadian Blood Services’ Partners for Life program is a friendly competition among organizations, schools, and businesses to encourage their members to donate blood. We just got our participation report for 2016, and HAAM did really well, especially since we didn’t even promote it until mid-summer. Fourteen HAAM members have enrolled in the program, and those members gave a total of 19 units of blood, or 76% of our goal of 25 units.

Can we reach that goal this year? There have been 3 donations already in 2017, so we should easily be able to get to 25, if

  1. Those 14 members each donate twice, and/or
  2. A few more HAAM members sign up.

All the information you need is here on our website. There’s also a handy link to that info on the right sidebar of our Home Page for future reference.

By donating blood, you can not only save someone’s life (enough reward in itself, right?), but show the world that Humanists are good people (who donate blood).

Upcoming clinics: You can donate at the main clinic on William Ave (across from HSC) during their regular hours (Mon 10-2 and 3:30-7:30; Tues 1:30-7; and Wed-Sat 8-2). Or check the list of mobile clinics at the top of any page on the CBS website.

Video Links from our Darwin Day meeting

If you weren’t at our February meeting, you missed a great presentation by Pat Morrow about how the advancement of science contributes to a Humanistic worldview. At the end, several people in the audience asked for links to the short videos he showed about evolution. Here they are:

The first three are from a video series called Genetics and Evolution, by Stated Clearly.

The last video was a clip of a speech by Richard Dawkins comparing the worldview of someone whose religious belief prevents him from accepting reality to someone whose commitment to truth requires him to reject a long-held belief when new evidence against it is presented.

If you are interested in learning more, there are links to additional videos and other resources, including the complete Genetics and Evolution video series, on our Exploring Nonbelief web page. Check it out!

P.S. If you weren’t at the meeting to get a piece of Darwin’s birthday cake, you can at least see a photo of it in our Gallery.

Book of the Month

   It’s comedy month, so here’s something fun. Not all of the books in our library are serious and educational; we also have a few about popular culture, including Me of Little Faith by comedian Lewis Black. Raised as a non-practicing Jew, Black noticed unsettling parallels between religious rapture and drug-induced visions while attending college in the 1960’s, and since then has turned an increasingly skeptical eye toward the politicians and televangelists who don the cloak of religious rectitude to mask their own moral hypocrisy. The more than two dozen short essays in this book include hilarious experiences with rabbis, Mormons, gurus, and psychics. Black pokes fun at every religious figure and issue he can – the Catholic Church, Mormons, people who commit suicide in the name of faith, Jews, and of course Jesus and God. Find it in our Library.

 

Outreach Report from Houston Atheists

I worked on this newsletter while on vacation in Roatan, Honduras. Here’s a little personal note about that trip.

We booked our flights, via Chicago and Houston, long before we had any inkling of Trump becoming president, so we experienced a lot of anxiety about traveling to the US when the time finally came. I spent an hour before we left deleting all the memes, news articles, and videos I had shared on Facebook mocking Trump and criticizing the US government – just in case my phone or laptop was searched. But we passed through airport security without a hitch, except for my husband being asked for his Social Insurance Number. He did remember most of it, after a couple of attempts; what might the customs officer have asked or done if he had not? I felt guilty, in solidarity with everyone who is not white, about not being stopped and searched.

  We spent our layover day in Houston at the Museum of Natural Sciences, figuring that if we were going to spend any tourist dollars in Texas, they might as well be directed toward science and education. The museum’s paleontology exhibit is comprehensive and about the size of a football field. I saw Tiktaalik! (in photo) There were references to evolution in almost every display, and the museum was packed with school children on tours. I heard a guide state that they get 600,000 kids a year through there on school field trips. That just doesn’t jive with what we hear about scientific ignorance and rampant creationism.

