Elizabeth May on Separation of Church and State

Elizabeth May on Separation of Church and State

Elizabeth-May_Green2SCS President asked Elizabeth May to clarify her remarks to an interfaith conference on March 25 and their implications regarding separation of Church and State and for an indication of her thoughts regarding the status of atheist rights in Canada.

Président du SCS demanda Elizabeth May à clarifier ses propos à une conférence interreligieuse le 25 mars et leurs conséquences concernant la séparation de l’église et l’État et pour une indication de ses réflexions au sujet de la situation des droits de l’athée au Canada.

 

Ms. May replied:

 

Dear Mr. Thomas,

Thanks for writing. I speak at many conferences. In the past, I enjoyed speaking at a National Humanist conference in Ottawa. In late March, I spoke to a faith-based conference in Toronto. I shared with that group a brilliant analysis from Prof Peter Timmermann of York University (a practicing Buddhist). Prof Timmermann has observed that Canada is not, as most imagine, a secular society, but that we have a “state religion – econo-theism”. This of course means that we as a society and certainly the political class, worship the economy. The point is not a religious one – it is a deep concern for the blind pursuit of oil wealth at the expense of the environment.

I believe that atheist organizations should have the same tax benefits as religious organizations.

I hope that this has answered your questions and addressed your concerns. If there are any further concerns please do not hesitate to contact me in the future.

Sincerely,

 

Elizabeth May, M.P., O.C
Member of Parliament for Saanich-Gulf Islands
Leader of the Green Party of Canada

Open Secularism – Required for Democracy

Open Secularism–Required for Democracy

A true democracy, one that treats all of its citizens as equals and respects fundamental individual freedoms such as freedom of conscience and religion, can not exist when there is a top-down imposition of any ideology. The extreme Christianity of Adolf Hitler certainly did not foster democracy and neither did the extreme atheism of Stalin. There is no guarantee that total separation of church and state will guarantee democracy either. Napoleon’s efforts in that direction did not immediately create democracy; however, such separation is necessary if full democracy is to be achieved.

The democracy created by the authors of the American declaration of independence has come the closest even though they borrowed the structure of George III’s British government almost completely. The key to their success, of course, was that they removed the notion that their king was appointed by a god and insisted on selecting that ruler by election. They also formalized the checks and balances that were already evolving in the British system.

Here in Canada, even though we have a phrase in our Charter of Rights and Freedom that is virtually identical to the American freedom of “religion and conscience,” the essence of total democracy eludes us. Our head of state is still also the head of the Church of England and we still proclaim her appointment “by the Grace of God” on our coins. Even our national anthem is infected with the theism that has been imposed on us from above.

The preamble of our Charter of Rights and Freedoms is a particularly annoying theist statement. It perpetuates the myth that the best moral attributes of Canada are a result of religious influence. This concept fails so badly in three ways that it can be legitimately considered a desperate last argument from theist Canadians.

The first is that it is an argumentum ad antiquitatem fallacy–the assertion that since we have done something in history, it is good to continue doing so. If that argument held sway in determining the direction of society, slavery would still be prevalent in our society just as it was under the Christian dominated society of Canada until the early 19th century.

The second is that Christianity is all sweetness and light. With revisionist aplomb, this argument assumes that theism has always been a positive moral force in Canada. In fact, the best it has ever managed is a kind of benign tolerance. This has always had its limits, even within the Christian community that European settlers brought to Canada. James Secord and Laura Ingersoll had to be married by a justice of the peace because the only legal church in Upper Canada at that time was The Church of England led by, guess who, George III. They were Methodist and therefore not really Christian in the government’s eyes.

Even nastier was the conviction on the part of the Christians who came to the New World that Aboriginal belief sets were inferior and wrong. When over two hundred years of proselytization failed to erase those Aboriginal beliefs, the Christian dominated governments of the latter 19th and early 20th century sanctioned the kidnapping of Aboriginal children and their forced abusive confinement in the infamous residential schools. Like it or not, those practices were an integral part of the Christian heritage that theists claim as essential to our moral well being.

The third is that the values proponents claim can only be preserved with a theist influence on government are not unique to Christianity or any other theist sect. Rather than being of religious origin, they are, by and large, universal values that are present in any humane philosophy including Humanism.

When a regime insists that its head of state and all its human rights legislation be governed by theist values, true democracy cannot result. We atheists may be tolerated as long as we don’t object to having a theist national anthem forced upon us and as long as we don’t object to the favouritism shown to religions in the charitable regulations of the income tax act and in land tax practices in municipalities, but as soon as we ask for our rights we are seen as evil un-Canadians.

Yes, the Supreme Court of Canada has interpreted the phrase freedom of “conscience and religion” to mean that we have the right to be free from religion, but the official anthem of Canada is an open affront to that freedom every time it is sung in public.

Our current monarch is the head of the Church of England and “Defender of the Faith.” Her immediate successor, under pressure as a divorcee, has declared that he will probably not take the title of Head of the Church of England, but will become “Defender of Faith.” How will atheist rights fare under such a regime? Continued tolerance is about all we could expect.

The time has come to remove the theist influences in Canadian government and move to a system that will allow each of us to bring our ethical values and moral principles to our governmental institutions instead of having one religion’s (or another’s) perceived values forced downward upon us. Open secularism provides a reasonable path to such a goal.

Office of Religious Freedom

Office of Religious Freedom

In early December, having read the text of a speech made by External Affairs Minister, John Baird, at the launch of the Office of Religious Freedom, I wrote him a letter asking for clarification of specific parts of his speech in regards to non-believers. A week or so ago I emailed a follow up letter to him, with a copy of the original attached, asking for a response.

I have had neither an answer nor an acknowledgement to either letter. The speech, the first and second letter are reprinted here. Are my concerns and requests unreasonable? Are you surprised at his “response?”


Address by Minister Baird at Office of Religious Freedom Stakeholder Consultations No. 2011/34 – Ottawa, Ontario – October 3, 2011

john_bairdLadies and gentlemen, I am pleased to join you this morning. This is an opportunity to exchange ideas on a key priority for our government: establishing an Office of Religious Freedom.

We announced our intention to do so in the Speech from the Throne on June 3. And I repeated our commitment most recently at the United Nations General Assembly this past week in New York.

This office will be created to promote and protect freedom of religion and belief, consistent with core Canadian values such as freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law. Most importantly, it will demonstrate that Canada truly is a free society.

Canadians enjoy the rights and privileges that come with living in a free and democratic society in which human rights are respected. We are also keenly aware of the struggles that religious minorities face around the world.

That is why, whatever the circumstances, Canada will continue to speak out, and take principled positions. As I said in my address at the United Nations General Assembly, we will not just go along to get along. We will stand for what is principled and just, regardless of whether it is popular, convenient or expedient.

All human rights are essential, of course, but today, we come together for a special purpose.

History has shown us that religious freedom and democratic freedom are inseparable.

As Franklin Roosevelt observed on the eve of global war:

“Where freedom of religion has been attacked, the attack has come from sources opposed to democracy.

“Where democracy has been overthrown, the spirit of free worship has disappeared.

“And where religion and democracy have vanished, good faith and reason in international affairs have given way to strident ambition and brute force.”

Societies that protect religious freedom are more likely to protect all other fundamental freedoms. They are typically more stable and more prosperous societies. This view has been reinforced in consultations I’ve had around the world so far.

I honestly believe it is critically important that Canada is uniquely placed to protect and promote religious freedom around the world.

We are a country of many ethnicities and religions, but we all share one humanity—one of tolerance, one of acceptance, one of peace and security.

Canada has spoken out against violations of freedom around the world.

I’ve voiced strong concern about serious violations of the rights of Iranian citizens to practice Christianity, including those facing charges of apostasy. I spoke up for the Bahá’í community, which continues to face difficulties in Iran with its leaders being imprisoned on unfounded charges.

I spoke out on the discrimination by the Burmese regime against Muslims and Buddhists.

I stand with Roman Catholic priests and other Christian clergy and their laity, as they are driven underground to worship in China while their leaders are detained. And our government has raised the issues of Tibetans, Uyghurs and Falun Gong practitioners at the United Nations.

We stood in solidarity with Pakistan’s Shahbaz Bhatti and Salman Taseer, who were assassinated by extremists for speaking out against unjust blasphemy laws.

We have called for accountability for the violence faced by the Ahmiddya community in different parts of the world.

We were the first major country to speak out about the attacks against Egyptian Coptics following the events in Nag Hammadi, and we deplored the New Year’s Eve attacks in Alexandria.

And in Iraq, where al Qaeda has driven out many Christians and minorities, we implemented a program to resettle refugees.

