Upcoming HAAM Events
HAAM and Eggs Brunch
Sunday, July 21st, Salisbury House Garden City, 787 Leila Avenue, 9:30 – 11:00 AM.
Our monthly casual get-together is a great way to meet and get to know your fellow HAAMsters.
New? Curious about who we are and what we do? Summer’s a good time to check us out.
Click here for event details.
Save the Dates
HAAM and Eggs Brunch – August 18th
Outreach at the Morden Corn and Apple Festival – August 23rd to 25th
Fall meeting dates – September 14th, October 5th, and November 16th
Check our Events calendar for the latest information on all upcoming events.
Upcoming Community (Non-HAAM) Events
Steinbach Pride Parade – July 6th
Links to event details are on our Community Events page.
Religion still present in Manitoba courtrooms
Bibles are still routinely being used in Manitoba courtrooms. Should they be? This question was raised by a HAAM member who was recently summoned to appear as a witness. Along with the subpoena, she received an information sheet which includes the following instruction:
“When you are asked to testify, you will go to the front of the courtroom to be sworn in. The court clerk will ask you to take the Bible in your right hand, state your full name and swear to tell the truth. You must give your name and promise to tell the truth, but you do not have to swear on a Bible if you do not want to.”
A similar document intended for participants in small claims court states:
“You and your witnesses are required to give evidence under oath or affirmation. A Bible is available in the courtroom, or you may affirm to tell the truth without swearing an oath on the Bible. If you or your witnesses wish to make an oath on another sacred object or sacred book, please bring it with you to court.”
Seriously? Doesn’t this violate the principle of privacy and impartiality? It means that participants in court cases are being identified to spectators (and more importantly, jurors, lawyers, and judges) according to their religious beliefs – or lack thereof. That alone could cause prejudice before the witness even speaks.
The Winnipeg Free Press published an excellent editorial on this subject back in January, after the RCMP added the option of allowing witnesses to testify while holding an eagle feather rather than a holy book. A nice gesture, and well-meaning, but what’s next? Can someone swear on their lucky rabbit’s foot? Their favorite baseball card? This is not to say that witnesses should not be allowed to bring their favorite holy book, eagle feather, security blanket, or any other object that gives them comfort – but why does the rest of the room need to see it? And what is its relevance to telling the truth? Is it any less of a crime to lie when testifying if one has not sworn on a holy book? Is there any evidence that people who swear on a holy book or object are more honest than those who don’t? And why should one religion’s holy book be provided by the courts, while members of other religions must provide their own?
Why is any of this necessary at all? It’s just one more tradition that needs to be consigned to the trash heap of history. Eliminating religious rituals from the courtroom will help keep our justice system impartial and fair for everyone.
Outreach Report – World Religions Class
On June 12th, Heather Murray and Helen Friesen (both from the Eastman Humanist Community) and I visited the Grade 12 World Religions class at Green Valley High School in Grunthal, Manitoba. HAAM has been invited for the previous 6 years to speak to this class. The class had previously heard presentations from representatives of various Christian denominations, and Jewish and Islamic faiths. This was the first time that Heather, Helen and I had been involved.
The class was small, with only 9 students. It appeared that all students considered themselves to be Christian. We did a short presentation describing HAAM and the EHC and our personal backgrounds. We then talked about our paths to atheism or non-belief. This led to a question and answer session in which most of the students participated actively. I was especially interested in the discussion of sexism in the bible. Some of the students defended some of the more controversial passages, while other students expressed more progressive views. Some students already had thoughts about the traditional male-dominated leadership that is present in many churches.
I found this opportunity to engage with young students very worthwhile and would recommend that HAAM and EHC continue to participate in this event. – Arthur (last name withheld)
Editor’s Note: This speaking engagement was part of HAAM’s ongoing Ask an Atheist program. We’re happy to arrange to have someone to speak to any school or community group and answer questions about atheism and Humanism. See our Outreach page for more information.
Book of the Month – What is Humanism?
If you’re a secular parent looking for ways to explain your value system, there aren’t very many books out there to help you, but here’s a good one. A member recently brought to our attention this colorful little (48 pages) book about Humanism by Michael Rosen and Annemarie Young. You might recognize Rosen as a well-known children’s author (does “Going on a Bear Hunt” ring a bell?), but here he tackles more serious subject matter in a light-hearted way. When this book was published in 2015, the British Humanist Association crowd-funded a campaign to provide it free to British schools, and by mid-2017, almost 4000 schools had requested a copy.
What is Humanism? How do you live without a god? And other big questions for kids explains Humanist values like empathy, critical thinking, human rights, and social responsibility, in positive terms and without bashing religion. It examines topics traditionally handled by religion, like the meaning of life, ceremonies marking birth and death, the origins of life, where we get our morals from, and what is consciousness. It includes open-ended discussion questions designed to develop critical thinking skills.
The age range for this book of course depends on individual children and circumstances, but it’s likely best suited for late elementary and middle school (about grades 4-8). However, it would also be a great introduction to Humanism for teens and adults who have had limited exposure to perspectives or beliefs outside their own religious communities.
HAAM does not yet have a copy of this book, but we intend to get one. In the meantime, it’s readily available at the Winnipeg Public Library (13 copies). Summer is a great time to discuss life’s big issues with your kids. Happy reading!
