Not Just Christian Fascism: Economic Justice & the Hobby Lobby Atrocity


By Sikivu Hutchinson

The myth of American exceptionalism has always been impervious to data and empirical evidence.  Despite being the richest most prolific jailer in the world, the U.S. is fond of favorably comparing itself to Western Europe with its evil big government social welfare safety net and waning capitalist moxie.  Despite allowing Christian fascists to control its public policy it is fond of flailing Muslim theocracy while touting its status as a beacon of secular democratic rights.  Despite telling American women that they are liberated, post-feminist and beyond all that affirmative action shit, it is beholden to a medievalist court blazing a “new” trail of misogynist jurisprudence.

The Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision is staggering in its criminal disregard for individual liberty, women’s self-determination and economic justice.  It is indicative of how much the political ground has shifted in eight years that the seemingly modest requirement that all employers be mandated to provide birth control coverage under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has emerged as a pitchfork clarion call for the radical right.  As commentator Sally Kohn pointed out recently on CNN, the cost of birth control meds like Plan B is prohibitive for women who are making at or below minimum wage (HL apparently funded Plan B and other contraceptives it disingenuously labels “abortifacients” before the passage of the ACA).  The absence of this coverage will have an immediate impact on their families and day-to-day livelihoods.  But this endorsement of Christian fascists cannot be separated from the broader context of GOP assaults on worker rights and racial justice.  In addition to subverting reproductive rights, the GOP has consistently opposed raising the federal minimum wage and fought tooth and nail against minimum wage increases in state legislatures like California.  SCOTUS’ ruling against a requirement that home care workers in Illinois pay union dues was another salvo in the radical right’s campaign against public employee unions like SEIU.  SEIU’s membership is fifty six percent female and forty percent of color.  Nationwide, working class and low income women of color disproportionately rely on public employee unions to fight for benefits and higher wages.  [Read more…]

Black Skeptics & POCBF Nat’l HIV Testing Day Outreach

“According to the CDC, the rate of new HIV infections last year among young black women aged 13 to 29 was 11 times higher than the rate among young white women and four times higher than the rate among young Hispanic women”

Black Skeptics L.A. and Chicago outreach sites for National HIV Testing Day:

Black Skeptics L.A.
Gardena Healthy Start Clinic
1301 W. 182nd Street
Gardena, CA
Time: 9:00-12:00

Black Skeptics Chicago
100 W. Randolph St.
Chicago, IL
Time: 8:30 a.m.

Support for Acid Attack Victim: Skepchick Advocacy

Surly Amy over at Skepchick has put out a call for support for a young Ugandan acid attack victim who will be receiving treatment at the Grossman Burn Foundation in Southern California.  The young woman needs a host family and financial aid while she’s receiving treatment over the course of a year.

From Skepchick:

A friend of mine, named Claire Knowlton, does that on a regular basis. Claire is the Board President of The Life You Can Save which is a 501(c)(3) that focuses on effective giving. life you can saveYou can find out more about her fantastic organization and the valuable work they do by clicking here.

Claire recently came to me with a project that her associate, Angie brought to her attention, that she thought Skepchick and Skepchick readers may be able to help with.

A young woman named Christine was attacked with acid in Africa and is coming to America (specifically the Calabasas area of California) to receive restorative surgery. Some back story:

When I worked in Uganda, I met a young Tanzanian woman named Christine
who was the victim of an acid attack in 2012. When I got back to the
US, I started asking around about the possibility of a probono surgery
for her and through the help of a friend of mine, contacted Grossman
Burn Foundation in LA, who agreed to take her case (awesome news!)
Grossman Burn Foundation will take care of all of the medical parts of
her care, but it is up to me and my friend to find a host family for
her while she is here in the US. She will need multiple surgeries
with rehabilitation time in between so they are estimating she will be
here for about one year. (I’m attaching a picture of her so you can
have a sense of the extent of the damage.) In addition to a host
family, we are looking for people who can volunteer to help in
supplementary ways– for example, driving her to appointments, taking
her shopping, invite her out for entertainment, etc.