In the evening we joined a group of people from the Houston Atheists at a pub. There were about a dozen attendees, so we spent an interesting couple of hours comparing notes about our groups’ activities and ideas. They are a loosely-knit organization that mainly uses Meet-Up to advertise small social gatherings at various venues around the city. Not surprisingly, their main focus right now is political activism and separation of church and state issues. One of their members is a high school teacher, so he was able to shed some light on the religion-in-schools issues we read so much about in the media. He said there’s a huge urban-rural split (sound familiar?) in worldviews, with most of the anti-science attitude and push for creationism coming from outside the major cities. He also explained that there is a huge discrepancy in the quality of the education among public schools, depending mainly on the socio-economic level and ethnicity of the communities they serve; but that generally, what we read about represents the egregious infractions of a small minority.

Overall, we experienced no trouble on our one day in Texas; but like several members of the Houston Atheists warned – venture outside the city limits and it’ll be a different story. Not one I’m particularly yearning to read.

One final note – I was asked to toss in a fish picture, so here’s a photo of a seahorse from Roatan. They’re a rare and special sight, and we saw several. Fun fact – when seahorses mate, the female deposits the eggs into a pouch on the male’s abdomen. His body swells and he incubates the eggs until they hatch. Now doesn’t that sound like ‘intelligent design’?       – Dorothy Stephens

HAAM Takes On Apologetics – Part 2

Two of our members were recently interviewed by a pastor for a church conference designed to teach Christians how to defend their faith to non-believers.

In Part 2 of his report, Pat Morrow describes his weekend at that conference. Both parts of his report appear on our Perspectives page. You can read Part 2 here.

HAAM Takes on Apologetics – Part 2

If you missed Part 1, go back and start there first.

Welcome to Christian Apologetics

Fellow HAAM member Tony Governo and I were invited to the recent apologetics conference held at Riverwood Church after being interviewed in preparation for it. The title of the conference was “(Un)Apologetic” and its sub heading was “Rational, Gracious, True.” I will say our hosts were gracious, so, as I was about to find out, one out of three isn’t bad.

The parking lot was filling up fast even though I got there early, and just inside the doors it was shoulder to shoulder at the registration desk as people figured out what line they were supposed to be in. The fella beside me nodded in greeting, and I offered a “good morning”, to which he replied “hey, aren’t you the atheist guy from last week?” (referring to the Apologetics video in which I had appeared the previous Sunday). I replied yes, and gave a proper introduction. He thanked me for coming even though I was probably “out of my comfort zone”, to which I responded “actually no, I speak to religious people all the time, though the web and our organization’s outreach programs; and besides, Christians haven’t burnt one of us at the stake in over 200 years, so I feel quite safe”. He laughed.

So began my first Christian apologetics conference. I picked up a cappuccino and strolled over to the book table. Lots of books on apologetics and Christian living, and lots of authors I hadn’t heard of, which is not unusual; even if one pays attention to apologetics, the Christian publishing industry is prolific. In North America there are just under a hundred exclusively Christian publishers pumping out books. One name stood out for me, though – Paul Copan – only because he’s one of those apologists who defends the moral character of the god of the Old Testament. Defenders of genocide stick out in my mind and turn the stomachs of humanists. I picked up his book When God Goes to Starbucks: A Guide to Every Day Apologetics. I opened it to a random page and saw the following: “Lesbianism, though more complex, is often motivated by seeking protection from unsafe men – often because of sexual abuse or witnessing domestic violence.” Eeuw! This is standard apologetic thinking, and it gets worse from there – but not worth the $18 to see just how bad. It was time to refresh my coffee, meet Tony, and head in.

The conference was led by apologists Steve Kim, who holds a masters in Christian apologetics from Biola University, and Dan Rutherford, a pastor/author who gives lectures on apologetics but currently works as the manager of marketing and business development at Fast Air. They use a Ravi Zacharias/William Lane Craig style of apologetics. For those who are not familiar with that, it just means lots of words with not much substance; the basic principles of logic are co-opted when useful and discarded when not.

The conference centered around these two apologists and 4 questions.

1.Why is God hiding? Or maybe he doesn’t really exist?

2.Doesn’t science disprove God?

