HAT n e w s l e t t e r
Newsletter of t he Humanist Association of Toronto
September/October, 2000 Number 42
+ Our first two meetings this season will be in Room 2214 of OISE (Ontario Institute for Studies in Education), 252 Bloor St. West (St. George subway stop).
Friday, September 15, 6:30 p.m.
"What Is Humanism? What Is a Humanist?"
HAT Spokesperson Sheena Sharp, who gives lectures on humanism to other organizations and groups, will offer her presentation to us for feedback and what will surely be a lively discussion.
Sunday, October 15, 12:30 p.m.
"The Circumcised Penis: Improved or Impaired?"
Lawrence Barichello, Executive Director of INTACT, will discuss the history, beliefs, laws, ethics and medical evidence surrounding male infant circumcision.
HAT co-sponsoring another multi-faith symposium:
Thursday, November 30, 7:00 p.m.
"Do We Still Need God?" (Did "We" Ever?)
Following the tremendous success of last November's symposium ("Can You Be Good Without God?") which was jointly sponsored by HAT and HAC, we will hold a similar event and, once again, HAT member and HAC President Rob Buckman will present the case for humanism among a panel of leaders from various religious faiths. Admission $10. Westin Harbour Castle Hotel, 1 Harbour Square.
Sunday, December 10, 12:30 p.m.
Topic and location of monthly meeting TBA.
+ For the dates of Steering Committee meetings, please see the back page.
HAT'S 10TH BIRTHDAY CELEBRATED AT ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING
For all those of you who thought AGMs were boring (well maybe a bit!), you missed a good one.
We started by amending the HAT constitution. The big item was the amendment of our principles and the addition of a preamble, the text of which is attached, and now available on the website. There was a good discussion about how we wanted to present ourselves, and how to capture the essence of humanism. We took a big step forward. Thank you to all who commented and who worked on it.
The next item was the election of the new Steering Committee for 2000&endash;2001. A full slate was elected at the AGM, with the exception of Membership Secretary. Noémi Adorján was a somewhat reluctant Webmaster as she felt that her paying job was making it difficult for her to do a good job for HAT. (We didn't think so!) Sub-sequent to the AGM, Noémi resigned and the Steering Committee appointed Hans Bessel, who moved from Newsletter Editor, which was filled by Nicholas Stahl. Bob Hope has agreed to be the Membership Secretary. Whew! Our Steering Committee is now complete, as follows:
At the end of the formal part of the meeting an announcement was made: we were looking for HAT members who were willing to march in the Gay and Lesbian Pride Day parade in support of that community. Members of the Steering Committee had agreed that HAT could be represented. At the announcement however, some members present at the AGM, objected, citing the "unseem-liness" of the event, and not wanting HAT to be mistaken for a gay/lesbian organization. Steering committee members cited past policy and appealed to humanist principles stating that we should support groups who were unjustly discriminated against. After some discussion, an unofficial vote was taken. (To change official policy, the topic must be announced in advance to all members). A healthy majority of those present supported HAT's participation in the parade.
Many people have expressed a desire for having more official policy debates. The method of initiating such a debate is described in Section 10 of the Constitution and everyone is encouraged to participate. Please remember that the ability to "agree to disagree" afterwards is absolutely necessary if we are to remain a healthy, open, organization.
Finally, the Main Event. We had two beautiful birthday cakes, made
for us by Judy Schulman, to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the
founding of HAT. Several founding members were on hand, including
George Goldberg and the Van de Vens. Though a few diets may have
been broken, a good time was had by all.
For the last few years, the Humanist Association of Canada has been training and licensing officiants to perform marriage ceremonies in Ontario. Since that time our officiants have performed hundreds of ceremonies, which also include funerals, child namings, same-sex commitments, coming of age, and memorials.
People who request humanist ceremonies are either non-religious themselves, or of differing religious backgrounds, preferring to omit religious references which may offend the others. Our ceremonies are meaningful, beautiful, and personalized to the desires and needs of the individuals or families.
If you are interested in more information about humanist ceremonies, please call any one of our officiants. They are (in alphabetical order):
On Thursday July 20th, I spoke to the Rotary Club of Forest Hill on the topic "Humanism". At first, I was a bit nervous as the Rotary Club opened the meeting with a grace (followed by the national anthem and a toast to the Queen!). The group of 25 men and one woman were very attentive during the talk. Some said that they had never heard of humanism before that afternoon. While none asked about joining, they seemed willing to consider and respect the idea of a secular based ethic.
