Durango Skeptics and Atheists NEWSLETTER FEBRUARY 2017

If your email program isn’t displaying the photographs and graphics, please go to durangofreethinkers.com to read the full newsletter!

Editorial opinions and story selection do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the leadership or members of DS&A.

If you have a news item that you would like to bring to the attention of our members, please send the link and your comments to larrybollinger@comcast.net

Thanks to members Shandra McClanahan, Beth Jones, Lou Fontana, Kylene Jones Wray Boswell and Marc Masor for contributing to this month’s newsletter!


“Cruel men believe in a cruel God and use their belief to excuse their cruelty. Only kindly men believe in a kindly God, and they would be kindly in any case.”  Bertrand Russell (1872 – 1967)



Next general meeting:


Meetings are at Irish Embassy, 900 Main Street Durango

Dinner, for those interested, from 5:30PM. Discussion starts at 6:30


Member Shandra McClanahan will lead the discussion for this month on the topic of “Indoctrination”indoctrination-001-revised


It happens the moment we take our first breath…we learn our parent’s religion and absorb our parents’ politics…we are taught love of country and distrust enemies…we are indoctrinated in the mores of the society into which we are born. Is it inevitable? Unavoidable? Is it bad, something to be resisted? Or is it another word for ‘experience’?

Shandra says: What does it take to separate a human being from their ability to reason and think for themselves? What would it take to undo that damage? The following sources will give you a great deal of fuel for our discussion this month”:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fIfABmbqSMA  An interesting 25 minute interview with a therapist who specializes in helping patients overcome the trauma caused by their religious upbringing and the lingering fears that plague them well into adulthood, even after they have abandoned their childhood beliefs.

http://journeyfree.org/ The website of Marlene Winell, PhD who is the therapist interviewed in the clip above. Dr. Winell originated the term Religious Trauma Syndrome to describe the struggle that some people encounter when they abandon the religious traditions which at one time dominated their lives.  The site features short video clips and written testimonials that explore the personal stories of some of Dr. Winell’s patients. Here’s an example: I thought there would be no life worth living apart from my faith, but I feel more alive and in love with this ‘one shot’ I get then I ever could serving my imagination. . . Funny how it seems to unfold… this fantastic mystery called life.  As a Christian I was so petrified of knowing the ‘exact truth’ about ‘how it all worked.’  Now?  Who cares, lets just play with all the ideas.   – Arnie

https://soundcloud.com/samharrisorg/leaving-the-church-a-conversation-with-megan-phelps-roper   A fascinating interview by Sam Harris of a woman who once was a member of the infamous Phelps family Westboro Baptist Church (the ‘God hates fags’church). Megan Phelps was only 5 years old when her family began to picket with offensive signs that captured the nation’s attention. westboroShe left the church and her family when she was 25 years old. She shares her insights into her family and their extreme religious theology. What’s interesting is how she humanizes her family and explores the motives and rationale behind what appears, to outsiders, to be a hate-fueled theology. Well worth your time.





“I never told my religion nor scrutinized that of another. I never attempted to make a convert nor wished to change another’s creed. I have judged of others’ religion by their lives, for it is from our lives and not from our words that our religion must be read. By the same test must the world judge me.”   – Thomas Jefferson



Book Club Selection for April 8:  Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis, by J.D. Vance


“Science never cheered up anyone. The truth about the human situation is just too awful.”  – Kurt Vonnegut, Timequake



Can You Be An American If You Are Not Christian? https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/acts-of-faith/wp/2017/02/01/you-have-to-be-christian-to-truly-be-american-people-in-the-us-are-far-more-likely-to-say-so/?utm_term=.8e5d55026a5e        According to a Washington Post Poll, 1/3 of Americans believe that, in order to be a ‘true American, one must be Christian.  christian-nationThe same number Americans feel that being born in the United States is critical to being an American. So much for that ‘give us your tired, your poor, you huddled masses yearning to be free’ crap. Further, 70% say that being American means having to speak English.



  Big Data is Watching…and Influencing Our Elections   (Contributed by Beth Jones)  https://motherboard.vice.com/en_us/article/big-data-cambridge-analytica-brexit-trump  You are probably aware that much of what you see and do on the internet is not exactly private. Every website you visit, every time you click on a link or a ‘like’ button, your actions leave a digital trace that others can, and do, exploit. trump_cpac_improvedBeth sent this link to an astonishing and horrifying article that reveals the shocking extent that this data has was used to manipulate votes in the 2016 Presidential election by the Donald Trump campaign. The hopes, fears, preferences, and biases of 220 million Americans are now an open book to Big Data, allowing micro-targeted, finely tuned social media access to each individual voter.  1984 is finally here.




 ‘Truth’ is Now a Commodity  (Contributed by Lou Fontana) http://www.chronicle.com/article/When-Truth-Becomes-a-Commodity/238866    Truth? We can’t handle the truth. “We do not live in an era stripped of truths. We live, to the contrary, in a political-cultural moment saturated with competing claims on truth, each insisting on its veracity. We have contrived to construct an open marketplace of truths, and it is not a happy state.”



The Wall That Donald Trump Wants to ‘Destroy’  http://thehill.com/homenews/administration/317542-trump-vows-to-destroy-the-johnson-amendment   church-and-stateThe ‘wall’ between church and state is in Donald Trump’s sights as he promised to ‘destroy’ the Johnson Amendment to the US tax code which forbids churches from participating in political activities at the risk of their tax-exempt status. He termed freedom of religion a ‘sacred right’ that is ‘under threat’. Here is a link to The Atlantic   https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2017/02/donald-trump-national-prayer-breakfast/515445/   that quotes Mr.Trump as saying, “the world is under serious, serious threat in so many different ways but we’re going to straighten it out. That’s what I do. I fix things”


Trump Moves to Ban (Free) Speech  About Abortion  http://www.undispatch.com/global-gag-rule-just-got-way-intense/    Donald Trump reinstated the ‘Global Gag Rule’ and has dramatically expanded the scope of [the rule] to include ALL global health assistance provided by the US government. third-world-health-careAccording to the United Nations, this move places in jeopardy organizations that provide mosquito netting (which prevents malaria and Zika), run HIV programs, distribute condoms and many other essential health care services not related to abortion. The UN says, “This is a profound expansion of what was already a harmful policy”. The UN and Population Action International worry that the gag rule will lead to more abortions, rather than fewer, because contraceptive devices will become more difficult to obtain in the countries that need them the most.    http://www.undispatch.com/one-paragraph-describes-harmful-global-gag-rule-fighting-hivaids-preventing-unwanted-pregancies/


Automation Is the Real Job Killer (Contributed by Kylene Jones)  https://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/21/upshot/the-long-term-jobs-killer-is-not-china-its-automation.html?mc=aud_dev&mcid=fb-nytimes&mccr=JanHighMC&mcdt=2017-01&subid=JanHighMC&ad-keywords=AudDevGate&_r=0   Kylene sent this link to the NYT, noting that she doesn’t feel this topic was well covered in the past election. While Donald Trump promised to return jobs to the US by clamping down on China, off-shore manufacturing and immigration, the real culprit is automation. automationAutomation is why the manufacturing output of the United States is at an all-time high while unemployment ravages our workforce.

