The Bi-Monthly Periodical of the Humanist Association of Toronto
January-February, 2002 Number 50
Index to this IssueUpcoming Programs & Special Events
HAT Field Days, by Marilyn Weston
Supporting a Dying Person, Dr. Robert Buckman, reported by Tanya Long
Member Profile: Joe Reid, by Michael Schulman
Religious Humanism, by A. J. Kachurowski
Book Review: I. Asimov: A Memoir, by Douglas Yardley
Report on the HAT Library, by Terri Hope
A View of HAT from Outside Canada, by Swami Manavatavadi
Get Well Soon
Poem: Ground Zero, by Paul Scott
About Our Officiants, by Terri Hope
From the HAT E-Mailbox
Word on the Street 2001, by Douglas Yardley
Reminder from the Membership Sec'y, Bob Hope
HAT T-Shirt Design Contest
Call for Volunteers
Upcoming HAT Programs & Sepcial Events
+ Our monthly meetings are free and open to everyone. Please check our Web site or phone line before each event to confirm time and place. If you need a ride to any of our events, or can offer one, please call. The HAT phone line is 416-966-1361
Our current meeting location is room 2-214 at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, 252 Bloor Street West (near the St. George subway station). Snacks and refreshments are served.
Saturday, January 5, 6:00 p.m.
HAT Mid-Winter Party
The popularity of our annual shindig has been steadily outgrowing the home of Olga and Johan Van de Ven. So for this year, member Jean Bower has graciously offered her expansive home in the Bayview and York Mills neighbourhood. As per custom it is a pot luck affair, so bring some suitable food and drink to share. Her address is 236 York Mills Road, easily accessible by TTC bus from the York Mills subway station. Please check the HAT Web site for final details. For offer or request ride sharing, please leave a message on our phone line: 416-966-1361.
Sunday, January 13, 1:00 p.m.
"Contraception Through the Ages"
Guest Speaker: Percy Skuy, former President,
Ortho Pharmaceutical (Canada); former Chairman of the Board, Pharmaceutical Manufacturers' Association of Canada; author, Tales of Contra-ception; founder of the world's only museum devoted to the history of contraception. Mr. Skuy will also present a short video on one woman's fight for acceptance of contraception.
Friday, February 15, 7:00 p.m.
"The Latimer Case: An In-Depth Look at the Man, His Daughter, and the Circum-stances that Led Up to his Decision"
Anne Abbott, a fellow member of HAT and a woman who has had Cerebral Palsy since birth, will give her views on the Latimer case. She will also give us insight into what it was like growing up and how she became a humanist.
Bohemian Embassy Musical Night II: December 27
When Don Cullen proposed our first-ever musical fundraiser&emdash;held this past April at the Artword Theatre and featuring such local luminaries as Dave Broadfoot, Barbara Sadegur, Mary-Jane and Winston Young, as well as our own talented Michal Hasek&emdash;none of us could have predicted the success it was. The sell-out show was an unqualified success. Not only was it uproariously good fun, it raised well over $1,000 in support of HAT's operational funding.
So when Don offered to reprise his first show in time for the Christmas holidays, who were we to argue? Once again, Don has assembled a stellar cast of talent, headlined by singer Nancy White, and including poet George Miller and the Michal Hasek family. Don, a comic and theatrical talent of consid-erable experience himself, will emcee the show.
The venue will be the same as before, thanks to a generous arrangement by the Artword Theatre, 75 Portland Street (just east of King and Bathurst). Tickets are $20 each, and we expect to sell out as before. Please call Tanya Long right away at 416-750-0648 to make your reservations. Tickets would make a lovely gift!
HAT Field Days a Sunday Morning Success Story
We've been having a Field Day!
Every Sunday morning starting at 11:00, Toronto humanists meet for stimulating discussion on hot news stories of the week, leavened with lots of laughs. We also share favourite humanist wit and wisdom in quotes and anecdotes, and we tackle a different personal ethical problem each week using humanist principles and our own common sense.
