Tag Archives: Canada

Oranyu: You Can Choose Both

Humanism is the perspective that humans are the starting point for all ethical, moral and intellectual inquiry. Despite a starting point of this type, a dominant assumption about humanism in our contemporary culture(s) seems to suggest that a particular form of humanism is the only version of humanism to be explored – and that is secular humanism.

Indeed, the vast majority of the well-known humanist organizations in Canada and around the world assert an overtly secular humanist identity. In many cases, these organizations strive to forge a secular humanist identity that eliminates any and all traces of organized religion (and much of the culture that goes with it) from the mix. While that may be just the recipe for fulfillment that some people need, for others – it may not be quite right.

And this is where the universal nature of humanism’s starting point – an ethical, moral and intellectual centred on humans – draws a tremendous strength and versatility. It allows for organizations like Oranyu Congregation for Humanistic Judaism to firmly assert that “you can choose both.

Oranyu was founded in 1969 as the Secular Jewish Association by a group of families. Oraynu is based on the cultural and philosophical ideals of the Jewish Enlightenment, known as the Berlin Haskalah movement which began in Berlin in the late 1700s . The underlying principles of the Haskalah movement were to preserve Jewish culture while striving for integration with the dominant or surrounding societies.

In this modern iteration of these principles, Oraynu provides all the services required of a Jewish congregation within a secular humanist perspective.

For Oranyu, “The foundation of ethics is not God. The foundation of ethics is human dignity, human survival and human happiness. Ethical behavior consists of relationships between people. Some people behave well without believing in God and some people who believe in God do not behave ethically. We celebrate our Jewish identity. We use poetry and prose to express that connection – to encourage reflection and meditation. We sing Jewish songs in English, Hebrew, and Yiddish. We create our own liturgy which includes blessings for wine, challah, candlelighting, holidays, etc. As well, we sometimes adapt traditional materials to be consistent with humanistic Jewish philosophy.

Here in the second decade of this twenty-first century, we have already experienced the emergence of altogether too many polarizing social, political and ideological events and situations and faced altogether too many over-inflated false dilemmas. Oranyu’s message, whether it is new or simply renewed, that “You can choose both” is perhaps one of the most necessary messages of this decade that any humanist organization might care to extend to the community.

The Oranyu Congregation for Humanistic Judaism is one of the many examples of Canada’s rich humanist heritage.


Citations, References And Other Reading

  1. Featured Photo Courtesy of : https://www.oraynu.org

The views, opinions and analyses expressed in the articles on Humanist Freedoms are those of the contributor(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the publishers.


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Preamble, schmeamble….right? Perhaps

In our search for interesting, challenging and critical perspectives on contemporary humanism, we occasionally find articles published via other venues that we think HumanistFreedoms.com readers may enjoy. This week, we found the following information (italicized below) on www.the-star.co.ke .

Image Courtesy: Wikipedia

A case has been filed in court seeking to make atheism illegal in Kenya. The court has been asked to declare as unconstitutional the Atheists in Kenya Society.

The argument for the ban is flimsy: the Preamble to the 2010 Constitution starts by acknowledging ‘the supremacy of the Almighty God of all creation“. Therefore atheists who deny God are denying the constitution.

The petition argues that this overrules the constitutional right to freedom of belief, conscience, religion and opinion.

Firstly, if God is all-powerful, surely he has permitted those atheists to exist. Would a court ban go against his will?

Secondly, religions like Buddhism and Taoism do not believe in a God. Would they be the next belief-systems to be banned as unconstitutional?

Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, do these atheists do any harm to anyone? If they break the law and injure their neighbours, let them be punished. But if they live peaceably and are productive members of society, then leave them alone.

This court petition is the first step to bringing the thought police to Kenya to tell us what we are allowed to think. The petition should be thrown out.

It should seem ridiculous or preposterous that anyone might attempt to use a legal pre-amble (don’t take our word for it, read the document) to undermine a fundamental human right. And yet, here we have it – someone is trying to make that case.

It ought to make any and all individuals or organizations perk up their ears – not just humanist or atheist organizations, either. Consider that Kenya’s constitution carries a twenty-first century date. And just where might Kenya have taken this idea of a constitutional preamble front-loaded with a deity?