This year, our government created an award, the John Diefenbaker Defender of Human Rights and Freedom Award, to recognize individuals who show exceptional leadership in defending human rights and freedoms.

It was former Prime Minister John Diefenbaker who, during his time in office, championed human rights both in Canada and around the world. On the day he introduced the Canadian Bill of Rights in Parliament, he spoke these words:

“I am a Canadian, …, free to speak without fear, free to worship God in my own way, free to stand for what I think right, free to oppose what I believe wrong, free to choose those who shall govern my country. This heritage of freedom I pledge to uphold for myself and mankind.”

I pledge to continue this tradition. But I of course can’t do this alone.

And we as a country are compelled to get this right.

That’s why I’m glad each of you is here to share your expertise, insights and experiences.

I’m extremely pleased at the calibre of people gathered here.

I know this is a challenging task, but, then again, Canadians stand for what is right, not what is easy, so I have no doubt we here today are up to that challenge.

It is our common duty to defend the rights of the afflicted, and to give voice to the voiceless.

Our positions will not soften, our determination will not lessen, and our voices will not be diminished until all citizens can enjoy the freedoms and rights we hold to be universal and true.

Through our combined efforts, I am confident that the Office of Religious Freedom can help do just that.

Thank you all for being here.


Letter from SCS President, Doug Thomas to John Baird asking for clarification.

Dear Minister Baird:

A major part of my responsibility to non-believers in my role as president of Secular Connexion Séculaire is to pay attention to government and political party communications to understand their intentions toward non-believers in Canada.

Your speech to religious leaders regarding the creation of an “Office of Religious Freedom” has come to my attention, courtesy of the executive officer of one of our local associations. Several comments within that speech stand out to me as requiring some clarification regarding your government’s positions and attitudes to Canadian non-believers.

I ask for these clarifications in light of several Supreme Court of Canada opinions (e.g. in Rodriquez vs. Regina and Big M Drugs vs. Regina) that clauses 2a) and 2b) of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantee freedom from religion as well as freedom of religion.

First, the idea of establishing an office of “religious freedom”, rather than “philosophical freedom” prompts the question, “Is freedom from religion not as worthy of protection under your government’s policies?”

Second, did you intend to exclude freedom from religion and belief when you said,

“This office will be created to promote and protect freedom of religion and belief, consistent with core Canadian values such as freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law. Most importantly, it will demonstrate that Canada truly is a free society.”

If that is the case, do you not find the last sentence in this statement to be contradictory?

Third, may we assume that when you say, in reference to the United Nations, “[w]e will stand for what is principled and just, regardless of whether it is popular, convenient or expedient, that the policy of your government would include support for the International Humanist and Ethical Union’s representative on the UN Human Rights Commission in the fight to keep the right to question religious practices when they breach the Universal Charter of Human Rights?

Fourth, in your statement, “[w]e are a country of many ethnicities and religions, but we share one humanity-one of tolerance, one of acceptance, one of peace and security,” are you reflecting government policy to accept non-religions such as Humanism equally with religions?

Finally, in the creation of the John Diefenbaker Defender of Human Rights and Freedoms Award are you prepared to accept the nomination of such people as the late Dr. Robert Buckman, a prominent oncologist and long-time supporter and leader of Humanist Canada, recipient of its Humanist of the Year Award?

I look forward to hearing from you so that I can inform our non-believing community of your government’s policies and attitudes toward non-believers in Canada.

Sincerely,

 

Doug Thomas

President, Secular Connexion Séculaire

president@secularconnexion.ca


Second letter from SCS President, Doug Thomas

Honourable Minister:

Some weeks ago, I sent you a letter asking for clarification of statements in your speech to the inaugural meeting of the Office of Religious Freedom (copy attached).

We are concerned about the intent of your government regarding the human rights of Atheists in those countries that will be the focus of the office.

What are those intents? Can we depend on your government to defend the rights of non-believers with the same vigour that you seem to be investing in believers?

How can non-believers participate in the Office of Religious Freedom?

 

Sincerely

 

Doug Thomas

President, Secular Connexion Séculaire

president@secularconnexion.ca

 

 

Titre : Le président de SCS journal John Baird au sujet du bureau de la liberté religieuse. Réponse de M. Baird?

Au début de décembre, ayant lu le texte d’un discours prononcé par le ministre des affaires étrangères, John Baird, lors du lancement de l’Office de la liberté religieuse, je lui a écrit une lettre demandant des précisions de parties spécifiques de son discours en ce qui concerne les non-croyants. Une semaine ou si il y a par courriel une lettre de suivi pour lui, avec une copie de l’original attaché, demandant une réponse.
J’ai eu ni une réponse ni un vérification de réception à chaque lettre. Le discours, la première et la deuxième lettre sont reproduits ici. Mes préoccupations et les demandes sont-ils déraisonnables ? Êtes vous surpris à son « réponse » ?

Lettre du président de SCS, Doug Thomas à John Baird demandant des précisions.

Monsieur le ministre Baird :
Une grande partie de ma responsabilité de non-croyants dans mon rôle de président de Secular Connexion Séculaire est prêter attention au gouvernement et de la communication de parti politique afin de comprendre leurs intentions envers les non-croyants au Canada.
Un de nos groupes locaux m’a informé au sujet de votre discours aux amorces religieuses au sujet du « bureau de la liberté religieuse ». Plusieurs commentaires au sein de ce discours se distinguent pour moi comme nécessitant des précisions au sujet de votre gouvernement positions et attitudes de non-croyants canadiens.
Je demande pour ces éclaircissements comme justifié par des plusieurs avis de la Cour suprême du Canada (p. ex. en Rodriquez vs Regina et Big M médicaments vs Regina) que 2 de clauses a) et 2 b) de la Charte des droits et libertés garantit la liberté de non-croyance ainsi que la liberté de croyance.
Premièrement, l’idée d’établir un bureau de « la liberté religieuse » plutôt que « la liberté philosophique » invite la question, « Est la liberté de non-croyance pas aussi digne de protection dans le cadre de votre politique? »
Deuxièmement, aviez-vous l’intention d’exclure la liberté de non-croyance ou de conviction lorsque vous avez dit,
“Ce bureau sera créé pour promouvoir et protéger la liberté de religion ou de conviction, compatible avec les valeurs canadiennes fondamentales telles que la liberté, la démocratie, des droits de l’homme et la primauté du droit. Plus important encore, elle démontrera que le Canada est véritablement une société libre.”
Si tel est le cas, ne vous trouvez pas la dernière phrase dans cette déclaration contradictoire ?
Troisièmement, pouvons nous supposons que quand vous dites, en référence à l’Organisation des Nations Unies, “[n] ous défendra pour ce qui est juste, qu’il soit populaire, commode ou opportun, que la politique de votre gouvernement comprendrait un soutien pour le représentant de l’humaniste International et l’Union éthique pour la Commission des droits de l’homme de l’ONU dans la lutte pour le droit de pratiques religieuses question quand ils respectent la Charte universelle des droits de l’homme et fondée sur des principes ?
Quatrièmement, dans votre déclaration, « [n] ous sommes un pays de nombreuses ethnies et religions, mais nous partageons une humanité-un de la tolérance, l’un de l’acceptation, de la paix et la sécurité, » êtes-vous reflétant la politique du gouvernement à accepter des philosophies non-croyantes telles que l’humanisme également avec les religions?
Enfin, dans la création de la John Diefenbaker Award êtes-vous disposé à accepter la nomination de personnes telles que le Dr Robert Buckman fin, un éminent oncologue et partisan de longue date et un leader du Canada humaniste, bénéficiaire de son humaniste de l’année ?
J’attends votre réponse avec l’anticipation de sorte que je puisse inform notre communauté non-croyant de politiques et les attitudes à l’égard des non-croyants au Canada de votre gouvernement.
Sincèrement,
Doug Thomas
Président, Secular Connexion Séculaire
President@secularconnexion.ca

Deuxième lettre du président de SCS, Doug Thomas

Honorable ministre :
Quelques semaines plustôt, je vous envoie une lettre demandant des précisions des déclarations dans votre discours à la réunion inaugurale de l’Office de la liberté religieuse (copie ci-jointe).
Nous sommes préoccupés par l’intention de votre gouvernement concernant les droits de l’homme des athées dans les pays qui seront au cœur de l’office.
Quelles sont les intentions? Est-ce que nous pouvons compter à votre gouvernement de défendre les droits des non-croyants avec la même vigueur que vous semblez d’investir dans les croyants ?
Comment les non-croyants peuvent participer dans le Bureau de la liberté religieuse ?
Sincèrement

 

Doug Thomas
Président, Secular Connexion Séculaire
President@secularconnexion.ca

John Baird’s Response – May 18, 2012

Mr. Doug Thomas
President, Secular Connexion Séculaire
president@secularconnexion.ca

Dear Mr. Thomas:

Thank you for your letter of December 8, 2011, and your email of January 21, 2012, concerning the Office of Religious Freedom that will be established within Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada (DFAIT). I regret the delay in replying to you.