Outreach Report – Summer in the City
For the first time, the Humanist outreach booth at the Steinbach festival was completely staffed by members of the Eastman Humanist Community, and by all accounts, it was a great success. Volunteers reported that there were some productive conversations and positive reactions from visitors, as well as the usual critics and shocked expressions from passers-by.
The EHC developed their own signs, pamphlets and banners for the booth. Congratulations to all involved!
Upcoming HAAM Events
Super Secret Shorts
Saturday, March 9th, Canad Inns Polo Park, 1405 St Matthews Ave, 5:30 PM
HAAM’s annual film night, featuring a series of short films on a variety of topics.
But don’t ask what the films will be – it’s top secret.
Click here for details.
HAAM and Eggs Brunch
Sunday, March 24th, Pony Corral Pier 7 (1700 Pembina Hwy), 9:30 AM
Our monthly informal get-together. All welcome.
Click here for details.
Save the Dates
Monthly meetings – April 13th and May 11th. Topics TBA.
Summer Solstice Party – June 22nd
Check our Events calendar for the latest information on all upcoming events.
Upcoming Community (Non-HAAM) Events
Advance Care Plans (Health Care Directives)
Presented by members of the Dying with Dignity Winnipeg Chapter.
Next workshops will be held –
Saturday, March 30 at 1:00 PM in Steinbach
Saturday, April 13 at 10:30 AM in Winnipeg (at the Henderson Library)
Click here for details and to register.
For up-to-date information on upcoming non-HAAM events, visit our Community Events page.
Charity of the Month
On the downside of a brutally cold Manitoba winter, we’re all looking forward to summer – sunshine, waterparks, and beaches. But summer can be a dangerous time for kids who don’t know how to swim. Every year, there are drownings at Manitoba lakes – and the victims are likely to be newcomers to Canada.
Recent immigrants (adults as well as children) are four times more likely than Canadian-born citizens to be unable to swim. There are lots of possible reasons – they may have escaped unrest or war, spent time in refugee camps, come from an area where swimming pools were only available to the very rich, or just never lived near lakes or water.
Several tragic drowning accidents in the past couple of years have prompted calls for swimming classes for new immigrants. Regular swim classes can be impractical for families struggling to learn English, adapting to a new culture, and living on a tight budget until they get established.
Enter a new charity created last year to help at-risk Manitoba kids enjoy the water safely. Ready, Set, Swim is a community-based foundation that provides swimming lessons to children ages 6 to 18. It operates on the principle that knowing how to swim is not a luxury – it’s a life-saving skill for everyone! Basic swimming lessons are offered free of charge to newcomers and low-income families. Children are accepted by referral and given a swimsuit, a towel, a swim bag, and shampoo. Bathing suits will be culturally appropriate if necessary, and translators assist both the kids and their parents. There is also a classroom component for the parents to teach them about water safety.
Let’s help get some needy kids ready for a fun and safe summer!
Donations for the Charity of the Month will be collected at the monthly meeting. Tax receipts are available for donations over $10. If you would like to donate but cannot attend the meeting, you can do so via the ‘Donate’ button on the sidebar. Just include a note letting us know that the money is for the charity.
Calls to Action
Support “Audrey’s Amendment” to Canada’s Assisted Dying law
Canada’s current law on medical assistance in dying (MAiD) requires that patients must be mentally competent at the time of the procedure, even if they have previously been assessed and approved. That means that someone who applies and is approved, but who chooses not to go ahead with the procedure immediately after approval, may lose the right to receive MAiD if their condition deteriorates and they lose competency.
That’s the situation that Halifax’s Audrey Parker found herself in this past fall. She was dying of metastatic breast cancer, applied for MAiD, and was approved. But she delayed the procedure, hoping to enjoy one more Christmas with her family. In October, however, she learned that the cancer had spread to her brain. Fearing that the growing cancer might soon affect her cognition, she decided to go ahead with MAiD before Christmas rather than risk losing her mental capacity to consent and being forced to die a prolonged and uncomfortable death.
Audrey died with medical assistance on November 1st, but before her death, she went public with her story to protest the unfairness of the legislation. Now people across the country are asking for the federal government to pass “Audrey’s Amendment” to the assisted dying law. It would allow an exception to the consent requirement for people in the category of ‘assessed and approved’. Applicants would still need to be mentally competent to consent at the time of the application and assessments, but if they lose capacity after approval, due to progression of their illness or the medications need for comfort, the procedure could still be carried out.
Please add your voice to those who are asking for this change! Dying With Dignity Canada has drafted a form letter to the federal justice minister – all you have to do is add your name and click ‘send’ (you can also add a personal note if you wish).
to read more and sign the letter.
Stand up for Access to Reproductive Health Care
Mifegymiso (the abortion pill) has allowed greater accessibility to reproductive rights across Canada – except in Manitoba and Saskatchewan, which are the only provinces not providing universal coverage for the medication. In Manitoba, mifegymiso is currently available free of charge only at the Women’s Hospital (HSC) and the Women’s Health Clinic (both in Winnipeg) and at Brandon Regional Health Centre. This creates unnecessary barriers for rural and remote women, a group that already experiences difficulty accessing reproductive health services.
Please add your voice to others asking our provincial government to provide universal coverage for Mifegymiso for all women in Manitoba.
