The Humanist Association of Toronto provides a focus of activities and discussion for Humanists in the Toronto area. Please note: HAT events are open to the public, and views expressed do not necessarily represent the official views of the Humanist Association of Toronto. For all public statements, educational events, media enquiries, please contact the webeditor, who will forward your enquiry to our Spokesperson.
___________________________________________
The Humanist Forum meets Saturday morning 11am-1pm
The Monthly Meeting the 2nd or 3rd Saturday at 1:30pm (TBD)
The Steering Committee meets 1st Wednesday, 7pm
The Book Group meets monthly.
___________________________________________
HAT EVENTS | GTA EVENTS | GTA NEWS | HUMANIST NEWS | HAT NEWSLETTER | ETHICAL ACTIONS | UNIV of TORONTO EVENTS

GTA event (free) John Ralston Saul Book Launch, Jan 21

January 21, 2011 7:00pm
St James Cathedral's Archives & Museum Committee is pleased to host John Ralston Saul speaking on his latest book,
Louis-Hippolyte LaFontaine and Robert Baldwin
Introduction by Christopher Hume.
No cost for admission, donations welcome. info: 416-364-7865
(note: interest was shown by some members in the LaFontaine-Baldwin lecture this year, & Mr Saul's other recent lectures at the ROM and AGO were by admission fee).

BHA applauds UN reinstates reference to sexual orientation in resolution on execution

UN reinstates reference to sexual orientation in resolution on execution

The British Humanist Association has welcomed the vote late last night by the United Nations General Assembly in favour of adding victims’ sexual orientation back to the list of highlighted groups in a resolution condemning extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions.

The UN passes the resolution every two years, which urges states to protect the right to life of all people, including by calling on states to investigate killings based on discriminatory grounds. For the past 10 years, the resolution has included sexual orientation in the list of discriminatory grounds on which killings are often based. However one month ago the General Assembly’s Third Committee narrowly voted to take out “sexual orientation” from this year’s resolution, which the BHA believes constituted the removal of the recognition of the particular vulnerability of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people around the world.

BBC video: 200 Countries, 200 years in 4 minutes

Note: This video was suggested by Robin - an excellent overview of 200 years of Global Health developments, from the BBC "The Joy of Statistics" program.


You may also enjoy this great new piece by OXFAM

VideoPSA by Andrea Dorfman, on women's equality before international law.

NEWS: DNA identifies new ancient human dubbed 'X-woman'

BBC News - DNA identifies new ancient human dubbed 'X-woman'
Scientists have identified a previously unknown type of ancient human through analysis of DNA from a finger bone unearthed in a Siberian cave.

The extinct "hominin" (human-like creature) lived in Central Asia between 48,000 and 30,000 years ago. An international team has sequenced genetic material from the fossil showing that it is distinct from that of Neanderthals and modern humans. Details of the find, dubbed "X-woman", have been published in Nature journal. Ornaments were found in the same ground layer as the finger bone, including a bracelet.

Whoever carried this mitochondrial genome out of Africa about a million years ago is some new creature that has not been on our radar screens so far ” Svante Paabo Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology

"This new DNA work provides an entirely new way of looking at the still poorly-understood evolution of humans in central and eastern Asia." The discovery raises the intriguing possibility that three forms of human - Homo sapiens , Neanderthals and the species represented by X-woman - could have met each other and interacted in southern Siberia....
(also read full article on HumanistNewsWire)

Happy Solstice! Lunar Eclipse and Meteor Shower Tonite!

NASA reports that this is the first time an eclipse has coincided with a solstice since December 21, 1638, and the next one won't come around again until 2094. The extravaganza in the sky doesn't end there, however, as the Ursids meteor shower will also be taking place. The earth's shadow should start showing on the moon's lower left around 1:33 a.m. EST by 2:41 a.m., the entire moon will be covered, and will stay that way for an hour.The shadow will start moving again at 3:53 a.m., and the moon will be back to normal by 5:00 a.m.