My question for you is whether you know of anyone in LA who might
consider being a host family or people who can help in the additional
ways I listed above. I don’t know personally know anyone in the area
so am just trying to reach out in whatever ways I can. If it’s
helpful, I’m also happy to provide more information about Christine’s

For more information on how to help check out Skepchick or contact

Wash Post Article: Atheism’s Race Problem & Our Fans

From my article “Atheism Has A Big Race Problem”:

Just as cliché holds that there are no atheists in foxholes, it’s commonly believed that there are no atheists in overwhelmingly Christian black America. African Americans are the most religious ethnic group in the nation; nonbelievers make up just 1 percent of the population.

That’s a problem, and not just because atheists face discrimination in their own communities.

African Americans still live in disproportionately segregated neighborhoods, with few living-wage jobs, parks, accessible public transportation and healthy grocery stores. We make up 13 percent of the U.S. population, but nearly 40 percent of its prison and homeless populations. This disparity has only deepened in the Obama age.

Faith-based institutions provide resources to these poor and working-class families. They also fight racial discrimination, offer a foundation for community organizing and create access to social welfare, professional networks and educational resources. These are essential issues, and atheists of color often find themselves allied in these missions.

White atheists have a markedly different agenda. They are, on average,more affluent than the general population. Their children don’t attend overcrowded “dropout mills” where they are criminalized, subjected to “drill and kill” curricula and shunted off to prison, subminimum-wage jobs or chronic unemployment. White organizations go to battle over church/state separation and creationism in schools…More @

Top Comments from fans:
Hermann W.
6/17/2014 12:45 PM PDT
It’s a good thing Ms. Hutchinson isn’t the founder of Elderly Black Female Lesbian Skeptics with Disabilities, because then she would be even *more* disappointed in the issues the majority of Atheists are trying to address.
6/17/2014 2:07 PM PDT
This is just ridiculous on so many levels. All the points related to “racist atheists,” such as white affluence and black dropout rates, are not related to a belief system AT ALL. these are just points related to the two races. The fact that white people are more affluent has absolutely nothing to do with whether or not they believe in a god. Secondly, the idea that black atheists must make separatist groups because they are unequal makes NO sense because their inequality doesn’t begin in the community of atheism. In that community, they are treated exactly the same as white people. This article is 100% bogus.
6/17/2014 12:19 PM PDT
Atheism does not have a race problem. I just happen to be white and I happen to be an atheist. If I choose to support atheist organizations it is because they are pursuing things that are related to theism or atheism.

If I wish to support organizations that fight racism I will do this independent of atheism. While many “isms” may be worthy, they should be supported independent of any kind of atheist organizations…. this includes “feminism, racism, environmentalism, vegetarianism” etc, etc, etc…..

Typical atheist political topics might include, separation of church and state, religious tests for political office, teaching religion as science in school. Please notice…. all of these things are related to theism!

Bridging the STEM Divide Youth Conference & White Atheist STEM Hypocrites


Do atheists care about STEM literacy and education as anything other than a gotcha debate point for religionists? In numerous articles about racism in STEM I’ve made the following point: “While Neil D.G. Tyson is widely revered as an icon of science literacy in humanist and atheist circles, there has been little to no humanist or atheist critique of the legacy of segregation that informs STEM inequities” nor are there any major atheist organizations that seek to address these issues through STEM programming or youth leadership development.  In fact, last year Black Skeptics approached one of the leading “science n’ reason” spewing atheist organizations about sponsoring a STEM immersion program and scholarship opportunities for youth of color interested in STEM but it was no dice.

Interestingly, now we have (yet another)  virtually lily white secular science organization, the humbly titled “Global Secular Council”, comprised of the “the world’s great minds” who place “precedence on science and reason”, who will lead us third world-in-the-first-world barbarians to the frontiers of enlightenment.

