Like the Secular Student Alliance? Show It – With Clicks, and Matching Offer

Do you like the Secular Student Alliance? You know — the fast-growing, incredibly awesome umbrella organization for atheist/ non-theist/ skeptical/ etc. groups of secular college and high school students, around the U.S. and around the world?

If you like them, you have a awesome chance to show it today — and to have your love pay off. And you can do it with simple clicks, or with a simple donation — that’ll be doubled.

The Secular Student Alliance is currently on the front page of Reddit. Not r/atheism — Reddit, period.



The gist, for those who can’t see the image: The largest college religious organization on Facebook has a lot more “likes” than the largest college atheist organization — let’s fix this!

It’s made the front page of Reddit. Which means the SSA is suddenly getting a whole lot of attention from people who didn’t know it existed before. And an awesome matching offer for the SSA has just been issued — meaning any donations you make to them will be doubled! But it also means it’s getting the attention of haters who are downvoting it — essentially trying to hide that it’s happening.

What can you do?

1: Like the Secular Student Alliance on Facebook.

2: Upvote the post on Reddit.

3: Donate to or join the Secular Student Alliance now. Any donations you make, no matter how small, from now until 12/31/2011, will be doubled by a matching offer from SSA Member Ron Verstappen, up to $20,000. If you’re not already a member, you can join for just $35 a year — $10 if you’re a student. If you are already a member, you can renew your membership, and your renewal will get doubled. You can set up an automatic monthly gift, or make a one-time donation. And any of it that goes to the SSA before 12/31/2011 will get matched by the offer.m (And yes, it’s tax deductible.)
4: Spread the word. Get this out on Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, carrier pigeon — all of it.

It’s rarely this easy to help atheism. Do it now!

Coming Out Atheist Is Different from Coming Out Queer — But Still Sort Of The Same

(This is Part 2 of a two-part post. You might want to read Part 1 first.)

So if coming out as atheist is different in important ways from coming out as queer… what does that mean?

In Part 1 of this post, I talked about an important difference between coming out as queer and coming out as atheist. I pointed out that coming out as queer doesn’t imply that straight people are wrong to be straight — but that coming out as atheist does imply that believers are wrong to believe. And I argued (among other things) that coming out atheist is always going to be inherently confrontational, at least a little bit, and is likely to always be at least somewhat divisive and upsetting… in ways that coming out as queer doesn’t have to be.

However.

That being said.

Even given this important difference between coming out as atheist and coming out as queer, there’s still a parallel between them — and it’s a parallel we can learn from.

Coming out queer doesn’t imply, “You’re wrong to be straight.” But it does imply, “You’re wrong to be homophobic.”

When queers come out of the closet, we aren’t asking straight people to change their minds about being straight. But we are asking them to change their minds about us. We’re asking them to change their minds about whether being queer is moral, healthy, stable, socially sound, etc. In fact, we’re asking them to change their minds about a lot of things, things that have implications in their own lives and not just in ours: ideas and feelings about sexuality, about gender roles in relationships, about what it means to be a man or a woman, about how we define a family. We’re not just asking them to change how they feel about us. We’re asking them to change how they feel about themselves.

Now, that was somewhat more true in previous decades than it is today. When LGBT people come out today, straight people are a lot more likely to already be on board. Queers have successfully changed the culture to a great extent, and we’ve changed a lot of people’s minds: not only about queers being okay, but about gender and sexuality and family and so on. But that’s very far from universally true. Anti-queer bullying in high schools is evidence of that. And subtle forms of homophobia and heterosexism still exist in people who are basically pro-queer. There are a lot of people who haven’t changed their minds yet, in large ways and small — and we’re asking them to do that.

When we come out as queer, we’re not telling them that they’re wrong to be straight. But we’re still telling them, in many cases, that they’re wrong.

So atheists need to remember that. Yes, coming out as atheist means telling believers, “I think you’re wrong.” But it’s okay to tell people, “I think you’re wrong.” That’s one of the ways we get people to change their minds. And there is no way to ask people to change their minds about us without asking them to change their minds about themselves.

That’s true for queers — and it’s true for atheists. We need to accept this, and embrace it. We’re not going to get very far if we don’t.

