Atheist Meme of the Day: No Good Evidence for the God Hypothesis

Scarlet letter Today’s Atheist Meme of the Day. Pass this on; or don’t; or edit it as you see fit; or make up your own. Enjoy!

There is no better evidence for God than there is for unicorns, fairies, Zeus, or the three- inch- tall pink pony behind my sofa who instantly teleports to Guam the moment anyone looks back there. If you don’t treat those ideas as plausible, you shouldn’t treat the God hypothesis as plausible, either. Pass it on: if we say it enough times to enough people, it may get across.

On Intimacy

Important note: This post discusses my personal sexuality, in a certain amount of detail. Family members and others who don’t want to read about that stuff, you may not want to read this piece. This piece was originally published on the Blowfish Blog.

Intimacy What does intimacy mean?

And how can it be reached?

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about sexual intimacy. I wrote about it in my recent exegesis on masochism; I wrote about it in my review of the Japanese movie about the blow-up sex doll. I’ve been thinking about what sexual intimacy is, and how it’s different from sex. And I’ve been thinking about why it’s often so elusive… and what we can do to create it.

Balancebeam,I think there’s a paradox in creating sexual intimacy. Or maybe just a balance. On the one hand, intimacy can’t be forced. You can’t make someone open up to you; I’m not sure you can even make yourself open up. Moments of connection — moments of feeling present with someone else, and feeling them present with you; moments of feeling the world fall away leaving only the two of you (or the three of you, or six, or whatever); moments where the chattering in your brain quiets down and your anxieties about the future and regrets about the past fade into the mist and all you’re aware of is the time and place you’re experiencing together right now; moments of looking up from whatever pleasures you’re engaged in and making eye contact and feeling yourself shining out through your eyes, and feeling your partner shining out through theirs; moments of knowing with an almost telepathic certainty exactly where and how your partner wants to be stroked/ licked/ hit/ whatever — these don’t happen because you will them to. In fact, in an important (albeit irritating) paradox, trying to force these moments usually has the exact opposite effect. Trying to force them will chase them away. One of the whole points of intimacy is that it means letting things be what they are: letting your partner be who they are, letting yourself be who you are, being present with each other as you are. Trying to force intimacy is the exact opposite of that.

But at the same time, intimacy doesn’t happen without work. It takes work to listen carefully to what your partner wants… whether they’re saying it in words, or without words. It takes work to let go of expectations, and to let experiences and people be what they are. It takes work to let go of anxieties and regrets, and let the present moment be what it is. It takes work to let go of self-consciousness and overthinking; to put a gag and a blindfold on the detached observer in your head who’s constantly sitting back offering running commentary on your life, and to just let yourself fucking well experience your life already. (She said bitterly, knowing way the hell too much about this one.)

Alphonegaston And while a huge part of intimacy is letting things be, that isn’t the same as being passive. Part of letting things be is letting yourself be — and part of letting yourself be is being willing to put yourself out into the world. Asking for what you want; being honest about what your partner wants and how you feel about that; letting yourself not only feel what you feel but express those feelings… all of that’s a huge part of intimacy. It isn’t just about being open to your partner. It’s about being someone your partner can be open to. If you don’t put your sexual self into the world, there won’t be anyone there for your partner to connect with. Like I wrote in my review of “Air Doll”: With nothing to give but a constant flow of “After you, my dear Alphonse,” there’s no possibility for intimacy. There’s nobody to be inside; nobody to go inside the other. Intimacy requires both selfishness and selflessness. It requires the willingness to be one’s self… and the willingness to let the other person’s self be.

Tightrope_walkingSo where is that balance between control and laziness? Where is the balance between trying to force sexual intimacy, and passively lying back waiting for it to happen?

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. (I’m still thinking about it, by the way, so if you have ideas about this, please speak up in the comments!) And the concept that keeps coming to mind is readiness.

I don’t think we can make intimate sexual moments happen. As my Facebook friend Elin said when we were talking about last week’s masochism piece: “That’s one of the really exciting (and maddening) things about sex, isn’t it… getting completely in the moment and then one second later realizing you’re completely in the moment… at which point, of course, you’re not anymore. ” That’s what I was getting at a few paragraphs ago when I said that intimacy can’t be forced, or captured and preserved. Trying to force it chases it away; trying to capture it makes it slip through our fingers.