Globe and Mail: The Future of Faith

Young increasingly shun religious institutions.

(GLOBE AND MAIL)'If the future for institutional religion in Canada lies in the hearts and minds of the young, a dark night is sweeping down on the country's churches, synagogues and temples.

Young Canadians, who religious leaders once hoped would find their way back to faith, are instead doing the opposite: leading the country's march toward secularism. And with the exception of evangelical Christians, they are doing it at an accelerated pace.'

This is one of 4 articles on the "Future of Faith" in the Globe and Mail. See also: Canada Marching from Religion to Secularization.

Fading Faith: The Rise of the Secular Age By James A. Haught

Correspondence of Interest:  Dear Toronto Humanists:
Here's my latest book, about the retreat of religion, and my newspaper column drawn from it.    If you can use the column in any way, I'll be delighted.  from James A. Haught, editor The Charleston Gazette

Fading Faith: The Rise of the Secular Age By James A. Haught Gustav Broukal Press  2010 

Philosopher-historian Will Durant called it "the basic event of modern times."  He didn't mean the world wars, or the end of colonialism, or the rise of electronics.  He was talking about the decline of religion in Western democracies. The great mentor saw subsiding faith as the most profound occurrence of the past century -- a shift of Western civilization, rather like former transitions away from the age of kings, the era of slavery and such epochs.

Since World War II, worship has dwindled starkly in Europe, Canada, Australia, Japan and other advanced democracies. In those busy places, only 5 or 10 percent of adults now attend church.  Secular society scurries along heedlessly.

Pope Benedict XVI protested: "Europe has developed a culture that, in a manner unknown before now to humanity, excludes God from the public conscience." Columnist George Will called the Vatican "109 acres of faith in a European sea of unbelief."

America seems an exception. This country has 350,000 churches whose members donate $100 billion per year. The United States teems with booming megachurches, gigantic sales of "Rapture" books, fundamentalist attacks on evolution, hundred-million-dollar TV ministries, talking-in-tongues Pentecostals, the white evangelical "religious right" attached to the Republican Party, and the like.

But quietly, under the radar, much of America slowly is following the path previously taken by Europe. Little noticed, secularism keeps climbing in the United States. Here's the evidence:

** Rising "nones." Various polls find a strong increase in the number of Americans -- especially the young -- who answer "none" when asked their religion. In 1990, this group had climbed to 8 percent, and by 2008, it had doubled to 15 percent -- plus another 5 percent who answer "don't know." This implies that around 45 million U.S. adults today lack church affiliation. In Hawaii, more than half say they have no church connection.

** Mainline losses. America's traditional Protestant churches -- "tall steeple" denominations with seminary-trained clergy -- once dominated U.S. culture. They were the essence of America. But their membership is collapsing. Over the past half-century, while the U.S. population doubled, United Methodists fell from 11 million to 7.9 million, Episcopalians dropped from 3.4 million to 2 million, the Presbyterian Church USA sank from 4.1 million to 2.2 million, etc. The religious journal First Things -- noting that mainline faiths dwindled from 50 percent of the adult U.S. population to a mere 8 percent -- lamented that "the Great Church of America has come to an end." A researcher at the Ashbrook think-tank dubbed it "Flatline Protestantism."

** Catholic losses. Although Hispanic immigration resupplies U.S. Catholicism with replacements, many former adherents have drifted from the giant church. The 2008 American Religious Identification Survey found that 20 million Americans have quit Catholicism -- thus one-tenth of U.S. adults now are ex-Catholics.

** Fading taboos. A half-century ago, church-backed laws had power in America. In the 1950s, it was a crime to look at the equivalent of a Playboy magazine or R-rated movie -- or for stores to open on the Sabbath -- or to buy a cocktail or lottery ticket -- or to sell birth-control devices in some states -- or to be homosexual -- or to terminate a pregnancy -- or to read a sexy novel -- or for an unwed couple to share a bedroom. Now all those morality laws have fallen, one after another. Currently, state after state is legalizing gay marriage, despite church outrage.

