CVAAS Blood Drive – National Day of Reason

May 4th, 2017 is the National Day of Reason.  Held yearly on the first Thursday of May, secular organizations around the United States work to raise public awareness about the Constitutional and moral necessity of keeping religion and government separate.

On Saturday, May 6th, the Central Valley Alliance of Atheists and Skeptics will be celebrating this holiday by donating blood at the Central California Blood Center located on the corner of E Champlain and E Perrin.  Afterward, we will have lunch and discuss current events.  This event starts at 10 am and is open to the public.  Everyone is welcome to join us.  Check out the calendar to find more information, a map, and to RSVP.

Why is the Day of Reason necessary?

The majority of elected and appointed members of all three branches of government in the United States are working toward legislating religious ideology in order to give preferential treatment to religious organizations, restrict scientific inquiry based upon their interpretation of religious texts, introduce biblically founded anti-science education, install divisive religious icons on publicly owned properties like schools and city halls, and to create intrusive laws that restrict or eliminate reproductive services and information.

Many Americans seem concerned about Sharia law that legislates Islamic religious traditions and law.  But the truth is that America has always legislated Christian religious traditions and law.

As part of legislating bible-based laws the United States Congress has mandated the existence of a holiday called, “The National Day of Prayer”.  (36 U.S.C. § 119)

To oppose this religious law, CVAAS holds an annual blood drive during the month of May.  Anyone who wishes to participate is encouraged to visit the Central California Blood Center and donate blood.  Just walk in and say you are donating in the name of Central Valley Alliance of Atheists and Skeptics!

If you would like to help us oppose local government entanglement with religion then join us at one of our events.  Our events are open to the public and we would be glad to meet you.  Or, consider becoming a member so that you can help us steer our organization!

Recent Tabling Events

CVAAS members tabled at two different events over the last two weekends!

TDOV

On Saturday, April 15th, we tabled at the Fresno celebration of the Transgender Day of Visibility.  

It was a beautiful, cool morning that turned into a lazy warm afternoon.  Traffic to our booth was light but steady, and we spent time talking to our friends.

Booth staffers watched the booth in shifts, with some arriving later in the day, and some leaving the event early.  We took turns watching the booth so that we could wander around the other information and vendor tables, so we could see a few of the presentations, and so we could grab a taco (or three!).

Unlike last year, the vendor tables were outside on the sidewalk.  This was a little bit of a disappointment since we couldn’t watch the show and staff the booth – but it also fell more in line with a standard convention where vendors are separate from the speakers.

Tabling at LGBT events is always nice because it’s a very supportive environment.  People were interested in what we do, and several promised to be at our next Drinking Skeptically.

Earth Day

On Saturday, April 22nd, we tabled at anther event – Earth Day Fresno.  Once again it was a beautiful day to do this, even though it got a little warm in the afternoon.

In keeping with our purpose of educating the public in the use of rational scientific inquiry, we created displays and documentation about climate change and the problems with climate change denial.  One of these documents, “Evaluating Data and Evidence” is now an article on our website.  You can read the PDF versions of our other two documents, “Global Warming Skepticism” and “History of Climate Change” by clicking these links.  There was a short display about the problems of electronic waste disposal in Fresno.   And we had a lot of fun with XKCD artist Randall Munroe’s “Earth Temperature Timeline“.

If you would like to learn more about the massive amount of evidence supporting the theory that rapid climate change is being caused by humans, the best place to start is probably the NASA Global Climate Change website.  There, you can learn what we know, and how we know it.  For even more in-depth information about climate change, check out the Climate Central website.  The National Center for Science Education is a great place for educators to start learning about climate change.  And if you are skeptical that climate change is happening because someone told you it is all a conspiracy among scientists, check out the Skeptical Science website to see what the experts have said.

For those who live in Fresno, here’s a link to what you are allowed to throw away into your green, gray, and blue bins.

The morning started out slow, but by 1 pm the traffic to our booth was almost constant.

When CVAAS hosts a table we give away things like information sheets, pamphlets, candy, and the occasional cookie or cupcake.  But our best giveaway is “Get Out of Hell Free” cards.  These Monopoly-styled cards attract immediate attention from people walking by our booth.  These cards are great for drawing in people who are otherwise curious but hesitant, or just inattentive.  They get the conversation started and we get to tell them about who we are and what we do.  In many cases, the conversation starts getting deep, so one staffer will take the interested person to one side and engage while others continue managing the booth.