According to The Week, since 1984 US manufacturing has been able to double its output while using just 1/3 the number of workers. In the next two decades, according to an Oxford University study, nearly 50% of all jobs currently held by humans will become automated…jobs such as truck driver, accountant, medical diagnosticians will be done by intelligent machines.



Vaccines ‘Controversy’ (Again)   Recently, politicians and parents have expressed concerns that young children are getting ‘too many’ vaccines, often for diseases that are no longer a threat. Dr. Donald Trump has mused about vaccines in ‘large doses’ causing autism and is considering appointing a committee to look into the matter despite the debunking of a link between vaccinations and autism.  https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2017/01/10/donald-trump-is-rekindling-one-of-his-favorite-conspiracy-theories-vaccine-safety/?utm_term=.125f502b7a42

Infants and young children need to be vaccinated because the dis

Paul A. Offit, MD, a professor of pediatrics and director of the Vaccine Education Center at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia explains that (duh) the diseases aren’t a threat BECAUSE of vaccines and that today’s vaccines have benefited from advances in protein chemistry and purification which make them safer today than ever. http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2017/01/29/are-children-getting-too-many-vaccines.html?via=desktop&source=email

Mr. Trump Is Asking Robert F. Kennedy Jr. to Head Vaccine Inquirey    http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2017/01/trump-robert-kennedy-jr-vaccines-meeting-autism-214626    RFK, Jr. confirmed that he has been asked by Mr. Trump to head an inquiry into the ‘issue’ of vaccines and autism. Kennedy is a long-time vaccine skeptic who frames his arguments as being about ‘safety’ of vaccines and not the efficacy.  Kennedy, an attorney who has no formal scientific or medical training, has actively campaigned against vaccines recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) since the early 2000s, citing a scientifically discredited concern that the preservative thimerosal contained in some vaccines causes neurodevelopmental disorders in children.”

Discredited British researcher, Andrew Wakefield, has also been named to the panel by Trump. Wakefield is the man who, in the late 1990’s, published his findings (since debunked many times) that vaccinations cause autism.

“Clearly Donald Trump has questions about vaccine safety—he made that clear in the first debate—but I still would have imagined he would have sought out some level of expertise,” says Paul Offit, chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and co-developer of the rotavirus vaccine. “There is an enormous amount of expertise about vaccines in this country. Instead, he picks [to advise him] two people—Andrew Wakefield and Robert F. Kennedy Jr.—who both have no expertise and, frankly, are conspiracy theorists.” 


Rex Tillerson’s Take on Climate Change   https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2017/01/rex-tillerson-climate-change/512843/     Rex Tillerson, Donald newly minted Secretary of State, says that after 20 years ‘as a scientist and engineer’, he has concluded “…the risk of climate change does exist”. But he stops short of connecting emissions from fossil fuels to the rise of CO2 in the atmosphere. (The burning of fossil fuels is considered to be the main contributor to global climate change). smokestacks-02Surprisingly, he does support the Paris Climate Accord saying, “I think it’s important that the United States maintain its seat at the table in the conversation on how to address threats of climate change. They do require a global response. No one country is going to solve this alone.” He offered no specifics on what actions the US should undertake, but his position is in sharp contrast to that of most of the Republican Party (see next item).


Republicans Mount Effort to Abolish the EPA  (Contributed by Marc Masor)  https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/861/cosponsors?r=10    and  https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/feb/02/donald-trump-plans-to-abolish-environmental-protection-agency       With EPA foe Scott Pruitt taking the reins of the EPA, the Trump Administration has taken a giant step towards its cherished goal of abolishing the federal Environmental Protection Agency. tailpipe-emissionsA Republican Congressman from Florida has introduced a bill to do just that. (The EPA was established during the Republican administration of Richard Nixon in 1970). The Trump administration feels that the responsibility for the functions of the EPA would be better handled by the 50 states, individually. Among the actions being pondered by the Trump transition team is a roll-back of auto emissions standards which were implemented by the Obama administration as part of its commitment to the Paris climate agreement.


Is AI a Threat to Christianity? (Contributed by Wray Boswell)  https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2017/02/artificial-intelligence-christianity/515463/    The Pope recently commented that he’d be willing to baptize an intelligent alien life form if it requested it. Which opens the door to the question of how far Christianity would be willing to go…if it would embrace all intelligent life, would it also recognize hyper-intelligent thinking machines as being worthy of redemption? Google is presently working on the development of ‘artificial moral reasoning’ so its cars can make life-and-death decisions without a human at the wheel. Can the day when machines are imbued with emotions, consciousness and self-awareness be far away? Stephen Hawking commented in 2014 “The development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race. Once humans develop artificial intelligence, it would take off on its own, and redesign itself at an ever-increasing rate. Humans, who are limited by slow biological evolution, couldn’t compete and would be superseded.” robot-and-jesus-in-the-clouds-w-textThis would be the ‘singularity’ that was much discussed at our last meeting. Will AI cause a disruption in religious/spiritual thinking as other scientific advances (sun-centric solar system, evolution by natural selection) have in the past? AI calls into question that theological construct of the human ‘soul’ which is the part of us that is supposed to be a mirror of God the Creator him/her/its self. But would a digitally encoded copy of a human brain have a soul? Would intelligent machines be able to form a relationship with ‘God’? AI calls into question the entire notion of ‘soul’. Interesting article on the topic at the link posted above.



http://www.onionstudios.com/videos/this-church-choirs-rendition-of-christ-cometh-to-my-house-and-eats-all-of-my-food-is-absolutely-stunning-4981    Just because it makes as much sense as anything these days…




Now, your moment of Bug(s)

Tom the Dancing Bug

Tom the Dancing Bug

Tom the Dancing Bug is reprinted in the Durango Skeptics and Atheists Newsletter with the permission of its creator, Reuben Bolling.  See more TtDB cartoons at http://www.gocomics.com/tomthedancingbug. Help support Reuben Bolling’s “Inner Hive”

Now through April, Reuben Bolling will contribute $25 to the ACLU for every new membership ($11.25) in the ‘Inner Hive’.







Please go to durangofreethinkers.com to read the full newsletter! Some email apps do not display the graphics. The Newsletter is best viewed on a monitor…the formatting as it appears on tablet or smart phone may require a bit of scrolling side-to-side!

Editorial opinions and story selection do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the leadership or members of DS&A.  If you have a news item that you would like to bring to the attention of our members, please send the link and your comments to larrybollinger@comcast.net

Thanks to Kathleen O’Conner, Lionel Di Giacomo, Wray Boswell, Marc Masor, Mark M. Diamond and Ray Polidori for contributing to this month’s newsletter!


