refugees

April 2017 Newsletter

Upcoming HAAM Events

Dying and Rising Gods Before Jesus

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

 

 

HAAM and Eggs Brunch

Saturday, April 29th, Perkins Restaurant, 2142 McPhillips St (just south of Garden City Shopping Centre), 9:30 AM

 

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

Upcoming Community (non-HAAM) Events

March for Science

Saturday, April 22nd, Manitoba Legislature, 1 PM

 

 

Future Community Events

Friday, May 19th Winnipeg Comedy Showcase, with our own Rollin Penner

Wednesday, May 24th – Public Lecture – Secular/Atheist Movements in Canada

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

Latest News

Ask An Atheist Day 

The official date is Thursday April 20th, but during the month of April, we are inviting anyone to ask us anything, anytime – so go ahead and think up your toughest questions! Details are on the home page of our website.

If you are ‘out’ as an atheist, and would like to participate in this event as an individual, feel free to use one of the following images (created by the Secular Student Alliance) on social media to encourage your friends to ask you their questions. (Or you can refer people to the HAAM website if you don’t want to answer yourself.)

Profile Pic

Profile Pic

Facebook banner

 

Click images to enlarge and download.

 

 

Can Faith and Science Co-Exist?

According to Betteridge’s Law of Headlines (any headline that ends in a question mark can be answered by the word no), the answer would obviously be ‘no’. But that’s not the opinion of Dr. Patrick Franklin, a professor of theology who gave a lecture on the subject in March.

HAAM’s Pat Morrow drove out to Morden to listen. Pat’s report on the evening’s discussion mentions Bible verses, creationists, Richard Dawkins, pedophile priests, the garden of Eden, Galileo, and an ode to flowers. How do these all tie in together? Read his fascinating and informative account here. It appears on our Perspectives page.

 

Charity of the Month in Action

The Canadian Fossil Discovery Centre was our Charity of the Month in September 2014. Back then, they were raising money to replace their old van, and promised that donations of $250 or more would be recognized with a decal on the new van as an indication of that sponsorship. HAAM members came through with the required amount, but we never saw the result until recently.

When Pat Morrow was in Morden for the Diversitas Lecture held at the museum, he noticed the new van in the parking lot and snapped this photo (click to enlarge). That’s great advertising for HAAM – and a nice little reminder, especially in a Bible Belt town, that non-believers can be charitable, too.

Call to ActionDemand that Canada’s Blasphemy Law be Repealed

The crime of blasphemous libel (Criminal Code Section 296) is still on the books in Canada. It was the subject of a petition in 2016. In the government’s response to that petition, on January 30, 2017, Minister of Justice Jody Wilson-Raybould indicated that the blasphemy law would be reviewed along with other outdated laws as part of a broad review of the justice system.

Now that review is underway. Government Bill C-39, an act to repeal provisions and remove passages of the Criminal Code that have been ruled unconstitutional (‘zombie laws’), is currently before the House of Commons. It addresses such varied issues as duelling, abortion, practicing witchcraft, and water-skiing – but nothing about blasphemy. Why not?

The current “zombie law” bill may be the best opportunity to advance secular human rights Canadian secularists are likely to see. Don’t let it pass! Write to your Member of Parliament and demand the repeal of Canada’s blasphemy law.

Click here for a sample letter that you can use or edit if you wish.

Opinion – Why Do Refugees Cross the Border? (and why should we help them?)

I’m thinking right now about all the Facebook memes and comments posted about people’s individual struggles in life. How we don’t really know what people are going through, what battles or demons they may be fighting; you know the ones.

Do these memes only apply to us? You and I who are lucky enough to have been born in Canada; you and I who see the world only through the lens of Facebook; you and I with our first world problems; you and I who have never lived in war-torn countries; you and I who have never had to fear for our lives, and especially the lives of our children; you and I who are not fleeing discriminatory policies and outright hatred from the government of a country that once used to be a beacon of hope. We do not know the individual stories of these people until we actually hear and assess them. The fact that they are coming from the USA right now is the result of the policies of the vile Trump administration.