Join this letter-writing campaign. Don’t worry! You do NOT have to write a letter – that’s already been done. All you need to do is download it, add your name, and then send it to the campaign organizers. The signed letters will be forwarded to Cameron Friesen, Manitoba’s Minister of Health, and Rochelle Squires, Minister responsible for the Status of Women.
After downloading the letter, make sure to add your info to both copies of it (one for each cabinet minister). Then just save and send.
to download and add your name to the letter.
Check out this blog by local Humanists
HAAM’s partner organization based in Steinbach, the Eastman Humanist Community, continues to grow and thrive in the Bible Belt. They hold regular meetings and informal get-togethers, have their own small lending library, and have started a blog with contributions from their members.
In the most recent blog post, EHC president Gary Snider considers two aspects of human evolution – why did we evolve such large brains when other animals did not, and what effect did past changes in climate have on our evolution? In previous posts, Heather Murray evaluated claims commonly made by conspiracy theorists about ‘Big Pharma’; Helen Friesen pondered why so many people long for the ‘good old days’ when they were demonstrably not great at all; and Jordan Kroeker caught up on some of the science education denied to him by his Christian upbringing. Take a look!
Book of the Month – Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement
Quiverfull is a conservative Christian movement whose adherents view all children as a gift from god. Its name comes from Psalm 127, verses 3-5:
3 Children are a gift from the Lord;
they are a reward from him.
4 Children born to a young man
are like arrows in a warrior’s hands.
5 How joyful is the man whose quiver is full of them!
He will not be put to shame when he confronts his accusers at the city gates. (NLT)
Quiverfull followers eschew all forms of birth control, even ‘natural family planning’. In 2009, journalist Kathryn Joyce explored the fascinating world of the families who are part of this movement in her book Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement. Professional reviewers referred to her discussion as ‘echoes of The Handmaid’s Tale’, ‘frightening’, ‘insightful’, ‘riveting and deeply disturbing’, and ‘a corner of the Christian right that has taken misogyny to sadomasochistic extremes’. Readers who relate to the content or have had personal experience with Quiverfull families use words like ‘nightmare’, ‘abuse’, ‘cult’, ‘brainwash’, and ‘trigger’ in their reviews. Readers who were not previously familiar with the concept use words like ‘yikes’, ‘scary’, and ‘unbelievable’.
If you have only a superficial understanding of what it’s like to live in a conservative Christian bubble, then this book will open your eyes. It’s a subject worth learning about. Proponents of the Quiverfull movement would love to repeal suffrage and dismantle civil rights laws; the rest of us ignore that at our own peril.
All our library books and DVD’s are free to borrow for paid HAAM members.
Visit our Library page if you would like to borrow this book.
Thinking about Summer yet?
Spring is almost upon us, and if you have school-aged kids, that means you’re probably already thinking about what to do with them over the summer. We get questions every spring about children’s summer camps.
If you’re looking for an overnight summer camp, your choices as a secular parent are pretty limited. Most of what we know was summarized in our June 2018 newsletter. But if you have questions or are looking for more info, please contact HAAM. Some of our members have provided references and anecdotal information, and we can pass that along to you.
Now there are way more options, as long as you book early. Many secular organizations host day camps, and they represent a wide variety of interests. Check out the camps offered by the Children’s Museum, the Manitoba Museum, Fort Whyte Alive, the Assiniboine Park Zoo, the Wellness Institute, the YMCA, the U of M (Minu U), the Manitoba Theatre for Young People, the Winnipeg Gymnastics Centre, the Humane Society, Mad Science of Manitoba, Camp Manitou, Oak Hammock March, and the Winnipeg Art Gallery. Something for everyone, and most of these are educational, too.
Please help HAAM help other families
Lastly, if you have experience (whether positive or negative) with any camp (day or overnight) that might help other secular families, please let us know and we’ll make a note of it in our ‘summer camp info’ file for future reference. All correspondence is confidential.
Video – Religion in Manitoba Public Schools
Back in 1986, Chris Tait was the high school student who bravely challenged the existing practice of daily prayer and Bible readings in Manitoba’s public schools, by remaining seated at his desk and refusing to participate. His court challenge eventually led to the Manitoba Schools Act being amended in 1992, banning mandatory school prayer. Chris is now a lawyer and continues to follow the issue of religion in public schools. In 2012, he was the guest speaker at a HAAM meeting, where he talked about his experiences and about how some schools (especially in ‘Bible Belt’ communities) were still breaking the rules.
We recently came across a video of that meeting, posted to YouTube by past-president Jeff Olsson on his own page. Thanks for saving it, Jeff! It has how been uploaded to the HAAM YouTube channel.
Has the situation improved at all in the last few years? It would be nice to hope that Manitoba schools are becoming more inclusive and impartial, but anecdotal reports usually suggest otherwise. If you have information about what’s happening now, we’d love to hear from you.
Upcoming HAAM Events
Summer in the City Outreach
Friday, June 15th to Sunday June 17th, Steinbach MB
Our annual Outreach at the Summer in the City Festival. Drop in and say Hi! Details here.
Summer Solstice Party
Saturday, June 23rd, Kildonan Park, 5:00 – 9:00 PM
New location! Everyone is welcome! Details here.
Save the Dates
Mark your calendars now so you won’t miss anything!
Fall meeting dates: September 8th October 13th November 17th
Details about all upcoming HAAM events are on our Events page.
