Humanist Newsletter -December 2004


  • Kia ora and hello: The end of the year again! The beginning of the year always offers the feeling of the luxury of Time – time stretches to infinity, now I wonder where it has gone! I wish you an enjoyable holiday season and a Happy New Year when 2005 stretches ahead of us. This is the final newsletter for 2004. I will pick up the pen again, or rather tap the computer keyboard to produce a newsletter in mid February 2005.
  • Last Meeting: Humanist Ethics were discussed. I saw an interesting exchange on TV’s Location,Location,Location. A person selling his house stopped to consider the ethics of his next decision ( his words ). The agent replied “but this is business” – does ethics not come into business? As Humanists we think it surely must.
  • Thank you Function:  For Bill McLeod our Treasurer, who resigned from this task at our September AGM, and past President Carrick Lewis and committee member Norina Lewis Saturday 11 December Fisherman’s Table Oriental Parade 11.30am until 1.00pm. If you would like to join this occasion please phone Gaylene Middleton  04 232 4497 immediately.
  • December monthly meeting: Monday 6 December, Turnbull House. Wellington. All welcome. 7.30 pm
    Topic Christmas Get Together with free ranging conversation.. Bring a few nibbles if you wish and a conversation point.
  • First meeting for 2005: Monday 7 March 2005. Topic to be advised in February newsletter.
    · Summer Get Together: Over the years we have shared lunch and relaxed together during an afternoon in January. With the coming year 2005 we will meet 23 January 2005 from 11.30 am at Middleton’s home 17 Allen Tce, Tawa phone 04 232 4497. Bring a lunch dish to share.
  • Radio Access:  11 am 783 kHz Sunday 19 December, 16 January, 13 February. A CD has been compiled of past programmes and is now available. This is an endeavor to make available the excellent material that Jeff and Joan produce in this monthly programme. If you are interested please e-mail Jeff or write to the NZ Humanist Society.
  • Committee/ Council meetings: Sunday 19 December and 13 February 10.45 am at Caroline’s 1/21 Rolleston St, Mt Cook, Wellington.
  • Email discussion group: Is operating now on Yahoo at   Have you registered to meet with other members via the web world of communication.
  • Eileen Bone Humanist Scholarship for 2005: A second scholarship has been awarded to Naenae College student Jonnel Jaunique. Jonnel intends to study for a degree in Biomedical Science.
  • Short Snippet: from Free Inquiry Oct/Nov 2004 Creeping Humanism by Pat Inniss, vice president of Seattle Atheists & a board member of African Americans for Humanism. ” While Humanism as a concept is increasingly controversial and on the margins of acceptability, many humanistic values and indeed large portions of the humanist worldview have been widely adopted… Humanism is destroying many of the traditional values that characterized Western civilisation – sexism, racism, and homophobia are on the run….The progress that humanism has made is evident in the behaviour of people who would never call themselves humanists. There are a number of areas in which religious people routinely disregard the moral advice of their leaders and instead determine the proper course based upon values that appear to be humanistic.(e.g. birth control, in England atheism and humanism included when youngsters are instructed about religion…While the influence of a number of dedicated and talented humanists has been invaluable in planting the seeds of progressive humanist thought, there is still something about humanism, if one ignores the implications for religion, that almost sells itself. In religiously plural cultures, the only alternative to the incessant internecine fighting that that stills characterizes many parts of the world is the adoption of what is, in virtually everything but name , a humanistic approach to the management of society. But religion is following, not leading humanism…By co-opting values from humanism, religion improves. This is not only a victory for humanism; it is also a triumph for humanity.”

   Gaylene Middleton

IHEU 16th World Congress

Tuesday 5th July to Thursday 7th July 2005, Paris


Separation of Religion and State


2005 marks the centenary of the 1905 French Law of Separation of Church and State. IHEU member organisation the Libre Pensée Française played a crucial role in achieving this landmark legislation.

IHEU, the worldwide umbrella organisation for Humanism, and its French Member Organisation the Libre Pensée Française invite you to the World Humanist Congress, and to learn through interactive and plenary sessions about the world-wide Humanist movement, the challenges we face, and our success stories.

Attend special sessions on Science and Secularism, on the European Union and on Women’s issues; learn about the IHEU’s IHEU-Appignani Humanist Center for Bioethics, about IHEU ‘s support to the development of Humanism world-wide, and much more! Compare notes, interact and exchange ideas with Humanist and Human Rights activists and leaders and opinion makers from around the world.

The prestigious venues for the Congress include UNESCO headquarters, the Conseil Economique et Social, and the University of Sorbonne. Simultaneous interpretation in French and English for all plenary and other selected sessions.

For full details and to register, visit {} or write to:

La Libre Pensée Française,  10-12 rue des Fossés Saint-Jacques, 75005 Paris, France
Tel + 33 1 46 34 21 50 . Fax + 33 1 46 34 21 84  Email [email protected]

Or:    IHEU, 1 Gower Street, London WC1E 6HD, United Kingdom
Tel + 44 207 6313170 . Fax + 44 207 6313171 . [email protected]

The Congress is supported by the French National Commission for UNESCO and organised by the Libre Pensée Française.