Canada is a rich country that can afford to accommodate immigrants and refugees as well as do more to look after our own homeless and poverty stricken people. It is not an either/or issue for me. It is only a matter of political and collective will.

I am a descendant of people who came to Canada under what was then an open-door policy based on race and ethnicity. My people, for the most part, were not refugees; they were economic migrants – looking for a better life for themselves and their children. Knowing this, I for one have a hard time slamming the door in the face of newcomers, especially if it means turning back desperate asylum-seekers and children at the border.

Immigrants and refugees cost us money on arrival, but once established, they pay rich dividends that far exceed their initial cost to Canada. If it’s the cost of supporting refugees that concerns us, I can only imagine the billions of dollars and vast infrastructure needed to really seal off and secure our borders if we wish to stop people walking across.

As far as the lengthy wait for immigrants who pursue the application process, for the most part these people and their children are not in any physical danger. Canada has a problematic legal immigration process that favours people who are well off. That needs to be changed.

So, yeah, what about all these silly memes about our personal struggles… while we sit in our comfortably warm homes, and live and work in a safe country.                                                                                                                          – Bob Russell

Charity of the Month – Welcome Place

Welcome Place

The Manitoba Interfaith Immigration Council (MIIC) had its beginnings in the years following WWII, when “displaced persons” had to declare their religious affiliation to enter the country. Back then, each denomination sought to help their own people integrate into Canada. Over time, as common goals and interests emerged, these groups began to work together, eventually becoming the MIIC. For nearly 70 years, MIIC has welcomed, reunited, and settled refugee families from all over the world.

Today, MIIC’s services include:

  • Assistance with settlement
  • Information about and orientation to life in Canada
  • Referrals to community services like English classes, employment counseling, financial and legal support, etc.
  • Interpretation/translation, counseling, advocacy and support
  • Information about Provincial and Federal Government services such as healthcare and social services
  • Life skills training
  • Orientation to neighborhoods and transportation (like public transit and climate information)
  • Personal financial help (like budgeting, shopping, and banking)
  • Education about emergency preparedness (like child safety, fire, food, pedestrian, winter)

Newly arrived government-assisted refugees are temporarily housed at Welcome Place Residence (521 Bannatyne Ave, in photo), in self-contained and furnished apartments with access to on-site support. Except that this year, Welcome Place is full and struggling to keep up with the demands for its accommodations and services, due mainly to the influx of asylum-seekers escaping the USA. By early March, they had already assisted almost 200 new refugees, including pregnant women and unaccompanied minors.

To try to meet this increasing demand, MIIC launched a new fund-raising campaign in March, called #Open Your Hearts – A Celebration of Humanity. Their goal is to raise $300,000.00. Every little bit helps – can we help them reach their goal?

  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.

Book of the Month

Among the donated books added to our library last month is a little gem entitled The World’s Sixteen Crucified Saviors; Or, Christianity Before Christ, by Kersey Graves. Since many people will be celebrating Easter this month, a book that examines ‘heathen gods’ that predate Christ sounds fascinating. But get this – it was written in 1875! That’s not a typo; even way back then, there were skeptics and freethinkers.

Graves asserted that Jesus was not an actual person, but a creation largely based on earlier stories of deities. This book was a forerunner to the increasingly popular Christ-as-a-myth theories, and its ideas have been used in the documentaries The God Who Wasn’t There, The Pagan Christ, Zeitgeist: The Movie, and Religulous.

The gods discussed in this book include those from Egypt, India, Syria, Mexico, Tibet, and Babylon, and all share at least some of the following traits we associate with Jesus, including miraculous or virgin births, being born on December 25, having stars point to their birthplaces, being visited by shepherds and magi as infants, fleeing from death as children, spending time in the desert, having disciples, performing miracles, being crucified, descending into hell, appearing as resurrections or apparitions, and ascending into heaven.

