Durango Skeptics and Atheists NEWSLETTER April 2015

“I prayed for freedom for twenty years, but received no answer until I prayed with my legs”.

 (Fredrick Douglas, African-American Abolitionist (1818-1895)

Next general meeting,  Wednesday  April 15

Irish Embassy, 900 Main Street Durango                          Dinner, for those interested, from 5:30PM.                               Meeting starts at 6:30.

The topic for this month:                                                               This may be one of our infamous ‘free-for-all’ meetings.  Do you want to discuss the death penalty, in light of the Boston Bomber’s conviction? Rights for LGBT citizens? Left brain vs. Right brain?  Love/Hate Same Harris? Or pick a topic from among this month’s news items detailed below. Bring your pet topics to the meeting and bounce your ideas off your fellow Skeptics!

Tom the Dancing Bug by Ruben Bolling: Your reward for scrolling through this entire document is Tom the D.B. at the very tail end.



For descriptions and reviews of our book club selections, please visit:  MeetUp.com/Durango Skeptics and Atheists

 THIS MONTH’S SELECTION:                                                                 NYT Best-seller The Dove Keepers , by Alice Hoffman

dove keepers Friday April 24, 2015 (6:30PM)                      35 Cedar Drive (Durango West II)                                                                                           Hosted by Carolyn and Larry Bollinger                                                                      Vegetarian lasagna will be served                                                                                                 From Alicehoffman.com:  “Over five years in the writing, [this is an] ambitious and mesmerizing novel…a tour de force of imagination and research, set in ancient Israel.”                                                                                                                           PLEASE RSVP AT MEETUP.COM  

Coming Up in the Book Club:  

  One Nation, Under God by Vincent M. Wales (recommended by Kylene)  Wednesday, May 13…time/location TBA

NYT Best-seller My Stroke of Insight by Jill Bolte Tayor                             (recommended & hosted by Betsy Norton)                                                                                Sunday, June 28 (5:30PM)  448 E 11th St.  Durango


A Retraction/Clarification  The March Newsletter included links to an article reporting on the New York Attorney General’s study of nutritional supplements.  The study purported that the ingredients listed on the labels did not accurately reflect the actual ingredients used in manufacture in 79% of supplements tested.  But, during our last general meeting, Marc Masor (a former nutrition research scientist for 16 years who holds a Ph.D. in nutritional biochemistry) told us that the NY AG’s study was flawed because it used inappropriate testing measures that yielded incorrect results. pills    Therefore, Marc urges that we not jump to hasty conclusions based on this single study. Don’t throw away those bottles of Ginkgo Biloba and St. John’s Wort just yet.  (Well, as we’ve learned from a member talk by Joyce and Lou Fontana on the subject, you probably should throw them away…but not because the ingredient labeling is wrong). This link, provided by Marc has all the details of where the testing process went awryhttp://www.nutraingredients-usa.com/Research/NY-AG-takes-on-GNC-Walgreens-Walmart-Target-on-herbal-supplements 


Is the Use of Fish Oil as a Supplement Just a Fish Story?                 Yes and No… (contributed by group co-founder, Kathleen O’Conner)                This article says that the third most widely used supplement in the US no better than a placebo.    http://doubtfulnews.com/2015/03/the-era-of-fish-oil-as-medication-is-over/

fish_oil_shutterstock_p   Marc Masor says, Not so fast.  I looked at the JAMA paper. Two of the studies I know, they’re focused on whether or not DHA affects infant development, that’s not about fish oil and cardiovascular disease. Some of the studies did indeed have specific outcomes, like ventricular arrhythmia, and relapse of Crone’s disease. I also found it interesting that there were absolutely no references from any nutrition journals.  I know from my experience that there is a massive amount of research in nutrition journals, and we’re talking about a nutrient, not a pharmaceutical. If I really wanted to dissect this paper completely I’d want to see all of their references, and given how they threw in studies on cognitive development in infants into the mix, I’m skeptical of their skepticism.”


Follow-Up on California’s Sodomite Suppression Act  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/03/23/california-anti-gay-bill_n_6927464.html   The March Newsletter reported on this loathsome proposed California ballot measure…here is the latest development.  “It doesn’t matter that a California lawyer’s outrageous Sodomite Suppression Act ballot initiative proposes executing gays with “bullets to the head,” or that it’s unconstitutional and could never become law. California Attorney General Kamala Harris is forced to allow the measure to circulate for signatures, legal experts said.”

