I am a “seven”.

That is, I consider myself a “strong atheist” on the Dawkins Scale. On that scale, one represents a “strong theist”, a person who believes 100% in the existence of a supreme being. Four represents someone completely impartial, believing that a supreme being is as likely to exist as not.

A lot of atheists consider themselves as six, or “de facto atheist” since, although improbable, there is always the slight possibility that some supernatural deity might exist. (“Agnostic” might be a better term.) Richard Dawkins, in a 2008 interview, suggested that he might place himself as 6.9 on the scale. And for some time, I felt that that was an appropriate number for me too.

But here’s the thing: Although people have been worshiping some deity or other for thousands of years, there has been no concrete evidence put forward by anyone that even remotely hints at a solid proof for the existence of a god. We wouldn’t even be having this discussion if it weren’t for countless ancient myths and legends, some of which have been given such honored status that many people actually consider them literally true, with only their faith as support.

Strip way the old stories, and what are we left with? Setting aside the myths, and starting from scratch, would anyone have any grounds to theorize a supreme being? And if someone put forward a new theory positing a supreme being, without knowing anything about any existing religion, would that theory bear any similarity to any existing religion?

In ancient times, deities and spirits may have been reasonable explanations for various natural phenomena. But over the past few thousand years, we have steadily revealed the inner workings of nature to the point where supernatural explanations are no longer needed.

Although there is always the slight possibility that there might be supernatural agents at work, there are various possibilities: First, if there is a supernatural agent, if may simply be something that is just slightly beyond the reach for our current scientific tools to understand. For now. Alternatively, a supernatural deity may exist but chooses not to reveal itself. Or perhaps cannot reveal itself. If that is the case, it is for all intents and purposes equivalent to no deity at all.

If a god existed, it has had several thousand years to unambiguously and incontrovertibly present itself to humanity. We only have handed-down stories about various prophets who claim to know “God”. Or claim to be “God”. Just the fact that there is still nothing close to universal consensus among theists as to the nature of a supreme being is for me a strong enough indication that such a thing doesn’t exist.

I am a “seven”.

By the way, in case you were wondering about the photo at the beginning of this piece. I took the picture 40 years ago. I’m not sure how the scene came to be, but I thought a cross lying in a hole in the ground presented an interesting metaphor.

Cheers! Hans

It’s All About The Bass

My musical explorations have taken a few twists and turns over the past decade. It’s now almost eleven years since I started playing ukulele. In the mean time, I also started playing a tenor banjo. Not a great stretch since I tune it like a low-G uke. But now, I’m a bass player.

While attempting to get other members of my family interested in music over the past few years, I borrowed a number of bass guitars from the local musical instrument lending library. But that only served to pique my own interest in the instrument. As a ukulele player, I was of course very tempted by the Kala uBass. But ultimately, I decided on a Gold Tone MicroBass, and I’ve been playing it now for the past month.

Why did I pick that instrument? I wanted something easy to play, and I think the MicroBass is just that. The polymer strings are definitely easier on the fingers than any metal strings. And I wanted something that sounded cool. Something suitable for folk and jazz. Paired with a Fender Rumble amp, it sounds great.

How have I been handling my new obsession? Well, so far, in the past month, I’ve played my bass three times at the weekly jam at the local Senior’s Centre. And I’ve done not too badly on it. Granted, I did some noodling on the borrowed instruments, and I did some research on how to play the bass before diving whole-hog into the instrument. But within days of taking delivery, I was pounding out some respectable, albeit simple bass riffs. Over time, with practice, I can only get better at it.

Why play bass? The obvious choices for people taking up an instrument are the popular ones: guitar and ukulele. They’re easy to learn, and you can play solo. However, when playing with a group, variety becomes important. Throwing a bass into the mix of instruments, the whole flavor of the sound changes. I know from experience that a bass player is very much appreciated in a jam environment.

How important is a bass? Well, recent studies determined that the bass was the most important element in any band. While not everyone may agree with that, others argue that at least the bass is more important than the guitars. And I think they’re right on that point.