We’re Telling Them They’re Wrong: Why Coming Out Atheist Is Inherently Oppositional

Yup. Coming out is hugely important for atheists. I assume this is not a wildly controversial statement. Coming out — and making our community a safer place to come out into, and making the world a safer place to come out in — is pretty much Number One on atheists’ To Do list. And yes, atheists have a huge amount to learn from the LGBT communities about coming out, not just the why but the how: what to say, when to say it, how to say it, who to say it to, what to do if people freak out. There are tons of parallels between the LGBT movement and the atheist movement, and the importance of coming out is one of them — as are many of the specific strategies about doing it.

But I want to talk about something else today, something we don’t talk about as much. I want to talk about some important differences between coming out atheist and coming out queer. I think we have a huge amount to learn from the queer movement about coming out — but there are some places where our experiences diverge, and I think we need to pay attention to them.

And one of the most important is this:

Coming out as an atheist means telling believers we think they’re wrong. [Read more…]

From the Archives: The Atheist Movement Ladies’ Auxiliary and Sewing Circle

Since I moved to the Freethought Blogs network, I have a bunch of new readers who aren’t familiar with my greatest hits from my old, pre-FTB blog. So I’m linking to some of them, about one a day, to introduce them to the new folks.

Today’s archive treasure: The Atheist Movement Ladies’ Auxiliary and Sewing Circle. The tl;dr: Professor Stephen Prothero wrote in USA Today that the atheist movement needed to get more women into positions of visibility and leadership — because atheism is currently too confrontational and angry, and having more women leaders will make the movement more friendly and more diplomatic, since women are more interested in everyone getting along than we are in debates over what is and isn’t true.

A nifty pull quote:

Suck my dick, you pompous windbag. You think getting more women into the atheist movement means you won’t have to face a fight? Bring it on. You smug, patronizing, cowardly, sexist prick.

Enjoy!

News Flash: Some Sex Workers Like Some Of Their Customers

I hadn’t really intended this blog to become the “busting myths about sex work” site. But comments in my recent posts about sex work have been bringing a barrage of myths and generalizations about it, so I’m taking a little time to shoot them down.

Today’s myth: Sex work is always an impersonal, entirely commercial interaction: an exchange of physical pleasure for money, with no emotion, caring, or human connection. It was recently expressed in my blog by jose, who wrote:

Please someone help me understand why prostitution exists.

Isn’t sex the ultimately intimate relationship with another? To me the whole point of it is the personal connection. Even if it’s casual sex for fun. You don’t have to know the other person for years to get that kind of link (although it’s different if you do know the other). Just after doing it you don’t even have to talk to know what the other is thinking and feeling. It’s like a mind melding or maybe you’re communicating with your entire body instead of using just the usual bits (mouth, eyes…), I don’t know why that happens.

(snip)

But I’m reading here sex is a service to be provided. Like a thing, a good. I want a sex, you sell it to me, I take it, pay and go. Where’s the human link in that? Is that even sex? I guess you would sweat and be tired afterwards… it rather sounds like going to the gym, except you use a woman instead of a workout machine.

Okay. First of all, jose: Prostitution exists because not everyone feels the same way about sex as you do. For many people, sex is a fun, pleasurable physical experience between living creatures. And that isn’t just true for sex work customers. Lots of people have casual, “just for fun” sex who don’t visit prostitutes. And for many people, sex can be both: they value the “intimate personal connection” kind of sex, but can also enjoy and appreciate the “just for fun” kind.

The way you view sex is certainly a perfectly valid way of seeing it. But it’s not the only valid way of seeing it. Enjoying sex as simple fun pleasure is not, as you commented later in the thread, a “twisted” view of sex. It’s just a different view of sex from yours. Do you really think your personal experience of sex is the only possible one, or the only valid one? Hey, I don’t like broccoli — but I don’t sit in pissy judgement of people who do.

But more to the point for today’s myth:

You’re assuming that there can be no personal connection between a prostitute and a client. And that is just flatly not the case. Lots of prostitutes and other sex workers like their clients — some of them, anyway — and experience a real connection with them. They enjoy the sex, and experience it as not only a physical pleasure, but an emotional one. This isn’t universally true for all sex workers — but it’s often true for many of them. And it happens more often with regular customers — but it can also happen with first-time or one-time customers.

When you think about it carefully, this myth makes no sense. Think about other professionals. If you see a therapist, do you assume that the connection between you isn’t real because you’re paying for their time? What about your doctor? Heck, what about your hair stylist, or the barrista you chat with every day at the cafe? People can offer a professional service — and still enjoy providing that service, and feel a genuine, caring connection with the people they’re providing it for. And that goes for sex as well.