It’s not unusual to have a 30-minute conversation standing in front of our booth!  This is why a shade canopy is so important!

We also give away business cards with CVAAS information on them, but the Get Out of Hell Free cards are the big draw, so we put our website address on the back of each one.

Tabling at Earth Day was good for us.  We met a lot of new people who said they would love to be a part of CVAAS or would want to come to our events.  We met only a couple of people who were unhappy to see us.  One of whom told us that we should study the “Holy Book” and get our lives straight.

“The Quran, right?”  That got a scowl and the assertion that the Muslim book was, “of the Devil!”

Yes, there is a better way to speak with the devout, but sometimes there isn’t much you can do if a religious person is only interested in giving a “drive-by” scolding.  Another Christian talked with us for half an hour and purchased one of our books.

The event was fun, and there were a lot of fascinating booths.  Again we took turns staffing the booth and walking around the event.  Later in the afternoon, there was a “March for Science” and a few CVAAS members participated in that too.

CVAAS will definitely be at next year’s Earth Day Fresno!

Evaluating Data and Evidence

Many people mistakenly believe that the terms “data” and “evidence” are interchangeable, and these words have the same meaning.

Data is factual information such as numbers, percentages, and statistics.

Evidence is data that is relevant and furnishes proof that supports a conclusion.

Evidence is the information that helps in the formation of a conclusion or judgment. Whether you know it or not, you provide evidence in most of your conversations – they’re all the things you say to try and support your claims.

Scientific Evidence

Ultimately, scientific ideas must not only be testable but must actually be tested — preferably with many different lines of evidence by many different people. This characteristic is at the heart of all science. Scientists actively seek evidence to test their ideas — even if the test is difficult and means, for example, spending years working on a single experiment, traveling to Antarctica to measure carbon dioxide levels in an ice core, or collecting DNA samples from thousands of volunteers all over the world.

Performing such tests is so important to science because, in science, the acceptance or rejection of a scientific idea depends upon the evidence relevant to it — not upon dogma, popular opinion, or tradition. In science, ideas that are not supported by evidence are ultimately rejected. And ideas that are protected from testing or are only allowed to be tested by one group with a vested interest in the outcome are not a part of good science.

The phrase “scientific evidence” has become part of the vernacular – thrown about like a hot potato during discussions of major environmental, health or social issues. Climate change is one example. The EU’s ban on neonicotinoid pesticides is another.

Scientific evidence is information gathered from scientific research, which takes a lot of time (and patience!) to conduct. But there are a few things that all this research needs to have in common to make it possible for decision-makers, and ultimately all of us, to accept it as “evidence”.

Objective and unbiased

Research needs money to pay for laboratory equipment, field surveys, and materials – not to mention the wages of all the people involved in the project. The majority of researchers have to constantly apply for funds to carry out their research. These funds can come from different places, usually government bodies, corporations, academic or research institutions, non-profit organizations, or industry bodies. Applications are judged on scientific merit and their relevance to society or the funding body’s interests.

Mostly, funds are distributed fairly. But if an organization funds a research project that will benefit them financially, then we cannot accept the findings as “evidence” unless different researchers (from unrelated organizations) come to the same conclusions through their own independent research.

Ensuring results will be valid and accurate

Scientific evidence relies on data, and it is crucial for researchers to ensure that the data they collect is representative of the “true” situation. This means using proved or appropriate ways of collecting and analyzing the data and ensuring the research is conducted ethically and safely.

Control scenarios may also be necessary when testing for effects or impacts – such as when developing new products (such as medicines), or evaluating management actions (such as farmland pesticide use). The control scenario represents the opposite of the scenario being tested. This is so the results that are seen in the test scenario are guaranteed to be from the tested product or impact, and nothing else.

If the scenario involves environmental processes of some kind, the test and control should ideally be carried out under natural conditions (or in an environment where these processes normally occur).

Sometimes this can be virtually impossible to do, and lab-based or combined lab/ field studies will need to be done instead so the “nuisance factors” can be controlled.