The three laws of Robotics:
1) A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
2) A robot must obey orders given to it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
3) A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.  

from the I, Robot series by Isaac Asimov (1920 – 1992)




Next general meeting:


Meetings are at Irish Embassy, 900 Main St. Durango

Dinner, for those interested, from 5:30PM.

Discussion starts at 6:30


The discussion topic for this month:

AI (Artificial Intelligence)

Computerized ‘personal assistants’, androids, machines that learn to play chess and Go, IBM’s Watson, Microsoft’s Tay, self-driving cars and trucks…like it or not, AI is no longer something in the realm of science fiction. AI is here, now. What are the implications? In what ways does AI mirror society’s achievements and its flaws? What happens when interactions with humans turn a machine intelligence ‘racist’? Are machines that are capable of learning autonomously a danger to humanity? ai-004Would the flesh-and-blood robotic ‘hosts’, as depicted in HBO’s futuristic West World, deserve human rights?  What happens when a self-driving vehicle must choose between two bad outcomes? Will future intelligent machines be able to design new and improved versions of itself? The mind reels.

Kathleen O’Conner and Lionel D Giacomo will lead the group discussion to lead off the next general meeting. Ask Siri if you have time to attend!


Here are some links to background with some comments by Lionel:

Current state of general purpose AI: I’m very interested in Google’s Deepmind, and although the following video is long, I think he gets across some of the depth and technical aspects of cutting edge AI in a clear way. The first bit mostly focuses on AI in games and AlphaGo, their go-playing AI. The last 15 or so minutes has a lot of the other applications of the general AI they’re developing.
Demis Hassabis, the founder of Deepmind, Nov. 2016 (~45m): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e0NuW1j9RPA

Trusting machines with our lives: Self-driving cars is going to be the first time where most people will find themselves consciously trusting themselves to a machine capable of killing them, in the theory that they are actually both safer than human operators and will safe us time. Here’s a great technical TED talk on the most extreme version of that, where humans are no longer even permitted to drive:
Chris Urmson, head of Googles driverless car program June 2015 (~15m): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tiwVMrTLUWg

AI, automation, and the economy: I’m very interested in how the promise of automation and AI has often been to free up humans, but the result is usually just even richer capitalists. For instance, Uber sees driverless cars as a way to no longer have to pay human drivers. Here’s an article about basic income (Elon Musk has talked about this too, but I can’t find a good video):

Singularity Hub, Dec 2016: https://singularityhub.com/2016/12/13/if-robots-steal-our-jobs-a-universal-basic-income-could-help/



AI, WHAT IT IS AND HOW IT WORKS  https://futurism.com/1-evergreen-making-sense-of-terms-deep-learning-machine-learning-and-ai/

AI IS EVERYWHERE (BUT IT’S NOT UP TO WRITING A MOVIE SCRIPT YET  https://www.engadget.com/2016/12/25/ai-was-everywhere-in-2016/

ON AI AND RACIST ROBOTS    https://techcrunch.com/2016/03/24/microsoft-silences-its-new-a-i-bot-tay-after-twitter-users-teach-it-racism/

MACHINE LEARNING: SIRI GROWS UP https://backchannel.com/an-exclusive-look-at-how-ai-and-machine-learning-work-at-apple-8dbfb131932b#.9vxdggc19

ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE AND MACHINE LEARNING  https://ethnographymatters.net/blog/2016/06/20/the-human-side-of-artificial-intelligence-and-machine-learning/

HOW AI TO TRANSFORMED GOOGLE TRANSLATE http://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/14/magazine/the-great-ai-awakening.html?smprod=nytcore-ipad&smid=nytcore-ipad-share




“… the Church has ever affirmed that [morality and theism] are essentially connected, and that apart from religious the observance of the moral law is impossible”    –Catholic Encyclopedia, 1913


“The greatest tragedy in mankind’s entire history may be the hijacking of morality by religion.”    -Arthur C. Clarke, author, inventor, futurist. (1917 – 2008)


“The most important endeavor is the striving for morality in our actions. Our inner balance and even our very existence depend on it. Only morality in our actions can give beauty and dignity for life.”                                     – Albert Einstein



Book Club Selection for April 8:

Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis, by J.D. Vance



  THE GOP’s BIBI-CENTRIC FOREIGN POLICY http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2016/12/the-gops-bibi-centric-foreign-policy.html  The Obama administration butted heads with Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, but the incoming Trump administration has signaled an abrupt policy change that includes a frosty view of the U.N.trump-heart-bibi


THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY’S RELGION PROBLEM https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/12/democrats-have-a-religion-problem/510761/  choir-303302_960_720 An interview with President Obama’s former Director of Faith Outreach explores the schism that exists between the Democratic Party and Americans who identify strongly with their religion. The problem, according to Michael Wear, is “religious illiteracy on the part of Democrats that prevents outreach to evangelicals and other voters of faith”.


THEISTS: SHOULD WE ENGAGE OR IGNORE THEM? (Contributed by Wray Boswell) http://www.irishtimes.com/culture/the-conflict-between-theists-and-atheists-has-become-a-godawful-bore-1.2926466#.WHHD9Dz-39M.mailto   “For large sections of the population, Christianity is of no more interest than astrology, flat-Earthism or the tenets of water dousing.ignore It is no longer even worth rejecting. …If you rage against the Christians, Muslims, Zoroastrians and snake handlers then you admit their consequence. A sincere expression of unconcern is, for them, more worrying.”


THE TRUMP INAUGURATION WILL FEATURE ‘PROSPERITY PREACHERS’  https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/whitehouse/trump-inaugural-to-include-prayers-from-prosperity-preachers/2016/12/28/9830fbae-cd4f-11e6-85cd-e66532e35a44_story.html?utm_term=.893992bea681


Among the Christian ministers attending the Trump inaugural are two preachers who ‘teach that God will make the faithful rich’. Some Christians consider such a precept to be heretical. It will be the first time that speakers who espouse the ‘prosperity gospel’ will be included in the ceremony.      NPR has their own take: http://www.npr.org/2017/01/13/509558608/with-his-choice-of-inauguration-prayer-leaders-trump-shows-his-values



FROM THE FRIENDLY ATHEIST    (contributed by Mark M. Diamond) http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2016/12/26/i-corrected-this-absurd-letter-to-the-editor-complaining-about-a-churchstate-separation-group/   Hemant Mehta, The Friendly Atheist, felt compelled to answer a ‘letter to the Editor’ that was published in the Amarillo Globe-News in December. The letter writer, a woman by the name of Mary Chumbley, expounded on the theme of Christian victimization…that is, how atheists (and the Freedom From Religion Foundation in particular) have ‘terrorized’ Christians who attempt to practice their faith. Here is the text of Chumbley’s original letter, followed by Mehta’s annotated response. I apologize if the graphic re-posted below is not legible on your screens…you can view the original post at the above link.

