HAI e-Newsletter January 2014

e-Newsletter January 2014
In this issue:

First Sunday Meeting Report – November 3rd
As you know, the 2014 AGM took place on Sunday November 3rd, but there was also a talk before the AGM given by the HAI’s Honorary President, David McConnell. This summary report from member Maeve Cooling:
The Enlightenment and The Founding Fathers in the United States and Ireland
Ireland and the United States can be looked at from the perspective of how their founding fathers adopted the principles of the period known as the enlightenment. Bernard Cohen, an historian of science at Harvard University, shows in his book ‘Science and the Founding Fathers (1995)’, that four out of the seven founding fathers of the United States – Jefferson, Franklin, Adams and Madison – used scientific concepts to formulate ideas about government. This establishes their credentials as citizens of the age of reason and enlightenment.
The enlightenment was the most important period between the Roman Empire and today. Known as ‘The Long 18th civilisation’, the scientific thinking and principles of this period are still fundamental to western democracy today. Between 1543 and 1687 Galileo, Newton and others proved that rather than the planets and stars revolving around the earth, the earth revolves around the sun. This was revolutionary and was mostly due to Galileo’s invention of the telescope.
How does this relate to Humanism? Before the enlightenment, the church dictated the thoughts, actions and lifestyles of the ordinary person. Scientists, especially Francis Bacon in The Great Instauration (1620), gave examples of logic based on facts of nature. They pushed for the freedom for the individual to think, write and go about their lives and they also pushed for the emancipation of women. This upset the church and weakened its power. However, it was still dangerous to oppose ecclesiastical teachings as it could mean loss of freedom or life. Thus, in 1630 the church was able to sentence Galileo to house arrest for the remainder of his life.
Did these men believe in God? Some late French thinkers were known as Deists and their belief, based solely on reason, was in a God who created the universe and then abandoned it, assuming no control over life.
In 1776 America achieved its independence from Great Britain. Benjamin Franklin played a significant role. He was a scientist, diplomat, ambassador to France and an inventor. His scientific knowledge was so highly regarded by the French that they listened carefully to his political arguments that France should fund the colonists in their uprising against the British. The Declaration of Independence owes much of its content to the ideals of enlightenment of Franklin and the other founding fathers. It contains some of the best known words in the English language “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal …”
Do we think the founding fathers of the Irish Free State, for example Tone, O’Connell, Davis and others were intensely interested in the ideas of Enlightenment? Were they interested in freedom of thought, improvement of civilisation and a progressive system of education? We can say that these three indeed were, but by the time of the foundation of the State in 1922, it was hard to detect much influence of the Enlightenment. The new state was not marked by openness or diversity of thought. We might think indeed that it has taken sixty to eighty years for the ideas of enlightenment to re- establish themselves in Ireland.

First Sunday Meeting Report – December 1st
The purpose of the meeting was primarily social with mince pies, tea and coffee (as well as two delicious cakes donated by a participant).  This report from member Alan Tuffery:
The meeting began with a minute’s silence for members and their loved ones who had died during the year. There were special thoughts for David Godden who had been so instrumental in establishing the HAI and organising many events.
Brian Whiteside summarised the achievements and delays during the year, which was marked by the events surrounding the EGM which had placed great stresses on the HAI and slowed developments in several key areas. The Board was now generating a list of priorities and aimed to include more members in the work of the HAI. An area of special activity will be the relationship of the HAI to other Humanist groups around the country.
The Marriage Registration Act has seen an increased demand for celebrants: there are bookings for about 800 weddings for 2014, up from about 400 in 2013. Brian had attended a trade fair for funeral directors and was well received.
Nic Johnson reported on the HAI’s submission to the Constitutional Convention on blasphemy: the Convention voted to recommend that the provision be deleted.
In relation to chaplaincy, the HAI is pressing to get clarity on payment by the State. If the State finances chaplains, it should be prepared to pay for humanist chaplains too; if it is not, none should be supported.
In the general discussion, members reported stories from various hospitals where a religious chaplain approached a patient, even though he had specified ‘no religion’. In once case he was offered communion. It appears that the practice of broadcasting Mass throughout a hospital has ceased.
A few more light-hearted stories of failure or slow dawning of recognition on the secular position concluded the formal business and all fell to the serious business of chatting and mince pies.

News Bytes
Equality & Rights Alliance Chair, Niall Crowley, writes in December Village Magazine on the unacceptable delay in publishing the Bill to establish the merged Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission:
An international symposium is being organised in the National University of Ireland, Galway – next May 2014 to mark the 150th Anniversary of the Naming of Homo neanderthalensis by William King.
From the Irish Times:
Defence Forces chief of staff Lieut Gen Conor O’Boyle has conveyed his regret for any embarrassment caused to President Michael D Higgins as a result of a homily given by the Army’s head chaplain on Christmas Eve.
From the National Secular Society UK:

Chaplaincy Update
 A letter of condolence was sent by the Humanist Chaplaincy on behalf of the HAI to Tom Curran on the death of his partner Marie Fleming. Marie lost her legal case in the Supreme Court for the right for assistance to die because of suffering from MS.
The Humanist Chaplaincy has made contact with several people and organisations familiar or involved with addiction recovery groups.Th purpose was to evaluate the benefits of such groups for our members. Comments from members on this initiative are welcomed and can be sent to [email protected]

Ceremonies Update
With Humanist weddings now having legal status, the number of weddings performed by HAI-accredited celebrants in 2013 soared to 410, up from 200 in 2012.  There were 95 funerals conducted (78 in 2012) and 39 naming ceremonies (29 in 2012).  Our celebrants already have bookings for 575 weddings for 2014 with more and more enquiries coming to all celebrants every day.
There are now 15 accredited Humanist celebrants and more are needed to keep up with the growing demand.  Anyone who feels drawn to this important role, and has been a member of the HAI for over two years, should contact Brian Whiteside, Director of Ceremonies ([email protected] 086-3848940).

2014 All Ireland Humanist Summer School
The Heritage Centre and Four Seasons hotel in Carlingford are booked for late August for the 2014 Summer School.
But, given that both the Devil and God are traditionally in the detail (!), we need a working group to help with a theme, organising speakers and workshops, and creating publicity and keeping members informed and arranging registration.
There is one volunteer already, Clodagh Carroll, and past HAI organiser, Ann James, will have input to ensure people know some of the ‘routine’. A fresh approach in some areas could be good. The Humanist Association of Northern Ireland have a small planning team we work with to create this annual and enjoyable event.
If you wish to take part please contact Ann by email on [email protected]

Local Humanist Groups
Cork Humanists meet on the first Sunday of each month at 12 noon at the Quay Co-op Meeting room. You can contact them by email on [email protected]. They also have a regular newsletter that you can read on the Newsletter page of their website www.corkhumanists.com.
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].
Humanists West meet in Galway city on the last Sunday of each month. For more information contact Garry O’Lochlainn on [email protected] or 087 2222726.

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