9/11 Ten Years On: Implications for Canada – September 7, 2011 « Canadian Civil Liberties Association, Sept 7

9/11 Ten Years On: Implications for Canada – September 7, 2011 « Canadian Civil Liberties Association
Panel Discussion, Public Welcome
Wednesday, September 7th, 2011 , 6:30pm – 8:00pm
Campbell House Museum (Queen West & University, Toronto – Osgoode subway station)

Paul Champ (Counsel in Abdelrazik, Afghan Detainees)
Nathalie Des Rosiers (General Counsel, Canadian Civil Liberties Association)
Jameel Jaffer (Deputy Legal Director, American Civil Liberties Union, New York)
Lorne Sossin (Dean, Osgoode Hall Law School)
Sukanya Pillay, moderator (Director, National Security Program, Canadian Civil Liberties Association)

Admission CCLA members: $5.00 Non-CCLA members: $15.00 Student members: free iInformation: Sukanya Pillay, National Security Program Director, at, (416) 363-0321, ext 256

Secularism has reached a tipping point - Greg Epstein

Secularism has reached a tipping point - On Faith - The Washington Post
by Greg Epstein, Humanist Chaplain, Harvard | Aug 31, 2011 2:23 PM
In the summer of 2000, I quit a “job” singing in an indie rock band in favor of studying Humanism toward a career as a Humanist chaplain and rabbi. At the time it seemed to almost everyone I knew (my mother and one friend were the main exceptions) to be an unassailable fact that I’d chosen the riskier, less practical of those two paths.
It was the turn of the millennium. Religion was on an upswing around the world. 9-11 and the Bush administration had not yet kicked the hornet’s nest of New Atheism. Somewhere in an office at Oxford, the theologian and former atheist Prof. Alister McGrath was probably already working his 2004 book The Twilight of Atheism , which actually contains some worthwhile insights but as a prediction of what was immediately to come did not work out too well.
The few things that happened next came so quickly that, like the iPod taking over music before you could tweet #ihatehavingtocarryawalkmantogorunning, we didn’t know what hit us. Osama. Bush. Rick Warren. Robertson and Fallwell’s comments on 9-11. Dennett, Dawkins, Harris, Hitchens.
All the while, I was one of only a tiny handful of students in the U.S studying these events full time in preparation for a career in Humanism and secular studies. So I can tell you, things have changed. A certain tide has turned, or to use the Malcolm Gladwell catch phrase, we may have reached a tipping point in my field. A few years ago, though small groups of us saw the potential for something greater, Humanists and secularists were known primarily for studying and debating science and religion. We’ve now grown into a movement of people who are making a positive change in the world around us. So many of us, including a wave of gifted young students (and a steady stream flowing into my office this week to apply for the Humanist internship that I supervise) have internalized that to build a better world we are going to need to build up positive secular and Humanist values, building new institutions to affirm the dignity of all human beings, rather than merely tear down what came before us. We have to be creative and compassionate at least as much as we are rational or logical. We need to nurture Humanist communities* at least as much as we critique the problematic practices of other communities. And so in the US alone we’ve now got godless billboards, The New Humanism, and Humanists helping lead the Interfaith movement. There are secularist camps, charities, lobbyists and White House visits, high school clubs and earthquake relief efforts; there are atheists in foxholes, holding festivals. I could go on.
A few weeks ago I attended an historic conference: The World Humanist Congress in Oslo, Norway. Hundreds of Humanist, atheist and secular activists gathered in a city that had recently been shaken by a madman murderer out to get all those who value, as Humanists do, liberal democracy, open society, and religious pluralism. As it turned out, being there with the people of Oslo at that difficult time was good for us - we heard how hundreds of thousands of Norwegians marched with roses in hand, to passionately stand up for a continued emphasis on peace and inclusion in their society. And I’d like to think we were a breath of fresh air for the city, too. With our flags and banners flying all around a prominent city square, we learned about the 10,000 Humanist youth confirmation ceremonies performed every year in Norway; the 32 percent of Dutch army chaplains who are Humanists; the 120-member Humanist caucus in British Parliament and the 300,000 Britons who attend Humanist weddings each year; the life-saving social service work Humanists are doing in Uganda, Malawi, India, Pakistan, Haiti, and more.