Take the recent neonicotinoid issue. If a researcher wants to prove that use of a pesticide does not affect bees flying about in the environment where the chemical is normally used, they will need to test two different scenarios.

One hive of bees will have to go about their business out in the field while being exposed to the pesticide. A second hive of bees will have to be in the same general environmental location as the first hive (to ensure both hives experience the same overall living conditions) but remain completely uncontaminated by the pesticide throughout the test.

It’s obvious how impossible this would be to manage under natural conditions, where no one can control the drift of chemical droplets or the movement of tiny insects across the landscape!  In this case, completely field-based studies may not exist, but it would be misleading to say that a “lack of field studies” means that the pesticide does not affect bees.

Peer-review and professional consensus

This step is the most crucial, and it turns research into the “evidence” that we all talk about. The researcher has to present their data, results, and conclusions in the form of a scientific report or paper. This must be reviewed by their scientific peers – only they are qualified to assess the validity of the methods and the accuracy of the conclusions the researcher has drawn from the results.

Having research findings published in an international peer-reviewed journal means that other professional scientists who specialize in that kind of research have verified the quality and validity of the research.

This process takes a long time – from submission of the manuscript to a journal, to the final publication date can take six months to a year, often longer.

For really important decisions, especially ones that will affect lots of people (how we should manage our national parks, for example), multiple studies may need to be sourced to show that a majority of scientists experienced with the issue agree on the evidence (just like a jury in a court case).

This is to show there is a “scientific consensus” on the evidence, and it provides even more reason for taking action on the issue at hand.

Of course, not everyone agrees on everything – think of any topic from the Earth being round, to what you and your family will eat for dinner tonight! So if a few scientists disagree with the majority group of scientists over a particular issue, that is not immediate proof that the evidence is wrong, and neither is it shocking or newsworthy.

Interpreting the evidence presented to us

Most of us hear of “scientific evidence” from journalists, newsreaders, politicians or media commentators, and often we don’t have the opportunity to check the facts ourselves. But understanding where true scientific evidence comes from, and what it means, is imperative to helping us tackle the most important issues affecting our own lives and the world we live in.

So the next time someone says they have “scientific evidence” to back up their case, ask a few questions. Who funded the research and why? How much evidence is there and how was it gathered? Was the sample size or location representative of the “real” situation?

Has the research been published in an internationally-accepted, peer-reviewed journal, or is it only available online on a personal or organization’s website? Do a majority of other scientists agree on these results? If a few disagree, are they qualified to evaluate the issue? (For example, a medical doctor and an astronomer are both scientists – but that doesn’t mean the astronomer is qualified to perform heart surgery!)

And if someone claims there is a “lack” of evidence on a contested issue, ask them to clarify. Do they mean that peer-reviewed research has been carried out, and found no proof of an effect? Or, do they mean that no one has yet funded research to examine the issue? These do not mean the same thing.

Evaluating Sources Checklist

  1. Authority:
    • Who created the site?
    • What is their authority?
      • Do they have expertise or experience with the topic?
      • What are their credentials, institutional affiliation?
    • Is organizational information provided?
    • Does the URL suggest a reputable affiliation with regard to the topic–personal or official site; type of Internet domain (i.e., .edu: educational institution; .org: non-profit organization; .com: commercial enterprise; .net: Internet Service Provider; .gov: governmental body; .mil: military body)?
  2. Objectivity:
    • Is the purpose and intention of the site clear, including any bias or particular viewpoint?
      • Are the purpose and scope stated?
      • Who is the intended audience?
      • Is the information clearly presented as being factual or opinion, primary or secondary in origin?
      • What criteria are used for inclusion of the information?
      • Is any sponsorship or underwriting fully disclosed?
  3. Accuracy:
    • Is the information presented accurate?
      • Are the facts documented or well-researched?
      • Are the facts similar to those reported in related print or other online sources?
      • Are the Web resources for which links are provided quality sites?
  4. Currency:
    • Is the information current?
      • Is the content current?
      • Are the pages date-stamped with last update?


A GOOD QUESTION TO ASK:
“What evidence would you need in order to convince you/change your mind?”

The answer to this question can provide a lot of insight about how reasonable this person is, their requirements for evidence, their perspectives, and a great deal more.

CVAAS now a Non-Profit organization!

