Humanist NZ Newsletter August 2022

The Humanist Society of New Zealand is a Member Organization of the International Humanist and Ethical Union

Humanist NZ Newsletter August 2022

Kia ora: “Humanists strive to be rational’- this is the second point of the Declaration of Modern Humanism 2022, which continues: “We are convinced that the solutions to the world’s problems lie in human reason, and action. We advocate the application of science and free inquiry to these problems, remembering that while science provides the means, human values must define the ends. We seek to use science and technology to enhance human well-being, and never callously or destructively.”

In the midst of the irrationality that fills our present news it was good to hear in a Radio NZ interview about the Krill Paradox: More Whales, More Plankton, More Krill, More Fish. Whales are not simply a major consumer of krill and fish, but play a critical role in sustaining the very krill and fish populations upon which they feed. When millions of whales were removed from the ocean by commercial whaling, a huge increase in small fish and krill was expected. But the opposite happened. The loss of whales from the ecosystem caused a substantial loss in the volumes of krill and the fish that feed on them. The scientific evidence shows that whales increase, not decrease, the volumes of krill, by enhancing their phytoplankton food source through faecal fertilisation. The faecal fertilisation contains iron, a crucial food source for krill. Increasing numbers of whales has also increased the phytoplankton krill, which produces vital oxygen and is also a carbon sink. A 2014 report by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature shows that krill take up 23,000,000 tonnes of carbon each year. That is equivalent to the weight of 15.2 million cars per year. Five years later, this figure had more than doubled to 35 million cars, as shown in a report published in March 2019 by Ocean Unite. More interesting reading is at A similar inter-relatedness has been found between wolves, deer and the course of the rivers in Yellowstone Park, USA. This fascinating connection is elucidated at

August monthly meeting: ( note Tuesday not Monday)

Meeting Tuesday 2 August 6.30 pm by Meeting and Zoom

Wendy Webber, Programmes Director at GO Humanity – formally Foundation Beyond Belief

Wendy who is visiting New Zealand from the USA will give us an introduction to GO Humanity, which will include their values and philosophy of service, how their Food Security Project works, how they respond to natural and complex humanitarian disasters, and their vetting process for potential partners and grant recipients. Wendy will also talk about how non-US teams can be involved in the Food Security Project. Wendy will welcome our questions following her talk.

Wendy is a graduate of Yale Divinity School, where she was a founder of an atheist, agnostic, and multifaith community that continues to foster inter-belief dialogues and initiatives on campus. She was a Volunteer Coordinator with the Yale Humanist Community. At GO Humanity, Wendy spent a year with Pathfinders Project, an international humanist service project designed to find the location to launch GO Humanity’s own Humanist Action: Ghana. She then served as GO Humanity’s Humanist Disaster Recovery Coordinator and Service Teams Coordinator, and Humanist Action: Ghana – Ghana Co-Administrator. Wendy is now back in the USA and serving as the coordinator of GO Humanity’s programmes. Wendy writes about religion, humanism, and inter-belief engagement primarily for her blog (, State of Formation, and NonProphet Status.

The Mission of GO Humanity: to seek to end poverty and hunger, promote good health and well-being, and foster employment opportunities and economic growth in ways that exemplify humanist values.

The Vision of GO Humanity: envisioning a world in which all people have access to food, water, and life’s basic necessities.

The Humanist Values of Go Humanity:

Humans Helping Humans. Small groups of people who roll up their sleeves to make a difference locally can create a thriving humanity globally. We support the simple idea that humans pitching in to support one another is how we make change.

Shared Power. Local Power. We work together rather than working for or over others. We recognize that people are experts in the needs of their own local communities. We centre and support communities seeking their own liberation and empowerment.

Radical Inclusion. We need many diverse hands working together to build one beautiful world. We invite everyone who shares our values to join us — no exceptions. We aim for the uplift of the whole human family regardless of age, race, colour, national origin or immigration status, body size, disability, relationship style or status, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, conviction history, or other culturally outlawed way of being.

If you can’t make it it person, feel free to join us via Zoom:

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

Wellington Venue: Thistle Inn, 3 Mulgrave St, Thorndon-upstairs

Thistle Inn is temporarily closed on Mondays for the foreseeable future.

  Imprisonment of Mubarak Bala, Nigerian Humanist Society President:       

800 days have now passed with the illegal detention of Mubarak Bala, the President of the Humanist Society of Nigeria. He is being held as a political prisoner in Kano state by the Islamist extremist Dr. Abdullahi Umar Ganduje OFR. We stand with Humanists around the world as we wait, seemingly forever, for Mubarak’s release and reunion with his family and humanist friends.