The promotion and protection of human rights is an integral part of Canada’s foreign policy. Canada stands up for human rights and takes principled positions on important issues to promote freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law.

Canada takes very seriously issues related to freedom of religion. I have issued several statements concerning egregious violations of freedom of religion and conscience. You may read my statements on DFAIT’s website at http://www.international.gc.ca/media/index.aspx?view=d.

In the Speech from the Throne of June 3, 2011, the Government of Canada committed to creating an Office of Religious Freedom within DFAIT. On September 26, 2011, I reiterated Canada’s commitment in my speech delivered at the United Nations General Assembly. On October 3, 2011, I held round-table consultations on the establishment of the Office. You may read my remarks at http://www.international.gc.ca/media/aff/speeches-discours/2011/2011-034.aspx?lang=eng&view=d. The Office will defend and advocate on behalf of religious minorities under threat, oppose religious hatred and intolerance, and promote core Canadian values of pluralism and tolerance. The Office is a key component of the Canadian government’s efforts to advance human rights, including freedom of religion, around the world.

Thank you for taking the time to write and share your views.

Sincerely,

John Baird, P.C., M.P.

Minister of Foreign Affairs

Email to Members of Parliament

Dear Member of Parliament:

We are Secular Connexion Séculaire (SCS), a new nation-wide group connecting secular Canadians and representing Humanist rights in Canada.

Do you know that 23% of Canadians can’t sing O Canada in either official language without being hypocrites?

Do you also know that the charitable status definitions in the income tax act discriminate against Humanists and other non-believers?

If you are already aware of these problems, we  expect that you are working to eliminate  them, particularly in light of the Canadian Charted of Rights and Freedoms and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

If, on the other hand,  these concerns are news to you, please go to secularconnexion.ca to understand our concerns and to learn about our suggested solutions.

Thanks for your attention. We’ll be in touch.

So… You’re a Humanist! What’s that?

So… You’re a Humanist! What’s that?

from a talk by Barrie Webster, Victoria Secular Humanist Association, Sunday, September 11, 2011 (photo left above)

Humanists take a positive approach to life, one not based on fear or guilt, and they see no need for a supernatural authority figure in their lives… For Humanists the reference point for personal guidance is internal; it is not an external authority to be feared.

A few years ago, when I was team lecturing a 55+ class for Continuing Education at the University of Winnipeg, I took a careful look at Humanism while I was preparing my lecture material. The participants included adults of retirement age who were there to think; people of a variety of religious and philosophical belief systems. Beginning was easy. Humanism is non-theistic: Humanists take a positive approach to life, one not based on fear or guilt, and they see no need for a supernatural authority figure in their lives. Humanism, I pointed out, however, is more than simple atheism, i.e., more than simply not believing in a god.

As a member of the Humanist Association of Manitoba, Pat Morrow, opined:

If you want to talk about what I don’t believe, then I’m an atheist.
If you want to talk about what I do believe in, I’m a Humanist.

That’s a good jumping off spot.

Humanism is not “just science”; if that were true, it would essentially be the same as technocracy. Science helps us to understand and describe the Humanist life-stance. But there’s more. For Humanists the reference point for personal guidance is internal; it is not an external authority to be feared. Further, the concept of original sin is rejected; Humanists believe that children are born without the need to be somehow cleansed or saved. Rather, the natural pro-social tendencies and capabilities we are born with need to be fostered and reinforced as we grow up.

Humanism, then, is a life-stance with no need for a god authority. A god myth is seen to be unnecessary, because it is possible to be good without a god. In fact, we’re not sure that a god makes it easier in any way to be good: recall the biblical readings many of us had at school (I went to school in the 1950s) telling us that the Christian God was vengeful and that he welcomed things such as a willingness to sacrifice human children as an indication of allegiance. This not only doesn’t make sense to Humanists, it’s repugnant. If being willing to sacrifice children rankles you, so much the better. Then there is the cannibalistic symbolism of the most sacred Christian sacrament, holy communion. Eating human flesh and drinking human blood, even symbolically, when you think about it, is at best an uncivilized proposition.

The idea that human nature is founded solely in selfishness is inconsistent with Humanism. I’ll come back to this later, but for the present, let us say simply that it is life before death that matters, that it is ill-advised to focus on a “next life”, that there is one life ̶ “womb-to-tomb” ̶ and that is what we have to work with. And we need to make best use of that life for its own sake.

Now back to selfishness. Individually oriented selfishness is not a human priority in the minds of Humanists. There are many other motives that loom large (not necessarily in this order): honesty, self-respect, altruism, love, sympathy, trust, sense of duty, solidarity, loyalty, public-spiritedness, and patriotism ̶ the list goes on. Selfishness alone does not a Humanist make.

Charles Darwin thought long and hard about these issues and pointed out the important role of competition in natural selection (Origin of Species); however, he was not satisfied to leave it there. In his later book, Descent of Man, he determined that even more important in human evolution were love, development of language and the communication it facilitated, reflection on the consequences of one’s actions and experiences, and repetition of those actions that were beneficial (otherwise known as habit). Social scientists now have more than 150 years of further detailed work to confirming these findings in detail. Darwin was an exemplary scientist in the broadest sense; I am proud to say, he was also a Humanist.

Recent writers and practitioners have declared that the Golden Rule (do to others as you would have them do to you) is a fundamental tenet of Humanism. Glenn Hardie in his book, The Essence of Humanism, makes this point up front. Franz de Waal, a noted etologist, has pointed out that motives other than selfishness are important to humans. Neuroscientist, Vilayanur Ramachandran has demonstrated the role of mirror neurons in the expression of empathy. The educational program, Roots of Empathy, now part of the curriculum in the province of Manitoba for school children, brings out the empathy that is within all of us, but at the early school age where it has been shown to result, among other benefits, in reduced teenage violence and reduced rates of teenage pregnancy. Selfishness clearly is not the only driving force for human endeavour, and Humanists are happy to embrace these findings.

Now comes the question of “holy books” in the Humanist life-stance. Religious texts are, to Humanists, collections of myths and folktales (stories). Being literature, they may in some cases be founded on history, but they are an unreliable source of literal truth. Like other literature, they may be interesting, even inspiring, to study; they may be useful as literary resources to understand cultures, but they are not historically accurate in detail. Some religionists like to suggest that Humanists regard Darwin’s Origin of Species as a holy book or its equivalent. While Darwin was a Humanist and while his books inspire deep respect from Humanists, they are continually subject to updating and the change that further scientific research brings.

Humanism has no dogma; Humanists instead rely on free inquiry and the scientific method to define the world we live in. They reserve the right to disagree on detail and do not feel compelled to accept judgement calls of others, even others who call themselves Humanists. So you will find a variety of Humanistic views on controversial topics such as politics, economics, alternative medicine, and social justice issues. Humanists are therefore a pluralistic lot with a compassionate view of the world. Areas such as human rights (e.g., lesbian-gay-bisexual-transgender issues, race, culture, and equality of the sexes), social justice (concern for consequences of economic inequality, appropriate measured remedies for crime, access to medical services, and fair distribution of resources), and environmental integrity (concern for the health of the planet, our one and only life support system) are, unsurprisingly, sources of intense discussion amongst Humanists.

Science is the best tool we have for understanding the world, but scientific knowledge is constantly changing and being updated. Rational thought is part of the interpretation of scientific results, a process that takes time. Meanwhile, emotion plays an important role in making us human. As Greg Epstein, Humanist Chaplain at Harvard University says, “Science can teach us a great deal, but it won’t come and visit us in the hospital.” As the science of psychology gains strength, we see that the place of emotion in human relationships and society is due a great deal of respect. Rational decisions based on attitudes and values necessarily involve the emotional evaluation of what natural beauty, peaceful living conditions, and harmonious relations with our fellow humans and other living things mean to us.

Everyday minute-to-minute decisions in our lives are based on emotion ̶ rational thought just takes too long! But careful, methodical, rational thought enables us to interpret complex options presented by our scientific research. And social sciences are increasingly important in helping us to understand our psychological makeup.

