Kia ora: Kia ora and Happy Matariki: It is good to see that this festival is becoming part of our yearly cycle. If you are in Wellington on 22 June, you are welcome to join us for this celebration – a fusion of the Northern Winter Solstice and our own Southern Matariki. Matariki is the Maori name for the star cluster known in the northern hemisphere as the Pleiades. Traditionally for Maori when it appeared just before dawn in late May or early June, it signalled the start of the Maori New Year. A time to look back at the past year and look forward to spring. In my garden I have seen the first unfurling of my Winter Roses. We will have a get together and shared meal at Lachman Prasad’s home, 50 Kanpur Rd, Broadmeadows, Wellington, on Saturday 22 June from 5.30 pm. All are welcome, and please bring your favourite dish to share and liquid refreshment of your choice. Please RSVP to Lachman at 04 477 3590.

Monthly Meeting: Monday 24 June
Open to the public – All interested people are welcome – bring a friend

‘Perceptions and Beliefs about Endangered Species’

Dr Pamela Mace will provide a brief overview of her 15 years’ experience working on endangered species issues through the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), focussing particularly on the most recent meeting held in Bangkok in March 2013.

She will ensure that there is ample time for discussion about the attitudes of different cultures and belief systems towards other species and whether or not humanism has a role to play – or any other related themes that anyone cares to raise.

All interested people are welcome, Society members and members of the public – bring a friend..

We meet from 7.30 pm until 9.30 pm *** Please note the day and venue ***

Tararua Tramping Club, 4 Moncrieff Street, Wellington.

Moncrieff Street is off Elizabeth Street, which is off Kent Terrace, Wellington – a short distance from Courtney Place on trolley bus routes 1 & 3.

Meetings for 2013 will be held on the 4th Monday of the month at the Tararua Tramping Club rooms, 4 Moncrieff Street.

Radio Access: Humanist Outlook, 10.30 am, 783 kHz Wellington, on Saturday 20 July, 17 August, 14 Sep, and 12 Oct.

Humanist Outlook is broadcast at 10:30 am on Access Radio, Wellington, 783 kHz, every fourth Saturday.

If you are outside the Wellington area, go to www.accessradio.org.nz to listen or to download as a pod cast after the event.

Matariki & the Winter Solstice: To celebrate these yearly cycles we will have a social get together and shared meal at Lachman Prasad’s home:
50 Kanpur Rd, Broadmeadows, Wellington, Saturday 22 June from 5.30pm.
All are welcome, and please bring your favourite dish to share and liquid refreshment of your choice.
Please RSVP to Lachman at 04 477 3590.

Matariki is the Maori name for the star cluster known as the Pleiades. Traditionally for Maori when it appeared just before dawn in late May or early June, it signalled the start of the Maori New Year This year, 2013, Matariki will take place on 10 June. The Winter Solstice is the longest night of the year and we can begin to look forward to spring.

Constitutional Conversations:
*** Separation of Church and State in New Zealand***

Saturday 13 July, 1:00 pm – 5.00 pm.
Venue: Victoria University, Wellington, Government Building Lecture Theatre 1, located in the back courtyard of Government House, entrance off Stout St, Wellington.
This is an alternative conversation to the Constitution Conversations that are presently being held www.ourconstitution.org.nz/Events

Speakers: Dr Caroline Sawyer, Senior Lecturer, School of Law, Victoria University, will address lessons from the UK.
Gay Morgan, Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Law, University of Waikato, lessons from the USA
Dr Meg Wallace, former lecturer in law, University of Canberra, will speak on the Australian experience.

The afternoon will conclude with a Panel discussion with the speakers, and including Dr Bryce Edwards, Department of Politics, Otago University, Dave Armstrong, Dominion Post columnist and playwright, and Ngaire McCarthy, a past president of the NZ Association of Rationalists and Humanists.

Refreshments will be provided by the Humanist Society of NZ. There will be an informal dinner after the seminar to which attendees are warmly invited-details of which will be given during the afternoon.