Consider the fact that Kenya is a member of the Commonwealth. And please further consider the fact that the Commonwealth has a program called the Commonwealth of Learning which (per their website) “is the world’s only intergovernmental organisation solely concerned with the promotion and development of distance education and open learning. COL is hosted by the Government of Canada and headquartered in Burnaby, British Columbia Canada. Created by Commonwealth Heads of Government, COL encourages the development and sharing of open learning/distance education knowledge, resources and technologies. COL is helping developing nations improve access to quality education and training.”

Image Courtesy Athists in Kenya Society

And finally consider that one of the Commonwealth of Learning’s programs happens to be a training program in Legislative Drafting – the writing of laws. Note that Athabasa University, based in Alberta, currently offers a Post-Baccalaureate Diploma in Legislative Drafting. It seems to be not unreasonable to connect a these particular dots. Two separate and equal nations in the Commonwealth happen to cooperate in educating and training the individuals whose profession is to craft the verbiage of laws. Canada in particular bears a leadership role in this area of Commonwealth operations.

How similar are these constitutional pre-ambles?

Canada’s Constitution Act (1982) has a preamble which states “Whereas Canada is founded upon principles that recognize the supremacy of God and the rule of law.

Meanwhile, Kenya’s Constitution Act (2010) preamble states “Acknowledging  the supremacy of the Almighty God of all creation

Canada’s constitutional preamble is a bad precedent with readily identifiable mechanisms for distribution and influence. Whether the situation in Kenya is dismissed (as it ought to be) or otherwise fails, we can’t yet know. And is hardly the point. The point is that ideological fanatics will attempt to leverage every and any opportunity to advance their position. It is shortsighted, at best, to view things otherwise.

Canada finally rid itself of the dangerously ridiculous and anachronistic blasphemy law (the former Section 296) in 2018. We can only assume that political leaders must have been confronted by the hypocrisy of advocating against blasphemy laws around the world (via the former Office of Religious Freedom) while maintaining a blasphemy law on its own books.

Did you notice that the US Supreme Court Judges who turned against Roe v Wade are all Catholic? Well, according to Catholic News Agency, they appear to be. A coincidence, no doubt.

Suddenly, we can see the potential for harm lurking within the slightest hint of theism in secular law and decision making.

Citations, References And Other Reading

  1. Featured Photo Courtesy ofhttps://atheistsinkenya.org/
  2. https://www.the-star.co.ke/opinion/leader/2022-09-28-atheist-petition-could-bring-thought-police/

The views, opinions and analyses expressed in the articles on Humanist Freedoms are those of the contributor(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the publishers.

Canadian Armed Forces First-Ever Humanist Chaplain

June 13, 2022

The Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) has a new kind of chaplain. On May 18, 2022, Captain Marie-Claire Khadij became the CAF’s first-ever humanist chaplain.

Humanism is a worldview rooted in reason and science, human rights, compassion and social responsibility. Humanism says that human beings have the right and responsibility to give meaning and shape to their own lives.

Captain Khadij – currently posted with the Canadian Army’s 2nd Canadian Division at CFB Valcartier, Que. – entered the CAF as a chaplain in 2017, initially representing the Roman Catholic faith tradition. Over time, she found that humanism is more aligned with her values. She views spirituality as a search for meaning in life, which some do through religion while others, like herself, seek meaning through humanist values or secular ethics.

The humanist’s approach to spirituality is consistent with the vision held by the CAF’s Royal Canadian Chaplain Service (RCChS); it is a set of core values and beliefs that colour our view of the world, our understanding of the people around us, the events that occur, and how that influences our daily actions.

The addition of a humanist chaplain – with more expected in the future – provides another option for the moral and spiritual support of CAF members. Captain Khadij feels many CAF members will welcome the opportunity to speak to a humanist chaplain with no link to a particular religion.

“Relatively few members come to see chaplains for religious matters,” says Captain Khadij. “The majority of members come simply to speak with us and get support. Most members know that the religious or spiritual tradition of the chaplain does not change the kind of service they receive. Regardless of the chaplain, each member is welcomed, listened to and supported on their journey. And if they have specific faith questions, they can be referred to a chaplain of that specific tradition.”

While the addition of a humanist chaplain is new for the CAF, it’s not out of the ordinary for an existing chaplain to transition between religious or spiritual categories.