0-sodom-gomorrahBut Californians are striking back in some interesting ways!  Read about the ‘Shellfish Suppression Act’ and the ‘Jackass Act’ here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/04/07/california-sodomite-suppression-act-shellfish_n_7018286.html  Joe Decker of San Jose proposed the legislation against shellfish, writing: “Shellfish are a monstrous evil that Almighty God, giver of freedom and liberty, commands us in Leviticus to suppress. They also smell bad.”  Leviticus calls the consumption of ‘all that have not fins and scales in the seas’ an abomination. Those who consume or sell shellfish, Decker wrote, should be subject to a $666,000 fine or a prison term of six years, six months and six days. (Get it?)”


Dr. Laura: If You Believe Some of Leviticus, Why Not All Of It?(Contributed by member, Marc Masor)  http://www.dailykos.com/story/2010/03/25/850561/-An-Open-Letter-to-Dr-Laura-Schlesinger?detail=emailclassic   If The Bible is God’s Word inerrant, how can a person pick and choose which verses are to be followed and which are to be disregarded? If a believer picks whatever passages are personally appealing and ignores the rest, isn’t that blasphemous?  Bart Ehrman, former evangelical and a professional scholar of the New Testament, says that such a practice is tantamount to ‘creating your own, new, personal version of The Bible.

leviticus-1  If you are curious, as I was, about how Christians respond to the challenges posed in the open letter, check out ‘Christian Voice’ http://www.repentuk.com/laura.html .  Get ready to slap your forehead.


They LIKE Us!  They Really Like Us!  Or At Least Tolerate Us!(Contributed by member, Joyce Fontana)          “In what is believed to be a first in the United States, the Common Council of Madison, Wis., has voted to amend the city’s equal opportunities ordinance ‘to add non-religion as a protected class.’  The legislation adds atheists to the categories of people who could potentially face discrimination. It was co-sponsored by 14 of the council’s 20 members and approved without objection Tuesday night.”



Why the Fuss Over Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act?http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2015/03/what-makes-indianas-religious-freedom-law-different/388997/          Supporters of Indiana’s RFRA claimed that their new law was ‘identical’ to a federal law of the same name which was signed by Bill Clinton in 1993.  But the difference is in the tiny details…read about it here.  And be sure to see Ruben Bolling’s take on this controversy in this month’s Tom the Dancing Bug, which is at the very end of this newsletter!

As of this writing, crowd funding has raised $842,000 for the pizza parlor that claimed it would not ‘cater’ a gay wedding and was forced to close up shop due to ‘threats of violence’.    Meanwhile, a counter-protest effort to raise money for homeless kids managed to raise only $42,000…compare that with $50,000 raised in just the first 11 hours of the pizza parlor support campaign!

pizza-4-equality                                                                                                                                                                       This is a link   http://www.bizpacreview.com/2015/04/06/liberals-launch-revenge-gofundme-to-counter-conservatives-pizza-love-forgot-one-big-thing-193130 to a right-leaning website gloating,  “…Conservative are great at donating when the cause is just; liberals are great at using tax dollars to support their own pet programs, whether it’s abortion clinics, global warming, or green energy. But they’re loathe to dig into their own pockets.”                    (They hate us.  They really hate us!)


Utilities Wage War on Rooftop Solar   http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/utilities-sensing-threat-put-squeeze-on-booming-solar-roof-industry/2015/03/07/2d916f88-c1c9-11e4-ad5c-3b8ce89f1b89_story.html    All of us rely on the infrastructure that provides electric power.  But what happens when home owners ‘opt out’ of the system and begin to generate their own power using solar panels? Who pays for the maintenance of the traditional electrical infrastructure?  Utilities have begun a new tactic using a surcharge (usually around $50/month) to ensure that solar powered homes pay their fair share of the costs. Is this really ‘fair’?  Read all about it here.