3. The Bible is full of myths, mistakes and contradictions! Then how can anyone trust the Bible?

4. There are 4200 different religions! How can Christians claim that their way is the only way to God?

A Few Basics about Apologetics

Before we get started on these questions, there are certain points that should be mentioned for the benefit of folks who are unfamiliar with this type of Christian apologetics.

Apologetics is not meant to change the mind of a nonbeliever; instead it’s an attempt to reinforce supernatural belief in those who already believe. No one becomes convinced of the existence of God by the ontological argument, the teleological argument, or the transcendental argument. In my opinion, Christian apologetics is wasted on the rational thinker if conversion is the goal. We can see the gaping holes in their reasoning and arguments, but to be clear, we see these holes not because we are any smarter, but because of how we approach the subject. Humanists/atheists/sceptics approach apologetics with a critical eye and a hope to understand, whereas religious believers are looking for information that will reinforce their preconceived ideas of what is true. For the believer, adding a healthy dose of conformation bias to Christian apologetics seems reasonable and reinforces their beliefs.

Apologists very often work with incorrect assumptions about us (atheists and Humanists).

  • First, they believe that atheism is the active rejection of their God; for them, atheism is an assertion, or a blanket statement that God does not exist. This is strange to me because I have never encountered an atheist who holds this position. (Atheism is merely a lack of belief in gods or the rejection of theistic claims.) This tactic is simply an attempt to shift the burden of proof, because in order for many forms of apologetics to work, shifting of the burden of proof is necessary.
  • Second, they believe that atheism is also a philosophy, although I don’t know where they get this idea from; and when you ask them what the philosophy of atheism is, they can’t tell you.
  • Third, they also assert that atheism is a religion – or at the very least, a worldview.
  • Finally, the most important concept that one has to understand to truly grasp Christian apologetics is: The Bible is true (except when it’s not), and this is based on each individual’s interpretation of Scripture. Some get it right, some not, and there’s no empirical way to tell the difference…

With those explanations out of the way, welcome to apologetics.

Speeches from the Apologists

 Question 1: “Is God hiding? Maybe he doesn’t exist?” – Apologist Steve Kim

Probably one of the most powerful arguments for atheism is divine hiddenness. Steve Kim saves this primary question to the last 10 minutes of his 40-minute talk. Most of his time is spent offering personal testimony, and explaining how the Big Bang theory proves Genesis, and quite a bit of time is spent on William Lane Craig’s Kalam cosmological argument. Various other arguments get a mention, such as the ontological argument and the argument from design.  In the rationalist community we often refer to these arguments as P.R.A.T.T. (Points Refuted A Thousand Times).  I won’t cover them here but if one is interested in looking up the arguments (and learning why they fail), the Iron Chariots website is an excellent resource.

In the last ten minutes, we finally get to the primary question “Why is god hidden?” Kim breaks it down to three points:

  1. Somehow seeing god would take away our free will. God will not mess with our free will because that would turn us into automatons (or some such thing). Because of his beauty we will have no choice but to serve him. (Christians assume that free will is given to them by god, but they don’t define it, nor can they demonstrate what they mean by it. Humanists and atheists, on the other hand, are generally determinists. We believe that free will doesn’t exist except in a very limited sense, because that’s all we have evidence for.)

  I’ve always found this a strange counter to the problem of divine hiddenness, since God made himself known to several characters in the Old Testament. Lucifer himself has personal knowledge of God “in the flesh” so to speak, and it didn’t seem to affect his free will. Unless of course we are to make the assumption that God is controlling Lucifer?

  1. This one was surprising – God is hidden because, to quote apologist Steve Kim directly, “if your heart is already hardened, it may be impossible for God to turn you around”. This one begs many questions. All people are not saveable? There are things that are impossible for god? Kim ends this point by using Richard Dawkins as an example of a man who has chosen to go to hell.
  2. Even if god showed himself, many would still not love him. Kim relates the story of Moses coming down the mountain with the Ten Commandments. After everything God did to free the Israelites, they rejected him and built themselves a golden calf; a false god. All I could think of after Kim made the point was: why would I want to worship a god with such low self-esteem issues?