The group is noted for the wide range of its members' ages and the eclectic mix of personalities. The resulting discussion is a rich and edifying brew comprised of strange life experiences, original view-points and flashes of insight. Maybe we'll come up with the formula for world peace! Maybe not. At the very least, we get that sense of connection with kindred spirits that many of us miss in daily life. We learn from each other, and get an infusion of humanist energy to carry us through the coming week.
We're happy to see that the Field Day project actually did fulfill the promise of the acronym FIELD
Day: Forum for Ideas, Education, Laughter and Dialogue. In fact, we have such a good time that when the meeting ends at 12:30 p.m., some people still want to continue talking and head over to a nearby restaur-ant to have lunch together.
In our own small way, we have already used Field Day power to further humanism among young people in Canada. We answered Sheena Sharp's call for volun-teers to help her with preparations for the national humanist essay contest for students. After a recent Field Day meeting, we walked over to her office and spent the afternoon preparing mail-outs to schools across Canada. We worked alongside other congenial volunteers and a good time was had by all.
A new member, Gail McCabe, was inspired to institute a further enhancement to the Field Day experience: our own e-mail list dubbed "HAT chat." We can post our views online, share interesting informa-tion on upcoming topics and keep in touch through the week. If you haven't yet joined us, feel welcome. And it's free of charge! You can still maintain your tradition of the Sunday morning sleep-in, then throw your coffee and brunch in a brown bag and head over to the OISE building at 252 Bloor Street West. (The St. George subway station, Bedford Street exit, is near the side door entrance to OISE. The room number for the meeting varies, so we post it on an easel near the elevators at the main floor front desk.) You can bring friends and family, even if they are not HAT members.
Please note there will be no Field Day meetings December 23, 30, and January 6, because of OISE holiday closures. We'll be back at it January 13, same place, same time. Hope to see you then!
"Supporting a Dying Person," Dr. Robert Buckman
Speaking on Sunday, November 18, 2001
The Santa Claus parade did not deter 80+ people from coming out to hear Dr. Buckman speak on the subject of how to support a dying person. A gloomy subject? Not when handled by our inimitable Dr. Buckman. His talk covered three aspects: the process of dealing with one's death, the practicalities of how to talk to someone about death, and the usefulness of humanist values at the end of one's life.
Humans live in the illusion of not dying; we think of death as dangerous territory, like the uncharted waters on old maps marked "Here be dragons." In the 1960s, Elizabeth Kubler-Ross was one of the first to talk openly about death and to outline what she saw as the stages one goes through in coming to terms with dying: anger, denial, bargaining, depression and acceptance.
Buckman credited Kubler-Ross with her insight in seeing that dying is a process, but disagrees with her stages. For Dr. Buckman, there are three stages, as in any journey: beginning, middle, and end. How a person reacts to these stages depends not on the stage, but on the person. An angry person will react with anger, for example; someone who characteristic-ally denies will react with denial. This is especially true of the first stage. Fear is almost universal; guilt and humor are common. The middle phase is typically accompanied by depression, and it is here that the person may need the most support. The third phase can be acceptance, but not everyone reaches acceptance, and that is ok.
Active listening is the most important ingredient of talking to someone about death. Buckman introduced the acronym CLASS: Context (the physical relation-ship between two people, privacy, eye contact); Listening skills (active listening means not interrupt-ing and repeating one word from the person's last sentence so that they feel heard); Acknowledgement (an empathetic response to what the person is feeling); Strategy (doing something that you are able to do and that the person wants done); and Summarize (so that there is agreement about what has transpired and a clear contract for the next contact).
Most of the people that we know are probably not humanists; they are likely to have some religious views. Different spiritual values need not preclude relationship. It is not a good idea to undermine someone's spiritual position if they find it supportive, even if we disagree with it. For a humanist, dead is dead&emdash;there is no promise of heaven. What a humanist can do is help a person see the value of their life in the influence they have had on others, or to face honestly the negative aspects of their life.
&emdash;Tanya Long, Recording Secretary
Member Profile: Joe Reid
[The following profile is the second in a series on our members which began in the last issue. Michael Schulman recently interviewed Joe Reid for this article.]
