Like so many other organizations, HAAM’s activities have been dramatically disrupted by COVID-19. We will continue to rely on evidence-based information and follow the recommendations made by Shared Health Manitoba before deciding when to resume in-person meetings and events. We encourage you to check this website (haam.ca), our Facebook page, or Meetup for information and updates.
There will be no in-person meeting in May. However, we can continue to interact, support each other, and maintain friendships online. If you are not a member of our private Facebook group, and would like to join it, contact us. It is open to anyone in Manitoba who identifies as a Humanist/atheist (i.e. you do not need to be a paid member of HAAM).
Summer Solstice party
This is/was scheduled for Saturday, June 20th. The City of Winnipeg has notified us that all group bookings at city parks are canceled up til the end of June, so we do not expect to go ahead with the picnic unless the health situation improves significantly between now and then. If distancing recommendations are relaxed, it may still be possible to have our party, or it may be rescheduled for later in the summer. Watch for further updates.
Morden Corn and Apple Festival
HAAM has held an Outreach booth at the Morden Corn and Apple Festival every summer since 2013. But sadly, this year’s festival has been canceled. We will miss it; both the fair and the Outreach booth are a lot of fun! … and it looks like there will be no Outreach events this year.
Winnipeg Pride Parade
This has been rescheduled for September 13th. We are looking forward to the celebration and showing our support for Winnipeg’s GSRD (Gender, Sexual, and Relationship Diverse) community. HAAM is entered as a walking group, and everyone is welcome to join us – so cross your fingers that by September things will be better.
HAAM and Eggs Brunches
We will resume our regularly monthly brunches only when it is safe to do so.
Check our Events calendar for the latest information on all upcoming HAAM events.
Check out these online events from CFI Canada’s ‘virtual chapter’.
The Centre for Inquiry (Canada) is holding several online presentations in May. These are free but registration is required to participate (via Zoom).
Thursday, May 7th – Discussion: Living without religion (social support)
Saturday, May 9th – Presentation: Conscientious objection in health professionals (i.e. refusing to do one’s job for religious reasons)
Sunday, May 17th – Presentation: Critical thinking about COVID-19
For more information about all these online events, and links to register, visit CFI’s MeetUp page.
Charity of the Month
Our Charity of the Month program will not resume until we are able to hold physical meetings again.
In the meantime, however, if you are able, consider supporting any of the many worthwhile local charities and community organizations that are struggling due to the pandemic. Many of them are being caught short because fundraising events have had to be canceled.
On our Charities page there is a list of charities that HAAM has supported over the past several years. Almost all of them desperately need assistance right now.
Words of encouragement from members of our executive
We are all enduring difficult times. COVID-19 has changed our lives, our jobs, our financial stability, our health, our social activities, our relationships, and many other things. We are struggling. As an atheist, I am extremely thankful to my religious/non-religious friends and family members who have reached out to me to support me in these difficult times. I have tried to reciprocate as best that I can.
I believe that we as atheists and Humanists must step up and extend a hand of friendship to people who are different from us. When we are faced with a common enemy, we should set aside out differences. Religion, politics, and other things that separate us must be put aside. As atheists, let us promote the oneness of humanity and our interdependency.
– Arthur Prystenski
Most of us have been fortunate to have lived in this stable, peaceful country our entire lives. So our current circumstances are essentially uncharted territory. I’ve noticed that this pandemic is bringing out both the worst in people, and the best. With that in mind, these times are showing us peoples’ true colors.
We’ve heard a lot about the worst. Stories about fundamentalist preachers who claimed that their god would protect them, but they still died from the virus. Protestors who wanted to end their state lockdowns because their “freedoms” were being attacked. People who hoarded toilet paper and hand sanitizer specifically to sell at a profit. Even people who don’t believe that COVID-19 is a real virus, but some Chinese conspiracy transmitted by 5G towers (!)
While these attitudes are indeed appalling, I’m happy to say that they don’t appear to represent the majority of people. Many more people are thinking about the impact of their actions on others. For example, the superintendent of the Dallas Independent School District stated emphatically that they won’t re-open schools just because of a government order; their first concern is the welfare of the children in their district.