  Kim finishes up by telling us how God has already revealed himself through his invisible attributes, infinite power, and general and special revelations though scripture. And he proves his point thoroughly by using scripture. If our readers are wondering what that means, in the real world we give it a name; we call it nonsense.

Question 2: “Doesn’t science disprove God?” – Apologist Dan Rutherford

I found this question rather strange, as I’ve not heard any one make the claim that it does.  A much better question, in my opinion, would be “Does Science disprove the claims of the bible?” But hey, not my conference. I suppose it is easier for an apologist to answer the question if you ask a question that nobody is asking.

The wording of this whole talk was cringe-worthy; it was full of half-truths, blind assertions, and incomplete information, such as:

  • Modern science was started by Christianity, and many scientists are devout Christians (we heard this throughout the conference whenever the topic of science came up).
  • Absolutely no mention of the religious oppression of rational thought throughout history – Copernicus hiding his manuscripts of Heliocentric theory from the church, Galileo’s imprisonment, Giordano Bruno’s burning at the stake, none of it.

The actual talk had very little to do with the question presented; most of the time was spent trying to demonstrate the compatibility of religion and science. I really hope this speech will be posted publicly; it is so bad that it would make an excellent teaching aid for counter-apologetics.

It’s not without its humour though. In an attempt to discredit Richard Dawkins’ definition of faith, Rutherford offers his own definition – “Faith is an evidence-based commitment established on the empirical and experiential realities, such as history, testimony, revelation, and inference”. Richard Dawkins’ definition of faith comes directly from common usage and the Bible (Hebrews 11:1) – “Faith is belief without evidence; very often belief in spite of the evidence”. The humor comes a little later, when Rutherford cautions the audience not to use ideas that are “unbiblical”; rather ironic, since Rutherford’s definition of faith can be found nowhere in the Bible. For more on biblical faith and how it’s used by Christians, I recommend this excellent article by Aron Ra.

Question 3: The Bible is full of myths, mistakes and contradictions! Then how can anyone trust the Bible?

and

Question 4: There are 4200 different religions! How can Christians claim there is the only way to God? 

The last two sessions were simply a combination of apologetics and a Sunday sermon, grounded in circular reasoning and weak-to-nonexistent evidence. This took the form as arguments such as:

  • We know that some of the places and characters in the bible existed; therefore, its true.
  • We know that Jesus rose because they found the tomb empty.

The last talk, by professional apologist Steve Kim, mostly compared Christianity to other religions, discussed the supposed historical accuracy of the gospels, and ended with an emotional and graphic description of Jesus having his flesh ripped open by a cat ‘o nine tails and full details of crucifixion.

Now crucifixion, as the ancient Romans practiced it, is grotesque, and represents the pinnacle of human cruelty. If you’ve read about it in historical records, you can’t help but be emotionally moved. I would actually not recommend reading accurate historical accounts of this torture process if you have a weak stomach. Apologist Steve Kim used a graphic account of this torture to elicit an emotional response in the congregation, in order to sell his religion and make it seem more real. I found that despicable and at the same time ironic, as Christians the world over celebrate this slow torture and agonizing death as a good thing.

Panel “Discussion”

One part of the conference I was really looking forward to was what they called a “panel” (not to be confused with a discussion, as there was little of that). It was about a half an hour long and consisted of myself and four other panelists: a Sikh, a Buddhist, a Jew, and a Muslim. Each panelist had previously been sent a list of 10 questions that may or may not all be covered, so that they could prepare. During the briefing immediately before the panel, this was reduced to two questions, one of which wasn’t even in the original 10. It was also explained that we had a minute (an actual minute) to introduce ourselves and explain the core of our religion. I did suggest that a minute was cutting it quite thin, and corrected Dennis as I have had to do every time he brought it up … Humanism is not a religion.

