Kia ora: It is one month before our August gathering of Humanist people, both international and national, at the NZ Humanist Conference and the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) General Assembly in Auckland from Friday 3rd August through to Sunday 5th August. Prior to this weekend there will be a Parliamentary Welcome Function – Humanism, Secularism & Democracy – at the Beehive, Wellington Monday 30th July. We are still experiencing visa uncertainty. We wish to say a big Thank You to John Maindonald, Linda Albertyn and Paula Wyatt for their contributions to our visa expenses.
When we started to plan for the IHEU General Assembly and Conference we were full of anticipation at the thought of bringing international humanist speakers to NZ. To meet and listen to these people usually means that we must make the long journey ourselves to the other side of the world, or at least across the ditch. But the visa difficulties that we are experiencing make it a near certainty that NZ will never be a favoured location for an international meeting again, unless we want a conference that is White, Western and Middle Class. This is your one and probably only chance to meet with humanists from around the world!
To register go to conference.humanist.nz
Monthly meeting: Monday July 2 6.30pm til 9.00pm
Workshop on the draft NZ Humanist Manifesto-Humanism 2020
We will continue working on Humanism 2020, outlining a humanist NZ we would love to see in 2020. The intent is to establish a set of common issues which describe a New Zealand society where secular, humanist and rationalist values are upheld. The idea of Humanism 2020 was prompted by the 2017 General Election. On Monday 30th July there will be a public Parliamentary Function – Humanism, Secularism & Democracy – at the Beehive, Wellington to welcome our IHEU guests. At this gathering we will formally present Humanism 2020. We will follow this with a dinner together.
Last month we discussed a suggestion that we update our Society’s name to Humanist NZ or NZ Humanists. We liked Humanist NZ and this works in very well with our website, which is humanist.nz. We will ratify this at the 2018 AGM, later in the year. We want to use our new name of Humanist NZ at the NZ Humanist Conference 4 August.
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
There will be NO monthly meeting in August and NO August newsletter
Please come to the Wellington and Auckland conference events instead.
An Article by Dr. Leo Igwe in Conatus News 26 June 2018
Conatus News, started in 2016, is a non-partisan online news and opinion platform for grassroots activists, essayists and commentators, focusing on issues ranging from current affairs, science, politics and education to philosophy and religion. Conatus News emphasises perspectives focused on secularism, free speech and universal human rights.
This article is a taste of what awaits us when listening to Leo Igwe at the NZ Humanist Conference, Saturday 4th August.
Can Humanism Provide Answers to Global Inequities?
A Time for Reflection
This August, the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) conference in New Zealand presents an opportunity to assess the state of humanism in the world, to take stock of the progress the movement has made towards promoting the humanist outlook globally. This meeting is an occasion for reflection, especially by those from parts of the world where humanism has yet to make significant impacts.
For the humanist movement to remain relevant in disadvantaged parts of the world, it must take a critical look at the current global structure. It must offer real answers to global inequalities. The humanist movement must advance ideas that narrow the gap between the rich and the poor, the lords and the subalterns.
The Crisis Is Man-Made
History is filled with attempts by past generations of humanists to foster universal values. How can our current generation confront the challenge of creating a more humanistic world? Put more pointedly, how can humanism help address the inequities around the globe? Structural inequalities within and between nations are at the root of the crises that bedevils the world. They underlie the anger and desperation that rage in many regions.
Wars in the Middle East, conflicts across Africa, and terrorist attacks in Europe are all aspects of the same phenomenon: a displacement of persons caused by global strife. Consequently, people are forced to migrate and flee their homes. Many migrants make hazardous journeys across deserts or ocean in search of a more secure life. The global structure that has orchestrated this uprooting of peoples requires change.
But it’s important to remember that these inequities are human-made. Aliens did not thrust the socio-economic order that fuels the current crisis on us. The global political and economic structures are created and sustained by human beings, interest groups and blocs. The crisis is our own making and will persist until these structures are dismantled and replaced with more egalitarian forms of socioeconomic organization.
Ignoring Inequality Will Sink Humanism
These dichotomies exist in most societies across the globe, calling global humanism into question. Urgent changes are needed, and humanists should advance towards restructuring the globe and enthroning a more realistic humanist ideology. But achieving the desired change towards a more egalitarian global society will not be an easy task. Established political forces have a vested interest in the structure of world as it is. These forces will not easily yield to change. Some would go to any length to undermine attempts to alter global power relations. This does not mean that the situation is hopeless, or that a real change cannot be achieved. History tells us that change comes at a price. Forces that hold humanity down have to be defied, resisted, and defeated. That is the humanist way, and that will be the humanist response to the current crisis.
