National Day of Reason CVAAS Blood Drive – May 7th

red_blood_cellsThe first Thursday in May every year is the annual National Day of Reason.  This year it falls on May 5th.

The National Day of Reason is held in parallel to the National Day of Prayer in order to raise awareness of the intrusion of government-sanctioned religion and its threat toward religious liberty.

CVAAS supports the United States Constitution and the First Amendment principle that all Americans should be treated equally – with no citizen or group favored over another in the name of religion or religious privilege.

We encourage rational, positive and useful alternatives to the National Day of Prayer.  CVAAS encourages its membership to spend this day in service.  To spend the day volunteering, giving, and acting to make another person’s life better.

You can help make a real difference in another person’s life by donating blood.  During the month of May, CVAAS encourages its members to stop by any Central California Blood Center and donate blood in the name of the Central Valley Alliance of Atheists and Skeptics.

CVAAS will host a blood donation event followed by a Day of Reason lunch on May 7th, 2016.  RSVP at the CVAAS Meetup event to see time and locations.

SkeptiCal – Science & Skepticism Conference – May 15th

small-avatarThe SkeptiCal Conference is a yearly science and skepticism conference held in Oakland California.  This year SkeptiCal will be held Sunday, May 15th, 2016.  (See website for location)

This day-long event includes speakers, exhibitors, panels and discussions on a wide variety of subjects.

This year’s speakers and their topics include:
  • American planetary scientist Carolyn C. Porco: “A Decade Exploring Saturn
  • Anthropologist Dr. Henry Gilbert: “Homo erectus: An Inconvenient Transitional Truth
  • Author Steve Silberman: “Everything you know about autism history is wrong
  • Neuroscientist (and operatic soprano) Dr. Indre Viskontas: “Brain Myths: Lessons from Neuroscience
And even more speakers!

CVAAS will be hosting a table at this event.  We encourage CVAAS members and friends to RSVP through our Meetup event site.  If you would like to volunteer to staff the CVAAS table, you can volunteer while RSVPing.

To register for this conference, please visit the SkeptiCal website.

 

2016 Reason Rally in Washington DC – June 4th

Johnny Depp… Bill Nye… James Randi… Penn Jillette… Julia Sweeney… Lawrence Krauss… Margaret Cho… Eugenie Scott…

Reason-Rally-Header-LogoThese are just a few of the people you’ll see at the Reason Rally being held at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC on June 4th, 2016.

This event is billed as the “biggest gathering of nonreligious people in history!”  And even if you’re skeptical about this, it is very true that this “Woodstock for atheists and skeptics” will attract thousands!

The goal of the Reason Rally is to demonstrate the, “presence and power of the nonreligious voting bloc”.  Much like the atheism awareness movement, and the Richard Dawkins’ “Out Campaign”, the Reason Rally works to erase religious stigma held toward the nonreligious by celebrating various secular identities.

Besides an impressive list of speakers, there will also be political leaders, entertainment, and live music.  Lots of fun!

See the Reason Rally website for more details.

Fresno Pride Festival and Parade – June 4th

2016FRPlogo-medium The Central Valley Alliance of Atheists and Skeptics will once again participate in Fresno’s yearly Pride Festival and Parade, June 4th 2016 in the Tower District, from 10am to 3pm.

This yearly event is hosted by Community Link, a supporter of the LGBT community.

CVAAS has a lot of fun at this event.  We walk and ride in the parade, and we host an information and merchandise booth at the event.

Festival

Our presence at this event always prompts interesting responses and encourages secular discussion.  During the parade we will often receive cheers and thumbs up, and members of the parade audience will often yell “Thank You!”.

 

At the festival itself most people are very happy to see us – and everyone who stops by is offered a “Get Out of Hell Free” card.

 

There are religious people who stop by and question us.  We work very hard to be kind, cheerful and respectful of everyone.

 

paradeYou are welcomed and encouraged to join us as we support the local LGBT community while at the same time increasing the visibility of the secular community.  It is a lot of fun and a little bit of work.

 

And don’t forget to join us the day after the Pride Festival as we meet for Drinking Skeptically.  Over a cold beverage and some food we will meet new friends and welcome old friends.  And we will recount the highlights of the Pride Festival and the fun we had.

 

If you would like to join us in the Pride Parade, please RSVP on our Meetup page.

Transgender Day of Visibility

Transgender LightbulbCVAAS will be tabling at Fresno’s first ever Transgender Day of Visibility.

 

Event details:

Transgender Day of Visibility

Sunday, April 10, 2016, from Noon to 4PM

Alliant International University of Fresno, located at 5130 E Clinton Way. (Click to see map)

 

This indoor fair is a collaboration between Fresno’s Trans-E-Motion transgender/transsexual community and Alliant International University.

 

This event is to support the transgender/transsexual community by highlighting their accomplishments and experiences.  It is also held to educate the public about transgender people in the hopes of combating prejudice, transphobia and other negative attitudes toward the trans community that are held through fear and ignorance.