Humanism involves human action, not prayer. A purely religious approach to life relies on prayer and fate (waiting for prayer to be answered if indeed it is to be answered). Humanists rely on human action and aspire to the greater good of humanity. Remind your (religious) friends and associates that most people are, by this easily grasped definition, humanistic, even if they present themselves as religious. And, while prayer may appear to give positive support for outcomes that we prefer, it is the actual activity of getting there that gets results. Psychological support from sympathetic groups of like-minded individuals is always welcome, but nothing succeeds like well thought out action.

People of religion will claim that religion is necessary to give a profound sense of meaning and purpose to life. In fact, Humanists find that religion is not necessary; a Humanist life-stance itself gives a profound sustaining sense that we can and must live our lives for a purpose beyond ourselves. Charles Darwin in Descent of Man claimed that it was built into us and was part of the reason that the human race had achieved the evolutionary success that it had.

An interesting comeback that Christians sometimes give Humanists is “You know, we believe that God is Love,” and say it as if they have an exclusive; the implication being that Humanists, not believing in the Christian God, must have no value for love. Humanists know that love is important to humanity, and know that love is a primary emotion in their lives. The recognition that love was perhaps the most important driving force in human evolution was stated clearly by Charles Darwin in Descent of Man, and he also presented evidence that animals of various sorts also demonstrate love for each other.

The term “spiritual” means a variety of things, depending on the context and the person using it; however, many of the same things inspire Humanists that people of religions associate with transcendence akin to experience with their god(s). Who has not experienced the thrill of the magnificence of nature – in BC we are faced with vistas virtually everywhere we turn, but there are also panoramas which give similar feelings to people on the prairies and elsewhere in Canada and the world. Music can be something that stimulates the very heart of a person’s being (or generates the opposite feeling), but most of us have favourite music that sends tingles down our spines. This is especially so for those of us who hear (or play) music or passages with which they are familiar. Great art, whether it be a painting, photograph, sculpture, or piece of architecture, can also inspire the viewer. Fine literature is the same. Then there is love for one’s fellow human. And the value for personal liberty, sense of justice, and love of country. In each case, tastes differ, but the feeling of resonance with all of these experiences is what I would argue to be a spiritual event. No deity is needed. Nor need a deity be invoked.

A church congregation gives religious adherents a feeling of community; in fact, that community is probably more important to many than religious faith, even for regular church goers. Humanists are, by nature, used to being non-conformists, but a sense of community is vitally important to them as well. There are, by Epstein’s estimate, about one billion non-religious people on the planet. Rest assured that they could benefit from having a Humanist community to belong to (as, of course, do Humanists themselves).

So how long has Humanism existed? In fact, the essence of Humanism has been in existence for at least 26 centuries and can be traced back to the times of Confucius and Buddha who, themselves reflected earlier secular ideas and principles. It is important to note that they themselves were not religious. Similarly, the Ionian Greeks (e.g., the Milesian School of Atomists) from about the same era also used reason to explain the physical world. In these cases, they were philosophers (remember that ‘science’ used to be called ‘natural philosophy’ – you’ll see it on older university science buildings, for instance) and did not do experimental work; however, they were capable of deducing that the earth was spherical and revolved around the Sun. Also, they developed fundamental mathematics and practical tools to observe nature. Some were able to predict eclipses, to determine the dimensions of the planet, and to propose early explanations for the structure of matter. While humanistic thinking was suppressed by the Romans and the early Christian Church, it was preserved by Arabic peoples who became Muslims and re-entered Europe via Spain. By various means, including the movement of itinerant Jews who made their way into northern Europe, these scientific ideas were ultimately transmitted to areas of Europe not subject to the Inquisition (Hutcheon 1996). Other cultures, including the Chinese and the Mayans, also developed scientific knowledge familiar to Humanists.

Now we come to the cautionary note from Pat Duffy-Hutcheon in her address to the 2000 annual convention of the Humanist Association of Canada. Beware of tribalism – the dangers of an ‘us-and-them’ view of the world. She advocated that we approach the world with the attitude of scientific humanism. I would rephrase that to “Beware of the ‘zero order’ trap,” or the “You’re either with us or you’re with the terrorists” stance of George W. Bush. The world is at least three-dimensional. Let me explain with a simple geometric mind-picture. The one-side-or-the-other approach is a one point or the other view: a zero-dimensional view. It has no provision for anything other than strict partisanship. For political discussions, we often resort to a left-right scale, or a one-dimensional view: a line. This allows for a gradation of positions along one axis. But that is not enough to accommodate economics (capitalist-communist) and activism (radical vs complacent) and political (liberal vs conservative) and religious (fundamentalist religious vs atheist) differences. We need more dimensions: two dimensions or axes give us a plane or circle to work with to express diverse opinion; three dimensions or axes give us a cube or sphere; and so on. Use your imagination. Quickly, it becomes clear that the world is much too complex to be viewed in zero-, one-, or two dimensions. Tribalism is a trap to be avoided and Humanism is easily subverted by reduction of controversy to a too simple view. Humanism has no dogma; hence, Humanists hold views on complex issues that often don’t exactly match. The real enemy of Humanism is, however, not religion, but hate, fear, and ignorance; in other words, the darker part of humanity that is in every person, including every Humanist.

The Humanist Association of Manitoba recently created a poster to display at their booth at the Red River Exhibition on June 21, 2011. It states that

Humanism is

  • socially responsible,
  • culturally inclusive,
  • personally ethical,
  • informed by science,
  • inspired by art, and
  • moved by compassion.

Further, it states that “We are beyond belief.”

So the question that remains is this: Are you a Humanist? Chances are that you will want to answer, “Yes!”

God is a Metaphor – Full Article

SCS President Addresses World Religions Conference

They posed the question: Who is God? Nature and Characteristics

Here is our president’s answer.

God is a Metaphor

Doug Thomas - President, Secular Connexion Seculaire

In the absence of any empirical evidence for the existence of gods, we non-believers do not think of them or any supernatural beings as real entities, but rather as products of mankind’s psychology and imagination. God is a metaphor for all the unexplained occurrences that have confronted human beings ever since human beings began to make connections between the environment and our future. That metaphor has several variations including: God the creator, God the controller of seasons, God the leader, God the judge, and God the scapegoat. All of these modes reflect concerns of the human beings who have created him, or her, or it in all the thousands of forms and attitudes gods have taken over thousands of years of human development and in all of them we see the direct reflection of the culture and knowledge of the society that created them and worshipped them.

Most of the early Gods were directly related to natural phenomena – the sun, the moon, nature in general. Mankind, looking for explanations of natural phenomena, in the absence of modern science or scientific methods, seems to have filled the void with supernatural beings. The Sun, travelling across the sky became a fiery chariot ridden by a special warrior. Gods were characterized as winds. Some wielded lightning bolts, others fire. All were portrayed as having some kind of human form or other. Hunting societies had hunting gods, agrarian societies had gods related to that livelihood and so on.

God the creator has had many forms, but I will use the one in the Bible primarily, even though there are some really interesting ones in other religious texts. In Genesis, God creates the Heavens and Earth in six days and rests on the seventh. From a non-believing perspective, this seems very human of Him. Why would an all-powerful being need to rest after six days of rather nominal labour? After all, when he said, on the third day, “Let there be light” there was light. Rubbing two cosmic sticks together or even flicking a divine Bic would have required more energy. Certainly, creating fire on earth was labour intensive for human beings. This God of creation had the kind of vulnerability to fatigue that his creators had.

Another clue to the creation of this metaphor comes from the same part of the Genesis story – on the fourth day He created the stars. Since his creators did not equate stars with light in the universe, or for that matter as separate entities rather than a part of a permanently fixed firmament, this impossible or at least difficult order of things – light before there were sources of light – is a not a surprising human literary mistake. An all knowing, all-powerful God would have known this and surely would have taken the more logical path of creating sources of light before manipulating them.

Oh, you say, I am not supposed to take the Book of Genesis literally, but metaphorically. Hmm. how can I fit that into my argument?

God the controller of seasons, Father or more popularly, Mother Nature, explained, in the absence of Environment Canada, (you know, the folks who have us shovel 10 cm. of partly cloudy off our driveways from time to time), why the frost came earlier than expected or why there was a drought. Ancient agricultural cultures spent quite a bit of time trying to appease the Gods of nature. Of course, the gods of early societies were intimately involved with nature since the whims of nature were life and death causing mood changes in a world of marginal agricultural technology.

Even the relatively sophisticated Greeks ascribed lightning to Zeus, and storms at sea to an angry Poseidon. This relationship between God and lightning seems to have become confused later on causing Deist, Benjamin Franklin to chuckle at the need for churches to install one of his inventions, the lightning rod.

