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.