 

transalliantThe Transgender Day of Visibility will be an indoor street fair environment that will celebrate transgender lives through singing, poetry, spoken word, and dancing. There will also be inspirational speakers, addressing the topic of transgender/gender diversity, inclusion, and current efforts in the movement for transgender equality. Art will be on display. The event will include transgender friendly resource organizations, food vendors, and business vendors. Attendees will also have the opportunity to participate in raffles for prizes.

 

You can learn more about this event and RSPV through the event Facebook page: Transgender Day of Visibility.

 

Was Lee Strobel ever an Atheist? Yes. But how he got there matters.

In a nutshell atheism is a rejection of, or doubt in, the proposition that any deity exists.  Unlike secular moral philosophies like Secular Humanism or philosophical naturalism, atheism makes no other claims.

 

People become atheists in very different ways.  It is possible to be born in a family who does not support or discuss religion, with the result that one born in such a family grows up not thinking very deeply about belief or doubt.  It is possible to reject religions because the tenets or dogma of religions often conflicts with a person’s values or the way that they wish to live their lives.

 

It is also possible to become an atheist after a period of investigation and deep thought.

This is not the method that Lee Strobel used to become an atheist.  In Lee Strobel’s book, “The Case for Christ” he says:

 

For much of my life I was a skeptic.  In fact, I considered myself an atheist.

 

Author Lee Strobel
Author Lee Strobel

He goes on to explain that earlier in his life he found “too much evidence that God was merely a product of wishful thinking”.  He explains his doubt in miracles and his faith in science and evolution (without explaining how – or if – he actually understood these concepts.)  He writes the very telling sentence, “Doesn’t scientific reasoning dispel belief in the supernatural?

 

But the most important statement about his atheism is this one:

 

But that’s all I had ever really given the evidence: a cursory look.  I had read just enough philosophy and history to find support for my skepticism – a fact here, a scientific theory there, a pithy quote, a clever argument.  Sure, I could see some gaps and inconsistencies, but I had a strong motivation to ignore them: a self-serving and immoral lifestyle that I would be compelled to abandon if I were ever to change my views and become a follower of Jesus.

 

A recent article on Christianity Today explains how Strobel as an atheist with an investigative journalist background, “… embarked on the project to discredit the veracity of Christ’s resurrection and dissuade his recently converted wife from life as a Christian, but in the end he was the one who was powerfully converted.”  The article goes on to quote Strobel, “As my investigation unfolded, my atheism began to buckle.”

 

Science writer and physician Ben Goldacre once wrote that, “You cannot reason people out of a position that they did not reason themselves into.”  Lee Strobel did not come to atheism through reason.  He fell into atheism by accident, and decided to stay there because he had a taste for hedonism.  His wife had recently converted to Christianity, and Strobel was a writer.  What could he do?  Maybe he could strengthen his marriage and discover a lucrative new career as a published evangelist.

 

In “The Case for Christ” Strobel is said to have piled up evidence for Jesus and the resurrection.  I won’t get into his research here, except to point out that he takes the Bible at face value, and that everyone he interviews in his book is a devout Christian.  Since he frames his research as a sort of legal trial, I will just point out that it is a trial in which only the Prosecution gets to speak, and the Defense is never called to the stand.  There are plenty of take-downs for “The Case for Christ” online, many of which do so point by point.

 

I am pointing out that Strobel has become famous for a simple flaw – he never based his atheism on any sort of reasoning.  He equated atheism with immorality, and completely skipped any sort of secular moral philosophy.  He used atheism as his excuse for living an immoral lifestyle.  He didn’t reason his way into atheism, he lacked theistic belief because he never gave it any thought.

 

Strobel is also guilty of falling for Pascal’s wager – the idea that we are all betting that Christianity is true, or nothing is true.  In doing so, Strobel misses a multitude of other possible religions that might also be true.

 

And last, let us acknowledge that evangelical Christianity is a lucrative business model.  And one of the best ways to sell yourself in this business is to claim a dramatic salvation from a sinful life.  The most profitable evangelists seem to have the most dramatic salvation.

 

In his online biography, Lee Strobel bills himself as “Atheist-turned-Christian”.  There is no reason to doubt that he once was an atheist.  But there is every reason to believe that he fell into atheism without the benefit of critical reasoning or any deep thinking.

More content added!

coverartHave you checked out our “Media” area on the CVAAS website?  You can find it under the “Members” tab.  Most of the media here is open to the public, including our lecture series and podcasts.

 

We’ve just put online the original CVAAS podcast, “Rational Horizon”, created in 2009.  This short lived podcast covered a wide variety of topics during its brief existence.  Topics that interested CVAAS members.

 

We are again interested in starting a new podcast series, so if you would like to be part of that, let us know!  Right now we need people who are interested in assisting by being a podcast host, by generating content, and by producing.  If you’ve got some great ideas, we would love for you to share them with us.  Leave us a note on our “contact us” page!