My ancestors whom those Greeks named Keltoi – the outsiders – had Druid priests who constructed large structures to determine the exact day of winter solstice and summer solstice in an attempt to give farmers a better chance in northern Europe’s shorter growing season. They were early astronomers of some skill and of course demanded support from their society in the manner to which they aspired and sacrificed a few human beings along the way to ensure their positions of power. Even modern tele-evangelists don’t go that far.

Druids created a pantheistic set of gods who inhabited the trees, rivers, rocks and all the parts of nature that a stone-age culture struggling to survive would consider important. These spirits reported to a great dragon that lived beneath the earth. When the dragon was at rest good things happened, but when he was awakened, bad things happened. Was this an ancient memory of a less stable geological time? After all one need only observe the devastation that earthquakes can cause to modern society to understand the damage such a beast would inflict if its scales got ruffled and it became agitated in its lair.

God the leader is a constant in all of the Gods invented because the need for someone to support a society, and ensure that it is rightly superior to those around it, is very strong. One must have the right kind of god to be successful in matters of war, for example. The early Hebrew God was a very wrathful individual who would be quite capable of sending angels of death to murder the first born of Egyptians who did not mark their doorways with lamb’s blood – a curious, seemingly superfluous requirement for an all-knowing God – unless the term “angel of death” is a metaphor for more human agents. Yahweh was exactly the kind of God a rebelling Hebrew slave culture needed to terrorize Egyptians into granting it freedom; unfortunately he wasn’t much of an economist since he led the Jews to the only place in the Middle East with no oil. To us non-believers, the omniscience of a created God seems unlikely to be any greater than that of his creators and it isn’t.

Nevertheless, his war leader qualities come to the fore often enough. In both of the 20th century’s major wars, German soldiers wore belt buckles embossed with “Gott mit uns” – “God with us” and every allied regiment that landed at Normandy brought with it a coterie of chaplains to remind the allied soldiers that He was with them. We atheists, and there were plenty of us in foxholes, by the way, chose to fend for ourselves. Notice that the warring nations, both with long Christian traditions refrained from publicly invoking the help of Jesus. He, after all, was the metaphor for the peaceful side of God. The Japanese warlords who took over that country in the late 1930s and 40s made sure the Shinto Gods were on their side.

God, the judge, is an important one even to us non-believers, even if only indirectly. The rules that were given to Moses, supposedly by Yahweh, tribal though they were, are still quoted, after suitable interpretation by one of the 33,000 Christian sects or many Jewish sects, as rules for behaviour. The admonition, “Thou shalt not kill” seems clear enough until one reads the “clarification” of the laws in other parts of the Bible and sees that not killing is limited to one’s own tribe and does not prevent unspeakable acts against one’s enemies. Of course in modern texts this law is interpreted as “Thou shalt not murder,” thus letting the State of Texas off with its death penalty. Once again, to us, this seems to be a very human set of laws, beset by the tribal foibles of human beings.

Theists often assume that we non-believers are evil sinners by default, because we don’t accept these as rules from a divine being. This assumption has nothing to do with the Humanist reality. When was the last time you heard of a Humanist Terrorist? Of course, the Ten Commandments don’t cover such problems as racism, and slavery. To be fair, neither do Epicurus’ forty principles. They are, after all, all rules made up by men of their time. Perhaps the next iteration of a created God metaphor will have to include these modern concepts.

However, this assumption that non-believers are at least suspect when moral issues are at hand leads believers to assume the right to discriminate against non-believers in ways that society would quickly condemn were the subjects believers. It led a church in British Columbia to assume the right to put up a sign saying that “Humanism is the new evil.” The church leaders were surprised when the B.C. Human rights tribunal ruled against them.

I presume the same would be true of the church leaders on Bloor Street in Toronto who once posted a sign saying, “Atheists are fools”. What would the societal reaction have been if those signs had substituted a religious group’s name for “Humanism” or “atheist”: unthinkable, of course.

Let’s be clear on one thing: We can be and are good without gods!

One thing separates God, the judge, from the other metaphoric existences – He seems to need help in the form of the Devil, another human creation who lives, like the Druid Dragon, beneath the Earth’s surface and keeps those hell fires going for eternity – or until the Leafs win the Stanley Cup – whichever comes first. Again this Devil is a fine example of a hyperbolic metaphor for unspeakable horror of the kind that should keep any follower in order.

God the scapegoat is, perhaps, the worst of the metaphoric projections. Whenever there is a disaster, large or small, some theist is likely to use the magic phrases, “God’s will” or “He works in mysterious ways” to salve the angst of the victims. Thus, the tsunami that ripped into the Philippines was a demonstration of God’s wrath because not enough people were going to Mosque regularly and a little girl who was injured by farm machinery near Elmira was a part of God’s will and plan rather than a victim of her father’s inattention – at least, that’s what he said to a reporter.

I maintain that the scapegoat metaphor is the worst one because people use it as a self-serving to escape responsibility or to avoid facing some of the cold realities of life, or, at worst, to justify acts of violence as “doing god’s work. Non-believers understand that the universe is an uncaring natural phenomenon, not designed for our convenience or even our survival. With us Humanists, the responsibility for human mistakes and bad deeds rests where it should – with us.

There are, actually, few real physical descriptions of God in the Bible. Most of what we see when we try to imagine this God, is the compilation of artists’ impressions over the centuries. Gods generally fit the image of the culture from which they derive. Egyptian Gods all wore the same climate specific clothing of Egyptians. African depictions of Jesus are often black. Images of Gods are usually racially adjusted, culturally dressed, suitably male chauvinist in male dominated societies and female chauvinist in rare female cultures.

Literature that survives long enough tends to influence our perceptions of historic figures, even those we have created. For example, we accept Shakespeare’s 400-year-old hatchet jobs on Richard III and on Macbeth, both done to appease the contemporary Monarchs, as accurate because Shakespeare looms so large on the literary stage. Richard III was neither a hunchback nor a murderer of child princes: Macbeth didn’t murder anyone, Duncan did. In short, we tend to accept literary caricatures as plausible or even true because of the ability of the writer, not necessarily in relaying facts, but in creating a striking an image we like to believe.

Of course, the artist’s vision sometimes rings very true!

In the same way, we see often see God in the image created by Michelangelo on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel – a gray-bearded grandfatherly human being, reaching out kindly to a lesser being. There is no evidence for this, or even for the existence of God, but given Mike’s reputation . . .

So, God, the metaphor, is omnipresent by virtue of the ubiquitous imaginations of human beings, all trying to cope with the harshness of a universe into which we have evolved and in which we have little significance. He or She or It has been created in the same diversity as our cultures, and is harmless except for the damage done in His or Her or Its name.

God is a Metaphor

SCS President Addresses World Religions Conference

They posed the question: Who is God? Nature and Characteristics

Here is an abstract our president’s answer.

God is a Metaphor

Doug Thomas - President, Secular Connexion SeculaireIn the absence of any empirical evidence, we non-believers do not think about gods or any supernatural beings as real entities, but rather the product of mankind’s psychology and imagination. God is a metaphor for all the unexplained occurrences that have confronted human beings ever since our brains became sophisticated enough to facilitate self awareness and to make connections between the environment we have been adapting to all these millennia and our future. That metaphor has several corollaries including: God, the creator; God, the controller of seasons; God, the leader; God the judge, and God, the scapegoat. All of these modes are at the behest of the human beings who have created him, or her, or it in thousands of forms and attitudes over the millions of years of human development and in all of them we see the direct reflection of the culture and knowledge of the society that created them and worshipped them.

God, the creator, has had many forms, but I will use the one in the Bible primarily, even though there are some really interesting ones in other religions. In Genesis, God creates the Heavens and Earth in six days and rests on the seventh. From a non-believing perspective, this seems very human. Why would an omnipotent being need to rest after six days of rather nominal labour? After all, when he said, “Let there be light” there was light. Rubbing two cosmic sticks together or even flicking a divine Bic would have required more energy. This God of creation had the kind of human weaknesses that his creators also had.

God, the controller of seasons, Father or more popularly, Mother Nature, explained, in the absence of Environment Canada, why the frost came earlier than expected or why there was a drought. Ancient agricultural cultures spent quite a bit of time trying to appease the Gods of nature. Of course, the gods of early societies were intimately involved with nature. Even the sophisticated Greeks ascribed lightning to Zeus, and storms at sea to an angry Poseidon. My ancestors whom those Greeks named Keltoi – the outsiders – had Druid priests who constructed serious mechanisms to determine the exact day of winter solstice in an attempt to give farmers a better chance in northern Europe’s shorter growing season. They were, of course supported by their culture in the manner to which they aspired and sacrificed a few human beings along the way to ensure their positions of power – a religious tradition that has been carried on in one form or the other since.