The Central Valley Alliance of Atheists and Skeptics has received our IRS determination letter.  CVAAS is now a nonprofit corporation exempt from Federal income tax under IRC Section 501(c)(3).  We are classified as a public charity.

We are still putting together the infrastructure we need to efficiently accept donations and automatically provide receipts for donations.  Our current donate button on the side of the website does not provide a receipt, and if you need one you will need to ask.  We hope to fix that in the coming weeks.

As part of our new nonprofit status, CVAAS will be engaging in more activism.  If you would like to be a part of that, you could donate.  But we would really appreciate you becoming a CVAAS member!  Your membership to CVAAS is now tax deductible!

We are also looking for volunteers to help CVAAS grow.  Check out our “Activism” page for more information.

Out of many, one.

When the Great Seal of the United States was created and adopted as our official seal in 1782, it contained the unofficial motto of the United States, “E Pluribus Unum.”  The Great Seal remains unchanged and is still the official seal of the USA

E Pluribus Unum is a Latin phrase that means, “Out of many, one.”  This is an inclusive motto and is used to demonstrate the strength of America – the strength that comes from the diversity of American citizens. Together we are strong.

The Great Seal of the United States of America
In 1956 during the 84th United States Congress, the House and Senate jointly passed H.J. Resolution 396 to establish a national motto of the United States, which is declared to be, “In God we trust.”  This is codified in law in 36 U.S.C § 302. This motto started appearing on paper currency after 1957. It did appear on coins before this date, but not as our national motto. And many other sayings also appeared on our coins.

“In God we trust” is a divisive motto. It leaves out those American citizens who worship more than one god, or who worship no gods. It leaves out those citizens who are undecided or agnostic. It leaves out any chance of doubt – a key component of science.

“In God we trust” is divisive because it leaves unstated, “Which God?” A question that has historically divided Americans. It is also divisive because it was adopted during the “Red Scare” of American McCarthyism, and it was used to set America apart from “godless communists” and “atheist dictators.” 

On October 24th, 1954, President Eisenhower appeared on all four national television networks as part of a program that celebrated the 75th anniversary of the invention of the incandescent lamp by Thomas Edison. During this presentation, Eisenhower said,
“It is faith that has made our Nation – has made it, and kept it free. Atheism substitutes men for the supreme creator and this leads inevitably to domination and dictatorship. But we believe – and it is because we believe that God intends all men to be free and equal that we demand free government. Our Government is servant, not master, our chosen representatives are our equals, not our czars or commissars.”



“’In God we trust.’ Often have we heard the words of this wonderful American motto. Let us make sure that familiarity has not made them meaningless for us.” 


With these words, Eisenhower damned Edison with faint praise. Edison was a freethinker who was heavily influenced by and defended one of America’s founding fathers – Thomas Paine – and Paine’s book, “The Age of Reason.”  Edison also rightly pointed out that we cannot know what – if anything – comes after death.

And Eisenhower’s words (and the words of many others) are used as cudgels to bludgeon anyone who has the temerity to suggest the idea that Americans have diverse beliefs.

The Constitution

Words of this nature are too often used when it is observed that the American Constitution makes no mention of a deity, that the power of our Constitution comes from the authority of “We the People” – not “God.”

Eisenhower was wise about many things, but in this he was wrong. The Divine Right of Kings has taught us all that a despot can just as easily claim divine authority to support “domination and dictatorship.”  The primary difference is that a holy authority kills people, “in the name of God.”

The Central Valley Alliance of Atheists and Skeptics exists to be (in part) a “Secular Voice in the Valley.”  Part of the reason why we exist is to point out this sort of logical fallacy.

CVAAS also speaks out because many prominent people in Fresno and the surrounding counties too often act in ways to support the idea that their beliefs deserve special protections and advantages.  There seems to be “faith” that everyone is speaking about the same deity, and that every religious person is in agreement with one another.

Allow us to disagree. 

The members of the secular community are “outsiders” to religion. From an outsider’s point of view, we must ask, “How can I know which religion is true when even the denominations within a religion claim ultimate truth over other denominations?” Let’s use Christianity as an example.

CVAAS observes with some amusement that several Christian denominations in and around Fresno claim to represent the True Church. They all have very good reasons why their church is “true” and why others lack authority or ability to bring people to salvation.