IHEU World Congress and associated events in Paris, July 2005

Monday July 4th — World Congress of Freethinkers
Tuesday July 5th — Plenary sessions of IHEU Congress
Wednesday July 6th — Parallel sessions and Workshops
Thursday July 7th (morning) — Plenary session of IHEU Congress
Thursday July 7th (afternoon) & Friday July 8th — IHEU General Assembly

Friday July 8th – Thursday 14 July — IHEYO Conf. on ‘Multiculturalism’ (See {})


For programme details and registration procedure, please visit: {} or email [email protected]

International Humanist News – November 2004


President’s Column


Fundamentalism Triumphant
The victory of George W Bush in the US presidential election is a victory for religious fundamentalism in both America and the Islamic world. The American people were deceived over the war in Iraq but have now endorsed it, sending a clear message that the “War of Civilisations” will continue. The election has also shown that most Americans care nothing – no doubt because their media tell them nothing – about how the United States is seen by the rest of the world.
The past four years have shown an America disdainful of the rule of international law, partisan in its dealings in the Middle East and profoundly self-centred on global issues from trade to global warming. The greatest achievement of the Bush administration has been to reduce Iraq to chaos; its legacy, the creation of another terror-ridden Islamic state rushing headlong towards oppressive, misogynistic Iranian-style theocracy.

The immense task of re-establishing America’s credibility both in the Islamic world and among its erstwhile friends in the West is on hold for at least another four years. But with American politics now firmly under the control of the Christian Right can we hope for change even in 2008?
Opposing the Islamists
Worldwide, the confidence of the Islamists has never been higher, and liberal democrats in the west are in disarray. The received wisdom of multi-culturalism lies in ruins as the ever-more vociferous demands of un-elected “Islamic Councils” – for women to be veiled, for the state to fund more Islamic schools, for women in need of medical treatment to be seen only by women doctors, for boys and girls to be segregated in school, and for the establishment of Islamic tribunals to impose Islamic law in civil cases – have killed our fondly-held illusions that accommodation with the Islamists over social policy would ever be possible.
But opposition to conservative Islam does exist and, not surprisingly, women are in the forefront. The Revolutionary Association of Women of Afghanistan, RAWA, whose founder Meena was murdered in 1997, has widespread support in the west – although women’s rights were still below the horizon in the recent presidential election in Afghanistan. Women’s defence organisations have appeared in Kurdistan, Iraq and Iran, although many of them are run by exiles in the west (and only time will tell whether they can achieve any lasting result). But Human Rights organisations focussing strongly on the women’s rights do now exist in Pakistan and elsewhere, many with women lawyers prominent among the leadership.
In Europe, women’s opposition to the Islamists has typically taken more popular – even populist – forms. In Norway we have seen the delightful spectacle of the comedienne Shabana Rehman bravely holding up the excesses of the mullahs to ridicule, while in the Netherlands, the Somali-born member of parliament, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, now living permanently in hiding, provoked the anger of conservative Muslims with a halfhour TV program on the oppression of women that showed verses of the Koran superimposed on naked flesh. Sadly, on November 2nd, her film maker, Theo van Gogh was gunned down in Amsterdam.


In Canada, another young Muslim woman, Irshad Manji, who last year published her best-seller The Trouble with Islam, has continued her assault on Islamism, attracting the ire of conservative Muslims not only for daring, as a woman, to speak out, but by publicly proclaiming her lesbianism.
But women’s rights cannot be won without the support of the men. And we are at last seeing the emergence of secular Muslim organisations in which men are playing a prominent part. In India, the respected Islamic scholar Ali Asghar Engineer of the Centre Centre for the Study of Society and Secularism, Mumbai, argues strongly for both secularism and women’s rights through his bi-weekly e-newsletter Secular Perspective.
In Canada, the Muslim Canadian Congress, which is promoting a secular agenda for Canadian Muslims, has argued strongly against the introduction of Sharia courts in the Province of Ontario.
In France on October 29th, a colloquium called Islam contre Islam attracted more than a dozen speakers and an audience of over 300, demanding that the voices of the silent majority of moderate, secular Muslims now be heard.
The internet is proving to be a wonderful outlet for Muslim dissidents. More and more websites are appearing arguing for secularism in the Islamic world. On p 19 we are republishing the Secular Muslim Manifesto – which could have been written by a Humanist (but was not). And the website of ISIS, the Institute for the Secularisation of Islamic Society,, hosted by the Council for Secular Humanism, has become an important forum for debate among Muslims.
Religion IS politics
Events in Iraq and the result of the US presidential election have demonstrated yet again the malign influence of religion on politics. From every continent we hear stories of organised religion pushing for ever more concessions for their authoritarian, sectarian policies.
In Russia, Romania and other countries in Eastern Europe, the Orthodox Church is steadily consolidating its influence over government, erecting legal barriers to other creeds, and wringing ever greater financial concessions from the state. And readers of International Humanist News will need no reminding of the creeping Vaticanisation of the European Union.
In India the BJP and its saffron allies may have lost the general election and the state elections in Maharashtra, but their hate-filled message continues unabated.
In Australia in October the “Liberal” party of John Howard were re-elected with massive support from the Christian right.
What will it take to reawaken Humanism from its contented slumber? For Humanism to have any influence in the world, humanists must get involved in politics.
Religion is politics. Humanism can no longer stand aloof from the fray.
Roy Brown
IHEU President


HUMANIST QUIZ: SOLUTION (The quiz was with last months newsletter)


How to work out your score:


Each answer represents one of four types, indicated in the guide below. Everyone will be a mixture of these, but you are likely to have scored more in one area than any other. If you are absolutely evenly balanced you may have done it wrong, or you may need to see a councillor, or priest.