Debate ‘God or Nothing’ at Christchurch Polytechnic: Mark Edmonds from Christchurch has sent this report: “On Wednesday, May 29th I was invited by a local Christian group to debate “God or Nothing” with local pastor, Nick Duke of Cornerstone Church. Each of us had 4 minutes to make our point(s), 90 seconds rebuttal, there were then questions from the audience of about 25, mostly Christian, attendees, followed by a one minute summary. The debate was assertive, yet polite, with the pastor largely focusing on the necessity of God to find purpose. I countered with the idea that human beings, as sentient intelligent creatures, are able to determine their own purpose. This resulted with the suggestion that if we do this we are usurping “gods” place. I also pointed out that if “god” exists why, did he allow suffering in this world, using the quote of Epicus to suggest that an all powerful god who ignores human suffering meets the definition of malevolent. This comment didn’t go down particularly well with the pastor. One questioner asked ‘what it would take for me to believe?’. As well as replying that it would take extraordinary evidence to do this, I asked ‘why, if he exists, would god not make us all believers at birth?, for which I received no adequate answer. A vote as to attendees views was taken before and after the event. It was no surprise that no-one’s position changed, but I think there is certainly value in presenting an atheistic/agnostic/humanist view to christian audiences, least they forget that we exist, and that we are more than capable of explaining and defending our views. Who knows, maybe some of the points I made may provide food for thought in the future.”

Partnership Schools in New Zealand: We were disappointed to see this Bill allowing for Partnership Schools (better known as Charter Schools) passed by Parliament on June 4. The Education Ministry has received 35 applications to establish Partnership Schools including one from Destiny Church. The Sabbath Rest Advent Church is also interested and a church trustee, Jill Friar, when asked if she thought taxpayer money should be allocated to schools teaching creationism, responded by saying that it was tantamount to funding secular schools to teach evolution. We hope that controls are in place to prevent fragmentation of our society into enclaves of misinformation. The NZ Herald, June 16, reported that Kelston Intermediate is introducing karakia at weekly assemblies and before classes, and concerned teachers have requested the NZEI Union to protest to the Education Ministry..

Continuing Education Victoria University: Peter Clemerson is giving a presentation, Why are there seven days in a week? Saturday 6 July 9.30am– 12.30 pm. Cost $30. ‘We take the seven-day week for granted, but what is a week and why seven days? Why not six days or eight or some other number? It’s a recent invention, but who invented it, where, when and why? In this one off lecture you will discover its surprising origins’. To make a booking see Victoria Community Continuing Education Website.

Atheist Census, launched in December 2012 This is a global project to count and capture a snapshot of the world’s atheists. The Census aims to build up a profile of atheists’ preferred non-religious title, religious background, education level, age, gender identity and country. To date over 200,000 people have been counted, including 1,643 in NZ. If you would like to be counted in this census then go to atheistcensus.com.

Volunteering with the Society of Humanism in Nepal (SOCH ): Further extracts form Eleanor’s blog, describing her experiences in Kathmandu at the Humanist Ambience International School.

“During our school’s open day the children put on a show for their parents, which included acts such as singing, dancing and drama. Along with some of the senior students, myself, and one other teacher hosted the show. One of the acts was a karate demonstration, which left broken pieces of brick all over the stage. Naturally, this horrified the dancers who were supposed to be performing next. So I quickly grabbed a broom, rushed onto the stage and swept the floor, trying my best to keep my sari all in place. When I first jumped onto the stage, broom in hand, everyone seemed to fall into a shocked silence, and after I swept the floor I received a round of applause. I thought the applause was strange, but then I find plenty of things strange in Nepal; so the incident was quickly forgotten. However, last week the students in Class 9 informed me that their parents had been shocked to see a white woman sweeping the floor. I asked them to explain why it was shocking. “Ma’am, because you swept the floor so quickly! Our mothers didn’t know where you learnt to do that!” I started laughing and said to them that “Dirty floors are a universal human problem. If you go to any country in the world you will find women and men who know how to sweep floors.” The class nodded, till one boy put up his hand and said “But Eleanor ma’am, don’t you own a vacuum cleaner in New Zealand?” Kathmandu does not have enough electricity for the whole city so it is rationed with areas having two periods of 10 hours of electricity a day. These periods have a different schedule each day.

