Kia ora: Above are three photos from SOCH Nepal’s school (Society of Humanism Nepal). The first shows classrooms with the school playing area before the earthquake. The middle one shows the tent which has been erected to hold classes after the earthquake, and the third photo shows students attending class in the tented area. Nepali culture is very colourful and the tented area seems very attractive. But when the rains of the monsoon come, how weatherproof will the tents prove to be? Young Nepali students wear their school uniform very well, even when racing up and down the hill ridges to school in the Annapurna foothills. To see more photos of the school go to our website http://humanist.org.nz/what/school.
- Monthly meeting: Monday 22 June
Winter Solstice Celebration 6 pm
@ Blondini’s Jazz Lounge & Café, first floor of the Embassy Theatre 10 Kent Tce, Wellington
Please note different venue
Instead of meeting at our usual venue, the Tararua Tramping Club, Moncrieff St, Wellington, we plan to have a solstice celebration at Blondini’s Café at the Embassy Theatre. An invitation to join us is extended to members from Skeptics and the NZ Association of Rationalists and Humanists. This is also an opportunity to farewell Council member Cormac Maguire who is soon departing our shores for those of Australia. Can you match up the questions and answers from ‘The Undying Sun Quiz’ devised by Eileen Bone, our esteemed and long departed member who was with us until her death in February 2000.
- All interested people are welcome, Society members and members of the public – bring a friend
- Obituary: We are saddened to hear of the recent death of Ray Howlett, an Auckland Humanist Society member. Ray was always very supportive of our Society and always encouraging of our various projects. It was a great pleasure to visit Ray and Nancy at their Auckland home. Our sincere condolences to Ray’s wife Nancy and his family, Sally, Michael and Simon, and his grandchildren and great grandchildren.
- Blasphemy Law Repeal: We are working with international humanist and atheist groups and others to repeal and abolish Blasphemy Law in all countries. These laws, which contravene international law, have been used to affirm and justify some of the worst Islamic violence of recent years. A document examining Blasphemy Law in New Zealand has been prepared for circulation and a new website is being developed at http://blasphemy.nz/
- Request from Gabriella Fiorino: Gabriella is asking us to consider signing her petition that shows that the promotion of Creationism in public schools in Louisiana, USA, is unconstitutional due to the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. Gabriella’s complete communication follows:
Hello, My name is Gabriella Fiorino, and I am currently a student aiming for a degree in Neuropsychology. I was home schooled with very conservative Christian textbooks, and taught to deny evolution. However, as I got older, I realized that I was being taught lies, and strove to learn science for myself. After reading Sam Harris’s Free Will I became an atheist at the great displeasure of my family. I am sending this message as I started a petition on Change.org that I believe this site may wish to support. The petition is regarding the recent documents leaked showing that many teachers in Louisiana are promoting Creationism in public schools. My petition shows how this act is unconstitutional due to the Establishment Clause of the 1st Amendment. If you agree with the petition, I would be elated if you could sign it and share. Below is the link to the petition. Thank you for your time and consideration. https://www.change.org/p/louisiana-department-of-education-louisiana-state-house-louisiana-state-senate-louisiana-bese-bobby-jindal-shawna-creamer-documents-have-recently-been-leaked-proving-that-many-teachers-have-been-promoting-creationsim-in-public-schools-this-is-in-vari
- Professor Peter Boghossian Tour: the only NZ lecture is on Wednesday July 22 at the University of Auckland. In June and July 2015, Professor Peter Boghossian will be travelling to Australia and New Zealand on the “How do you know?” tour. Professor Boghossian teaches critical thinking, the philosophy of education and moral reasoning at Portland State University in Oregon, US. He is a speaker for the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science, the Centre for Inquiry and the Secular Student Alliance. In 2013 he published a book, A Manual for Creating Atheists, which provides practical tips and techniques for atheists to use in personal conversations with religious believers to encourage them to think more critically about their faith. He’s now putting the finishing touches on a phone app, Atheos, which will make these tips and techniques immediately available.
