Kia ora:

The snow has come! We think of those in Christchurch without heating and outside Port-a-loos!

August monthly meeting: Monday 1 August

2010 Global Atheist Convention – Melbourne, Australia

In 2010 over 2,500 people gathered in Melbourne to celebrate global atheism.

We will revisit this convention with a closer look at some of the speakers, and hear what they said.

Venue for meeting:

Turnbull House, Bowen Street, Wellington.

We meet from 7.30 pm until 9.00 pm

A DVD has been produced with selected extracts from the presentations.

The DVD is approximately 6 hours 30, minutes long while the conference had some 16.5 hours of speakers and entertainment. The selection on the DVD includes:

Richard Dawkins: On gratitude for Evolution and the Evolution of Gratitude;

AC Grayling: Professor of Philosophy at University of London, Atheism, Secularism, Humanism. Three Zones of Argument;

Taslima Nasrin: exiled Bangladeshi doctor and author, My Struggle for Secularism, Human Rights, Freedom of Expression and for Women’s Freedom;

PZ Myers: US biology professor, zoologist and long time critic of Creationism, The inescapable Conflict between Science and Religion;

Peter Singer: Australian philosopher and Professor of Bioethics at Princeton University, Ethics without Religion.

The DVD can be purchased at .

The DVD cost is AUS$29.95 and shipping (Air Mail Zone B-Asia Pacific ) is AUS$13.40 giving a total cost of AUS$43.35

Last month’s meeting:
A discussion on the documentary, Collision. The documentary itself was interesting if a little frustrating with its populist format. The technique used was rapid fire with short segments from the debates held around the US. It was difficult to follow the development of a line of argument before it cut to another scene. Christopher Hitchens and Pastor Wilson were asked about the religious-secular situation in Denmark and Norway. Peter Clemerson has an article “Living Without Religion”, that discusses this topic in our soon to be published New Zealand Humanist No 160. However, we did not get to hear their answers because they were edited out.

Radio Access:

Humanist Outlook, 10.30 am, 783 kHz Wellington, on Saturday 20 August, 17 September, 15 October, 12 November, 10 December.

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 to listen or to download as a pod cast after the event.

Oslo, Norway, and the IHEU World Congress 2011:

Our thoughts are with the people of Oslo and fellow Norwegian Humanists as they prepare for the 18th World Congress to be held in Oslo, between 12 & 14 August 2011. The dreadful massacre by rightwing extremist Anders Breivik must be overshadowing their preparations. Stephen Stuart the President of the Humanist Society of Victoria, Australia will be attending this conference. There is a link to the Congress from the IHEU website

News of Members:

A long time Wellington member, Peggy Slater, has been unable to attend monthly meetings recently because of failing health. We do miss Peggy and would like to acknowledge her unique contribution to the Humanist Society. Peggy was the first Humanist Marriage Celebrant in Wellington and worked with Frank Dungy in the cause of Voluntary Euthanasia. She was awarded the Ray Carr Award. (We are always pleased to hear news of members, so do be in touch.)


Dave Bowron, a long standing Christchurch member died on 1 June at aged 88. Dave was a kind, principled and intelligent man who loved fly fishing. With his love for the rivers of Canterbury Dave was active in submission writing to the District Council over their water irrigation policies. Dave was born into a Methodist family, and became very active in a Presbyterian parish. As a Tanner he visited India and Pakistan several times and was horrified by the poverty he saw, especially the plight of the untouchable caste who also work in the Tanning industry. This experience caused Dave to question religion and on his return to NZ, withdrew from his Parish, causing much consternation. Dave enjoyed very much the writings of Lloyd Geering and joined the Humanist Society. The Christchurch earthquake on 22 February caused considerable damage to their home and Dave and his wife Angela moved to Cromwell to be with family. Dave suffered a severe stoke and died surrounded by his family and with his dog. Dave enjoyed receiving our magazine and newsletter and we have appreciated his support. Thank you Angela for sharing your recollections of David.

