Opinions expressed on the BC Humanist Association's blog do not necessarily reflect those of the BCHA or the Board of Directors.

Jan 16, 2017 Newsletter

On Friday, the Victoria Times Columnist published Noreen Campbell's story.

In August, Noreen received approval for medical assistance in dying and she exercised that right last week. Before she died, she spoke out in a video with Dying With Dignity Canada and to the media.

"The idea that suffering is always worthwhile, it’s just beyond me," says Noreen.

Similarly, doctors are starting to speak out about their concerns with the vagueness of the current law.

Dr James Downar spoke to Dying With Dignity after another physician, who had performed an assisted death, started passing patients' requests to him.

"The access issues are extreme," says Dr Downar.

These perspectives are important and we'll undoubtedly hear more over the coming months as we continue to fight for individuals' right to choose.

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Feeling so emotional: Why we rage about religion on Facebook

By Mona Abdel Fatil, University of Oslo

On Christmas Day, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg used his website to tell the world that he was not an atheist any more. In this way, the billionaire used Facebook to express his feelings about religion, like many social media users before him.

My research shows how debates about religion on social networks bring out passionate emotions in users. I found that conservative Christians who discuss contentious issues about religion on Facebook debates often do so in emotionally charged ways.

It seems that simply being religious may sometimes trigger particular emotions and reactions to the topic of religion. But it is not only devoutly religious media users who get pulled into debating religion online or feel very strongly about it: hardcore atheists may also harbour strong emotions about religion, or rather, anti-religion. Discussing topics of faith can strike very close to home for those who strongly identify as either religious or anti-religious.

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Jan 9, 2017 Newsletter

It's been over a decade since Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens and Sam Harris (and to a lesser extent, Dan Dennett) launched what's been nicknamed the New Atheism.

Their books repackaged a lot of old arguments against faith into a challenge against the unquestioned assumptions that blind faith is a virtue.

Since then, an atheist and humanist movement has grown in a number of directions both on and offline.

In his latest column for The Huffington Post
, American Humanist Association executive director Roy Speckhardt looks at this growing secular movement in the USA and asks the question of who will be part of the humanist movement going forward.

It's an interesting time to be involved in the effort to promote progressive and secular values and we're glad you're a part of our efforts.

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Is hunting moral?

By Joshua Duclos, Boston University

Every year as daylight dwindles and trees go bare, debates arise over the morality of hunting. Hunters see the act of stalking and killing deer, ducks, moose and other quarry as humane, necessary and natural, and thus as ethical. Critics respond that hunting is a cruel and useless act that one should be ashamed to carry out.

As a nonhunter, I cannot say anything about what it feels like to shoot or trap an animal. But as a student of philosophy and ethics, I think philosophy can help us clarify, systematize and evaluate the arguments on both sides. And a better sense of the arguments can help us talk to people with whom we disagree.

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Jan 2, 2017 Newsletter

It's with sadness that we report that on December 22, 2016, longtime BCHA member Andy Serink died. Andy was a regular attendee at our Sunday meetings and will be missed. You can read his obituary in The Province.

A celebration of life will be held on Friday, January 6, 2017 at 2:00 PM at First Memorial Boal Chapel in North Vancouver.

You're also likely aware that actress Carrie Fisher died over the holidays. Fisher was famous for her role as Princess Leia in Star Wars but she was also awarded the Lifetime Acheivement Award in Cultural Humansim by the Harvard Humanists. Read their obituary of her here.

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The BCHA in 2016

While much of the West seems to have turned its back on enlightenment and Humanist values this year, it has still been quite an incredible year for the BC Humanist Association. I think it's a good time to highlight some of the major accomplishments we've had over the past year.

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Dec 12, 2016 Newsletter

When the Abbotsford School District agreed in June to end its policy of distributing Gideon Bibles and religious materials to students, we thought we'd settled this issue in British Columbia.

Unfortunately, we recently learned that SD 27 (Cariboo-Chilcotin) continues to allow the Gideons to use public schools to distribute their bibles.

We challenged SD 27 to end its policy and, just as I was about to hit send on this newsletter, the District called and confirmed they would not permit the distribution of Gideon Bibles in SD 27!

We need to keep up these victories. We've now also asked every other district in BC whether they are still distributing Gideon Bibles. Please consider making a donation before the end of 2016 so we can continue to investigate other districts and start our work on independent schools.

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Helping young Muslim "in-betweeners"

By Patrick Hudson

Upon returning to campus following a brief Thanksgiving break, Ohio State University students were subjected to an attack, the fourteenth terrorist or terrorism-related attack this year in the United States. While the only fatality was the attacker himself, a troubling connection emerged between this attack and the Boston Marathon bombings in 2013the Chelsea bombings in 2016, and the Fort Hood shooting in 2009: all were carried out by young men who were radicalized in part due to the influence of Anwar Awlaki’s sermons.

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Dec 5, 2016 Newsletter

I'm writing this week's newsletter to ask for your help.

At our latest Sunday meeting, one of our members told us about one of the new participants in her single mothers' support group. This woman is a single mother with a one year old child.

The young lady in question has just escaped an abusive relationship and has had to move into a bare apartment. She requires furnishings but she obviously can't afford it.

At the meeting we raised a bit of money to help but she's really looking for the basics to furnish her new apartment. If you have something you can spare, please email me at

In Humanism

Gord Leslie

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Blasphemy laws get used for political purposes

Editor's note: While Canada's latent blasphemy law isn't explicitly mentioned in this article, we must continue to fight for it's repeal as these stories highlight how, under the right political climate, it could be used to censor opposition.

By Rafiqa Qurrata A'yunUniversity of Indonesia

The Indonesian police recently named the Chinese-Indonesian and Christian governor of Jakarta, Basuki Tjahaya Purnama, also known as Ahok, a suspect in a blasphemy case. This came after Muslim groups, which accuse Purnama of “insulting Islam”, staged an enormous street protest (and warned that they plan another).

President Joko Widodo stepped in and ordered the police to quickly investigate the allegation against Purnama, who is running for re-election in next year’s Jakarta gubernatorial election.

Muslim groups had reported Purnama for alleged blasphemy after a video went viral showing Purnama criticizing his political opponents who tried to dissuade people for voting for him by referencing a verse in the Koran.

Around one-quarter of the world’s countries, both in developing and developed economies, have anti-blasphemy laws. But these laws punishing speech or actions seen to be contemptuous of religion are highly controversial.

The implementation and application of these laws is politicized and prone to be influenced by public pressure. Purnama’s blasphemy investigation is a clear example.

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