On a Thursday evening in August 2002, five secular people met at a Denny’s in North Fresno to discuss issues of interest and importance to atheists.
This was well before Richard Dawkins published, “The God Delusion”. It was before Christopher Hitchens published, “God is Not Great”, before Daniel Dennett published “Breaking the Spell” and before Sam Harris published his book, “The End of Faith”. Later these four public figures would be known as the “Four Horsemen of Atheism”. But they were unknown to most who came to those first meetings.
Critical inquiry soon became very important to the group that developed. Assertions were of little value without reasoning and evidence to support them. The group followed the James Randi Educational Foundation and learned the worth of systematic investigation and scientific skepticism. We learned about “Why People Believe Weird Things” from Michael Shermer. We started studying philosophy. We relocated our meetings to a pizza place.
And we kept meeting once every month over pizza and beer because discussions among like-minded people were so fascinating. Because no one had to worry about being belittled for the lack of a belief in a deity.
In 2007 Mark Boyd and Richard Moore led a discussion to found a more official organization. With support from other members of the group they started taking proposals about names for this new organization. Out of many different suggestions, “Central Valley Alliance of Atheists and Skeptics” was chosen by vote.
Our name describes our geographic area of focus, our interests, and our willingness to work together with those individuals or organizations who support human rights and critical inquiry, and who wish to end State and Church entanglement.
We were founded on May 4th, 2008.
Since then, CVAAS has worked to be a “Secular Voice in the Valley”. We offer a counterpoint to the frequently religious voices, and we offer a community for the secular people in Fresno and in surrounding counties.
We have worked hard to raise awareness of the existence of secular people in the Valley, to work against church and state entanglement, and to demonstrate the problems with pseudoscience.
CVAAS has affiliated with American Atheists, Atheist Alliance of America, the Secular Coalition, and the Coalition of Reason. We work with groups like Camp Quest and the Freedom from Religion Foundation. We are allies of secular charities, science advocate organizations, and with the local LGBT community.
And CVAAS is eager to assist other secular people in forming or maintaining their own secular or skeptical organizations by offering advice, materials, and Internet services to get them started. As part of this, CVAAS is now part of a network of 5 other secular organizations that stretch from Fresno County to Kern County.
On April 13, 2017, CVAAS became a 501(C)(3) nonprofit corporation in the State of California. Donations and membership dues to CVAAS are now tax deductible.