A Passover Sign From God Almighty?                http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/a-passover-sign-from-god/      Evangelicals and Orthodox Jews are abuzz about a ‘pure, red heifer’ born to a farmer in New Jersey. Why?  Because they claim that this particular cow is evidence, sent by The Almighty, of the End Times.


Evangelicals believe that the Rapture will occur when three conditions are met: The re-forming of the state of Israel (done), the return of all Jews to Israel (in process) and the re-construction of the Temple in Jerusalem (TBA). The appearance of the ‘Red Heifer Without Blemish’ is a sure sign that the temple is about to be re-built.  The heifer’s ashes, you see, are required to dedicate the new temple.                     Logical, yes?  No.


More Bovine Prophecy  http://beforeitsnews.com/prophecy/2015/02/you-must-prepare-now-unbelievable-startling-prophecy-signs-point-to-the-coming-economic-collapse-and-the-end-of-the-world-2467230.html     Evangelicals love numerology.  Specifically Genesis 41:1-4, wherein Pharaoh dreams of 7 good years and 7 bad years.  Here is the Bible text (FYI, ‘kine’ refers to a group of cows): 1 And it came to pass at the end of two full years, that Pharaoh dreamed: and, behold, he stood by the river. 2 And, behold, there came up out of the river seven well favoured kine and fatfleshed; and they fed in a meadow. 3 And, behold, seven other kine came up after them out of the river, ill favoured and leanfleshed; and stood by the other kine upon the brink of the river. 4 And the ill favoured and leanfleshed kine did eat up the seven well favoured and fat kine. So Pharaoh awoke. Genesis 41.  So when the cow, pictured below, showed up it was naturally taken as a ‘sign’ that The End is nigh…”7”, get it?

cow with 7

Evangelicals point to the past 7 years (Obama’s presidency) as the 7 ‘bad years’ so it only stands to ‘reason’ that the next 7 years will be ‘good’.  Understand?  Me either.


Arizona Legislator Suggests Making Sunday Church Attendance MANDATORY (Contributed by member, Beth Jones) http://www.addictinginfo.org/2015/03/26/arizona-tea-party-senator-require-every-american-to-attend-the-church-of-their-choice-to-return-morality-to-america-video/     “Probably we should be debating a bill requiring every American to attend a church of their choice on Sunday to see if we can get back to having a moral rebirth…”                                                                                                                     The fact is that religion does nothing to make people ‘more moral’…a study by the University of Illinois at Chicago points to the fact that religious and/or political affiliation has little to do with dictating a person’s understanding of Right and Wrong :  http://www.livescience.com/47799-morality-religion-political-beliefs.html

********************************************************                                   Cruz News         

  CRUZ-PRESIDENT-1 He’s the first Republican to formally declare his presidential candidacy. Here is a smattering of comments from The Media.


And Now For Something Completely Different…Musical Comic Relief!

“Jerry Falwell’s God” by Roy Zimmerman  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MyE5wjc4XOw

roy zimmerman                                                                    This guy is pretty funny. Plays a mean acoustic guitar, too!                                             “Creation Science 101”, Roy Zimmerman  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uIwiPsgRrOs

 NOTE: Roy is no relation to ‘that’ Zimmerman…speaking of whom….


George Zimmerman: “Killing Trayvon Martin Was God’s Plan”.  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/03/25/george-zimmerman-gods-plan_n_6938456.html     If you are wondering if George Zimmerman suffers from a guilty conscience or sleepless nights, the answer is a firm “NO”. “I believe God has his plans, and for me to second-guess them would be hypocritical, almost blasphemous,” he says in this video:    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AB_iRe0f7Bk&feature=youtu.be

0130-george-zimmerman-boxing-1  However, some Christians rightly take exception to Mr. Zimmerman’s theology: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/formerlyfundie/george-zimmerman/ 


News of the Somewhat Deranged:

 Duck Dynasty’s Phil Roberson Spews http://www.rightwingwatch.org/content/phil-robertson-hypothesizes-about-atheist-family-getting-raped-and-killed 

duck dynasty douche            His thesis is that an atheist, being immoral and lawless, wouldn’t mind seeing his family raped and murdered.  This is a different sort of comic relief…the eye-rolling kind.  Listen to this genius, in his own words…then go kill some ducks.