** Sociologists are fascinated by America's secular shift. Dr. Robert Putnam of Harvard, author of "Bowling Alone," found as many as 40 percent of young Americans answering "none" to faith surveys. "It's a huge change, a stunning development," he said. "That is the future of America." He joined Dr. David Campbell of Notre Dame in writing a new book, "American Grace," that outlines the trend. Putnam's Social Capital site sums up: "Young Americans are dropping out of religion at an alarming rate of five to six times the historic rate."

Oddly, males outnumber females among the churchless. "The ratio of 60 males to 40 females is a remarkable result," the 2008 ARIS poll reported. "These gender patterns correspond with many earlier findings that show women to be more religious than men."

Growing secularism has political implications. The Republican Party may suffer as the white evangelical "religious right" shrinks. In contrast, burgeoning "nones" tend to vote Democratic. Sociologist Ruy Teixeira says the steady rise of the unaffiliated, plus swelling minorities, means that "by the 2016 election (or 2020 at the outside) the United States will have ceased to be a white Christian nation. Looking even farther down the road, white Christians will be only around 35 percent of the population by 2040, and conservative white Christians, who have been such a critical part of the Republican base, will be only about a third of that -- a minority within a minority."

Gradually, decade by decade, religion is moving from the advanced First World to the less-developed Third World. Faith retains enormous power in Muslim lands. Pentecostalism is booming in Africa and South America. Yet the West steadily turns more secular.

Arguably, it's one of the biggest news stories during our lives -- although most of us are too busy to notice. Durant may have been correct when he wrote that it is the basic event of modern times.

(Haught, editor of the Charleston Gazette, West Virginia's largest newspaper, can be reached by e-mail at haught@wvgazette.co. His book is available on Amazon.

HAT Book Discussion Group: Sun. Jan 9, 11am- 1pm "Infidel"

Humanist Book Discussion Group
Sunday, January 9th. From 11am - 1:00pm.
OISE, 252 Bloor Street West -- ROOM TBA (check at desk if we have not been able to email it)
Book to be discussed: "INFIDEL" by Aayan Hirsi Ali. It deals with the treatment of Moslem women in Somalia and other Muslim countries, her escape to the Netherlands and association with Theo Van Gogh.'Hirsi Ali's story tells how a bright little girl evolved out of dutiful obedience to become an outspoken, pioneering freedom fighter. As Western governments struggle to balance democratic ideals with religious pressures, no story could be timelier or more significant." (163 copies in Library but many hold. paperback price at amazon or chapters- about 15$)

NOTE: Mary has a copy to lend, if anyone needs it.

HAT Forum, Sat. Dec 18, 11 am - 1 pm - Wikileaks

HAT Forum Dec. 18, Saturday-11:00am-1:00pm
Location: OISE, 252 Bloor Street West, Room 2-198
Topic: WikiLeaks
Facilitator: Jeanne Erickson

Is it ethical to disseminate the contents of stolen documents, especially when it puts peoples lives in danger?

Who benefits from the revelation of confidential observations of personal traits and behavior of officials?

Are hackers, like those who shut down the Mastercard and VISA sites, the new threat?

CBC Ideas, the Blair/Hitchens debate, Dec. 15

You can now also listen to the Blair/Hitchens debate on the motion  "Be it resolved, religion is a force for good in the world". on CBC ideas. on Dec. 15.

We have already posted the full transcript debate between Christopher Hitchens and former prime minister Tony Blair on the HumanistNewsWire website, as well as the News Statesman link

Thanks to Mike C for sending along the CBC link.  Mary

Christopher Hitchens, Catholics and condoms - The Globe and Mail

Christopher Hitchens, Catholics and condoms - The Globe and Mail
video: An excerpt from the Globe's recent conversation with the author and noted atheist in which he discusses the Catholic Church's missive about the use of contraceptives. (wait for the commercial to load first)