Near the center of downtown Oslo, there is a Humanist House-a beautiful, historic building spanning nearly an entire city block, home to dozens of professional activists and tens of thousands of community members, all engaged in supporting the above work and much more. If you come visit our little (but growing!) Humanist Student and Community Center in Harvard Square next month, you can see an exhibit about it. And in fact what really struck me about the place is that it is a museum, but not like most museums. Most museums are of the past: ruins, libraries, dinosaurs, statues, paintings. Oslo Humanist House is a Museum of the Future.
So all in all I think On Faith is right on target asking this question about whether we’re ready for secular studies. They are going to need to study what we’re about to do together.
*In the coming weeks, by the way, I plan to have a lot more to say about how we can do even more to build Humanist communities around the US. Follow me here and on Twitter to learn more!


The Humanist Interview with Leo Behe | The Humanist

The Humanist Interview with Leo Behe | The Humanist
Leo Behe is not your typical young humanist. He’s the son of famed intelligent design proponent, author, and biochemist Michael Behe. Since 1996 the elder Behe, a professor at Lehigh University, has earned accolades from intelligent design proponents throughout the world for his books and court testimony in support of the concept. His most famous book, Darwin’s Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge of Evolution (1996), asserts that particular biological systems are irreducibly complex, meaning “the removal of any one of the parts causes the system to effectively cease functioning.” While celebrated by sympathetic philosophers and creationist-minded Christians, the book has been panned by many in the scientific community, including Brown University biologist and fellow Catholic Kenneth Miller. Miller reviewed the book, arguing that it ignores empirical observation and that “Behe has gone two centuries into the past to find the argument from design, dusted it off, and invigorated it with the modern language of biochemistry.”
Leo Behe was born on October 30, 1990, in Easton, Pennsylvania, to Michael and Celeste Behe. He is the fourth of eight children and grew up in the Roman Catholic faith of his parents. In the following interview he discusses his journey to atheism and humanism, his current family relations, and his attitudes towards intelligent design.... (full interview here)


Full text of Stephen Lewis’s stirring eulogy for Jack Layton

Full text of Stephen Lewis’s stirring eulogy for Jack Layton

Below is the eulogy delivered by NDP statesman Stephen Lewis during Jack Layton’s funeral:

Never in our collective lifetime have we seen such an outpouring, so much emotional intensity, from every corner of this country. There have been occasions, historically, when we’ve seen respect and admiration but never so much love, never such a shocked sense of personal loss.

Jack was so alive, so much fun, so engaged in daily life with so much gusto, so unpretentious, that it was hard while he lived to focus on how incredibly important that was to us, he was to us. Until he was so suddenly gone, cruelly gone, at the pinnacle of his career.

To hear so many Canadians speak so open-heartedly of love, to see young and old take chalk in hand to write without embarrassment of hope, or hang banners from overpasses to express their grief and loss. It’s astonishing.

Somehow Jack connected with Canadians in a way that vanquished the cynicism that erodes our political culture. He connected whether you knew him or didn’t know him, whether you were with him or against him.

Jack simply radiated an authenticity and honesty and a commitment to his ideals that we know realize we’ve been thirsting for. He was so civil, so open, so accessible that he made politics seem so natural and good as breathing. There was no guile. That’s why everybody who knew Jack recognized that the public man and the private man were synonymous.

But it obviously goes much deeper than that. Jack, I think, tapped into a yearning, sometimes ephemeral, rarely articulated, a yearning that politics be conducted in a different way, and from that difference would emerge a better Canada.

That difference was by no means an end to rancour, an end to the abusive, vituperative practice of the political arts. The difference was also, and critically, one of policy – a fundamentally different way of viewing the future of Canada.

His remarkable letter made it absolutely clear. This was a testament written in the very throes of death that set out what Jack wanted for his caucus, for his party, for young people, for all Canadians.

Inevitably, we fastened on those last memorable lines about hope, optimism and love. But the letter was, at its heart, a manifesto for social democracy. And if there was one word that might sum up Jack Layton’s unabashed social democratic message, it would be generosity. He wanted, in the simplest and most visceral terms, a more generous Canada.

His letter embodies that generosity. In his very last hours of life he wanted to give encouragement to others suffering from cancer. He wanted to share a larger, bolder, more decent vision of what Canada should be for all its inhabitants.

