Violet, 1997-2011

Ingrid and I have some sad news. Our cat Violet died today, of cancer in her lungs and her thoracic cavity.

This both was and was not sudden. Violet was diagnosed with cancer in 2008, so we always knew that a recurrence was a possibility. But the treatment went well, and she was in good health for a long time. In the last few months, her energy has declined somewhat, and in the last few weeks her appetite was somewhat off, but nothing that indicated that anything was seriously wrong. But Wednesday night when Ingrid got home, she hadn’t eaten anything all day, and her breathing was labored. We took her to the vet, and the X-rays found fluid in her lungs and a mass in her chest. They were able to stabilize her long enough for her oncologist to see her Thursday morning, but it was clear that there was no hope for treatment or even palliative care. We had her euthanized Thursday afternoon. We had hoped to bring her home first, but her breathing and general condition were not strong enough for that to make sense for her, so we stayed with her while she was euthanized in the hospital. She went very peacefully and very quickly.

Ingrid and I are obviously extremely sad about this. Violet has been with us for fourteen years, and the house seems very empty without her. It also comes at a bad time for many reasons (not that there’s ever a good time for this). But knowing that we have the support and understanding of our friends, family, colleagues and community means a great deal. I may not be my usual self for a little while: I may not be able to blog on my usual schedule; I may not be able to respond as quickly to emails and comments and tech issues as I normally am; and I’m likely to be less cheerful and more short-tempered than usual. I hope you all will understand and will be patient with me. I’ll be posting photos and a proper obituary later on; right now, I just don’t have it in me.

And finally: It pains me that I have to say this, but past experience has taught me that I do.

If there are any religious or spiritual believers reading this blog: Please, please, please, do not say that you’re praying for us. Do not say that Violet is looking down on us. Do not say that we’ll see her again someday. Do not say that this is part of God’s plan. Please do not offer any “comfort” of a religious, spiritual, or supernatural nature. I do not find these ideas comforting. I find these ideas profoundly upsetting. If you wouldn’t tell someone who’s Jewish that their dead loved one is in the arms of Jesus Christ their personal lord and savior, please don’t tell an atheist that they’ll see their dead loved one in the afterlife. I am happy to discuss and debate religion at another time and place, but I do not want to do it in my cat’s obituary. Any comments of this nature will be disemvoweled, and the commenters will be banned. (And to the rest of you: If anyone ignores this request, please do not engage with them. Please ignore them, and let me handle it with comment moderation.) Thanks.

Gay Men, Lesbians, Bisexuals, Transgendered People, and Alternatively Gendered People: Gender Expectations about Dating and Sex?

And one final (for now) question on this topic of gender role expectations in dating and sex.

Gay men, lesbians, bisexuals, transgendered people, and people with alternative gender identities who identify as neither male nor female or as both male and female: Can you talk about gender role expectations in dating and sex? Do you perceive an expectation that men make the first move in dating and sex, and/or that women wait for others to make the first move in dating and sex?

If you do: Can you say more about that? How has this affected you? How has it affected your dating life and your relationships? How has it affected other people in your life — men, women, or alternatively gendered? If you’re not actively dating now (because you’re partnered, have decided to be single, etc.) but have in the past — how has this affected you in the past?

And do you think you see these questions differently from traditionally gendered people in opposite-sex dating lives? If you think these expectations exist, have they had an affect on your identity as a gay man, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered person, or person with alternative gender identity? Do you think these expectations have an effect on the queer community and the queer dating scene?

And if you don’t feel this — if you either don’t think such an expectation exists, or you think it exists but don’t feel like it’s affected your life — please tell me about that as well.

You can answer in the comments — or, if you prefer more privacy than that, you can email me, greta (at) gretachristina (dot) com. Again: This is for a piece I’m writing, so please let me know how you want your name cited if I quote you, or if you want to only be quoted anonymously, or what. (If you don’t say otherwise, I’ll assume it’s okay to quote you with handle or first name only.) Thanks!

Women Who Date Men: Do You Feel Expected to Let Men Make the First Move?

