Kia ora: Congratulations to all persons from the NoGod committee, HSNZ and NZARH, involved with the Atheist Billboard campaign!!!!!!

August monthly meeting:
Monday 2 August Turnbull House, Bowen Street, Wellington. We meet from 7.30 pm until 9.00 pm
Richard Dawkins discusses ‘The Enemies of Reason and Slaves to Superstition.’

This is your chance to see Richard Dawkins on a bigger screen investigating religion and superstion.

July Meeting
Last month John gave us an informative meeting, discussing some of the important work done by amateur astronomers. We learnt why, in this age of automated equipment, amateur astronomers spread around the world spend many hours using nothing more than a pair of binoculars, to make essential judgements on the brilliance of variable stars, by comparing their brightness to that of nearby reference stars, and also in the search for comets and asteroids. A discussion followed that broadened into other aspects of astronomy and the cosmos. Thank you John for the talk and for enlightening us.

· Radio Access: Humanist Outlook
Future broadcasts at 10.30am on 783 kHz Wellington, on Saturday, 21 August, 18 September, 16 October, and 13 November, and 11 December.

Please note: the new time slot. Humanist Outlook is now broadcast 10:30 am on Saturday mornings from Wellington on 783 kHz every fourth Saturday.
If you are outside the Wellington radiobroadcast area, go to www.accessradio.org.nz to listen or to download a pod cast after the event.

Atheist Bus campaign:
Our case is being considered by Te Tari Whakatau Take Tika Tangata – The Office of Human Rights Proceedings. We are still waiting to hear their decision.

For updates see: www.nogod.nz . Follow the links to Face Book and Twitter.
You can express your opinion. So far 92.5% of people have said that the NZ Bus decision to ban the adverting is unfair and discriminatory. See: http://www.stuff.co.nz/dominion-post/national/3366649/Atheists-claim-bias-over-rejection-of-No-God-ads

You can also vote on the existence of god!
http://www.stuff.co.nz/oddstuff/3149823/Theres-probably-no-God-coming-to-a-bus-near-you . To date 58% have said that there is no God.

Atheist Billboard campaign:
Because of delays in the Atheist Bus campaign, nogod.org.nz decided to divert some of the money donated, towards the placement of billboards in Auckland, Wellington, and Christchurch. The billboards have now been in place since the 1st and 2nd July. Included with this newsletter are photographs of some of the billboards. The organising committee secured a very good site in Wellington on Aotea Quay opposite the Stadium. The slogan of this billboard was “GOOD WITHOUT GOD ? OVER ONE MILLION KIWIS ARE.”. It looked superb. Driving into Wellington and there it was, on the left! We looked forward to droves of Wellingtonians driving past on weekday mornings, and other passing traffic during the day and weekends. Sadly, this billboard had to be removed, to another less advantageous position, because the CEO of the land owning company, CentrePort, objected.

The development of billboard technology means that billboard vinyls can be reused up to maybe ten times. Consequently, the nogod committee reopened the donations slot of their website www.nogod.org.nz for people to contribute money to an installation fund, outside the main centres of Auckland, Wellington, and Christchurch, with donors able to suggest locations where they would like to see a billboard. Keep an eye open to see where a bill board may pop up next!

You are welcome to donate to this cause. All donations, big or small, are welcome, and can be used to claim a rebate. To donate, visit www.nogod.org.nz or send a cheque made out to Atheist Advertising to PO Box 3372, Wellington. Donations are tax deductible and are held in trust by HSNZ and only used for the purpose intended.

2010 Skeptics Conference:
13-15 August 2010 Butterfly Creek, Auckland. Check out www.skeptics.org.nz for the Conference timetable which includes fire-walking during the Friday night opening activities. Simon Fisher of the Nogod ad campaign will be speaking as part of the Saturday programme.

2010 AGM and Seminar:
We will hold our AGM and Seminar in October. More information in September newsletter. 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.

