Upcoming HAAM Events
Like so many other organizations, HAAM’s upcoming events have been dramatically impacted by COVID-19.
With the health and safety of our members in mind, and following the recommendations of public health authorities, we have decided to cancel both our regular meeting and our HAAM and Eggs brunch in April due to the public health risks associated with COVID-19.
Our March meeting, which was to have featured Dr Simon Potter discussing Identity Politics, had to be canceled at the last minute because it fell during the week in which COVID-19 reached Manitoba. We would like to publicly acknowledge Canad Inns Polo Park for not charging us when we called off the March meeting on short notice. We appreciate their support! We will attempt to reschedule that topic once our meetings resume – either in May or sometime next season.
HAAM 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 visit our Home page (haam.ca), our Facebook page, or Meetup for information and updates.
After taking a couple of years off, HAAM is again planning to enter a walking group in the Winnipeg Pride Parade, on May 31st. We are looking forward to the celebration as we show our support for Winnipeg’s GSRD (Gender, Sexual, and Relationship Diverse) community. Everyone is welcome to join us.
Our Summer Solstice party was booked for the large picnic shelter at Kildonan Park; however, events are now being canceled by the city. But by mid-June, hopefully we will be on the downside of this health crisis, and it will be safe to go ahead with it. The picnic site is large and open, with plenty of space for us to spread out.
These are the dates to save
Monthly Meeting – Saturday, May 23rd (tentative)
HAAM and Eggs Brunch – TBA (when safe to resume)
Winnipeg Pride Parade – Sunday, May 31st (hopefully)
Summer Solstice Party – Sat, June 20th (fingers crossed)
Check our Events calendar for the latest information on all upcoming HAAM events.
Charity of the Month
Because our March meeting had to be canceled, we did not collect charity donations as expected. If anyone made an online donation intended for Sunshine House, our treasurer will hang on to it until we resume our monthly meetings. We will then add your online donations to what we collect at our next meeting – whenever that is.
In the meantime, look on our Charity page for a list of the charities we have supported over the past several years. There is a lot of need right now in the city due to job losses and business closures, so please consider helping any of these worthy organizations if you are able.
As of mid-March, our new HAAM librarians are David and Karen Donald, who have taken over from Laura Stephens and Adriana Sedlak. Thanks to Laura and Adriana for taking good care of our library over the last couple of years!
David and Karen attend most of our regular meetings, so they will be able to bring a few books to each meeting for members to peruse (once we resume meetings).
We have well over 200 books and a few DVD’s in the library, so it’s a good idea to search the catalog on our website and find something you’re interested in. On the 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.
During this period of quarantine, the public libraries are all closed – but our HAAM 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 within the Winnipeg area.
All our library books and DVD’s are free to borrow for paid HAAM members.
Call to Action
As Humanists, we need to support and speak up about what matters to us.
The Federal government recently introduced amendments to Canada’s law on medical assistance in dying (MAID). The proposed amendments include permitting assisted dying for those whose death is not reasonably foreseeable, and waiving the requirement for final consent for those already approved (Audrey’s Amendment). However, patients with irremediable mental illness will still be excluded, as will mature minors and those who wish to make advance requests.
Dying With Dignity Canada is committed to ensuring that Canadians have the right to make their own choices about how they end their lives.
Please tell your Member of Parliament (MP) and your provincial Senators that you support giving Canadians access to their constitutional right to make informed end-of-life choices.
To make your voice heard, visit DyingWithDignity.ca. On that page, you’ll find more information and a link to Take Action. Just open it, add your name and address, and click ‘send’.
Cooped up in quarantine? Stressed out? Laid off? Working from home? Bored already? There’s enough about coronavirus already in the news, and the facts change from day to day, so we won’t try to duplicate what you’ve already heard. But we have a few suggestions that might help you pass the time and get through the crisis.
We all know what won’t help – thoughts and prayers. So try some of these ideas instead.
1 Fight misinformation
If you’re on social media these days, there are probably times that you wish you weren’t. The posts and comments can make you feel that there is no hope for humanity. But if no one challenges ridiculous, hateful, and harmful ideas, just imagine how much worse things could become.