Closer to home, the Canadian Mint is now making hand sanitizer, which is being distributed to the health care system. Other businesses have answered the call to make PPE such as gowns and masks. Our federal government has made it fairly easy for those who have been laid off to access emergency funding. (And our Prime Minister even took the time to reassure us that the Easter Bunny was still going to visit.) Locally, there are many stories about neighbours helping neighbours. Volunteer groups are forming to lend a hand wherever they’re needed. More people in my neighbourhood smile and say Hello during our regular walks. In our local Safeway, we’re beginning to laugh and joke at missing the one-way floor arrows, rather than frowning glumly and giving the other person the stink eye.
In the end, there is much to be thankful for, even now. The technology that lets us communicate instantly (internet, phones, etc.) has really been a lifesaver (with no divine intervention required, may I add). The advanced medical care that is available for those who need it. The scientists who are now working non-stop to develop a vaccine. And no matter what their original intent, most of these actions are pure Humanist. People are caring about the other people around them. Doing their part – their best – to help in any way that they can. Emphatically declaring that money is not their main concern (as opposed to certain politicians). Economy be damned – we’re going to look after everyone around us – especially the poorest and most vulnerable.
We don’t know what the future will be like, post-COVID 19, but it will hopefully result in our society being just a bit better. More people will realize the importance of science in our lives, and that the advice of experts is worth listening to. Perhaps some religious believers will wonder – just a little – why their god let so many good people die, and start to question their beliefs. Some anti-vaxxers may finally recognize the importance of a vaccine against our most deadly diseases. Our governments will give more importance to improving health care funding – in all areas.
I’m very happy to see the outpouring of appreciation for our unsung heroes of all stripes and industries, because we need each other to get by, and everybody’s contribution matters. And really, the only way we’re going to get through this is by helping each other.
– Donna Harris
Interested in being part of reconciliation?
Circles For Reconciliation is a local, grass-roots initiative started by U of M Dean Emeritus, Dr. Raymond Currie. Its aim is to establish trusting, meaningful relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples as part of the 94 Calls to Action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
Dr. Currie worked with local Indigenous contributors to develop a 10-week sharing circle. Each Circle is made up of 10 (or so) participants, half Indigenous, half non-Indigenous. Each session consists of an opening, the reading of a different theme each week, then a discussion of the topic, followed by a closing protocol. You can read more about the structure of the circles at www.circlesforreconcilation.ca.
Usually, these circles happen face to face – all participants sitting in a group (a circle). However, with the current situation, Circles has gone high-tech! They are now offering several Circles using Zoom meetings. They are particularly looking for Indigenous participants, in part because the Indigenous community only makes up 5% of the Canadian population. If you’re interested at all, just check out their web page for more information.
Anxious about the pandemic?
If the constant news about COVID-19 has you worried, or if being quarantined is causing you stress, and you’re looking for ways to cope that don’t involve talking to an invisible friend in the sky, then psychologist Dr. Darrel Ray, president of Recovering from Religion, may be able help. Dr. Ray recently recorded a 40-minute video with some ‘words of wisdom’. These include advice about constructive ways to deal with the stress, reassurance that you’re not alone, and pointers about future issues to watch for. The video, called Corona Virus Pub, is on YouTube.
Do you have a plan in case of serious illness?
If you’ve never thought too much about preparing an Health Care Directive (HCD), or if you’ve thought about it but procrastinated, the current COVID-19 pandemic may have spurred you to think again and wish you had done it. One feature of this disease is that people can become very ill, very quickly – too quickly to allow time for discussion before a sedative is given and a tube is stuck down their throat. So right now, everyone should have a HCD – or at the very least, have thought about it and discussed their wishes with those close to them. Don’t leave your fate to chance!
The Winnipeg chapter of Dying With Dignity holds workshops to help people learn what they need to know in order to prepare an effective HCD – but of course, those workshops are all on hold due to the pandemic. Fortunately, there are online resources that can help. So now, while a lot of other events are canceled, is a good time to consider your wishes and let your family know what you would want, so they can make decisions for you if you become seriously ill.