On September 13, the Level Playing Field Institute, the Women’s Leadership Project (sponsored by BS) and several other organizations will hold a youth conference on STEM fields, careers and academic disciplines at the University of Southern California. The conference is specifically designed to introduce youth of color to STEM careers, professionals and academics as well as address some of the following egregious stats:

  • According to the Washington D.C.-based Stem Connector group, overall interest in STEM has declined among African American high school students and female students of all ethnicities. This decline is especially pronounced in engineering and technology majors and careers
  • According to the National Center for Education Statistics, “The percentage of African-Americans earning STEM degrees has fallen during the last decade. In 2009, they received just 7 percent of all STEM bachelor’s degrees, 4 percent of master’s degrees, and 2 percent of PhDs”
  • In a typical year, only 13 African-Americans and 20 Latinos of (of all genders) receive Ph.D.’s in physics
  • High poverty schools in predominantly African American and Latino communities have fewer “elite” Advanced Placement science courses than do schools in affluent communities
  • African Americans are less than 1% of the faculty at Cal Tech and 4% of the faculty at MIT
  • Silicon Valley giant Google’s 46,000 plus workforce is 70% men, 30% women, 61% white, 30% Asian, 3% Latino and 2% black — reflecting the overall lack of diversity in SV

As Level Playing Field founder Freada Kapor Klein notes in a recent L.A. Times article on diversity in SV, “Silicon Valley’s obsession with meritocracy is delusional and aspirational and not a statement of how it really operates,” she said. “Unless someone wants to posit that intelligence is not evenly distributed across genders and race, there has to be some systematic explanation for what these numbers look like.”

Insert the Global Secular Institute, rinse, upchuck, repeat.

Black Atheists Stand in Solidarity with Week of Action for Marissa Alexander

marissa alexander week of action
To raise awareness about mass incarceration and domestic violence, Black atheist groups will participate in the Mother’s Day Week of Action for Marissa Alexander from May 9th through 18th. Alexander is a Florida mother of three who was sentenced to 20 years in prison for protecting herself against her abusive ex-spouse in 2012. In November 2013 Alexander was released on bond and is currently under house arrest awaiting a new trial, which is set for July 2014. Florida prosecutor Angela Corey is now seeking a 60-year sentence for Alexander.

Alexander’s case exemplifies the disproportionate burden criminalization, domestic violence and mandatory minimum sentencing has on African American women and communities of color. According to the Sentencing Project, the lifetime likelihood of incarceration for Black women is 1 in 19; versus 1 in 118 for white women. The Black Skeptics Group of Los Angeles and Chicago, in addition to the Chocolate City Skeptics, will participate in fundraising, letter writing and other outreach to increase awareness of the impact of prison pipelining on communities of color.

About Us: The Black Skeptics Group (BSG) is a 501c3 organization provides resources, education and outreach to non-believers of color. BSG partners with community-based organizations across the nation on projects that promote social justice and humanism.

Bring Back Our Girls: May 5th Protests/Events

Bring Back Our Girls demonstration:
We ask you to join on on May 5th, 2014 at 6pm, on the corner of Crenshaw Blvd and King Blvd (by the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Mall) to stand in solidarity. These girls are daughters, sisters, and friends and we need to show them that we care and will not turn a blind eye towards them.

Please wear the color red, and wear your gele if you have one.
Location: King Blvd & Crenshaw in South Los Angeles
Time: 6pm PST

Black Freethinkers Podcast: Crisis in Nigeria with Anthea Butler (Penn U), Kamela Heyward-Rotimi (Duke U) and Teka Lark-Fleming (Morningside Park Chronicle)
Time: 5pm PST

Passionate Present: Protecting Black Girlhood with bell hooks & Salamishah Tillet
Location: Eugene Lang College, New School for Social Research, NYC
Time: 4pm EST

Bring Back Our Girls: African Agency & the Kidnapping of Nigerian School Girls

In the post, “Everyone is an Expert on Nigeria Now” blogger Atane discusses African political agency and why Western takes on the recent kidnapping of Nigerian school girls in Chibok by Islamist terrorist organization Boko Haram reek of paternalism:

1. After the news broke that some of the kidnapped girls had been taken across the border into Cameroon and Chad, and some might have been forced into marriage, one of the most disgusting things I read was from someone going on about “Nigerian culture”. This person went on to say that this is normal in Nigeria. Yes, they were serious. If it isn’t clear by now, no it isn’t normal in Nigeria to storm schools with guns and kidnap young girls, take them deep into the bush, hold them against their will, rape them and then traffic them into neighboring countries as your new forced teen brides. WTF?