Graves’ ideas have since been critiqued and refined by modern scholars like Richard Carrier, but why not take a look at the ‘original’ Jesus-myth book just for fun? Visit our library page if you would like to borrow it.

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.

January 2017 Newsletter

Upcoming Events

Are You Recovering from Religion?

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

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

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

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

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

Charity of the Month

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

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

RfR offers three main programs:

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

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

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

HAAM and Eggs Brunch

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

Latest News

President’s Message

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

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

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

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

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

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

Update – Can You Help Us Help a Refugee Family?

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

 

 

Event Report: Write for Rights

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In Brief

John Bogere’s report card

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

Outreach

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

On the Horizon (events in the planning stages)

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

Watch for dates and details TBA.

Speak out against objectionable Anti-Choice Ads

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

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

 

Book of the Month

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

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

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

Year in Review

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

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

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

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

Here’s to 2017! See you at the AGM!

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

December 2016 Newsletter

Upcoming Events

Winter Solstice Party

xmas-cheerSaturday, December 17th, Heritage-Victoria Community Club, 950 Sturgeon Rd, 5:30 pm – 9:30 PM

New! We now have a liquor permit for the party. Important details here.

And don’t forget to bring money or a food item for the Christmas Cheer Board.

 

Are You Recovering from Religion?

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

We will begin with our meet-and-greet time at 4:30 PM in order to accommodate our AGM at 5:00. Dinner will follow at 6:00, and then our regular meeting and speaker at 6:45. Please join us for the AGM – we need your support and input as we plan for the coming year!

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

Celebrate Human Rights!

human-rightsDecember 10th often goes by unnoticed in Canada.  With the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, it seems to pass with no mention. But it’s a special day, a day that was 2500 years in the making*. December 10th is International Human Rights Day. On this day, we celebrate the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) – a document so important that its 30 articles are woven into our Canadian Constitution. You can read the full text of the UDHR here.

human-rights-3The UDHR was established by resolution in the United Nations General Assembly in 1948, and ever since that auspicious day it has stood as the first major stride forward in ensuring that the rights of every human across the globe are protected. The UDHR is far superior to, and more moral in every way than any religious text. Developed after the carnage of World War II by people from all backgrounds, it remains a document to which our species must aspire.

Many of us in Canada have enjoyed these rights for so long we couldn’t imagine our lives without them; others simply take them for granted. This year’s slogan for International Human Rights Day is “Stand up for someone’s rights today“, and with recent developments in our political climate, the message couldn’t be more timely. So this December 10th, take some time to appreciate what we have and the effect that this resolution has had on your world and your life. Look around your community and see its effects on a local scale. We all must understand that universal human rights are a gift for us, and to us, and they must be protected by us.

Here are two easy ways to promote human rights:

  1. Watch and share this 10-minute video.

2. Explain the UDHR to young people.

Let’s reaffirm our common humanity. Wherever we are, we can make a real difference by stepping up to defend the rights of those at risk of discrimination or violence.

“Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home…”    Eleanor Roosevelt

*About 2500 years ago, Cyrus the Great conquered most of the Middle East (and then some). Up until that time, defeated soldiers in battle were typically either killed or enslaved. Cyrus offered the losers a different deal – they would not be taken into slavery (personal freedom), and they would be allowed to keep their religion (freedom of religion), provided they remained peaceful. In many cases he repatriated the dispossessed back to their homelands (freedom of citizenship). Many of these new rules were recorded on the Cyrus Cylinder, which is considered to be the first declaration of human rights.

Can You Help Us Help a Refugee Family?

miic-logoAt our last meeting, we listened to a short presentation from Maysoun Darweesh, from the Manitoba Interfaith Immigration Council. A former refugee herself, Maysoun is now helping current refugees (mainly from Syria) adjust to life here in Manitoba.