Upcoming Community (Non-HAAM) Events
Winnipeg Pride Parade
Sunday, June 3rd, Manitoba Legislative Building. Rally at 10 AM and parade at 11.
The parade marks the finale of Pride Week.
More information and links to all non-HAAM events are on our Community Events page.
We’ve been holding our regular monthly meetings on Saturday evenings at Canad Inns Polo Park for the last several years now. It’s a great venue in many ways, but not necessarily ideal for our group. Three main drawbacks are that
1. we can’t bring in any outside food, even for special celebrations;
2. we cannot make noise that would be heard in the dining area or the next meeting room (which pretty much rules out music of any kind); and
3. a hotel meeting room is not particularly spacious or kid/family friendly.
The perfect meeting space
Here is what we would ideally be looking for:
1. location – reasonably central (ie not on the outskirts of the city), safe area, on or close to a major route, parking available, no religious affiliation (ie not a church)
2. reasonable cost
3. capacity – at least 50 people
4. availability – Saturday evenings? is there any other time or day we could consider? Sunday morning or a week night?
5. the ability to bring own food if we want, such as for treats, special occasions, or pot lucks
6. more kid/family friendly space
7. no noise restriction (ie ability to play music)
We need your input!
Our executive has been exploring other options, so far without success. We would like your opinions and suggestions. Are you happy with the current location? Does it matter to you if there is food/a meal available at each meeting? Do you know of a place that you think might be more suitable? Would a change of location make you more, or less, likely to attend? What if we found a great location that was not available Saturday evenings? Would you come on a week night? Sunday morning?
Let us know what you think! Please complete this short (2 minute) survey to help us plan for next season.
Sorry – the HAAM Venue Survey has ended.
Stealing Reason: Christianity’s Theft of Human Values
If you were unable to make it to our May meeting, you missed an excellent presentation by our own Pat Morrow about the false claims that Christians make while trying to claim credit for scientific and moral progress.
Good news – Pat’s talk is now uploaded to our YouTube channel. Check it out!
Partners for Life Update
Summer’s here – and that means that Canadian Blood Services will be facing their annual blood shortage as regular donors travel or relax at the lake.
HAAM participates in the Partners for Life program, with an annual pledge of 25 donations from our members. As of mid-May, we had 11 donations… so we’re on track to meet that goal. Maybe we can even surpass it! If you’re a blood donor, please make the effort to donate over the summer.
If you’ve never donated before, or never asked to have your donations credited to HAAM, please join our Canadian Blood Services Partners for Life team and help us reach our goal. Let’s show that Humanists care enough to donate blood!
Video of the Month
Summer’s here, so that means it’s Outreach season – and HAAM certainly won’t be the only group doing outreach. Religious organizations and lobby groups will have booths at small town fairs all over Manitoba. You can usually count on finding evangelical Christians, anti-choice groups, and creationists.
These organizations are very well funded by their supporters, and they put on large and splashy displays, with flashy professionally produced posters and leaflets to hand out. Answers in Genesis, the US-based creationist organization responsible for the Creation Museum and the Ark Encounter in Kentucky, usually has a whole trailer full of sophisticated schlock at the Morden Corn and Apple Festival. But don’t think that these beliefs are unique to the US. Creationism and science-denial in general is wide-spread in Manitoba’s Bible Belt communities – even in Morden, home of the Canadian Fossil Discovery Centre. Some of our members were indoctrinated with creationism as children. If you haven’t taken it seriously up until now, you need to get out more.
Want a primer on some of the wacky stuff creationists believe? HAAM has a copy of Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, the propaganda film in which Ben Stein dismisses evolution (and science in general) as a conspiracy to keep God out of laboratories and schools. Why not borrow it to watch at home this summer, where you can have a good laugh (or a good cry, or maybe just a couple of drinks) while you’re watching. Warning – this film is pretty bad. It links evolution to Nazism and misrepresents interviews with science advocates like Michael Shermer and Richard Dawkins. Its initial rating on Rotten Tomatoes was 9%. Roger Ebert called it “cheerfully ignorant and manipulative”. But Christianity Today gave it 3 out of 4 stars.
Love it, hate it, or just laugh at it – this film will provide you with some insight into the creationist mindset. Maybe it will even inspire you to join us in our outreach booth to promote science and reason.
All our library books and DVD’s are free to borrow for paid HAAM members.
Visit our library page if you would like to borrow this video.
Looking for a Summer Camp?
Summer’s here – and every year we get asked about children’s summer camps. We’ve written about this topic before, so here’s a summary of what we know.
Almost all overnight children’s summer camps in Manitoba are directly run by religious organizations. A few others are targeted at specific populations (ie kids with disabilities). The following are the only camps we are aware of that are unaffiliated with religious groups:
- Camp Wannakumbac up at Clear Lake (Keystone Agricultural Producers)
- Camp Stephens (YMCA) in the Whiteshell
- Caddy Lake Girl Guide Camp (girls only, but membership in Girl Guides is not required)
- Camp Manitou (True North Youth Foundation) – mostly day camps, but some overnight camps
- Camp Wasaga at Clear Lake (families only).
Disclaimer – noting that a camp is not affiliated with a religious group cannot guarantee that it will be 100% secular. Last summer a member who sent her child to Camp Wannakumbac reported to us that they still recite ‘grace’ at mealtimes.
Do you have experience with, or knowledge of, children’s summer camps that would help our members?
We’d appreciate your feedback so that we can pass the information along to other families.