Report and/or refute insane ideas from the truly deluded
Here are just couple of examples of bizarre posts shared to social media in March. (Click images to enlarge)
Thanks to our own president Pat Morrow for taking on the ‘alternative therapy’ guy.
Fundamentalists are convinced that COVID-19 means the End Times and Rapture are near. Yes, they sincerely believe this.
There are lots more posts like this out there. The Guardian recently profiled the reaction of America’s “religious right” to the coronavirus – and it’s downright scary.
Hemant Mehta and his team at Friendly Atheist report all kinds of news of interest to non-believers. Some of the stories they have been covering lately regarding COVID-19 would give the old National Inquirer a run for its money. Think that touching the hand of an evangelist will cure coronavirus? Or that it can be caused by people eating Biblically unclean food? How about the pastor who invited infected people to his church to be healed through prayer? There are new stories like these every day. Check out the Friendly Atheist blog for the latest.
Get the facts – and share them
Besides the truly bizarre, there is a lot of well-intended and plausible but incorrect information and speculation out there. Is the virus killed or cured by heat or cold? What about teas or essential oils? 5G technology? If you have a runny nose, does that mean it’s only a common cold? All of these claims can be fact-checked – so do it. Respond with the correct information when you see someone sharing sketchy advice or memes with no source attached. Share information only from evidence-based sources.
In March, Buzz-Feed put together a pretty good list of common rumors and hoaxes. So did FactCheck.org and Snopes. CBC News summarized what will – and will not – protect you from the virus. The US Center for Inquiry now has a Coronavirus Resource page. And the World Health Organization is keeping their Advice for Public page up to date with a list of ‘myth busters’. Of course, there will always be new rumors, so check back to keep up as the situation evolves.
Watch out for your loved ones
It never fails that there are some people in this world who will take advantage in any situation. Scammers have already started to prey on the vulnerable during the pandemic. If you have anyone among your friends or family who is in the early stages of dementia, cognitively impaired in any way, elderly and not computer-savvy, is relatively new to Canada, or who has limited English, please keep an eye on them to ensure that they don’t become a victim.
2 Look after yourself and your family
If you’re stuck at home, either by yourself, or with family and/or kids, it’s important to keep busy. Take advantage of some of the special offers and free resources available during this pandemic. Here are a few:
- Use educational opportunities from Great Courses Plus (1-month free trial), Scholastic Canada (free 21-day ‘learn at home’ package for kids), Audible (free children’s audiobooks), and Curio.ca (teaching materials).
- Hold virtual visits with family and friends by using services like Face Time, WhatsApp, Skype, or Zoom.
- Try to have some fun, to ward off cabin fever. Get outside for a walk and some fresh air. Dig out a puzzle or some board games. If you’re looking for more ideas, USA Today has 100 suggestions.
Talk to your kids
Our children certainly are hearing about coronavirus, either from us or somewhere else. Sometimes it’s difficult to know what to tell them about it. There’s certainly no shortage of free advice out there – some of it better than others. Here are some of the more reliable sources:
Take “Humanism 101”
Catch some of the great articles, blogs, debates, and videos produced by atheists and Humanists that you’ve never had time for. We had some great speakers at our Reasonfest conference in 2015, and they’re still up on our YouTube channel, along with a few videos of other meetings and events.
We also have compiled a list of great videos and reads on our Exploring Nonbelief page – Opinions and blogs; Information on specific topics like the Bible, apologetics, evolution, and morality; Perspectives from people who have left religion; Classic debates; and Inspirational videos. Check it out! You’ll find it educational and stimulating, it will help you to feel less alone, and it should keep you busy for a good while.
Keep in touch with your HAAMster friends
You are not alone! We’re still all here – online! Follow us on Facebook and Twitter, check our website for news and updates, and follow us on Meetup so you’ll be notified when events resume. We also have a private Facebook group that is not generally advertised publicly. It’s a place for Humanists in Manitoba to exchange ideas, discuss issues, explore challenges, make friends, and have some laughs. It’s a proselytizing, preaching, and troll-free zone. If you are interested in joining it, please contact us for the information.