Dennis explained that there would be a rapid-fire round of yes/no questions, but no Q & A afterward. Of course, from a humanist perspective, I found the questions fairly easy to answer. However, they were not easy for the other folks on the panel. The question “does your religion offer salvation” is not a yes/no answer for the Sikh, Buddhist, or Jew, and even the Muslim put her hand up half way. The final question, which was the same for all of us, was “How does your religion help us going forward?” This question was incredibly vague, and I had to ask for clarification. I must say it give me great pleasure to tell Dennis on stage that again, Humanism is not a religion.

Impressions and Conclusions

Overall, Tony and I found that this apologetics conference was kind of what we expected – self-serving and predictable. At various points during the conference we found we knew the answers, including the apologetics arguments they were going to use, before they used them. If they had allowed liquor, Tony and I could’ve made an awesome drinking game out of it. I guess if I had to choose the one thing that bothered me the most, it was the feeling of disingenuousness. I do realize that the purpose of these conferences is to equip religious believers to defend the faith; however, what they’re being equipped with is neither rational, gracious, nor true. Many of the folks I spoke to during the breaks, much to my delight, could see the missteps and the logical fallacies in the apologists’ arguments. Of course, there are still plenty of credulous people in the crowd ready and willing to believe. I don’t believe that apologetics helps the average Joe in the pew understand his religion any better; it’s probably closer to a form of mental masturbation for the true believer. In fact, not being honest with parishioners may be a detriment to their religious belief in the long term.

Two odd points to note. First, during the conference there was no mention of Humanism other than on the panel (discussion), and I was the one to mention it. A Humanist appeared in one of their videos and on their panel. But neither apologist touched Humanism with a 10-foot pole.

Lastly, I’ve come to the conclusion that apologists, at least at this conference, either hate Richard Dawkins or think he is the pope of atheism. His name came up a lot, in quotes from his books and films. Keep in mind that the two apologists spoke four times for 40 minutes each time, and in that time Dawkins cropped up either by mention or direct quote 23 times (yes, I counted). Contrast that with quotes from other atheists – Lawrence Krauss, and Bertram Russell got one quote each, and Christopher Hitchens and Sam Harris got a mention each.

In the end, I can’t speak for Tony, but this will be probably be my first and last apologetics conference. If it is ever the case that I’m invited to another, I’m going to have to ask for equal time.

Final Thoughts

(Un)Apologetic was an effort for Riverwood Church to explore a “robust defense” of their faith. It consisted of the conference and a series of six videos which have just been completed. If there was ever any doubt that apologetics suffers from internal conflict, it was revealed for all to hear in the words of the speakers as they contradicted each other.

As explained in Question 2 (above), apologist Dan Rutherford claims that faith is based on evidence and reality. But in the last two minutes of the final video (Evil and Suffering), Riverwood’s pastor, Todd Petkau, states (paraphrased) “After logic, reason, theories, and evidence, we still need faith”.

It seems that Pastor Petkau has a different definition of faith than apologist Dan Rutherford. Petkau’s faith appears to be based on something other than reason and evidence. Looks more like belief without evidence.

Pastor Petkau ends the series with the question “Is Jesus enough for you?” As a Humanist, I can honestly say no. We can do so much better.

– Pat Morrow

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.

HAAM Takes On Apologetics – Part 1

Invitation to an Apologetics Conference

HAAM was recently contacted by Pastor Dennis Maione of the Riverwood Church Community. He was looking to interview Humanists/atheists with the idea of coming to a better understanding of what we believe, and exposing his fellow Christians to ideas that may be foreign to them. Or, as he put it in his letter:

Many of the people who go to my church have little to no significant contact with people who do not share their beliefs; and if they do, there is rarely open dialogue between them. So I am looking for people who would be willing to talk on camera (one-on-one interviews with me) about the foundations of their view of the world.”

Sunday service at Riverwood Church, in an old firehall

To me that sounded pretty good; as a Humanist actively involved in outreach, open dialogue with people who don’t think the same as me is something I enjoy and right up my alley.  Tony Governo also offered to participate, so we did separate one-on-one interviews. My interview would take place at Pastor Maione’s coffee shop, and it would be simply a discussion with no debate – again, right up my alley. Truly a conversation worth having.

