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

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:   .  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:

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…   and

“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:

Thanks, Robyn, for bringing this to our attention!



U.S. Commission on Civil Rights Report on Religious Rights vs. Civil Rights      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?    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 Help support Reuben Bolling’s “Inner Hive”

Skeptics and Atheists of Durango NEWSLETTER SEPT. 2016

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

Thanks to the following for contributing to July’s Newsletter: Wray Boswell, Lou Fontana, Marc Masor, Maria Doucette, Bob Smith

How can people believe in evolution when they’ve never seen Darwin appear in a piece of burnt toast? ”     -Uncle Bob Smith (timeless)



Meetings are at Irish Embassy, 900 Main Street Durang

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

  Continue reading

August 2016 Newsletter

The discussion topic for this month:

How can society distinguish between the violent actions of extremists, and those of the mentally ill, and should they be treated differently?

This discussion will be led by Sebastian Pivnicka, who has this to say about the topic he suggested:

“The Aurora theatre shooting was clearly (in my opinion) carried out by
someone with serious mental issues. Yet, the Charlie Hebdo shooting was
portrayed by the media as a “terrorist act” carried out by “religious
extremists.” Is it fair to characterize the latter as purely a religious
issue and not acknowledge a mental component to it?


In contrast, the Planned Parenthood shooting in Colorado Springs was
not widely characterized as a “terrorist act”, though it clearly had a
religious motivation, complete with rhetorical support from certain
religious groups (though they denounced the act after the fact). But
surely, there is a mental illness component to his actions as well?

We are familiar with the existence of religious extremists, but
there are also violent acts carried out for many other reasons. Race,
homophobia, left wing causes, right wing causes, and many others have been
cited as influencing people to carry out violent acts.


We tolerate (in this country) a wide variety of religious thought.
Some of which seem every bit as extreme as the groups in the Middle East
that are getting all the press these days.

Snake handling, faith healing, and the shunning of modern technology and medicine are examples. But,looking at the Amish, they are pacifist and content to not force their views on people outside of their communities. And we would hardly consider them to be suffering from mental illness. Misinformed (mal-informed?) perhaps, but not ill, and not violent.

Do religious beliefs contribute to mental issues (as might occur
with a homosexual trying to fit in with a religious community that is
intolerant of his sexuality) and does this cause more violent acts?


Thanks, in advance, to Sebastian for suggesting this topic and for volunteering to lead this month’s discussion!

Continue reading

July 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

Thanks to the following for contributing to July’s Newsletter: Betsy Norton, Lou Fontana, Rebecca Martinez, Marc Masor, Wray Boswell, Dan McGuinness, Kathleen O’Conner, Ray Polidori, and Uncle Bob


“There ain’t no answer. There ain’t going to be any answer. There never has been an answer. That’s the answer”.  
                                                     -Gertrude Stein (1874 – 1946)

Next general meeting, July 20

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:

When was the moment that you decided you were an (choose one) Atheist/Agnostic/Humanist/Secularist/Free Thinker/Rationalist? 

What was your first inkling that the religion of your birth was seriously deficient? When did you first set both feet firmly on the Road to Perdition? What led you to your Atheism? It’s always interesting to hear about others’ personal stories and what led them to reject religion. At this month’s general meeting, you will have the opportunity to learn more about your fellow members and what events shaped their lives. Share your own story and then sit back and listen as others do the same!

doesn't it bother you

Continue reading

June 2016 Newsletter

The discussion topic for this month: “Street Epistemology”
Presented by Kathleen O’Conner

Epistemology is the investigation of what distinguishes justified belief from mere opinion. What is the most productive way for atheists to converse with believers about matters of faith? Should we even try? street-epistemologyThis is a topic that was suggested by an episode of Seth Andrews’ The Thinking Atheist in which Seth interviews Anthony Magnabosco who is an advocate (one of many) of ‘street epistemology’. Magnabosco interviews random people on the street about their religious beliefs with the goal of gently leading the respondent to seriously examine the roots of their beliefs while advancing the atheist/rationalist world view.

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

Continue reading

May 2016 Newsletter

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

Discussion topic for this month:
Grief Without Belief
Presented by Maria Doucette


Maria says: “I would like to do a contrast and comparison of the stages of grief and how they relate to people who do not have a higher power to rely upon. I have seen firsthand how believing in a higher power makes grief easier in some ways. Atheists often comment that the only thing they envy about people who have a faith in God is their belief that they will be able to see their loved one later and that it is part of God’s plan.”

Continue reading

April 2016 Newsletter

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

Discussion topic for this month: Violence and the Human Condition
Presented by Adrian Tillery


Adrian writes:
“What motivates violence? 
Why do compassionate people kill others, or themselves? 
Most acts of violence are actually committed by people that feel they are doing the right thing.  What role does violence have in regulating our social relationships/contracts? 
When speaking of violence, the issue is not black and white, but grey.  I want to explore violence in our history, in our society, and in our lives.

Continue reading