Durango Skeptics and Atheists NEWSLETTER JANUARY 2016

“Interconnectedness requires exploration. Nothing is impossible. Today, Science tells us that the essence of nature is awareness. Ego is born in the gap where nature has been excluded.”

– Computer-generated ‘wisdom’ from the New Age Bullshit Generator (see below)

 

Next general meeting:

Wednesday  January 20

Irish Embassy, 900 Main Street Durango

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

  

Discussion topic for this month “Guns and America” 

guns in America

  1. Do you think there is a Gun Problem in the US? Why or why not?
  2. Is gun ownership a ‘sacred’ right, as the NRA claims? (See Discussion Notes, below)
  3. Is the Constitution, as wrtten 250 years ago, also sacred? If so, are we prohibited from regulating guns?
  4. If you hold the Constitution to be ‘sacred’, how is your sentiment different from a theist who holds the Bible to be sacred?
  5. If you agree that guns in America are a ‘problem’, do you have any solutions to suggestions?

DISCUSSION BACKGROUND INFORMATION: 

NEUTRAL ON THE ISSUE: 

Polling on the Issues: Pew Research

http://www.people-press.org/2013/03/12/why-own-a-gun-protection-is-now-top-reason/  Americans’ opinions are all over the map…unsurprisingly, there is a large divided between political parties and gun owners vs. non-owners. If you love statistics, this is your site!

From the Council on Foreign Relations: “U.S. Gun Policy: Global Comparisons” http://www.cfr.org/society-and-culture/us-gun-policy-global-comparisons/p29735

PRO-STATUS QUO POSITIONS: 

The NRA, Self-Proclaimed as ‘Freedom’s Safest Place’   www.home.nra.org   Welcome to the home pages of the NRA. One thing that caught my atheist eye immediately is the conflation of gun-ownership and religion which is then expressed as the ‘God-given right of gun ownership’. Among the many, many (VERY angry and apocalyptic) articles on the NRA site is a prominently-featured six minute video decrying the ‘unholy arrogance of atheists’. In the NRA’s words: “Dana Loesch exposes the global alliance of elitists, media activists, Hollywood celebrities, campus radicals and political power mongers who have openly attacked sacred American values and the people who cherish them with ruthlessness, contempt and downright hatred. She calls out these Godless Left saboteurs for sharing the same fanatical fervor to tear apart the foundations of America as the terrorists who threaten our very survival.”    See it here:  https://www.nranews.com/series/commentators/video/commentators-the-godless-left/episode/commentators-season-5-episode-17-the-godless-left

Wayne LaPierre’s ‘Truth About Background Checks’.  https://www.nranews.com/series/wayne-lapierre/video/wayne-lapierre-the-truth-about-background-checks/episode/wayne-lapierre-season-1-episode-5-the-truth-about-background-checks

Guns Equal Freedom: What the Left Just Doesn’t Get  http://www.conservativedailynews.com/2015/09/guns-equal-freedom-what-the-left-just-doesnt-get/    “…Liberals just don’t understand why our Founders wrote the Second Amendment in the first place… As Mao Tse-tung observed, ‘Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun’…”

The Libertarian Party Postion: America’s Millions of Gun Owners ‘Are People Too’  https://www.lp.org/issues/gun-laws      The official Libertarian Party line equates ‘gun control’ to the failed policy of alcohol prohibition. “The primary victim of these misguided efforts [of gun-control advocates] is the honest citizen whose civil rights are trampled as frustrated legislators and police tighten the screws…” 

 

CHANGE STATUS QUO POSITIONS: 

When Did ‘Freedom’ in the U.S. Become Synonymous With ‘Guns’?http://www.huffingtonpost.com/peter-schwartz/six-thoughts-on-guns-and-freedom_b_6688940.html    Here is an un-apologetic response to the NRA position which the author calls out as “…a bizarre, frenzied religion…a cargo cult that worships the smooth barrel of a gun, a false idol, with its prosthetic, prophetic promise that we can blast our way into heaven…”

Freedom and Control-Control    http://www.guninformation.org/freedom.html   The government has an obligation to protect people’s fundamental rights such as the right to live. Thus the government has an obligation to place more restrictions on individual gun ownership if doing so leads to more lives being saved.

Why Is It So Difficult to Find Reliable Statistics About Gun Violence in the U.S.?   There’s a very good reason you’ve found it hard locate comprehensive studies about gun violence in America. It’s because, since 1994, Congress has blocked and de-funded all attempts by the federal government to collect and assess gun violence statistics! Researchers who persist in trying to uncover the facts about guns in our country are harassed and threatened with elimination of funding. Read about it in this “History of the Federal Funding Freeze” researched by the American Psychological Association:   http://www.apa.org/science/about/psa/2013/02/gun-violence.aspx

‘Bad Apple’ Gun Dealers: 5% of Gun Dealers Sell 90% of Guns Used in Crimes Across U.S.   http://www.thecrimereport.org/news/crime-and-justice-news/2015-11-bad-apple-gun-dealer-report 

50-State Study: More Gun Laws = Fewer Gun Deaths http://www.cbsnews.com/news/50-state-study-more-gun-laws-fewer-deaths/  Overall, states with the most laws had a 42 percent lower gun death rate than states with the least number of laws… [however], it’s likely that gun control measures are more readily enacted in states with few gun owners — a factor that might have more influence on gun deaths than the number of laws. 