Joe Reid shows me his entry in the Canadian Who's Who and I record the highlights. Born: Danville, Quebec, Dec. 17, 1913; married Marjorie, 1939, four daughter; Rhodes Scholar, Oxford; Gold Medal in Science, Univ. of Manitoba; Fellow, Institute of Physics; Research Physicist, Kodak; Senior Scientific Officer, Royal Aircraft Etablishment, 1942&endash;45; Senior Control Officer, Control Commission of Germany, 1945&endash;46; Program Specialist, UNESCO; Head, Technical Assistance Team in India; Manager, Program Methods, ALCAN; Electronic Data Processor, Trans-Canada Airlines; Communications Instructor, Univ. of Quebec; Consultant, Governments of Belgium, Quebec, St. Lawrence Seaway Authority; President, Refugee Aid Soc., Lakeshore Unitarian Church, Canadian Information Processing Soc., Canadian Metric Assn.
"That's my respectable side," says Joe, "but the stuff that isn't in there is much more interesting. For example, I've been a lifelong nudist, at least in theory. My mother thought I was a delicate child and I was so overladen with clothes I could scarcely move. When I was nine, I read about a nudist society in Britain and thought, that's for me! I didn't get a chance to go nude until I went to Oxford, and there was a nude bathing spot on the River Char.
"In Canada, Marjorie and I would go camping in the nude. On Sunday mornings when the good ladies in gloves and hats would go by on their way to church, we would shock them, dressed in the minimum. We joined a nudist society near Niagara Falls, and later established our own club in Vermont. I was the main financer of that one.
"I had sworn off religion after working through all the aspects of religious faith. My father was a United Church minister so I had many years of thoughts about ecclesiastical matters. I didn't see God working any miracles or even offering guidance. But when Marjorie and I settled in Lachine, Quebec, the neighbourhood children didn't ask mine, 'Do you go to church?' but 'What church do you go to?' A woman up the block who was a Unitarian suggested we might find that [being a Unitarian] a useful shield or camouflage. We went there and I wound up being elected president of the congregation!"
"In '67, I think it was, the minister preached a sermon on birth control and said we couldn't have it in Quebec. I asked him if we could start a birth control clinic at the church. I might be prosecuted, but I was quite willing to take that risk. The congregation was unanimously in favour of the idea. We set aside a room in the basement and announced it on the radio and in the press. I expected to get arrested, but nothing happened. A few months later, Montreal opened its first birth control clinics, and the mayor of Montreal said to me, 'You were the people who showed us the way.'"
When Joe heard about HAT being formed, he was one of the very first to join. "It fit my ideas much better than the Unitarians, so I made my way to them. We were a very small group but had some very good discusions."
Joe is still quite spry, but no longer attends HAT meetings because he insists on remaining at the side of Marjorie who, at 93, is in poor health. He takes walks, pushing her in her wheelchair, and remains active in the metric movement.
"I'm on the Internet as part of a multinational group of metric system supporters, sponsored by the U.S. Metric Association. Getting the U.S. to move on going metric is slow work, like watching paint dry."
"On the whole," Joe says, "I think the world's been getting better in my lifetime, even though there have been certain unpleasant episodes. I think the increase in communications is gradually wearing down the various prejudices and isolations. I'm optimistic about the future."
From time to time there have been efforts to legiti-mize and validate Christianity in an increasingly secular and humanistic society. About 1950, a catholic professor of philosophy at St. Michael's College, University of Toronto, Jaques Maritain, wrote a book called Christian Humanism. It hasn't been heard of since.
On the other hand, some who consider themselves to be humanists can't seem to overcome the pressures of popular culture, which says that everyone has a religion (or there's something wrong with them, don't you know?); or, they were brought up with religion and can't make the final emotional and psychological break with the idea of being religious. So, they call themselves "religious humanists."
They can't be both. Religion is imposed from outside by indocrinating a person into a belief system, whereas humanism comes from within, being the natural expression of a normal human being.
What is required is sober thinking.
&emdash;A. J. Kachurowski
Book Review I. Asimov: A Memoir
Isaac Asimov was not only a famous science fiction writer but also, as President of the American Humanist Association, one of the world's leading humanists. This detailed and forthright memoir covers most of his personal and professional life.