So it is now left for the humanist movement to live up to its philosophy or betray it. The humanist constituency has to choose whether to align with the powers that be or the wretched of the earth; to muster Promethean courage and challenge the global power equation or ignore it. The onus is on the movement to propose measures and act in defiance of the global structural police and remain relevant. The movement can also choose to resign itself to injustice and oppression while losing its appeal to the sidelined and disadvantaged .The humanist movement can decide to be a bridge, providing a link to people in the forgotten corners of the world, those who have lost out in global power struggles and now live at the mercy of their conquerors and exploiters.
Religion as a Result of Inequality
The outlook that espouses the equal value of human beings cannot remain silent and indifferent in the face of these splits and fragmentations. It cannot turn a blind eye to the existential cracks, the discontents of broken world politics. This is because these structural inequalities constitute the subsoil for religious exploitation. They provide the raw materials that the religious minds use to waive supernatural narratives, holding the poor, oppressed and exploited hostage. Religions and superstitions try to compensate for the shortcomings, and the limitations in the world as it is. They espouse prophetic visions built around cultural personalities – the god-incarnates, saviours, and redeemers. They propose a paradise set apart from Earth, in a hereafter without all the temporal difficulties and mundane troubles of our world. Structural inequities drive religions. The faithful go through life anticipating a perfect world after their release from this mortal sphere. Incidentally, divergent versions of this perfect world abound, each pitched in stiff competition for potential recruits. Thus places around the world with great inequality and deprivation demonstrated higher levels of religiosity.
It is thus left for this generation of humanists to respond to the inequities in the world, to provide solutions to what makes religion more appealing to the deprived. Contemporary humanists need to campaign for global restructuring. They need to devise mechanisms to counter the otherworldly ideologies and narratives that promote false hopes. A robust humanist response must address what makes mythical ideas more appealing to suffering people than evidence-based knowledge.
In a world more interdependent than at any other time in history, reducing global inequalities has become increasingly urgent. Addressing this task is critical to fostering a global humanism for the 21st century.
Blasphemy Law Repeal Oral Submission
Mark Honeychurch, our Humanist NZ Vice-President and committee member Iain Middleton presented an oral submission at the recent Select Committee hearing. Below is the text of Mark Honeychurch’s submission.
The Humanist Society of New Zealand is a national charity that promotes Humanism. We work on behalf of the many New Zealanders who are not religious to make sure their voices are heard. Nearly half of New Zealanders now consider themselves to have no religion.
I’m here today to talk about section 123 of the Crimes Act, the blasphemous libel section.
At the Humanist Society, we regularly hear from people in countries like Pakistan and Bangladesh who are in fear for their lives because they’ve dared to write articles on the internet about their lack of religious belief. Several bloggers have been killed in the last few years simply for having written blog posts about religion that conservative religious leaders have taken a dislike to. These intellectuals are desperate to escape from their home countries in order to feel safe, even though it means uprooting their families and becoming refugees in a foreign country.
I have visited countries that have strict laws around religious belief, and I’ve met with people in those countries who are atheists, and others who hold religious views that do not align with the state religion.
For example, I spent a couple of months in Iran, and while there I met Christians in Tehran. They wanted to pray with me because I was a Westerner, but were afraid to do so in public because of a fear of reprisal. I was invited by a Kurdish family to stay with them in the North West of Iran, and while I was with them I was shown a secret library of Sunni texts that had to be hidden from the authorities, because those texts were deemed blasphemous by the Shia government.
I have met with Christians in Turkey who have held services in secret, worried that their form of Christianity doesn’t conform to what the government approves of, and their beliefs could get them arrested.
This is not to say that New Zealand’s blasphemy law is comparable to the laws of these other countries I’ve been to, because it’s not that bad. In practical terms our blasphemy law is not a concern for New Zealanders today.
However, it’s an unnecessary law, and it violates the ideal of a secular state – an ideal that I hold dear. But the bigger point is that New Zealand having a blasphemy law risks other countries pointing to our blasphemy law to justify their own oppressive laws, laws that go against the idea of universal human rights.
Having a blasphemy law also weakens New Zealand’s ability to criticise other countries for their unjust laws. How can we stand up and tell Saudi Arabia, for example, that their blasphemy law is bad, when we still have a blasphemy law on our books?
There has been a global move in recent years by western countries to remove their outdated blasphemy laws. Like with our new marriage equality law, it would be good to see New Zealand take its place among forward thinking countries such as the UK and France, where blasphemy laws have been repealed in recent years.
