Kia ora: Professor Lloyd Geering’s talk at the October Science Express @ Te Papa was very well received by the large number of people who attended. A very appealing idea of Professor Geering’s is that a motif of future human thought and consideration of the meaning of our existence must include a ‘sense of awe, a marvelling at our natural world.’ This thought is also expressed in the Victorian Humanist, October 2010, editorial by Dan Kerr, their webmaster (included below). Brian, a Christchurch Humanist, shares this view. He considers that Humanist Societies should not concentrate on ‘God’, or anti-god issues, but instead look at the Universe with awe and reflect on the discoveries that are being made. I have noticed in recent issues of New Humanist, the British Humanist Association publication, that there have been several cosmology items. In the May/June edition there was a Hubble telescope photo taken in 1995 of the Eagle Nebula, 6,500 light years away in the Serpens constellation. Our Sun, was born four and a half billion years ago in a stellar nursery just like the Eagle Nebula. In the July/August magazine, they included an image from NASA’S Spitzer Space Telescope showing us what will become of our star, the Sun, in five billion years. They have headed the photo ‘the Eye of Sauron.’ It is an image of the Helix Nebula, 700 light years away in the constellation of Aquarius. The Dominion Post, Friday 22 October, had a small item from the journal Nature, reporting that astronomers have spotted the oldest galaxy yet seen, born just 600 million years after the Big Bang. This galaxy’s light first stared travelling 13 billion years ago, right after the Big Bang. And recently it was announced that a planet has been discovered in the Goldilocks zone of a star just twenty light years away that might support carbon based life similar to our own.

2010 AGM and Seminar

AGM: Sunday 31 October 10.30 am Turnbull House Please contact us with any items you would like us to consider. It would be great if you would give some thought to joining us on our committee. The more members we have means that more may be accomplished.

Annual Seminar: Reflections on Censorship

Sunday 31 October 1:30 pm – 3:30 pm. Followed by refreshments 3:30 – 4:00 pm
Mezzanine Meeting Room Wellington Central Library

Presented by – His Honour Judge Hastings

Judge Hastings – pictured at right – is an informative and entertaining speaker.

Are you concerned about censorship, or just interested? Do we have too much censorship, or too little? Have you been censored? Hear what Judge Hastings has to say and contribute to the discussion that follows.

Following the Seminar, as it is our Treasurer’s birthday, we will go to the Duxton Grill, Wakefield St., for a light meal and some of us will finish off the day by attending Leonard Cohen’s concert.

• We acknowledge the financial support of the Eileen Bone Humanist Trust for our annual Seminar

November monthly meeting: Monday 1 November

Darwin’s Cathedral – Evolution, Religion and the Nature of Society by David Sloan Wilson Ph.D University of Chicago Press, 2002

Vincent Gray will discuss David Wilson’s book Darwin’s Cathedral, where David suggests that it is now credible to consider evolution is taking place not only through mutation and selection at the individual level but also through adaptations at the level of social groups. In the latter half of the 20th Century an “age of individualism” reigned which disclaimed any role for society. However, more recently discoveries in evolutionary biology have reasserted the critical role of social groups.

Venue for meeting: Turnbull House, Wellington. We meet from 7.30 pm until 9.00 pm

December Monthly meeting: Monday 6 December
Our end of year function! A meal together. Any suggestions? For conversation, we can share our favourite marvelling moment for 2010 and a special hope for 2011!

Radio Access: Humanist Outlook, 10.30am, 783 kHz Wellington, on Saturday 13 November, & 11 December.

Atheist Billboard campaign: Three billboards are to be relocated. Installation will be on Monday 1 November. Two are to be in Hamilton and one will be in New Plymouth. A photo of a billboard near you, if you are resident in either of these places will be warmly received by www.nogod.org.nz

IHEU World Congress 2011, Oslo, Norway: The 18th World Congress will be held in Oslo, Norway between 12 & 14 August 2011. An interview with Kristin Mile is included with this newsletter. Norway’s Humanist Association, the largest in the world has 76,000 members. There is a link to the Congress from the IHEU website www.iheu.org. The programme includes sessions on Humanist Ceremonies and an interesting subject, Man, a peaceful creature? Registration and details of rates will be available online in November 2010.

Obituary: Claire Rayner who has been the IHEU Vice President since 2004 died in early October. Claire was also a past President from 1999 until 2004.

Gaylene Middleton

VICTORIAN HUMANIST

Dan Kerr

A HUMANIST PARENT’S DILEMMA

It is both a joy and a challenge being a modern father, as I strive to ensure my child grows up unencumbered by dogma and free to explore life without the religious baggage many of us carried.

I didn’t find religion until my early teens so I went through those precious early years minus the influence. Perhaps this is the reason I was prepared to question what I was being told, particularly at the Christian camp I attended twice a year. Mill Valley Ranch (which still runs today) was devastatingly successful at turning heathens into good Christian soldiers. It was very appealing to an impressionable and confused kid with divorced parents and step-parents entering the scene. And while the experience was only positive for me at the time it never quite satisfied me. When I began to attend Sunday school, my inquisitive nature led me to ask a lot of questions that rarefy got answered satisfactorily. I could tell even at that age when an answer was well rehearsed.

When the answers were forthcoming a theme began to emerge. The world is a horrible place, full of misery and nastiness, and only by accepting Jesus will you find any hope. Recently I downloaded an audio sermon for young teens at a local church and was once again saddened to find that this bleak outlook is still being fed to young impressionable minds. I try to imagine my daughter sitting amongst these kids listening to such dangerously alarmist and false views about the world we live in, and my heart sinks for them all. As Matt Ridley attests in his new book, The Rational Optimist How Prosperity Evolves, such apocalyptic pessimism about the future of our species is totally unfounded. There are more things to be optimistic about now than ever before. We have plenty of reasons to be thankful, yet another generation of children is being brought up with fear as their motivator for finding meaning.