He talks of social justice, health care, pensions, no one left behind, seniors, children, climate change, equality and again that defining phrase, “a more inclusive and generous Canada.” All of that is entirely consistent with Jack’s lifelong convictions. In those early days of municipal politics in Toronto Jack took on gay and lesbian rights, HIV and AIDS, housing for the homeless, the white ribbon campaign to fight violence against women and consecrate gender equality once and for all.

And of course a succession of environmental innovations, bike lanes, wind power, the Toronto atmospheric fund – and now Michael, his progressive and talented son, as councillor can carry the torch forward.

And then came his tenure as president of the Canadian Federation of Municipalities, where he showed that growing deftness of political touch in uniting municipalities of all sizes and geographic locations, winning their recognition of the preeminence of cities and the invaluable pillar of the public sector. Jack made the leap to federal politics look easy.

The same deeply held principles of social democracy that made him a superb politician at the city level, as I know, transferred brilliantly to federal politics. And also, from the many wonderful conversations we had together, I know led him to a formidable commitment to internationalism.

He was fearless in his positions once embraced. Thus, when he argued for negotiations with the Taliban to bring the carnage in Afghanistan to an end he was ridiculed but stood firm. And now it’s conventional wisdom. I move to recall that Jack came to the New Democratic Party at the time of the imposition of the War Measures Act, when tanks rolled into the streets of Montreal and civil liberties were shredded, and when the NDP’s brave opposition brought us to our nadir in public opinion.

But his convictions and his courage were intertwined – yet another reason for celebrating Jack and for understanding the pain and sadness with which his death has been received.

Above all – and his letter makes this palpably clear – Jack understood that we are headed into even more perilous economic times. He wanted Canadians to have a choice between what he described as the unfairness of an economy that excludes so many from our collective wealth, and an economy that would embrace equity, fairness, balance and creative generosity.

This was the essence of the manifesto. That’s why he insists that we’re a great country, but we can be a better one – a country of greater equality, justice and opportunity. These were not rhetorical concepts to Jack. They were the very core of his social democratic philosophy. He was prepared to do ideological battle, but as all things with Jack there was nothing impulsive or ill-considered.

He would listen as he always listened – he was a great listener – he would synthesize thoughtfully as he always did, and he would choose a political route that was dignified, pragmatic and principled. He was so proud of his caucus and what they would do to advance the agenda of social democracy.

He cultivated and mentored every member of that caucus, and as the country will see, that will speak volumes in the days ahead.

The victory in Quebec – and I will be followed by a eulogist in the francophone language – the victory in Quebec was an affirmation of Jack’s singular personal appeal, reinforced by Quebec’s support for progressive values shared by so many Canadians. And his powerful belief and trust in youth to forge the grand transformation to a better world is by now legendary. Indeed, the reference to youth spawns a digression.

From time to time, Jack and I would meet in the corridors of my foundation, where his supernaturally competent daughter Sarah works, and we would invariably speak of our grandchildren. You cannot imagine – I guess you saw it in the video – the radiating joy that glowed from Jack as he talked of Sarah’s daughter, his granddaughter Beatrice, and when he said as he often said that he wanted to create a better world for Beatrice and all the other Beatrices to inherit, you instantly knew of one of his strongest and most compelling motivations.

He was a lovely, lovely man. Filled with laughter and affection and commitment. He was also mischievous and musical, possessed of normal imperfections but deeply deserving of the love you have all shown. His indelible romance with Olivia was beautiful to behold, and it sustained them both.

When my wife and I met with the family a few hours after Jack died, Olivia said, as she said in the video, that we must look forward to see what we all can accomplish together.

I loved Jack’s goodness and his ideals in equal measure. Watching all of you react so genuinely to his death, the thousands upon thousands who lined up for hours to say a last goodbye in Ottawa and Toronto, it’s clear that everyone recognized how rare and precious his character was.

We’re all shaken by grief but I believe we’re slowly being steadied by a new resolve and I see that resolve in words written in chalk and in a fresh determination on people’s faces. A resolve to honour Jack by bringing the politics of respect for all, respect for the Earth and respect for principle and generosity back to life.