How can anyone insinuate that this is “Nigerian culture”? I’m sure people in Iraq and Afghanistan and those from Iraq and Afghanistan in the US were constantly in a state of uneasiness and anger by the outright lies propagated about their country by some westerners. I understand this feeling now. This is where I am at the moment. I’m angry. These people saying these awful things don’t understand that they are dealing with human lives. These are people. Your lies and distortion has an affect on public perception and day to day life. Ignorant people also imbibe this nonsense and it will shape their beliefs and ideology about people they don’t know and places they have never been. It’s why my former neighbor who is a Sikh had to prop up a US flag after 9/11, because he wears a turban and didn’t want to be assaulted by the roving gangs of white dudebros who wanted to exact revenge on any brown person they saw. The flag didn’t help him because he was still accosted and harassed. His store was vandalized several times.

2. Stop using Nigeria as a stepping stone for your talking points…More @

The Sterling Shuffle: Unpacking White Jewish Racism

By Sikivu Hutchinson

Every Sunday for the past several years the mug of real estate mogul and L.A. Clippers owner Donald Sterling has commanded prime ad space in the Los Angeles Times. Touting Sterling’s philanthropy, these ads often feature grinning photos of prominent African American politicians, religious leaders and other glad-handing public figures who’ve received hefty donations from his financial empire. After TMZ revealed a recording of Sterling’s racist comments about black people to girlfriend V. Stiviano, President Obama and other dignitaries were swift to condemn him. On Monday it was “shockingly” revealed that Sterling, who is Jewish, went the extra mile with his racism in the recording, contending that “the blacks are treated like dogs” in Israel to Stiviano. Responding to her criticism of this claim, Sterling reiterated that “the black Jews” are “less than” white Jews and that that is the way it should be.

Anti-black racism among white Jewish people is a seldom discussed, controversial aspect of the complicated arc of black-Jewish relations in the U.S. Yet, Sterling’s comments are noteworthy because they not only highlight the white supremacist bent of Israeli anti-African sentiment but the social construction of Jewish whiteness. Echoing rancher Cliven Bundy’s recent references to blacks thriving under slavery, Sterling expressed the paternalistic view that he “supports” blacks on the team by giving them clothes, houses and cars. He then blasts Stiviano for comparing anti-black racism and discrimination to the Jewish Holocaust.

Implicit in this shutdown is the notion that Jewish suffering under the Holocaust precludes consideration of how white Jews have benefited from institutional and systemic racism.
The illusion of lockstep black-Jewish solidarity on liberal political coalition-building has long masked the reality of white Jewish privilege and investment in white supremacy. This is especially relevant to Sterling (who tellingly changed his name from Tokowitz to the more Anglicized Sterling) because he is a multi-millionaire developer who has also been the subject of two federal racial discrimination lawsuits involving tenants of color. In her book How Jews Became White Folks, Karen Brodkin notes that Jews contrasted themselves with the specter of a “mythic blackness”. Deeply ingrained racial stereotypes of shiftless, lazy, culturally pathological and mentally enslaved blacks—versus “hard working” immigrants streaming through Ellis Island in search of opportunity—have always been a subtext of the American dream. Hence, “mythic blackness” implicitly signified social dysfunction and downward mobility—i.e., the antithesis of American notions of rugged individualism and bootstraps uplift. This divide allowed Jewish, Irish and other reviled, provisionally white ethnic immigrants to highlight and capitalize on their (relative) whiteness. As Salomon Gruenwald notes in a review of Brodkin’s book, “Jews did not become white because they succeeded in spite of racism, rather, they succeeded because of white racism. Economic and social shifts following WWII reconfigured whiteness in such a way as to allow them—particularly Jewish men—the entitlements that being white brought (like the G.I. Bill and access to the suburbs).”

