HAI e-Newsletter October 2014

e-Newsletter October 2014
In this issue:

Successful Launch of New Humanist Stand at the GPO on 20 September
On a sunny Saturday morning, Eithne Dempsey, pictured with members (left to right) Arthur Deeny, Oisín Carey,Brendan Maher and Fachtna Roe, set up the new HAI stand at the GPO. Nic Johnson and Mark Lovett also came along to lend support. The stand was equipped with a HAI tablecoth and leaflets and flyers and attracted lots of interest from passers-by.  This will be a regular monthly event, and we are looking for more members who would be willing to make a commitment to attend the stand – contact [email protected] if you are interested.   The next date is 18th October.  

HAI 21st Celebration Conference 11th & 12th October 
The HAI is celebrating its 21st Birthday with a conference on primary education in Galway, asking if the system is fit for the 21st century.
Booking has been lively, but there are still places available.
Book now on the HAI website to secure your place!

First Sunday Meeting Report –  7 September, 2014
The theme of the September meeting was Humanist Ceremonies. Chaired by Eithne Dempsey, the meeting was hosted by Brian Whiteside, HAI Director of Ceremonies.
Brian’s journey to becoming a celebrant began in 2002 when he attended a funeral in London.  Expecting a religious ceremony he was surprised to find it was more a celebration of the person’s life and was conducted by a woman.  His first humanist ceremony.  On his return to Dublin, he joined the Humanist Association of Ireland and in due course became a celebrant
Dick Spicer was involved in the Campaign for the Separation of Church and State and and a founding member of  the HAI 21 years ago, which he felt was a more appropriate organization to provide the ceremonies that he was being asked to conduct.   In 2006 he asked Brian to take over as Director of Ceremonies and Brian then worked with Brendan Sheeran to put together an accreditation process which still holds today.  In Britain prospective celebrants pay to go on weekend courses.  In contrast, the HAI requires a person to have been a member for two years; they are then assessed by a Selection Panel and, if approved, go through a mentoring process leading hopefully to accreditation.
After years of campaigning, in 2012 the law changed to allow secular bodies to perform weddings. This has led to a huge demand for the HAI’s services and we are struggling to keep up with demand.   We have fifteen celebrants but this is not sufficient to provide all-Ireland cover. One of the reasons is that state registrars do not work on Saturdays which is the day most couples want for weddings.
Latest figures show that 36% of people are choosing non-religious ceremonies.  Close to 100,000 people attend our ceremonies annually and this creates awareness of humanism. Each celebrant pays an amount to HAI for each ceremony performed.  For first half of this year the total amount was €18,800 which provides funding for the HAI.
Brian then went on to describe the ceremonies we conduct.
Humanist weddings provide a couple an opportunity to celebrate their love for one another with words, poems, music and a lovely venue all of their own choosing.  Planning of the average wedding takes about 10 to 12 hours of a celebrant’s  time.
Funerals started with very few and far between but, as our reputation grew, so did the numbers and this year we will conduct over 100.  We have had some high profile funerals.
Naming Ceremonies represent the  smallest number as parents are afraid that if they don’t have a baptismal certificate for their children, they will not get them into schools. We continue to campaign on this.
Coming of Age: There have been inquiries about this to match the communion ceremony. The HAI are looking into this but many feel that 15 is a more appropriate age.
The talk finished with a Q&A session
Report by Maeve Cooling

First Sunday Meeting – 5 October 2014
The next First Sunday Meeting will take place on Sunday, 5th October from 4pm to 6pm at Buswell’s Hotel, Molesworth St, Dublin 2.
The topic for this meeting is Mindfulness, with Helen Byrne
Mindfulness teaches us to direct our attention to what is happening right here, right now, with an attitude of kindness towards ourselves and our experience. Although we are often unaware of the current of our thinking, it has a profound effect on how we live our lives, as well on our mental and emotional health. Research has shown that the practice of mindfulness has benefits in relation to self-awareness, physical and psychological health among other things.
For more information about Helen Byrne’s mindfulness courses, see http://www.mindfulness.ie/.
All are welcome to attend.