God, the leader, is a constant in all of the Gods invented, but to stick with the Judeo-Christian-Muslim That God, harsh and warlike, was exactly the kind of God a rebelling Hebrew slave culture needed to terrorize Egyptians in to granting them freedom; unfortunately he wasn’t much of an economist since he led the Jews to the only place n the Middle East with no oil. Nevertheless his war leader qualities come to the fore often enough. In both of the 20th centuries major wars, German soldiers wore belt buckles embossed with “Got ist mit uns” – “God is with us” and every allied regiment that landed at Normandy brought with it a coterie of chaplains to remind the allied soldiers that He was with them. The Japanese warlords who took over that country in the late 1930s and 40s made sure the Shinto Gods were on their side.

God, the judge, is an important one even to us non-believers. The rules that were given to Moses, tribal thought they were, are still quoted, after suitable interpretation by one of the 33,000 Christian sects, as rules for behaviour. Naturally, we non-believers are assumed to be evil sinners by default, because we don’t accept these as rules from and divine being. This assumption has nothing to do with us really. We Humanists consume less alcohol per capita than the Canadian average and more of us are vegetarian than the Canadian average, to name but two very inaccurate measures of goodness. Theists tend to define goodness as obeying those Ten Commandments. Of course, they don’t cover such problems as racism, and slavery. To be fair, neither do Epicurus’ forty principles. They are, after all, all rules made up by men of their time. One thing separates God the judge from the other metaphoric existences – He seems to need help in the form of the Devil, another human creation who lives, like the Druid Dragon beneath the Earth’s surface and keeps those hell fires going for eternity – or until the Leafs win the Stanley Cup – whichever comes first.

God, the scapegoat, is the worst of the metaphoric projections. Whenever there is a disaster, large or small, some theist is likely to use the magic phrases, “God’s will” or “He works in mysterious ways” so salve the angst of the victims. Thus, the tsunami that ripped into the Philippines was a demonstration of God’s wrath because not enough people were going to Mosque regularly and a little girl was injured by farm machinery was a part of God’s will and plan rather than of her father’s inattention – at least, that’s what he said to a reporter.

So, God, the metaphor, is omnipresent by virtue of the ubiquitous imaginations of human beings, all trying to cope with the harshness of a universe into which we have evolved and in which we have little significance except as a parasitical organism that insects will have to clean up after when we have finally relied enough on the metaphoric meanderings of our minds to really mess up the planet.

For the full article on God is a Metaphor, please click here.

The Creation of a New National Humanist Advocacy Group – Secular Connexion Séculaire (SCS)

PRESS RELEASE

Elmira, Ontario – 31 May, 2011

Re:     The Creation of a New National Humanist Advocacy Group – Secular Connexion Séculaire (SCS)

  • SCS is a new information network, a new national advocate, a new international voice for Canadian Humanists
  • SCS will be of particular interest to the approximately 8 million non-theistic Canadians

Humanism is a non-theistic life stance that recognizes that human beings can be good without a need for a supernatural deity. Humanists value human rights, social justice, and personal freedom.

Secular Connexion Séculaire (SCS) has been created by President, Doug Thomas of Elmira, Ontario and Vice President, Barrie Webster of Victoria, British Columbia with assistance from other interested and dedicated Humanists from other parts of Canada. Both well known in the Canadian Humanist community, Thomas and Webster have served in executive positions in provincial and national Humanist organizations. They have created SCS to meet three important goals for Humanists across Canada:

  • to facilitate communication among Humanists and Humanist organizations to enable them to support each other in promoting a healthy, inclusive, secular society.
  • to provide a national Humanist voice to inform MPs and Senators about the need to protect the separation of religion from the affairs of government in Canada,
  • to provide Canadian Humanists a voice in the world through The International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) – www.iheu.org

President, Doug Thomas says,

“SCS will actively advocate for the rights of the approximately 8 million Canadians who are non-believers to freedom from religion and for the implementation of open secularism.”

Contact: President Doug Thomas at 519-669-2914, or president@secularconnexion.ca

Website: www.secularconnexion.ca

– END –

 

COMMUNIQUÉ DE PRESSE

Elmira Ontario, 31 Mai, 2011

In vue de: La création d’un nouveau groupe de pression national d’humanistes – Secular Connexion Séculaire (SCS)

  • un nouveau réseau social, un nouvel avocat national, et une nouvelle voix internationale pour les humanistes séculaires Canadiens

  • d’intérêt particulier au approximativement 8 millions de Canadiens qui sont des athiests et agnostics

L’humanisme est une position non-théiste de la vie qui identifie que les autres humains peuvent Être bons sans besoin de divinités surnaturelles. Les humanistes évaluent les droits de l’homme, la justice sociale, et la liberté

Le président, Doug Thomas d’Elmira, l’Ontario et le vice-président, Barrie Webster de Victoria, Colombie-Britannique ont creé la Secular Connexion Séculaire (SCS) avec l’aide d’autres humanistes intéressés et humanistes dédiés d’autres régions du Canada. Bien connu dans la communauté canadiens d’humaniste, Thomas et Webster ont servi en positions exécutives dans des organismes provinciaux et nationaux d’humanisme. Ils ont créé SCS pour atteindre trois buts importants pour des humanistes à travers le Canada:

  • pour faciliter la transmission parmi des organismes d’humanistes et d’humaniste pour leur permettre de se supporter en promouvant une société en bonne santé, incluse, séculaire,

  • pour fournir une voix nationale d’humaniste pour informer des députés britanniques et des sénateurs au sujet de la nécessité de protéger la séparation de la religion contre les affaires du gouvernment du Canada,

  • pour fournir les humanistes canadiens une voix dans le monde par l’ International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) – www.iheu.org.

Président, Doug Thomas dit,

“SCS préconisera activement pour la droite à l’absence de la religion pour approximativement 8 millions de Canadiens qui sont des non-croyants et pour la mise en place du sécularisme libre.”

Contact : Président, Doug Thomas à 519-669-2914 ou president@secularconnexion.ca

www.secularconnexion.ca

– FINI –

What Is Humanism? Who Are Humanists?

What is Humanism? Who are Humanists?

Humanism, sometimes called Secular Humanism or Rational Humanism is a philosophy and lifestance for non-believers. Its roots, in written form, go back to Thales (625-543 BCE) who said that we could learn for ourselves through observation and Epicurus (Epikouros 341-270 BCE) who set out forty principles for human behaviour in the absence of gods. Some Humanists consider it to have begun in practical terms as soon as proto-humans began to socialize and develop tribal structures to defend against predators millions of years ago.

Over the years, religious groups have persecuted non-believers, Humanists included. Many discriminatory attitudes still exist and are, unfortunately, supported by many of the institutions of Canadian society. Agnostics and atheists alike find themselves excluded from significant events such as Remembrance Day because of the religious content in those events.

However, the Supreme Court of Canada has interpreted section 2a of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms which indicates that everyone has freedom of “conscience and religion” and 2b that everyone has freedom of “philosophy” to mean that non-believers have as much right to freedom from religion as believers have to freedom of religion (Big M Drugs vs Regina and Rodriquez vs Regina – to name two cases).

According to a Harris-Decima survey of 2008, non-believers make up about 23% of Canada’s population (approximately 8 million Canadians). While Humanists insist that everyone should have the same human rights in Canada regardless of the percentage of the population their group represents, the statistic does remind us that in any sizeable group there will be non-believers present. All too often religious Canadians think that because they are in the majority, their beliefs and practices should take precedence.

Across Canada, small, but tenuous groups of Humanists have formed to provide Humanists with social opportunities and mutual support in communities that often thoughtlessly exclude them. Such groups provide alternate service choices such as officiants who can perform wedding ceremonies and memorial celebrations. Some provide summer camps for the children of non-believers and all attempts to speak out in support of the right to freedom from religion.

Secular Connexion Séculaire (www.secularconnexion.ca)is a new national group with three goals:

  1. to facilitate communication among Humanists and Humanist organizations,
  2. to provide a united national voice to inform MPs and Senators about the need to protect and enhance the separation of church and state in Canada,
  3. to provide a Canadian Humanist voice in the world through The International Humanist and Ethical Union (www.iheu.org).

Humanist Concerns

Humanists across Canada share a general concern about the separation of church and state in Canada and specific concerns about existing problems in legislation and in existing Canadian institutions.

