Humanist Perspectives: issue 187, Winter 2013-2014

Issue 187, Winter 2013-2014

cover of issue 187
Humanist Perspectives is a refreshing, rational analysis of modern events and culture and is available at select magazine stores or by online subscription.


Liberty, Equality and Dignity: Matters of Life and Death by Henry Beissel
This issue of Humanist Perspectives offers the reader not one but three feature articles: “Death without Hysteria” by J. Anthony Cassils, David Rand’s “The Charter, the Turban and the Monarchy” and the letter to Edward Snowden by Rebecca Solnit, “Prometheus Among the Cannibals.” The implications of all three of these issues have a profound bearing on the quality of our living and dying.

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Educating for a Secular Humanist Canada by Sheila Eskenazi
From personal experience of the negative effects of a school system divided by sectarian religion, Sheila Eskenazi argues cogently in favour of a single public, secular school system. “We must understand,” she writes, “the need for common education to bring our children together in one place to share learning and to experience each other unmediated by culture, language or religious prejudices.”
Death Without Hysteria by J. Anthony Cassils
Death and suicide go to the heart of core issues regarding the purpose and value of human existence. They focus on that controversial point where the general fear of death and human volition meet. They involve two key characteristics of the human animal: self-consciousness and, as a social animal, the need to interact with others of his or her kind.

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The Hidden Hand of Terror by John K. Nixon
John K. Nixon has observed the rise of militant Islamism on repeated visits to Indonesia over the past 50 years. Backed up by further research, he shows that behind this growing threat to the Western world is the hand of Saudi Arabia. Between 1983 and 2003, the Saudis have “financed the construction of 210 Islamic Centres, 1500 mosques, 202 colleges, and 2,000 madrassas.” These Islamic Schools “preach the vitriol of war on the infidels” and are responsible for “the spread of militant Islam throughout much of the world” today. The Saudis have spent $100 billion of their oil riches to underwrite this violence against infidels, but the USA has conspired to hide the fact in order not to offend the oil-rich country.
A Letter to Edward Snowden by Rebecca Solnit
In her epistolary piece, the American novelist Rebecca Solnit celebrates Edward Snowden as “someone who is smart enough, idealistic enough, bold enough to know that living with yourself in a system of utter corruption would destroy that self”. In revealing to the world the secret, worldwide surveillance practices of his government, he has put the world ahead of his self-interest and has thus become “a hero”.
The Charter, the Turban and the Monarchy by David Rand
Hindsight is a wonderful thing. Now that I have witnessed the recent tsunami of Anglo-Canadian hatred directed towards Quebec, Quebecers and especially the Quebec government, in reaction to the proposed Charter of Quebec Values, I tell myself that I should have seen it coming. Only weeks previously we witnessed a somewhat smaller but very similar phenomenon with respect to the ban on the turban in Quebec soccer.

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The Devil’s Advocate by Joseph Graham
With the “Guibord Affair” of 1864 as a starting point, Joseph Graham explains why humanists shouldn’t waste their time arguing that “God” doesn’t exist. The “Affair” involved a confrontation between Wilfred Laurier and the Catholic Bishop Ignace Bourget over the rights of the church versus the state. It was a case in which the Institut Canadien of Montreal wasted its resources in a legal battle that took years to settle. Instead of wasting themselves in similar squabbles, Joseph Graham argues that we humanists should “use the rational powers that we possess, not to prove to each other that God is simply a misguided, irrational concept, but to study and understand how this facet of the human mind has been harnessed and exploited.”
With God on our Coins by Dan Mayo
With wry humour, Dan Mayo reflects on the curious phenomenon that our money asserts the existence of “God” by its inscription of Dei Gratia Regina as the title of the reigning queen. He suggests that this religious inscription is prejudicial and probably violates our Charter of Rights and Freedoms. But isn’t money our new religion?

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In addition, Humanist Perspectives offers a lively Letters-to-the-Editor section as well as Book Reviews, books available for review and snippets of international news of interest to humanists.