The Letter:

I had promised myself not to submit any letters to the editor in the Amarillo Globe-News for awhile (sic), then this article pretty much eliminated that plan – (Freedom from Religion Foundation criticizes Spur cross, Dec. 9, amarillo.com.)

An atheist woman managed to abolish verbal prayer from schools decades ago, and as the years have passed, atheists have been allowed to chip away at Christianity.

Enough already.

We do not tell them what to believe, or not to believe, so this needs to stop now.

Like it or not, America was founded on Christian principles. The practice of any religion in this country is allowed without question, unless you are Christian. I am personally tired of it.

Organizations like the Freedom from Religion Foundation, probably financed by billionaire atheist George Soros, should be investigated as a domestic terrorist group. At the very least, what they do is harassment.

I wonder what is organization would do if someone were brave enough to complain about Islamists praying numerous times a day in public, as well as private.

And finally, to the person who complained about the cross in Spur, he or she should get a life and move on – you are in the wrong part of the country to be calling the shots on religion.

Mary Chumbley


The Response: lettereditoredited



“Rene Descartes walks into a bar. The bartender asks, “Will you have a drink?” Descartes replies, “I don’t think…” and POOF, he disappears.       – Joke by Unknown Author



THE EVANGELICAL SCION WHO STOPPED BELIEVING  http://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/29/magazine/the-evangelical-scion-who-stopped-believing.html?smprod=nytcore-ipad&smid=nytcore-ipad-share    “For Campolo, admitting that he had totally lost his faith was oddly comforting — he could stop living a lie — but also confusing. lost-faithHe loved talking to people, caring for them, helping them. He loved everything about Christian ministry except the Christianity. Now that he had crossed the bridge to apostasy, he needed a new vocation.”





LAKE NIGHTHORSE: FINAL PLAN IGNORES PUBLIC INPUT  https://www.usbr.gov/uc/progact/animas/index.html          The final environmental assessment of the uses for Lake Nighthorse has been released. Despite an outpouring of requests to limit recreation on the lake to non-motorized uses, the decision was made to allow motorboats on the lake from late spring through the fall. The Master Plan is posted here:   https://www.usbr.gov/uc/envdocs/ea/pdf/LakeNighthorseRecreationPlanFinalEA_FONSI.pdf

lake-nighhorseRead it and weep.



LOCAL CHIROPRACTOR SUCCEEDS IN PLACING FLUORIDE ON THE BALLET   http://durangoherald.co.newsmemory.com/publink.php?shareid=02c13825e  (contributed by Kathleen O’Conner)  In case you missed the front page story in the Durango Herald, the signature gathering efforts by a Durango-area chiropractor has been successful and the issue of fluoridation of our drinking water will be put up to a vote.glass-half-full Area dentists have been vocal in support of fluoridation which has been a matter of nationwide public policy for decades. Here, for example, is a letter from a Durango dentist defending the practice which appeared in the same issue of the Herald:

Treating children shows fluoridation works

I have practiced dentistry for 16 years and have specialized in caring for children. I have studied the cavity process in great detail. I have researched the physical changes fluoride produces to lower cavity rates, and I have studied common risk factors for high-risk patients. This I have done in three regions of the United States, and in three foreign countries.

As I treat children from all corners of this region, I assess their cavity rate, their diet, their socioeconomic status, their family dynamics, their access to care, and their dental IQ to understand on an individual level why a child has decay. These observations give me great insight into not only what is proven in national journals but what cavities looks like in areas around here.

Please hear this: The level of protection municipal fluoridation has for members of our community is resulting in a decreased risk of decay compared to non-fluoridated areas. Fluoridated water provides a layer of protection that if removed could be catastrophic for our children and the taxpayers whowill have to afford the repair.

Don’t be fooled by the skewed statistics. A 20 percent reduction in cavities does not mean one less cavity in your lifetime. That means 12 cavities in a 4-year-old instead of 16. That means 20 fewer children undergoing comprehensive dental rehabilitation under general anesthesia every year in my practice alone. That means saving taxpayers a $100,000 burden in care costs. A 20 percent reduction may be the difference between multiple visits to the office instead of the risks with sedation.

I do not profess to understand all the statistics, but I can understand that for less than $1 per person, we can save our community hundreds of thousands of dollars. Almost 76 percent of our severe-risk patients do not have fluoride in the drinking water. That is a fact, not a fluke.

For the good of all, leave fluoride in the water. For your decision, should this come to a ballot, educate yourself on the known facts, not the fright.

Angela Pinkerton





OUR HOME PLANET AS SEEN FROM MARS   http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/spaceimages/details.php?id=PIA21260     From the most powerful telescope orbiting Mars comes a new view of Earth and its moon, showing continent-size detail on the planet and the relative size of the moon.



CAN SOME EXTREME WEATHER EVENTS BE LINKED TO CLIMATE CHANGE? HOW CAN WE TELL? https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/yes-some-extreme-weather-can-be-blamed-on-climate-change/   According to Friederike Otto, deputy director of the Environmental Change Institute at the University of Oxford, the answer is ‘yes’. Advances in recent years in the field of statistical analysis (known as ‘attribution science’) make it possible to determine to what extent wildfires, drought, heat waves, floods and other extreme weather events are ‘forced’ by global climate change. Read an interview with Otto at the above link.


DOCTOR WALKS BACK HIS COMMENTS ABOUT VACCINE DANGER (contributed by Marc Masor) A recurring topic of discussion returns!  Anti-vaxxers got a boost when a doctor at a prominent medical center wrote an opinion piece in the Cleveland Plain Dealer questioning vaccine safety. Then the doctor tried to take it all back! The text below comes from the website Medscape.com. Since it requires a password for access, Marc made the entire text available for inclusion in the newsletter.vaccines-shots-or-not  Marc commented: This type of behavior exemplifies why this is still such a controversial area. When someone with legitimate credentials, writing behind the name of a well-respected health organization, makes a statement it gives a false sense of legitimacy to that statement. [This is] a perfect example of why we need to be critical and skeptical thinks when reading these reports regardless of the source. The bottom line is always: SHOW ME THE DATA!”

This type of behavior exemplifies why this is still such a controversial area.  When someone with legitimate credentials writing behind the name of a well-respected health organization makes a statement it gives a false sense of legitimacy to that statement.  A perfect example of why we need to be critical and skeptical thinkers when reading these reports, regardless of the source.  The bottom line is always “SHOW ME THE DATA”!!!!

Executive Summary: a doctor at the Cleveland Clinic wrote on his blog that additives to vaccines pose a danger to patients – babies and children in particular.  After a strong push-back by the clinic and other health professionals, the doctor is scrambling to retract and re-characterize his comments. A deeper issue seems to be the developing of a ‘wellness’ industry that some fear includes medical treatment that borders on quackery. The ‘wellness center’ business model apparently can be quite lucrative and some in the medical profession fear that ‘alternative medicine’ will be promoted as ‘wellness centers’ proliferate. Perhaps someone with a medical background can provide more details about this emerging controversy in a future newsletter?

