What has CVAAS been up to lately?

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Jess Fitzpatrick, Vice Chair of Trans-E-Motion speaks at the Transgender Day of Visibility

CVAAS members have been very busy the last few weeks. Let us take a moment to review…

April 10th, CVAAS was invited to host a table at the Transgender Day of Visibility.

TDVtable
We had plenty of volunteers to staff the CVAAS table!

Hosted at the Alliant International University of Fresno, this event featured speakers and performers from the Transgender / Transsexual community. This was a fun event, hosted with an “indoor street fair” flair.

The event organizers asked tabling organizations to donate gift baskets to raffle off at the event.  

CVAAS provided a “Skeptic’s Starter Kit” gift box, filled with books from Carl Sagan, Michael Shermer, and Bill Zuersher.  It also contained some emblems from Evolve Fish, a slab of trilobite fossil granite from our expedition to the Latham shale deposit in Amboy, some chocolate, and a cuddly pink unicorn plushy.

It was fascinating to hear the stories of people who overcome adversity to become their true selves, it was amazing to watch a lot of joyous celebration.  And it was saddening to see just how much damage has been caused by bigotry and hate.

May 7th was the CVAAS annual blood drive in the name of the National Day of Reason.

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CVAAS President Mark Boyd donating blood. Even though it makes him very very queasy.
The USA was founded on a secular Constitution, however, the National Day of Prayer is an official United States holiday held annually on the first Thursday of May.  Although the type of religion is not officially specified, in practice the National Day of Prayer focuses on those denominations of Christianity that allow or endorse a religious spectacle of public prayer.

In answer to the National Day of Prayer, secular organizations celebrate the National Day of Reason, also held on the first Thursday of May.  This is not an official United States holiday, and is not as much of a pageant.  Instead of breakfasts and speeches, secular people tend to promote ways to make real changes in the lives of those who need it.  Often this through advocacy, food drives and blood drives.

CVAAS members celebrate by giving blood, and then following that with a lunch at a local restaurant.  Some CVAAS members have donated for the very first time through this event.  Other members are gallon to 5 gallon donors.

May 15 – CVAAS hosted a table at SkeptiCal, the science and skepticism conference.

SC16_ravecards_webversion (3)When Dr. Eugenie Scott suggested that CVAAS could host a table at the 7th annual SkeptiCal Conference, we jumped at the chance to bring awareness of our organization further north.

So several CVAAS members made a day-trip to Oakland California to attend the conference and staff our exhibitor’s table.  It was almost a 3 hour drive, in each direction, through some seriously crazy traffic.  But it was well worth the trip.

Speakers and topics at SkeptiCal included:

  • SkeptiCaltable
    Mark and Jen setting up the CVAAS table
    Steve Silberman – Autism history, and why the rates of autism diagnoses have increased, although the rates of autism have likely not changed as much.

  • Carolyn Porco – Cassini spacecraft and its Huygens probe, which spent a decade exploring Saturn and its rings and moons.  This talk was fascinating due to what we have learned, and because of the beautiful images of Saturn.  On a special note, Carl Sagan’s “Pale Blue Dot” was reproduced by Cassini when it framed the Earth and Moon in Saturn’s rings.
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Brain in a Vat seems bored

  • Henry Gilbert – Dr. Gilbert is a paleontologist who specializes in Homo erectus, and how this is an important transitional fossil for the hominid lineage.  It was also interesting to learn about the paleoanthropological hoax, the Piltdown Man, and how this is a lesson for the importance of skepticism in science.

  • Jeff Sheehy – Gene editing has already arrived at your kitchen table, and people are able to use low-cost tools to modify genes.  Synthetic genomics has already been used to create synthetic organisms, and scientists are already discussing the possibility of a synthetic human.  However, the promise of gene editing to cure genetic diseases is amazing, and can not be ignored.
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Jen is explaining how the “Get Out of Hell, Free” card works. “No one has ever returned one by saying that they tried it and it didn’t work for them.”

There were other great speakers, along with bassist and vocalist Joey Fabian, and magician Ryan Kane.

The CVAAS table was very popular, and we gave out a lot of literature about CVAAS, along with our ever popular “Get Out of Hell, Free” cards.  The table was in a perfect spot to observe the stage and audience.  There were approximately 200 – 250 people in the audience, with another 30 people staffing the exhibitor tables.
Once Upon a Crime
Once Upon a Crime

May 28 – CVAAS Movie Night – members watched “Once Upon a Crime” (1992).  

June 4 – Fresno Pride Parade and Festival – once again CVAAS marched in the Fresno Pride Parade – actually we brought the ‘Secular Pickup’, colorfully decorated and displaying our “Other Closet” banner.

Pickup Truck
The Secular Pickup
Community Link puts together the Pride festival and parade.  This year there were several new requirements that the festival had to meet to satisfy the city.  For a little while, the fate of the Pride parade was in doubt.  So Kudos to Community Link / Fresno Rainbow Pride in pulling this event together against the odds.

And if it wasn’t bad enough to fight City Hall, the Festival also found itself fighting Mother Nature.  Temperatures topped 106°F (41°C) today, which had a big impact on attendance.  The people who did come to the event didn’t stay long.

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Waiting for the Festival gates to open
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Rainbow guy

People stopped by the booth to get a Lei, get information about upcoming events, and to just say they were happy to see us there.  Unlike past years, we had no one who attempted to proselytize.  Perhaps it was just too hot.

As always, the presence of a bunch of atheists and skeptics was met with overwhelming support at the Festival, with many people thanking us for being there.  It isn’t surprising that the LGBT community is diverse and accepting.  

We did get a couple of negative comments during the Parade, but those two events were drowned out by the cheers of waving onlookers. 


So, what’s next on the calendar?

CVAAS has plenty of future events planned, and we’re adding more all the time.  Here is a sample of what is coming up next.

  • June 5 – Drinking Skeptically – come and join us at Wahoo’s Fish Tacos for some food and drinks and skeptical company!

  • June 12 – Monthly coffee and brunch with SWAC – Skeptics Without a Cause is another group in Fresno – we like to get together and plot… drink coffee.

  • June 28 – CVAAS Movie Night – We will see “The Last Picture Show” (1971) starring Cybill Shepherd and Jeff Bridges.

  • July 16 – A day at the California Academy of Sciences, San Francisco.  If we get enough people to sign up for this event, we will get a discount on tickets and a behind the doors tour of this beautiful science educational institution.


Would you like to join us at one of these events?  It’s easy!  Just check out our EVENTS menu at the top of this page, and follow it to our MEETUP page.  Then just RSVP for an event.

Would you like to become a member of CVAAS?  Click the “Join Us” tab under the MEMEBERS menu at the top of this page.  Then choose your membership type.  Memberships allow us to create great events like the annual Heretic’s Barbecue, where we invite speakers to help us understand the world, while having some fun and some great food!

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.