2018 Humanist Conference and International Humanist & Ethical Union General Assembly 3rd-6th August
This gathering is a collaborative event with the New Zealand Association of Rationalists and Humanists
Parliamentary Welcome Function – Humanism, Secularism & Democracy – 30th July 5.30pm Beehive
To begin this IHEU NZ visit there will be a prior event in Wellington on Monday 30th July. This is a Parliamentary Welcome Function being held at the Beehive. Sara Passmore , our HSNZ President and Peter Harrison, NZARH President will launch the NZ Humanist Manifesto – a collaborative document with HSNZ and the NZARH. After the welcome there will be dinner at the Whitby Restaurant at the James Cook Hotel. Some of our visitors will travel up to Auckland by car, and it is thought that we may travel together over two days up to Auckland. After the Conference and General Assembly there are plans for some travel together down to Hobbiton, Rotorua, Waitomo Caves and back to Auckland. The James Cook Hotel is offering a discounted room rate if you are attending from outside Wellington. To make a room reservation use the link below
You are very welcome to join the ‘road trip’ north and also the post –conference travel.
There is more information on conference.humanist.nz, and also see Events on our Facebook page Humanist Society of NZ
NZ Humanist Conference & IHEU General Assembly
Conference Venue: Hotel Heritage Auckland is our Conference venue. This hotel is in downtown Auckland Hobson St and is set within the iconic Farmers Building which many may remember from childhood days.
Conference Website: to register go to conference.humanist.nz
Conference Dates and programme outline: We will begin with a social gathering Friday 3 August which will include a Humanist Quiz with the winning team of four receiving a collection of 4 signed A C Grayling books. Saturday 4 August will be the Humanist Conference with a dinner in the evening with Sunday 5 August, the General Assembly. All are welcome to attend the General Assembly to observe the inner workings of the IHEU.
NZ Humanist Conference Speakers
Eru Hiko-Tahuri and Te Henare,
In the 2013 census 46% of Māori said they had no religion. However, Eru Hiko-Tahuri, who blogs and writes under the name The Heretical Hori states that ‘there are very few Māori who would admit to being atheist”.
Eru Hiko-Tahuri, and founder of Maori Atheists and Freethinkers Te Henare, will talk about about being atheists, letting go of superstition, and navigating the Māori world where almost everything is permeated with notions of spirituality and religion.
Secularism – separation of church and state and the elimination of legal religious discrimination – has many opponents. Some of these opponents are theocrats, making explicitly religious arguments against secularism. But others are not and make non-religious arguments against this way of ordering politics and the state. Even in majority non-religious societies, can we therefore be confident that secularism will follow? Andrew Copson, President of IHEU and author of Secularism: politics, religion, and freedom (OUP, 2017), will explore some of the secular arguments against secularism and try to answer this question.
In conversation with Auntie Jackie
The Aunties meet the material needs for the people who use community services. Auntie Jackie states firmly that “If you aren’t about giving with love, and no judgement, then this isn’t the charity for you.” Find out more about the difference this grass roots effort is making to the lives of women, children and families, their unique kaupapa, and how this unique model developed to sustainably serve the community.
Lucky Not So Lucky: Humanist Activism in a World Threatened by Religious Extremism
Drawing from his experiences living and working as a humanist in Africa, Leo Igwe will show that irrational beliefs and violent fanaticisms that rage in places across Africa have transnational roots and connections. Superstitious and dogmatic beliefs pose a serious threat to our common humanity. He contends that active involvement of all humanists – whether in New Zealand or in Papua New Guinea – is needed to eradicate irrational beliefs worldwide.
Founder of Faith to Faithless, has been using his experience founding ‘tech for good’ start-ups to help apostates who leave conservative religions. He’s in New Zealand in August speaking on his experience and the work of his organisation
Recipient of Anna Politkovskaya Award 2017, Chirac Foundation Conflict Prevention Award- 2016 Laureate, Commonwealth Youth Award 2015, International Humanist Award 2014, 2013 NED Democracy Award, Recognized among 100 Leading Global Thinkers 2013, Honored by NED among “30 Under 30”,2013,Youth Action Net Fellow 2009.
Gulalai is a Pashtun human rights activist from Pakistan and chairperson of Aware Girls and the Seeds of Peace network. She speaks on the subject of promoting peace in Pakistan and women’s empowerment at conferences internationally and is the recipient of the 2014 International Humanist of the Year Award from the International Humanist and Ethical Union, and of the Fondation Chirac Peace Prize.
At the age of 16, she founded the non-government organisation Aware Girls with her sister Saba Ismail. Aware Girls aims to challenge the culture of violence and the oppression of women in the rural Khyber Pakhtunkhwa area in the north west of Pakistan.
In 2010, Ismail set up the Seeds of Peace network, training young people in human rights and political leadership, encouraging the participation of women in politics in Pakistan, and encouraging tolerance between people of differing faiths.Her work is characterised by promoting peace and pluralism; challenging religious extremism and militancy; promoting good governance in areas stricken by militancy, providing civic education to young people; strengthening democracy; and political mainstreaming of young women.
Catherine Low, Manager of Community, Effective Altruism
A founding member of Effective Altruism New Zealand, she has been involved in effective altruism outreach for the last two years, giving presentations to any group who could possibly be convinced to listen, and has worked with Students for High-Impact Charity developing and trialling their educational resources.