Report from the Summer School, Carlingford 2014
 Peter Tatchell addressing the Summer School
Humanism and Sexuality
The annual summer school in Carlingford was held on the weekend of the 29th to 31st August, jointly organised by HAI and Humani. Ann James did a marvellous job of being the main organiser for the HAI, and deserves much credit.
The sixty or so participants were privileged to hear some extremely well argued cases for humanist approaches to sexual morality. These cases were based largely on human rights as set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and its derivatives. The arguments also took account of historical views of sexuality and current scientific understanding. The debates were wide-ranging and focused largely on young people and their needs in relation to sexuality and relationship and how they might be met more effectively.
Religion, Humanism and Morality — Roy W Brown (International Humanist and Ethical Union’s Representative to the UN at Geneva, and Director of New College of the Humanities)
Religious ethics of sexuality are prescriptive and inflexible. Sharia law in particular does not distinguish between what it deems to be moral and what is lawful. This prescriptive morality is based on atavistic principles of inheritance and the male fear of raising another’s child. A Humanist ethic should be realistic and based on the best scientific information about sexuality. This would allow for differences in sexual preference and accommodate altruistic behaviour. General principles for developing ethical systems include the Inverse Golden Rule: ‘Do not do unto others what you would not want done to you’ and the Precautionary Principle: ‘try to minimize any negative consequences of actions by moving cautiously until knowledge improves’. These principles, as elaborated in the IHEU’s review of the Amsterdam Declaration, provide a good basis for a sexual morality which would be accepted by most humanists.
Love & Sex — Tom Inglis (Professor of Sociology in UCD, and author of Moral Monopoly: Rise and Fall of the Catholic Church in Modern Ireland (1998) and Lessons in Irish Sexuality (1998).)
The repressive moral precepts of the Roman Catholic Church have been largely replaced by the new orthodoxy of Romantic Love portrayed by contemporary media. In developing a humanist, personal morality, it is necessary to be aware of the ’colonising’ effects of outside influences, such as the media and religious institutions. There is a need to include teaching about love and relationships and their importance for the meaning of life. Relationship education should be driven by the learners who can then demand the information they require at the appropriate time. Studies of family structure suggest that humans are actually good at self-sacrifice and building families.
Gay Marriage as a Human Right — Peter Tatchell (International campaigner for human rights, member of Outrage! and the Green Party’s (UK) spokesperson on human rights.)
The presentation dealt with many of the objections to marriage equality. Marriage equality is a human right and essentially a civil matter and not one over which religious institutions should have control. Civil partnership does not confer the same rights and protection for the partners or their children. There is no evidence that the existence of gay marriage harms heterosexual marriage. Perhaps the way forward is by ‘civil commitment pact’ which can be tailored to the needs of the partners and confer the required civil and legal rights.
Who Owns Women’s Bodies? Diana Brown  (Former editor of International Humanist news and Board member of  the World Population Foundation.)
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights grants equality and freedom to all and particular clauses refer to marriage rights. Women have been denied equality largely because of fears about inheritance and the fact that they have been regarded as men’s possessions. Religious bodies have been fundamentally concerned to control women’s sexuality. Child marriage and female genital mutilation and the denial of rights to women are consequences of these views. Attempts to foster women’s rights by Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women have been thwarted by allowing nullifying derogations by states.
Report by Alan Tuffery
Contributions from Members
If you have constructive comments or feedback on this e-Newsletter, Board meetings, the organisation in general, and/or are able to contribute to the goals of the HAI in any way, please let us know.
And if you have news items or links you would like to share with other HAI members, please send them for possible inclusion in the e-Newsletter by the 27th of the month.
We would very much welcome your contributions!
The email address is [email protected]

News Bytes
From the Irish Times
Joe Humphreys writes that plans to divest schools of Catholic patronage are hindered by lack of paperwork.
Minister for Education, Jan O’Sullivan is not going to delete Rule 68 on the pre-eminence of religious instruction in primary schools.
David McConnell replies to Rev Patrick G Burke in a letter about science taking the place of faith 
From the Irish Independent
Katherine Donnelly writes about the opening of the first second-level Educate Together schools.
Muslims talk about “inclusivity” but are actually arguing for the introduction of Muslim faith schools in Ireland, writes Carol Hunt.
From the Guardian
Hilary Mantel hits back at criticism of her assassination of Margaret Thatcher story.
From The Journal.ie