The complete text:    The medical director of the Cleveland Clinic’s Wellness Institute has backed off allegations he made in a newspaper column that adjuvants and preservatives in vaccines may be contributing to a rise in autism and the “chronic disease epidemic,” but the physician is still facing disciplinary action by the prestigious medical institution.

The Clinic would not make the physician, Daniel Neides, MD, a family physician, and medical director and chief operating officer of the Wellness Institute, available for an interview, but issued a statement on his behalf.

“I apologize and regret publishing a blog that has caused so much concern and confusion for the public and medical community,” said Dr Neides, through the Clinic. “I fully support vaccinations and my concern was meant to be positive around the safety of them,” he said.

Dr Neides wrote a column that appeared on Cleveland.com, the Cleveland Plain Dealer‘s website, on January 6. In the piece, Dr Neides said he had taken ill after receiving an influenza vaccine. He also said that “a toxic burden” — including preservatives in vaccines — was “contributing to the chronic disease epidemic” in the United States.

“Does the vaccine burden — as has been debated for years — cause autism? I don’t know and will not debate that here,” wrote Dr Neides. But, he added, “What I will stand up and scream is that newborns without intact immune systems and detoxification systems are being over-burdened with PERSERVATIVES AND ADJUVANTS IN THE VACCINES.”

By January 8, the Cleveland Clinic had distanced itself from Dr Neides. “Harmful myths and untruths about vaccinations have been scientifically debunked in rigorous ways,” said the organization, in a statement. “We completely support vaccinations to protect people, especially children who are particularly vulnerable.”

The Clinic went on to say that Dr Neides “published his statement without authorization from Cleveland Clinic. His views do not reflect the position of Cleveland Clinic and appropriate disciplinary action will be taken.”

A Clinic spokeswoman would not say what action would be taken or when.

The column ignited a social media firestorm, with many attacking Dr Neides for his antivaccination views, and others saying the Cleveland Clinic only had itself to blame because it had embraced what some see as nonevidence-based medicine.

“The @ClevelandClinic is trading decades of hard won credibility for a wellness center. Insanity,” said Joel Topf, MD, a nephrologist, on Twitter. Family physician Kent Willyard, MD, tweeted, “They should know better. ‘Wellness’ (as distinguished from healthcare) is becoming a synonym for ‘quackery.'”

Adam W. Gaffney, MD, an instructor in clinical medicine at the Harvard Clinical and Translational Science Center, tweeted, “It’s impossible to be against ‘Wellness’ as a philosophy. What I oppose is the Wellness-Industrial Complex — the commoditization of Health.” Dr Gaffney, who is also on the board of Physicians for a National Health Program, added, “The nexus of healthcare and capitalism is an ugly place.”

“Far Too Lucrative”

Michael S. Sinha, MD, a physician-attorney and research fellow at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, told Medscape Medical News that it’s no accident that institutions like the Cleveland Clinic have gone after alternative medicine. “There is significant revenue to be generated, either from insurance reimbursement — after appropriate physician referral — or from patients willing to pay out-of-pocket for these services,” he said in an email. Large academic medical centers also appear to be more patient-centered when they offer such services, said Dr Sinha.

The downside? Embracing a wellness center “lends legitimacy to its services, even those services that lack scientific evidence for their use,” said Dr Sinha. “This can, in some patients’ minds, make unproven pseudo-science seem like reasonable or equivalent alternatives to evidence-based treatments.”

Even though the incident with Dr Neides may have been an embarrassment to the Cleveland Clinic, it’s not likely to change the Wellness Institute business model, Dr Sinha said. “It’s far too lucrative for them to abandon”

The episode may lead to fewer public comments by physicians at wellness centers, however, he said. “I suspect fewer wellness physicians — and perhaps fewer physicians in general — will have employer-promoted monthly blog posts in local news sources.”



Sometimes, we try too hard to get to the greener grass…cow-01…in the process, we end up in trouble.

And when you find yourself in trouble and you’re stuck in a situation that you can’t get out of there is one thing you should always remember:

Not everyone who shows up…cow-02

…is there to help you!!!!


Now, your moment of Bug with not one, not two, but yes, THREE Tom the Dancing Bug cartoons!

(I couldn’t decide on just one!)


Tom the Dancing Bug

Tom the Dancing Bug is reprinted in the Durango Skeptics and Atheists Newsletter with the permission of its creator, Reuben Bolling.  See more TtDB cartoons at http://www.gocomics.com/tomthedancingbug. Help support Reuben Bolling’s “Inner Hive”


Tom the Dancing Bug

Tom the Dancing Bug is reprinted in the Durango Skeptics and Atheists Newsletter with the permission of its creator, Reuben Bolling.  See more TtDB cartoons at http://www.gocomics.com/tomthedancingbug. Help support Reuben Bolling’s “Inner Hive”


Tom the Dancing Bug 

Tom the Dancing Bug is reprinted in the Durango Skeptics and Atheists Newsletter with the permission of its creator, Reuben Bolling.  See more TtDB cartoons at http://www.gocomics.com/tomthedancingbug. Help support Reuben Bolling’s “Inner Hive”



Why The Atheist Delusion Movie?

A member wrote me a note saying that he couldn’t watch Ray Comfort’s The Atheist Delusion for more than a few minutes without suffering gastric distress. He said he would skip the December meeting to avoid having to see another minute. While I empathize with the difficulty of watching this movie, I still think it’s worth our while to take it all in.

My reason for suggesting that we watch this movie is that the arguments proffered are the same arguments that people engage in across the Thanksgiving dinner table with ‘conservative’ relatives. I thought this would be an interesting way to brush up on our critical thinking skills and maybe learn a science tidbit or two. This movie presents the same arguments that persuade many people (a majority?) to agree with notions like “Let’s teach to the ‘controversy’ ” when the topic of Evolution comes up at a school board meeting.
I fear that films like The Atheist Delusion are persuasive to people who are just too busy living their own lives to bother to know the finer points of chemistry, biology, natural selection, embryology, vacuum fluctuations, inflation and big bangs. Although I don’t have direct empirical evidence, I think our nation’s alarming political turn in favor of (among other things) the religious, the ultra right, and scientific illiteracy speaks for itself.
This film is technically well produced, emotionally charged and raises relevant topics like ‘fine tuned universe’, evolution by natural selection and the core apologetic arguments for Christian theology. If you stick with it, it demonstrates (even though it is scripted and heavily edited) the emotional appeal of traditional Christian dogma (sin, redemption, punishment, hell, reward, eternal life, etc) which is a component of theism that we atheists dismiss without fully realizing its power.
I certainly agree that the IS difficult to watch (I’ve watched it twice). It is my hope that this video will prompt some discussion about critical thinking, logical fallacies, the power of emotions and techniques of emotional manipulation, some actual science pointers from those with a technical background, and why this movie and others like it appeal successfully to of our fellow (voting) citizens. In short, I anticipate an interesting discussion.
We are banking on being able to stream the movie at Irish Embassy, but on the off-chance that we are thwarted by technology, it would facilitate the discussion if you took the time to at least fast forward through it at home. See it here: (running time 62 minutes)    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ChWiZ3iXWwM
You could even play a drinking game, taking a shot everytime you recognize the commission of a logical fallacy! (Disclaimer: You’ll be wasted in just minutes!) 
The whole group benefits when more people participate, so I hope you’ll be able to attend.