Maysoun explained that refugees arrive in Canada in two ways –

Some families are directly sponsored by groups (usually churches) who commit to supporting and providing for the them until they get established. This requires a substantial commitment of both time and money from the sponsors, as refugees require food, clothing, and shelter, and most need to learn English and settle in before finding they can find a job and become independent of the sponsoring organization.

The second way that refugees arrive is through government sponsorship. In this case, basic necessities are provided by the government, but the family has no direct, personal connection to a Canadian family or group that can help them with all the other things they need to learn. Because of the large influx of refugees in the last year, quite a few families in Winnipeg arrived this way.

Government sponsored refugees have a harder time becoming comfortable in their new environment because they don’t have friends to practice their English with, or to ask questions of, in the hours between their scheduled English and other settlement classes. They go home to their apartments and speak their own language, and many hesitate to venture out alone into the world of shopping malls and entertainment complexes they don’t understand.

To help these people, the MIIC has developed the Host Matching Program – a modified form of sponsorship that doesn’t require a financial commitment. It’s practical for small groups like ours who would like to help but don’t have the financial resources required for private sponsorship.

mb-refugeeThe program involves matching a government-sponsored immigrant family with supportive Canadians who are willing to help them settle in. These people do not need money or food. They need Canadian friends. They need someone to speak English with, answer their questions, go with them to Tim Hortons or the bowling alley, or the beach or toboggan hill, and teach them about Canadian pastimes, customs, culture, and relationships.

What is required of the sponsors? In order to take this project on, HAAM would need a core group of 3 or 4 people, or a couple of families, who are willing to sign up for the program and go through the screening and orientation process (including child abuse and criminal record checks, which are free). Once that’s set up, other families and friends can become involved as additional supporters. Most of the families in need of sponsors live in or near the downtown area.

Maysoun’s presentation met with a positive response and a great deal of informal support, and our HAAM exec would like to pursue it, but we need people to come forward and commit to it before proceeding. If you are interested, please let us know.

Is the Holiday Season Stressful in Your Family?

arguingIf you struggle to deal with your religious extended family, and the prospect of getting together with them over the upcoming holiday season is a major source of stress, you might find some helpful advice in a post called “Coping With Religious Family Over the Holidays” on the website Journey Free – Recovering from Harmful Religion.

The author is Dr Marlene Winell, a psychologist dedicated to helping people transition out of harmful religions, recover from trauma, and rebuild their lives. She has been working in religious recovery for over 25 years and originated the term Religious Trauma Syndrome. She is also the author of Leaving the Fold: A Guide for Former Fundamentalists and Others Leaving Their Religion. (Editor’s note: This was one of the first books I read after leaving my church in the early 90’s, and it was immensely helpful. We don’t have it in our HAAM library, but the Winnipeg Public Library has a copy; probably the same copy I borrowed over 20 years ago. D.S.).

You’ll find some more good advice from Libby Anne, an ex-evangelical Christian who blogs at Love, Joy, Feminism. She addressed a recent post to those facing Trump-supporting family members at holiday gatherings, but the advice applies to more than just political differences. Check it out.

And if all else fails, look for some humor. Here’s a Religious Family Bingo card you can play.

religious-family-bingo

Books of the Month

Thanks to some generous members, we have two new books! Catherine Kreindler has donated a copy of Thinking, Fast and Slow (a study of critical thinking skills and cognitive biases), and Joan (last name withheld) gave us her copy of A Brief Candle in the Dark.

41ZNYSzSV6LThinking, Fast and Slow is a best-selling book by Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics laureate Daniel Kahneman. The book’s central thesis is that there is a dichotomy between two modes of thought: fast, instinctive and emotional versus slower, more deliberative, and more logical. The book discusses the cognitive biases associated with each type of thinking. From framing choices to people’s tendency to substitute a difficult question for one which is easy-to-answer, the author highlights several decades of academic research which suggests that people place too much confidence in human judgement. Surprise, surprise.

51sIQblJQBLBrief Candle in the Dark: My Life in Science is the second volume of the autobiographical memoir by Richard Dawkins. It covers the second half of his life, after the publication of The Selfish Gene (also in our HAAM library) in 1976. In this book, Dawkins discusses his scientific work, travels and conferences, his Royal Institution Christmas Lecture (Growing Up in the Universe, in 1991), his work as Professor for the Public Understanding of Science in Oxford, and his documentaries (such as The Root of All Evil?), as well as his personal life and his books.

New Brochure Aimed at Creationists

creationismIf you’ve read any of the reports from our Outreach booths in Morden, you already know that we get a lot of visitors who subscribe to Creationism (aka Intelligent Design). But this year, there were more than usual – buoyed, no doubt, by the presence of a new trailer devoted to materials from Answers in Genesis (the group that built the Ark Encounter theme park in Kentucky). Their people swarmed our booth in unprecedented numbers, asking nonsensical questions and spouting scientific impossibilities and general misinformation.

One area of misinformation and confusion stood out among the rest – few (if any) of these Creationists understand the difference between Cosmology, Abiogenesis, and Evolution. In fairness, that’s probably not uncommon; even among those of us who don’t believe the claims of Creationists, a lot may have never considered the difference or given it much thought.

abiogenesisThe answer is really quite simple: Cosmology is the study of the origin of the universe; the branch of astronomy that includes Big Bang Theory. Abiogenesis is the natural process of life arising from non-living matter, or more simply – how did life originate? Evolution is the change in characteristics of living organisms over time, or, in the vernacular, how did we arise from monkeys? Abiogenesis deals with how life began; Evolution deals with changes in life that already exists; and neither of these subjects is related to how the earth came to be in the first place.

But do you think we could explain that to Creationists? Not a chance! They persisted in asking who created the world, and who created life, and where do people come from if there is no Creator; followed by their conclusion of “Tada! If you don’t know, then evolution is false!” When we pointed out the errors in that logic, they simply moved on to another question or topic. We might as well have tried to nail Jell-O to a wall.

For visitors to our booth who are actually seeking information, or who are at least curious enough to want to know what we have to say, our executive has prepared a number of brochures covering the most frequently asked questions we receive. A quick look reveals that they fall into two categories – Humanism/atheism, and science/evolution. (In case you’re wondering why there is a whole pamphlet devoted to trees, it written specifically to address the most commonly cited claim we hear for evidence of a Creator – “look at the trees!”)

But until now we had no brochure about the origins of life (as opposed to evolution). Spending three days wrangling creationists in Morden inspired Rick Dondo to research the topic and write one. It’s available on our website, and will be on the table at our next Outreach – if any creationists care to actually read it.

Calling All Secular Parents!

godless-parentsBeginning in the New Year, our secular parents’ coordinator, Tammy Blanchette, will be considering different ways to connect families. Distance, busy schedules, and babysitting make it difficult to get together, so online chats, family excursions, or spur-of-the-moment outings (sometimes weather-dependent) may be options. Not all of these will be planned with enough notice to make the monthly newsletter, and some will not be advertised publicly. If you are a secular parent who would like to be included when events are planned, please let us know and we’ll make sure you are notified.

Event Review: God and the Galaxies – A Jesuit perspective from the Vatican Observatory

vaticanobservatorycropRick Dondo recently attended this lecture given by Jesuit priest and astronomer Dr. Richard D’Souza at St Paul’s College. He hoped to be treated to images of the night sky and some scientific explanations of them. That turned out to be hardly the case, but the evening was interesting nonetheless.

If you’re curious about how religious scientists try to overcome cognitive dissonance and reconcile their supernatural beliefs with their scientific endeavors, you’ll find his observations fascinating.