So I was going to ask this anyway. But upon seeing the completely amazing conversation that started yesterday — the one about about men who date women feeling a social expectation to make the first move in dating and sex — I definitely want to ask it now.

Women who date men: Do you feel a social expectation to let men make the first move in dating and sex? It’s for a piece I’m writing for AlterNet.

If you do: Can you say more about that? How has this affected you? How has it affected your dating life and your relationships? How has it affected other people in your life — women, men, or alternatively gendered? If you’re not actively dating men now (because you’re partnered, have decided to be single, are primarily pursuing other women, etc.) but have in the past — how has this affected you in the past?

You can answer in the comments — or, if you prefer more privacy than that, you can email me, greta (at) gretachristina (dot) com. Again: This is for a piece I’m writing, so please let me know how you want your name cited if I quote you, or if you want to only be quoted anonymously, or what. (If you don’t say otherwise, I’ll assume it’s okay to quote you with handle or first name only.) Thanks!

Men who Date Women: Do You Feel Expected to Make the First Move?

I have a question for men who date women (it’s for a piece I’m writing for AlterNet): Do you feel a social expectation to make the first move in dating and sex?

If you do: Can you say more about that? How has this affected you? How has it affected your dating life and your relationships? How has it affected other people in your life — men, women, or alternatively gendered? If you’re not actively dating women now (because you’re partnered, have decided to be single, are primarily pursuing other men, etc.) but have in the past — how has this affected you in the past?

And if you don’t feel this — if you either don’t think such an expectation exists, or you think it exists but don’t feel like it’s affected your life — please tell me about that as well.

You can answer in the comments — or, if you prefer more privacy than that, you can email me, greta (at) gretachristina (dot) com. Again: This is for a piece I’m writing, so please let me know how you want your name cited if I quote you, or if you want to only be quoted anonymously, or what. (If you don’t say otherwise, I’ll assume it’s okay to quote you with handle or first name only.) Thanks!

From the Archives: The Messed-Up Teachings of Jesus

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 Messed-Up Teachings of Jesus. The tl;dr: It’s common for progressive and moderate Christians to say that they’re not fundamentalists, or even that they don’t belong to any organized church… but that they believe in the teachings of Jesus, and find their message to be inspiring and divinely inspired. In this piece, I go through the teachings of the Jesus character in the four gospels, and point out many of the ways that they’re immoral, bizarre, profoundly troubling, or just flat-out fucked up.

A nifty pull quote:

Yes, the Jesus character in the Gospels spoke of love and respect and humility, healing the sick and taking care of the poor. But he also spoke of the wickedness of thought crimes, and the sinfulness of divorce; of the value of surrendering rational thought, and the nobility of abandoning family and responsibility to pursue a religious practice. He spoke with approval of the calm acceptance of evil and oppression in this world. And he spoke — over and over like a broken record — about the all-importance of believing that he was God, and obeying his commands. He spoke again and again about how there was just one right way to practice religion, and how doing this was a far greater priority than being a good person in the world.

If you believe that it’s normal and healthy to think about things that you would never actually do; that expressing anger is often useful and healthy; that good people should resist evil and oppression; that people’s sexual and marital lives are nobody’s business but their own; that people of different faiths, perhaps even of no faith at all, can still be good people; that you shouldn’t just believe what you’re told; that women and men should have equal marital rights; that actions speak louder than words and beliefs; that religion shouldn’t divide people; that fact-checking is a valuable skill; and that it’s more important to treat each other well than to have the exact right religious doctrine… then good for you. I think so, too. But if you believe that the Gospels reflect the reality of his life and teachings, then apparently Jesus didn’t.

Enjoy!

Karaoke, First Times, and Some Thoughts On Adventure

So if you try something new, and you don’t really like it — does that mean you made a mistake?