Editorial opinions and story selection do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the leadership or members of S&AoD.

If you have a news item that you would like to bring to the attention of our members, please send the link and your comments to larrybollinger@comcast.net

Comments are always wecome.

Thanks to Mark M. Diamond and Uncle Bob Smith for contributing to the Newsletter! 

“Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge: it is those who know little, and not those who know much, who so positively assert that this or that problem will never be solved by science”.

– Charles Darwin (1809 – 1882)


 Next general meeting:   WEDNESDAY DECEMBER 21

Meetings are at Irish Embassy,

900 Main Street Durango

Dinner, for those interested, from 5:30PM.

Discussion starts at 6:30


The discussion topic for this month: MOVIE NIGHT!

We hope. That’s the plan, anyway. We are hoping to stream a YouTube video entitled The Atheist Delusion (which, you may recognize, is a spoof of the title of Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion).  This video promises to ‘demolish atheism with a single question’. If all goes as planned, we will screen the movie starting at 6:30 and then (those of us who are not entirely ‘demolished’) will have a discussion in which we will critique what we’ve just witnessed.  If you would like to get a head start, you can view the movie here:   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ChWiZ3iXWwM     It has a running time of 1:11:00.The double helix nebula as revelaed in the infrared by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope. The spots are infrared-luminous stars, mostly red giants and red supergiants. Many other stars are present in this region, but are too dim to appear even in this sensit

The video is brought to us by ‘Living Waters Publications’ and writer/producer Ray Comfort. Mr. Comfort has a number of books and videos to his credit including The Way of the Master series, 180: Changing the Heart of a Nation, Evolution vs. God: Shaking the Foundations of Faith and many others too stupid too numerous to mention.

As an example, in one famous episode of The Way of the Master, Ray Comfort and Kirk Cameron blundered their way into the Infamy Hall of Fame. (Comfort has since disavowed this scene by saying that atheists have taken his words out of context). The link below is a clip that shows the entire incident, in context.  Holding up a banana, Mr. Comfort proclaims that it represents ‘…an atheist’s nightmare’ because it has ridges in its skin which match the ridges in the human hand and is shaped perfectly for human consumption. His point being that the banana could only have been designed for human use by The Great Watchmaker, God Almighty Himself. Here’s the clip:   https://youtu.be/BXLqDGL1FSg


His own words, as you can see from the above clip, belie his later desperate denials. Mr. Comfort was hoist on his own petard. To add insult to injury, Cameron then chimes in to say that the human eye was obviously ‘designed’ by God because of its complexity. To think otherwise, Cameron chirps, goes against ‘common sense’. The clip then features a quote from Charles Darwin which, unlike Comfort’s banana slip up, was truly and actually taken out of context by Mr. Comfort and Mr. Cameron. Here is Darwin’s quote as it appears in Comfort’s film: “To suppose that the eye could have been formed by natural selection seems, I freely confess, absurd in the highest degree.”


OH NO! Is Charles Darwin saying that natural selection is absurd?!? Are atheists living a lie?!? Not so fast. Here is the actual quote in context which, if read in its entirety, completely refutes Cameron’s point that we should trust our ‘common sense’ over Science:

To suppose that the eye with all its inimitable contrivances for adjusting the focus to different distances, for admitting different amounts of light, and for the correction of spherical and chromatic aberration, could have been formed by natural selection, seems, I freely confess, absurd in the highest degree. When it was first said that the sun stood still and the world turned round, the common sense of mankind declared the doctrine false; but the old saying of Vox populi, vox Dei, as every philosopher knows, cannot be trusted in science.eye_iris Reason tells me, that if numerous gradations from a simple and imperfect eye to one complex and perfect can be shown to exist, each grade being useful to its possessor, as is certainly the case; if further, the eye ever varies and the variations be inherited, as is likewise certainly the case; and if such variations should be useful to any animal under changing conditions of life, then the difficulty of believing that a perfect and complex eye could be formed by natural selection, though insuperable by our imagination, should not be considered as subversive of the theory. How a nerve comes to be sensitive to light, hardly concerns us more than how life itself originated; but I may remark that, as some of the lowest organisms, in which nerves cannot be detected, are capable of perceiving light, it does not seem impossible that certain sensitive elements in their sarcode should become aggregated and developed into nerves, endowed with this special sensibility.

Of The Atheist Delusion, Mr. Comfort says this, Having to prove the existence of God to an atheist is like having to prove the existence of the sun, at noon on a clear day. Yet millions are embracing the foolishness of atheism. “The Atheist Delusion” pulls back the curtain and reveals what is going on in the mind of those who deny the obvious. It introduces you to a number of atheists who you will follow as they go where the evidence leads, find a roadblock, and enter into a place of honesty that is rarely seen on film. 

We hope you can attend…it should be fun!



“To surrender to ignorance and call it God has always been premature, and it remains premature today.” – Isaac Asimov  (1920 -1992)




News of General Interest to Atheists

Why Texas is Becoming a Major Anti-Vaccine Battlefield

http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2016/12/why-texas-becoming-major-antivaccine-battlefield    Although Texas has one of the highest vaccination rates in the country (97.4%), non-medical exemptions (granted because of parents’ personal beliefs) are soaring. As a result, experts in the field worry about a possible measles outbreak there as early as 2018. One reason for the concern is that non-vaccinated children are not randomly spread throughout the population but are, instead, concentrated in enclaves. In such cases, outbreaks of infectious diseases can occur when the vaccination rate drops below 95%.


But don’t be smug! Some counties in Colorado have even higher rates of non-vaccination! Baby was receiving his scheduled vaccine injection in his rightImmunologist Diane Griffin of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, Maryland. “I don’t think that Texas is any worse than a number of other states, but pointing out the problem and the solution is important.” 



“In science it often happens that scientists say, “You know that’s a really good argument; my position is mistaken,” and then they actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again… It happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion.”

– Carl Sagan  (1934 – 1996)





How to Handle Your Post-Election Angst


Most, but not all, members of the Skeptics and Atheists of Durango have experienced symptoms of shock, denial and anxiety since the recent election. To wallow in negative thoughts invites an entire slate of physical and mental health problems. So how can you cope with your feelings and get your emotional life back on track for the New Year? Check out Cosmo’s list of suggestions at the above link. Breathe. Remember that this too shall pass.