So now, I begin a new chapter of my musical endeavors, on yet another four-stringed instrument!

Cheers! Hans

Passenger List – R.M.S. Franconia

I was just given something I didn’t know was in our family’s possession: A copy of the passenger list for the R.M.S. Franconia, for it’s voyage across the Atlantic on December 13, 1950, carrying my father and grand-mother.

Here are scans of this passenger list. Please feel free to download these scans if they are useful for your research:

Cheers! Hans

Getting Rid of Junk

There’s an old saying: “Stuff is the junk you keep, junk is the stuff you get rid of”. Not all of it can go in the weekly curbside trash pickup. So what do you do with all the rest of your junk? As if sorting through the weekly trash isn’t complicated enough, there are numerous destinations for all the junk cluttering our garages.

Today, I filled my car with a load of junk, and headed out. My first stop was the local Habitat ReStore on Gardiners Road where I dropped off  a heavy box of nails left in our house by the previous owners.

Next, I went to the nearby Staples store to drop off a couple of dead flat-screen computer monitors. To find out where you can drop off your old electronics, visit Recycle My Electronics.

My third stop was the metal waste bin at Kimco, on John Counter Boulevard. It was a popular spot today, with three other people dumping stuff, or rather, junk, while I was there.

I then had some old paint cans to get rid of. In Kingston, you drop them off at the Hazardous Waste Depot at the Kingston Area Recycling Centre, 196 Lappan’s Lane. Note that they’re only open two days a week, on Thursdays and Saturdays.

My fifth and last stop was also at the Recycling Centre, but at the Yard Waste Dropoff. I often drop off bags of weeds, branches, and leaves there. This time, I just had two bags.

So five different types of junk, and five places to bring them! If you want to find out where you can go with your junk in Kingston, check out the Waste Sorting Lookup page.

Cheers! Hans

Principles and Points

I’d like to start out by saying that, although we were members of a Unitarian congregation for a number of years, I was never comfortable calling myself a “Unitarian”. Since Unitarianism is a “creed-less” faith, the term is too non-specific for my tastes. Terms like “atheist” and “humanist” are much more descriptive of my beliefs. In fact, probably a majority of Unitarians in Canada identify as atheist or humanist. At least, that was probably true in the past at our local Unitarian fellowship.

Unitarians may not have a specific requirement for what they must believe, but they have a set of Seven Principles. I’ll repeat them here:

We, the member congregations of the Canadian Unitarian Council, covenant to affirm and promote:

1) The inherent worth and dignity of every person;

2) Justice, equity, and compassion in human relations;

3) Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations;

4) A free and responsible search for truth and meaning;

5) The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large;

6) The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all;

7) Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.

These principles are fine, but they are not exclusive to Unitarianism. They are lofty enough that anyone can accept them, even those who wouldn’t even consider themselves as Unitarian.

The Seven Principles begin with an important statement, that every person has value, and is worthy and deserving of being treated with respect and dignity.

Compare the First Principle with the second sentence of the US Declaration of Independence:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

The inherent worth and dignity of everyone is one of those principles that should be considered self-evident by any thinking and caring human being.

In comparison, read the Eight Points of the (now defunct) Canadian Centre for Progressive Christianity (CCPC):

1) Centre our faith on values that affirm the sacredness and interconnectedness of all life, the inherent and equal worth of all persons, and the supremacy of love expressed actively in our lives as compassion and social justice;

2) Engage in a search that has roots in our Christian heritage and traditions;

3) Embrace the freedom and responsibility to examine traditionally held Christian beliefs and practices, acknowledging the human construction of religion, and in the light of conscience and contemporary learning, adjust our views and practices accordingly;

4) Draw from diverse sources of wisdom, regarding all as fallible human expressions open to our evaluation of their potential contribution to our individual and communal lives;

5) Find more meaning in the search for understanding than in the arrival at certainty; in the questions than the answers;

6) Encourage inclusive, non-discriminatory, non-hierarchical community where our common humanity is honoured in a trusting atmosphere of mutual respect and support;

7) Promote forms of individual and community celebration, study, and prayer that use understandable, inclusive, non-dogmatic, value-based language by which people of religious, skeptical, or secular backgrounds may be nurtured and challenged;

8) Commit to journeying together, our ongoing growth characterized by honesty, integrity, openness, respect, intellectual rigour, courage, creativity, and balance.