Upcoming HAAM Events
Details and complete listings for all our upcoming HAAM events are on our Events page.
Monthly Meeting – Finding Humanist Thought in Indigenous Beliefs
Saturday, October 14th, Canad Inns Polo Park, 1405 St Matthews Avenue, 5:30 PM
In the spirit of the season, we’re going to decorate the room up a bit for Hallowe’en. You’re welcome to come in costume (optional).
Spooky Night at Six Pines
Friday, October 20th, Six Pines (just north of Winnipeg), 7:30 PM
Note that this event is intended for ages 15+.
Make sure to read the event details before attending.
HAAM and Eggs Brunch
Sunday, October 22nd, Smitty’s Restaurant, 2835 Pembina Highway (Fort Richmond), 9:30 AM
Newbies Welcome! Details here.
Upcoming Community (Non-HAAM) Events
Beyond the “Creation vs Evolution” Debate
October 12th at 7 PM and October 13th at 10 AM and 7 PM. Click for locations.
For details on all upcoming non-HAAM events, visit our Community Events page.
Charity of the Month – Kasese Humanist Primary School
HAAM sponsors a child in Uganda by paying his annual school tuition. Our little boy is called Bogere John, and 2018 will be our third year of sponsorship. He’s a bright little kid, and smart, but he’s an orphan, and he’s had a difficult year.
His spring report card showed that in some subjects he performed only ‘fair’, while other subjects had no mark and were recorded as ‘missed’. This was in sharp contrast to his report card from the previous year, in which all subjects were good or excellent. In a letter, School Director Bwambale M Robert explained that in the middle of the term the boy got “some serious malaria and he had to miss some lessons at the school”, which was a “key factor for his sliding”.
Robert continued – “He however recovered and he is now fine. Normally in most people’s home, the health and hygiene conditions in some of our children and families is not all that fine, this becomes a root cause of some illnesses of our children… My teachers remain committed to ensuring Bogere gets back to his feet and normalize to the better and excel with his studies.” Robert also noted that Bogere’s guardian is “also not well, health-wise”.
Our executive recently received a copy of Bogere’s second term report card, and we are pleased to note that he is catching up in some subjects, although he still struggles with others. Good for him for keeping at it! For us in Canada, it’s hard to imagine the difficulties some children face to get an education.
We will be collecting for little Bogere John’s 2018 school tuition fees at our October meeting. Any extra money we collect above his tuition requirements will go to help the school itself. Please give generously!
Tax receipts are available for donations over $10. If you would like to donate but cannot attend the meeting, you can do so via the Paypal button on our website. Just include a note letting us know that the money is for the charity.
HAAM is looking for a new librarian.
Job Description and Requirements:
- Be a regular, paid member of HAAM who attends most meetings.
- Store and look after HAAM’s collection of just over 200 books and DVD’s. They come with their own bookshelf (it’s about 3’ wide X 6’ tall).
- Bring a selection of books to each meeting.
- Keep track of books as they are signed out and returned.
This is a great opportunity for someone who likes to read. The lucky volunteer will have access to ALL of our books almost ALL of the time. (To see what’s in the collection, visit our Library page.) It’s not necessary to attend every meeting; usually arrangements can be made to send books with another HAAM member if the librarian is absent.
A big thanks to Chad and Gloria Froese who have been looking after our library for over 2 years. Work-related travel and a young family is making it difficult for them to attend many meetings, but they continue to store the books until we find someone willing to take on this responsibility. Please contact us if you’re interested.
Ideas Needed – Help Us Build Community
A group of HAAM members attended the Canadian premiere of “Losing Our Religion” at Cinematheque in September. It’s a very well-made documentary about pastors struggling when they lose their faith – especially while they’re still preaching. (More info here.) If you missed the screening, or weren’t able to be there, it will air on CBC Docs (the documentary channel) in Canada on Sunday evening October 15th, with an encore showing on Wednesday evening October 18th. Check listings for local times.
Several of the peopled interviewed for the film mentioned the importance of community. We can all definitely appreciate that sentiment. It’s in part why we join HAAM and come out to the meetings. And probably the main thing people miss when they leave religion.
The producers included scenes of people taking part in the Sunday Assembly, which just seemed to come together on a whim. And they also interviewed the founder of the Houston Oasis, which is a similar freethought group. These groups host meetings which are slightly more “church-y” in feeling than our HAAM meetings, but they also include things like coffee and live music.
It’s got me thinking – about how to grow our membership and build community, and about being able to create different types of get-togethers. That just doesn’t seem possible in our current meeting space. Should we forego the meeting rooms? Perhaps give up the meal in favor of a better space? What do YOU think? Is it time for us to look for a new home? Let us know!
Donna Harris, President
New Reasonfest Videos
Our YouTube channel is gradually taking off as we have recently added two more videos. They are from our 2015 conference River City Reasonfest, which some of you may have attended. The playlist from that conference now includes:
Greta Christina – Comforting Thoughts about Death that have Nothing to do with God
Eric Adriaans – Canada’s Blasphemy Laws and Human Rights
Tracie Harris – Is Religion Good for Families?
P Z Myers – Evolution is More Complicated than you Think
Special thanks to Paul Morrow for working so hard producing and editing these videos. Check out our channel!
