Durango Skeptics and Atheists JUNE 2015 Newsletter

“For the first time ever, everything is in place for the Battle of Armageddon and the second coming of Christ.”― Ronald Reagan (1911 – 2004) 

“I would be unelectable.  I’m an Atheist. As we all know, that is something that people will not accept.” Ronald Reagan Jr. (1958 –     ) 

Next general meeting,  Wednesday  June 17, 

Meetings are at Irish Embassy, 9TH & Main ST.  DInner from 5:30PM.  DISCUSSION starts at 6:30.

The topic for this month: Kathleen O’Conner will lead a discussion about the format of our monthly meetings.

NEW FEATURE IN THE NEWSLETTER:                                              What Is Your Favorite Scenic Drive/Destination?

Share your photos of your favorite scenic drive with your fellow Skeptics.  For June, see the back-country by following a proposed new Colorado Scenic Byway… See map and photos below!

Special Tom the Dancing Bug

The Tom the Dancing Bug comic below is inspired by the real-life story of an Iranian political cartoonist who was arrested, beaten and jailed with a 12 year sentence for drawing a cartoon depicting Iran’s leaders as cows and monkeys…see Ruben Bolling’s comments following the cartoon…

Tom the Dancing Bug 1242 je suis atena
Tom the Dancing Bug is reproduced in our newsletter with the permission of the cartoonist, Ruben Bolling

Ruben Bolling says: Here is Atena Farghadani, who is reportedly in a precarious medical condition due to a prison hunger strike.

TtDB for June #2 Iranian artist

Since creating her cartoon about the Iranian parliament, she’s been arrested, jailed, beaten, and has suffered a heart attack.

There was a time, from the late 19th century to mid-20th century, when cartoonists were among the most influential artists and commentators in the world.  It seems odd that at a time when cartoonists’ influence has so greatly diminished that they seem make global headlines only by being conspicuously targeted by violent despots and fanatics.

Here is more information about this brave woman.  And here is more.

Iran cows and monkeys

BONUS! If you manage to scroll through the entire newsletter, you’ll be rewarded with the very first ever Tom the Dancing Bug cartoon, re-published this month in honor of the 25th anniversary of TtDB!  It’s called ‘Bad Fetus’ and is as timely today as it was ‘way back in 1990!



My Stroke of Insight by Jill Bolte Taylor                                  (recommended by Betsy Norton)                                                  Sunday, June 28 5:30PM                                                                                at Betsy’s home, 448 E 11th Street Durango


On December 10, 1996, Jill Bolte Taylor, a thirty-seven- year-old Harvard-trained brain scientist experienced a massive stroke in the left hemisphere of her brain. As she observed her mind deteriorate to the point that she could not walk, talk, read, write, or recall any of her life-all within four hours … For Taylor, her stroke was a blessing and a revelation. It taught her that by “stepping to the right” of our left brains, we can uncover feelings of well-being that are often sidelined by “brain chatter.” Reaching wide audiences through her talk at the Technology, Entertainment, Design (TED) conference and her appearance on Oprah’s online Soul Series, Taylor provides a valuable recovery guide for those touched by brain injury and an inspiring testimony that inner peace is accessible to anyone.



The Lemon Tree by Sandy Tolan                                                            Friday, August 14                                                                                          at Carolyn and Larry’s Home


 In 1967, Bashir Al-Khayri, a Palestinian twenty-five-year-old, journeyed to Israel, with the goal of seeing the beloved old stone house, with the lemon tree behind it, that he and his family had fled nineteen years earlier. To his surprise, when he found the house he was greeted by Dalia Ashkenazi Landau, a nineteen-year-old Israeli college student, whose family fled Europe for Israel following the Holocaust. On the stoop of their shared home, Dalia and Bashir began a rare friendship, forged in the aftermath of war and tested over the next thirty-five
years in ways that neither could imagine on that summer day in 1967. Based on extensive research, and springing from his enormously resonant documentary that aired on NPR’s Fresh Air in 1998, Sandy Tolan brings the Israeli-Palestinian conflict down to its most human level, suggesting that even amid the bleakest political realities there exist stories of hope and reconciliation.


More on (Moron?) Political Cartoons

How Some Americans Are Using Their Right of Free Speech   Some months ago, you may remember that our group had a spirited discussion about the unfettered ‘Right of Free Speech’ in reference to the horrific attack at the offices of Charlie Hebdo in Paris. Some of us maintained that, while legal, some speech might be better off unspoken while others championed the right to say anything, any time, without regard to the consequences – Let the Listener Beware. This issue has come to the fore again as a result of an exercise of Free Speech by Pamela Geller who sponsored a national “Draw the Prophet” cartoon contest which was aimed at provoking Muslim ire by mocking the Prophet Mohammed.


