New Podcast Posted! First interview with speakers for the 9th Annual Heretic’s Barbecue

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The latest Rational Horizon Podcast is now online.  

In this podcast Mark Boyd interviews speakers for the upcoming Heretic’s Barbecue – Jess and Jordan Fitzpatrick.  

The theme for this year’s event is “Justice for All”.  And to speak toward this theme we have a strong list of presenters who understand the problems with social inequalities.

Mark, Jess, Jordan and their friend Rain Chamberlain discuss the issues that are important to the Transgender and Transsexual community who make up the too-often forgotten “T” at the end of the LGBT acronym.  

The local Trans organizations, “Trans-E-Motion” and “the Lavender Convention” are also discussed.

 Trans-E-Motion was formed to provide support and education to transgender persons, their families and the community.  They also host the annual Transgender Day of Remembrance.  CVAAS has tabled at Trans-E-Motion’s other event, “The Transgender Day of Visibility“.  You can find Trans-E-Motion at their Facebook page, or from the Trans-E-Motion website.  

The Lavender Convention is a community organization designed to bring people of different beliefs together in support of the Trans community.  You can find the Lavender Convention at their Facebook page.

CVAAS is also announcing a new page in the menu – “Backstage”- which you can find under the “Members” tab.  This page will host the raw audio and video to events and interviews that CVAAS records.  You will be able to see the material before it goes into production.  Of course this is available to members only, and non-members are invited to enjoy the podcast content in our “Media” tab, or to subscribe to CVAAS podcasts through iTunes, Stitcher, or Google Play.




Two hands working – CVAAS and the support of the LGBT community

floridaheartThe Central Valley Alliance of Atheists and Skeptics grieves for the victims of the Orlando massacre, and stands side-by-side in solid support with our friends and family in the LGBT community.

As president of CVAAS, this statement encapsulates our organization’s stance on the atrocity committed in Orlando Florida yesterday.

But as a person, I must protest.  A mere statement can not be the whole of the action that any person or organization takes in response to this crime.

The founder of American Atheists, Madalyn Murray O’Hair, once said, “Two hands working can do more than a thousand clasped in prayer.”  

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Religious leaders, members of the Faith in Community coalition, stand in solidarity and support of the LGBT community at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Fresno

This quote came back to me over and over again yesterday as I attended the vigil at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Fresno.  Local religious leaders who are members of the Faith in Community of Fresno stood together hand-in-hand at the UU church to deplore the outrage in Florida, and to encourage healing.

It is not enough.

During the candlelight vigil and march from the LGBT Community Center to the Tower Theater in the Tower District of Fresno, I watched as my friends choked back grief, and offered each other unconditional compassion and love.  And again these same religious leaders spoke about support, about love, about healing.  And once again it was just not enough.

And finally there was another speaker, someone who spoke with outrage and passion about the necessity of change.  As this person demanded that we act I was again reminded of O’Hair’s quote – “Two hands working….”

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Members of the LGBT community hold a candlelight vigil at the Tower Theater on Olive in Fresno

Over the last day I’ve asked myself, what can we do?  What can I do?  I am not gay.  I’m not transgender.  I do not have a faith or belief in a deity.  

But I do believe in us.  I honestly believe that we are all greater than the sum of our individuals.  I believe that even if solutions to a complex problem are elusive or impossible, we can still find ways to make real positive changes.   

This is not going to be easy.  Over the last day, voices about the Orlando massacre have been all over the map.  The voices of hate and marginalization have been either outrageously evil, or they have been subtle and insidious.  I’ve watched as political leaders have written, or tweeted their support of the “victims of Orlando” without ever using the words, “gay”, “homosexual” or “LGBT”.  I’ve been attentive as media talking heads have gone out of their way to avoid any meaningful dialog about guns in America.  I’ve watched opinion leaders in America paint with brushes so broad that no room for nuance is allowed.  And I’ve watched the most insane of the devout gibber in glee in support of “Team God”.

This atrocity didn’t happen in a vacuum.  Although the murder of our friends and family is horrific, it is also a symptom of the contempt in which the LGBT community is held by many here in America.  And although there are secular people who dislike or hate gay people, most hatred, and I use the word “hatred” deliberately, is overwhelmingly coming from America’s religious communities.

Over the last 6 months, there have been over 200 pieces of legislation introduced around the country that are designed to marginalize gay and transgender people.  Since June of last year, when the Supreme Court ruling made same-sex marriage lawful in America, religious fundamentalist hate groups with words like “family” or “decency” in their names have been doing everything in their power to dismantle LGBT families, and to disparage members of the LGBT community and their supporters in the most immoral ways imaginable.

To be certain, religious fundamentalism in America is a minority.  But it is a large minority, and an extremely loud one.  And it is one that has had little or no opposition by religious moderates or liberals.  When moderates do find their voices, it is too common that a voice is all that is found.  “We are with you, in sorrow, in healing, and in prayer”.  But not in action.

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This is what action looks like. Yesterday morning I watched as my friend Kaylia worked with others to organize a candlelight vigil and march, and a place for grieving people to go for support. These are two hands working.

That’s not enough.  Two hands working can certainly do more than that.


Here is what I suggest.  As an ally, I will refuse to let anyone in my hearing, or in my circle of communication, get away with the marginalization of anyone in the LGBT community.  As an ally, I will support other allies who support the LGBT community.  

I suggest that we talk to our elected representatives.  There are plenty of places online that will allow you to plug in your address and will show you who your local, state and Federal representatives are.  Do this, and then write to them.  Use old-fashioned snail-mail to make a bigger impact.  Write more than once – write often.  Encourage others to do the same.

Join a local grass-roots organization.  Learn how to influence our political system.  Even at the level of an individual there are things you can do.  Even changes made at a local level can have national consequences.  The philosophy of, “think globally, act locally” applies here.

And finally, study the problems in politics in America.  Because we definitely have our problems, complex problems.  And I believe that working together we can advance toward real solutions.  

I believe in us.

If you would like to join us in figuring out what “two hands” can do, meet us on our discussion board.

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.

Beginning
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!

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.