Call to Action – Support Fair, Secular Government
The Freedom of Thought Report is an annual survey on discrimination and persecution against non-religious people in countries around the world. It is published by the International Humanist and Ethical Union each year on December 10th, International Human Rights Day. The full report (over 500 pages) covers every country in the world.
You might not think of Canada as being a country with a significant number of human rights concerns, but the 2016 report notes several issues (details here).
- Recognition of the supremacy of God in the constitution and the national anthem, which, although largely symbolic, has been used to argue for allowing religion or prayer in government offices.
- Granting automatic charitable status to organizations that promote religion, while requiring secular organizations to commit to community services to attain charity status. Also, allowing religious groups the right to maintain a building fund, but requiring secular organizations to apply for such a fund and then adhere to the conditions laid down by the Charities Directorate of the CRA.
- Partially or fully funding religious schools, many of which discriminate on religious grounds in hiring and in accepting students. In some provinces, the government provides funding to Catholic schools but denies such funding to any other religion or belief.
- Court rulings that allow sincerely held religious beliefs to prevail over freely contracted obligations (i.e. allowing people to back out of signed contracts on the basis of religious convictions).
- The continued presence of a blasphemy law in the Criminal Code. (This law is one of many set to be repealed in a current review, but it is not yet officially dead.)
- Exemptions in the Criminal Code (Section 319 3b) regarding the public incitement of hatred of identifiable groups (i.e. publishing hate literature) if the opinions expressed are based on religious belief or a religious text.
In response, an e-petition (E-1264) has been registered with the House of Commons asking the federal government to investigate the systemic discrimination against non-believers in Canadian laws and regulations.
This isn’t just a formality – it’s more important than you might think. Consider that parliamentary committees hear only from witnesses that their members invite. Since they are religious, they invite religious people. Others are asked to write submissions. For example, the Canadian Heritage Committee has heard from more than five Muslim groups regarding religious discrimination, but no Humanist groups regarding the same topic.
Please sign the petition.
Add your voice to the growing number Canadians who want fair, secular government for all!
For an idea of how Canada compares on a global scale, check this ‘freedom map’.
Color scale, from most free to most oppressed, is green-yellow-orange-red-brown. Find more maps and details here.
Book of the Month – Just Pretend
Dan Barker is the co-president of the Freedom From Religion Foundation (and a former evangelical). In this little book (only 72 pages long), he describes gods and religion to children from an atheist perspective, and explains why adults would believe in any religion at all. He refers to religions collectively as just another myth; a sort of ‘Santa Claus for grown-ups’. Because of the Santa Claus analogy, this book is not suitable for children who haven’t yet outgrown belief in a literal Santa. Its target age range would probably be 8-11 year old kids.
The book is clearly aimed at the children of families with non-believing parents. If this describes your family, and you are looking for a book to help your child understand what religion is all about, this might be a great choice. It is probably most useful as a starting point for discussion – read it along with your child and answer their questions.
It may not be appropriate for all families, depending on how much religious ideology your child has already been exposed to, and your own ideas about teaching religion and religious tolerance. Read it yourself first before deciding.
Visit our library page if you would like to borrow this book.
October through to the New Year is always a big time for charities and fund-raisers, both in the schools and in the community. There are SO many groups and causes out there – but are they all worth supporting? Before contributing, take a few minutes to learn about the charity that’s asking for your money, time, or endorsement. Read its mission statement to make sure it reflects your own values and beliefs. Some well-known, established charities make promoting religion a primary goal, component and/or requirement of their work. That’s fine if it’s what you want to support, but most of us in the Humanist community do not.
One group that operates in some Manitoba schools (and communities) is Samaritan’s Purse, which runs a shoebox donation program called Operation Christmas Child. If your child brings a note home from school asking you to support this charity, make sure to read our Religion in Schools page first to learn about its real mission.
There are plenty of charities that could use our support that are run by secular and/or religious organizations who do not evangelize the groups they serve. For some suggestions, have a look at the list of charities that HAAM has supported over the past few years.
Winter Solstice Party
Saturday, December 17th, Heritage-Victoria Community Club, 950 Sturgeon Rd, 5:30 pm – 9:30 PM
New! We now have a liquor permit for the party. Important details here.
And don’t forget to bring money or a food item for the Christmas Cheer Board.
Are You Recovering from Religion?
Saturday, January 14th, Canad Inns Polo Park, 1405 St Matthews Avenue, 5:30 PM
We will begin with our meet-and-greet time at 4:30 PM in order to accommodate our AGM at 5:00. Dinner will follow at 6:00, and then our regular meeting and speaker at 6:45. Please join us for the AGM – we need your support and input as we plan for the coming year!
For more information on these events, check out our Events page or click on the event name in the right sidebar.
You can find past events by using the ‘Search this Site’ tool, also in the right sidebar.
Celebrate Human Rights!
December 10th often goes by unnoticed in Canada. With the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, it seems to pass with no mention. But it’s a special day, a day that was 2500 years in the making*. December 10th is International Human Rights Day. On this day, we celebrate the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) – a document so important that its 30 articles are woven into our Canadian Constitution. You can read the full text of the UDHR here.
The UDHR was established by resolution in the United Nations General Assembly in 1948, and ever since that auspicious day it has stood as the first major stride forward in ensuring that the rights of every human across the globe are protected. The UDHR is far superior to, and more moral in every way than any religious text. Developed after the carnage of World War II by people from all backgrounds, it remains a document to which our species must aspire.