I list the Eight Points of the CCPC in full here since they don’t seem to be available else on the internet. Clearly, there is a great deal of overlap between the Seven Principles and the Eight Points. Just as most atheists and humanists would probably agree with the Seven Principles, most would probably also agree with most of the Eight Points (expect, of course, for point 2).

As I mentioned before, the Canadian Centre for Progressive Christianity closed down a few years ago. They claimed that they accomplished their goals. I suspect the truth is that they were simply too progressive for most Canadian Christians.

To see a side-by-side comparison of the Seven Principles and Eight Points, US and Canadian versions, click here.

As a contrast, let’s consider another set of principles, the five points of Calvinism. These points are identified by the acronym TULIP:

Total Depravity (also known as Total Inability and Original Sin)

Unconditional Election

Limited Atonement (also known as Particular Atonement)

Irresistible Grace

Perseverance of the Saints (also known as Once Saved Always Saved)

I won’t go into great detail about these points other than to contrast the first point, “T”, with the first principle of Unitarianism. While Unitarians believe in the inherent worth and dignity of every person, Calvinists believe in the total depravity of mankind. You can’t get a wider difference than that. You have to wonder how a Calvinist can treat any of their fellow humans with any degree of respect if they believe that everyone, and I mean everyone, is intrinsically evil.

Of course, most Calvinists can’t see the inherent contradictions in the Five Points. For example, they also believe that humans have no free will. That is, mankind is inherently evil not of their own choosing, but rather, because their god wills it.

It is interesting that if you debate a Calvinist and press them on the points, some will admit that they don’t actually believe in all of the Five Points. Even though they learned and accepted the catechism of their church, many Calvinists believe, for example, that man does have free will. These are the so-called “Three Point Calvinists“. (There are also “Four Point Calvinists” and even “One Point Calvinists“.) In the past, people have gotten themselves killed because they didn’t believe in the full Calvinist catechism.

I’ve always considered the fact that Christians can’t agree on basic principles one of the biggest arguments against Christianity. If there were a God, it should be considered a heresy that such a supreme being was incapable or unwilling to get its message out in a clear and unambiguous manner. Instead, we have thousands of different prophets each claiming to know what God wants of us, and few of them agreeing on all their claims. I must conclude that they’re all wrong.

I’ll conclude this missive with a quote from Thomas Jefferson in a letter written to John Adams in 1823:

I can never join Calvin in addressing his god… his religion was Dæmonism. If ever man worshipped a false god, he did. The being described in his 5 points is not the God whom you and I acknowledge and adore, the Creator and benevolent governor of the world; but a dæmon of malignant spirit. It would be more pardonable to believe in no god at all, than to blaspheme him by the atrocious attributes of Calvin.

Cheers! Hans

A Wubbels Mystery

Much of genealogy research is simply slogging through records. A good index, such as WieWasWie, can make the task much easier, if not down right boring. But occasionally, we find a mystery that warrants a detour in our research.

When I found the death record for my third cousin three times removed Willemina Slats (1839-1908, Bredevoort), I noticed that the first informant was Gerrit Jan Wubbels, landbouwer, age 56. I have ancestors named Wubbels, many of which are in my database. However, Gerrit Jan was not already in my database. So of course, I needed to find out how he was related to my ancestors. Bredevoort isn’t a big town, so he must be related somehow, right?

The next step was to find information about Gerrit Jan. WieWasWie turned up some information. Gerrit Jan was born in 1852 in Bredevoort to Bernardus Engelbartus Wubbels (born 1825) and Janna Elisabeth Walvoort, married 1851 in Bredevoort. The parents of Bernardus were Jan Wubbels (born 1796) and Gesina Kampe (born 1806). Again, none of these people were in my database.