I figured something was amiss when the coffee shop turned out to be a church with a coffee shop in it – part of the Riverwood Church Community. While reading through their website, I made a mental note that they have an apologetics conference coming up… Hmmm. So I met with Dennis at Riverwood and found that they were shooting for a conference and video series called (Un)apologetic. To be fair, he did give me the final yes or no on how the video would be used, but fostering a better understanding is quite different from appearing in a video promoting Christianity. Thing is, if they had been straight up I would’ve done the interview anyway! But at least now I know that this really wasn’t about open dialogue and a better understanding; it was about defending the faith with apologetics, specifically Christian apologetics. I went ahead with the interview.

For those unfamiliar, the word apologetics derives from the Greek word apologia or apologize – to speak in defence. Now everybody at some point engages in apologetics; speaking in defence of one’s worldview is a right closely tied in with freedom of speech. However religious apologetics is a different kettle of fish. Most forms of Christian apologetics are grounded in what’s known as confirmation bias (including the evidence that agrees with your view and discounting or ignoring the evidence that doesn’t). It also relies on logical fallacies such as the strawman argument (misrepresenting someone’s argument to make it easier to attack). Obfuscation is also popular, but at its worst, Christian apologetics just makes shit up.

Case in point:  The first video of the (Un)apologetic series “Where did we (and everything) come from“, hosted by Pastor Todd Petkau, is about he origins of the universe. At the nine-minute mark we finally get to Big Bang cosmology. If you have even a basic grasp of physics, the pastor’s explanation of Big Bang theory will make you cringe. The pastor then asks: Where did the Big Bang came from? This is a question much studied by cosmologists, physicists and astronomers. For the answer he offers video clips from some of the world’s leading scientists – Richard Dawkins (PhD in evolutionary biology), Peter Atkins (PhD in chemistry), and Lewis Wolpert (PhD in developmental biology). See the problem? If one has hemorrhoids, one does not consult a dentist.

The most dishonest and frankly humorous part of this apologetic video is a clip cut from a William Lane Craig vs Lewis Wolpert debate in 2007. At 20:30, with proper set up and clever editing, Wolpert is made to look as though he is offering the idea that the creator of the universe is a computer. Wolpert then gives this computer all the same attributes that Craig ascribes to his creator god; to which Craig complains that these attributes are impossible – not coherent and a contradiction in terms. In effect, Wolpert just had Craig agree that the attributes of his own God are nonsense. How this clip got by the producers of the apologetics video, I have no idea. The apologetics video then continues to drag on for quite some time, misrepresenting evolutionary theory, atheism, and humanistic moral theory. (If you would like to look at the original debate that the Wolpert clip is mined from, and view it in context, you can find it here, with the relevant part at 1:16:15 to 1:19:00. In that clip you will find that Dr Wolpert does give his very honest opinion about what started the universe – he simply doesn’t know.)

The second apologetics video “How can you worship a God that commits genocide” is pretty bad, too. I know – I was lucky (or unlucky) enough to watch it in Riverwood Church. And I came to a full understanding of the reason why church services never have Q & A. In this second video you will learn that genocide really isn’t genocide (we’re not using the word correctly), that parts of the Old Testament are hyperbole (but we’re not told which ones), and my favourite – that the wars to wipe out the Midianites, Amalekites, and Canaanites were not genocide; they were Israel’s armies engaging fixed military positions. He offers the fallacious idea that these were soldier-to-soldier battles, when we know that Yahweh commands the death of every man, women, child, and in some battles even the livestock.  (“Now kill all the boys. And kill every woman who has slept with a man, but save for yourselves every girl who has never slept with a man.Numbers 31:15-18 See also 1 Samuel 15:3). Does this sound like a strictly military engagement? I suppose Pastor Petkau is counting on his parishioners not actually reading the Bible. You can watch the second apologetics video here.

