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!


Any editorial opinions and the 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: Sebastian Pivnika, Wray Boswell, Ray Polidori, Uncle Bob Smith, Betsy Norton, Marc Masor

“The Old Testament is responsible for more atheism, agnosticism, disbelief – call it what you will – than any book ever written; it has emptied more churches than all the counter-attractions of cinema, motor bicycle and golf course.”                                                                       -A.A Milne, author of Winnie-the-Pooh (1882-1956)


Next general meeting, AUGUST 17

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




 You Don’t Have to Have Celiac Disease to Have a Sensitivity to Wheat  “A new study may explain why people who do not have celiac disease or wheat allergy nevertheless experience a variety of gastrointestinal and extra-intestinal symptoms after ingesting wheat and related cereals.

Intestines and Words of Celiac Condition Sketched on a Blacboard

The findings suggest that these individuals have a weakened intestinal barrier, which leads to a body-wide inflammatory immune response.”

Medical Aid in Dying Supporters Turn in Ballot Initiative Signatures

Several of our members have been very active in the Colorado End-of-Life Options initiative. The deadline for submitting signatures has passed and now we are waiting for the Secretary of State to validate the petitions. Betsy Norton, a member of Skeptics and Atheists of Durango, has devoted a lot of her energy to ensuring that the people of Colorado have a vote that would permit medical aid for the terminally ill so that they can avoid needless suffering.Aid in dying

Betsy says: “The Secretary of State said that 180,000 signatures were turned in on Aug. 8th. Compassion and Choices Action Network says 160,000. Since C & C had all the signatures checked by a firm that is supposed to have more stringent standards than the Secretary of State, it is about 99% certain that the initiative will be on the ballet in November. We are still waiting for validation. We are revving up to counter the many attacks that we expect from opponents.”        If enough valid signatures were submitted, Coloradans will be able to decide for themselves if ‘mentally capable, terminally ill adults can request aid from their physicians to shorten a dying process that would otherwise be unbearable. More information is available here:

GLOBAL CLIMATE CHANGE: EARTH’S TEMPERATURE RISES   “Soon after 2015 ended, it was proclaimed the hottest on record . The new report shows the broad extent of other records and near-records on the planet’s climatic health.Earth's Fever Rises Those include record heat energy absorbed by the oceans and lowest groundwater storage levels globally, according to Tuesday’s report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration….

…I think the time to call the doctor was years ago,” NOAA climate monitoring chief Deke Arndt, co-editor of the report, said in an email. “We are awash in multiple symptoms.”


Oh, No! Atheism is DEAD! Who Knew?       (Contributed by Wray Boswell) Evangelist Ray Comfort has declared the death of Atheism and he has the movie to prove it. He claims his latest production destroys Atheism with a single scientific question. jesus-at-the-moviesThe link above will connect you to the film’s trailer. Although the movie will be released to the public on YouTube in two months, you are welcome to pay Mr. Comfort $20 for the privilege of owning a pre-release copy! He says he will use the money to make more films…so crack open those wallets….not.    Digital Art by Matthias Zegveld


Well, At Least Science Isn’t Broken  (Contributed by Marc Masor) “If we’re going to rely on science as a means for reaching the truth — and it’s still the best tool we have — it’s important that we understand and respect just how difficult it is to get a rigorous result. Science isn't brokenI could pontificate about all the reasons why science is arduous, but instead I’m going to let you experience one of them for yourself. Welcome to the wild world of p-hacking…”

Scientists Create LARGEST  EVER 3-D Map of the Universe

(Contributed by Ray Polidori)             ” Five years in the making, the current map charts the positions and distances of 1.2 million galaxies across a volume of around 650 billion cubic light years. Each galaxy is home of a few hundred billion stars yet appears as a single dot on the map.The key thing about the map is the pattern that the galaxies make.

Map of universeIt can be used to reveal the effects of dark energy, which opposes gravity by pushing galaxies apart rather than pulling them together. Add to this the “dark matter” that astronomers are still searching for without success, and we think we live in a Universe where only two percent of it is the familiar atoms that make up you and I, stars and planets. So, the distribution of galaxies across the universe is the result of the interplay between gravity and dark energy.”

The Media Sucks. The Media is Awesome.  Public trust in ‘The Media’ is at an all-time low. Only the US Congress and ‘Big Business’ rate lower in the public eye. And, of course, there are Atheists at the bottom of the public trust heap. The Media is enamored of celebrity and addicted to conflict. It covers important news in a superficially and on the cheap. (Example: rather than concentrate on policy which would require nuance and a willingness to explore complex issues, coverage of the US elections is instead reduced to reporting on the daily horserace…who’s up and who’s down in the polls). News is reduced to ‘comfortable narratives’ with ‘simple heroes’ and ‘simple villans’. In our world where news outlets are bored with good news and viewers are ‘hard-wired’ for panic the result doesn’t bode well for participatory democracy.

This article provides and in-depth analysis of ‘The Media’….it’s a very interesting read.

Honey the news is on

(Cartoon contributed by Uncle Bob via Ray Polidori)

The Parable of the Undercover Boss    (Written by Matthew Henry Faraday on Ryan Bell’s    “Whenever a theologian talks about how beautiful it is that Christ came to earth and died, NOT to appease God’s wrath, but instead as the image of God who suffers with us, even to the point of death on the cross.Jesus saves I imagine that, if it were real, it would be the worst episode of Undercover Boss EVER.”

This is my parable:    A forklift driver, let’s call him ‘Joe’, has the worst job at Megacorp. He works hard hours and tons of overtime. Even with all the work he does, he can’t make ends meet. His son has a muscular disorder and, between the equipment he needs and the medical bills, half of his paycheck goes to his son’s care. His wife has to stay at home and care for their son, but still waits tables some days after Joe gets home. Joe is a type 1 diabetic, and hasn’t been to the doctor in years, because he is worried that they will tell him that he will need vascular surgeries, and that will take away the family’s source of income.

Enter the CEO of Megacorp, Joshua. Joshua makes hundreds of millions of dollars a year. The television show Undercover Boss approached him one day about working a weekend in the warehouse with Joe. Joshua thinks this sounds great, and pretend to be a new hire. Joe shows Joshua how to manage the warehouse and, during this time, Joe opens up abut all the hardships he faces. Joshua is moved by it. He even cries on camera because he feels so badly for Joe.

Sunday night comes around and Joshua is ready to make his big reveal to Joe. He asks Joe to come into the break room where Joe is surprised by cameras and the crew.

“Joe, I have something to tell you. I’m not a new hire at Megacorp. I’m actually the CEO. My name is Joshua and I run the company you work for.”

Joe is shocked!

“Joe, I was so moved by your story,” he continues. “You love your family so much that you sacrifice everything, even your own health, for them. I was brought to tears.”

Joe starts crying himself.

“Joe, I want to tell you something. No matter how bad life is, no matter how much you struggle, no matter how much you feel that you just can’t get ahead, remember that I worked with you for a weekend.”

The End 

Check out, where you can read any number of interesting articles and catch up on Ryan Bell, the preacher who ‘gave up God for a year’ in the process of becoming an Atheist.

And now, TWO (YES! 2!!)     Tom the Dancing Bug(s)!

Tom the Dancing Bug 1068 indefinitely detained

Tom the Dancing Bug 1079 drone assassination

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”