On another occasion I attended a small church in Box Hill and, while most of the service was harmless, I was once again disturbed when the preacher addressed a girl of around five-years-bid, asking her to describe hell. While her answer was also well rehearsed it was difficult to listen to. Outside of a religious setting this kind of mental coercion would be considered child abuse.

I don’t know what the answer is, other than to get critical thinking skills taught early in a child’s schooling. Aside from that I am left in the uncomfortable position of being reluctant to place my child within the grasp of such depressing and effective organisations both at school and when she wishes to attend events with church-going friends.

Many of these questions are addressed in a compelling book, called Raising Freethinkers, A Practical Guide for Parenting Beyond Belief. It offers many solutions for the secular parent living in a religiously dominated world. It is resources such as this and the importance of finding like-minded parents in the community that will prove most beneficial for myself and other new parents, while we do the best we can to instill wonder and curiosity of the natural world in our children.

Dan Kerr, webmaster.

Republished from VICTORIAN HUMANIST October 2010 Volume 49, No. 9

The Monthly newsletter of the Humanist Society of Victoria Inc.

www.victorianhumanist.com


Interview

International Humanist News interviews: KRISTIN MILE

Preparations for the 2011 Congress

The 2011 World Humanist Congress will be held in Oslo, Norway, in August next year. Humanists, atheists, freethinkers, secularists, skeptics, and others will meet for the tri-annual congress. IHN interviewed Kristin Mile, – pictured at right – Secretary-General of Norwegian Humanist Association, about the preparations for such a large event.

IHN: Are you busy with Congress preparations yet?

Mile: Yes! The Norwegian Humanist Association (NHA) is proud to have been granted the opportunity to host the World Congress in Oslo in 2011. We are excited and anxious to see how the program will be received and how many participants we will get. And we are very much looking forward to seeing numerous Humanists in Oslo next year.

IHN: When did you start the planning for the 2011 Congress?

Mile: We initiated internal discussions during the fall of 2006, and the board of the NHA concluded that they would apply to host the 2011 Congress. We indicated that the main theme would be Humanism and Peace, and the application was approved by the IHEU in June 2007. This allowed us to start planning the Congress in more detail.

IHN: How is the work organised?

Mile: The NHA board has the overall responsibility of organising the Congress, and the planning and coordination is carried out by a Congress committee and two sub-committees; a program committee and an organising committee. Recently we also appointed a cultural committee for the Congress. Employees of the NHA and a PCO (Professional Congress Organiser) make sure the registrations, hotel bookings and other practical tasks are carried out.

IHN: How many people are involved in the preparations?

Mile: At this point in time there are about 20 people, employees and volunteers, involved in the preparations on different levels. As we continue the preparations, more and more people will be involved, and during the Congress itself there will be a substantial number of volunteers contributing.

IHN: What will be the main differences from previous Congresses?

Mile: Humanism and Peace is definitively an important international subject/issue, which has not been the theme for a Congress before. We will invite the delegates to an inspiring and varied Congress featuring excellent and internationally known speakers and contributors. We are aiming for a varied program, but will also offer additional workshops on interesting subjects before and after the Congress. We hope that the Congress will attract Humanists from all over the world, and therefore the NHA has given a generous contribution to the IHEU Travel Fund. Hopefully this will allow many people an opportunity to attend the Congress.

IHN: How does the Congress theme tie in with Oslo’s identity?

Mile: Oslo is the oldest of the Scandinavian capitals, although not the largest. It is a pleasant city with over 500 000 inhabitants, and has become an attractive tourist and conference city. A focus on Peace is one of the things that have made Oslo famous. This is where the Nobel Peace Prize is awarded in December each year, and there have also been several peace negotiations in Oslo, amongst them the Oslo Accords. Norway has played a crucial role in the UN’s work throughout the years and has held many of the important offices related to peace and stability in the world’s more unstable countries.

IHN: How many delegates do you expect, and from where?

Mile: We hope that many Humanists and Humanist organisations will be present in Oslo next year. We are optimistic and hope to see between 600 and 800 participants at the Congress. We envisage that our Scandinavian neighbours, Western Europe and USA will be well represented, and we also welcome participants from Eastern Europe. In addition we hope that Humanists from active organisations all over the world will make their way to Oslo. We expect to see delegates from as far away as India and Nepal, Australia and New Zealand, Nigeria and Uganda, Brazil and Argentina.

IHN: How is the Congress financed?

Mile: The 2011 Congress, like previous ones, will be financed mainly through participants’ fees. In addition the NHA will partly subsidise the social events to make this an interesting and inclusive Congress.

IHN: So why should people come to this Congress?

Mile: The most important thing with an international Congress like this is to gather Humanists from all over the world, so that they can exchange experiences, challenges and opinions. We hope to be able to offer a professionally interesting, varied and exciting program that will satisfy the expectations of the participants. And last, but not least, we hope that as many as possible will have the time and opportunity to get to know our beautiful capital. It may be small in size, but offers history, culture and beautiful scenery. I also hope that some of the participants will be able to combine the Congress with a holiday to allow them to experience more of the beauty that Norway offers. I would like to invite everyone to follow the updates on the Congress website in the months to come on http://human.no/oslo2011 or http://hef.medii.no/?div_id=1&pag_id=1 .

Pictured right is Oslo’s inner harbour with Aker Brygge and the City Hall

Photo: Visit OSLO Gunnar Strom

Reproduced from International Humanist News August 2010