Humanist Association of Toronto
Number 32, Fall 1998 © Humanist Association of Toronto
SUNDAY SEPTEMBER 13, 1:00 p.m.: "Unitarianism: Out of Many Singular Rooms", with Ellen Campbell, Executive Director, Canadian Unitarian Council.
Meeting location: 40 Homewood Ave, Toronto. North of Carlton St. between Jarvis and Sherbourne, north of Allan Gardens. Buzz 364 for access to building and parking. Doors open at noon.
SUNDAY, OCTOBER 18, 1:00 p.m.: "Closing the Gap Between Rich & Poor",with David Langelle, Executive Coordinator, Centre for Social Justice
Frankland Community Centre, 816 Logan Ave., Toronto. Call 966-1361 for confirmation of location.Doors open at noon.
SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 8; To be announced. Call 966-1361 for information.
SUNDAY, DECEMBER 13: To be announced. Call 966-1361.
NEXT NEWSLETTER DEADLINE; December 1, 1998
Word on the Street, Sunday, September 27: HAT will once again have a booth set up at this colourful event held on Queen St.W.. If you would like to volunteer to help us sell books and magazines, please call 966-1361. It's always a lot of fun!
STEERING COMMITTEE 1998-1999
Co-ordinator Dwight Peters
Treasurer George Goldberg
Webmaster Chris Biggs
Membership Secretary Johan Van de Ven
Librarian Olga Van de Ven
Spokesperson Sheena Sharp
Newsletter Editor Douglas Yardley
Recording Secretary Terri Hope
Programme Co-ordinator Michael Schulman
Assistant Librarian open
"SECULAR FAMILY & SOCIETY"
A Review of the 1998 HAC Annual Conference
The 1998 Humanist Association of Canada Annual Conference was held on June 11-13 in Ottawa with the timely theme "Secular Family & Society". The conference featured a robust 16 sessions focused mainly on this theme plus the usual favorites such as the Poster Sessions, Humanist of the Year Banquet and the always interesting Annual General Meeting. Here are a few snap shots.
1/ Jan Loeb Eisler, founder of the Humanist Association of St. Petersburg, Florida started things off with an enlightening account of "The Secular Family Network". This project was established in Florida and provides a support network for humanist families and parents who are often isolated because of their philosophy. This is done through a variety of links or services such as a newsletter, web page, summer camp and resource directory. As a result, humanist families have access to each other's help, learning and experience. The focus on the human needs of humanists was refreshing and a similar network in Canada would seem to be a very good idea.
2/ Richard Belec, director of the Ethics Institute of Canada provided an educational talk on "Ethics Without Religion". Defining ethics as choosing between right and wrong, he advocates a decision making process to determine the right choice instead of adhering to absolutes. The key elements of this process are: a) the necessity of examining outcomes of alternative actions, b) the responsibility to arrive at a decision, c) having the courage to act on the decision, d) the constant practice & use of ethical discernment. He then tested his process against the "Seven Deadly Sins" which was quite unique.
3/ Lois Sweet: "God in the Classroom": Journalist and former Toronto Star Faith & Ethics reporter Lois Sweet advanced the idea of developing a religious literacy course for public schools. In avoiding religion, the public school system has added to ignorance and intolerance among students and has actually driven parents who support some religious exposure to pursue Catholic and private schools. An educational vs indoctrinal religion program in the public system would provide students with real facts about religions, encourage understanding and inquiry, and encourage interaction of students of various backgrounds instead of isolating them.
In addition to these sessions, the conference also featured discussions on "The Funding of Separate Schools", "Building Humanist Communities", "Secular Summer Camps", and "Attracting Visible Minorities to Humanism". Equally stimulating sessions outside the conference theme covered the world population crisis, the futile and destructive war on drugs being waged in the U.S., and how Greenpeace has been able to attract the media with Mindbombs'.
Of course the most beneficial part of the conference is getting a chance to meet humanists from across the country and to share ideas and experiences. Over 60 people attended the event including 6 from HAT. Next year's conference is scheduled for Vancouver.
HUMANIST CEREMONIES IN TORONTO
This is a reminder that non-religious ceremonies are now available in and around Toronto. Our licensed officiant Terri hope has performed over 30 ceremonies in her first year and is thoroughly enjoying her work. You may choose a ceremony prepared by the officiant or work with Terri to create your own.
If you or anyone you know is interested in a non-religious wedding or life commitment ceremony, a funeral or memorial, namegiving or coming of age ceremony, please call Terri Hope at (416) 461-2090 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
NEWS FROM THE ADVOCACY COMMITTEE
We are right in the middle of our web Site project aimed at interesting young teenagers (11-14) in Humanist philosophy. The site is tentatively called "Happiness is..." and is of course sponsored by HAT. we will cover ideas about friendship (and sex), work and Play, and Ideals. The site will give visitors the opportunity to hold running discussions about various questions and will feature topical comments as given by prominent Humanist philosophers. We are continuing our research into ethical education and public education and hope to make more use of it in the near future.