Load Shedding is a big deal when trying to live a normal life in Nepal. I’ve mentioned load shedding several times in my blog already, because like I said it’s a big deal. Even for the locals the problem of loading shedding is a big deal, so I don’t feel bad for finding the whole thing to be disruptive and trying. People in Nepal don’t complain about load shedding but I know they find it a trial because it comes up in everyday conversation the way the weather does at home. At home (NZ) we might commonly ask “what’s the weather like outside?” when making small talk. Here people ask “is there light? If there is no light the next question will be “when will there be light. Then when there is power, lots of time has to be spend deciding upon all the tasks that need to be completed before the power goes off again, phones and computers charged, washing, watching TV .”Like us on Facebook Look us up on Facebook, add your views, see Humanist–Atheist–Secular items of interest.facebook.com/HumanistNZ

Last months meeting John Hutcheson gave us a talk entitled, “We’re all in this together – Uniting Secular New Zealand”. Referring to the old trope about herding cats, he pointed out that lions know how to cooperate when they hunt. Diverse as we are, humanists, atheists, theists, sceptics, rationalists, and others can and should cooperate when working together for a common purpose. In March 2012, 30,000 secular people from dozens of different secular groups descended on Washington to remind congress that secularism is valued in America. He spoke of a vision, a cohesive but diverse secular movement; the challenges, the obstacles ahead and why we must do this; and then outlined how it might be achieved. He pointed out that the Religious Right in America had combined to create a large and well funded force for “Theocratic Fascism”, or theofascism. He suggested that a wide secular movement needs to both accept differences while setting aside some issues to keep sight of larger causes. Occasional spats, he said, were both natural and healthy, pointing out that we are not Borgs, or a least not all of us are Borgs. Featured in the Star Trek TV series, the Borgs were a fictional race of cybernetically enhanced humanoids with linked minds and no independent thought who worked together like a hive of bees for a common purpose such as the forcible assimilation of other sentient species.

Referring to the recent visit of Sean Faircloth, John saw Sean’s goal as two fold: to unite the secular movement nationally in the countries he visited, and internationally – New Zealand and America face similar problems, sometimes from the same people. Working together across borders we can influence, or perhaps shame governments into better behaviour. At one level Sean’s visit is a plea for international help against theofascism in America. It cannot be ignored, for the same reason a broken sewer line cannot be ignored. Working together across borders we can influence, or perhaps shame governments into better behaviour. Bringing groups together can create a movement to counter the encroachment of religious imprimaturs in law and culture, create a larger political force, raise the public profile of issues and the movement, and represent the interests of over a million kiwis.

He saw the issues for New Zealand as Religion on Secular Schools, Religion in Politics, abuse, and the low profile of the secular movement. John outlined problems with charter schools overseas, and some of the distorted reasoning given to justify the teaching of creationism in schools before showing a video about the Good News Club, that outlined how religions movements were infiltrating schools in America. He pointed to similar action in New Zealand and how religion was influencing New Zealand politics. The Good News Club, is operating in NZ.

To counter the influence of the religious, he suggested action that secular people could take, such as advocacy, protests, outreach projects, welfare activities, billboards, guerrilla marketing, the internet, and just talking to lots of people. He suggested supporting reproductive rights, involvement with schools to combat church groups critical of teaching evolution as fact, and support for victims of abuse by Catholic priests. Activism, he suggested, has moved on line – there is now a new generation of tech savvy people eager for information, jokes, memes, and humour. Google is a friend, with a little searching you can find rebuttals to propaganda – most nonsense can be debunked in ten minutes. Wikipedia, while not perfect, is a great place to start. Mock their beliefs because it works, and because some of their beliefs are dangerous. By working together, both locally and nationally, he concluded, we can provide significant and perhaps overwhelming opposition to religious imprimaturs in New Zealand law, and internationally in conjunction with overseas groups.

2013 Dates This year our monthly meetings will be on the fourth Monday of the month. Please mark your diaries now.