O Canada

O Canada is theist in both official languages meaning that 23% of Canada’s population cannot sing it without being hypocritical. Often school children are required to learn the words to the national anthem as a part of their school curriculum. When non-believing parents ask permission for their children to learn non-theist versions, they are often refused on the basis that everyone should learn the same anthem. I have attached non-theist words in both official languages to this document.

The Head of State

Humanists are concerned that our Head of State is also the Head of the Church of England, certainly not strong symbolic representation of the separation of church and state.

At the same time, most Canadian coins continue to carry the words “D (ei) G (ratia) Regina” (Queen by the grace of God) on them. Again, this is a symbolic erosion of the concept of the separation of church and state.

The Preamble to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms

This preamble, added at the last moment by religious MPs on the commons committee working on the Charter, represents an unfortunate contradiction to the interpretation of the Charter by the Supreme Court. While it is a preamble and has no weight in court, it is often quoted by Christian advocates who insist that they have a right to impose Christian practices on the rest of us because of its association with the Charter.

In addition to its contradiction to the concept of freedom from religion, it ignores the contributions of non-believers and others to the founding of Canada.

Discrimination in Legislation

The income tax act provides a separate category of charitable status for religions. Once a group declares itself a religion and establishes the idea that it is advancing religion and that it has theist values, it is granted charitable status and has the right to accrue equity for building funds.

Humanist groups that apply for charitable status must demonstrate that they fit into one of the other three categories, only two of which make any provision for building funds.

One should note that SCS has decided not to seek charitable status because indications from the Charities Directorate were that we would not be able to carry on with goals two and three.

Open Secularism

Given that Humanists are not opposed to people practicing their faiths as long as they do not attempt to force their beliefs on us, our suggestion is the adoption of Open Secularism as a base guideline for all government policies toward religious observance. Open Secularism would see:

a) no religious rites or observances in public institutions,

– parliament, legislative assemblies, municipal councils, schools, public buildings

b) non-theist words should be adopted as our official national anthem,

c) no public funding should be granted for religious sanctuaries in publicly funded buildings

d) religious symbols and expressions would be removed from all Canadian coinage and national symbols.

At the same time,

e) symbols of personal belief (crosses, stars of David, hijabs and happy humans, etc.) would be allowed

f) moments of silence would be provided to allow opportunities for personal prayer.

A National Anthem for Everybody

O Canada

English Version

O Canada, our home and cherished land,

True patriot love in all of us command.

With glowing hearts, we see thee rise,

The True North, strong and free.

From far and wide O Canada,

Our thoughts are all with thee.

We’ll keep our land glorious and free.

O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

Version française

O Canada, Terre de nos aïeux,

Ton front est cient de fleurons glorieux!

Car ton bras sait porter l’épée,

Et tu supports les choix!

Ton histoire est une épopée

Des plus brillants exploits,

Et ta valeur, rempli de raison

Protégerons nos foyers et nos droits

Protégerons nos foyers et nos droits


Charitable Categories and Operating Examples1

Charitable Category

Example

Relief of poverty

To relieve poverty in the charitable sense means to bring relief to the poor. The poor are those lacking basic amenities available to the general population.

  • operating a food bank for the benefit of the poor
  • providing non-profit residential accommodation for persons of low income
  • providing clothing, and other basic amenities to persons of low income
  • providing the necessities of life to victims of disasters or sudden catastrophes.

Advancement of education

To advance education in the charitable sense involves the training of the mind, advancing the knowledge or abilities of the recipient, raising the artistic taste of the community, or improving a useful branch of human knowledge through research.

  • establishing and operating schools or similar educational institutions
  • providing scholarships, bursaries, and prizes for scholastic achievement
  • providing childbirth education classes that focus on preparation for parenting and nutrition
  • increasing the public’s appreciation of Aboriginal culture
  • undertaking research in a recognized field of knowledge and making the results available to the public

Advancement of religion

To advance religion in the charitable senses means to preach and advance the spiritual teachings of a religious faith and to maintain the doctrines and spiritual observances on which those teachings are based.

  • establishing and maintaining buildings for religious worship and other religious use
  • organizing and providing religious instruction
  • carrying out pastoral and missionary work

Other purposes beneficial to the community

This category includes various purposes that do not fall within the other categories but which the courts have recognized as charitable

  • relieving a condition or disability associated with old age, which includes providing facilities for the care and rehabilitation of the elderly
  • preventing and relieving sickness and disability, both physical and mental (e.g., hospitals)
  • providing certain public amenities to benefit the community (e.g., public recreation grounds)
  • providing counseling services for people in distress
  • operating an animal shelter
  • operating a volunteer fire department

1 http://www.cra-arc.gc.ca/chrts-gvng/chrts/pplyng/cpc/wtc-eng.html

Qu’est-ce que l’humanisme? Qui sont des humanistes?

L’humanisme, parfois appelé humanisme séculaire est une philosophie et une position de la vie pour les non-croyants. Ses racines, sous la forme écrite, remont à Thales (625-543 BCE) qui a indiqué que nous pouvons apprendre pour nous-mêmes par l’observation et Epicurus (Epikouros 341-270 BCE) qui a formulé quarantes principes pour le comportement humain en l’absence des dieux. Quelques humanistes estiment que le début del’humanisme remonte à la période qui des proto-humains ont commencé à socialiser et développer les structures tribales pour se défendre contre des prédateurs il y a millions d’années.

Au cours des années, les groupes religieux ont persécuté des non-croyants, humanistes inclus. Beaucoup d’attitudes discriminatoires existent toujours et sont malheureusement supportées par plusieurs des établissements de la société canadienne. Les Agnostics et les athées se trouvent de même exclus des événements significatifs tels que le jour de souvenir en raison du contenu religieux dans ces événements. Cependant, la court suprème du Canada a interprété la section 2a de la charte des droits et des libertés ce qui indique que chacun a la liberté de “conscience et de religion” et 2b que chacun a la liberté de “philosophie” pour signifier que les non-croyants ont autant juste à l’absence de la religion que les croyants doivent liberté religieuse (Big M Drugs contre Regina et Rodriquez contre Regina – pour nommer deux cas).

Selon une enquête de Harris-Decima de 2008, les non-croyants composent environ 23% de la population du Canada (approximativement 8 millions de Canadiens). Tandis que les humanistes insistent sur le fait que chacun devrait avoir les mêmes droits de l’homme au Canada indépendamment du pourcentage de la population leur groupe représente. la statistique nous rappelle que ce dans n’importe quel important groupe là sera des non-croyants présents. Trop souvent les Canadiens religieux pensent que parce qu’ils sont dans la majorité, leurs croyances et les pratiques devraient avoir la priorité.

À travers le Canada, petit groupes d’humanistes ont formé pour fournir aux humanistes des occasions sociales et au support mutual dans le communautés qui les excluent, souvent irréfléchi. De tels groupes fournissent des choix alternatifs de service tels qu’officiants qui peut exécuter des cérémonies de mariage et des célébrations commémoratives. Certains des groupes fournissent des colonies de vacances pour les enfants des non-croyants et toute la tentative de parler dehors à l’appui de la droite à l’absence de la religion.

Secular Connexion Séculaire (www.secularconnexion.ca) est un nouveau groupe national avec trois buts:

  1. pour faciliter la transmission parmi des organismes d’humanistes et d’humaniste,
  2. pour fournir une voix nationale unie qui informe les députés et des sénateurs au sujet de la nécessité de protéger et améliorer la séparation de l’église et l’état au Canada,
  3. pour fournir une voix canadienne d’humaniste dans le monde par The International Humanist and Ethics Union (www.iheu.org).

Soucis d’humanistes

Les humanistes à travers le Canada partagent un souci général concernant la séparation de l’église et de l’état au Canada et do soucis détail concernant des problèmes dans la législation et dans les établissements canadiens existants.

O Canada

O Canada est théiste dans les deux langues officielles signifiant que 23% de la population du Canada ne peut pas le chanter sans être hypocrite. Souvent des écoliers sont requis d’apprendre les mots à l’hymne national comme partie de leur programme d’études d’école. Quand les parents de non-croyance demandent la permission leurs enfants d’apprendre des versions de non-théiste, ils sont souvent refusés sur la base que chacun devrait apprendre le même hymne. J’ai attaché des mots de non-théiste dans les deux langues officielles à ce document.

Des humanistes sont concernés que notre chef d’état est également le chef de The Church of England: certainement représentation symbolique non forte de la séparation de l’église et de l’état.

En même temps, la plupart des pièces de monnaie canadiennes continuent à porter les mots “D(ei) G (ratia) Regina” (Reine par la grace de Dieu) sur eux. De nouveau, c’est un érosion symbolique de la séparation de l’église et de l’état.