“Each year, there are a few faith or spiritual tradition changes within the Royal Canadian Chaplain Service (RCChS),” says Lieutenant-Colonel Jean-François Noël, acting director of recruiting and policies for the RCChS.

Humanist Canada has been actively engaged in establishing a system of accreditation for those who wish to become humanist chaplains. The Interfaith Committee on Canadian Military Chaplaincy (ICCMC) and the Office of the Chaplain General worked with Humanist Canada to enable and facilitate Captain Khadij’s recognition as a humanist chaplain, and is working with the organization to enable the future enrolment of more humanist chaplains.

Citations, References And Other Reading

  1. Feature Image Courtesy: https://www.canada.ca/en/department-national-defence/maple-leaf/defence/2022/06/caf-introduces-humanist-chaplain.html
  2. https://onlysky.media/hemant-mehta/the-canadian-armed-forces-just-announced-its-first-humanist-chaplain/

The views, opinions and analyses expressed in the articles on Humanist Freedoms are those of the contributor(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the publishers.

Book Review: There is No Difference by Peter Best

According to the back cover of his book and his website, Peter Best is “a lawyer who has practiced law in Sudbury, Ontario for 43 years. Raised in nearby Espanola, favored with lifelong personal and professional relationships with indigenous Canadians, he brings a personal, literary and historical perspective to the greatest social crisis experienced by Canada today- the perilous state of its original peoples.”

What is the book? The long-form version of the title probably acts as the best summary of its contents: There Is No Difference: An Argument for the Abolition of the Indian Reserve System and Special Race-based Laws and Entitlements for Canada’s Indians. In a regular book review, we might investigate the overt arguments and contents of the book. Certainly the title contains enough potential for drama and controversy to whet almost any intellectual appetite. But that’s not what we’re going to do here. What we’re going to do, instead is feature, an underlying theme presented by Mr. Best.

On page three, he writes that when he was growing up in Espanola, “there was a sense that old religious and ethnic prejudices were hollowing out and being overcome, and that increasing social unity and equality was happening.” It is the first of many hints (and outright declarations) of an underlying theme of humanism to be found in the book. This is what we will consider.

How many books are currently published with an overt declaration of humanism or humanist values? More specifically, how many books are written about contemporary issues wherein humanist-based positions are asserted, explained, referenced and documented? These aren’t questions with precise answers. These are startled observations of an avid reader. I haven’t seen humanism asserted and affirmed so clearly and frequently in a long time. Water for the thirsty.

On page seven, Best writes…”the humanist assumptions were ones that emanated from the confident, busy, properous people we were then. They seemed to be shared by everyone, right to the political and economic top of the country. They highlighted what a civilized, progressive, ‘ideals in action’ society Canada was becoming.

The book is written as a series of essays which, across 700+ pages, delves the matter outlined in the title in pains-taking detail. Frequently Best grapples head-on with various ideologies and asserts arguments and positions contrary to those from Canadian intellectual and political “elites” (Best’s term). The book is thoroughly referenced and widely sourced. The overall theme is that “somewhere along the way, liberal, humanist aspirations once common to our entire country have ceded to various forms of petty and chauvinistic ideological tribalisms and, with respect to our Indian peoples, to actual racial tribalism.”

And then again, Best asserts that he believes “that the vast majority of Canadians profoundly disagree with this trend towards further legal and social racial apartness between Indian and non-Indian Canadians. They want our humanist values – with their emphasis on equality and the rights of the individual over the rights of any racial group – respected, maintained and promulgated in all areas of society….why this rejection of 200 years of enlightenment thinking?

The point to be made is not that all of Best’s arguments represent a clear, consistent and authoritative humanist approach to the topic. It seems highly unlikely, not to mention undesirable, that a singular humanist outlook should be asserted on any substantive matter. Nor should this article be read as an endorsement of every argument Best makes. Instead, Best is here approved on the basis of making an attempt to present a considered humanist-principled perspective on a hot and fraught topic.

Best makes an argument about his chosen subject that may be stated about any number of contemporary issues: “this issue is being driven and dictated by…a minority elitist theory of democracy, where on an issue of this importance the majority is being asked for and being offered no say.

Peter Best has asserted his version of a humanist-informed opinion. More humanists need to step forward to assert similarly cogent humanist perspectives on whatever contemporary issue seems to require the attention.