As some of you may already know, I did karaoke for the first time a couple of months ago. I did it as part of this Camp Quest fundraising challenge, where two teams of atheist bloggers (or rather, one team versus PZ Myers all by his lonesome cephalopod self) competed to raise money for Camp Quest… a competition that turned into an escalating series of silly forfeits if our side won. Our side won — Go Team Awesome! — which meant Adam Lee had to grow a beard, Matt Dillahunty had to do the Atheist Experience show in drag, Jen McCreight had to learn to ride a bicycle on video, and JT Eberhard had to wax his legs and shave his head. And I had to pop my karaoke cherry, and post video of it on my blog. (I know. Ridiculous. We ought to stop acting like children. We raised over thirty grand for Camp Quest. So shut up.)

Back on topic: I was more than a little anxious about the karaoke thing. It wasn’t like a massive phobia or anything (although I did play up the “fear and loathing” aspect of it for entertainment/ fundraising purposes). It was just something I didn’t particularly want to do. But a lot of people said, “Oh, you’ll like it. Once you get over the nervousness, karaoke is big fun.” And I was open to the possibility that this might be the case… and while I was apprehensive, I was also prepared to enjoy myself.

As it turns out — yeah, not so much. I do actually like to sing, I have a reasonably okay singing voice, and I’m happy to sing in groups of friends. But I don’t like doing being the center of attention doing things that I’m not especially good at. Particularly when it’s in an unfamiliar situation. (And particularly not when it’s being put on YouTube.) The fact that my voice was shot from being at the conference all weekend didn’t help. Plus I’m generally not that crazy about hanging around in bars (don’t like crowds, don’t like noise, have complicated feelings about alcohol). So, yeah. Standing at the front of a room singing into a cheap microphone in a loud, crowded bar? As it turns out — not my cup of tea.

But, in a weird paradox, while I didn’t enjoy the actual experience of karaoke, I very much enjoyed the fact that I was doing it.

Largely, of course, because I was doing it for a good cause. (Go Camp Quest!) But also for its own sake. And while I think it’s unlikely that I’ll do it again (although I suppose that, if I’m going to follow my own advice about being willing to try anything twice, I ought to do it at least one more time), I’m not in the least bit sorry that I did it.

Because that’s the nature of adventure. [Read more…]

From the Archives: The Santa Delusion: Why “Religion Is Useful” Is a Terrible Argument For Religion

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 Santa Delusion: Why “Religion Is Useful” Is a Terrible Argument For Religion. The tl;dr: Many believers — and some atheists — argue that it doesn’t matter whether religion is true, since it makes people happy and better behaved. I point out that this argument from utility is bollocks, and make an analogy with belief in Santa Claus. Belief in Santa Claus makes children happy and better-behaved… but we’re still expected to outgrow it. (Shout-out to Hank Fox at Blue Collar Atheist, whose excellent book I shamelessly stole this analogy from.)

A nifty pull quote:

Would you argue that, because belief in Santa makes children happy and better-behaved, we therefore ought to perpetuate it? Would you argue that, because relinquishing that belief can be upsetting, we ought to go to great lengths to protect children from discovering that Santa isn’t real… not only during their childhood, but throughout their adult lives? Would you attend Churches and Temples of Santa, and leave cookies and cocoa on their red-and-white-plush altars? Would you pity people who don’t believe in Santa as being joyless and imprisoned in rationality… and would you chastise these a-Santa-ists as intolerant, bigoted proselytizers when they tried to persuade others that Santa isn’t real?

Or would you, instead, think that people ought to grow up? Would you think that letting go of the belief in Santa (for those who grew up believing) is an essential part of becoming an adult? Would you think that we need to understand reality, so we know how to behave in it? Would you think that, in order to make good decisions and function effectively in the world, we need to have the most truthful understanding of it that we can muster… and that if the best evidence suggests that Santa isn’t real, we ought to accept that conclusion? Would you look at this idea that it’s okay to decide what’s true about the world based on what we want to be true, and call it preposterous, laughable, appalling, absurd on the face of it?

And if you wouldn’t argue that belief in Santa is valid simply because it’s useful… why would you argue it about God?

Enjoy!

Welcome the New Godless Hordes!

The Freethought Blogs network has expanded yet again! Seven new blogs have been added today to the growing infestation. Please welcome your new ant overlords:

The Atheist Experience. “The Atheist Experience is a weekly live call-in television show sponsored by the Atheist Community of Austin. This blog features contributions from current and former hosts and co-hosts of the show.”