3 Help others in your community
Even though many businesses are closed, it’s business as usual at Canadian Blood Services. Sick or injured people still need blood, and shortages loom as more people cancel donation appointments and stay home. The CBS website has updates and answers if you have questions or concerns about donating blood during this crisis. In general, it IS safe to donate, and your blood is needed. So if you have a bit of extra time on your hands, and you’re healthy, please make an appointment to donate.
HAAM is part of the Partners for Life program, so if you do donate blood, make sure to become part of that. Our goal is for our members to donate at least 25 units of blood this year, and so far we have 7. Everything you need to know about joining our Partners for Life group is on our website.
Support local charities that are feeling the pinch
Food banks, resource centers, and other organizations that serve the needs of disadvantaged people in our communities are seeing donations drop even as people are panic-buying and stocking up necessities for themselves.
Donations at Winnipeg Harvest are down, which has never happened before. While most of us are stockpiling toilet paper and canned goods, these charities serve vulnerable people who do not have enough resources to meet their own needs on a regular basis, let alone to purchase extra for a crisis.
HAAM has featured a number of very worthwhile organizations as our Charity of the Month over the past several years. Any or all of these could use your help now. Check the list on our Charities page and please contribute if you are able.
Assist your neighbors
Do you have everything you need? Do your neighbors? Some of them may be quarantined, or afraid to go out because of pre-existing health issues. Give them a call and see if they need anything. If you’re on social media, ask in your local community group to see if anyone needs someone to run an errand. Or join Help Next Door Manitoba.
Support local businesses and community groups
Small businesses and local arts/music groups are really hurting right now, both financially and emotionally. Many are closing, cutting hours, canceling shows, and laying off staff. As much as possible (especially considering your own circumstances), try to help them. Patronize shops in your area if you can, while maintaining social distance. And if you have purchased tickets to an event that has been canceled, donate the cost of the tickets back to the group for a tax receipt, rather than requesting a refund. Small efforts and gestures like this just might enable some of them to survive.
Update on Manitoba MP’s religious privilege
In our March newsletter, we reported that Provencher MP Ted Falk sent a religious card of condolence to a family in his constituency. HAAM exec member Arthur Prystenski wrote to Mr Falk, using HAAM letterhead, on behalf of the recipient, who feared personal reprisals for sending a personal complaint. Arthur included his own Winnipeg address on the letter, since HAAM does not have a physical mailing address.
Update – Mr Falk (or someone in his office) used the lack of a mailing address within Provencher as an excuse to ignore the point made by the letter. Their response included the following: “Mr. Falk’s constituents are his first priority. While he receives thousands of emails from people across Canada each year, he is focused on serving residents of Provencher. If Mr. Falk is your Member of Parliament, please ensure you provide your full name and home address in your message. Emails without this information, or emails which Mr. Falk is copied on, will be treated as an FYI unless otherwise specified.”
Of course, this completely misses the point, which was that people living within the constituency of Provencher are so surrounded by Christian privilege that they are afraid to speak up for themselves. And so it continues…
If there is any further response, we will continue to provide updates.
Upcoming HAAM Events
Winter Solstice Party
Saturday, December 14th, Norwood Community 87 Walmer Street, 5:30 – 10:00 PM
Join us for some warmth and Yuletide cheer with your fellow HAAMsters. Everyone is welcome!
Make sure to read the ENTIRE EVENT POST so you’ll know what to bring.
Save the Dates
Monthly meeting and AGM – January 11th
Our meeting topic will be Leaving Faith Behind, with guest speaker Jeffrey Olsson, a former Anglican priest and member of the Clergy Project. Details will follow in the January newsletter.
There will be no HAAM and Eggs Brunch in December – next one is January 19th
Spring meeting dates are booked
Sat, February 8
Sat, March 14
Sat, April 4
Sat, May 23
Check our Events calendar for the latest information on all upcoming events.
HAAM operates on a calendar year, which means that all memberships will be coming up for renewal in January. Renew now to avoid the rush (and future reminders)!
If you are not already a paid member, join now and you won’t have to renew until Jan 2021 (offer open to first-time members only).
Memberships can be paid at any time using the secure link on our Join Us page, or in person at any event (in December, that will be at our Solstice party).