President -Elect Trump


A Timeless Prayer for Patriots 

“O Lord our God, help us to tear their soldiers to bloody shreds with our shells;

Help us to cover the smiling fields with the pale forms of their patriot dead;

Help us to drown the thunder of the guns with the wounded, writhing in pain;

Help us to lay waste their humble homes with a hurricane of fire;

Help us to wring the hearts of their unoffending widows with unavailing grief;

Help us to turn them out, roofless, with their little children to wander unfriended  through wastes of their desolated land in rags and hunger and thirst, sport of the sun-flames of summer and the icy winds of winter, broken in spirit, worn with travails, imploring Thee for the refuge of the grave and denied it

– for our sakes, who adore Thee, Lord, blast their hopes, blight their lives, protract their bitter pilgrimage, make heavy their steps, water their way with their tears, stain the white snow with the blood of their wounded feet!

We ask of one who is the Spirit of love and who is the ever-faithful refuge and friend of all that are sore beset, and seek His aid with humble and contrite hearts.

Grant out prayer, O Lord, and Thine shall be the praise and honor and glory

now and ever, Amen.” 

– Mark Twain (1835 – 1910) War Prayer



How to Recognize ‘Fake’ News Sites

Fake news is all the rage these days…so how can you tell if the story you are reading about Hillary Clinton and John Podesta running a child sex-slave ring out of the basement  of a pizza shop is true or not? I mean, it sounds plausible enough….but a pizza shop? C’mon, that’s just silly! One sure bet that you are reading a fake news story is if the URL contains the words ‘Brietbart News’; another is if you are hearing the words come out of Sean Hannity’s mouth.

Here are some other tips to help you sort out fact from fiction!  http://www.redstate.com/kiradavis/2016/11/18/6-tips-identifying-fake-news-site-story/

Pop Quiz:  Are the online ‘news’ stories  shown below True or False?Click the Snopes link below each headline to check your answers!



Bernie Sanders Suggests Election is Rigged, Unedorses Hillary Clintonhttp://www.snopes.com/bernie-sanders-rigged-unendorse/


Military or police photo


Russia Has Amassed Troops to Surround the U.S. Borders




Dec. 17 airpower summary: Reapers touch enemy forces

Obama Signs Executive Order Allowing Military to Fight U.S. Citizens




Redesigning the International Monetary System: A Davos Debate: George Soros

George Soros Funded Ferguson Protests and Black Lives Matter








Contributed by ‘Uncle’ Bob Smith




Classy Shirt with an Atheist Slant

(Contributed by Mark Diamond)



Yes, TWO Tom the Dancing Bug cartoons…A gift for you this holiday season. So, Cheerful Winter Solstice…Merry Christmas…Happy Holidays…or Whatever!

(Trump voters, simply skip the first one and go directly to News of the Times, below.)

Tom the Dancing Bug


Tom the Dancing BugTom the Dancing Bug is reprinted in the Durango Skeptics and Atheists Newsletter with the permission of its creator, Reuben Bolling.  See more TtDB cartoons at http://www.gocomics.com/tomthedancingbug. Help support Reuben Bolling’s “Inner Hive”




Action Items, Post Election- What You Can Do

As promised, here are some action items  we can take to get active, get more involved and to help us, hopefully, feel a  little less powerless. Please feel free to send me updates or other links, newspapers, organizations, etc.

Continue reading

Skeptics and Atheists of Durango NOVEMBER 2016 NEWSLETTER

Editorial opinions and story selection do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the leadership or members of DS&A.

If you have an item that you would like to see included in the next newsletter, please send the link and your comments to larrybollinger@comcast.net

Thanks to Robyn Baxendale and Wray Boswell for contributing to this month’s Newsletter

For The first time ever, everything is in place for the Battle of Armageddon and the second coming of Christ ”                -Ronald Reagan (1911 – 1989) 

Next general meeting:


Meetings are at Irish Embassy,

900 Main Street Durango

Dinner, for those interested, from 5:30PM.

Discussion starts at 6:30


The discussion topic for this month:

Group Co-Founder Kathleen O’Conner will make a presentation regarding the First Amendment and the separation of church and state…when it’s followed and when it’s not. Kathleen says: “Some members expressed an interest in becoming more politically active, so we thought this topic would be a good segue way into discussing the possibilities for promoting secularism here in Durango”church-and-state

Continue reading

Skeptics and Atheists of Durango NEWSLETTER OCTOBER 2016



Happy Halloween, Science Nerds!

Editorial opinions and story selection do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the leadership or members of DS&A.

If you have an item that you would like to see included in the next newsletter, please send the link and your comments to larrybollinger@comcast.net

Thanks to the following for contributing to this month’s Newsletter: Max MacPherson, Robyn Baxendale, Ray Polidori, Uncle Bob Smith, Kimberly Pennington

A long and wicked life followed by five minutes of perfect grace gets you into Heaven. An equally long life of decent living and good works followed by one outburst of taking the name of the Lord in vain – then have a heart attack at that moment and be damend for eternity. Is that the system?                                                                                                        -Robert A. Heinlein (1907 – 1988) 


Next general meeting:


Meetings are at Irish Embassy Underground

900 Main Street Durango

Dinner is available from 5:30PM.

Discussion starts at 6:30


The discussion topic for this month:

Max Macpherson will lead the group discussion: “If you could eliminate all crime in the world, would you do it?” POTENTIAL SPOILER ALERT: The answer is ‘Yes’.

crimeBut Max points out that this issue is more nuanced than that. He reminds us that what was legal 100 years ago (slavery or denying the right to vote to women) is a crime today. And some of what was a serious crime as recently as a decade ago is legal today (marijuana)…at least in some enlightened places. Is it a crime to wear a specific article of clothing to a specific venue? Yes, if you want to wear your burkini to a French beach! So the nature and definition of ‘crime’ is fluid and not as clear cut as one might think. Religion and other cultural influences are at work! Max promises to invoke Sam Harris and his Moral Landscape to remind all that, yes, Science can and does determine human values in terms of what is best for human and animal well-being. So come to Wednesday’s meeting ready to discuss Right and Wrong, Good and Evil, Science and Religion!


A Modest Proposal (For Further Group Discussion)

And, when Max’s topic has been thoroughly explored, given that Election Day will fall in less than two weeks after our October meeting we might also tip toe into the morass of (gasp) politics. I doubt any Hillary Clinton supporter could be convinced to cast a vote for Donald Trump or vice versa. But there are a slew of other issues on the ballot.
jesus-and-sufferingFor instance, do you know how you’ll vote on Colorado Care, the ballot measure that proposes to provide universal healthcare to Coloradans? I was a skeptic (Carolyn has always been on board) but after looking into the matter, I am leaning towards voting ‘Yes’ for C.C. What’s your take? Should terminally ill patients be able to choose to end their lives on their terms or should they endure suffering until death comes ‘naturally’?