He attained a PhD in biochemistry but remained a professor in title only, after failing to convince his university that his writing was of more value than his attempts at research. He was a prolific writer of over 400 books, covering most main divisions of the Dewey Decimal System&emdash;including science, history, humour, the Bible, mysteries, even limericks. He also authoured many magazine articles and even a few song lyrics! Some of his books, notably the Foundation science fiction series, were financially successful, but many were written for the love of it.
So he became known as the "Great Explainer." Asimov, the "Lovable Lecher," was also a notorious flirt with a sometimes outrageous sense of humour ("I understand that the women at Simon and Shuster are easy.")
Parts of this book are quite funny. This was a man who was successful and content because he did what he loved, spoke his mind, and lived to his own expectations rather that those of others. This book is worth a read as a look into the life of a famous humanist, and can be borrowed from the HAT library.
From the HAT Library
A big hand for member and Program Co-ordinator Jim Cranwell, for his considerable work on the HAT library.
In November, Jim spent about 12 hours filing, sorting and cataloguing our growing collection of books, currently housed at the home of Johan and Olga van de Ven. Jim's effort continued the work of members Nick Stahl and Ming Chong who made a similar undertaking last winter.
Remember, you can borrow a book one of three ways:
1. View the list on our Web site at www.humanist.toronto.on.ca (click on the link for "library"), and follow the instructions noted.
2. If you don't have access to the Internet, request a list of books at the next meeting, and specify the one you want to borrow. Olga will arrange to bring it to the following meeting. You can also arrange with Olga to pick it up from her home.
3. If you can't get to a meeting, call the HAT message line (416-966-1361) and ask for the list of library books. Someone will get back to you.
A View of HAT from Outside Canada
We received the following e-mail and thought you would enjoy reading it. Swami is a humanist living in India who has visited Toronto in 1998 and 1999.
From: "swami Manavatavadi"
Subject: Ample of Thanks
Date sent: Tue, 20 Nov 2001 20:53:36
Dear All in the HAT,
Thank you all for keeping us here in your regular touch without failing. Just today we received the Nov/Dec. 2001 newsletter filled with colourful and encouraging information. You might have benefited from the empathetic lecture of Dr. Robert Buckman. While I was with you in Toronto, I had talked with Terri about an appointment of a Humanist Chaplain in the Hospitals to counsel the Humanist, Atheist and non-believer patients as well as the others.
We appreciate the HAT's attempts which are practical and humane. It is the highest pleasure that under Bob's care the HAT membership is increasing considerably and it is really a rich rise what I have seen in '98 and '99. Moreover his sincerity of paying attention for each and every individual member is more laudable. Terri's invitation to a Bilingual Officiant shows HAT's spreading sphere. I feel to come someday to Toronto to enjoy the company of all new and old members.
Sheena is brilliant in her spokesmanship. Surely she will put a new light on December 7. The Irony on the god's opinions on the present events are really touching. If really there would be a god and if it would have anything to do with the people then surely at least it would have condemned such inhuman actions of the religious people on their neighbours and would have advised humility, compassion, love and empathy instead of jihad, pious wars or massacre. Thanks to Noemi and Laszlo for discovering such a good article from the web.
At last our heartfelt thanks to you all in the HAT. Will Jan and Olga van de Van oblige to write us few words? Tomorrow I shall be going to Karad a place about 2000 Km s to attend Indian Radical Humanist Annual Conference Nov. 24&endash;25, 2001.
Get Well Soon!
Betty Rich had surgery in late November. We at HAT want to send along our best wishes for a speedy recovery. We're thinking of you Betty, and are looking forward to seeing you back at meetings soon.
Olga Van de Ven, our Librarian, had an unfortunate fall and broke her hip. She was recuperating in hospital at last report, and we wish her the fullest possible recovery.
[The following poem was submitted by Paul Scott, a humanist who lives in the Owen Sound area.]Ground Zero
Amid the chaos of these days
when we have newly joined the world
filled with old pains of fear and hate
others have known for far too long,
our gods have shed their skin
before our eyes, dust and debris
lie piled in twisted blasphemy,
altar and headstone of our greed
as take is not proportional to need.