Finding information about Jan Wubbels and Gesina Kampe turned out to be a challenge. There was precious little about them apart from the birth and marriage records for their son. I tried different spellings of the names, but no luck. Finally, I turned to the bevolkingsregister, a register of people living in a particular place at a particular time. I knew that Jan Wubbels and Gesina Kampe lived in Bredevoort at the time of their son’s marriage in 1851, so I went to the bevolkingsregister for the 1850’s Bredevoort.

Reading through the bevolkingsregister isn’t easy since there’s no index and no meaningful order to the records. Going one by one through hundreds of records, I eventually found the pertinent record.

This record shows a family with parents Hendrikus Joannes Arnoldus Wubbels (born 25 Nov 1795) and Gesina Catharine te Kampe (born 13 Aug 1805). Bernardus Engelbartus Wubbels (born 17 Maart 1825) is listed as the first child. Clearly, this was the family I was looking for. For some reason, the birth record for Bernardus Engelbartus referred to his parents using their familiar names, and not their full formal names.

This record also shows why I hadn’t previously come across this family. The seventh column shows the religion of the person. In this case, their religion is listed as “R Cath“. As far as I know, all the other Wubbels in my ancestry are Protestant.

One mystery was solved, but others remain. I still don’t know the parents of Jan (Hendrikus Joannes Arnoldus) Wubbels. His death record doesn’t list them, and FamilySearch doesn’t host baptism records for the Catholic church in Bredevoort prior to 1798.

Cheers! Hans

Connections Between Two Families – Labots and van Zadelhoff

Readers of this blog know that I am fascinated by the vast web of interrelationships between people. In my own research, I often come across interesting connections and interrelationships. With more than 11,000 people in my database, many of them in a few specific places, finding these interrelationships is inevitable. That’s especially true for my ancestors and distant cousins in the town of Rheden, in southern Gelderland.

When seeking out the interesting interrelationships, marriage records are a good starting point since they include the names of the parents of the bride and groom. In some cases, where the parents are deceased, they may also include the names of grand-parents.

If I see a familiar surname in an in-law family, I usually invest a few minutes of time to dig a bit further using WieWasWie. Normally, I record birth, marriage, and death information for blood relatives and their spouses only. But if I see an additional connection to other people already in my database, I also record the B/M/D information for the people along that interrelationship chain.

In this missive, I show two connections between two lines of ancestors, the Labots’ and the van Zadelhoff’s.

As usual, red indicates ancestors and blue indicates other blood relatives. Most of these people lived in or near, or had some connection to Rheden.

The first connection I found was the marriage between my 1st cousin 3 times removed Johannes Labots (1853-1934) and my 5th cousin twice removed Derkje Janssen van Gaalen (1851-1926).

A few days later, I found another connection. my 4th cousin 3 times removed Jacoba Blankers (1835-1871) was married to Teunis van Engelenburg (born 1845). Teunis was the nephew of Jantje Willemsen (1802-1868) who was married to my 2nd great granduncle Johannes Labots (1804-1884).

Cheers! Hans

On Poe’s Law

Recently on Facebook, someone posted a quote which, on first glance, seemed totally absurd. It took a bit of googling to realize that the quote was intended as satire. And indeed, a brilliant piece of satire it was. After thinking some more about it, I realized something I’d known for some time: The best satire is that which is virtually indistinguishable from what’s being satirized.

Googling some more, I was reminded of “Poe’s Law“, which states that without a clear indicator of the author’s intent, it is impossible to create a parody of extreme views so obviously exaggerated that it cannot be mistaken by some readers or viewers as a sincere expression of the parodied views.

RationalWiki has a good list of examples of Poe’s Law. One of the oldest and still best examples of such extreme parody on-line is the website for the Landover Baptist Church.

Which brings me to the point of this tome, the current president of the United States, whose name I can barely utter without reaching for the barf bag. As many of my friends and acquaintances know, I’m no fan of the “orange asshat” (Also sometimes called the “talking comb-over” or “Decomposing pumpkin pie inhabited by vicious albino squirrels“.)