Do you favor a Colorado State minimum wage? Should the bar to amend the state constitution be raised? Should smokers be taxed more for their cigarette habit? Open primaries in Colorado? These are all issues that would benefit from a good discussion, in my humble opinion. This is just a suggestion mind you, we don’t have to talk politics at all…but to me, that would be a wasted opportunity if we didn’t. I, for one, am interested in knowing what the other members are thinking on these complex issues.thumbs-up-and-down


News of General Interest to Atheists

Secularists Under Assault…What Can We Do?

We Can Do This…

It’s horrifying to constantly read about the slaughter of secular/atheist writers and bloggers around the world who are in danger of physical harm, and even death, because they have chosen to express themselves freely. In Bangladesh alone, at least 8 atheist or gay activist/bloggers have been savagely killed within the past two years…read more here:   http://www.cnn.com/2016/04/28/opinions/bangladeshi-bloggers-opinion/   .  Such stories have, sadly, become common place. But what can we do to help stop the carnage?

Member Robyn Baxendale would like Skeptics and Atheists of Durango to consider supporting the Center for Inquiry and contributing (as individuals or as a group) to CFI’s Secular Rescue which helps to relocate such individuals to safer havens. With our help, Secular Rescue can pluck endangered Free Thinkers from harm’s way.

secular-rescue-logoRobyn points to a recent Secular Rescue ‘success story’: “Atheist blogger and free speech activist Shammi Haque, relocated from Bangladesh to Germany after seeing her name on an extremist Islamist hit list that claimed the lives of five of her colleagues: Faisal Arefin Dipan, Niloy Neel, Anata Bijoy, Oyasiqur Rhman & Avijit Roy. “When I was targeted I was so afraid. Every day I thought this may be my last day. I may not see the next day’s sunrise.” By relocating people like Shammi, we not only save a life but enable that person to continue their important work.”



Shammi Haque


“The mission of the Center for Inquiry is to foster a secular society based on science, reason, freedom of inquiry, and humanist values.   To oppose and supplant the mythological narratives of the past, and the dogmas of the present, the world needs an institution devoted to promoting science, reason, freedom of inquiry, and humanist values. The Center for Inquiry is that institution.”  Learn more about the Center For Inquiry here:  http://www.centerforinquiry.net/about

This is a time-sensitive issue because EVERY DONATION to CFI, including Secular Rescue and the Richard Dawkins Foundation, will be matched by Louis Appignani* IF individual donations reach $250,000 collectively by December 31, 2016. It’s hard to imagine an organization or cause that could be better aligned with the goals of Skeptics and Atheists of Durango! So please consider making a donation!

*Louis J. Appignani is a philanthropist and entrepreneur who recently endowed a chair for the study of atheism, humanism and secular ethics at the University of Miami…  http://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/21/us/university-of-miami-establishes-chair-for-study-of-atheism.html?_r=0   and    http://appignanifoundation.net/supported-organizations

“Join me in standing up for freedom around the world. Please give to SECULAR RESCUE today.” – Richard Dawkins

If you would like more information about how to contribute to Secular Rescue, look here:  https://secure.centerforinquiry.net/secular-rescue

Thanks, Robyn, for bringing this to our attention!



U.S. Commission on Civil Rights Report on Religious Rights vs. Civil Rights   

http://www.usccr.gov/pubs/Peaceful-Coexistence-09-07-16.PDF      What happens when one person’s right to religious liberty comes into conflict with the government’s duty to protect people from discrimination? Examples abound: the baker refusing to bake a cake for a gay wedding; the county clerk refusing to issue certificates of marriage to gay couples; employers who balk at providing birth control benefits as part of an employee’s health insurance coverage. The report suggests that terms such as ‘religious liberty’ and ‘religious freedom’ have become code words that mean ‘discrimination’.


In its report, the USCCR found that “overly broad religious exemptions unduly burden nondiscrimination laws and policies” and recommended that “federal and state courts, lawmakers, and policy-makers at every level must tailor religious exceptions to civil liberties and civil rights protections as narrowly as applicable law requires.” The commission advocated for a return to looking at exemptions as a way to protect religious beliefs, rather than religious conduct. 

Conservatives have called the report ‘shocking and reckless’ and a ‘logical, moral, and political disaster’.

Sounds like a good topic for a group discussion, don’t you think?



But I Just Wanted Some Candy….


Christians are conducting a ‘War on Halloween’ this month…

Ken Ham, of Answers in Genesis infamy, wants households to distribute tracts (in the guise of phony $100,000,000 bills) informing unsuspecting trick-or-treaters that they are in danger of eternal damnation. Here is what the funny money looks like:


The text warns kids that sins such as telling lies or ‘believing in’ evolution will land them in the Loving God’s fabled lake of fire. “Have you ever lied, stolen or used God’s name in vain?” reads part of a fake bill with Noah’s Ark on the front. “The penalty for your crimes against God is death and eternal hell.” Ken Ham and his group are not known for their subtlety!


On the same topic, the Reverend Mark Woods over at Christian Today wrote an interesting piece entitled “Five Things Evangelicals Get Wrong About Halloween”. Read it here:





Can We Have a Halleluiah for Big Oil?

http://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory/oklahoma-governor-urges-christians-pray-oil-industry-42706179    The Governor of Oklahoma has declared a day of prayer for the oil industry. The Governor’s proclamation reads: “Christians are invited to thank God for the blessings “created by the industry and to seek His wisdom and ask for protection.” It also indicates that Christians believe oil and natural gas are “created by God.”

Despite the industry’s impact on Oklahoma’s economy, not everyone was pleased with Fallin’s proclamation. Bruce Prescott, a retired Norman minister who successfully sued to have a Ten Commandments monument removed from the Capitol grounds, said it’s not the governor’s responsibility to call anyone to prayer. “That’s a minister’s responsibility,” Prescott said. “Another thing that’s an irritant on that one — there are a lot of things that could be prayed about in this state, and the oil field is not at the top of that list.”2006-08-16 - 02 - Road Trip - Day 24 - United States - Californi

The Governor has since amended the proclamation to be inclusive of religious traditions other than the Christian faith…after all, all of God’s children are thankful for petroleum!

Go To Hell! Or Not….dawkins-on-hell



And now, Tom the Dancing Bug!    NOTE: I skipped over the dozen or more Donald Trump-related cartoons to bring you this moment of non-partisan, non-demoninational humor without political overtones!     (You’re welcome!)

Tom the Dancing Bug

Tom the Dancing Bug is reprinted in the Durango Skeptics and Atheists Newsletter with the permission of its creator, Reuben Bolling.  See more TtDB cartoons at http://www.gocomics.com/tomthedancingbug. Help support Reuben Bolling’s “Inner Hive”