Kia ora:

This is the final newsletter for 2013 and the Humanist Council wish all members a safe and relaxing time as 2013 ends. Professor Lloyd Geering has given stimulating lecture series this year, including ‘From the Big Bang to God’ and ‘Theology before and after Bishop Robinson’s Honest to God’. Geering argues that these were natural processes and man created god. His final point in both series is that it is up to us now! Can we alone without calling on a God use the centuries of accumulated knowledge to tackle present environmental and political dilemmas?

Monthly Meeting: Monday 25 November 2013

Open to the public – All interested people are welcome – bring a friend

Why Do We Have Weeks, and Why Does Ours Have 7 Days?

This will be a discussion evening on population issues covering both total world and national populations.
Why do we have weeks? What are weeks and why does ours have seven days?
What are the origins of this cultural universal? How connected are they to religions? Which ones? How many? How old?
From which ancient cultures? How were their contributions merged?
There are a few surprises awaiting someone who investigates the week.
If your want a short cut, come and listen to someone who has already done the investigation.
You are invited to a talk on “Why do we have weeks and why does ours have seven days” by Peter Clemerson.
Peter’s talk will be a reduced version of a 2 hour presentation that Peter recently gave to the Community Continuing Education unit at VUW.

All interested people are welcome, Society members and members of the public – bring a friend.
We meet from 7.30 pm until 9.30 pm
*** Please note the day and venue ***
Tararua Tramping Club, 4 Moncrieff Street, Wellington.
Moncrieff Street is off Elizabeth Street, which is off Kent Terrace, Wellington – a short distance from Courtney Place on trolley bus routes 1 & 3.

This is the last meeting for 2013.
Meetings for 2014 will be on the 4th Monday of the month at the Tararua Tramping Club rooms, 4 Moncrieff Street. The next Monday evening meeting and the first for 2014 will be on Monday 24 February 2014.

Radio Access: Humanist Outlook, 10.30 am, 783 kHz Wellington, on Saturday 7 December, 4th January, 1st February and 1st March.
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 podcast after the event.Last Months Meeting The Discussion on Population created a lot of interest from the audience. Iain leading the discussion showed images of the earth at night, illuminated by the lights of civilisation. These images clearly showed that human population was at its greatest where water and arable land allowed agriculture. Population had increased to meet the resources available just as Malthus had suggested it would. We saw slides showing maps with human population density and how, when this is converted to population density per country, it is necessary to use a log scale for the population in some countries to show at all. We looked at the mega cities and the most populous countries; historical, present, and predicted rates of growth and how birth rates varie around the world; how population doubling times have decreased but are now expected to increase; fertility rates, and growth rates and how these vary by country; at the countries now experiencing population decline; and how sex ratios, medium age, and life expectancy vary by country. Next we discussed the problems cause by population growth and how taxation rates could be minimised, and living standards maximised, with population stability. The discussion then examined the writings of Thomas Malthus, Paul Ehrlich, and the work of the Club of Rome, concluding that what they said is still valid, has value, and should be taken seriously, and then moved on to how the 1994 conference on Population in Cairo had been subverted by the Catholic Church. While the recomendations of this conference do have value, the conference was diverted from the central issue of world population. Iain introduced us to the work of Roy Brown, founder of “The World Population Foundation” and a former president of the IHEU and to the Humanist, Indumati Parikh (1918-2004), who worked on family health and family planning in the slums of Mumbai. Next was an introduction to the concepts of Natalism and ant-Natalism and how it is practiced in different countries – countries with rapid population growth tend to discourage this growth but now some countries with decling population are encouraging births. Natilism is practiced by different religious groups – many small religious groups attempt to grow by promoting large families while the Vatican has long promoted population growth based on a very simplistic interpretation of the bible. A special thanks to Dr Robinson for his contribution to the discussion.

Meetings and Newsletter 2014: The first monthly meeting for 2014 will be on Monday 27 February 2014 at the Tararua Tramping Club Hall. Meetings will be on the 4th Monday of the month. Mark Fletcher will give the first talk, on how archaeological findings have been used to ‘prove’ the existence of God. The newsletter will commence again in February 2014.

Darwin Day 2014 To celebrate Charles Darwin’s birthday and begin the 2014 Year we will have a social evening at The Foxglove 33 Queen’s Wharf, Wellington. Dr Geoff Chambers, Senior Research & Teaching Fellow at the School of Biological Sciences Victoria University hopes to join us in an informal discussion on current aspects of evolution.

2013-2014 Subscriptions: Subscription rates remain the same as for 2012/2013. A separate letter or email giving details will be sent out to all members shortly.

Pastor Enoch Adeboye: Pastor Adeboye arrived in NZ on a private jet on Thursday 14 November. Letters from individual Humanist members and the Humanist Council were written to the Honorable Michael Woodhouse, Minister of Immigration, requesting that his Visa be revoked. Although not successful, we are pleased that there has not been intensive media coverage of his visit.

Puzzled: Among the Marsden Awards, administered by the Royal Society of New Zealand is a grant of $652,174 to Professor Halberstadt, from the Department of Psychology, University of Otago to research ‘The causal role of religious belief in managing death anxiety and intergroup discrimination’. Those scientists who missed out on grants may wonder if this money will be well spent.