You might be asking yourself why the hell Tony and I would take part in the project if apologetics is this weak and frankly dishonest. Well, any exposure atheists and Humanists can get with religious believers dispels some of the myths they have of us. The video in question will be produced by Dennis Maione, the gentleman who interviewed me, and we have some creative control so I’m fairly comfortable with that. Finally, many of the folks who will be taking the apologetics course will swallow the information (and misinformation) hook, line, and sinker – without ever talking to people who think differently than they do. Participating in these interviews has given us a chance to talk to these folks where they are most comfortable, since the kind folks over at Riverwood were nice enough to give Tony and I free tickets to their (Un)apologetic conference February 3-5th… So in a nutshell, the Vice President and one of the lead outreach members of a provincial Humanist/atheist organization are going to a three-day apologetics conference along with 200+ evangelical Christians – and they know we’re coming.

I, for one, am looking forward to talking to a professional Christian apologist. I just hope there’s a bar.

Pat Morrow

Continued in HAAM Takes on Apologetics – Part 2

Pat’s and Tony’s original uncut interviews can be seen here

 

November 2016 Newsletter

Upcoming Events

The Humanism of Star Trek

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

Secular Parents’ Book Club Meeting

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

Winter Solstice Party

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


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

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

Latest News

Prayer at City Hall Update

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

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

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

Openly Secular Day is Tuesday, November 15th

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

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

October event recap

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

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

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

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

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

Religious Exercises in Schools?

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

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

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

Call to Action – Speak up about Operation Christmas Child

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

Find out more here, here, and here.

Spread the word!

 

 

Book of the Month – Pale Blue Dot

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

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

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

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

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

computer-point-douglasPrograms include

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

What to Donate

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

  • Feminine hygiene products
  • Diapers
  • Baby formula

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

Partners for Life Update

donate-blood

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

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

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

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

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

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

We Need You!

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

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

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

Outreach Report

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

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

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

When Good Intentions Cross Ethical Lines

uganda-protestThis article appears on our Perspectives page. You can read it here.

 

 

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

July 2016 Newsletter

bigotryIn this issue:

  • Outreach report from our first Summer in the City
  • Bigotry is a lifestyle choice
  • Commenting on social media? Think twice!
  • Is blasphemy a victimless crime? Stand up for free speech!
  • and more…

July newsletter

 

June 2016 Newsletter

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

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

June Newsletter

 

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

 

April 2016 Newsletter

abortion signsIn this issue:

  • Our Outreach team discusses stories and hot-button social issues with high school students
  • A new interfaith group springs up in Winnipeg – does it live up to its name?
  • We’ll be considering the health of our local lakes at our next meeting
  • And MORE…

April 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

September 2015 Newsletter

Our Outreach Booth at the Morden Corn and Apple Festival 2015

Our Outreach Booth at the Morden Corn and Apple Festival 2015

In August we were busy with our big annual Outreach event. Read all about it, as well as the final preparations and latest updates on Reasonfest!

September Newsletter

 

 

June 2015 Newsletter

church and state  HAAM has a busy summer ahead! In our June newsletter:

  •   Updates on the stories we’ve been following on religion in our public institutions,
  •   Details about all our upcoming events (including speakers who will be appearing at our River City Reasonfest conference in September), and
  •   A link to view the presentation on the Ethics of Religion if you missed it at our May meeting.

June 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

Upcoming HAAM Events
  1. An Evening with Richard Carrier

    August 19 @ 7:00 pm - 9:00 pm
  2. Morden Outreach 2017

    August 25 @ 10:00 am - August 27 @ 5:30 pm
  3. HAAM and Eggs Brunch

    September 3 @ 9:30 am - 11:00 am
  4. Monthly Meeting – A History of Atheism in Canada

    September 9 @ 5:30 pm - 8:30 pm
Other Upcoming Events
For community events of interest to HAAM members, click here.
Save the Dates!

Monthly Meeting
October 14th

Monthly Meeting
November 18th

Winter Solstice Party
December 23rd

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