Support for Clive Solomon:

Clive Solomon is a Wanganui District councillor who is attempting to stop the use of an opening prayer at Council meetings as part of the council’s formal business. We have been in supportive communication with Clive and Iain has sent out information via an email News Bulletin #76 11 July 2011

The July/August 2011 issue of The Humanist has a topical excerpt from their “50 years ago”…. file:

“Humanists should take special pride and joy in the unanimous Supreme Court decision in favour of Roy R. Torcaso, the Maryland citizen who challenged his state’s antiquated laws requiring a notary public to declare his belief in the existence of God. No Supreme Court decision in our history has more clearly established the right of an American not to believe.

Justice Black, who writes better prose than most of his associates, said: “We repeat and again reaffirm that neither a State nor the Federal Government can constitutionally force a person ‘to profess a belief or disbelief in any religion.’”

Paul Blanchard,

“The Right Not to Believe” The Humanist July/August 1961

The Four Horsemen:

The Four Horsemen at the 2012 Global Atheist Convention in Melbourne 13-15 April 2012– see .


On a recent QI programme with Steven Fry and his panel, Steven asked how many legs a centipede had. One panellist insisted that they have no legs having claws instead. After the general hilarity this programme engenders and the correct answer given by Stephen the panellist cried out “You mean there is no Centa-claws!”

Michael Werner

Why Half the People Joining Churches Choose the Mega Variety

The Willow Creek Church in suburban Chicago is the largest, most influential church in the United States. It has over 23,000 Sunday attendees but, more importantly, it provides the model and training for over 13,000 affiliate megachurches. It was founded in 1975 by Bill Hybels, who marketed not to existing Christians but to the vast numbers of the unchurched (now 16 percent of the population according to the recent PEW study). He picked a mall architect to design Willow Creek with no obvious religious symbols and offered “seeker” services with catchy secular music, short morality plays, and humor rather than overt religious language. The idea here is to ease unformed minds and hearts into a “spiritual” life and then on to full-blown Evangelicalism. The seeker service is a great show and overall carries a fairly humanist message.

Willow Creek Church attends to people’s needs for community and support by placing them in small groups of similar people. If you are a divorced mother in her thirties with a past alcohol problem they probably have a group for you. You don’t see many older people. The slick and professional staff receive reviews each Monday. It’s a model many churches see as the future of religion, and it’s successfully attracting humanism’s target market.

The unchurched are those who weren’t brought up in a strong religious setting or merely drifted away from it without any angst. Now they find themselves searching for answers to the big questions in life: What’s true? What stories do I tell my children? How can I deal with loneliness? What happens when I die? Am I moral? How can I experience great awe and wonder? How can I rebuild my shattered life? The folks at Willow Creek Church provide answers, and they do it methodically, humanely, and attentively.

Even so, why don’t more of the unchurched move toward humanism? Why do we meet such stubborn resistance and hostility in the general population? Much of it is related to fear—fear that if you don’t believe in God you don’t believe in anything; fear that your life is meaningless without religion; fear that you will be ostracized from your family and the general society; fear that only religion can raise our transcendent emotional spirits; fear of a decent into nihilism.

While humanism has powerful answers to those fears, the problem is that our lifestance is so little known. We have an emotionally satisfying and encompassing story that, if told well, can bend hearts, electrify minds, and satisfy the existential longings for meaning and wholeness. We have tried to condense our evolving tradition in the Humanist Manifesto III, titled “Humanism and its Aspirations” (see below).

We can use this as a starting point to tell our story. Sure, we can argue about the inherent contradictions in the Bible, the pernicious effects of religion, and the logic of Darwinism until the end of time and not win people over unless their fears are answered. Willow Creek understands that people long for a complete and integrated story that quells their fears and existential angst. Sometimes, it seems to me, humanism needs a voice that’s more evocative than rational or strident. We need to address people’s real emotional needs and fears head-on.