Prepare I don’t think we can make intimate moments happen. But I think we can make ourselves ready for them to happen. And I think we can work to make ourselves open to them when they do happen. I think we can work to be better at both speaking and listening, laying the foundation of knowledge that makes those “seems like telepathy” experiences possible. I think we can work at talking about our fantasies… and we can work at letting the reality of acted-out fantasies be different from the fantasies themselves. I think we can work to accept the rhythm of consciousness and un-self-consciousness; the rhythm of being in the moment, and being aware of being in the moment which takes us out of the moment… and then being in the moment again. I think we can work to educate ourselves about basic sexual anatomy, and male/ female/ human sexual response. I think we can work to educate ourselves about the varieties of human sexual desires and experiences: not just so we can be ready when our partner proposes one, but so we can be more relaxed and at-ease with sex generally. I think we can work on being willing to take risks, and being willing to accept the hurt and disappointment that sometimes come with taking risks. I think we can work to take care of our health, to eat well and exercise and get enough sleep and so on, so our bodies are ready to do the sexual things we want them to. I think we can work to take care of our mental health, to reduce stress and make sure we get enough time to ourselves and so on, so our minds and hearts are excited at the prospect of intimate sexual connection, and not just exhausted or overwhelmed by it. I think we can work to keep our promises about sex, laying a foundation of trust. I think we can do work on ourselves that helps get us out of our fucking heads for five minutes already. Etc.

Expect_The_Unexpected And I think we can work to make ourselves ready for intimacy — even when we don’t expect it. Sexual intimacy can happen in all sorts of circumstances. It can happen in hours-long sessions of lovemaking; it can happen in ten-minute quickies. It can happen when your body is thrust deep inside your partner’s, or vice versa: it can happen over the phone, or in letters or emails, when you’re miles apart. It doesn’t even have to happen in long-term relationships. It is certainly the case — at least in my experience — that sexual intimacy is often a lot easier in long-term relationships. Good ones, anyway, ones with a solid foundation of closeness and trust, ones where the sex isn’t just about the sex but is about the life you share together. But I’ve had sex in long-term relationships that was essentially an exchange of sexual favors, a “You do me and I’ll do you” tit for tat of physical sensation. And I’ve been bent over the lap of someone I barely knew, and felt them stop spanking me and put their hand on my back, and felt the sudden, slap-me-awake shock of real human connection. A connection that, for whatever reason, we were both ready for.

And finally — well, finally for today anyway, these ideas are definitely a work in progress and none of this is my final conclusion — I think we can work to accept and embrace yet another paradox of sexual intimacy… and be okay when it doesn’t happen.

Sometimes sex is just sex: pleasurable, delightful, orgasmic, and just plain old good clean dirty fun. And that’s wonderful. That, just by itself, is entirely worthwhile and valuable. Being disappointed in yourself and in each other when sex isn’t an intense intimate connection… that’s an almost ironclad guarantee that the intense intimate connection isn’t going to happen. Being willing to enjoy the pure, animal pleasures of sex — and being willing to share that pleasure and experience it together — is one of the ways we can make ourselves ready for those moments of intense connection to sneak up on us without warning.

Atheist Meme of the Day: Atheism Is Not Faith

Scarlet letter Today’s Atheist Meme of the Day. Pass this on; or don’t; or edit it as you see fit; or make up your own. Enjoy!

Atheism is not just as much a matter of faith as religion. Atheism is a provisional conclusion, based on the currently available evidence. If atheists see better evidence for God in the future, we’ll change our minds. Pass it on: if we say it enough times to enough people, it may get across.

Diversity in the Atheist Movement: Video of my UBC Talk

Greta Video! My talk on “Diversity in the Atheist Movement” at the University of British Columbia was videotaped, and the video is online!

Quick summary of the talk (from the intro):

I don’t think it’s news to anybody that the current atheist movement is largely dominated by white men… especially in positions of visibility and leadership. And I also don’t think it’s news to anybody that many atheists resist seeing this as a problem that we need to take action on. These people aren’t overtly racist or sexist (usually), they’re not saying, “We don’t want women or people of color in our movement.” They just don’t see this as their responsibility, and they don’t see it as particularly important.