Dying With Dignity Canada has a COVID-19 Updates web page. It contains links to important information about the disease itself, how this pandemic is impacting health care decision-making and end-of-life choices, and suggestions for conversations to have about these decisions. DWD also has all their Advance Care Planning (ACP) information available to read and download (free). In addition to the regular ACP booklet for Manitoba, there is a special COVID-19 edition. The special edition is an abbreviated version that allows people to create a simple HCD that can be used in all provinces. It covers the most important issues relevant to the coronavirus (breathing difficulties and ventilators), and covers the basic requirements of a Health Care Directive. If you use the COVID-19 edition to prepare your HCD, it is recommended that you update that later with the full version.
You may also want to check out a new advance care planning guide called Plan Well, created by a physician in Ontario. It has loads of information that can help you to decide what type and level of care is appropriate to your medical condition and personal values – like explanations of what goes on in an ICU, the survival rates of CPR in various circumstances, etc. It’s a great resource, so check it out! Keep in mind, though, that it is not specific to Manitoba.
If you have concerns about what care decisions or requests are appropriate for your circumstances, call your physician’s office to discuss them. Most clinics are doing telephone or virtual appointments. If you have questions about Health Care Directives, contact the Winnipeg chapter of Dying With Dignity.
Abortion Caravan anniversary celebrations
Like just about everything else this spring, the festivities that were being planned to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the abortion caravan to Parliament Hill have been disrupted due to the pandemic. Most of the physical events that were scheduled in cities across Canada have been canceled. However, you can still expect to see and hear news about this game-changing event in Canadian history, when a group of young women from Vancouver drove to Ottawa, gathering support along the way to protest the restrictive law.
Any time is a good time to stand up and voice your support for the right of a woman to control her own body, but this year, in the first two weeks of May, expect to see it in the news and on social media. Here is the Facebook event page.
Don’t forget about our library
HAAM’s Library is still OPEN! If you now have time to read (or watch a video), go ahead and send us your request. Pick-up or drop-off can be arranged in the Winnipeg area.
On our Library page, you can search by Title (use the ‘Book Table’), Author, or Subject. Once you find something you’d like to borrow, click the ‘Borrow Book’ button (on the Book Table), or the ‘Click here’ button on the Library page, to request the item.
All our library books and DVD’s are free to borrow for paid HAAM members.
Seen around town
Donna Harris took this photo of the window at her local Safeway store because she appreciated the happy sentiment.
We’re all in this mess together, so it’s nice to see our neighbors sharing messages of hope and support. In the words of Dr. Bonnie Henry, BC’s provincial health officer: “This is our time to be kind, to be calm, and to be safe.”
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.
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.)
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 Action – Demand 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
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.
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.
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
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
- Rehabilitate injured, sick and orphaned wildlife for their return back to the wild, and
- 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.
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.
- How does Humanism differ from Unitarian Universalism?
- Our U of M Outreach proved a little unusual this year…
- Can saying the wrong thing land you in jail?
- and more…
In this issue:
- A Life Membership Presentation
- Conversations with Believers
- Outreach reports
- Update on medically assisted dying
- and more….
- We welcome Niigaan Sinclair to our next meeting to discuss aboriginal issues and concerns
- Photos of River City Reasonfest
- What do lard and warm socks have in common? Our Charity of the Month needs both items
- HAAM welcomes the Centre for Inquiry to Manitoba
- The niqab – yes or no? One of our members weighs in
In this issue:
- We’re gearing up for our Summer Outreach in Morden and River City Reasonfest in September
- An apologist responds to Dr Arthur Schafer’s speech about the ethics of religion, and HAAM provides a rebuttal
- Updates on Outreach and Religion in Schools
- and more…
April can bring daffodils or blizzards and just about everything in between! But don`t miss out on the latest news. In this month`s newsletter we get details on our April meeting, learn about a call to action here in Winnipeg regarding the Child Evangelism Fellowship in local schools, and learn which book we`re recommending this month.