At the beginning of the new millennium, three distinguished atheists wrote best sellers: Richard Dawkins - The God Delusion, Christopher Hitchens - God Is Not Great and Sam Harris - The End of Faith. Influenced by these authors, atheists began to come out of the closet and various secular groups entered the Canadian scene.
The Canadian version of the Centre For Inquiry settled in Toronto. Secular Ontario, Atheist clubs, Skeptic organizations along with Bright groups and Student Freethinkers' Clubs at universities, were introduced. New Humanist associations were established in other parts of Canada. All these secular movements were making their mark.
The non-religious now had a choice to gravitate towards the different circles most suited to their level of interests. This is a logical step in the evolution of ideas and happens with all beliefs and movements. Religions such as Christianity or Islam have their own core beliefs, yet within themselves have subdivided into different denominations or sects.
Non-theist organizations have inherited the philosophy that there is no supernatural entity and that we alone have to solve human problems. This simple belief allowed the HAO to join forces with assorted fellowships to fight a common cause. This has happened with the Abortion issue, the "God" petition, the Sharia law and the Atheist Ad campaign. Taking inspiration from other organizations, HAO supports Student Atheist/Freethinkers' Clubs at local universities, a Book Club and a Secular Sobriety group for gays. For several years a summer camp for children - Camp Quest, was operating in Central Ontario. HAO is currently contemplating running a similar camp along the Ottawa River. Camp Quest originated in the United States and is a prime example of secularists coming together to share ideas.
After forty years HAO finds itself in good company and secularism is slowly gaining a healthy acceptance. Illustrations of this are the successful radio show run by Ages Smies from Peterborough and the late Bill Broderick from Belleville who wrote a column regularly for a local newspaper. At one time such influence by atheists would be unthinkable. The media now knows who to turn to on secular issues and HAO members have done their fair share of interviews. The media also knows how to disparage humanism and atheism, which it frequently does. Ironically, this is not a bad thing. It means the non-religious are becoming a force to be reckoned with otherwise they would not even get a mention.
Times have changed. It is a far cry from when a typewriter was used to record the inaugural minutes in 1968, to the current methods HAO uses to communicate. Most members choose to receive their newsletter electronically. A new generation of members who are very computer savvy have introduced the HAO to MeetUps, Blogs, Twitter and Facebook. They bring with them the innovative energy to replenish the association and to explore new directions.
For the last decade the HAO has maintained a membership base of around a hundred. The secular movement has not yet been successful enough for members to be automatically invited to the table to discuss ethical issues. But if the number of members increases in associations like the HAO, this will change. The men and women who have passed through the HAO over the last four decades have played their part in guaranteeing that the HAO continues to exist. A little overlooked value of that legacy is that the HAO will always provide a forum where like minded people can gather, speak freely, enjoy each others company and develop life-long friendships.