Want blinds us to the peace we could acquire
if love were given openly and wise...
We pray before these ashes; "Phoenix, rise!"
We ask an alchemy of hope
to turn this basest dross,
this tragic, agonizing loss,
to promise, to all yet unborn,
justice free of vengeance, free from fear.
Project our human faith, all who would lead,
the only gold worth having now
will take a miracle we know:
love, integral, in our every thought and deed.
About our Officiants
A humanist officiant is licensed by the province of Ontario for the purpose of performing marriages. He or she is required to be a member of the Humanist
Association of Canada, provide five references (three of which must come from humanists), and pass a course developed and offered by the Ceremonies' Committee of the board of HAC.
Collectively, our officiants have performed many hundreds of ceremonies. He or she pays an annual licensing fee, and is fully responsible for all costs incurred by providing the service (e.g., advertizing, office supplies, correspondence, etc.). There is no salary nor pay from the HAC for this work, and the officiant is welcome to keep the honoraria offered by clients. The officiants have no legal relationship with the local association (in our case, the Humanist Association of Toronto).
If you would like more information regarding the content of a humanist wedding, marriage preparation program, funeral, child naming, or other service, or if you would like to speak directly to an officiant, please refer to the Web site of one of our officiants. You may also call HAT's message line at 416-966-1361. Leave a message and someone will get back to you shortly.
From the HAT E-Mailbox
Date: Dec 1, 2001
Subject: Error: what is religion from the "charitable status" viewpoint?
Revenue Canada has written us to inform us that they intend to deny us charitable status, unless we can convince them otherwise [Newsletter 47, July&endash;August]. We have responded to their concerns, however we are not hopeful that they will grant us the status.
In the process of making the application, we have noticed that the category "religion" has almost no restrictions on how money is spent, while community
groups who do not "worship a deity"&emdash;but who perform similar functions such as education, social opportunities, the study of ethics, etc.&emdash;must apply under the category "education" and must then live with more severe restrictions.
We do not think that this is fair and are considering our options of appealing, possibly based on the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. If you are interested in this issue, or want to help or simply have an opinion you would like to share, please call Sheena Sharp at 416-485-9256.
Just thought you'd like to know.
Date: Dec. 5, 2001
Subject: Canadian Atheist forum
We have a lively atheist discussion group operating at: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/CanadianAtheist/.
A search though numerous atheist/agnostic/humanist sites convinced me of the need for an open forum dedicated to the free exchange of atheist thought and information.
We would like to invite all HAT members to join our discussion group. There is no charge and everyone is welcome.
Dan Roper, Moderator
Word on the Street 2001
We sold $600 worth of books and magazines for Canadian Humanist Publications (better than last year) and distributed lots of brochures. The weather was also beautiful!
Thank you to Olga and Johan Van de Ven, Terri and Bob Hope, Debbie Friesen, Stuart Craig, Don Cullen and Jim Thomas for lending their helping hands.
A Reminder from the Membership Secretary
It's that time of year and we are again looking forward to your continued support of humanism in the Toronto area.
Your annual membership fee for 2002 is due on January. You may use the form below for your renewal. Life members, and new members who joined in July or later this year, are exempted.
HAT is entirely funded by memberships and staffed by volunteers who try to run our organization efficiently. Your membership fees are vital to our existence as they pay for the newsletter, the 24-hour phone/message line, the Web site, monthly meeting location rentals, and other basic costs of operation.
A larger membership also adds to the presence and "voice" of our association, and helps to maintain our legitimacy within the public's perception.
Thanks again for your continued support in helping us to promote humanist ideals within the Greater Toronto Area.
* * *
On behalf of HAT, I would like to thank the following members for their recent generous donations:Derek S. Little
Your support is greatly appreciated.
&emdash;Bob Hope, Membership Secretary
Be Creative and Win a HAT T-Shirt!
HAT would like to create its very own T-shirt. One member, Stuart Craig, has suggested a design with our name and logo on the front, and a quotation on the back.