·     Thank yous: Peter Clemerson has decided to retire from our Humanist NZ committee. Peter spearheaded our committee work with Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). It is difficult to uncover the facts of FGM in New Zealand and Peter was assiduous in following up avenues of investigation for the Humanist NZ submission for the 2020 Crimes (Definition of Female Genital Mutilation) Amendment Bill. Peter acted as a Humanist Marriage Celebrant for a number of years and also gave us presentations at our monthly meetings. Colin Woodhouse is also stepping back from involvement in our committee but will retain his activism with us for the establishment of non-religious Pastoral Counsellors in our hospitals and prisons. A warm and sincere thank you from Humanist NZ to Peter and Colin.

·     Humanists NZ – Palmerston North/Papaioea:.

Keith writes: “Now that we have found a way to live with Covid, we will resume our Inter-Belief programme and warmly invite you to attend. The first meeting of our Festival of Ideas series is on 18 July 6.30-7.45pm at 365 Albert St, Hokowhitu (Library)”. Please indicate attendance by email to Keith. There was a previous notification in the July Newsletter. To be in touch with this group, information is on their Facebook page

Zoom Book Launch: Prophet at the Gate: Norman Murray Bell; and the Quest for Peace

 by New Zealand Humanist Wayne Facer

Saturday 20 August 2022 at 5.00 pm -approximately one hour

Zoom link:

Meeting ID: 874 5907 0550  Passcode: 856115

Comment from Sir Lloyd Geering: “Norman Murray Bell deserves to have his life recorded and I enjoyed reading it and seeing the grand collection of photos.”

David Hines will welcome the speakers: Peter Lineham, Professor of History Massey University, Brent Efford, son of Lincoln Efford, a contemporary of Bell, who remembers meeting Norman Murray Bell, and author Wayne Facer

When the army up called up Norman Bell in 1917, Norman flatly refused and was imprisoned for two years with hard labour. As one of New Zealand’s 2,320 military defaulters from the First World War, his civil rights were curtailed for ten years. This book details Norman Bell’s peace activities as well as his leadership in the Unitarian movement.

Another conscientious objector in World War 1 was Archibald Baxter who wrote of his horrific experience in his autobiography We Will Not Cease. (1939) The stories of peace heroes and anti-war activists, are an important but neglected part of New Zealand and world history. This further documentation of Norman Bell’s peace activism by Wayne Facer is as Laurie Ross from New Zealand Nuclear Free Peacemakers says:” Prophet at the Gate is a major contribution in the documentation of NZ peace history. Peace workers continue the noble tradition of cultivating civic pride in higher social values of humanity and the spiritual struggle for human goodness, truth and beauty.”

Graham Murphy, writer and reviewer for Faith and Freedom, Oxford says: “Wayne Facer’s biography details family history, school career, and the lasting effects of Bell’s devotion to peace.”

Wayne Facer’s book is particularly poignant as we watch on our screens and read in our newsfeeds the effect of wars still being fought today. It is dismaying to google the entry –List of ongoing armed conflicts-Wikipedia  and see present day conflicts and resulting deaths. Along with Ukraine there are 10 current conflicts

Wayne Facer has previously written A Vision Splendid: The Influential Life of William Jellie: A British Unitarian in New Zealand Paperback (2017) This book deals with New Zealand’s early history, Unitarianism, trade unionism, worker’s education and the fight for secular education.

In our world where religion is increasingly associated with hatred, bigotry, fanaticism, violence and misogyny, Jellie’s story provides an alternative – a vision splendid – where values rooted in the liberal religious tradition are the ones helpful in promoting social justice, protecting the powerless and reducing social and economic inequality. It is a story in which inspiration can be found as work continues for fairness in society, equality of opportunity, and the enrichment of the human spirit.

HOW TO PURCHASE BOOK: the book may be purchased whether you attend the Zoom meeting or not:

Options for buying book                                                                                                                         

1.New book only (Prophet at the Gate) = $35.75 includes GST and postage

2.New book (Prophet at the Gate) plus A Vision Splendid 2nd edition (half price) = $50 includes GST and postage

To buy book(s)

·         Deposit into Auckland Unitarian Bank account; 02-0100-0024691-00 and note name, and book in the payee instructions

·         Send the following details to or phone Viv at 021550180

·         Which option (1 or 2)

·         Postal address

·         Name you would like Wayne to write in the book when signing your copy

·         Email and Phone number in case we need to contact you

BOOK REVIEW: Prophet at the Gate: Norman Murray Bell and the Quest for Peace

by Laurie Ross New Zealand Nuclear Free Peacemakers

The stories of our peace heroes and anti-war activists, are an important but neglected part of New Zealand and world history. Thankfully some are being documented, even though they are not given the attention they deserve by society. Politicians, mainstream media, schools and education curriculums focus on warfare competition and victories, war heroes, sporting champions, movie stars etc. They seldom feature the Peace Leaders of the nation and their sacrifice for the good of humanity. One NZ Peace worker who deserves public recognition was Norman Murray Bell (1887-1962) whose life has been illuminated in Prophet at the Gate thanks to historian and author Wayne Facer.

