2018 Meeting Archive
The Other
Meeting Was Held on

Once again our discussion group spent a stimulating and enjoyable few hours in the Library board room, discussing the ‘other’, speculating on the origins of our tendency to be wary of a non-member of our ‘group’.

Tons of great questions:

Was it agriculture that introduced the need to protect our  ‘property’?  Were the early (and modern) Olympic games a way for human beings to meet and compete non-lethally? Why did we take slaves to improve our gene pool (ugh) rather than simply embrace the other?

Did adherence to a designated ‘faith’ add to the evolving problem? How did we get to the point when we felt justified in converting, abusing, or even killing someone who was not part of our group? When did we begin be in deathly fear of the ‘other’, training warriors, soldiers, armies, etc.?

Some suggestions:

There is no ‘right way’. It’s not that simple.

Humanists are good at trusting science. When something is not known, we are comfortable saying “I don’t know”.

If someone can convince you to believe what cannot be demonstrated or proven, you can be convinced of anything.

What helps? Oppose ‘behaviour’ if you must, not the group.

No one wants to talk/negotiate/listen when they are humiliated or made to feel foolish.

Happy Winter Solstice!

The winter solstice connects us to Galileo, who revealed humanity’s true relationship to the Sun, usurped our place at the center of the universe, and was among the myriad revolutionary intellects that ushered in the Enlightenment. Those rational minds set humanity on the path of scientific and cultural progress to which we owe all our technological conveniences, modern egalitarianism, and a quality of life that would appear magical to all the generations before us. Every day our news is filled with the scientific discoveries of their philosophical descendants, always further resolving our understanding of our place in the cosmos.

And so the most significant yearly event in human history, the one upon which all other major winter holidays are founded, is quintessentially humanist. Before our ancestors began seeing “fairies in the garden” and added religious layers over the solstice, they simply looked out over the dawn horizon and saw the Sun rise over a particular mountaintop or tree and knew it was going to start climbing north again. And that gave them hope.

Winter solstice connects us to our future decedents; who we will never see. Carl Sagan described these future relatives as a species “with more of our strengths and fewer of our weaknesses, more confident, far seeing, capable, and prudent.” In other words, a more humanistic species. What better time to celebrate reason, compassion, hope, and humanity than on the longest night of the year?

excerpt from Ryan Somma – The Darkest Day: A Quintessentially Humanist Celebration

Meeting Was Held on

Braving the first snow of the year, 14 of us met at the home of Corrie and Andrew Baines to think more about the definitions and effects of ‘trust’.

Trust in an individual or institution takes time to develop, but can be eroded quickly. We assume we can trust what our political or religious leaders, doctors, teachers tell us. People trust what they read in newspapers and hear on TV. Unfortunately that trust is not always merited. Corrie pointed to a very serious conflict of interest existing in the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Institute, between members of the board and highly placed employees of ‘big pharma’. These conflicts were not declared which resulted in a serious breach of ethics (and Corrie’s trust).

People increase their trust when an organization or individual can arouse fear. For example in a notable percentage of cases, ‘expiry dates’ are irrelevant and incorrect. With breast screening, widely encouraged in the 70’ and 80’s, women learned to fear breast cancer, and were easily convinced to undergo screening

‘Belief’ gets in the way of how we trust. If we hate and fear ‘the other’, we have been brought to the will of our political and religious leaders. But a refusal to hate has allowed Izzeldin Abuelaish to survive the murder of his daughters and niece at the hands of Israelis. His book I Shall Not Hate is well worth reading. Izzeldin believes that ‘hate is a communicable disease’.

There’s a wonderful song in the show South Pacific that suggests “You’ve Got to Be Carefully Taught”. Another song related to our discussion is Barbra Streisand’s new song “Don’t Lie to me”.

A member asked why it is so easy to believe the unbelievable. One suggested answer was the fact that most of us were brought up in a religious faith. If you have learned to trust the mythologies of religion, accepting them as truth, you can learn to trust any powerful, figure. If you’re offfered something you already want to believe, it will not be difficult to sustain the belief.

Should we trust our hospitals? Doctors? Teachers? Political leaders? If we are already critical thinkers,  Corrie’s suggestion was “trust everything until it proves to be untrustworthy.” Trust is “the best available version of the truth”.

Suggested reading: Conspiracy of Hope, by Renee Pellerin (a thorough investigation of the history of breast screening, including much important information about Corrie’s struggles to reveal the truth)

“Imagine” by the Beatles- the closest we have to a humanist anthem

Our Nov. 7 meeting was an exceptional example.

Although we are all humanists, some believed that they could not bring themselves to vote for anyone who places their faith ahead of their objectivity, by publicly wearing a symbol of their religion (a skullcap, cross, turban, etc.) They are demonstrating that their basic thinking is irrational, and could manifest itself in their leadership. Others felt that we should never put stock in what people “wear’’; that a person who is displaying their religious faith may also be the kind, compassionate leader we seek. It is not easy to determine what underlies the outward picture, but we must never define ourselves as ‘superior’. The ‘us’ and ‘them’ attitude can become dangerous.

We ended up agreeing on many of the difficult issues, breaking down the components of the arguments by listening to the views of each person around the table. Good stuff….

A recommended reading: The New Human Rights Movement, by Peter Joseph.

Are Housing and Food “Rights” or “Freedoms”?
Meeting Was Held on

Here are some of the salient comments and points of discussion:

“Rights are contractual obligations”

Even if one is motivated by costs, it is a benefit to society to offer housing and food to those in need. For those who value the expense of feeding and housing the poor, it is actually cheaper to have a healthier population. This reality is easier to accomplish and foster in a society with socialized medicine.