In fact, that’s one of the central points of my book, Paying For It: A Guide By Sex Workers For Their Clients. Sex workers treat customers better if they like them — so the book tells you how to be a customer that sex workers will like. And the book is filled with stories from sex workers — prostitutes, but also professional dominants, strippers, phone sex workers, and more — who tell about customers they genuinely liked and felt real intimacy with. I’m one of them: I never worked as a prostitute, but I worked as a stripper, and I had customers I felt a strong connection with, and deeply enjoyed dancing for, and who I remember fondly to this day. And in fact, many prostitutes say that much of what their customers want is not so much the sex, but the conversation, and the cuddling, and the other not- specifically- sexual forms of connection and intimacy.

So knock it off with the judgment, okay? If paying for sex isn’t for you, then it isn’t for you. But the way you view sex is not the only possible one, and it’s not the only valuable one. Please stop with the hostile judgments of other people’s consensual sexual choices, just because they’re different from your own. Thanks.

My View of Love Apparently Aligned with Catholic Church

So apparently, my skeptical/ atheist view of love is aligned with that of the Catholic Church.

No, really. Yesterday, I posted a link to a piece from my archives, A Skeptic’s View of Love. (The gist: Love is more than something you feel — it’s something you do, a series of choices you make. And viewing love as a flawed human activity instead of divine destiny or the joining of soul-mates is not only a more accurate view, but more sustainable, and more richly satisfying.)

And I got the following comment from Emmet:

A thoughtful article: a good antidote to how love is often portrayed.

I think you would find much to agree with in the thought of Polish philosopher Karol Wojtyla, who wrote extensively on love.

“However, Wojtyla is concerned that people today often think of love only in terms of feelings. His concerns seem all the more applicable for a culture like ours, in which love songs, romance films, and TV shows constantly play with our emotions and get us to long for quick, emotionally thrilling relationships … .

Real love, however, is very different from “Hollywood love.” Real love requires much effort. It is a virtue that involves sacrifice, responsibility, and a total commitment to the other person. “Hollywood love” is an emotion. It’s something that just happens to you. The focus is not on a commitment to another person, but on what is happening inside you—the powerful good feelings you experience when you’re with this other person.”

http://www.holyspiritinteractive.net/columns/edwardpsri/loveandresponsibility/04.asp

Wojtyla is, of course, better known as Pope John Paul II, and I suggest that what you describe as a “skeptical/materialist view of love” is much the same as the Catholic view of love, as expressed in the above quote from Edward Sri or in this article by Peter Kreeft:

http://www.envoymagazine.com/?p=376

and of course, in many other books/articles/sites in many other places.

I think you could read both articles I’ve quoted here, discarding as you go their Biblical references and and mentions of God or Christ, and still see that both you and Catholics are aligned together against the prevailing modern view of love!

I thought y’all would like to see my reply:

Right. Except for the part where the Catholic Church thinks the love Ingrid and I have for each other is a horrible form of wickedness, and we deserve to be punished for it by being burned alive. And the part where they think our marriage is not just wicked, but actually invalid and non-existent.

And, of course, there’s the part where they think this sort of love is only valid if a magic man stands up in front of you and says some magic words before you start your life together. And the part where they think this sort of love should only happen once in someone’s life (unless their partner dies, in which case it’s okay to go for seconds). And the part where they think this sort of love has to result in as many children as your bodies can produce (or at least be willing to have this result). And the part… oh you get the picture.

And, of course, there’s the part where they think all this without even the slightest scrap of good evidence, on the basis of what some duly appointed magic men pulled out of their asses as the right way to interpret a book of hearsay written 2,000 years ago about what a man who supposedly claimed to be God told people what to do.

Yeah. Not so aligned. On the whole, I think I’ll take the prevailing modern view of love. You know. The one that says Ingrid and I have a right to it.

Harold Camping’s Rapture, and Making Religion Embarrassing

Today is the day that Harold Camping, creator of last May’s Rapture fiasco, has predicted the Rapture will actually be happening. No, really, This time for sure. The last time was a sort of secret Judgment, in which God decided who was going to be raptured and who was going to suffer the torments of Armageddon, but didn’t tell anybody or do anything about it. The actual, real Rapture… that’s today.

Except… have you noticed that Camping’s not making as big a fuss about it this time around? Have you noticed that this time, he’s not buying up billboards around the country, or generally making himself into a media darling? He’s keeping a much lower profile this time. In fact, he’s already started back-pedaling. Even before today’s deadline rolled around, he’d already started equivocating and making excuses, saying “it looks like” the end was “probably” coming on October 21. He thinks.