Chaplaincy News
HSE Council on Healthcare Chaplains
Humanist Chaplain Norma McElligott, Willie Collins and Nic Johnson attended the second meeting of the ‘Multi-faith Healthcare Chaplains Group/Council.’ This is a group set up by HSE and composed of several religious representatives to arrive at best practice for the delivery of chaplaincy services at HSE-funded hospitals. As reported previously, it was organised in part as a consequence of HAI’s raising the importance of accommodating the needs of the non-religious hospital patients and staff.
A presentation was made by Associate Professor Fiona Timmins of Trinity School of Nursing and Midwifery on the subject of “Nurses’ Provision of Spiritual Care in the Acute Services”. Separately but related, Professor Timmins has asked the HAI chaplaincy to make a presentation to one of her groups at Trinity on the needs of Humanist patients.
The HSE council has also formed a subgroup to ‘refine the terms of reference’ of the council. The HAI will have a representative on the council. In support of its work the HAI chaplaincy has made a submission on its recommended terms of reference.  In short it calls for equal accommodation of chaplaincy services for the non-religious throughout the HSE.
 ‘A Time to Remember’
Plans are underway for holding our first event for HAI members who have suffered a loss due to the death of a family member. This event will be held on Sunday January 4, 2015 as part of the First Sunday meetings.  The first part of the meeting will provide time for individuals to say a few words about their loss as part of the remembrance of the deceased. If you would like to say a few words or have a family member or friend remembered, contact Nic Johnson, Director of Chaplaincy Services at: [email protected] If there is time at the meeting we will also have an open discussion on ways in which people of no religion deal with mortality and the phenomenon of death. You are welcome to invite friends and family regardless of their religious outlook.
Chaplaincy in Cork
Norma McElligott, Humanist Chaplain, has been actively engaged in the Humanist Chaplaincy Service in Cork. Her work has included responding to requests for visits from ill and terminally ill patients. The visits have been in a hospital setting or in the patient’s own home.  The response from patients and their families has been very positive and is certainly raising an awareness of Humanism and the services it offers.
A request has come from a Cork secondary School for Norma to give a talk on Humanism as part of a Junior Certificate Religion project. Norma has agreed, seeing it as an excellent opportunity to further awareness of what we are about.
Student Humanist Chaplain at TCD
The Humanist Chaplaincy has named HAI member, Oisin Carey, Student Chaplain at Trinity. Oisin’s long-term responsibilities will include organising non-religious students for meetings and discussions as well as engaging with other chaplains to assure equal accommodation of the non-religious students in college life.
HAI on HSE Website
Members are invited to look at an HSE link which refers to HAI. This is an addition to their website which includes material supplied by HAI to the ‘Health Services Intercultural Guide’ published in 2009.  Send your comments to Nic Johnson, Director of Chaplaincy Services ([email protected]) who is currently serving on a HSE Chaplaincy Council.
Report by Nic Johnson, Director of Chaplaincy Services