The long term economic legacy of these entitlements has been amplified in the post-civil rights era. African Americans of all income levels are hyper-segregated in urban communities heavily impacted by foreclosure, joblessness, predatory lending, subpar schools, racist policing and mass incarceration. And, relative to white working class homeowners, even the most wealthy African Americans are segregated into neighborhoods that have high poverty rates. As the most segregated racial group in Los Angeles, the socioeconomic divide between blacks and white Jews couldn’t be more profound. Like other European Americans in the post-World War II era, Jews took advantage of New Deal FHA, VA and GI Bill loans (which were denied to African Americans) to flee South L.A. and East L.A. neighborhoods and move to wealthier enclaves in West L.A. and the Valley. Once upon a time, predominantly Mexican American Boyle Heights was a thriving Jewish enclave. New Deal era affirmative action policies for white people, coupled with the Great Migration of African Americans from the South, facilitated white Jewish upward mobility and assimilation. As Ryan Reft writes on the transformation of Boyle Heights, “the Great Migration led others to rewrite the rules that kept whites separated from non-whites. As a result, definitions of whiteness shifted. Jews now found themselves increasingly included as part of the metropolitan area’s…conception of whiteness, and many took advantage of new housing opportunities.”

Sterling’s racist references to shiftless black untouchables are simply yet another snapshot of how caste, ethnicity and the bootstraps mythology play out in “post-racial” America. And in a country in which the racial wealth gap is most powerfully reflected in corporate real estate and apartheid-level access to private space people of color in particular shouldn’t be shocked or surprised.

Call to Action: Greta Christina discusses “Coming Out Atheist”!



Greta Christina’s timely, insightful new book Coming Out Atheist: How to Do It, How to Help Each Other, and Why? dropped a few days ago! Black Skeptics interviewed her on the intersectional issues she addresses in the book, including the Atheism Plus phenomenon, feminism and social justice:

BS: In the book you stress the value of engaging in debates about religion with believers to encourage questioning and coming out. However, as you acknowledge, debating the validity of religious belief is only one part of the equation. For example, the vast majority of LGBTQ people of color and straight people of color are faith-aligned/identified precisely because mainstream America is racially segregated, faith (for many) is a form of cultural “home space” and social welfare resources in communities of color are extremely impacted. What further “intersectional” steps need to be taken to promote humanistic communities beyond just “coming out”?

GC: I’m surprised to hear you say that — I don’t think I did stress the value of debating with believers all that much. I mention in the book, but I don’t give it much space, and I mostly mention it because I actually advise against having those debates while you’re in process of coming out to people. I think that’s the wrong time for those debates. It is true that I think debating believers can be useful and valuable: a lot of atheists rag on other atheists for getting into those debates, insisting that they never work and are always a waste of time, so I think they deserve defending. And it can be difficult to draw a clear line between simply explaining your atheism, and explaining why you think religion is bunk. That’s one of the main reasons I talk about the topic at all. But it’s certainly not something I think everyone should do, I don’t think it’s a moral imperative or anything, and I think lots of other forms of activism are valuable.

So, with that being cleared up. The answer to your main question: Yes, for lots of people of color, faith is a home: it’s where people get social services, social support, a sense of identity and continuity and stability and history, and more. (It does seem that it can be a toxic home — that’s one of the takeaways I got from Candace Gorham’s book, “The Ebony Exodus Project,” I kept being struck throughout the book by how so many black women found their churches unsupportive and actually undermining. But it’s still a home.) So one of the biggest intersectional steps that godless communities can take is to make atheism a safer place to land for these folks. We need to look at what people of color are getting from their faith communities, and do more in our own communities to provide it. It wouldn’t suck if we did more to make some of these needs less necessary while we’re at it: to do political work on poverty and safety nets and institutional racism and so on. And no, that’s not “mission drift”: if local atheist communities can do blood drives and roadside cleanups and so on, there’s no reason they can’t do this sort of political work, too. And we need to be willing to take a hard look at the ways that we actually make our spaces unwelcoming: not just with racism of omission (e.g., failing to recognize what these folks need and provide it), but with more overt racism of commission. And all this actually does go back to the question of debates about religion: there’s not much point — strategically, poltically, or indeed morally — in arguing people out of religion if we don’t provide them a safe place to land if we succeed.