Pope Watch:  A Miracle?     http://vaticaninsider.lastampa.it/en/the-vatican/detail/articolo/francesco-napoli-39932/       Pope Francis is being credited by Believers with a miracle, worked in public.  While kissing a relic alleged to contain the dried blood of St. Gennaro (aka, Januarius, thought to be the martyred Bishop of Naples in the 4th century CE), the ‘blood’ liquefied!  A Miracle!

Italy Pope   Read further into the incident and we find that the ‘blood’ liquefies on schedule on the saint’s ‘feast day’ and any time the ‘blood’ sample is taken out of storage for public veneration. Pope Francis is a conundrum; sometimes admirable, wise and worldly…sometimes steeped in superstition and voodoo.

If you crave more information about Gennaro/Januarius and the ‘miracle’ of his liquefied blood, go here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Januarius


News of the Superstitious: No One is Immune!                    (Contributed by member, Marc Masor)   http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2015/03/the-science-of-superstition/384962/       Before laughing too much at the Pope and his alleged miracle, remember that all of us are susceptible to superstitions…and I don’t mean just recovering-Catholics!  “Even atheists seem to fear a higher power. A study published last year found that self-identified nonbelievers began to sweat when reading aloud sentences asking God to do terrible things (“I dare God to make my parents drown”). Not only that, they stressed out just as much as believers did.”


News of the Particularly Gullible: Jesus ‘Appears’ in a Rockslide http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/03/25/jesus-rockslide-colombia_n_6942320.html       The Son of God has appeared on grilled cheese sandwiches, in oil slicks, on fried chicken, in smoke plumes and stains on dirty windows…now it’s a rockslide in Columbia.                                                                         The landowners are charging $0.79 (U.S.) to witness this latest ‘miracle’.Jesus in a rockslideROCKSLIDE JESUS

The human tendency to recognize faces and patterns in/on everyday items is called ‘pareidolia’ (PEAR-a-dolya).  This built-in predilection to see things that aren’t really there is why we see Mother Theresa, Jesus and other religious apparitions in burned cinnamon toast and bird poop (see below).  Read more about pareidolia here: http://www.skepdic.com/pareidol.html

HufPo is a good source of compilations of odd photos…here are 42 ‘miraculous’ images you can peruse:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/11/17/jesus-in-chicken_n_6172214.html  A sampling of these photos are reproduced below for your convenience and amusement…Bird shit JesusBIRD-POOP JESUS  (I see a dog’s head and face)

Breakfast Taco JesusBREAKFAST TACO JESUS  (Could be Rasputin)

Chicken JesusFRIED CHICKEN JESUS (Rasputin again?  The MGM lion?)

Crabby JesusCRABBY JESUS (or Osama bin Laden)

Peeling Pain JesusPEELING PAINT JESUS (OK, that IS Jesus…                                             with the crown of thorns no less!)

Pizza JesusPIZZA JESUS (or the Zig Zag rolling papers logo)


Walmart JesusWALMART RECEIPT JESUS (or Che Guevara on a bad day)


Follow-Up on HBO’s “Going Clear” Scientology Documentary  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/04/07/john-travolta-defends-scientology_n_7016632.html        John Travolta, who has been a pampered member of the Scientology cult for decades, condemns the documentary (for which he declined to be interviewed and which he has not seen) as being,              “…decidedly negative.”

john-travolta-going-clear-scientology-documentary    Travolta further says,           “…[Scientology has] been so beautiful for me, that I can’t imagine attacking it.”  The HBO documentary features interviews with former high-ranking Scientology officials who have left the cult and allege to have been physically abused by David Miscavige, Scientology’s heir to founder L. Ron Hubbard.


And finally…here it is, your moment of Dancing Bug…

Tom the Dancing Bug

Tom the Dancing Bug is reproduced in our monthly Newsletter courtesy of the artist, Ruben Bolling.

Visit the archive for years of TtDB cartoons at  http://gocomics.typepad.com/tomthedancingbugblog/

Are there any announcements, activities, opinions or other news items you’d like your fellow Skeptics and Atheists to know about? Drop an email to larrybollinger@comcast.net with your information so that it can be included in the next newsletter!

Thanks to Wray, Beth, Marc, Joyce and Kathleen for contributing to this month’s newsletter!


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