Submission to the Department of Labour on Immigration policies for religious workers in NZ:
The Department of Labour is reviewing the immigration policy for religious workers and asked for submissions. Their proposal essentially maintains the status quo where a limited number of religious workers are allowed into New Zealand to perform religious functions for members of religious groups where this need cannot be met from within New Zealand. Our submission points out that the present and proposed policy probably breach New Zealand Human Rights legislation as it does not make provision for and consequently discriminates against people of non-faith based communities. It cautions that changes to the policy might unintentionally open the gates for members of some communities who deem all members to be religious workers and that an increased number of Religious workers in New Zealand is unlikely to provide a positive contribution to the country.

Gisborne Group: Gisborne Lunar Society.
John Marks, a Humanist Society member, has formed a satellite group in Gisborne to which all interested persons are invited. Their group takes its name from the 18th C. Lunar Society which met in Birmingham, England from 1765 until 1813. This Society included such eminent persons as Erasmus Darwin, Josiah Wedgewood, James Watt, and Joseph Priestly. They were all eminent scientists and businessmen who were rebelling against the religious strictures placed on scientific endeavour. They met during the full moon to make travelling home easier, as there was no street lighting in those days! Today, the Gisborne Lunar Society also meets during the full moon – once a month on the Sunday nearest the full moon. For the month of August the group will meet on Sunday 22 August between 11 am and 12 noon at the Cafe Villaggio, 57 Ballance St., Gisborne. After enjoying their meeting coffee, some may stay on to lunch together. To acknowledge the Enlightenment to which we are all indebted, the Gisborne Lunar Society uses the French Revolutionary Calendar. In other words, the 22 August 2010 is also 5 Fructidor of the Year 217. Among the wide ranging topics discussed is the dilemma of Turkey and its request to join the EU.

Wise Tip:
The secret of action is to begin!

Gaylene Middleton

2009/2010 Subscriptions: subscriptions remain unchanged and are now overdue. Renewal forms were posted with a newsletter to members last year. A pdf version is attached to this email newsletter and may also be used to renew your subscription, but, be certain to put your name and address on it.

No God Billboards in New Zealand

“No God” bill boards, funded by public donations, have been seen in the three largest cities in New Zealand during July. Three designs were selected by popular vote from many suggested by the “No God” advertising group who went on to arrange the production and erection of the signs with administrative support from the Humanist Society of New Zealand. The Humanist Society of New Zealand holds the donated money in Trust for Atheist Advertising and all signs carry the message: “Authorised by the Humanist Society of New Zealand (Inc.), PO Box 3372, Wellington” and the web addresses of the No God group, the Humanist Society of New Zealand, and the New Zealand Association of Rationalists and Humanists who contributed to the fund raising.

You can help give these signs exposure in smaller centres. To contribute, send a cheque made out to “Atheist Advertising”, c/o Humanist Society of New Zealand, PO Box 3372, Wellington, or visit the No God website www.NoGod.org.nz to make a donation on line. Donations are tax deductible.

The three designs chosen, their locations, and photographs of them installed follow.

Design 1.

Installed: Parnell Rise, Auckland; Boulcott Street, Wellington, and Lincoln Road, Christchurch.
Parnell Rise, Auckland
Photo: Roadside

Design 2

Installed:

Newton Road, Newton, Auckland; Waterloo Quay, Wellington (initially) and Victoria Street Wellington.
Victoria Street, Wellington
Photo: Iain Middleton

Design 3

Installed: South Eastern Highway, Mt. Wellington, Auckland; Willis Street (near Lambton Quay corner); and Whiteleigh Avenue, Christchurch.
Whiteleigh Avenue, Christchurch
Photo: Roadside

Why I am a Humanist

CHARLES MURRAY

To Be or Not to Be?

When did you first know, or even suspect, that you were a Humanist? With some it starts early. For many, it is a slow and painful adjustment in later life, a gradual recognition that man created his own gods. For me, the seeds of doubt were sown when, growing up in Scotland, I became a nine-year-old altar boy. The summer influx of visitors to our seaside town meant that the milkman needed extra help with deliveries. For the handsome, sorely-needed reward of two shillings and sixpence, I undertook to work seven mornings per week – which meant missing Mass on Sundays.