Geller is the founder of the American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI), an anti-Muslim group that has been identified as a ‘hate group’ by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC).  As a result of this particular exercise of speech rights, two heavily armed Islamists attempted another mass-murder at a community center in Garland, TX where the AFDI was awarding prizes in the contest.  Happily, the would-be killers were thwarted by security guards and the only two deaths were those of the Islamic terrorists themselves. The end of the issue?  No.

The issue has recently metastasized into yet another confrontation, this time in front of a Phoenix AZ  mosque where the two would-be gunmen once worshipped. Despite the fact that the leaders of the mosque have denounced violence (as well as rejecting groups such as Boko Haram and ISIS), armed demonstrators swarmed outside the mosque.

mosque protest 00007

mosque protest 006 topright news mosque protest 005 mosque protest 004 business insider

Demonstrators shout during a "Freedom of Speech Rally Round II" outside the Islamic Community Center in Phoenix, Arizona May 29, 2015. More than 200 protesters, some armed, berated Islam and its Prophet Mohammed outside an Arizona mosque on Friday in a provocative protest that was denounced by counterprotesters shouting "Go home, Nazis," weeks after an anti-Muslim event in Texas came under attack by two gunmen.    REUTERS/Nancy Wiechec - RTR4Y3N8
Demonstrators shout during a “Freedom of Speech Rally Round II” outside the Islamic Community Center in Phoenix, Arizona May 29, 2015. More than 200 protesters, some armed, berated Islam and its Prophet Mohammed outside an Arizona mosque on Friday in a provocative protest that was denounced by counterprotesters shouting “Go home, Nazis,” weeks after an anti-Muslim event in Texas came under attack by two gunmen. REUTERS/Nancy Wiechec – RTR4Y3N8

mosque protest 002 alJazeera

mosque protest 001NBC

Many anti-Muslim demonstrators wore T-shirts emblazoned with the slogan ‘F*** Islam’.  Counter-demonstrators chanted ‘Love your neighbor’.  Free Speech’s finest hour?

For more on anti-Islamic activist groups see the SPLC article: http://www.splcenter.org/get-informed/intelligence-report/browse-all-issues/2011/summer/the-anti-muslim-inner-circle.

To see an interactive map of US hate groups, go here: http://www.splcenter.org/hate-map . The state of Colorado is home to 15 hate groups, 14 of which are located east of the Rockies.  The one exception is the ‘Brother Nathanael Foundation’, located in Frisco, which is categorized as a ‘general hate group’. At least it’s all-inclusive!

hate group cartoon

So, Where Are the ‘Good’ Imams and Why Don’t They Speak Out?

They are here and they do!     http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/03/27/imam-isis-haqiqah-magazine_n_6956028.html

Leading Imams and scholars from Britain and Europe, from the  third left, Imam Asim Hussain, Sarah Warrick, Dr Qari Muhammad Asim and Shaykh Ahmad Babikir hold up various versions, online and printed of the new magazine 'Haqiqah' which translates as 'The Reality' and is aimed young people and to counter extremist views from groups such as Islamic State, at its official launch in London, Thursday, March, 26, 2015. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)
Leading Imams and scholars from Britain and Europe, from the third left, Imam Asim Hussain, Sarah Warrick, Dr Qari Muhammad Asim and Shaykh Ahmad Babikir hold up various versions, online and printed of the new magazine ‘Haqiqah’ which translates as ‘The Reality’ and is aimed young people and to counter extremist views from groups such as Islamic State, at its official launch in London, Thursday, March, 26, 2015. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)

The Line Betweeen ‘Religion’ and ‘Science is Becoming Blurry

(Contributed by Mike Berry) 

SCINECE EXPERIMENTThe concept of ‘falsifiability’ has been used as a way to separate scientific truths from religious and philosophical musings for centuries. Until now, it was a means to draw a bright line between Religion/pseudo-science and actual Science. Generally, a scientific theory is accepted as correct if it is possible that it can be falsified, or proven false, by means of observations, testing and experimentation.  If a concept cannot be tested to produce either a true/false conclusion, that concept cannot be considered to be in the scientific realm…it is something that must be accepted on faith alone.

This differentiation has become important to atheists today because of theist claims that ‘science’ relies on ‘faith’ and is, therefore, just another ‘religion’. Atheists respond that scientific theories are not accepted on mere faith, but instead are testable (falsifiable) to determine whether they are, in fact, True or False. A scientific theory which is tested and found to be false is discarded, unlike religious dogma that cannot be tested and therefore cannot be objectively determined to be True or False.  Dogma is distinct from Science for this reason. Thus, non-falsifiable concepts such as ‘Creationism’ or ‘Intelligent Design’ must be considered to be pseudo-science…theyhave no place in science classrooms.