Annual fees start as low as $10 a year (for those on limited income), and $50 a year gets you a regular family membership. What other organization can you join for that little? We don’t ask people to tithe 10% of their income, like some other organizations do – just to contribute enough to keep the group going.
Note that memberships must be paid.in order to vote at our AGM in January.
Christmas Folklore for Non-believers
Around this time of year, anyone who has Christian family and/or friends on social media is bound to see at least one of the following tales shared in an article or a meme similar to those below. Their claims have even been published in children’s books, so they must be true, right?
Meme #1 Do candy canes symbolize the purity (white) and blood (red stripes) of Christ? Does their shape (a J, if you turn one upside down) stand for “Jesus”?
Meme #2 Does the popular (and seemingly secular) holiday song “The 12 Days of Christmas” contain hidden references to the tenets of Christianity?
Well, no… candy canes and seasonal songs (and most other Christmas traditions and symbols) have been around for quite a long time; these myths, not so much. They mainly arose around the mid-late 20th century in the minds of some creative apologists, and, not unlike a lot of other misinformation, spread rapidly with the proliferation of the internet. This is unsurprising when you consider that, as Christmas has become an increasingly secular holiday, defenders of the faith are looking for new ways to insert religion back into the celebrations and remain relevant.
The real origins of the candy cane and the 12 Days of Christmas, and the reasons why we know that these tales are not true, make fascinating reading. For example, did you know that the verse “5 golden rings” does not refer to jewelry at all, but to ring-necked birds, such as pheasants? Or that the first machine made to bend peppermint sticks into a cane shape was invented by a Catholic priest?
Read the real stories behind these modern myths on the Snopes website.
New web page for Kasese School
Kasese Humanist Primary School in Uganda was our Charity of the Month for November, but we support that school year-round.
We want people to know that there are secular alternatives for international aid, and that they can contribute at any time during the year. So we have added a separate page to our website, summarizing the work that the school does and what HAAM’s donations are used for.
Click here to view our new web page.
World Human Rights Day is December 10th
On December 10, 1948, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Since then it has become the world’s most translated document, available in over 500 languages. That’s something to celebrate!
Unfortunately, many people are still unaware of their basic rights, while others are denied them. We should never take our hard-won freedoms for granted. Stand up for your fellow humans! Spread the word and let your family and friends know that you are celebrating World Human Rights Day.
Book of the Month – Atheist’s Guide to Christmas
The Atheist’s Guide to Christmas is a compilation of stories about enjoying Christmas as a non-believer, from 42 atheist celebrities, comedians, scientists and writers. This collaboration was a charity fundraiser, with the full book advance and all royalties going to the UK HIV charity Terrence Higgins Trust.
The contributions are organized into sections, including personal stories (“Hark the Herald Villagers Sing”); science (“How to understand Christmas”); advice (“How to stop worrying and enjoy Christmas” and “How to escape from Christmas”); philosophy (“If God existed, would he have a sense of humor?”); arts (“An atheist at the movies”); and more.
Some of the stories are funny, while others are inspirational or memorable, so you’re bound to find something that resonates with you. We don’t need to be Christian to enjoy the Christmas season; there are plenty of other ways to celebrate. Decorate, bake, sing, light up the tree, share gifts, and gather with family and friends.
So to all those who celebrate it (however you celebrate it) – Merry Christmas!
All our library books and DVD’s are free to borrow for paid HAAM members.
Visit the Library page to request to borrow a book or DVD, and we will make arrangements to get it to you.
Whatever you celebrate in December –
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.
- Outreach report from our first Summer in the City
- Bigotry is a lifestyle choice
- Commenting on social media? Think twice!
- Is blasphemy a victimless crime? Stand up for free speech!
- and more…
At our May Meeting, we’re talking about some good news related to Climate Change! Come on out and hear Curt Hull from the Climate Change Connection.
Plus… why is Diana Goods spurning a declaration of love? Find out!
Image (r) Our panelists at our April Bill 18 Public Discussion. From l. to r., Chad Smith, Jeff Olsson, Sharon Wilson, Jim Rondeau and Donn Short.