By way of a contest, the steering committee would like to receive your submissions of clear, concise, readable quotes, which describe humanism, or suggest our principles and way of thinking. They can be serious or humorous. Remember that we want passersby to be able to quickly read the quote from our backs! It would be fun to stimulate curiosity and interest from others, as well as to express our own views.
Please submit your entry in writing, either by e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org) or by post (P.O. Box 44512, 2376 Eglinton Ave. E., Toronto, ON M1K 5K3), no later than January 15, 2002. The entries will be printed in the newsletter following this date, and you will be asked to vote for your favourite.
The steering committee will reserve the right to veto entries deemed inappropriate, and will tally the votes and announce the winning design. The lucky winner will receive a free T-shirt once they are printed.
So, get out your Bertrand Russell and Robert Ingersoll....
Wanted: Volunteers to Help Record our Monthly Meetings and Some Televised Programs
Have you ever wished you had attended a particular HAT public meeting, or watched a television program featuring our spokeperson, Sheena Sharp, but couldn't due to other commitments? Wouldn't it be great to be able to borrow recordings of our meetings from the HAT library?
The steering committee has considered the merits of making audio and video recordings of our programs, but is aware of the difficulty of finding a person capable of doing the task. The solution might be in assembling a small pool of volunteers who could share the work and the equipment. We encourage any interested members to show their interest and state whether they have suitable equipment. HAT would, as a minimum, cover the cost of replenishables.
Please leave a message on our phone line at 416-966-1361, or send an e-mail to Terri Hope at email@example.com.
Thanks for any support you can give!
About UsThe Humanist Association of Toronto (HAT) is an independent, not-for-profit organization that considers secular humanism a valid alternative to religion. Our Declaration of Principles reads:
1. Freedom of Inquiry: Every individual should be free to inquire into any and all areas of thought, to explore, to challenge, question or doubt. Without freedom of inquiry, we lose our ability to improve our condition.
2. The Use of Reason: Reason provides a common standard against which we can test our perceptions. Without reason, all opinions stand as equal, and there is no valid tool for making judgement.
3. Knowledge: The only thing that can be called knowledge is that which is firmly grounded in human understanding and empirical verification. Without verification and human comprehension, we lose our connection with the natural world around us.
4. Creativity: The human creative process is essential to our ability to solve problems and satisfy our needs, and to expand human knowledge.
5. Fallibility: Human knowledge and human ethics have changed over history and are likely to continue to change. Without acknowledging fallibility we risk descent into dogma.
6. The Natural World: The here-and-now physical world is the world in which our ethics must operate, rather than in any imagined Utopian societies or afterlife. Without focus on the natural world we could sacrifice real benefits in this world for supposed benefits in imaginary ones.
7. Human Ethics: Ethical decisions should be made in the context of real people, real situations, real human needs and aspirations and the consideration of real consequences. Humanism affirms the dignity of every person and the right of the individual to the greatest possible freedom compatible with the rights of others. Without this context we risk the worst excesses of ideology.
Membership in HAT
Membership in the Humanist Association of Toronto is open to individuals who are in general agreement with our Declaration of Principles. Members receive this bi-monthly newsletter, have access to the HAT lending library, can participate in our study/advocacy groups, and are welcome to attend meetings of the Steering Committee. As well, HAT offers non-religious ceremonies (weddings, funerals, naming ceremonies) to its members and the public by humanist officiants licensed by the Province of Ontario. Annual membership fees are $25.00 for individuals; $35.00 for couples/families. To contact us for more information, call, write or e-mail:Humanist Association of Toronto
Box 44512, 2376 Eglinton Ave. E.
Toronto, Ont. M1K 5K3
Message line: (416) 966-1361
Facsimile: (416) 750-0496
This newsletter is published bi-monthly by the Humanist Association of Toronto (HAT). Unless specifically noted, the articles and opinions contained herein do not necessarily represent the official position of HAT. Letters and articles from members and the public are welcome, and may be printed and condensed at the discretion of the editor.
© Copyright the Humanist Association of Toronto, 2001