In Fresno, Catholics make up the largest group who regularly attend weekly religious observances.  In August of 2006 Pope John Paul II ratified the “Declaration ‘Dominus Iesus’ on the Unicity and Salvific Universality of Jesus Christ and the Church.”  This declaration says (among many other things) that the “one true religion continues to exist in the Catholic and Apostolic Church, to which the Lord Jesus entrusted the task of spreading it among all people.”  Or to sum up, extra Ecclesiam nulla salus.” 

As has been explained to CVAAS members very earnestly in a recent debate – only Catholicism provides a path to salvation.

The Southern Baptist Convention is the 5th largest religious group in Fresno. The SBC has made several resolutions over the decades that target the Vatican for fear that the Pope could influence the American government. These resolutions cite the First Amendment as being, “designed to prevent government sponsorship of religion, government financial support of religion, and government’s active involvement with religion.”  (Kansas City, MI, 1984) And they claim that “Southern Baptists have always championed religious liberty and the separation of the institutions of church and state.” (Houston Texas 1993)  

It’s nice to see the SBC has so much in common with atheists!

Again it is amusing that in their Orlando Florida 1994 resolution the SBC affirmed that they are allowed and encouraged to witness to Catholics, who lack salvation because they are Catholic. “…and we reject any suggestion that such witness be characterized as “sheep stealing” proselytizing or a wasteful use of resources.”

In 1963 the Foreign Mission Board of the SBC sent missionaries to Rome to lead and organize the Rome Baptist Church, located a mere 1.3 miles from Saint Peter’s Square.

The fourth largest religious denomination in Fresno is that of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS – aka the Mormons). CVAAS has had several discussions and a couple of prayers together with the Mormons, which culminated in an event in which CVAAS invited Mormon missionary Elders to attend a Christian Science lecture with us. That event ended with an argument between the lecturer and the Mormons.  As we walked back toward our cars one of the Mormon Elders asked earnestly, “Why can’t they (the Christian Scientists) see that they are wrong?”

The second largest religious denomination in Fresno is “Non-Denominational.”  This category includes Churches like New Covenant Community Church.  Again, as outsiders, CVAAS is fascinated that leaders from this church founded and support “The Bridge Community.”  This is a mission located in Utah in order to bring salvation to the Mormons, something New Covenant believes the Mormons lack.

The largest – by far – group in Fresno is that of those people who don’t regularly attend any worship service. Just over 48 percent, or about a quarter of a million Fresnans.  How many of these people are believers who don’t attend, and how many don’t attend because they don’t believe?

It’s hard to pin down the secular population. The Census does not ask for religious affiliation. But the American Religious identification Surveys of 1990 to 2008 showed that religious affiliation has been dropping and that people without religion grew to 15%. People who stated outright that they were atheist or agnostic grew to 1.6%.

The Pew Research Center’s 2014 Religious Landscape Study put the number of atheists at 3.1%, and the number of agnostics at 4.0%.

Fresno has over a half-million people in the city limits. There could be 15 thousand atheists and another 20 thousand agnostics in Fresno.  There may be 75 thousand people with no religious affiliation whatsoever, not even that of a believer who doesn’t bother going to church.

The trends predict that the population of secular people and people with no affiliation will continue to grow.  Is it possible that 1/5 of the Fresno population already lacks a belief in God?

Isn’t it time that the leadership in Fresno start addressing ALL of its citizens, and not just a subset?

“Out of many, one.”

CVAAS is speaking up.

 

Non-Profit Status

On March 5th, the CVAAS Board of Directors approved our new bylaws.

This approval, along with our 1023 application to the IRS, begins our final transition to become a 501(C)(3) tax-exempt nonprofit.

CVAAS is now waiting for our IRS determination letter.

There are only a couple other legal processes that are in the works, but CVAAS is currently a registered corporation in California and is able to apply for legal business licenses, bank accounts, and insurance as necessary.  

This is a HUGE step forward for the secular & skeptical community of the California Central Valley!  With this move, CVAAS is planning to assist you as the “Secular Voice in the Valley”.

You should be part of this!  

Become a member!