Many of us in Canada have enjoyed these rights for so long we couldn’t imagine our lives without them; others simply take them for granted. This year’s slogan for International Human Rights Day is “Stand up for someone’s rights today“, and with recent developments in our political climate, the message couldn’t be more timely. So this December 10th, take some time to appreciate what we have and the effect that this resolution has had on your world and your life. Look around your community and see its effects on a local scale. We all must understand that universal human rights are a gift for us, and to us, and they must be protected by us.
Here are two easy ways to promote human rights:
- Watch and share this 10-minute video.
2. Explain the UDHR to young people.
Let’s reaffirm our common humanity. Wherever we are, we can make a real difference by stepping up to defend the rights of those at risk of discrimination or violence.
“Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home…” Eleanor Roosevelt
*About 2500 years ago, Cyrus the Great conquered most of the Middle East (and then some). Up until that time, defeated soldiers in battle were typically either killed or enslaved. Cyrus offered the losers a different deal – they would not be taken into slavery (personal freedom), and they would be allowed to keep their religion (freedom of religion), provided they remained peaceful. In many cases he repatriated the dispossessed back to their homelands (freedom of citizenship). Many of these new rules were recorded on the Cyrus Cylinder, which is considered to be the first declaration of human rights.
Can You Help Us Help a Refugee Family?
At our last meeting, we listened to a short presentation from Maysoun Darweesh, from the Manitoba Interfaith Immigration Council. A former refugee herself, Maysoun is now helping current refugees (mainly from Syria) adjust to life here in Manitoba.
Maysoun explained that refugees arrive in Canada in two ways –
Some families are directly sponsored by groups (usually churches) who commit to supporting and providing for the them until they get established. This requires a substantial commitment of both time and money from the sponsors, as refugees require food, clothing, and shelter, and most need to learn English and settle in before finding they can find a job and become independent of the sponsoring organization.
The second way that refugees arrive is through government sponsorship. In this case, basic necessities are provided by the government, but the family has no direct, personal connection to a Canadian family or group that can help them with all the other things they need to learn. Because of the large influx of refugees in the last year, quite a few families in Winnipeg arrived this way.
Government sponsored refugees have a harder time becoming comfortable in their new environment because they don’t have friends to practice their English with, or to ask questions of, in the hours between their scheduled English and other settlement classes. They go home to their apartments and speak their own language, and many hesitate to venture out alone into the world of shopping malls and entertainment complexes they don’t understand.
To help these people, the MIIC has developed the Host Matching Program – a modified form of sponsorship that doesn’t require a financial commitment. It’s practical for small groups like ours who would like to help but don’t have the financial resources required for private sponsorship.
The program involves matching a government-sponsored immigrant family with supportive Canadians who are willing to help them settle in. These people do not need money or food. They need Canadian friends. They need someone to speak English with, answer their questions, go with them to Tim Hortons or the bowling alley, or the beach or toboggan hill, and teach them about Canadian pastimes, customs, culture, and relationships.
What is required of the sponsors? In order to take this project on, HAAM would need a core group of 3 or 4 people, or a couple of families, who are willing to sign up for the program and go through the screening and orientation process (including child abuse and criminal record checks, which are free). Once that’s set up, other families and friends can become involved as additional supporters. Most of the families in need of sponsors live in or near the downtown area.
Maysoun’s presentation met with a positive response and a great deal of informal support, and our HAAM exec would like to pursue it, but we need people to come forward and commit to it before proceeding. If you are interested, please let us know.
Is the Holiday Season Stressful in Your Family?
If you struggle to deal with your religious extended family, and the prospect of getting together with them over the upcoming holiday season is a major source of stress, you might find some helpful advice in a post called “Coping With Religious Family Over the Holidays” on the website Journey Free – Recovering from Harmful Religion.
The author is Dr Marlene Winell, a psychologist dedicated to helping people transition out of harmful religions, recover from trauma, and rebuild their lives. She has been working in religious recovery for over 25 years and originated the term ‘Religious Trauma Syndrome‘. She is also the author of Leaving the Fold: A Guide for Former Fundamentalists and Others Leaving Their Religion. (Editor’s note: This was one of the first books I read after leaving my church in the early 90’s, and it was immensely helpful. We don’t have it in our HAAM library, but the Winnipeg Public Library has a copy; probably the same copy I borrowed over 20 years ago. D.S.).
You’ll find some more good advice from Libby Anne, an ex-evangelical Christian who blogs at Love, Joy, Feminism. She addressed a recent post to those facing Trump-supporting family members at holiday gatherings, but the advice applies to more than just political differences. Check it out.
And if all else fails, look for some humor. Here’s a Religious Family Bingo card you can play.
Books of the Month
Thanks to some generous members, we have two new books! Catherine Kreindler has donated a copy of Thinking, Fast and Slow (a study of critical thinking skills and cognitive biases), and Joan (last name withheld) gave us her copy of A Brief Candle in the Dark.
Thinking, Fast and Slow is a best-selling book by Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics laureate Daniel Kahneman. The book’s central thesis is that there is a dichotomy between two modes of thought: fast, instinctive and emotional versus slower, more deliberative, and more logical. The book discusses the cognitive biases associated with each type of thinking. From framing choices to people’s tendency to substitute a difficult question for one which is easy-to-answer, the author highlights several decades of academic research which suggests that people place too much confidence in human judgement. Surprise, surprise.