Ringing in the New Year: The Final Mass-Shooting of 2015  http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/california-dad-killed-by-his-son-after-argument-over-washing-machine-leads-mass-shooting-1535719   He was a chronic drunk with a huge arsenal of firearms. His daughter-in-law was using the washing machine which, for reasons we’ll never know, angered him so greatly that he shot her dead. His rage unabated, he then finished the job by shooting his invalid wife and a family friend to death. His son wrestled the gun away, shooting and killing his drunken father. He is now charged with murder. Thus ended 2015 with both a bang and a whimper.

New Year! Happy?

MASS SHOOTING COMPOSIT

Bring your ideas to next week’s meeting and take your best shot….but no live ammo, please!

BTW, These 10 Countries Have the Highest Murder Rate  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/04/10/worlds-highest-murder-rates_n_5125188.html     Hint: the U.S. isn’t one of them!

Map of World Murder rates

 

IN NEWS OF GENERAL  INTEREST TO ATHEISTS… 

Do You Like Your Bullshit to be Computer-Generated? Then This is For You!   It’s the New Age Bullshit Generator, located here:    http://sebpearce.com/bullshit/     Founded on the notion that a computer that spits out buzz words in random order cannot be distinguished from the sayings of a New Age guru such as Deepak Chopra, this website provides pages of BS for whatever use you can imagine.

Also, see http://www.wisdomofchopra.com/   for random, fictitious quotes which are computer-generated from the actual vocabulary used by D.C. …

Deepak Chopra

And remember, “Experiential truth arises and subsides in the door of possibilities”

Fox’s Atheist: O’Reilly Hates Him, Hannity Reviles Him  http://www.salon.com/2015/12/20/meet_the_fox_news_atheist_the_man_bill_oreilly_calls_a_fascist_and_sean_hannity_thinks_is_evil/  (Contributed by Marc Masor)    Meet David Silverman, President of American Atheists….he believes in taking the battle directly to the enemy….david_silverman-620x412

 

January Jeopardy Quiz:

Answer: ZERO      Question: How many fatal marijuana deaths occurred in the US last year? http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/marijuana-deaths-2014_56816417e4b06fa68880a217

AP Poll: Religious ‘Rights’ Important For Christians…For Other Relgions, Not So Much  http://bigstory.ap.org/urn:publicid:ap.org:de486b3d64154d0baae9f04fba0a4094WASHINGTON (AP) — Americans place a higher priority on preserving the religious freedom of Christians than for other faith groups, ranking Muslims as the least deserving of the protections, according to a new survey. Republicans and Democrats alike view Muslims as less-deserving of protections under the US Constitution.

Ben Franklin religious quarrels quote

 

That’s One, Small, Step for a Uterus… http://www.californiahealthline.org/articles/2015/12/23/federal-judge-upholds-california-reproductive-health-info-law   On December 22, a federal judge in California upheld a soon-to-take-effect state law (AB 775) that requires crisis pregnancy centers to provide information about abortion, among other things…The law requires the centers to post notices saying reproductive health services, including abortion, are available to pregnant women and may have government funding.

Pregnancy counseling logo composit

 

U.S. Women Lag Behind the World in Human Rights Says U.N. in ‘Myth Shattering’ Report  http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=52797#.VpA2EPkrJQJ    While praising the current United States administration for its commitment to women’s equality, United Nations experts warned today that the extreme polarization of US politics is “profoundly” affecting the Government’s ability to guarantee women’s human rights, and even to ratify the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.UN Gender Equality report

 

Justice For Dr. Chandra   http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/disgraced-researcher-ranjit-chandra-stripped-of-1989-order-of-canada/article28084791/   (Contributed by Marc Masor)   Follow-up on the saga of Dr. Chandra who was the subject of a Member Talk given by Marc a few months ago: ‘Disgraced [medical and nutritional] researcher Ranjit Chandra was stripped of his membership in the Order of Canada which was awarded to him in 1989. Removal from the Order of Canada has only happened in a handful of cases since the honor was established in 1967…’

 

And Then This Happened in Politics 

State Republicans Remove Press from Virginia Senate Floor     One week after Missouri state Republican leaders voted to ban reporters from that state’s Senate floor, Republicans in Virginia voted to do the same thing.  http://pilotonline.com/news/government/virginia/senate-republicans-remove-press-from-virginia-senate-floor/article_65025825-eb3d-5b94-b879-bcb294be015e.htmlRichard Saslaw, Charles Colgan, Emmett hanger Thomas Norment, John Watkins

State Senators, Richard Saslaw, D-Fairfax, right, Charles Colgan, D-Prince William, back to camera, Emmett Hanger, R-Augusta, left, Thomas Norment, R-James City County, second from left, and John Watkins, R-Powhatan, second from right, discuss proceedings during a break in the Senate session at the Capitol in Richmond, Va., Friday, Feb. 22, 2013. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