Shelley Segal in Fresno

Singer, Songwriter, and activist Shelley Segal is on tour and has offered the secular community of Fresno the chance to see her in an exclusive performance!

 


Date:  Tuesday, February 28th
Time: 6:30 pm to 9:00 pm
Location: Maw ‘n Paw Barbecue,  2686 N Clovis Ave (see map)

 

Tickets / cost: Donations  (see below)

 

You may know Shelley from her song “Saved” which is currently being used as the Intro music to the Atheist Experience video call-in show hosted by the Atheist Community of Austin.

 

 

Tickets / cost:


CVAAS is still putting together our nonprofit status, so we don’t have much to work with yet.  In order to make this happen, we need your donations!

 

This takes you to the GoFundMe page
Click on the “GoFundMe” button to help CVAAS make this happen!
Click on the button on the right to make a donation and help CVAAS bring Shelley to our own private performance.  We’ve already raised over a third of the costs in the first day!

 

This GoFundMe will pay for Shelley’s appearance and fees and will be used to secure the venue.  

 

If we do not meet our goal, then CVAAS will cancel the event and all money will be returned.

 

However, if we DO meet our goal, then CVAAS will add a “stretch goal” and from that we will provide a free dinner to everyone who attends!

 

Maw ‘n Paw Barbecue will supply the venue and the dinner for this event.  If you attended last year’s “Heretic’s Barbecue” you may remember the delicious food catered for us by Maw ‘n Paw.  We will offer a meal for Shelley’s performance.  Tri-tip & chicken, plus two sides, bread, and a drink all for $8.50 (plus tax).

 

Excellent Barbecue! Click the logo to see their menu.

Of course, if we meet our stretch goal then dinner will be free for all attendees!

 

Seating for this event is limited to 60 people, but everyone who donates $15 or more will be guaranteed one seat.

 

So, what do you say?  We all know that the secular community is important, now we have the chance to show it!  Make a donation and help this event happen!

 

 

New Bylaws

This post, along with the official posting in the CVAAS event calendar, serves notice to the CVAAS membership of the intent to adopt new bylaws.

You may view these proposed bylaws on our public folder located here.

Details:

CVAAS has attempted to become a nonprofit organization in the past.  As part of our application, we submitted a set of bylaws that were refused for not meeting California guidelines for bylaws.  As part of that refusal, the CVAAS application for non-profit status was delayed.

We have since cleared the delay, and have received our official refusal letter which indicated the changes required to meet nonprofit requirements.

Click here to read the new bylaws
Since the CVAAS bylaws needed to be modified, we also took the opportunity to update those bylaws to better reflect our operations, and to allow room for future growth.

The CVAAS Board of Directors along with interested members have been working on these bylaws since October 2016.  In accordance with nonprofit law, these bylaws are now submitted for viewing by the membership.

Members in good standing with CVAAS have the right to vote on the acceptance of these bylaws when they are presented at our monthly business meeting on March 5th, 2017.  

Once accepted, CVAAS will submit our final nonprofit application to the IRS.  

 

Who comes to CVAAS meetings?

CVAAS meets at Panera’s for a monthly brunch with Skeptics Without A Cause (SWAC) followed immediately by the CVAAS event planning committee. We take over several tables, and although we are not loud we are also not concerned with being overheard.

Chick Tract, "Room 310"
A photo of the Chick Tract left for us to find.
During our December 2016 meeting the people at the booth next to us left a Chick Tract behind on their table when they left the restaurant.  They placed it prominently in a way that made it clear that this was a message to our group. 

During last Sunday’s meeting (January 2017) we noticed that a gentleman was video recording our meeting on his phone.  I quietly got up and walked over to him and took a snapshot of him on my own phone.

“Hi, I’m Mark.” I introduced myself as he stared, startled at having his photo taken.  “I’m in charge of this atheist group, and we’re having a get-together.  We don’t mind you recording us, but I thought it was only fair that I get your photo too.”

I then walked back to my chair and sat down.  Our group ignored him completely and kept talking (probably about the tele-transportation paradox in Star Trek).  A few minutes later I noticed the gentleman had left.

 

 

orbs
Cropped image of “orbs”.   Orbs are an image artifact common to digital images.  They are exaggerated by digital image capture and compression algorithms that perform pixel averaging of pixels captured by digital image sensors.