My wife Michele reminded me of a perfect quote from the celebrated Indian novelist, activist and feminist Arundhati Roy. Jack doubtless knew it. He might have seen it as a mantra. “Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day I can hear her breathing.”

Thank you Jack.

Schedule | Humanist Canada Conference 2011

Schedule | Humanist Canada Conference 2011.
Here is the schedule of speakers for the Humanist Association of Canada conference Sept 30-Oct 2 in Toronto. The theme is:
Planetary Overload: The Survival of the Human Species.
Speakers include: Madeline Weld, Chris di Carlo, Matt Cherry (IHEU), Mike Nikerson, John Shook, Khalid Sohail, Jason Wiles, Dale Jackaman


Jack Layton dies

Jack Layton dies

"When good men die their goodness does not perish, but lives though they are gone. As for the bad, all that was theirs dies and is buried with them."
-- Euripides


TEDxToronto 2011 Conference Sept 23, TELUS

TEDxToronto 2011 Conference | Ideas Worth Spreading
SPEAKERS LIST! apply to attend on the website - ..
David Miller
Urban Green Jobs Advocate & 63rd Mayor of Toronto
Bilaal Rajen
Children’s Right Activist, Hands for Help
Ted Sargent
Professor, Canada Research Chair in Nanotechnology, University of Toronto
Dr. Brian Goldman

Author, The Night Shift
Carlyle Jansen
Founder, Good For Her
George Roter

CEO & Co-Founder, Engineers Without Borders Canada
Jeff Melanson
Executive Director and Co-CEO, Canada’s National Ballet School
Adam Garone
CEO & Co-Founder, Movember
Ariel Garten
Chief Executive Officer, InteraXon
Brandon Hay
Founder, Black Daddies Club


Upper-class people less empathetic than lower-class people: study

Upper-class people less empathetic than lower-class people: study | The Raw Story

People from different economic classes have fundamentally different ways of thinking about the world, according to research recently published in Current Directions in Psychological Science. The authors of the study said the findings have important, but overlooked, implications for public policy.

"Americans, although this is shifting a bit, kind of think class is irrelevant," said Dacher Keltner of the University of California-Berkeley, who cowrote the article with Michael W. Kraus of UC-San Francisco and Paul K. Piff of UC-Berkeley. "I think our studies are saying the opposite: This is a profound part of who we are."

A study published in Psychological Science in November, for instance, found that people of upper-class status have trouble recognizing the emotions other people are feeling. People of lower-class status do a much better job. "What I think is really interesting about that is, it kind of shows there’s all this strength to the lower class identity: greater empathy, more altruism, and finer attunement to other people,” Keltner said.

“One clear policy implication is, the idea of noblesse oblige or trickle-down economics, certain versions of it, is bull," Keltner added. "Our data say you cannot rely on the wealthy to give back. The ‘thousand points of light’—this rise of compassion in the wealthy to fix all the problems of society—is improbable, psychologically." Those in the upper-class tend to hoard resources and be less generous than they could be.

But the differences between people of upper and lower-classes seems to be the product of the cultural environment, not ingrained traits. Studies have found that as people rise in the classes, they become less empathetic.

Keltner speculates that people of lower-classes are more empathetic because they need to rely on others more often to be successful. Those who can't afford daycare service for their children, for example, turn to neighbors or relatives to watch the kids. "If you don’t have resources and education, you really adapt to the environment, which is more threatening, by turning to other people///People who grow up in lower-class neighborhoods, as I did, will say,’ There’s always someone there who will take you somewhere, or watch your kid. You’ve just got to lean on people.’"


Chomsky: Public Higher Education Under Massive Corporate Assault

Chomsky: Public Education Under Massive Corporate Assault
If you are concerned about corporate control of UofT - (Munk, anyone?) see the writing on the wall at Berkeley and UCLA:

....In California, the main universities — Berkeley and UCLA — they're essentially Ivy League private universities — colossal tuition, tens of thousands of dollars, huge endowment. General assumption is they are pretty soon going to be privatized, and the rest of the system will be, which was a very good system — best public system in the world — that's probably going to be reduced to technical training or something like that. The privatization, of course, means privatization for the rich [and a] lower level of mostly technical training for the rest. And that is happening across the country. Next year, for the first time ever, the California system, which was a really great system, best anywhere, is getting more funding from tuition than from the state of California. And that is happening across the country. In most states, tuition covers more than half of the college budget. It's also most of the public research universities. Pretty soon only the community colleges — you know, the lowest level of the system — will be state-financed in any serious sense. And even they're under attack. And analysts generally agree, I'm quoting, "The era of affordable four-year public universities heavily subsidized by the state may be over."