- Review of ‘A Manual for Creating Atheists’: For thousands of years, the faithful have honed proselytizing strategies and talked people into believing the truth of one holy book or another. Indeed, the faithful often view converting others as an obligation of their faith—and are trained from an early age to spread their unique brand of religion. As a counter to this tried-and-true tradition of religious evangelism, A Manual for Creating Atheists (Pitchstone Publishing, November 2013) offers the first-ever guide not for talking people into faith—but for talking them out of it. Drawing on the tools he has developed and used for more than twenty years as a philosopher and educator, Peter Boghossian teaches the reader how to engage the faithful in conversations that will help them value reason and rationality, cast doubt on their religious beliefs, mistrust their faith, abandon superstition and irrationality, and ultimately embrace reason. Says Boghossian, “There are entire organizations, a massive corpus of literature, about how to talk someone into a faith tradition. Catholics, Mormons, you name it. There’s nothing about how to talk someone out of a faith tradition and into reason and rationality. And that’s what the book is about. It’s about how to turn these engagements from pester into opportunity. The book gives people specific tools to talk people out of their faith and into reason.” While acknowledging the important role authors such as Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and Christopher Hitchens have played in exposing the fraudulent nature and dangers of religion, Boghossian argues that the conversation must be moved forward to attack what rests at the foundation of all religions: unquestioned faith. “By undermining faith one is able to undermine almost all religions simultaneously, and it may be easier to help someone to abandon their faith than it is to separate them from their religion. My aim is to target faith, not religion.” Just as many religions send out their followers to convert the masses to their systems of belief, Boghossian sees the front lines as the countless one-on-one interactions that occur every day across the globe: “My goal is literally to create a generation of Street Epistemologists, people equipped with an array of dialectical and clinical tools, to go out into the streets, wherever the faithful are found and in every interaction to help them come to reason and shed superstition and faith. That’s my goal. Literally to create a legion of people that will stop the tide of irrationality.” In the United States alone, he estimates “a standing ‘army’ of more than half a million potential Street Epistemologists ready to be empowered, given the tools, and informally deployed to deliver millions of micro-inoculations (of reason) to the populace on a daily basis.” Despite the book’s provocative title, Boghossian stresses that creating atheists is not his ultimate goal, “What’s important is that we create people who lead thoughtful and examined lives. What’s important is that we create people that have reliable methods to discern make-believe land from reality.” He concludes, “The way I look at it is, what would the world look like on the basis of reason and evidence. They’d be willing to reconsider their beliefs. They’d formulate public policy on the basis of reason and evidence. I think the world would be saner, less irrational, less subject to superstition. I think that our sciences would advance tremendously. I think it would move us in the direction of where we want to be as a society.”
- More about the app Atheos: It is a mobile app that offers a sequential system of compassionate dialogue training to help people become more thoughtful and less dogmatic about their beliefs. It offers approximately 1,000 unique dialogue options that cover a wide range of theistic claims (supernatural, ontological, fundamentalist, prayers, miracles, “deepities” etc.) Gameplay makes the app entertaining and repeatable, and the search function makes all content readily accessible. Ultimately, Atheos is a comprehensive training tool and resource for atheists and skeptics, and thoughtful believers who have faith in the supernatural. It’s a tool for helping believers begin to question their faith in thoughtful ways.
- Seeking to repeal Section 78 of the Education Act: A legal challenge to repeal Section 78 of the Education Act has been was launched by Jeff McClintock from the Secular Education Network, after his daughter Violet was made to sit alone in a corner of her Red Beach School’s classroom, kneeling on the floor reading a book next to the rubbish bin, after her parents opted for her to sit out religious studies. This case was held on Thursday 22 May in Auckland. The Churches Education Commission (CEC) also applied to be heard as an interested non-party at the High Court case. A judgment delivered by Justice Susan Thomas granted the application, stating the case would “directly affect” CEC and the organisation would improve the quality of information before the court. Richard Francois, their lawyer who is taking the case ‘de bono’, said he would challenge the Education Act’s legality, arguing Section 78 was in breach of the Bill of Rights and discriminated against pupils who did not hold Christian beliefs. The main issue, according to the lawyer, is the difference between religious education and religious instruction.”Religious education is about teaching children about religion and how it influences art, literature, civilisations, the history of religions, how it affects other groups of people. Religious instruction, however, is Bible-based. It’s doctrinal, it’s about instruction and is taken by a person of Christian faith. It’s not taken by a teacher.” The High Court is expected to hear the full legal bid later this year.
- From the British Humanist Association: the BHA have supported a demonstration outside Downing Street on Wednesday 17 June calling on the UK Government to put pressure on Saudi Arabia to free their prisoner, Raif Badawi, a Saudi Blogger. The BHA are strongly urging the UK Government to speak out against the scourge of blasphemy laws and blasphemy-related reprisals globally, and in particular are highlighting the wave of violence affecting humanists across Europe and Asia. They have spoken out at the UN Human Rights Council about Raif’s egregious punishment, and directly to Saudi representatives, and will continue to do so at future UN meetings
- Two quotes from Raif. It is puzzling why they have drawn such ire ‘For me, liberalism simply means, live and let live. This is a splendid slogan. However, the nature of liberalism – particularly the Saudi version – needs to be clarified. It is even more important to sketch the features and parameters of liberalism, to which the other faction, controlling and claiming exclusive monopoly of the truth, is so hostile that they are driven to discredit it without discussion or fully understanding what the word actually means. They have succeeded in planting hostility to liberalism in the minds of the public and turning people against it, lest the carpet be pulled out from under their feet. But their hold over people’s minds and society shall vanish like dust carried off in the wind. AND ‘No religion at all has any connection to mankind’s civic progress. This is not a failing on the part of religion but rather that all religions represent a particular, precise spiritual relationship between the individual and the Creator. ..However, positive law is an unavoidable human and social need because traffic regulations, employment law and the codes governing the administration of State can hardly be derived from religion.