Carl Sagan Day Dinner – Tuesday 10 November at Lucy’s Lair

[quote bgcolor=#DDDDDD icon=dark size=16 width=63% color=#000000 align=right]The nitrogen in our DNA, the calcium in our teeth, the iron in our blood, the carbon in our apple pies were made in the interiors of collapsing stars. We are made of star-stuff – Carl Sagan, COSMOS.[/quote]Most of us know about Carl Sagan from his show, “Cosmos”.   Carl Sagan had a flair as a science communicator, he showed us all the genuine wonder and beauty of the universe that infuses our spirits with humility and awe.  Sagan was also a Pulitzer Prize winning author.  He was an astronomer, cosmologist, astrophysicist, and astrobiologist.

 

At every CVAAS tabling event, there is a sale copy of Carl Sagan’s book, “Demon Haunted World, Science as a Candle in the Dark”.  This book is that important.  It teaches people how to discover the difference from what is true, and what people want to be true.  And this can be painful to those people who love to believe – as Sagan pointed out early in this book, people who believe in pseudoscience, devils, and deities, do not enjoy having their beliefs overturned.  They will go to great lengths to protect those beliefs they hold dear – never mind if those beliefs are true.

 

sagan1This year’s Carl Sagan Day dinner is held at Lucy’s Lair, at 1137 E. Champlain Ave., Fresno.  We will arrive at 6:30 pm and stay to 8:30 pm.  If you plan to attend, please RSVP at the CVAAS Meetup event page.  It will help with our restaurant head count.

 

To celebrate Carl Sagan’s birthday, we will be discussing space technology – robots, private spacecraft, aerospace engineering.   So do a little reading about what Sagan might have found fascinating.  How can we colonize Mars?  Is interstellar travel possible?  How could we survive in space?

 

To go with this, if you have read the book, or watched the movie, “The Martian” by Andy Weir, then be prepared to talk about that too.

 

I hope to see you there!

Become a member of CVAAS

Would you like to become part of the Central Valley Alliance of Atheists and Skeptics?

 

Our events are usually open to everyone, although occasionally we will host a “members only” event.  We also host on our website material that is for members only.  This can be presentations, videos or audio.  We also have a “members only” area in our online forum.

 

Becoming a member allows us to create and host better local events.

 

It seems like all the really “cool” events for atheism and skepticism are a 3 to 6 hour drive away, and cost a lot of money to attend.  CVAAS wants to help you out by creating local events that are fun and inexpensive.

 

Most often these events are centered on local venues, and occasionally we get together to create a day-trip to a cave, a fossil dig, or to the beach or a wine tasting trip.

 

And every year we have one or two major events where we invite a well-known speaker in the atheist or skeptical community to speak.  This costs money.  Selling tickets and asking for donations is one way that CVAAS finances these events.  Membership definitely helps!

 

You can purchase different membership levels in our online store.

 

We offer four different levels of membership.  Member, Student / Hardship, Volunteer and Associate.  Except for associate membership, all levels of membership are considered “paid” memberships, and offer full member benefits.  An associate membership is considered an “unpaid” membership and is limited in benefits.

 

Individual Member
Individual membership

Individual Membership

 

This is our full price membership which gives you all benefits of CVAAS membership, plus a $5.00 discount on the price of our annual Heretic’s Barbecue ticket.

 

As a CVAAS member, you can vote in CVAAS elections, run for office, serve on committees, and help steer the direction of our group.

 

Individual membership gives you access to “Members Only” areas of the CVAAS website, and allows you to post on our CVAAS discussion forum.

 

Membership also provides you with invitations to our “Members Only” functions. And you can opt-in to our members only email list, which will inform you of fun members only upcoming events.

 

Hardship_Student
Student / Hardship Membership

Student / Hardship Membership

 

This membership is half-priced.  To become a member under the Student / Hardship membership, you must be enrolled as a three quarter or full-time student, or be able to demonstrate financial hardship.  You will need to be approved by a CVAAS officer to receive this membership.

 

Once approved, you will be treated as a full member of CVAAS, with all the benefits of Individual Membership.

 

 

Volunteer
Volunteer Affiliate Membership

Volunteer / Affiliate Membership

 

Have you ever dreamed of being a minion?

 

To receive a CVAAS membership as a volunteer, you must first apply to become a CVAAS volunteer and pledge to volunteer a minimum of 20 hours for CVAAS for a one-year period in a non-officer position.

 

Once approved, you will be treated as a full member of CVAAS, with all the benefits of Individual Membership.

 

Associate Membership

 

Associate Membership
Associate Membership

So you want to be on our official email list?  You want to be forewarned about upcoming events via our automated email system?  You want to peek behind the curtains of our website just a little, but are not interested in joining in completely?

 

That’s fine.  You can sign up as an associate member of CVAAS for no cost to you.

 

There are some downsides.  You don’t get to vote in CVAAS elections or meetings.  You can’t run for office.  You will not get a discount for the Heretic’s Barbecue.  But if that is fine for you, then this is the membership that you want!