Human Rights Day, Dec 10: Amnesty Letter Writing Events in GTA

OISE/U of T is holding a Writing for Rights event on December 10, 2010 10:10 pm
in association with the Adult Education and Community Development dept and esp. Interchange, a peacebuilding network.
Location: 252 Bloor St W, Toronto, ON Contact: (647) 402-7535

Amnesty International Toronto Office is holding a Writing for Rights event on Dec 10, 2010 3 – 8pm
Stop in any time from 3-8 pm to write letters, watch videos, hear guest speakers on the hour and enjoy refreshments.
Location: 1992 Yonge Street, 3rd Floor, Toronto, ON Contact: (416) 363-9933 x 328

Group 18 – Toronto is holding a Writing for Rights event on Monday December 13th, 2010 7:00 pm
As every year our small AI group will meet at our regular meeting place: Friends House, 60 Lowther Ave on Monday December 13th at 7pm. We intend to write as many letters as possible; light refreshments will be provided.
Location: 60 Lowther Ave, Toronto, ON Contact: pmgrenier@sympatico.ca

OISE/U of T is holding a Writing for Rights event on 10 am – 4 pm
For students, faculty, staff, alumni, and open to the public! Come through the lobby to the coffee shop.
Location: 252 Bloor St W, Toronto, ON Contact: (647) 402-7535

Harbourfront Community Centre is holding a Writing for Rights event on December 10, 2010 12:00 pm
Getting all the staff and students of the Harbourfront Community Centre to take time on December 10th, 2010 to write a letter regarding International Human Rights Day.
Location:
627 Queens Quay W , Toronto, ON Contact: (416) 553-0547

Banquet Benefit for War Resisters, Dec 10

event alert  from HAT member Michael Wheeler:

BANQUET BENEFIT FOR WAR RESISTERS IN CANADA
Date:        ON INTERNATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS DAY, DECEMBER 10
Location:  FRIENDS HOUSE (60 LOWTHER STREET)
Time:        RECEPTION 6:30 PM
                DINNER 7:00 PM
COST:      $20 TO $50
Attending: WITH WAR RESISTERS KIM RIVERA AND JEREMY HINZMAN
R.S.V.P FOR TICKETS TO PEACEWORKS@PRIMUS.CA

Canadian Voice of Women for Peace
761 Queen Street West, Suite 203
Toronto, ON M6J 1G1   (416) 603-7915
info@vowpeace.org

Annual Winter Solstice Festival: Kensignton Market Dec 21

Kensington Winter Solstice « Red Pepper Spectacle Arts

21st annual Kensington Market Winter Solstice Festival

TUESDAY DEC. 21, 2010 6:30-8:30

Celebrate the return of light on the longest, darkest night!

The Kensington Market Winter Solstice is a participatory lantern parade.Make a lantern, bang a drum, wear a costume, carry a puppet…this is a people’s celebration! Children welcome, and everyone else.
GATHER AT OXFORD and AUGUSTA FOR A 6:30 SEND-OFF
PROCESS THROUGH THE MARKET TOWARD ALEXANDRA PARK FOR AN 8:00-ish FINALE.
************************************************
Hand-made and commercial free since 1987.
info: 416-598-3729 or RedPepperSpectacle

HAT Forum Saturday December 11, 11am - 1pm OISE

DATE: Saturday December 11, 11am-1pm
Location: OISE, 252 Bloor Street West, Room 2-198
Topic: "Friendship"
Facilitator: Cecilia Rayo

"Friends" are the relatives that we choose.
-What does friendship mean to you
-What values are involved when you choose a friend?
-Trust and loyalty are basic ingredients of friendship. How far will you go to honour them?
- How do you think friendship is important in the development of a human being?

DON'T FORGET THE MONTHLY MEETING Saturday Dec 11 @ 1:30!