Our second initiative involves investigating a complaint that certain programming on Vision TV promotes hatred of atheists. Vision TV has a code of ethics which appears to protect even us! We are investigating this complaint, and if it is well founded we will make a formal presentation to Vision.
Out team has grown to 11 people, with three members who are between 11 and 14 years old. Among our members we have web experts, and artist, and amateur philosophers. New members and new ideas are always welcome.
The Education Committee have finalized the course contents for an introductory level course in Humanism. The material is at present being edited and we plan to have a draft ready in mid-September. Meetings will resume around that time. If you would like further information, or want to join our Committee, call Dwight Peters at 594-3388.
HUMANIST ORPHANAGE IN INDIA
Swami Manavatavadi, leader of the International School of Humanitarian Thought and Practice in Kurukshetra, India, is seeking to establish an orphanage for unwanted and abandoned children. He wants to give them the opportunity to become self-reliant through education and is soliciting donations for this purpose. He plans to offer education in Humanist secular values as well as practical vocational education. Swami estimates that for 20 students the school will need $US 51,500 for building materials, $4,100 per year for clothing and bedding, and $ 2,800 per month for food, salaries, and medication. If you wish to donate or request further information, please contact:
International School of Humanitarian Thoughts and Practice
DIALOGUE WITH A CHRISTIAN
The following are excerpts from correspondence between our licensed celebrant Terri Hope and an evangelical Christian.
Question: What significance is there to humanist's greatest legacies and accomplishment when they're liable to be forgotten or destroyed?
Answer: There is enormous significance to humanity's greatest legacies and accomplishments. Some have been destroyed by inquisitors, conquistadors, dictators, and unfortunately religionists who at the time held great power and did not agree with or accept the theories, art, or writings. Thankfully, much of what others attempted to destroy has been remembered. Unfortunately, some is gone forever.
Q: What hope do Humanists have when things such as aging, death, and natural catastrophes are out of man's control?
A: Yes, life and death are sometimes out of our control. But is this not also true for people who are religious? For me there is hope because along with our capacity for cruelty and narrowness, is our capacity for goodness and compassion. This is true for all of us. It does not require belief in God to understand.
Q: Does Humanist philosophy have any fixed moral boundaries, any moral foundation or constant? If so who or what determines this?
A: Humanists believe in securing justice and fairness in society, believing in the fullest realizations of the best and noblest that we are capable of as human beings. Our values however, are not as"fixed" as we might like. We deplore cruelty, killing, stealing, etc. but realize that there times when we condone killing and stealing. Have you ever stepped on an ant or killed a spider? Do you eat meat? Did you feel remorse? I give you this extreme example only to demonstrate that we sometimes carry contradictory beliefs. Would I be upset if a starving person took a loaf of bread? This is stealing but I doubt if I'd consider a prison sentence for this thief. Better to examine and change a society which had fabulously wealthy members right next to starving ones.
Q: In the absence of moral absolutes how can we know for certain what is objective Truth; what is always good?
A: I guess we don't always know what is THE truth. This is sometimes disturbing. It would be great to have the answers to all of our mysteries.Decent human beings have to ask themselves at each juncture: What is in the best interest of the greater society, and for me, at this time? Based on what I have learned and experienced, what do I believe about a particular issue? Some answers would be selfish and narrow. That why we need laws. It will never be perfect. I believe that religious or not, most of us are capable of caring, compassionate choices with the good of all in mind.
Q: If there is no universal standard of right or wrong, how do humanists reason that qualities such as compassion and responsibility are indeed "good" or "right" for everybody?
A: What is right or wrong for me is not always right or wrong for you. It is wrong for me to kill someone, but if he is in the process of killing or raping my child, I will do whatever I can, including killing, to stop him...and not consider myself evil for having done so. There is no one answer to an issue. I know that this makes life more difficult. We must take more responsibility for our behaviour and actions and always consider the many circumstances and differences among us.
To David Middleton for arranging for us to use the meeting room at his condo.
To Deirdre Breton for retrieving the errant envelope.
To Dwight Peters and Sheena Sharp for providing backup mailing lists.
To Herold Van de Ven for searching.
To Laszlo Kramar for valuable technical help with the production of this Newsletter.
HOW TO REACH US
Humanist Association of Toronto
Box 44512, 2376 Eglinton Ave. E.
Scarborough, Ontario M1K 5K3
Newsletter Editor Douglas Yardley
(416) 485-2277 or (416) 738-8427
1460 Bayview Ave. Apt. 202
Toronto, Ontario M4G 3B3
University of Toronto Humanist student group: