HAI e-Newsletter January 2015

e-Newsletter January 2015
In this issue:

A Time to Remember – 4 January
You are warmly invited to attend the First Sunday Meeting which will take place in Buswells Hotel on 4 January from 4.00 p.m. to 6.00 p.m.
This month’s meeting is sponsored by the Humanist Chaplaincy and is a tribute of remembrance to our deceased members, and to the loss by members of family and friends.  At the conclusion of the remembrance, we will have a discussion about how we as Humanists support people in loss, bereavement and death.  
Anyone who would like to have a name included in the remembrance should contact Nic Johnson, Director of Chaplaincy Services, at [email protected]
All are welcome.  
Donation to Focus Ireland
Following the proposal made at the December Sunday meeting to donate €6,000 to a homeless charity, the Board decided to support Focus Ireland’s Crisis Interventions Support Programme.  This programme helps young people in crisis under 18 years of age who are homeless. Focus Ireland provides them with a safe place to stay and helps them to find the most appropriate care.
In 2013, the Crisis Interventions Support Programme helped 170 young people under 18 years of age.  Often they had no personal possessions with them.
The HAI’s donation of €6,000 will help feed, clothe and provide other necessities to make life more comfortable for young people in this situation.
During the coming year, we will receive a progress report on this programme, and we have also invited Focus Ireland to outline their work at one of the Sunday meetings.

Report of Sunday Meeting, 7th December
Eithne Dempsey welcomed the attendance of about 50 members and visitors to the December meeting which, as is customary, had no formal speaker but was primarily social.
Brian Whiteside (Director of Ceremonies) mentioned that RTE Radio 1 did a splendid documentary called, ‘A Humanist Milestone’ which followed the progress of Siobhan Walls (Chair of the Board) as she trained as a celebrant*.
 
In the context of the death of a homeless person in the same street as the meeting, the suggestion that HAI should make a donation to Focus Ireland, was approved by a show of hands with no objections. The next board meeting will deal with this.
Nic Johnson (Humanist Chaplaincy) advised that the January meeting will be ‘A Time To Remember’ to give a space to remember those who died during the year. Families who have had humanist funerals have been invited and there will be readings, reminiscences and music.
 
To get everyone into the festive spirit Alan Tuffery and Eithne Dempsey read from A Child’s Christmas in Wales by Dylan Thomas. This was a wonderful experience.
A general discussion followed. It was felt that there is a need for human beings to celebrate being together with friends and families. There was general acceptance of view of Daf Wynne (Director of Communications) that since we are mostly ‘cultural Christians’ we should not have reservations about celebrating Christmas, along with the rest of society. There was some interesting chat about the distinction between Santa and God, namely that religious parents do tell children the truth about Santa eventually. There were tales of children feeling betrayed because their usually trustworthy parents, told them about non-existent bearded gentlemen. The general tone of the discussion was one of calm and courteous respect for other people’s celebrations.
Tea, coffee and mince pies  and much conversation followed.
 
 
Note. We hope to have a new venue for meetings possibly in February because the present venue is inaccessible for wheelchair users.
Report by Alan Tuffery

HAI Stand at the GPO 
The next outing of the new HAI stand at the GPO will take place on 17 January from 12 pm to 2 pm. All members who would like to lend their support would be most welcome!

