Kia Ora: My thoughts are chaotic after the terrible shooting at the Christchurch mosques, with the deaths of 50 people and the injury of a further 50. News reports and analysis abound. My Facebook newsfeed has brought many opinions from around the world. There is so much to reflect upon to help us move towards a NZ society, and world, where this will never happen again. Perhaps we must return to the foundations of society to understand our human nature. The shooter was a mixture of white supremacist rhetoric and anti immigration fears, with an overlay of religious prejudice. I have included a couple of articles in this newsletter about new theorising as to how the concept of gods arose. It is imperative that we come to a rational understanding of the religious make-up of our nature. We need to understand that our modern understanding of the world is no longer that of the three-tiered Earth-Heaven-Hell medieval model. We are a cosmic universe. The old-world view said that God made humankind. The new world view is that it is us humans who have made ‘God’. In 1841 Ludwig Feuerbach, a German philosopher, wrote in his book The Essence of Christianity “the old world made spirit the parent of matter, the new makes matter the parent of spirit.” Or, to paraphrase, ‘in the beginning man made god.’ We can find elegant solutions to so many perplexing problems. Can we not turn our attention and effort to getting along with each other?

Humanist Catch-Up Monday April 1 @ 6.30pm until 9.00pm

Reflecting on the Horrific Shootings at El Noor Mosque & Linwood Islamic Centre

Female Genital Mutilation Information from OIA Request (due 29 March)

Repeal of the Law of Blasphemous Libel  March 2019 we will mark this successful campaign conclusion with a celebratory cake

We welcome you to April’s Humanist Catch Up. This is an opportunity for conversation and sharing of thoughts. March has been a momentous month. There has been the shocking Christchurch shooting on Friday March 15 which quite dwarfs the feeling of accomplishment in the long awaited repeal of NZ’s Blasphemy Law.

·         All interested people are welcome, Society members and members of the public – bring a friend.

Venue: Thistle Inn, 3 Mulgrave St in the George Room

Press Release: Humanist NZ condemns the mass shooting in Christchurch

Humanist NZ condemns the shooting of innocent people at two mosques in Christchurch. Our thoughts are with the victims, their friends, their relatives, and their communities. We sincerely hope that those who are still in hospital will recover and be able to access the support that they need.

An attack of this nature is an attack on us all. We share a common humanity, and in a country as small as New Zealand we are all connected. Attacks of this nature and scale are not what we expect. New Zealand has no place for hate crimes and violence and any such actions must receive the strongest possible condemnation. Freedom of religion and belief and freedom of expression are fundamental human rights. Everyone should have the right to meet to express their religion or belief with safety and security.

Our thoughts are also with the people of Christchurch who have suffered enough tragedy in recent times. Your tears are our tears.

Humanist New Zealand welcomes immigrants to New Zealand and supports the rights of all immigrants to security and freedom from racism and hate. As a nation we gain strength through diversity.

·         Additional Comment to Press Statement:

This statement assumes that “Freedom of Religion or Belief” and “Freedom of Expression”, including the right to discuss or comment on the religion or beliefs of others, conforms with New Zealand and International Law and are that these freedoms are not without limitation. New Zealand is a signatory to and bound by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Article 18 of the ICCPR allows limitations on the freedom to manifest one’s religion or belief to protect public safety, order, health, or morals, and to protect the fundamental rights and freedoms of others. Article 19 allows that the exercise of the rights to hold opinions and the right to freedom of expression carries with it special duties and responsibilities and may be restricted by law and as necessary to respect the rights or reputations of others (defamation); or for the protection of national security or of public order (order public), or of public health or morals. Article 20 prohibits incitement to war and the advocacy of national, racial, or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility, or violence.

Similarly, while all lawful immigrants to New Zealand are welcome, including refugees and those who seek asylum for genuine reasons, immigration does not imply unlimited immigration. High rates of population increase in local areas or nationally may create problems. Lawful immigration does not include those seeking to commit crime, promote hate, or those seeking to escape legitimate and reasonable justice for crimes in their own countries that are also crimes and subject to similar justice in New Zealand.

In the aftermath of an event such as this there is a need to consider all law changes carefully to ensure and enhance the safety of all people without unnecessarily or unjustifiably curtailing fundamental rights and freedoms, including freedom of religion and belief and freedom of expression. It is very important that we continue to discuss issues such as immigration, religion and belief in an appropriate manner.

Subscriptions 2019 Year: Subscriptions for 2019 are now due. Our subscription year runs January to December.  The subscription rates are $35 per year or $20 if you are unwaged. Payment may be made by cheque or payment to our bank account: bnz 02-0392-0094973-000. As a large proportion of our Society’s savings were used to fund the NZ Humanist Conference in August 2018 we would appreciate your subs to help us continue with our humanist projects.