Brief Candle in the Dark: My Life in Science is the second volume of the autobiographical memoir by Richard Dawkins. It covers the second half of his life, after the publication of The Selfish Gene (also in our HAAM library) in 1976. In this book, Dawkins discusses his scientific work, travels and conferences, his Royal Institution Christmas Lecture (Growing Up in the Universe, in 1991), his work as Professor for the Public Understanding of Science in Oxford, and his documentaries (such as The Root of All Evil?), as well as his personal life and his books.
New Brochure Aimed at Creationists
If you’ve read any of the reports from our Outreach booths in Morden, you already know that we get a lot of visitors who subscribe to Creationism (aka Intelligent Design). But this year, there were more than usual – buoyed, no doubt, by the presence of a new trailer devoted to materials from Answers in Genesis (the group that built the Ark Encounter theme park in Kentucky). Their people swarmed our booth in unprecedented numbers, asking nonsensical questions and spouting scientific impossibilities and general misinformation.
One area of misinformation and confusion stood out among the rest – few (if any) of these Creationists understand the difference between Cosmology, Abiogenesis, and Evolution. In fairness, that’s probably not uncommon; even among those of us who don’t believe the claims of Creationists, a lot may have never considered the difference or given it much thought.
The answer is really quite simple: Cosmology is the study of the origin of the universe; the branch of astronomy that includes Big Bang Theory. Abiogenesis is the natural process of life arising from non-living matter, or more simply – how did life originate? Evolution is the change in characteristics of living organisms over time, or, in the vernacular, how did we arise from monkeys? Abiogenesis deals with how life began; Evolution deals with changes in life that already exists; and neither of these subjects is related to how the earth came to be in the first place.
But do you think we could explain that to Creationists? Not a chance! They persisted in asking who created the world, and who created life, and where do people come from if there is no Creator; followed by their conclusion of “Tada! If you don’t know, then evolution is false!” When we pointed out the errors in that logic, they simply moved on to another question or topic. We might as well have tried to nail Jell-O to a wall.
For visitors to our booth who are actually seeking information, or who are at least curious enough to want to know what we have to say, our executive has prepared a number of brochures covering the most frequently asked questions we receive. A quick look reveals that they fall into two categories – Humanism/atheism, and science/evolution. (In case you’re wondering why there is a whole pamphlet devoted to trees, it written specifically to address the most commonly cited claim we hear for evidence of a Creator – “look at the trees!”)
But until now we had no brochure about the origins of life (as opposed to evolution). Spending three days wrangling creationists in Morden inspired Rick Dondo to research the topic and write one. It’s available on our website, and will be on the table at our next Outreach – if any creationists care to actually read it.
Calling All Secular Parents!
Beginning in the New Year, our secular parents’ coordinator, Tammy Blanchette, will be considering different ways to connect families. Distance, busy schedules, and babysitting make it difficult to get together, so online chats, family excursions, or spur-of-the-moment outings (sometimes weather-dependent) may be options. Not all of these will be planned with enough notice to make the monthly newsletter, and some will not be advertised publicly. If you are a secular parent who would like to be included when events are planned, please let us know and we’ll make sure you are notified.
Event Review: God and the Galaxies – A Jesuit perspective from the Vatican Observatory
Rick Dondo recently attended this lecture given by Jesuit priest and astronomer Dr. Richard D’Souza at St Paul’s College. He hoped to be treated to images of the night sky and some scientific explanations of them. That turned out to be hardly the case, but the evening was interesting nonetheless.
If you’re curious about how religious scientists try to overcome cognitive dissonance and reconcile their supernatural beliefs with their scientific endeavors, you’ll find his observations fascinating.
It’s Time to Plan for 2017
We’re almost at the end of another year, and plans are underway for the next. HAAM exists to create a supportive and welcoming community for non-believers. Make sure you’re a part of it! Here’s what you can do to help.
1. Renew your membership. We’re no different than any other organization – we need an operating budget just to exist. Whether you’re able to make our meetings or not, if you participate in our online community, and support our advocacy for a just and secular society, our outreach programs, and our general Mission and Position statements, then please help us to continue to our work. Our membership fees are reasonable – and haven’t increased in several years. Note that there is a limited-income option for as low as $10 a year, and you can renew online.
2. Consider volunteering – either by joining our Executive as a member-at-large; or if that’s too much right now, just help out with a specific task, project, or event. Many hands make light work. The number and type of events and programs we offer depends directly on the number of people willing to participate in the planning. Let us know if you can help.
3. Come out and get to know your fellow Humanists! The strength of any community is its members. The one thing that religion does really well is create a social support network; there’s no reason we can’t do the same (but without the superstition and dogma). Don’t be shy! We’re looking forward to meeting you!
- 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…
- Our Atheist Bible Study wraps up
- We Stand With Planned Parenthood
- Reactions to the Refugee Crisis
- and more…
- Our Charity of the Month program goes international
- Hospital chaplains
- Outreach report from a bible belt school
- Member reaction to our meeting about Aboriginal issues
- and more…
Addendum: For more on hospital chaplains and an update on the article in this newsletter, see Privacy Issues in Spiritual Care.
We’re busier than a hive of bees this March. We’re got a book club, our regular monthly meeting, and a secular parenting group meeting.
So, don’t miss out on a single word!