HAT AND U OF T ARE NOW AFFILIATED
Thanks to the efforts of HAT member Daniel Goldstick, a philosophy professor at the University of Toronto, HAT has recently established a presence on campus under the name of a new official student organization, the University of Toronto Humanist Circle. This is part of our continuing efforts to reach out to U of T students and faculty, and our first two meetings this fall will accordingly be held at the U of T's OISE building (252 Bloor St.West).
NEW BUCKMAN BOOK ON HUMANISM TO BE LAUNCHED AT ETHICS CONFERENCE
HAT member and HAC President Robert Buckman has written another book&emdash;and this one deals with the Humanist approach to ethics! Can We Be Good Without God? An Exploration of Behaviour, Belonging and The Need to Believe will be published on October 21 by Viking Books. The book, written with the assistance of HAT Program Co-ordinator Michael Schulman, draws on anthropological and neurological data to "explain away" humanity's all-too-persistent need for religious faith and offers the key principles of humanism as a preferable alternative.
On Saturday, November 4, Buckman and the book will be featured at an all-day lecture and conference, "Towards a Responsible Society," presented by the publisher as part of its launch of several new titles dealing with ethical issues. The event will be held at U of T's Convocation Hall. Admission is $20.
For more details, contact Viking at (416) 925-2249.
HUMANIST ESSAY CONTEST NEEDS YOUR HELP!
Canadian Humanist Publications ran an essay contest for highschool students last year. The winners have just been announced, and their essays will start to appear in Humanist in Canada magazine this fall.
It is an exciting contest that challenges students to think critically and argue effectively. Last year, organizers sent a notice to every non-religious highschool in English Canada. Entries were received from across the country, and through the contest, students become aware of humanism.
Though we need to start in September, 2000, we still need more funds. So far, $700 of the $1,500 needed has been raised. If you would like to support the contest, please contact Sheena Sharp to pledge a donation: (416) 485-9256, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Send your cheque to: Canadian Humanist Publications, P.O. Box 3769, Station "C", Ottawa, ON K1Y 4J8. Charitable receipts will be issued for amounts over $20.
We also need volunteers. Please review the following list and see if you can help out:
If you are interested, please contact:
Sheena Sharp at (416) 485-9256, or email@example.com .
HAT WEBSITE AND NEWSLETTER TAKE ON A NEW LOOK
Reflecting the change in webmaster over the summer&emdash;Hans Bessel takes over from Noémi Adorján&emdash;HAT's website will be undergoing changes in appearance and content. As well, Hans took the initiative to establish an humanist "club" on the Internet courtesy of the web directory Yahoo! This new site is intended to supplement HAT's existing site, by offering features that we currently do not have such as an interactive bulletin board and live chat room. Although anyone can join it, Hans will moderate the site and use his discretion to remove inappropriate content. Its address is: http://clubs.yahoo.com/clubs/torontohumanists.
With this issue, the newsletter also receives a facelift, reflecting a change in editor&emdash;Nicholas Stahl replaces László Kramár. Nick formerly edited a Unitarian church newsletter for a couple of years.
WORD ON THE STREET: Sunday, September 24th
Again this year, we will be operating a booth for Canadian Humanist Publications. We will need four people to volunteer for a morning or an afternoon shift to help setup, sell books and magazines, answer questions from the public and dismantle at the end of the day. If you can help, please talk to Doug Yardley at 416-738-8427. (Doug will have his 'phone with him at the show).
for Doug Yardley, by Sheena Sharp
We would like to acknowledge and thank Dierdri for her recent donation of several books to our library, including these titles:
Olga van de Ven
STEERING COMMITTEE MEETINGS
Members in good standing of HAT are welcome to attend meetings of the Steering Committee but may not vote and are kindly asked to give notice of their attendance.
Wednesday, September 13, 7:00 p.m.
Home of Terri and Bob Hope, 131 Chester Ave.
Wednesday, October 11, 7:00 p.m.
Staff Room, Frankland Community Centre, 816 Logan Ave.
Friday, November 10, 6:30 p.m.
The 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.
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.
Humanist Association of Toronto
Box 44512, 2376 Eglinton Ave. E.
Toronto, Ont. M1K 5K3
Message line: (416) 966-1361
Facsimile: (416) 750-0496
© Copyright the Humanist Association of Toronto, 2000