reproductive choice

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

February 2017 Newsletter

Upcoming Events

The Theory of Evolution in Humanistic Thought

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

HAAM and Eggs Brunch

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

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

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

Latest News

HAAM Condemns Religious Violence

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

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

Meet Your Executive Team for 2017

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

President – Donna Harris                                                                      Vice-president – Pat Morrow

Secretary – Rick Dondo                                                                         Treasurer – Henry Kreindler

Members at Large:

Tammy Blanchette                                                                                  Norm Goertzen

Tony Governo                                                                                           Sherry Lyn Marginet

Dorothy Stephens                                                                                   Jim Taylor

Mandy Wood

Welcome Mandy!

New this year!

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

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

Charity of the Month

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

Their mission is to

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

Rescue. Rehabilitate. Release.

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

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

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

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

HAAM Receives a Bequest

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

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

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

Outreach Report: World Religions Class

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

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

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

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

In Brief

HAAM Joins Human Rights Hub

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

Our First Brunch was a Big Success!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Book of the Month

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

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

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

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

HAAM Takes On Apologetics

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

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

January 2017 Newsletter

Upcoming Events

Are You Recovering from Religion?

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

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

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

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

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

Charity of the Month

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

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

RfR offers three main programs:

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

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

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

HAAM and Eggs Brunch

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

Latest News

President’s Message

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

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

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

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

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

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

Update – Can You Help Us Help a Refugee Family?

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

 

 

Event Report: Write for Rights

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In Brief

John Bogere’s report card

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

Outreach

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

On the Horizon (events in the planning stages)

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

Watch for dates and details TBA.

Speak out against objectionable Anti-Choice Ads

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

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

 

Book of the Month

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

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

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

Year in Review

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

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

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

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

Here’s to 2017! See you at the AGM!

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

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

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

October 2013 Newsletter

BUS all members cuWow!  After a hot September, time to cool down as we roll into October.

  • Our buses are still roaming the city streets, but they won’t be around much longer! Find out who won a prize for the first picture submitted.
  • A.C. Grayling was a hit with HAAM. Find out about his visit to Winnipeg.
  • Learn more about what Arthur Schafer has to say on the topic of dying with dignity.
  • And much more…

Go ahead! Click and read the October newsletter!

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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