Rights are legislated. Freedoms are not.

Let’s not call this housing, but instead ‘shelter’. We are not talking about offering detached homes on the water. We are assuring that no one is left outside, or sleeping in their car with their children. Shelters are about basic safety, but must be offered in conjunction with other services.

A humanist believes that we offer those basics out of compassion, fairness, basic ethics, and a desire to use critical thinking to solve problems.

We talked about the importance of education. Courses in civic responsibility, the importance of voting, and critical thinking are offered in the schools.Children tend to be inherently fair. When they go home however, they are influenced by parents who may be making decisions based on other experiences and influences.

How interesting it is that after a disaster, compassionate human nature kicks in.

This topic also led us to discuss local politics, nutrition, food politics, etc. The ‘economics of food distribution and production’ may be a topic for a future meeting.

Some related books and resources to consider:

Paradise Built in Hell- Rebecca Solnit (communities that arise in disaster)

The New Human Rights Movement, Peter Joseph

Ayn Rand (Capitalism) – stressed the need for a defined ‘principle’

House Arrest  Francis Mont (one of our new members)

Proposals for a new social contract- an essay by Francis Mont (see Goodreads.com)

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Joachim Ostertag is returning ‘by popular demand’, to continue his talk and discussion of Patriarchy.

Another excellent meeting. …Thank you Joachim Ostertag for your stimulating, informative and provocative presentation (Patriarchy II), and to Ruth and Gord Henrich for hosting us so beautifully. And a big welcome to our new members.

Patriarchy is ever-present, pervasive, and embedded in our culture. Therefore, our first task in dealing with it, is noticing it. It effects both men and women, and places requirements and restraints on all of our systems – legal, educational , religious, economic and more.

Patriarchy effects relationships; because everyone needs to feel both physically and emotionally safe, we adhere to rules we may not even recognize. In order to challenge it, we must ‘name’ it, whether in individual encounters, in media, relationships, or institutions. Patriarchy is ancient. Perhaps early women acquiesced, needing to be ‘protected’ during their months of relative disability during pregnancy. Perhaps not. Perhaps it related to the male’s superior upper body strength, and having the role of warrior or hunter. Maybe not. We don’t really know, but the question is important to ask.

Since the Montreal Massacre of 1989, women and men have been paying more attention than ever to these issues. We now have the National Day of Remembrance, Dad’s Groups, studies of violence, and the Me Too Movement. Then there’s the strange and disturbing questions which arise from the popularity (especially among women) of the book Fifty Shades of Grey.  What is that all about? Whatever the reasons,  how do we acquire the knowledge that we can ‘say our truth and be heard’?

Alas, we didn’t remove the patriarchy from our society during this meeting , nor even the patriarchal princes Trump and Ford, but we have identified important first steps: Notice it and Talk about it! One member suggested “unplug the TV’. (a huge carrier of partriarchal culture)  Interesting….

The Legalization of Marijuana
Meeting Was Held on

It was impossible to keep up with the amount of fascinating information and experiences presented by our presenter in July. Constable Craig Peddle is a certified instructor, trained presenter, and is a court qualified expert on criminal street gangs. He is quite knowledgeable regarding narcotics, firearms and organized crime.

Equally as important, he is open-minded, friendly, approachable, a great speaker and good listener. Needless to say, our group had a lot of questions and comments. We are lucky to have him here in Owen Sound.

PC Peddle’s primary aim was to discuss the upcoming legalization of cannabis, and what that will mean for the public and for the police. Unfortunately, although some of the details will be clear to us by the date of legalization, October 18, there will still be many unknowns. What constitutes ‘inebriation’, i.e.: being stoned? When should someone avoid driving? What age would be most appropriate to permit purchase of cannabis, considering the adolescent’s still-developing brain?

Officer Peddle is fully in favour of legalizing the adult use of marijuana. It will reduce the number of people having a record- those arrested and incarcerated for possession. Although there is no empirical evidence that cannabis is addictive, there are particular personalities which are more vulnerable to its’ influence than others (as with alcohol).

He is also concerned that if people buy from private dealers rather than the government source (the LCBO will sell it), it could be laced with nicotine or other drugs which ARE addictive. (Best way to keep customers.) He advised that it’s best to stay away from buying cannabis, if you don’t know where it came from.

A huge thank you to Craig Peddle for his provocative and informative presentation!!!  We learned a lot.

Meeting Was Held on

Last night’s discussion of Populism was engaging but disturbing. We human beings are quite vulnerable to ‘showmanship’, grandiose language and glorious promises. If a populace is kept largely uninformed, poorly educated, prevented from developing critical thinking, and without much hope for the future, it is easily tricked into voting for the ‘alpha male’ who is making promises without substance. Add to that the uber-wealthy who wish to protect their privilege, and you can elect a Trump.

June 10, 2018 – Keith Martin, “my journey from fundamentalist religion to spiritual humanism

Sunday we had the opportunity to learn of another member’s transition from deeply traditional religious faith to a non-religious set of beliefs. Looks like the Rwanda massacre was the ‘straw that broke the camel’s back’ for Keith, compelling him to face this new reality. Thank you Keith Martin for your penetrating presentation. Members may learn more about Keith and his work by emailing him at martinke@uoguelph.ca or the Facebook Page. His new book is entitled Seismic Shift. Some of Keith’s other influences were: Sam Harris, Waking Up, J. Peterson’s 12 Rules for Life, and IGEN, by Jean Twange.



Wednesday | February 8th 2023
February gathering
Sabitri’s Restaurant