In marketing, it’s said that it’s not the features that sell a product, but the benefits. We need to sing a song of praise to the glories of nature, the immediacy of love in our finite lives, and to being part of a community of hearts seeking to affirm the equal worth and dignity of each person. We rejoice in the scent of freedom and the path to progressive truth, are calmed by the caress of compassion, and lock arms in democratic solidarity. We truly live when we seek justice, reduce suffering, faint in the arms of love, delight at the surprise of wonder, find inner peace in quiet moments, and dance to the rhythms of life in this world that’s all we have. This is the story we need to tell. Give people what they seek and they will come. H

Michael Werner sis past president of the AHA and remains active in many humanist organizations

This article reproduced from: The Humanist July/August 2011


Humanism and its Aspirations

Humanism is a progressive philosophy of life that, without supernaturalism, affirms our ability and responsibility to lead ethical lives of personal fulfillment that aspire to the greater good of humanity.

The life stance of humanism—guided by reason, inspired by compassion, and informed by experience— encourages us to live life well and fully. It evolved through the ages and continues to develop through the efforts of thoughtful people who recognize that values and ideals, however carefully wrought, are subject to change as our knowledge and understandings advance.

This document is part of an ongoing effort to manifest in clear and positive terms the conceptual boundaries of humanism, not what we must believe but a consensus of what we do believe. It is in this sense that we affirm the following:

Knowledge of the world is derived by observation, experimentation, and rational analysis. Humanists find that science is the best method for determining this knowledge as well as for solving problems and developing beneficial technologies. We also recognize the value of new departures in thought, the arts, and inner experience—each subject to analysis by critical intelligence.

Humans are an integral part of nature, the result of unguided evolutionary change. Humanists recognize nature as self-existing. We accept our life as all and enough, distinguishing things as they are from things as we might wish or imagine them to be. We welcome the challenges of the future, and are drawn to and undaunted by the yet to be known.

Ethical values are derived from human need and interest as tested by experience. Humanists ground values in human welfare shaped by human circumstances, interests, and concerns and extended to the global ecosystem and beyond. We are committed to treating each person as having inherent worth and dignity, and to making informed choices in a context of freedom consonant with responsibility.

Life’s fulfillment emerges from individual participation in the service of humane ideals. We aim for our fullest possible development and animate our lives with a deep sense of purpose, finding wonder and awe in the joys and beauties of human existence, its challenges and tragedies, and even in the inevitability and finality of death. Humanists rely on the rich heritage of human culture and the life stance of humanism to provide comfort in times of want and encouragement in times of plenty.

Humans are social by nature and find meaning in relationships. Humanists long for and strive toward a world of mutual care and concern, free of cruelty and its consequences, where differences are resolved cooperatively without resorting to violence. The joining of individuality with interdependence enriches our lives, encourages us to enrich the lives of others, and inspires hope of attaining peace, justice, and opportunity for all.

Working to benefit society maximizes individual happiness. Progressive cultures have worked to free humanity from the brutalities of mere survival and to reduce suffering, improve society, and develop global community. We seek to minimize the inequities of circumstance and ability, and we support a just distribution of nature’s resources and the fruits of human effort so that as many as possible can enjoy a good life.

Humanists are concerned for the well being of all, are committed to diversity, and respect those of differing yet humane views. We work to uphold the equal enjoyment of human rights and civil liberties in an open, secular society and maintain it is a civic duty to participate in the democratic process and a planetary duty to protect nature’s integrity, diversity, and beauty in a secure, sustainable manner.

Thus engaged in the flow of life, we aspire to this vision with the informed conviction that humanity has the ability to progress toward its highest ideals. The responsibility for our lives and the kind of world in which we live is ours and ours alone.

— © 2003 American Humanist Association

Rreproduced from The Humanist July/August 2011