Links For Monthly Meeting- January 2015

Thanks to all who made it out to our monthly meeting last Wednesday. What a lively discussion!

Here are some links I thought relevant to the discussions that night:

Here is a link discussing the Pew Research Center survey titled “The World’s Muslims: Religion, Politics and Society 

I believe the above survey was mentioned during our Charlie Hebdo discussion.

If there are any other links you would like to share, please feel free to post them in comments section.


“Knowing that one may be subject to bias is one thing; being able to correct it is another.”

Jon Elster— Explaining Social Behavior: More Nuts and Bolts for the Social Sciences, p. 7, 2007

“You Will Never Change My Decision.”

Originally posted on Space Cadet Glow:

Those were the words I read from a “thinking MOM’s”  blog who has decided that she will not be vaccinating her five children. Ever.


I always knew there was an “anti-vaccination” presence out there on the “Internets”. I honestly never bothered with them. That is, until a link showed up on my Facebook page, placed there by a friend. I was curious. I checked it out. I read from some of her links and several of her pages. I read some of the articles she recommended by other Moms that, like her, have decided not to vaccinate their children.

And then I got depressed.

The misinformation presented on these websites is voluminous. It would be somewhat humorous if it wasn’t also so dangerous. Statements are made as “fact” without any corroborating data to back them up.  Assertions are presented that are just plain false.

Here’s just one example from an anti-vaccine…

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Skeptics and Atheists of Durango NEWSLETTER January 21, 2014

Skeptics and Atheists of Durango        January 21, 2015

“If Atheism is a Religion, then not collecting stamps is a hobby”.

– David Eller, Anthropologist


All meetings are at Irish Embassy, 900 Main Street Durango.    Dinner, for those interested, from 5:30PM.  Meeting at 6:00-ish.

This month, Kathleen (with a K) will be moderating a discussion of cognitive bias.  As ‘K’ cheerfully observed, “Cognitive Biases, we’ve all got ‘em.”  What are they?  What are yours? What to do about them?  This should be a great discussion!

Project Merry Christmas was a huge success.  Gifts were delivered, kids had a great Xmas day and all who participated are to be thanked for their kindness and generosity.  K will have more details at the general meeting.

Hint: Be sure to scroll to the very end of every newsletter and you’ll be rewarded with a new “Tom the Dancing Bug’ cartoon by Ruben Bolling wherein a Hindu baby is born to a Christian mother.


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Free Raif Badawi- How You Can Help

raif-badawi While Saudi Arabia’s ruling family condemns the Charlie Hebdo attacks from one side of their mouth, the other side keeps silent on the imprisonment and barbaric flogging of  Saudi free speech  blogger, Raif Badawi. Raif was sentenced to 10 years in prison and exactly 1,000 lashes for the crime of insulting Islam via writings found on his website- a website he established to encourage free thought and the exchange of ideas.  Raif is scheduled to receive 50 lashes every Friday for the next 20 weeks. His second round of lashings  was postponed due to the fact that his wounds from the previous first round had not adequately healed. Meanwhile, Raif’s wife and three small children, now living in Quebec, hope for good news.

It’s difficult to believe that something as archaic and cruel as this is still happening in the 21st century. Human progress requires us all. Here is how you can help: #freeraifbadawi

Let’s Be Reasonable

Atheists are reasonable people.  I mean that literally: we try to employ Reason when we make decisions, especially about something as central to our beings as our personal World View.  Reasoned decisions require valid evidence because belief, absent evidence, is just a Wish.  Evidence is the key.  As a rational man, I would be the first to drop to my knees if God Almighty manifested His existence to us in a rational, unambiguous manner.  (None of this ‘God is in the beauty of a sunset’ crap).  No, I am talking about clear demonstration of undisputed Godly Power.  Something like restoring limbs to amputees, rescuing Steven Hawking from his wheelchair, rolling back a raging Tsunami so that the Innocent might survive, intervening when Boko Haram massacres thousands of people in His name, etc..  And, no, I will not accept that rescuing a single child while killing everyone else in a plane crash constitutes a ‘miracle’ or proof of God’s infinite Goodness.