  1. a) = 3, b) = 4c) = 2, d) = 1 e) = 4.
    2. a) = 1, b) = 2, c) = 3, d) = 4
    3. a) = 1, b) = 2, c) = 3, d) = 4, e) = 1.
    4. a) = 1, b) = 2, c) = 4, d) = 3.
    5. a) = 4, b) = 3, c) = 1, d) = 3, e) = 2.
    6. a) = 1, b) = 4, c) = 3, d) = 2.
    7. a) = 4, b) = 2, c) = 3, d) = 4, e) = 1.
    8. a) = 1, b) = 2, c) = 3, d) = 4.
    9. a) = 2, b) = 3, c) = 1, d) = 4, e) = 2.
    10. a) = 1, b) = 2, c) = 4, d) = 2, e) = 1, f)= 3.
    11. a) = 2, b) = 1, c) = 3, d) = 4.
    12. a) = 1, b) = 2, c) = 3, d) = 4, e) = .


    You are one of life’s enjoyers, determined to get the most you can out of your brief spell on Earth. Probably what first attracted you to atheism was the prospect of liberation from the Ten Commandments, few of which are compatible with a life of pleasure. You play hard and work quite hard, have a strong sense of loyalty and a relaxed but consistent approach to your philosophy. You can’t see the point of abstract principles and probably wouldn’t lay down your life for a concept though you might for a friend. Something of a champagne humanist, you admire George Bernard Shaw for his cheerful agnosticism and pursuit of sensual rewards and your Hollywood hero is Marlon Brando, who was beautiful, irascible and aimed for goodness in his own tortured way. Sometimes you might he tempted to allow your own pleasures to take precedence over your ethics. But everyone is striving for that elusive balance between the good and the happy life. You’d probably open another bottle and say there’s no contest.


    Excuse us, could you just put down that hammer for a minute and listen. You’re so busy getting things done you rarely take any time out just to relax. In fact, you’ve probably forgotten how to relax. That’s because you’re so anxious to prove that it’s possible to lead a good and moral life without religion that you have built a strict and forbidding creed all of your own. You keep a compost heap, cycle to the bottle bank, invest in ethical schemes only and the list of countries you won’t buy from is longer than the washing line for your baby’s towelling nappies. You admire uncompromising self-sacrificers like Aung San Suu Kyi and Che Guevara, and would have liked the chance to be incarcerated for your principles like Diderot or Nelson Mandela. You would never cheat on your partner, drink and drive, accept bribes or touch drugs. You never waste money though you give lots to charity. Living a good life? You’re a model to us all. But it wouldn’t hurt you to try a little happiness once in a while. Loosen up.


    You go out of your way to build bridges with people of different views and beliefs and have quite a few religious friends. You believe in the essential goodness of people which means you’re always looking for common ground even if that entails compromises. You would defend Salman Rushdie’s right to criticise Islam but you’re sorry he attacked it so viciously, just as you feel uncomfortable with some of the more outspoken and unkind views of religion in the pages of this magazine. You prefer the inclusive approach of writers like Zadie Smith or the radical Christian values of Edward Said. Don’t fall into the same trap as super-naive Lib Dem MP Jenny Tonge who declared it was okay for clerics like Yusuf al-Qaradawi to justify their monstrous prejudices as a legitimate interpretation of the Koran: a perfect example of how the will to understand can mean the sacrifice of fundamental principles. Sometimes, you just have to hold out for what you know is right even if it hurts someone’s feelings.


    You are an atheist, a rationalist, a believer in the triumph of science and of reason over libido. You can’t stand mumbo jumbo, ritual, spiritual nonsense of any kind, and you refuse to allow for these longings in others. Astrologers, Scientologists and new-age crystal ball creeps are no different in your view from priests, rabbis and imams. They’re all just weak-minded pilgrims on the road to easy answers. Nature as revealed by science is awesome enough for you, but it’s a nature that needs curbing and taming by us on our evolutionary journey to perfection. Your heroes are Einstein, Darwin, Marx and – these days Gould, Blakemore, Watson, Crick and Rosalind Franklin. Could you be hiding a little behind those absolutist views, worried that, if you let in a few doubts and contradictory ideas, the whole edifice might crumble? Loosen up a bit and try to enjoy the amazing variety of human belief systems. Don’t worry it’s unlikely you’ll end up chanting your days away in some distant mountain cult.