In recent decades, however, the definition of Science as that which is ‘falsifiable’ has become muddled. In this era of mathematical constructs such as ‘string theory’ or theories of the ‘multiverse’ (which attempt to describe the origins of the universe or the mechanisms of the quantum world) falsifiable experiments are difficult, and sometimes impossible, to conduct. physics in crisisTechnology may never exist that can conduct the necessary experiments and observations. Although these theories are elegant descriptions and predictors of what we can observe, they may not ultimately be falsifiable.  Read more about this ‘Crisis at the Edge of Physics’ here: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/07/opinion/a-crisis-at-the-edge-of-physics.html?_r=0

Carl Sagan’s ‘Baloney Detector’

(Contributed by Kathleen O’Conner)   http://www.brainpickings.org/2014/01/03/baloney-detection-kit-carl-sagan/

carlsagan1It can be tough to distinguish between BS and Truth these days. But don’t despair, there’s help from beyond the grave!  Carl Sagan provided, in his book “Demon Haunted World”, a lesson in the ‘fine art of Baloney Detection’. This is a must-read for anyone who engages in discussions with zealots, family members who buy into pseudo-science or the missionaries at your front door.  Sagan “…reflects on the all too human allure of promises of supernatural reunions in the afterlife, reminding us that falling for such fictions doesn’t make us stupid or bad people, but simply means that we need to equip ourselves with the right tools against them.”  Brush up on Occam’s Razor, learn to identify ad hominem attacks and common fallacies such as the ‘argument from authority’, ‘special pleadings’ and ‘straw man arguments’ … it’s a treasure chest of useful tools that may save you from frustration at your next family reunion!    We miss you, Carl!

sin against mankind

Know Yourself: Recognize Any of These Cognitive Biases in Your Own Thinking?

(Contributed by Marc Masor)               In order to debate effectively, it would be useful to recognize biases that exist in our own thinking. Here is a list https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_cognitive_biases  of cognitive biases that infect all of us! Depressingly, there are dozens and dozens of them!

confirmation bias

Franklin Graham, Wrapped in American Flag and Carrying the Cross


From HuffingtonPost: ‘Prominent evangelist Franklin Graham wants Ruth Bader Ginsburg to finally “see the truth of Scripture” and vote against same-sex marriage as the Supreme Court gears up to rule on the matter this month.’ In Graham’s own words, “I appreciate all of you who have joined me in praying for our Supreme Court Justices individually over the past five days. Today, let’s focus our prayers on Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who has served on the Court for over two decades. Those who support same-sex marriage consider her an ally in their fight to toss God’s Holy Word aside. As the Supreme Court continues to deliberate over the constitutionality of same-sex marriage, let’s pray that Justice Ginsburg’s eyes would be opened to the truth of Scripture and that she would not be deceived by the arguments of those who seek to impose their “new morality” on our nation”.


One Small Step for a God, a Giant Leap For Mankind

http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-32960507     Is God a ‘He’, ‘She’ or ‘It’?  Churches are slowly coming around to address the ‘gender’ question…now what about God’s color….?

I met god and she's black


PARANOIA ABOUT Shariah Law in Idaho Jeopardizes Child Support agreement


Dozens of nations have spent years in negotiations to make it easier for single parents to collect child-support payments across international borders.  But the entire international treaty may be scrapped because lawmakers in Idaho worry that the agreement would ‘open the doors’ to Shariah Law being enforced in the US.  Why can one state derail years of careful negotiations?  Good question…read the article and find out!

shariah law

 Silly Televangelist Tricks, Part 1

Ask And You Shall Receive: Rev. Creflo Dollar Will Get His $68,000,000 Gulfstream Jet After All!         http://www.christianpost.com/news/creflo-dollar-will-get-70-million-gulfstream-g650-jet-says-church-world-changers-board-says-it-is-necessary-for-ministry-139858/           World Changers Church International will buy the aptly named Rev. Dollar his multi-million dollar jet after shutting down their controversial crowd-funding campaign which aimed to raise the money from the believing public.  The Jet is necessary, says WCCI, because the ministry ‘is called to serve people globally’ and the Gulfstream ‘reflects the worldwide nature of the Great Commission’. Just exactly what Jesus Would Do.


A man and his jet.