HAT MONTHLY MEETING: Dec 11, 1:30-3pm @ OISE: How the Brain Works
Date: Saturday, Dec. 11
Time: 1:30 – 3
Location: OISE, Room 4-422
Topic: How the Brain Works
Speaker: Dr. Luis Fornazzari

Dr. Fornazzari is a staff neurologist with the Memory Clinic at St. Michael’s Hospital and a neuropsychiatry consultant with the Mental Health Centre in Penetanguishene. His talk will address such fascinating issues as does the brain direct our behaviour; will we ever be able to understand the brain as an organ in the way we do the kidney or heart; how does the brain relate to thoughts, feelings, sensual experiences such as sound and colour (with special attention to music); do chimpanzees have a theory of mind; and will “mind control” ever become a reality?

Shelley's "The Necessity of Atheism" - 200 years

March 2011 marks 200 years since Percy Bysshe Shelley’s tract 'The Necessity of Atheism' was printed, distributed around Oxford and then, swiftly, burned. Here is an article from the British Humanist Association about a commemorative event with Richard Dawkins.

'The Necessity' had been prefaced with a plea to potential critics: that anyone who saw fault in the essay was welcome to submit rational, methodical refutations, but not to simply persecute the author for being an atheist. But instead, Shelley was expelled from the university, an event which propelled forward a hectic series of elopements and political activities which would dominate the rest of his short life.

Why was The Necessity of Atheism so dangerous? What, in fact, was it arguing for? What was its importance in the career and reputation of Shelley, and why is it still a vital document today?

Note: You can read the tract on Infidels.org

Ann Wroe is a recent biographer of Percy Bysshe Shelley and well-placed to address such questions. To mark the 200th anniversary of the publication of 'The Necessity of Atheism' and Shelley’s consequent expulsion from Oxford, the British Humanist Association will host a new Shelley Lecture on Tuesday 29 March 2011.

The event will be chaired by Professor Richard Dawkins and will be held at the Oxford University Museum of Natural History, where the famous debate on evolution between Huxley and Wilberforce, also overshadowed by notions of dangerous atheism, took place in 1860.

C-49 - Anti-smuggling or anti-refugee?

C-49 - Anti-smuggling or anti-refugee? | Canadian Council for Refugees
On 21 October 2010, the government introduced Bill C-49 - Preventing Human Smugglers from Abusing Canada’s Immigration System Act. Despite the title, most of the provisions in the bill punish refugees, not smugglers. The people who will suffer if this bill is passed are people fleeing persecution, including children.

The CCR is gravely concerned that many of the measures in Bill C-49 fail to honour our obligations towards refugees. Passing the bill will result in refugees being treated unfairly in Canada.

As of 1 December, all opposition parties (Liberals, New Democrats and Bloc québécois) have stated publicly that they cannot support Bill C-49 and that the government should address the problem of smuggling in ways that do not punish refugees.

This is great news, but the bill is not yet defeated. Join the CCR and other allies in raising public awareness of the impacts that Bill C-49 could have on refugees in Canada. INTERPARES ACTION

HAT MONTHLY MEETING: Dec 11, 1:30-3pm @ OISE: How the Brain Works

Date: Saturday, Dec. 11
Time: 1:30 – 3
Location: OISE, Room 4-422
Topic: How the Brain Works
Speaker: Dr. Luis Fornazzari

Dr. Fornazzari is a staff neurologist with the Memory Clinic at St. Michael’s Hospital and a neuropsychiatry consultant with the Mental Health Centre in Penetanguishene. His talk will address such fascinating issues as does the brain direct our behaviour; will we ever be able to understand the brain as an organ in the way we do the kidney or heart; how does the brain relate to thoughts, feelings, sensual experiences such as sound and colour (with special attention to music); do chimpanzees have a theory of mind; and will “mind control” ever become a reality?

All are welcome, no entry fee, as usual.
HAT meetings are free and open to members and the public. Call (416) 966-1361 for location information. ___________________________________________________
The Humanist Forum meets Saturday morning 11am-1pm.
The Monthly Meeting, is usually the second Saturday at 1:30pm; specifics should be found on this blog.
The Steering Committee meets the first Wednesday of each month, at 7pm.
The Book Group usually meets on the first Saturday afternoon of the month.