- Message from Andrew Copson: ‘Following our 2015 General Assembly in Manila, Philippines, I am deeply honoured to have been elected president of the International Humanist and Ethical Union. I feel especially privileged to succeed such a wonderful IHEU President as Sonja Eggerickx. Since 2006 she has been the IHEU’s passionate but calm and reasoned leader, and I have been working on the Executive Committee with her for over half that time. It has been an honour. It’s also been a busy time for IHEU. Right now we’re concluding an extensive policy review, we have restructured our staff, and professionalised our United Nations representation. Through our Communications Director, Bob Churchill, we have built on our policy work by publishing the now annual IHEU Freedom of Thought Report, which is making a significant impact on the international discussion around freedom of thought and expression among human rights experts, lawmakers, and in the media. We have a new website, a growing volunteer pool, and this year, after the Charlie Hebdo tragedy, we are at the very centre of the new End Blasphemy Laws campaign, running the online presence and supporting coalition members to fight so-called ‘blasphemy’ laws in their own countries. All in all, we have opened many new doors. Now we need to keep advancing through them. The IHEU is the only global federation of humanist and like-minded organisations that is democratic at every level, with more than six decades of tradition and experience behind it. But I don’t want to be a custodian only. This is a fast-changing, vitally important time for the interests of Humanism. So we must continue to move forward, with more energy and more innovation. I want to facilitate deeper interaction between Member Organisations and the IHEU head office, and between Member Organisations themselves. For this we need greater transparency, and to be not just an institution but a mutually supporting network. At the British Humanist Association I’ve worked to double voluntary income, strengthen member groups, and oversee the creation of new sections and areas of work. Although an international organisation is different from a national one, I believe we have lessons to learn from our national Member Organisations and I believe we can and must transpose many of your successful strategies to the international level. Externally, we must continue to build on the Freedom of Thought report and the reputation boost this has given us. I want to continue to grow our presence in international institutions, and enhance our public and media profile — without compromising our reputation for being a balanced, sensible, authoritative voice. And I believe we can find new ways of representing and advocating the values and ideas of Humanism as a positive lifestance for all thinking people in the here and now. Please feel free to contact me via firstname.lastname@example.org with any thoughts, priorities or news you may have. I greatly look forward to working with you, the staff and volunteers with IHEU Member Organizations, as well as the IHEU staff and other representatives.’
- Obituary: Raymond ( Ray) Alfred Dahlitz from the Victorian Humanist Association, Australia. 1926 – 2015
Ray has visited New Zealand and Humanist Society of NZ members have met up with Ray when attending conferences in Australia. Ray had a very active involvement with three free-thought organisations. This began with him setting up a Freethought Society at the University of Melbourne in 1949. At this time Ray also joined the Rationalist Society of Victoria (RSV) where he worked with Bill Cooke. For many years Ray was a RSV committee member and he later served as Secretary to the Board of the Rationalist Association of Australia. Ray had a key role in organising the meeting that set up the Humanist Society of Victoria (HSV) in 1961. This inaugural meeting was sponsored by the RSV and Melbourne Unitarians. Prior to this meeting Ray exchanged letters with leading UK Humanists including Hector Hawton (a founding member of IHEU). In 1993 he was Vice-president of HSV and then President 1994-96. This was a time of growth for the HSV, a tribute to Ray’s enthusiastic and energetic leadership. For many years Ray organised an impressive list of guest lecturers for the HSV monthly meetings, wrote many articles for the Australian Humanist and Victorian Humanist, represented the HSV on radio, in the local press and at Parliamentary inquiries. He attended most CAHS Conventions during this period either as a delegate or as CAHS President (1997–2000). Ray’s inspiration and organisational assistance led to the IHEU regional Congress, Australis 2000, that was held in Sydney in 2000. A group of New Zealand Humanists attended this congress. He remained an active HSV committee member until 2005, when in his 80th year he considered his place would be better filled by someone younger. Ray’s commitment to Humanism as an international movement led him and partner Rosslyn Ives, to attend IHEU Congresses in Mexico City (1996), Mumbai (1999), Oslo (2000), and Amsterdam (2002). Ray spent several years gathering material on the history of secularists in Australia. This was published in 1992 in a Secular Who’s Who. This ground-breaking book, collected a comprehensive listing of hundreds of secularists, freethinkers, rationalists, atheists and humanists from the 1850s to the late twentieth century. He is survived by his partner Rosslyn, daughters Karen and Meryl and five grandchildren.
- Basic Income NZ (BINZ): The committee formed after the February Conference is continuing the practical steps to form an incorporated society, that will strongly advocate for the establishment of a universal basic income for all NZ citizens, both adult and child.