Silly Televangelist Tricks, Part 2

Pat Robertson: “God Killed Three Year Old to Prevent ‘Next Hitler’.   Yes, he really said that.  Rev. Pat, answering a woman’s question about how to comfort a co-worker upon the death of her three year old, said, “As far as God’s concerned, He knows the end from the beginning, and He sees a little baby, and that little baby could grow up to be Adolf Hitler, he could grow up to be Joseph Stalin, he could grow up to be some serial killer, or he could grow up to die of a hideous disease. God sees all of that, and for that life to be terminated while he’s a baby, he’s going to be with God forever in Heaven so it isn’t a bad thing.”  It begs the question: Why didn’t God snuff the REAL Adolph Hitler when he was a baby? Read more at http://wonkette.com/587943/this-is-the-worst-thing-pat-robertson-has-ever-said#x4ZglRKXXAaQQVWZ.99

Pat Robertson Plague
Pat Robertson Plague

Just Because It’s Funny!

From tickld.com http://diary.tickld.com/x/cat-dog-diary

A Dog’s Diary vs. A Cat’s Diary.

Hair Salon Makes Unambiguous Statement


After a customer refused to allow a gay hair stylist to cut his son’s hair, the (gay) owner of the shop posted the sign, reproduced below, on the front door of his business.

hair salon sign

Seeing the Sights in the Great South West

Do you have a favorite ‘scenic drive’ or destination within an hour or two of Durango?  Please share it with the rest of the group!  To kick things off, here is a drive that was recently recommended in a column appearing in the Durango Herald. It is a proposed new ‘Scenic Byway’ being considered by the Colorado Department of Transportation.  It follows the route of a former RR right-of-way through some very pretty and untouched back country.

Scenic Byway map and pix

As promised, here is the original Tom the Dancing Bug comic as it was published 25 years ago this month!

Tom the Dancing Bug 001 bad fetus
Tom the Dancing Bug is reproduced in our monthly newsletter with permission of the artist, Ruben Bolling.  Visit the archive to see more TtDB cartoons at: http://gocomics.typepad.com/tomthedancingbugblog/

Thanks to Mike Berry, Marc Masor and Kathleen O’Conner for contributing to this month’s newsletter!

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!


4 thoughts on “Durango Skeptics and Atheists JUNE 2015 Newsletter

  1. Dave

    Thank You Very Much for posting the newsletter Larry! I enjoy keeping up with some topics I don’t necessarily follow via this medium.
    I would like to suggest that members go to the Durango Herald Facebook and rate the Herald very low due their continual promotion of pseudoscience, alt med, and various other woo woo issues. I dropped a couple on them regarding Friday’s story about the man with Morgellon’s disease, otherwise known as delusional Parasitosis.
    As much as I prefer to support the newspaper as an important part of a thriving community, it is really getting to be difficult to write that check.
    Thanks again Larry!

  2. As the Wiliam Allen White quote in the masthead of The Herald’s Opinion page says: “There are three things that no one can do to the entire satisfaction of anyone else – make love, poke the fire, and run a newspaper.” The Herald is the only paper in the world that gives a rat’s ass about Durango and environs. Although it gets some things wrong, it is the only source for coverage of local politics and stories of local interest and we are lucky to have it, IMHO. I don’t always agree with it (although I often do), but I often find items of interest in its pages that would have otherwise never come to my attention. The story about the proposed new Scenic Byway that I related in this newsletter is one such but there have been many others. I enjoy scanning the pages of the Herald over my morning cup of tea – I can’t help but think that a world without a local newspaper would be a poorer, sadder place. I hope you continue to write out that check to continue your subscription because, even if they print the occasional story we disagree with, the Durango Herald is a treasure…again, in my humble opinion! It is worth supporting.

  3. Dave

    Agreed that the Herald is valuable for the community information and as an important part of the Durango community. I still believe that letting the management know that their promotion of pseudoscience is harmful is a worthwhile activity.

    I’ve driven the back road to Dulce a number of times over the past 30 years, and it is a great way to see what this country was like prior to the 1950s and pavement! The trip last October was beautiful!

  4. Dave – I certainly agree that the paper should know what pleases and what displeases their readers. Their policy is to print every Letter-to-the-Editor that they receive and that is what I’d urge you to do: write them a letter give voice to your opinion in a forum that other regular readers of the paper can see it. Just the other day, a reader excoriated The Herald because the paper printed an article about GMO food that didn’t rail against Monsanto and didn’t say that GMO foods are unsafe for human consumption…it was a case of the paper sticking with establishment Science and thereby angering another reader…the opposite of your complaint. Readers: you can’t live with ’em and you can’t gut them like the worthless slugs they are.
    About the backroad to Dulce, our observation is that developing this area into a major road will quickly kill the charm and beauty that it possesses…soon the road will be lined with Kwiki Marts and gas stations…but that’s progress in America…I guess.

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