Literature Review
International Humanist News, International Humanist and Ethical Union,
November 2014
This issue deals with the World Humanist Congress 2014 held at Oxford and attended by more than 1,000 delegates from 65 countries, including Ireland. If you do nothing else today, check out these four very short videos narrated by Stephen Fry: https://humanism.org.uk/thatshumanism/ They were showcased at the Congress and we should use them to present our cause in Ireland.
Sangeeta Mall, Editor of IHN, writes about injustice in our day. In India, a Muslim man is allowed to divorce his wife merely by uttering the word ‘talaq’ (divorce) three times in front of any witness. Usually, the woman, abandoned by her husband, is left destitute. Honour killings continue in the 21st century, where men and women are killed because they choose their own life partner.
Genital mutilation continues, with the woman victims condemned to a life of suffering. ‘Untouchables’ continue to be so deemed in India, merely because of a religious construct. And still in our day girls are prohibited from going to school, victims of rape are forced to bear the rapist’s child, and people are killed accused of witchcraft. Even today, the basic human right of freedom of expression is denied to countless millions, and so many basic human rights are denied to so many. Our task is great!
In the context of the expected 2015 referendum on blasphemy in Ireland, the Oxford Declaration on Freedom of Thought and Expression, published in this issue, is pertinent, part of which, states: ‘There is no right not to be offended, or not to hear contrary opinions. Respect for people’s freedom of belief does not imply any duty or requirement to respect those beliefs. The expression of opposition to any beliefs, including in the form of satire, ridicule or condemnation in all media and forms is vital to critical discourse and any restraint that is exercised in this expression must be in accordance with article 29 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, namely to protect the rights and freedoms of others. The best response to the expression of a view we disagree with is to reply to it.  Violence and censorship are never legitimate responses. All laws that criminalise language on grounds of “blasphemy” or of offence to beliefs and values impede human freedom and should be abolished.’
Another striking article is by Asif Mohiuddin who writes about his experience of being persecuted in Bangladesh for blogging and of being arrested several times by the police for blasphemous writings. He is one of four Humanist bloggers of Bangladesh who were presented the Freedom of Expression Award at the Humanist Congress 2014.
Ethical Record, The Proceedings of the Conway Hall Ethical Society, Vol. 119 No. 11, December 2014
Received just before going to press, articles include:‘ Are we seeing signals from before the Big Bang?, referring to a 56-page booklet (RRP. £12 at Conway Hall, London), the text of the 81st Conway Memorial Lecture by Roger Penrose in 2012. It outlines Penrose’s theory that our universe, which has existed since the ‘Big Bang’ 13.8 billion years ago, is just one of a possibly infinite series of such universes.
Points from an address by the Editor of Ethical Record, Norman Bacrac, on the Scottish Independence debate, outline reasons to oppose replacing nuclear submarines which the UK’s Labour and Conservative parties plan to do, starting in 2016, at a cost of £25 billion. Bacrac’s points include that nuclear bombs are unethical; in the event of nuclear war, Fastlane, Scotland, is a target; and maintaining the Trident system until 2060 would squander at least £100 billion.
There is a large article on climate change by David Williams which argues that global anthropogenic CO2 emissions continue to rise and he maintains that there is an increasing likelihood that the earth is heading towards an environmental and humanitarian catastrophe. He concludes with the non- intuitive conclusion that ‘by reducing the price of energy (from any source!)… total energy demand will eventually be reduced’; and that, ‘until we have low cost-competitive clean energy, the most effective and humanitarian route to reduce the growth in global energy consumption (i.e., CO2 emissions) is the continued use of cheap fossil fuel energy.’
Ethical Record, The Proceedings of the Conway Hall Ethical Society, Vol. 119 No. 10, November 2014
How is sexism still a problem in the 21st century and what can be done about it? A report of a London Thinks event last October considers that question with speakers including Caroline Criado-Perez, who campaigned to have a woman featured on a bank note, and Laura Bates, founder of the Everyday Sexism project. Laura noted that out of 2300 works in the British National Gallery, only ten are by women; and only 15% of public statues are of women.
Duncan Bowie delivered an enlightening talk on Radical Opposition to World War I, which included several anti-war traditions within the Liberal Party, and the resignation of four members of Asquith’s cabinet upon the British declaration of war against Germany. Bowie argues that in the late summer of 1914 there was strong opposition to engaging in a European war within the Liberal government and the wider Liberal party, and that it was Winston Churchill, as Lord of the Admiralty, who pre-empted Cabinet decisions by ordering the mobilization of the navy.
                                                 Bertrand Russell
Chris Bratcher has a fascinating article on Bertrand Russell and World War I. Here is a brief extract from a letter Russell wrote: ‘Sir, …A month ago, Europe was a peaceful comity of nations; if an Englishman killed a German, he was hanged. Now…he is a patriot.’ Russell edited the journal of the No Conscription
Fellowship and he objected to the prosecutions in the UK (of which we in Ireland were then a part) of conscientious objectors, including a teacher, Everett, who was sentenced to two years’ hard labour. Russell wrote: ‘Everett is now suffering this savage punishment solely for refusal to go against his conscience.’ Russell himself was fined £100 for writing the leaflet For Conscience Sake. The Government refused Russell a passport to fulfill a lecturing engagement at Harvard. Russell was dismissed from his job and reduced to living on charity from his brother and friends, and he was later sentenced to prison for six months for making a statement deemed ‘intended and likely’ to prejudice relations between the UK and the US.
Film Documentary: An Honest Liar, produced by Justin Weinstein and Tyler Measom
If you get the chance to watch this 92-minute documentary about world-famous magician, escape artist and sceptic James ‘The Amazing’ Randi, be sure to see it. It documents Randi’s courageous and costly-to-him investigations to expose psychics, religious faith healers and con-artists. A must-see! It was shown at the Guth Gafa International Documentary Film Festival held in Donegal and Meath in October and November 2014. For more, see http://guthgafa.com/
Review by Joe Armstrong

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!

News Bytes
From the Irish Times
Tom Hennigan writes about the legacy of Auguste Comte and the Church of Humanity in Brazil
From TheHumanist.com
From the Guardian
From the Independent (UK)
From The Journal.ie
Gary Keogh asks if we are devaluing degrees?
Donal O’Keeffe writes about the  the latest “right -to-life” horror story

Chaplaincy News
Paddy McDermott has written to The Oireachtas Committee on Justice and Defence making an enquiry about their chaplaincy services.
 
He has received a reply from Barbara Hughes, Joint Committee on Justice and Equality, Committee Secretariat stating his questions ‘will be brought to the attention of the Committee’. That in turn has led to a reply by Cliona O’ Sullivan, Information Office, Department of Defence who has stated, ‘Can you please be advised that the relevant branch are working on your query and will revert to you shortly.’
 
We’ll pass on the information when we receive it.
One of the objectives of the Chaplaincy is to have in all the major colleges a student who would serve as a liaison between the Humanist chaplaincy and the non-religious students and staff at the college. If you are or know of a Humanist student who would like to take that on, contact Nic Johnson, [email protected] This would be a great way to meet and organise non-religious students at the college.  
 
Report by Nic Johnson, Director of Chaplaincy Services

Local Humanist Groups
Calling all members in Westport and local areas!  Séamus O’Connell is interested in starting a local group, and would like any interested members to contact him on 087 245 35 36 or email
The first meeting took place recently in Kilkenny for members in Kilkenny and neighbouring counties. Contact Peter Deevy on 087 2570855 for information about the next meeting. 
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 [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.
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
https://humanism.ie