The Philippines and Typhoon Haiya: To help the devastated Philippines donations may be made directly to PATAS, (Philippine Atheists and Agnostics Society) at their website . PATAS is an Associate member of the International Humanist and Ethical Union and recently hosted a regional International Humanist Youth Conference. Eleanor Middleton represented the Humanist Society of New Zealand at this conference.

Eleanor and the Elephants blog: a few excerpts from Eleanor’s blog, writing of her experiences in Katmandu. Tihar: Just twelve days after Dasain 5-19 October ( Nepal’s biggest festival of 15 days, celebrating the triumph of good over evil, surrounding the belief of the victory of the goddess Durga over the demon king Mahisasur) finished it was time to celebrate Nepal’s second biggest festival, Tihar, from 1-5 November. Tihar translates as ‘the Festival of Lights’ and is the Nepali equivalent of the Indian Festival, Diwali. What makes the festival even more significant for the Nepali people is that it encompasses the worship of people, their gods, and animals which have a close functional relationship with them. I’m not a religious person in any sense; however, something I like about most Hindu festivals is that I can easily see where their ideas of worship come from (I still remember worshipping the fire during the cold Dharamsala winter). Hinduism is one of the world’s oldest religions, and there is something in its primordial nature that I find appealing. If it’s cold we’ll worship the fire, we’ll worship the cow as it gives us milk and helps us plough our fields. My Nepali friend apologetically explained the days of Tihar to me. “On the fourth day people worship cow dung, I don’t know why they do such a silly thing”. But to me it made perfect sense, cow dung can fertilize the fields, can be used to fuel fires, and build houses. There is something basic that makes sense to me in Eastern religions that I just don’t see in Western religion. It seems to be me that religion is playing on humans’ most basic needs and I can rationalize and enjoy its purpose in our day to day lives. Saying that, I’m not planning on becoming any sort of religious, but I do enjoy the festivals.

On political unrest with upcoming elections 19 November: National Shutdown Nepal Bandh. During a Bandh [a national strike – this one organised by an alliance of 33 minor political parties] the whole country shuts down. Firstly they don’t allow any vehicles on the road, leaving everyone to travel by foot. Furthermore, all the shops have to remain closed If people don’t comply to the Bandh there can be violent retributions including the torching of vehicles. If there is a Bandh all the normal everyday people stay home and do nothing. Ambience International school has remained closed On the strike front everything seems under control now. There are lots of army and police officers patrolling the streets. Still seeing lots of motorbike rallies for different political parties (and being woken up by them at 6am). If I was Nepali I think I’d vote for the party that disturbed my sleep the least!

Like us on Facebook: Look us up on Facebook, add your views, see Humanist–Atheist–Secular items of interest.

Gaylene Middleton

This newsletter was accompanied by a reprint of an article (here) by Tom Flynn ‘Why Seculars Don’t Sing’

NZ Humanist Society Subscriptions for 2013/2014: Subscription rates for this year remain unchanged.

1. Invoices were posted to members and an email sent to members and email subscribers giving details of how to pay for the August 2012 to August 2013 year.
A reminder notice was also included with the New Zealand Humanist magazine for those who have not paid.
2. If you have not yet paid for the previous year, 2011-12 year, your payment will be appreciated.
3. If you have already paid for the 2012-13 year, please do not pay again.
4. If you have not paid yet, your payment will be appreciated.

There are three ways to pay:
1. Internet banking: is available for those who wish to use it. Details were provided in an email on 27th January 2012.
Please ensure that you include your name and other required details as outlined in the email.
2. Direct Credit: direct credit the bank account detailed in the email of 27th January 2012.
Please ensure that you include your name and other required details as outlined in the email.
3. Mail: post a cheque with the return slip – be certain to provide us with relevant details.

Books for Sale
Realising Secularism –
Australia and New Zealand

The new book, Realising Secularism, is a look at the secular history and future of Australia and New Zealand. Contributors to the book include: Bill Hastings, John Kaye, Muriel Fraser, Helen Irving, Bill Cooke, Lloyd Geering, Max Wallace, Nicky Hager, Jane Caro, Iain Middleton, Jim Dakin, Ken Perrott, and Lewis Holden.

Copies of Realising Secularism may be purchased at wholesale price from the Humanist Society of New Zealand for $25 plus $4.50 for postage and packaging. Make cheques payable to the Humanist Society of New Zealand.

The Humanist Society of New Zealand promotes: ethics, science and rational thought, democracy and universal human rights, personal liberty combined with social responsibility, and public benefit, while not having allegiance to any political party and does not support any political party’s policy as such or subsidise any political party.

The Secular Trend in New Zealand

The late Jim Dakin, formerly Associate Professor, Department of University Extension, Victoria University of Wellington, wrote extensively on Adult Education. After retiring, he became interested in Humanism and Secularism in New Zealand and was for a period President of the Humanist Society of New Zealand. His investigations into the secular history of New Zealand led to book that was originally serialised in New Zealand Humanist in eight parts beginning with issue 146 in June 2000. The Secular Trend is now available in Book form and includes a bibliography of Jim Dakin’s writing. A limited number of copies are available.

Order your copy of The Secular Trend by Jim Dakin, published in 2007. Send $10 plus $4.50 postage ($14.50) to Humanist Society of New Zealand (Note; this postage price applies to New Zealand only).