Summer over, I returned to the fold and humbly revealed my sins. There were times when we had little to confess. My brothers and I sometimes hatched up some beauties on our way to church, but this was serious. I would get, at least, a penance of three Our Fathers and ten Hail Marys. The priest was a good, kind man, no doubt fully aware of the reason for my absence. He spoke in firm tones. This was a Mortal Sin that left an indelible black mark on my soul. I might never be allowed to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. The blot on my escutcheon stuck with me. I didn’t brood over it, but it was always there.

I quite enjoyed leading the priest down the aisle, resplendent in his chasuble, while I distributed incense from my freely-swinging thurible. At the back of my mind the thought that persisted was: should I persevere with my rosary beads, plus an occasional Apostles’ Creed, or should I just surrender to the Forces of Darkness? My chances of getting to heaven were a bit slim. I began to give it deeper thought when I was fourteen and living here, in Australia. By that age I was into serious reading. I grew up in a generation of readers. We didn’t have the distractions of radio, television, and computers. A paperback edition of H. G. Wells’s The Short History of the World (non-fiction) started me off on a long pursuit of enlightenment.

Working on Sydney building sites in the 1940s and ’50s, I was always involved in lunch-hour discussions. Perched on carpenters’ stools, timber stacks and wheelbarrows, the languages and topics were a boiling mixture of life experience, coloured with wit and profanity, rather than the philosophies of higher education. Religion was far from being a forbidden subject. It was during one of those noisy, but mainly good-humoured, uproars that I had to admit I had long parted with belief in the supernatural, whether it be fairy stories or folk tales — or religion, which seemed to be a mixture of both.

Among the remarks that I was ‘a bloody heathen’ and an ‘effin’ no-hoper’, it was generously acknowledged that I wasn’t completely devoid of manners and mateship. What was I? Benny, the plumber from Holland, had some answers. He told us of being suddenly recruited to, resist the Second World War invasion of his homeland. He enlisted, went into action, was wounded and was taken prisoner all on the same day. He spent the ensuing years as a prisoner of war. One of his German guards was a studious, friendly soul, too old to be influenced by the Hitler Youth Movement, too tottery to serve in the front line. He willingly helped the prisoner to keep in touch with his family.

Befriended by the enemy and with plenty of time for reading and discussion, Benny followed in the footsteps of his captor: he became a Humanist. That was the word I wanted. I knew it, but without the capital letter. Rather than a divine revelation, it simply established that there were many in the world – and had been for centuries – who thought as I did. I recognised that the myths and legends of the all-powerful God, the miracles, life after death, were fantasy, even though they were cherished, but not shared, by so many creeds, cults, and sects. They were the outcome of the human refusal to accept that, like all other forms of life, we too will die.

Rather than a divine revelation, it simply established that there were many in the world – and had been for centuries – who thought as I did. I recognised that the myths and legends of the all-powerful God, the miracles, life after death, were fantasy.

At the age of ninety-four, my Humanist principles are . more firmly in place than ever. Despite that, looking over my extended family of four generations, I find I am the only atheist. Where did I go wrong? Dally Messenger provided some answers in his article about secular ceremony (AH No. 96). Because of family and social connections, I have now been to Presbyterian services, Catholic Christenings, Anglican and Hebrew weddings. I have still to venture into the wider (narrower?) world of Islam and beyond.

At all of these functions, there was ample evidence of the human need to belong. No doubt there were internal differences. All groups of humanity encounter this problem — even the Humanists. But there was the basic warmth of not being an outsider. Special events are enriched by ceremony. It induces the feeling of having a place in the scheme of things. That is why so many cling to beliefs that defy common sense. As Dally Messenger wrote, ceremony doesn’t have to be confused with religion.

For the Humanist, there is no magical moment of enlightenment, no blessings from above. All that is needed is a firm grip on reality, awareness of what is going on in the world around you, plus understanding and compassion. Apparently, a little ceremony now and then doesn’t hurt.

Charles Murray, is a NSW Humanist and Honorary president of the Robert Burns World Federation.

From Australian Humanist No. 97 Autumn 2010