The Crommunist Manifesto. “Crommunist is a scientist, musician, skeptic, and long-time observer of race and race issues. His interests, at least blog-wise, focus on bringing anti-racism into the fold of skeptic thought, and promoting critical thinking about even those topics that make us uncomfortable.”

En Tequila Es Verdad. “You want to know about Dana Hunter, then, do you? I’m a science blogger, SF writer, compleat geology addict, Gnu Atheist, and owner of a – excuse me, owned by a homicidal felid. I loves me some Doctor Who and Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers. Sums me up. I’m a Midwest-born Southwesterner transplanted to the Pacific Northwest, which should explain some personality quirks, the tendency to sprinkle Spanish around, and why I’ll subject you to some real jawbreakers in the place names department. My cobloggers, Jacob and Steamforged, and I are delighted to be your cantineras y cantinero. Join us for una tequila. And feel free to follow @dhunterauthor on Twitter. Salud!”

Rock Beyond Belief. “Justin Griffith is the Military Director for American Atheists. Justin is spearheading Fort Bragg’s ‘Rock Beyond Belief’ atheist festival, and demanding equal treatment for foxhole atheists groups who are currently banned from even meeting on post. After failing the Army’s mandatory Spiritual Fitness testing, the remedial training told Justin he could improve his Spiritual Fitness by starting an ‘online blog’. You may have heard about it. :) ‘*Foxhole atheists are fighting for your rights. Please return the favor.*'”

Token Skeptic. “Kylie Sturgess is the host of the Token Skeptic podcast and regularly writes editorial for numerous publications and CSICOP’s Curiouser and Curiouser online column. She is the co-host for the Global Atheist Convention in 2010 and 2012. An award-winning Philosophy teacher, Kylie has lectured on teaching critical thinking and anomalistic beliefs worldwide. She’s a student of Psychology and a volunteer at a science museum in her home town of Perth, Western Australia.”

A Voice of Reason. “Al Stefanelli is the Georgia State Director for American Atheists, Inc., and the author of ‘A Voice Of Reason In An Unreasonable World – The Rise Of Atheism On Planet Earth.’ He has been a writer and journalist since 1993, starting out with a McClatchy newspaper writing a weekly column. His writing won a North Carolina Journalism award and continues to be widely distributed on the Internet and in print. Al also produced and hosted a weekly syndicated radio broadcast for three years and was the founder and President of the United Atheist Front, Inc., (2005-2011), which functioned as a civil rights organization. Al’s current projects include co-hosting both a radio and television talk show, contributing to the ‘No God Blog’ on the American Atheists, Inc. website, writing a regular column in American Atheists Magazine and the National Atheism Examiner. He holds membership in the Fayette Freethought Society, a local and very active freethought group where he lives.”

And finally… well, if you read my own blog with any regularity, you know this guy, he’s a good friend and regular inspiration and I gas on about him all the time. But I’ll introduce him anyway:

WWJTD? (What Would JT Do?). “JT Eberhard is a campus organizer and high school specialist with the Secular Student Alliance as well as a contributing author to Atheism Resource. Before joining the SSA, JT was most known as a debater on atheism and LGBT rights and as the co-founder of the Skepticon annual conference. From 2008-2010, JT worked as the organizing team leader for Skepticon 1, 2, and 3. The event would usher in a new format of conventions featuring rock star lineups while allowing people to attend for free. The event was also operated by a student group, reinforcing the idea that students can have an enormous impact on the national stage. Outside of his work as an activist, Eberhard is a veteran of the Springfield Regional Opera’s Young Artist Program. A baritone, JT has a handful of professional roles to his credit with various companies including work under the directorship of two-time Grammy-winner James Billings. His other interests include playing cards, performing magic, and physical fitness. JT Eberhard presently lives in Columbus, Ohio where he dreams of inventive new ways to highlight the dangers and failings of religion while he searches for the next great adventure!” (JT neglected to mention his skill at pillow fort architecture, so I guess it’s up to me to keep the legend alive.)

So take a minute to visit the new members of the invasion mob family!