I obviously don’t know what’s going on in Harold Camping’s head, and I don’t know for sure why he’s changed his tactics. Even if I could get inside his head, I don’t think it would be informative: I think the man is so steeped in denial and self-delusion, even he doesn’t know why he does the things he does. But I’m going to speculate.

I think we successfully embarrassed him.

And by “we,” I don’t just mean atheists. Atheists were having a field day over the Rapture, of course — but so were a lot of people. On Rapture Day in May, there were Rapture parties big and small, all over the country, and indeed around the world. Facebook on Rapture Day was pretty much eaten up with jokes about the topic. I was at a Rapture-themed conference that day… and as a result, I had to miss the big public Rapture party in Dolores Park. Just about nobody except Camping’s followers actually took it seriously, except as a psychological and sociological phenomenon. It was one giant national joke. International, even. And of course, the media had a ball with it. I honestly don’t remember seeing anything like it before: there have been countless “end of the world” predictions in my lifetime, and none of them got the giant, world-wide horse laugh that this one did.

The supposed Rapture last May was a circus. And Harold Camping was the clown.

We embarrassed him. I think he’s being very cautious as a result. I think he’s reluctant to be quite so public about making such easily falsifiable claims about his purported God. I think he doesn’t want to get egg on his face again.

Good.

We should keep it up.

Not just with Camping — but with all religion. [Read more…]

Fashion Friday: Gender

When I was a kid, I used to play dress-up make-believe with my friends Deeda and Susie. When all three of us played together, Deeda and Susie would typically get into a fight about who got to be the princess and who had to be the queen. But when it was just two of us playing, there weren’t any arguments — because I was always happy to be the prince. I suppose I could gas on about my incipient queer identity or how masculine roles have greater agency… and part of that is true. But it’s also true that the prince’s outfit in the costume box was just mega-cool. A gold lame tunic. Who doesn’t like a gold lame tunic? Major swagger. Way better than mint green chiffon.

When I was in third grade, there was this obnoxious boy who used to ambush girls and pull up their dresses and skirts. Most of the other girls responded with elaborate plans to always travel in pairs or groups. (Incipient sisterhood, I suppose.) I responded by wearing pants. Every day. And I got into the habit. I didn’t wear a dress again until sixth grade (except for special occasions like the Nutcracker or something). In fact, for years I insisted that I was never going to wear a dress again as long as I lived. I insisted it right up to Christmas in sixth grade, when I got an awesome mini-dress someone brought me from Greece, and I decided, “Yeah, okay, this doesn’t suck.”

When I started doing historical costuming and dancing at historical re-creation dances about fifteen years ago, I almost immediately gravitated to male drag. Part of that was that I’d rather dance lead, and I’d rather dance with other women, and male drag was an easy way to signal that. (That’s part of why I liked being the prince, too — at the end of the story, the prince gets the princess). And part of it was that male drag was a way of feeling sexy and sexually transgressive when my weight was up and I wasn’t feeling conventionally attractive. But part of it was… what? I’m not sure. It just felt more like me.

All this may seem deeply weird to people who know me. [Read more…]

From the Archives: A Skeptic’s View of Love

Since I moved to the Freethought Blogs network, I have a bunch of new readers who aren’t familiar with my greatest hits from my old, pre-FTB blog. So I’m linking to some of them, about one a day, to introduce them to the new folks.

Today’s archive treasure: A Skeptic’s View of Love. The tl;dr: A skeptical/ materialist view of love — not seeing it as destined by God or as a union of perfectly matched souls, but as a human emotion and connection and series of choices between flawed people — is not only more accurate, but more sustainable… and more richly satisfying.

A nifty pull quote:

First, obviously, I think the whole “soul-mate/ romantic destiny” thing is just wrong. Mistaken. Not true. I don’t think we have souls, much less mates for them; I don’t think there’s an invisible hand pushing people together (and if there were, it’d have a seriously sadistic sense of humor, what with putting people’s true destined loves on opposite sides of the country and whatnot).

But maybe more to the point:

The “soul-mate/ romantic destiny” vision of love puts the focus on love as something you feel — rather than something you do.

It puts the focus on love as something that happens to you — rather than something that you choose.

And I find it much more romantic, and much more loving, to see love as something we do, and something we choose.

Enjoy!