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

It’s Time to Plan for 2017

We’re almost at the end of another year, and plans are underway for the next. HAAM exists to create a supportive and welcoming community for non-believers. Make sure you’re a part of it! Here’s what you can do to help.

time-to-renew1. Renew your membership. We’re no different than any other organization – we need an operating budget just to exist. Whether you’re able to make our meetings or not, if you participate in our online community, and support our advocacy for a just and secular society, our outreach programs, and our general Mission and Position statements, then please help us to continue to our work. Our membership fees are reasonable – and haven’t increased in several years. Note that there is a limited-income option for as low as $10 a year, and you can renew online.

volunteer2. Consider volunteering – either by joining our Executive as a member-at-large; or if that’s too much right now, just help out with a specific task, project, or event. Many hands make light work. The number and type of events and programs we offer depends directly on the number of people willing to participate in the planning. Let us know if you can help.

3. Come out and get to know your fellow Humanists! The strength of any community is its members. The one thing that religion does really well is create a social support network; there’s no reason we can’t do the same (but without the superstition and dogma). Don’t be shy! We’re looking forward to meeting you!

join-us

 

 

 

January 2016 Newsletter

syrian-demoIn this issue:

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

January newsletter

Reactions to the Syrian Refugee Crisis

There has been no shortage of controversy in both the mainstream and social media networks lately over Syrian refugees. Canada has committed to accepting 25,000 of them over the next few months. This has prompted criticism – and worse – from every kind of fear-mongerer, racist, and xenophobe. Meanwhile, desperate people are trying to escape terrorism and get to safety. Look at this heartbreaking image from a news article about where refugee children sleep.

where children sleep

In spite of that, posts like this one are appearing on social media pages:

I see the posts against allowing the refugees and I see the posts condemning those people who don’t want the refugees. Here’s the problem with the refugee’s – it only takes 1 member of ISIS to hide among them and be allowed in. Only 1. To live in a free country means to preserve that freedom, at all costs. To some I know that sounds so savage and uncaring, but it’s my country too. My free & safe country and I believe that it should be protected at all costs.

One of HAAM’s executive responded to that post:

Terrorists are already here, and Canada will likely be attacked at some point whether we help suffering people or whether we don’t. My values as a humanist don’t allow me to say “I’ve got mine, so screw you” to people whose kids are being bombed and shot at and starved (or drowned in their desperate escape attempts) by the same extremists who attacked Paris. The world needs more courage in the time of ISIS, not less. If I or my loved ones die in the service of humanism, so be it. I believe your bible says in Leviticus, “Do not stand idly by while your neighbour’s blood is shed.”

“First they came for the Jews
and I did not speak out
because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for the Communists
and I did not speak out
because I was not a Communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists
and I did not speak out
because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for me
and there was no one left
to speak out for me.”

-Martin Niemöller, 1946

Reply from the original post:

I think I come at it from a different, more – for lack of a better word, selfish – angle, and I hate that it makes me look selfish, that it makes me look uncaring and unyielding because I am not. The freedom of Canada is becoming more and more diluted the more we accept others’ values, beliefs and mores over the ones that created the country. While I agree that evolution is evolution – change has to occur in order to have progress; truth be told, many of the beliefs and values of those entering Canada are not in tune with that freedom, and more and more those holding those beliefs are asking to be more and more recognized. Sharia law for instance – it’s practiced here on our free land and my fear is that one day it will actually be recognized. To accept more and more beliefs that are completely anti-freedom (those beliefs and values that fly in the face of freedom like women’s rights, gay rights, and humanitarian rights) well, that is a slippery slope. Freedom comes with the responsibility of preserving it. How do we preserve it? Right now in Canada we have some of the highest child poverty rates among 1st world nations, cities with no family physicians available so thousands of people have to rely on a ‘walk in’ system, wait lists for surgeries that extend into months, sub-par education and education facilities, failing infrastructure in most major urban centers, a CPP that arguably won’t exist in 20-30 years, an aging population that health care will not keep up with, unaffordable housing in most major urban centers – how do we cope with that while allowing thousands upon thousands of refugees in? I know it’s selfish of me, I hate that it is… but I don’t know how to blend these issues so that they make sense.