In that Missouri case, state lawmakers last November demanded the firing of a professor at the University of Missouri who tried to bar student journalists from an on-campus protest. “Freedom of the press” and “freedom of access” were cited at the time. Apparently the irony is lost on the legislators in the Show Me state whose banishment of reporters will take effect this March. Here is a link to the Missouri story: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/melissa-click-letter-missouri_568e93b2e4b0a2b6fb6efcb1

 

Hillary Clinton Thinks Gun-Control is a ‘Winner’ for 2016 http://time.com/4101947/hillary-clinton-guns-democrats/     In 2008, she campaigned as a strong Second Amendment supporter, beating up on Barack Obama for his supposed hostility to gun ownership. This time around, she’s changed her tune, favoring gun-control measures that surprise even some Democrats. Hillary and NRA composit

Clinton Positions on Gun Issues, Then and Now http://www.ontheissues.org/2016/Hillary_Clinton_Gun_Control.htm

 

Rep. Dave Brat (R-VA): Obama Can’t Cite Bible Because “GOP Owns Christian Tradition” http://www.patheos.com/blogs/progressivesecularhumanist/2016/01/congressman-obama-cant-cite-bible-because-gop-owns-christian-tradition/   No, it’s not our imagination…some members of the Republican Party actually claim exclusive ownership of the Christian tradition! The link between the GOP and Christianity was made explicit this week when Rep. Dave Brat (R-VA), who defeated Eric Cantor in an upset election last year, spoke on American Family Radio. Referring to President Obama’s comments about taking in Syrian refugees, Brat said: “…[Obama] is using the Christian tradition and trying to bring about compassion by bonking Republicans over the head with the Bible. It’s almost a comedy routine on what compassion and love is. He’s mocking his enemies in order to compel a larger federal state using the tradition of love…”.Dave Brat owns Christian Tradition Brat went on to say, “….[the Conservative movement] needs to reeducate its people that we own the ENTIRE [my emphasis] tradition [of Christian love, because liberal professors] have rejected natural law [and religious ideas]…”. In addition to reading about it, the above link includes a link to the audio recording of the interview.

Planet Watch 

U.S. Takes Action to Protect Africa’s Lions https://www.takepart.com/article/2016/01/03/canned-lion-hunt-america   9 out of every 10 African lions killed, lose their lives at the hands of American hunters in ‘canned’ hunts where the animals are trapped in a fenced-in area.lions

 

Nothing to Look at Here…2015 ‘Only’ the Second-Hottest Year on Record https://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/sotc/global/201511    Lots of actual/factual information about global climate to be found here.

thermometer

 

Lighter-Side: News You Don’t Need, But Which Might Amuse….

 Last Month It Was Stopmasturbation.org …Now It’s Christwire.org! http://www.christwire.org/     Over the past month, I’ve spent ‘way too much time reading the links and the many, many articles contained the ‘archives’ at www.stopmasturbation.org    I can’t stop laughing…mostly at the fact that many (if not most) of the site’s visitors have a hard time deciding if the site is ‘serious’ or ‘satire’. Isn’t it a sad commentary on today’s public discourse, with so many fringe ideas getting wide and uncritical exposure on the web, that it’s tough to tell the difference between lunacy and genuine advocacy?

Into the fray comes another site that muddies the waters even more…this time, it’s www.christwire.org (‘Conservative Values for an Unsaved World’) dishing outlandish stories and opinions to confuse and outrage its readers. A sample headline: “Obama is Infecting Christians with Ebola to Destroy Jesus and Start a New Age of Liberal Darkness”. The readers’ comments run the gamut from anger at Obama to anger at the site’s administrators for not stating clearly “THIS IS A SATIRICAL WEBSITE” in the masthead.

Christwire photo compositAnother article at christwire.org poses this earnest question: “Is it OK for a White Christian Cop to ‘Gently Beat’ His Black Citizens?” The author’s slogan is ‘Bringing back morality, one kneecap at a time’. The readers’ comments are hilariously off-the-mark…both comic and hilariously sad…and just a little frightening.

 

A Quick Refresher Course in Atheism  http://youtu.be/PUzExsAJLmI   Touch base with reality …hear from Richard Dawkins, George Carlin, Christopher Hitchens, Neil deGrasse Tyson and others in a restorative 9-minute Atheist booster shot!

definition of atheism

 

And now, your moment of Dancing Bug…x2!

Tom the 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 of years of TtDB cartoons at http://gocomics.typepad.com/tomthedancingbugblog/

Read the funnnies…you may even decide to join the TtDB Inner Hive!

Finally, here’s a Fun Fact:

Apparently American taxpayers are subsidizing cattle ranchers to a degree that would make Ronal Reagan’s imaginary Welfare Queen blush. Cattle graze on our public land for around $1.20 per head per year. To graze the same cattle on private land costs in the range of $20 – $25 per head per year.

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