The title refers to the ‘Prophetic’ nature of those who speak in a visionary way for good against evil. Norman Bell dedicated his life to speaking truth to power fighting for justice and the higher values of humanity. This means resisting the mainstream cultural indoctrination and participation in warfare that kills millions of people. These are the principles of the Peace Movement developed by organisations and strong individuals around the world. Bell’s major contribution was being a public ‘Pacifist’ opposing the warfare mentality and military coercion during the years 1914 -1946 (the World War I and II periods).

After achieving outstanding academic qualifications at universities e.g. London and Cambridge UK, Bern Switzerland, Bell returned to NZ in 1917. However, he refused to comply with the NZ Military Service Act, so was court marshalled and imprisoned for two years hard labour (one of 2320 NZ military defaulters in World War I). He was debarred from teaching in government schools, deprived of civil rights for 10 years and omitted from the Canterbury University scholarship record.

In 1919 Bell campaigned for the Conscientious Objectors Fellowship. He published his booklet A Gospel of Universal Compassion as the foundation thesis for rejection of war and violence.

In 1934 Bell was voted national president of the No More War Movement campaign. He founded the Free Religious Movement when in charge of the Christchurch Unitarian Church (after Rev. James Chapple had retired). He was influenced by the Socialist (Labour) Church founded by Harry Atkinson, involvement with the National Peace Council, the Movement against War and Fascism and the NZ Labour Party. He championed Samoan Independence, Animal Rights, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom and Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.

The story of Norman Bell’s ‘Quest for Peace’, is a biography of his whole life, teaching at the WEA, private tutoring and a superb lecture series for the Unitarian Fellowship. He was an ardent scholar and advocated appreciation of all religions. He was also an early champion of Maori culture, spirituality and elevation of Maori in NZ society. Bell was from a family of free thinkers who came to NZ in 1862 to help establish a non-conformist Christian community at Albertland in the Kaipara. Bell pursued spiritual ideals which led to a mystical experience in 1930 that deepened his Reverence for Life to embrace vegetarianism, refusing to kill animals for food.

Bell was outstanding in his intellectual mastery of multiple subjects: languages (Hebrew, Greek, Latin, German French, Maori, and Esperanto), science (chemistry), education and arts, philosophy and theology. This was especially notable in the early 1900s when New Zealand was emerging as an educated Western nation, far from European centres of culture and academia. The term polymath is associated with the ideal of Renaissance Humanism for a person with this capacity for knowledge across the whole spectrum of human thought.

The book puts Bell into the historical context of recognised Peace Heroes in New Zealand e.g. Parihaka in 1866 with Te Whiti’s non-violent resistance to British military, Archibald Baxter a WWI conscientious objector 1914-18 (who wrote We Will not Cease), as well as those overseas e.g. Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Waldo Emerson, Albert Schweitzer, Karl Popper, Bertrand Russell, etc.

For over 40 years Bell engaged with notable NZ thought leaders for peace and justice e.g. Bob Semple, Fred and Sarah Page, Charles Mackie, Ormond Burton, Archibald Barrington, Lincoln Efford, Walter Walsh, Ursula Bethell, Frederick Sinclaire, Kathleen and Thurlow Thompson, Elsie Locke, plus Bloomsbury South artists, authors, composers, e.g. Rita Angus, Douglas Lilburn, Dennis Glover, etc. who all opposed militarism and warfare. More could be added to this list, plus a new list of the anti-nuclear peace activists of this nation.

This reveals the rich tapestry of interweaving threads of individuals involved in building the NZ Peace Movement of 1912-1962. The author Wayne Facer gives praise where it is due and helps to fill the gap in our collective national memory and consciousness.

However, sadly we come to realize that Bell is a prophet without honour in his own country. Peace Heroes are mostly unrecognized during their lives and even after death-forgotten. New Zealand History, should place ‘peace leaders’ at the forefront of NZ culture and identity.

The author ends the book with a chapter introducing a recent Peace Hero Larry Ross, who immigrated to Christchurch from Montreal Canada with his wife and 6 children. His purpose was to work more effectively for prevention of nuclear war, nuclear disarmament and survival of a nuclear holocaust. He arrived in New Zealand in 1962 the year that Norman Murray Bell died.

About the reviewer: Larry Ross established the Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation 1964 (Australasian Branch) then in 1981 the New Zealand Nuclear Free Zone Committee. The campaign achieved this policy at the 1984 election, enshrined as legislation 1987. He continued working for NZ peacemaking in defence and foreign policies until his death 2012. This is the subject for another book that needs to be written for future generations to understand the legacy of the NZ peace movement.

Prophet at the Gate is a major contribution in the documentation of NZ peace history. It is published by Blackstone Editions, Toronto, Canada, 2021. Peace workers continue the noble tradition of cultivating civic pride in higher social values of humanity and the spiritual struggle for human goodness, truth and beauty.