So today, I want to talk about why this is important. I want to talk about how, with the best of intentions, both individuals and a movement as a whole can become exclusionary without ever meaning to. I want to talk about why it isn’t enough to just not be overtly racist or sexist, why we have to take positive action to counter this trend. I want to talk about why the atheist movement should make this a priority — for pragmatic reasons as well as ethical ones. And I want to talk about what, specifically, practically, we can do about it.

*

To find out how movements can become exclusionary even without meaning to, why atheists have to take positive action on diversity, why we need to make it a priority, and what exactly we can do about it, listen to my talk. (Video is embedded after the jump, since posting video before the jump mucks up my archives. You can also see it at the link.) Many, many thanks to the University of British Columbia Freethinkers Club, the Simon Fraser University Skeptics, and the Secular Student Alliance, for making this tour happen. I should have video and/or audio of my other talks from this tour soon. Happy to be back and blogging again!

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Atheist Meme of the Day: Atheism Is Not Nihilistic

Scarlet letter Today’s Atheist Meme of the Day. Pass this on; or don’t; or edit it as you see fit; or make up your own. Enjoy!

Atheism is not nihilistic, cynical, or despairing. Most atheists experience great meaning and joy in our lives, and are passionate about engaging with the world and making it a better place. Pass it on: if we say it enough times to enough people, it may get across.

Greta’s Seattle Event, Sunday Sept. 12

Seattle atheistsMy Seattle event for Sunday Sept. 12 is finally set! The Seattle Atheists are hosting an informal meet- and- greet/ Q&A session/ burger and beer fest.

Important FYI: This event is in a room with limited space, so it’s first- come- first- served on getting in. If you want to go, get there early.

Here are the details:

Seattle Atheists
Burgers and Beer
The Ram
401 NE Northgate Way, Seattle, WA
Sunday, Sept. 12
6:00 pm – 9:00 pm

Limited space! The Seattle Atheists have a reservation for 20 people in the banquet room/ back room/ whatever room it is they have reserved at the Ram. But that’s all the room there is. So get there early if you want to get in!

Also, there is apparently more than one Ram in Seattle. Be sure to go to the right one, at 401 NE Northgate Way.

If you’re in Seattle on Sunday, I hope to see you there!

Greta’s Pacific NW Speaking Tour, Sept. 9-13 — And Brief Blog Break

ANOTHER IMPORTANT UPDATE! There will be a reception after the University of British Columbia talk, on Thursday, Sept. 9, at the Railway Club at 579 Dunsmuir Street, from 9pm until midnight. It’s open to the public.

IMPORTANT UPDATES! The location for the Reed College talk has been changed! See below for details. And we’re working on a last-minute event in Seattle: the details aren’t set yet, but it looks like it’s going to be on Sunday, Sept. 12, in the early evening. It’ll probably be a more informal hanging-out/ Q&A session rather than a formal talk. I’ll post the exact where and when and other details as soon as I have them.

GretaJust a reminder: If you’re in the Pacific Northwest — specifically in the Portland, Seattle, or Vancouver, BC areas — come hear me speak! I’m going to be doing a speaking tour, September 9-13, at various college and university campuses in the Pacific Northwest, including Simon Fraser University, the University of British Columbia… and my alma mater, Reed College! I’ll be speaking on a number of different topics, including “Diversity in the Atheist Movement,” “Atheism and Sexuality,” and “Why Are You Atheists So Angry?” I’ll be doing Q&A at every talk, so come prepared to grill me… or just come by and say howdy. The tour is being sponsored by the amazing Secular Student Alliance. Here are the details:

LOCATION: Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, BC, Canada
AQ 3005 (Academic Quadrangle)
TIME: 2:30 – 4:30 pm
SPONSORS: SFU Skeptics
TOPIC: Atheism and Sexuality. The sexual morality of traditional religion tends to be based, not on solid ethical principles, but on a set of taboos about what kinds of sex God does and doesn’t want people to have. And while the sex-positive community offers a more thoughtful view of sexual morality, it still often frames sexuality as positive by seeing it as a spiritual experience. What are some atheist alternatives to these views? How can atheists view sexual ethics without a belief in God? And how can atheists view sexual transcendence without a belief in the supernatural?

LOCATION: University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada
WOOD 3 (lecture hall 3 in the Woodward building; here’s a map)
TIME: 7:00 – 9:00 pm
SPONSORS: UBC Freethinkers Club
TOPIC: Diversity in the Atheist Movement. The most visible representatives of the atheist movement tend to be white men. Is this a problem? If so, should the atheist movement be doing something about it — and if so, what?