Attrib. CC 2.0 by Stephanie Clifford.
Before CVAAS officially organized, we were just another meetup discussion group of skeptics and atheists.  

From the beginning, we have had interesting guests at our meetings.  We have listened to “9/11 Truthers”, we have viewed the pictorial evidence of “orbs” brought to us by ghost hunters.  During our meetings, people have spoken to us of world-wide conspiracies such as the conspiracy of a Jewish world order, or of the conspiracy of scientists to keep us all ignorant of Creationism.

In prayer
Praying with the Mormons. Dec. 2011
After the formation of CVAAS, we hosted the Mormons at one of our meetings.  They promised us evidence of God in answer to our sincere prayers.  Several of us prayed, but perhaps we just were not sincere enough because we are still waiting for evidence.

Some guests seemed to demonstrate signs of mental illness.  One such gentleman brought several thick binders filled with accountant ledger paper in which he had carefully filled with his exacting observations of the date and time in which many different traffic lights in Fresno had changed color. He claimed the trends he found in his records were evidence that these lights were controlled by witchcraft.

Some guests who have attended our meetings have actually managed to concern us.

 

horst2Remember the character “Horst” from the Disney movie Ratatouille? Horst had a line where he said that he killed a man, “With this thumb!”

Three years before the release of Ratatouille, our discussion group had a guest who claimed to be an ex-Soviet assassin.

 

He was an older guy but he was big and muscled and very fit.  He looked like he could break any of us in half, and would be bored while doing so.  He had a Slavic accent and his manner was a little unsettling, alternating between jovial and then suddenly serious.  He told us that after the fall of the Soviet Union he worked for the Russian Mafia until he came to America to get away from the violence.  He said that in his past he was very dangerous and that he knew how to “kill a man with MY THUMB!”  He made us all a touch nervous and we were mostly relieved when he didn’t come to any other meetings.

When the movie Ratatouille came out the line from Horst had me laughing uncontrollably.

There was one guest who concerned us more in retrospect than he did during the time we knew him.

The Fresno atheists and skeptics discussion group started holding meetings in October of 2002.   At our December meeting, we had a guest who was very enthusiastic about our new group.  He told us that his name was Aaron and that he used to be Navy enlisted.  His last duty assignment was in California.  He had a motorcycle and a goatee.  Aaron showed up to one or two more meetings in the new year, and then he stopped showing up.  We figured that he found the discussions boring.  

Aaron Kilner
Aaron Kilner

Then in October we found out that Aaron Stokes was really Aaron Kilner, and that he was part of the Fresno County Sheriff’s Department’s efforts to infiltrate local “subversive” organizations.  Most notably he infiltrated Peace Fresno, among others.

Our co-founder, Richard, brought our attention to the Fresno Bee story about Aaron and found his photo.  It was the same guy we remembered.  We were all a little bemused, and a little amused that we “scary atheists” were briefly targeted by the Sheriff’s anti-terrorism team.

And this leads us to current events…

Since the presidential election, I have heard local progressive group leaders expressing their concerns about the possibility of their groups being infiltrated.  Perhaps some groups have cause for concern.  I don’t know.  California laws have changed due to this incident.  

As a 501(c)3 organization, CVAAS is and will remain apolitical.  We are formed for educational purposes and will continue to educate our community on science-based, Constitutional, and human rights issues.  We will continue to support the secular community and will support the creation of new non-theistic organizations.  

We will continue to do what we do openly, without fear, and with great interest in the guests and visitors who come to our meetings.  We hope that our guests and visitors – that you – will become members and help us continue to create great events, educate our community, and participate in community service with us.

 

Announcing CVAAS Bylaws amendments

In order to become a non-profit, CVAAS is required to amend its bylaws.

We have taken this opportunity to amend many parts of our bylaws in order to become a more effective organization.

The proposed updated bylaws can be viewed here.  

There may be changes to the new bylaws during the month of January as we discuss them further.  CVAAS will reviewing our updated bylaws during our February 5th business meeting.  If accepted during that meeting, we will be voting on them during our March 5th Business meeting.

These proposed bylaws were planned using the mind mapping software called “Xmind”.  You can view the PDF mind-map of these bylaws here.


You may view the current CVAAS bylaws here.