Literature Review
New Humanist, A quarterly journal of ideas, science and culture from the Rationalist Association, Autumn 2014, Vol. 129, No 3.
‘In the absence of God, we are placing the person who has died right at the heart of the ceremony,’ Isabel Russo is quoted in an article by Sally Feldman on Humanist funerals. ‘We are not judging a person’s life with a view to their destination in the afterlife, rather we are reflecting and acknowledging the humanity of the life that has been lived and its impact, in all its light and shade.’
Asked how much distance she has from her former faith, Mormon-turned-atheist Carys Bray tells Richard Smyth, ‘To me it’s like one of those pictures where there’s a woman and she seems both old and young, and if you blink you can make it switch. It’s like that, it feels really normal, but quite strange at the same time.’
A short article notes that the UK’s Assisted Dying Bill, if passed, would make it legal for adults in England and Wales to be given assistance to end their own lives. It would apply to people of sound mind with less than six months to live. It is similar to the US State of Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act, which has been in place for 17 years without any recorded cases of abuse.  
‘Most of the universe we see in our telescopes no longer exists,’ is just one of the thought-provoking facts in Marcus Chown’s substantial article Ten Cosmic Myths. Here’s another: ‘The Big Bang…did not occur in a particular place. Every point of space exploded away from every other point in space’ like a rising cake studded with raisins.
Other articles include ‘Is pacifism a humanist value?’; another asks what it means to mark the Holocaust as it slips from living memory; and there’s an interview with author Isabel Allende.
Ethical Record, The Proceedings of the Conway Hall Ethical Society, Vol. 119 No. 8, August/September 2014
The Society changed its status on 1 August 2014 to a ‘Charitable Incorporated Organisation’ and its ‘Object’ is now, ‘The advancement of study, research and education in humanist ethical principles’. Its ‘aims’ continue the injunction to ‘cultivate a rational and humane way of life’.
A letter from CEO Jim Walsh to members of the Society discusses its new five-year strategic plan, with its three guiding principles to (a) step in line with the new Object; (b) develop a distinctive role with wide appeal across London; and (c) become financially sustainable.
The Society has set up four new departments: Commercial (to sustain the Society financially); The Arts to provide a rich programme of concerts, theatre, exhibitions and film; Learning, to promote study and research, publish Ethical Record, deliver courses, and manage its library and archives; London Thinks, a new signature programme stand of monthly mid-week talks by key speakers, with discussion, tackling topical contemporary ethical and humanist issues. This is in addition to its Sunday lecture programme. It will also launch a digital version of Ethical Record this autumn.
The Open Society, Journal of the New Zealand Association of Rationalists and Humanists, Vol. 87, No. 2, July 2014
Articles include: Child marriage in the Sudan; Kidnapping and killing to stop education; Evolution is a lie, says the school. Good curriculum, says England’s School Inspectorate; Book review – Taking God to School; The case for change – religious instruction in NZ State Schools; A way out of moral relativism; Why are there no agolfers?
Report by Joe Armstrong                                                  

Local Humanist Groups
Síle Headen is interested in setting up a new local Humanist group for members in Laois, Offaly, Carlow, Kilkenny and Kildare.  If you are interested, please get in touch with Síle at 
[email protected] or 087 7704946.
Ann Brennan is interested in setting up a new group for members living in the South-East region.  Her contact details are [email protected] or 086 0680444.
Isolde Carmody would like to gauge interest in setting up a North-West local group, covering Donegal, Sligo, Leitrim and Roscommon.  She would be happy to coordinate with others if there is interest.  Her contact details are [email protected] or 086 8820445.
A group of people interested in setting up a new local Humanist group in Cork have met twice recently.  Details of further meetings are on http://corkhumanists.weebly.com/ or you can contact Geraldine O’Neill on 086 812 8892.
North Coast Humanists meet every second Tuesday of the month at 6. 30 pm in the foyer of Lodge Hotel, Coleraine. New faces are welcome. For more information, contact: [email protected]  or 07818036404.
The Mid-West Humanists group includes people from Limerick, Clare, and Tipperary who meet on the third Wednesday of each month at 20:00 in Limerick – the Absolute Hotel, Sir Harrys Mall, Limerick. Meeting notice at www.midwesthumanists.com. For more information contact Peter O’Hara on 086 8155102 or email [email protected].
Serving Humanists in Galway and surrounding areas, Humanists West meet in Galway city on the last Sunday of each month. The venue from Sunday 26 October 2014 will be the Cottage Bar, 76 Salthill Road Lower, Galway. The meetings start at 1.00 p.m. For more information contact Garry O’Lochlainn on [email protected] or 087 2222726.

Living Wills
Advanced Healthcare Directive
Advance directives are written legal documents by which patients express their wishes about the kind of health care they want to receive in the event they become unable to make their own treatment decisions. This usually means if he or she is physically or mentally incapacitated or otherwise unable to makes these desires known. They are designed to allow competent patients the opportunity to guide future health care decisions. Advance directives include living wills and medical powers of attorney, sometimes called durable powers of attorney. It takes the decision away from family members, thus reducing their stress at a vulnerable time.
More information and downloads are available from http://www.worldrtd.net/organization/living-wills-trust-lwt or contact Daphne Wynne, 01 2802879, for further information.

Humanist Association of Ireland  •  34B Royal Terrace West  •  Dun Laoghaire, Co. Dublin Ireland