But here’s one reason why I personally detest the man so much: He has spoiled late-night TV for me. Ever since the “Hairpiece come to life” was elected, I can’t watch such great shows as The Daily Show with Trevor Noah and Full Frontal with Samantha Bee. And especially not The President Show.

After all, how can you satirize someone who himself is such a parody? Who in their right mind can take such a man seriously as a politician? How can you read about him hiring a Disney star to his staff or his lunatic tweets without wondering if it isn’t all some big joke. True satire just can’t compete with the reality of the “Hair plug swollen with rancid egg whites“.

We can only hope that this nightmare of a presidency will soon come to an end. At least we all know that now, fewer and fewer people in politics are taking him seriously, while more and more people are ganging up against him. He is the true epitome of a lame-duck president, holed up in his bedroom in the Executive Residence, simply counting the days before he’s hauled away in chains.

Cheers! Hans


The Tangled Web In Rheden

A Bridge Between my Moll and van Sadelhof Ancestors

I was casually recording information about some distant cousins with surname Brouwer, descendants of my Moll ancestors, and I came upon one distant cousin named Christian Brouwer, born 1847 in Zevenaar.  As I sometimes do, I did some searching on his wife’s family.

Christiaan Brouwer was married to Cornelia Jurriens, born 1843 in Rheden, a place that was home to many other cousins and ancestors. Her mother was Johanna Belder, born 1811 in Velp, a village just west of Rheden. When I found a few other people with surname Belder in my database, I had to dig further. Quickly, I discovered connections between the Belder family and my van Sadelhof ancestors.

In this drop chart, red indicates my ancestors and blue indicates other blood relatives. Most of these people lived in Rheden or in neighboring villages such as Velp. (To follow along better, open the chart in a new window.)

First, I must note that as we go further back in time, the evidence becomes more and more sketchy. But we do the best we can with what we have.

Within the van Sadelhof family, we see a couple of cases of cosanguinuity (or marriage between cousins). In 1774, Antonij van Sadelhof (born 1747) married his second cousin Bartjen van Sadelhof (born 1748). And in 1790, Jan van Sadelhof (1754-1831) married his third cousin Hendrina Wamsteker (1773-1820).

Not shown in this chart, the first wife of Jan van Sadelhof was Jenneke Brouwer (born 1759 in Lathum). Her sister Fenneken Brouwer (1761-1801) married Jan’s brother Willem (1759-1831).

But let’s get back to the main theme of this posting, the bridge between my van Sadelhof ancestors and my Moll ancestors. Jan Belder (1745-1797) married twice. First in 1788 in Rozendaal to Anna Maria Ekses (died 1789), and then in 1790 in Lathum to Gardina Hermsen (born 1766 in Lathum).

From his first marriage, Jan Belder’s son Martien Hendrik Belder (1789-1849) married Hendrika van Sadelhof (1792-1858). And from his second marriage, Jan’s son Hendrik Belder (1793-1827) married Margrieta van Sadelhof (1791-1863). Both weddings occurred in 1812.

Jan Belder’s brother Cornelis Belder (1754-1832) was married in 1808 in Velp to Enneken de Winkel (1785-1866). These were the grand-parents of Cornelia Jurriens, mentioned back at the beginning of this tome, thus completing the bridge between the van Sadelhof’s and the Moll’s.

Some additional notes: Note that there’s another Belder, Teuntje Belder (1745-1799), who was married to a distant cousin, Willem Wamsteker (1717-1784). It isn’t yet clear if she is related to the other Belder’s in the chart. Also, the name Brouwer shows up a few times. Unless otherwise indicated, no relationship is known between them.

Anyways, this particular diversion opened up several new avenues of research, which I hope to get back to once I resume my research on the Brouwer’s.

Cheers! Hans


Skate The Lake

Every year, Portland Ontario hosts an event on the Big Rideau Lake, about an hour north of Kingston. They clear a one kilometer long track on the ice and host skating races. Here are some pictures from this year’s event:

Start of the 5K race
Skater approaching the finish line
Impressive back-lit scene during the 5K relay
Warming up on shore
Snert is a thick pea soup, popular with the skaters