Member’s Survey: Understanding what a national NZ Humanist organisation means to you: In the last newsletter we gave notice of this survey. We are seeking members’ and friends’ views and thoughts on the future direction of organised secular humanism in NZ. Thank you for the completed surveys returned. If you would like to share your thoughts with us the online link is..

Female Genital Mutilation Investigation in NZ: Humanist NZ Council member Peter Clemerson has sent in an Official Information Act (OIA) request on Humanist NZ’s behalf.  We are requesting information about any indications that this horrendous practice is occurring in NZ. We have received a reply that information will be forwarded to us by 29 March 2019. When received we will make this information and any resulting action available.

Press Release: Humanist NZ welcomes the Repeal of NZ’s Blasphemy Law

Yesterday New Zealand’s outdated blasphemy law was officially struck from the law books after receiving Royal Assent earlier this week.

Humanist New Zealand congratulates members of the New Zealand parliament on their unanimous vote last week to repeal Section 123 of the Crimes Act 1961, the law against Blasphemous Libel.

Humanist NZ has long called on the government to scrap our outdated blasphemy law. This landmark decision is a clear sign of our country’s commitment to human rights, freedom of expression, and freedom of religion or belief.

Jolene Phipps, President of Humanist NZ, states “Blasphemy laws have never served a useful or justifiable purpose. Instead they have been used to limit freedom of expression and freedom of religion or belief

“Where they exist, blasphemy laws often incite violence rather than prevent it. Charges of blasphemy are regularly used to persecute political or business rivals or to suppress minority groups. People accused of blasphemy have been stoned or hacked to death, and lawyers and judges intimidated with death threats or killed. We know a number of humanists accused of blasphemy who have sought refuge in New Zealand to escape persecution.”

Iain Middleton, blasphemy campaigner for Humanist NZ, states, “It was wonderful to see all members of parliament unite in support of freedom of expression and freedom of religion and belief and repeal this archaic and pernicious law. In repealing this law, New Zealand follows a clear trend with France, Sweden, Norway, the Netherlands, Iceland, Malta, Denmark, and Canada all scrapping similar laws in the last few years.”

“Now New Zealand can speak on the world stage about human rights, freedom of expression, and freedom of religion and belief, without being seen as hypocritical.”

In the 2018 edition of the Freedom of Thought Report produced by Humanists International, New Zealand was rated as a country with “severe discrimination” against non-religious people in New Zealand, in part because of the severity of our blasphemy law.

Humanist New Zealand now calls on other territories in the Pacific to follow suit and abolish or repeal all blasphemy laws.

When Ancient Societies Hit a million people, Vengeful Gods Appeared:

Charles Q Choi /Live Science 20 March 2019

“For we know Him who said, ‘And I will execute great vengeance upon them with furious rebukes; and they shall know that I am the Lord, when I shall lay my vengeance upon them.'” Ezekiel 25:17.

The God depicted in the Old Testament may sometimes seem wrathful. And in that, he’s not alone; supernatural forces that punish evil play a central role in many modern religions.

But which came first: complex societies or the belief in a punishing god?

A new study suggests that the formation of complex societies came first and that the beliefs in such gods helped unite people under a common higher power.

Ancient societies often used supernatural forces to explain natural phenomena, such as lightning. But in the past several millennia, religions also used supernatural forces to enforce moral codes. For example, the Egyptian sun god, Ra, judged the fate of people in the afterlife according to how well they followed the code of “maat,” or “what is right.” Past work suggested that the rise of this idea of cosmic enforcement of morality was associated with social complexity. The concept of supernatural judgment evolved to help strangers in large societies cooperate, researchers hypothesized. Some work, such as analyses of Austronesian religions or of the Viking age in Scandinavia, suggested that moralizing gods preceded complex societies, while other research, such as a study of Eurasian empires, found that moralizing gods followed the rise of complex societies.

But those studies were limited in geographic scope and hampered, at times, because historians lacked detailed information on the complexity of societies at given points in history, said Patrick Savage, an anthropologist at Keio University in Kanagawa, Japan. In the new study, Savage and his colleagues sought to overcome these limitations using the Seshat: Global History Databank, a database of information about global history from the end of the Palaeolithic period up to the Industrial Revolution.

The scientists analysed the relationship between social complexity and moralizing gods in 414 societies spanning the past 10,000 years from 30 regions across the globe. Researchers examined 51 measures of social complexity, such as the size of the largest settlement and the presence of a formal legal code, and four measures of supernatural enforcement of morality, such as the concept of a supernatural force that monitors and punishes selfish actions.