And please don’t bring up Free Will.  I will also not tolerant of the usual ‘free will’ argument: innocents don’t choose to be victims of evils such as gun violence, natural disasters or illness.  In this world, innocents are obviously not protected whether they ‘believe on the Lord’ or not.  As it stands, if Person A decides to be Evil, it is usually Person B who unwillingly suffers the consequences.   If God is waiting for every, single, individual on Earth to accept Jesus as the Christ before He finally makes a move to end Evil, we are truly screwed.

This is what seems reasonable to me: If God wanted us to follow Him, He wouldn’t play hide and seek.  He’d satisfy our rational minds (which were supposed to be created by Him) by communicating the same, unifying, message clearly and intelligibly to every one of the 8,000,000,000+ people presently crowding His creation.  Each person could then make an informed decision about what Life Path to follow.  But instead He is absent and silent.  There is no sign of God in the real world…Earth looks exactly like you would expect if there was no God at all.  Each individual is left to struggle in isolation leading to conflicts of ideology and religious war.  In our world, Good People suffer equally with Bad People.  Disease, crime, illness affect us all – Believers and Non-Believers alike.

To say that humans are responsible for the abysmal conditions of this existence was simply a way for the rulers in antiquity to keep the ignorant masses on their knees, groveling for forgiveness for their imagined sins.  It worked in an age when superstition was all humans had to combat disease and natural disasters…but it won’t work in the modern age.  The evidence for God’s existence is, itself, non-existent.  And belief in something that has no basis in fact – no evidence – is unreasonable.


A World Without Gods

So much death in the news these days. My heart aches for those families who lost people they love in this latest round of Boko Haram killings in Baga. Boko Haram’s goal? To establish an Islamic State in Nigeria. I can’t help but wonder how people can believe in an all-powerful and influential God amidst the atrocities we see in the world around us.  If you  are a believer, isn’t everything that happens supposed to be part of God’s perfect plan?

I’m reminded of words from Voltaire’s Candide:

“If this is the best of all possible worlds, what are the others?”

If this is what a God-created and supervised world looks like, then what would a world not managed by a supposedly all-loving and all-powerful God look like? What would you expect to observe in such a world? Clearly, if there’s a god looking out for us, he’s pretty inept at his job.

Some  may bring up the fact that according to Christian theology, this is a fallen world and therefore, evil exists. But what of diseases that target the weakest- children and the elderly? Why would this god create such a creature as a virus or a bacterium that inflicts suffering on the innocent? This is exactly what one would expect to see in a world that was not created and supervised by a benevolent god. It’s difficult to rationalize the existence of a god amid a sea of suffering. Suffering we hear about every day, if you are one that happens to check out the news.


I read an article recently that I think states the problem and solution succinctly:

“But it has often been said, if we don’t play God, then who will? Such was the central takeaway of the European Enlightenment and the rise of secular humanism. Working under the assumption that God does not exist (or at the very least, does not intervene in our affairs), a popular opinion emerged stating that humanity has an obligation to take matters into its own hands if it is to truly understand the world and make it a better place. And by applying reason and the scientific method, humanity stands a much better chance of success than idly waiting for a supernatural force that doesn’t appear to exist or care one whit about us.”

Human progress will march on. And with it, hopefully, will come less and less need for religion. Sure, humans will always find justification for doing bad things. But we will always find justification for doing good things as well. We don’t need religion for that either. As former Seventh-day Adventist pastor, Ryan Bell, who now considers himself an atheist put it: “Why do I need religion to love?”

You don’t.


“When it was over, the crowd shouted, “Allah-hu Akbar! Allah-hu Akbar!”

Originally posted on Why Evolution Is True:

LiveWire has an eyewitness account of the flogging in Saudi Arabia of Raif Badawi, a 30-year-old with three children who was arrested for apostasy, insulting Islam, and his real crime—running a discussion website called “Free Saudi Liberals.” While the apostasy charges (which could bring a death sentence) remain in limbo, Badawi was convicted on other charges and fined $267,000, sentenced to 10 years in prison, and ordered to be given 1000 lashes. That’s a harsh punishment, but, as the Guardian reports, “Rights activists say Saudi authorities are using Badawi’s case as a warning to others who think to criticise the kingdom’s powerful religious establishment from which the ruling family partly derives its authority.”

His wife divorced him and his family moved to Canada.

Yesterday Badawi received the first 50 of his lashes. An anonymous witness gave a report:

“When the worshippers saw the police van outside the mosque, they knew someone would…

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