BS: What are your thoughts on “Atheism Plus”? Is it more than an online phenomenon and if so what concrete inroads are its proponents making in social justice organizing and coalition building?

GC: It depends somewhat on what you mean by “Atheism Plus.” If you mean specifically the online community that was founded a couple of years ago, I’m not actually that involved with it right now (not for any particular reason, I’ve just been focusing on other things), and I’m not the best person to ask about it. But the term “Atheism Plus” often gets used to refer to anyone (well, any atheist) who wants organized atheism to work more on social justice stuff: anyone who thinks organized atheism needs to work on making our communities more diverse and more welcoming to a wider variety of people, and anyone who thinks we need to work more on issues where secularism intersects with other social justice issues (like reproductive rights, megachurches and religious frauds preying on impoverished neighborhoods, ways that voucher funding of religious schools is undermining public education, skepticism applied to economic policies and police procedures and the drug war, etc.). And the term gets applied to anyone who thinks we need to be willing to clean our own house around this stuff: to pay attention to our own racism, sexism, classism, etc., and to work to get better around it.

If you mean that, I think we have had some success, although we sure as hell need more. When I travel around the U.S. to speak to local communities and student groups, I’m seeing a lot more diversity in the memberships and leaderships, a greater consciousness about these issues, a greater committment to taking action on them and more effectiveness in that action, than I did even just a few years ago. That’s especially true in the student groups. Whenever I get disheartened by racist/ sexist/ classist/ transphobic/ etc. bullshit in organized atheism, I try to remember that the student groups are way better about it than their elders are. When I talk about diversity with student groups, they’re almost always already on board — they don’t need to talk about “Why?”, they just want to talk about “How?” I’m not sure I’d credit that to Atheism Plus specifically, though — it’s more that this has been on a lot of people’s radar for a while, as has the pushback against it, and the genesis of Atheism Plus was a flash point for that.

GC: In the book you note that there has been an uptick in the numbers of African American participants in atheist/humanist conferences, however there is still no emphasis on social and racial justice issues by the majority of the leading atheist/humanist organizations. What can “white allies” do to help the leadership of these organizations get out of their church/state separation bubble?

You tell me. What would you like white allies to do? Seriously. I get asked questions like this a lot, and I try to answer as best I can (and I’ll try to answer you), but if you think there’s specific stuff we’re not doing that would be useful, I for one would like to hear it.

So, to answer your question as best I can. Some things I think white allies can do to shift the leadership: Speak up. Keep this stuff on our leaders’ radar. Give our leaders shit when they fail; make it clear that this is a priority for us. Give financial and other support to organizations that are doing a better job of it. Withdraw financial and other support from organizations that are seriously and consistently screwing it up. Give strokes when people get it right. Support up-and-coming leaders who are better on this stuff, and let organizations know which up-and-coming leaders we support and would like to see move up in the ranks. Give financial and other support to organizations that are specifically dedicated to this intersectional stuff (like Black Skeptics, to pick just one example completely at random).

And I think it might be useful to frame some of these other social justice issues as church/state separation issues. Attacks on abortion rights and access, religiously-inspired bullying of LGBTQ kids and teenagers, defunding of public schools for voucher funding of religious schools, abstinence-only sex education — these are church/state separation issues. We need to make that clearer. I keep hearing these fears about mission drift, fears that organized atheism is somehow going to drift into areas that have nothing whatsoever to do with religion or secularism. But nothing I’ve seen advocated by the social justice crowd looks like mission drift to me. It’s all in the wheelhouse of atheism, humanism, skepticism, secularism, and making safe homes for a wider variety of non-believers. It’s not like we’re trying to get funding for model railroad societies or something.