Le préambule à la charte des droits et des libertés

Ce préambule, ajouté au dernier moment par des membres du parliament religieuses sur le comité de terrains communaux travaillant à la charte, représente une contradiction malheureuse à la traduction de la charte par la court suprème. Tandis que c’est un préambule et n’a aucun poids devant le tribunal, il est souvent cité par les avocats chrétiens qui insistent sur le fait qu’ils ont un droit d’imposer des pratiques chrétiennes au reste de nous en raison en raison de son association avec la charte.

En plus de sa contradiction au concept de l’absence de la religion, il ignore les contributions des non-croyants et d’autres à la fondation du Canada.

L’acte d’impôt sur le revenu fournit une catégorie séparée de mode charitable pour des religions. Quand un groupe se déclare une religion et établit l’idée qu’elle avance la religion et qu’elle a des valeurs théistes, on lui accorde le mode charitable et a le droit de s’accroûtre des capitaux propres pour les fonds de construction.

Les groupes d’humaniste qui sollicitent le mode charitable doivent expliquer qu’ils s’insèrent dans une les trois des autres catégories, seulement deux dont faites n’importe quelle disposition pour le bâtiment place.

On devrait noter que SCS a décidé de ne pas rechercher le mode charitable parce que les indications de la direction de charités étaient que nous ne pourrions pas continuer avec des buts deux et trois.

Sécularisme libéral

Parce ce que les humanistes ne sont pas opposés aux gens pratiquant leurs fois tant qu’ils n’essayent pas de forcer leurs croyances sur nous, notre suggestion est l’adoption du sécularisme libéral comme directive de base pour toutes les politiques de gouvernement vers l’observance religieuse. Le sécularisme libéral verrait:

a) aucun rite religieux ou observance dans les établissements publics,

– le parlement, assemblages législatifs, conseils municipaux, écoles, édifices publics

b) des mots de non-théiste devraient être adoptés en tant que notre hymne national officiel,

c) on ne devrait accorder aucun placement public pour les sanctuaires religieux les bâtiments en public placés,

d) des symboles et les expressions religieux seraient retirés de tous les invention canadienne et symboles nationaux.

En même temps,

e) on permettrait des symboles de la croyance personnelle (croix, étoiles de David, hijabs et humains heureux, etc.)

f) des minutes de silence seraient fournies pour permettre des occasions pour la prière personnelle.

O Canada

English Version

O Canada, our home and cherished land,

True patriot love in all of us command.

With glowing hearts, we see thee rise,

The True North, strong and free.

From far and wide O Canada,

Our thoughts are all with thee.

We’ll keep our land glorious and free.

O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

 

Version française

O Canada, Terre de nos aïeux,

Ton front est cient de fleurons glorieux!

Car ton bras sait porter l’épée,

Et tu supports les choix!

Ton histoire est une épopée

Des plus brillants exploits,

Et ta valeur, rempli de raison

Protégerons nos foyers et nos droits

Protégerons nos foyers et nos droits.

Catégories charitables et exemples fonctionnants [1] 

Catégories

Exemples Fonctionnants

Le soulagement de la pauvreté

Du point de vue de la bienfaisance, le soulagement de la pauvreté signifie apporter de l’aide aux pauvres. Les pauvres sont définis comme toute personne n’ayant pas accès aux commodités de base dont la population générale bénéficie.

  • Exploiter une banque alimentaire pour le bienfait des pauvres.
  • Offrir des locaux d’habitation sans but lucratif pour des personnes à faible revenu.
  • Offrir des vêtements et d’autres commodités de base aux personnes à faible revenu.
  • Offrir des objets de première nécessité aux victimes de désastres ou de catastrophes soudaines.

Avancement de l’éducation

Du point de vue de la bienfaisance, l’avancement de l’éducation signifie la formation classique de l’esprit, l’amélioration des connaissances ou des capacités de la personne, le développement de l’esthétisme de la communauté ou l’amélioration d’un secteur utile de la connaissance humaine au moyen de la recherche.

  • Instituer et exploiter des écoles ou des établissements d’enseignement similaires.
  • Offrir des bourses d’études, des bourses de perfectionnements et des prix pour la performance scolaire.
  • Offrir des cours prénatals centrés sur la préparation au rôle parental et sur la nutrition.
  • Faire acquérir au public une plus grande compréhension de la culture autochtone.
  • Effectuer des recherches dans un domaine de connaissance reconnu et diffuser les résultats au public.

Avancement de la religion

Du point de vue de la bienfaisance, l’avancement de la religion signifie la promotion et l’avancement des enseignements spirituels d’une association religieuse donnée et le respect des doctrines et des observances spirituelles sur lesquelles s’appuient ces enseignements.

 

  • Instituer et entretenir des établissements voués au culte religieux et à d’autres utilisations religieuses.
  • Offrir de l’instruction religieuse et en organiser la prestation.
  • Effectuer du travail pastoral et de missionnaire.

Autres fins utiles à la communauté

 

Cette catégorie inclut diverses fins qui n’appartiennent à aucune des autres catégories, mais qui relèvent de la bienfaisance aux yeux de la cour.

  • Soulager une condition ou un handicap lié à la vieillesse, ce qui inclut de mettre à la disposition des personnes âgées des installations de soins et de réhabilitation.
  • Prévenir et soulager la maladie et le handicap, à la fois physique et mental (par ex. hôpitaux).
  • Offrir certaines commodités publiques pour le bienfait de la communauté (par ex. des terrains de jeux publics).
  • Offrir des services de consultation pour les gens en détresse.
  • Exploiter un abri pour les animaux.
  • Exploiter un service d’incendie avec le seul concours de pompiers volontaires.

 




[1] http://www.cra-arc.gc.ca/chrts-gvng/chrts/pplyng/cpc/wtc-fra.html

A National Anthem for Everybody

 

O Canada

English Version

 

O Canada, our home and cherished land,

True patriot love in all of us command.

With glowing hearts, we see thee rise,

The True North, strong and free.

From far and wide O Canada,

Our thoughts are all with thee.

We’ll keep our land glorious and free.

O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

Version française

 

O Canada, Terre de nos aïeux,

Ton front est cient de fleurons glorieux!

Car ton bras sait porter l’épée,

Et tu supports les choix!

Ton histoire est une épopée

Des plus brillants exploits,

Et ta valeur, rempli de raison

Protégerons nos foyers et nos droits

Protégerons nos foyers et nos droits


Non Charitable Status

No Charitable Status for SCS – too restrictive! 

The SCS executive has decided that SCS will not seek charitable status in the foreseeable future. Charitable status, governed and monitored under the income tax act by the Charities Directorate, would restrict our advocacy activities too much.

Charitable status would restrict our freedom to lobby or advocate for changes in legislation regarding our national anthem, or the parts of the income tax act that favour religions, for example.

Charitable status’ only advantage is the ability for us to issue income tax receipts for donations (not memberships). This would result in an income tax refund of a bit over 20% ($107) on a $500 donation. In return for no restrictions, we are prepared to accept reduced donations – $393 instead of $500, for example – or $40 instead of $50 for that matter.

Our membership fees are intended to provide a stable financial base for operations, while directed donations will let you support the actions that you like – vote with your wallet, if you will.

We will apply for non-for-profit status because it will reduce the taxes (diversion of the aforementioned donated dollars) we would have to pay.


Aucun mode charitable pour SCS – trop restrictif!

Les directeurs de SCS a décidé que SCS ne recherchera pas le mode de bienfaisance dans l’avenir. Le mode bienfaisance, régi et surveillé sous l’acte impôt sur le revenu par la direction de charités, limiterait trop notre activités de recommandation.
Le mode charitable limiterait notre liberté pour inciter ou préconiser pour des changements de la législation concernant notre hymne national, ou les parties de l’acte d’impôt sur le revenu qui favorisent des religions, par exemple.
Le seul avantage des modes charitables est la capacité pour que nous émettent des réceptions d’impôt sur le revenu pour des donations (pas adhésions).
Ceci aurait comme conséquence un remboursement d’impôt sur le revenu d’un bit plus de 20% (107$) sur une donation 500$. En échange pour aucunes restrictions, nous sommes disposés à recevoir les donations réduites – 393$ au lieu de 500$, par exemple – ou 40$ au lieu de 50$.
Nos honoraires d’adhésion sont destinés pour fournir une base financière stable pour des exécutions, alors que les donations dirigées vous laisseront supporter les actions que vous aimez – votez avec votre pochette, s’il vous plait.
Nous solliciterons le mode de non-pour-bénéfice parce qu’il réduira les impôts (transfert des dollars donnés mentionnés ci-dessus) que nous devrions payer.