The researchers found that belief in moralizing gods usually followed increases in social complexity, generally appearing after the emergence of civilizations with populations of more than about 1 million people.

“It was particularly striking how consistent it was [that] this phenomenon emerged at the million-person level,” Savage said. “First, you get big societies, and these beliefs then come.”

All in all, “our research suggests that religion is playing a functional role throughout world history, helping stabilize societies and people cooperate overall,” Savage said. “In really small societies, like very small groups of hunter-gatherers, everyone knows everyone else, and everyone’s keeping an eye on everyone else to make sure they’re behaving well. Bigger societies are more anonymous, so you might not know who to trust.”

At those sizes, you see the rise of beliefs in an all-powerful, supernatural person watching and keeping things under control, Savage added.

“We are not saying anything about the value of religion,” Savage added. “We are not saying it is good or bad, but we are saying it has a deep and consistent relationship with societies throughout world history. Religion is deeply intertwined with what it means to be human, for better and for worse.”

You need to Consider the Possibility your religion is a Mythology

Travis Haan/Church and State

There are at least 4,200 religions in the world today, and countless more have been lost to history. It’s obvious there’s a 0% chance all of them are the true word of God. Some thinkers have speculated that each religion is at least a little divinely inspired and holds a piece of the puzzle left to us by God to put together. But the only way to come to that conclusion is to ignore huge tracts of doctrine in each religion. Ultimately, none of them are compatible. If any religion is true, there’s only one.

This means at least over 6 billion people alive today believe in a religion that was written 100% by human beings and 0% dictated by the creator of the universe. A belief system written by human beings that has no bearing on the factual nature of reality is mythology. The cold, hard truth of reality is that the vast majority of the people alive today believe in mythology and dogmatically refuse to even consider the possibility that’s true. So if you believe in religion, there’s automatically a 99% chance you believe in mythology. If you refuse to question your beliefs, there’s no way for you to know if they’re true, which increases the chance that you believe in mythology to 99.9%. This number is increased to 99.99% if your religion contains any of the following:

1: Human sacrifices

2: Moral values that reflect the needs and wants of a specific primitive culture

3: Instructions to hurt, kill or look down on other people

4: Reasons to look down on yourself

5: A pyramid-shaped authority structure

6: Scientifically inaccurate statements

7: Magical beings, powers or events that no longer exist

Some people have speculated that it doesn’t matter what religion you believe in as long as you believe in something that gives you meaning, instructions and peace. But believing in something that isn’t real is the definition of insanity. It’s not okay to be insane just because you like it because it holds you and society back.

Believing in mythology is counterproductive if for no other reason than it’s a waste of time. It keeps you busy going through meaningless motions while ignoring real world issues that have real consequences to you and the rest of mankind. Your life and everyone else’s would be improved by you focusing on real problems.

To this, you might reply, “But how can we know how to live without religion?” Remember that most of the world doesn’t believe in religion; they believe in mythology. So the real question is, “How can we know how to live without mythology?” If mythology is just a belief system made up by humans, and you’ve spent your whole life living according to those rules, you already know the answer. We can make up our own ethics, and in fact, that’s what we’ve been doing all along. We just haven’t been honest with ourselves about it. If taking personal responsibility for your own ethics sounds scary or haphazard, consider that mythologies can contain horrible rules that can lead you to hurt yourself or others, which makes it all the more imperative you question your beliefs.

This is especially true if you absolutely insist on believing one of our religions is the divine truth. Everyone wants to believe that their religion is the right one, but at least 6 billion people are dead wrong in their faith. Statistically, you’re probably one of them. The only way you or anyone else can find the right religion is to scrutinize yours objectively. This may sound like heresy, but it’s probably not a coincidence that you were created with the capacity for reason, scepticism, doubt, and logic. For the billions of people who believe in mythology, it’s a necessity. If your religion can stand the test of truth, there’s no danger in putting yours to it. If your religion can’t stand the test of truth, objectivity is the only way you’ll ever free yourself.

Your quest for truth isn’t just about you. Most religions encourage you to convert nonbelievers, and even without actively proselytizing on the street corner, you passively send out the message that people should join your faith just by living according to it. If you believe in one of the religions that are mythology, you’re leading unwitting victims into a trap. If enough people in one area buy into mythology, one way or another, their beliefs are going to determine social norms and even laws. This has a harsh real-world impact on people who don’t believe in that particular brand of mythology. Another danger of spreading mythology is that some people will inevitably latch onto the most violent, oppressive, absurd rules within that belief system and use them to justifying hurting other people. So before you go spreading the good word, it’s imperative that you make sure it passes the most rigorous test of truth, not just for your sake but for all of ours.