Study of secularism sees boost on college campuses.

Study of secularism sees boost on college campuses.
(note: this report is from the Christian Century and the Religion News Service - interesting in itself as a source!) Also, the University of Humanistics in the Netherlands has been offering undergraduate and Graduate degrees since 1989. Also, Harvard is offering a divinity decree which trains Humanists  - in the works.

(RNS) Almost every major college and university offers a degree in religious studies. But secularism? Nary a one -- until now. Starting this fall, Pitzer College, a small liberal arts school in Southern California, will offer a bachelor's degree in secular studies.

The degree is the first of its kind in the United States, according to the Institute for the Study of Secularism in Society and Culture at Trinity College. Though the program is a first, it may not stand alone for long. Scholars say there is a growing interest in secularism -- the rejection of religion in public, and sometimes private, life -- both in the U.S. and around the world.

"We've been studying religious people for years, but there is a huge chunk of humanity who is not religious," said Phil Zuckerman, a sociology professor and founder of the Pitzer program. "Who are they? I would like to study them with the same vigor we study religiosity."

So, it seems, would others:

-- The Humanist Institute, the educational arm of the American Humanist Association, hopes to establish this year the country's first master's program in humanism, a philosophy that substitutes human morality and reasoning for belief in the supernatural.

-- "Secularism and Nonreligion," the first academic journal devoted to the subject, will debut in January.

-- San Diego State University will host a first-of-its-kind international conference in September examining the rise of unbelief in the West.

-- The Society for the Scientific Study of Religion will host a half-dozen sessions dealing with secularism at its October meeting. Ten years ago, there were none.

"There are a number of academics out there looking into this with great interest," said Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the American Humanist Association. "Part of the reason it is growing is we are realizing the demographics it represents is huge and growing and national academia is interested in getting involved."

In 2008, the American Religious Identification Survey found that the percentage of American adults who say they have no religion had nearly doubled since 1990 to 34 million people -- 15 percent of U.S. adults.

More critical for colleges and universities, one-third of Americans under 30 reported they had no religion in 2001, according to another ARIS poll. And the Secular Student Alliance, a campus-based organization of nonreligious college and high school students, has grown from 100 groups in 2008 to 219 in 2010.

"There is just no question that there is a hunger in the U.S. by nonreligious people to express their secularism and know more about it," Zuckerman said.

One factor may be the so-called "New Atheists" movement popularized by the best-selling books of Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens. Characterized by a take-no-prisoners attack on religion, the New Atheists' often strident denunciations of faith have drawn extensive media coverage.

"They made a big noise and are continuing to make a big noise," said Ryan Cragun, a sociologist at the University of Tampa who will co-edit the new journal. "It is now okay to say I am interested in this topic and I want to study it."

The Humanist Institute has long offered a three-year certification in humanism for college graduates. Now, plans and money are in place with Goddard College in Plainfield, Vt., to establish a master's degree, perhaps as early as December.

"It would give a certain level of recognition that would attract a lot more people to the program and raise the stakes on how qualified and functional the folks who complete it are," Speckhardt said.

At Pitzer, students pursuing the new degree will take 10 core courses that examine secularism within the framework of art, literature, politics and science. They will also take religious studies courses. Class titles include "Anxiety in the Age of Reason," "The Secular Life" and "God, Darwin and Design in America."

Kiley Lawrence, a 19-year-old, pre-med student from Kansas, plans to study for the new degree. "I'm excited to study why people are so quick to relinquish scientific curiosity in favor of `heaven only knows' and also, why a standpoint of skepticism has been so stigmatized over the years," she said.

"I think what I'll get out of it is some greater insight into the workings of religion in society, a greater appreciation for scientific investigation, and how the two relate to each other."

But some academics raise concerns about secular studies programs and degrees. Barry Kosmin, director of Trinity College's secularism center, which helps educators incorporate secular studies in their curricula, said he prefers to see secularism examined within other fields, like biology, politics and especially religious studies.