BS: In the book you use the phrase “women and people of color” often, however white women have a privileged position and power base in American society relative to women of color. In the atheist and humanist movements this has been reflected in the emphasis on sexual harassment, sexist language and sexist discrimination without a corresponding emphasis on the specific ways queer and straight women of color are marginalized, criminalized and shut out of leadership positions. Do you see the need for more feminist humanist dialogue across the racial/class divide?

GC: Absolutely.

I’m certainly not going to harsh on anyone for fighting against sexual harassment and assault in godless communities, and against online harassment and abuse and threats against feminists in the godless communities, and other major firestorm issues. I think this stuff is important, and I don’t think social justice is a zero sum game. But just as atheism in general needs to focus more on the needs of atheists who aren’t white, feminists within atheism need to focus more on the needs of atheist women who aren’t white.

Generally, I do like to see this framed, not so much as “Why are you focusing on (X)?,” but as “Why aren’t you also focusing on (Y)?” I think when people are volunteering time and energy and money on something they’re passionate about, and they get ragged on for doing it because we’d rather see them do something different, it tends to just be demoralizing. As a writer, this is one of the many thousands of bees in my bonnet: I write about stuff I care about, and I hate it when people say, “Why are you writing about atheism and feminism and fashion and sex when people are dying in Darfur?” And if we get too deeply into the “my issues are more important than yours” thing, I think it eventually takes us down a rabbit hole, where we’re going, “No! We have to work on slave labor in China! Female genital mutilation! The AIDS pandemic in Africa! State-sponsored torture!” Pretty much no matter what issue we’re working on, a case could be made that some other issue is more important. (In my opinion, if we seriously evaluated the ultimate value of different political issues, then every single political activist should stop everything we’re doing right now and work nonstop on global climate change — if we don’t fix that, then game over, end of civilization, nothing else any of us are doing will matter.) I think, ultimately, people need to do whatever activism gets them excited, and I don’t like trying to talk them out of that excitement by telling them that the thing they’re excited about is trivial. But I do think we can work to get people get excited about different kinds of activism than the ones they’re currently engaged in — including activism about race and class. And I think we can get people excited about the ways that the activism they’re already doing intersects with the activism we’re trying to get them to care about. That certainly happened with me: I wasn’t focusing nearly as much on this stuff until the last few years. And it’s happening with a lot of other writers and activists.

BS: What impact would you like your book to have within the “activist” atheist community?

GC: Is this a trick question? :-)

The main impact I want the book to have is the obvious one — I want more atheists to come out to more people, and I want for that coming out process to go better for more people, with better results. I think coming out makes atheists’ own lives better: when I was researching the book and reading the hundreds of coming-out stories for it, I was struck by how overwhelmingly positive people are about it. Even if they had a hard time at first with their families and communities, it usually turned out mostly well over time; they often had less of a hard time than they’d thought they would; they often found other closeted atheists among their friends and family who they had no idea about; and even the ones who did end up alienated by the people they care about still think coming out was the right decision, and are still happy they did it. And all of that was true across color lines, gender lines, class lines. Of the hundreds of coming-out stories I read, literally just one person said they regretted having done it.

I think coming out makes atheists’ own lives better — and I think it makes things better for other atheists. The more we come out, the less alone other atheists will feel, the less stigmatized atheism will be, and the less strong a hold religion will have. Coming out makes it easier for other atheists to come out — and it makes things easier on other atheists who really don’t think they can come out safely right now. And of course, coming out is how we organize. It is a hugely powerful political act: that’s been true for LGBTQ people, and it’s true for us. Of course I recognize that it’s harder for some people than others — for reasons of race and ethnicity, economic class, culture, gender, geography, as well as simply for reasons of personality and people’s personal situations. I certainly don’t encourage anyone to come out if it’s going to seriously screw up their lives. But I want every atheist who wants to come out to be able to do it — and I wrote this book to help make that happen. I want to help atheists come out. I want other atheist activists to help atheists come out — and to give them a safer place to land when they do. I’m hoping that this book makes that work easier. I think that it will.