EVENT: Reception after UBC talk
LOCATION: Railway Club
579 Dunsmuir Street, Vancouver, BC, Canada
TIME: 9:00 pm – midnight
SPONSORS: UBC Freethinkers Club and SFU Skeptics
TOPIC: Beer

LOCATION: Seattle. Somewhere.
TIME: Don’t know yet.
SPONSORS: Seattle Atheists.

LOCATION: Reed College, Portland, OR
Psych 105 Bio 19 lecture hall (new location!)
TIME: 7:00 – 8:00 (possibly ending later if Q&A is going well)
SPONSORS: Reed Secular Alliance
TOPIC: Why Are You Atheists So Angry? The atheist movement is often accused of being driven by anger. Is this assessment accurate? What are so many atheists so angry about? Is this anger legitimate? And can anger be an effective force behind a movement for social change?

Hope to see you there!

And I’m going to be taking a break from the blog while I’m gone — including from the Atheist Memes of the Day. I may post something now and then if I have time and get inspired, but while inspiration will almost certainly not be lacking, time almost certainly will. I’ll be blogging again after I get back on the 14th. See you then!

The People I’ve Slept With

People i've slept with A young woman is talking to her newborn baby.

“I love sex,” she says. “And some people thought it was a bad thing. But I’ve learned that a slut is just a woman with the morals of a man.”

Sudden, screeching rewind back in time, slightly less than nine months. The free-spirited adventurer in question, Angela (Karin Anna Cheung), has just learned that one of her adventures has resulted in an embryo. She considers getting an abortion — her gay best friend, Gabriel (Wilson Cruz) practically demands it — but her conservative sister Juliet (Lynn Chen) pressures/ fearmongers/ persuades her that her life would be better if she settled down to a normal, stable family life. “Settle down,” she exhorts. “Grow up, and be happy for once.” Somehow neglecting to notice that Angela is already pretty darned happy. And definitely neglecting to notice that Angela is making her own conscious decisions about her own life… pretty much the textbook definition of being grown up.

So Angela decides to keep the baby… and embarks on a comical search to figure out which of her many adventuring partners is the father. It’s a challenge: Angela’s partners are sufficient enough in number that she keeps track of them through what she calls “baseball cards,” Polaroids with personal stats scrawled on the back. But she narrows the possibilities down to the five men she didn’t use birth control with — and goes through an assortment of wacky hijinks to collect their DNA for paternity tests. Her heart is pulling her in one direction — toward Jefferson (Archie Kao), the sweetheart labeled on her baseball card as “Mystery Man” — but she’s bound and determined that she’s going to have a normal married life, which means the man she marries should bloody well be the man she happened to conceive with. Regardless of whether she actually, you know, likes him, and wants to spend the rest of her life with him.

Yes, I know. It’s another “shmashortion” movie, in which a woman who under any other circumstances would be off to Planned Parenthood in a nanosecond for an abortion mysteriously decides to keep the baby… because if she didn’t, it’d be a fifteen minute movie. It’s an annoying pattern. Noted. Annoyed. Let’s move on.

Because “The People I’ve Slept With” is, in fact, a movie worth moving on to. It’s an odd duck: a mutant offspring of a smart, quirky, genuinely funny character study/ comedy of errors, and a sloppy, under-written jumble of cliches and careless implausibility. But the good stuff is sufficiently good — and sufficiently uncommon — to make it well worth a look.

Especially for anyone interested in movie depictions of unconventional sex.

*

Thus begins my latest Media Darling column on CarnalNation, The People I’ve Slept With. To find out more, read the rest of the piece. (And if you feel inspired to comment here, please consider cross-posting your comment to Carnal Nation — they like comments there, too.) Enjoy!

Atheist Meme of the Day: No Right to Not Have Your Beliefs Questioned

Scarlet letter Today’s Atheist Meme of the Day. Pass this on; or don’t; or edit it as you see fit; or make up your own. Enjoy!

“People have a right to their beliefs” is a terrible argument against atheist activism. Of course people have a right to believe whatever they like. But people don’t have a right to never have their beliefs questioned and criticized. We question and criticize all other kinds of ideas — why should religion be the exception? Pass it on: if we say it enough times to enough people, it may get across.