A final response from our exec:

Ah, so people in Canada have the “freedom” to be exactly like you are. And it’s OK to let innocent bystanders from a war zone suffer and die by the thousands because they might want to come here and cause you inconvenience with their differences. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not OK with allowing what I consider to be backward and horrid practices here, like ‘honour’ killings or gender segregation, but I certainly am not harmed by having the necessary conversations about them. And that’s a different topic from giving necessary aid to humans in desperate need. We already have hundreds of thousands of Muslims in Canada (among many other groups) and we’re OK. Having challenging conversations about how we build our society together doesn’t deserve to be in the same sphere of conversation as whether we should save people from genocide. We can afford to be inconvenienced by crumbling roads and dwindling CPP as the worst problems of our mismanaged wealth; people can’t survive *at all* in a genocide. It’s a no-brainer.

This attitude isn’t new

Sad to say that historically, fear and rejection of newcomers is nothing new. Anne Frank might be a 75 year old woman living in the US today if her family had been able to get out of Germany in the 1930’s. Dr Seuss, who later wrote children’s books, drew this political cartoon in 1938, and it still rings true today.

seuss refugees

 

“Foreigners’ weren’t always so welcome here in Manitoba, either, decades ago, as history shows.

ukranian immigrants 2

Ideas do not always deserve respect, but people do

It can sometimes be difficult to separate out criticism of ideologies from bigotry against entire groups of people. But separate them we must, because the lives of innocent victims are at stake. Here is an example of a meme that’s been circulated lately on social media. It illustrates the kind of conflict that develops when people confuse the two.
being an atheist

HAAM member Dorothy Stephens shared this response:

I’ve seen this in my newsfeed a few times lately and I feel the need to address point #2.
Promotion and acceptance of irrational and superstitious beliefs is NOT okay.
People deserve respect. Ideas and ideologies do NOT automatically deserve respect. Ideas should be open to debate in the public sphere, where they must earn respect based on their own merits.

Religious ideologies – ALL of them – fail in this regard, because religion itself is not based on evidence or rational thinking. Perhaps many Christians have forgotten that it wasn’t so long ago their own religion was burning witches at the stake. There are plenty of evangelical leaders today who are just as fervent about their own brand of theocracy as Muslim leaders are about theirs. The level of violence hasn’t been equaled – yet – but the potential is there (for an example, look up Uganda’s “Kill the Gays” bill).

At best, religious thinking leads people to make decisions without sufficient evidence, and which are therefore often not in their own, or society’s, best interests. On a personal or local level, such bad decision making leads to individuals taking comfort in the supernatural rather than seeking legitimate treatment for ailments like mental illness, PTSD, or addictions; and children being denied proper health care and education. On a societal level, it leads to poor policy decisions on issues like global warming, denial of basic human rights to minority groups like the LGBT community, and, at the extreme end, terrorist attacks. I will continue to call out nonsense and irrational thinking when I see it, and I’m not apologizing for that.

Speaking out against irrational ideas, however, is NOT the same thing as attacking individual people. Unfortunately, every new terrorist attack brings out the xenophobes – the anti-immigration rants, the racists, the gun-toting right-wing nut-jobs. Adding this kind of hatred and intolerance to an already violent situation only makes the atmosphere more toxic and the situation more desperate for the victims.

Refugees are fleeing the same terrorists that the rest of the world is fighting, and most have no place to return to. As fellow human beings we need to offer assistance and place to stay. Have we already forgotten the lessons of WWII?

syria

If you are still concerned about accepting Syrian refugees, read this.

Upcoming HAAM Events
  1. Summer Barbecue

    July 22 @ 6:30 pm - 9:00 pm
  2. An Evening with Richard Carrier

    August 19 @ 7:00 pm - 10:00 pm
  3. Morden Outreach 2017

    August 25 @ 10:00 am - August 27 @ 6:00 pm
Other Upcoming Events
For community events of interest to HAAM members, click here.
Save the Dates!

Monthly Meeting
September 9th

Monthly Meeting
October 14th

Monthly Meeting
November 18th

Winter Solstice Party
December 23rd

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