The Scale of the Thing: Andrew Tripp’s Reply

Andrew Tripp and I have been having an email conversation about a piece he recently wrote on the Considered Exclamations blog, titled Papercuts: Transmisogyny, Western Atheists, and the Meaning of Oppression. The piece was primarily about transphobia and oppression against trans people, especially among some feminists, and most of the piece I agreed with heartily. But he said some things about atheist organizing and anti-atheist oppression that I disagreed with, so we’ve been emailing about it.

We both thought the conversation might be of interest to other people, so we’ve decided to take it public. I posted my first reply here, in a letter/ post titled Is Anti-Atheist Bigotry A Papercut? A Conversation with Andrew Tripp.

Andrew has now posted his reply: Responding to Greta: The Scale of the Thing. If you’re interested in this conversation and have been following it, please go read it.

And here, because I think it will be useful later on even though it’s a bit repetitive now, is a chronological list of the posts in this discussion:

Papercuts: Transmisogyny, Western Atheists, and the Meaning of Oppression
Is Anti-Atheist Bigotry A Papercut? A Conversation with Andrew Tripp
Responding to Greta: The Scale of the Thing

Atheism and Sensuality — Link Finally Working!

The link to the Atheism and Sensuality piece is working again! Sorry for the earlier snafu. Here’s the teaser once more:

*****

Let’s talk about a pleasant topic for once. The most pleasant topic of all, in fact. Let’s talk about pleasure.

The atheist view of sensuality, of pure physical pleasure and joy in our bodies, is about eleven billion times better than any traditional religious view. Our view—or rather, our views—of physical pleasure are more coherent, more ethical, way the hell more appealing, and fun. We don’t believe in a supernatural soul that’s finer than our bodies, more important than our bodies, or superior to our bodies in every way. We don’t think that we have a soul separate from our bodies, period. We sure as heck don’t believe in an immaterial god who thinks that our bodies are icky—even though he, you know, created them—and who makes up endless, arbitrary, unfathomably nitpicky rules about what we may and may not do with them. We understand that the physical world is all there is. We understand that our bodies, and the lives we live in them, are all we have. And as a result, we are entirely free—within the constraints of basic ethics, obviously—to enjoy these bodies and these mortal, physical lives. As atheists, we’re free to celebrate our bodies and the pleasures they can bring us as thoroughly and exuberantly as we can.

So why don’t we?

Why isn’t atheist culture more physical? Why isn’t it more focused on sensuality and sensual joy? Why is it so cerebral so much of the time? As atheists, we’ve flatly rejected the idea that there’s a higher, finer world than the physical one. Why does it so often seem that we’ve bought into it instead?

*****

Thus begins my latest piece for Free Inquiry, Atheism and Sensuality. To find out more about why I think atheist culture is commonly so cerebral — and what I think we should do about it — read the rest of the piece. Enjoy!

Is Anti-Atheist Bigotry A Papercut? A Conversation with Andrew Tripp

Andrew Tripp and I have been having an email conversation about a piece he recently wrote, titled Papercuts: Transmisogyny, Western Atheists, and the Meaning of Oppression. We both thought the conversation might be of interest to other people, so we’ve decided to take it public. For the record: There are some things Andrew says in this piece (and has said in our subsequent conversation) that I don’t agree with, and some of it I disagree with fairly strongly. But I have tremendous respect for him, and in particular for his hard work, integrity, and commitment to his ideals, and am basing this conversation on that foundation.

Hi, Andrew. Greta here. I was reading your Papercuts piece, and was totally with you… up until this.

American atheists are not oppressed. We are not the Other. We are not dehumanized as a matter of course. We aren’t fetishized objects for audiences to drool over. Our agency and identities are not lampooned and erased because of our atheism. We have blogs read by millions. Heads of our nonprofits get on the mainstream media regularly. Those organizations, for the most part, have good-sized budgets, ranking in the millions of dollars. We’ve got some issues to overcome before we have a truly equal footing in society, yeah. But pretending like getting “In God We Trust” off the money won’t do a damned thing to change the world. We have to use our positions to tackle real oppression, or we’ll never live in a truly free society. In the grand scheme of things, we as Western atheists have some minor, papercut level inconveniences. To pretend that papercut is a gaping head wound is patently absurd, and we need to stop it.

I think you may be coming from a position of privilege here that you’re not seeing. You live in Chicago, and being an atheist in Chicago (or rather, being a white atheist in a more liberal enclave) is not that bad. Being an atheist in the Bible Belt is another thing entirely. Being an out atheist in the Bible Belt means risking your job, your safety, your property, your community, custody of your kids. Look at what happened to Damon Fowler. That was no papercut. That was systematic oppression, from every part of the society around him. And atheist activism isn’t just about nativity scenes and getting In God We Trust off the money. I do think those things matter… but that’s not just what it’s about. And I don’t understand why an atheist activist would be so dismissive and trivializing of the real oppression many atheists in this country do face.

The problem with the Maria Maltseva piece you linked to isn’t that it points out the seriousness of anti-atheist bigotry. The problem (well, one of the problems) is its basis in Maltseva’s raging anti-feminism. We can acknowledge the reality and importance of sexism, transphobia, and other forms of bigotry and oppression — and indeed, talk about the places where those bigotries and oppressions intersect with religion — without being dismissive and trivializing of bigotry and oppression against atheists.

I really liked the piece other than that. Hope you’re doing well: take care, and I’ll talk with you soon.

(I’ll post links to Andrew’s replies as he posts them.)

Atheism and Sensuality

SECOND UPDATE: The link is working again. You can finally read this post!

UPDATE: Sorry. Something went wrong with the Free Inquiry website since I scheduled this piece for posting, and the link to this piece is broken. I’m trying to find out what happened. I’ll post again here as soon as it’s fixed. Thanks for your patience.

Let’s talk about a pleasant topic for once. The most pleasant topic of all, in fact. Let’s talk about pleasure.

The atheist view of sensuality, of pure physical pleasure and joy in our bodies, is about eleven billion times better than any traditional religious view. Our view—or rather, our views—of physical pleasure are more coherent, more ethical, way the hell more appealing, and fun. We don’t believe in a supernatural soul that’s finer than our bodies, more important than our bodies, or superior to our bodies in every way. We don’t think that we have a soul separate from our bodies, period. We sure as heck don’t believe in an immaterial god who thinks that our bodies are icky—even though he, you know, created them—and who makes up endless, arbitrary, unfathomably nitpicky rules about what we may and may not do with them. We understand that the physical world is all there is. We understand that our bodies, and the lives we live in them, are all we have. And as a result, we are entirely free—within the constraints of basic ethics, obviously—to enjoy these bodies and these mortal, physical lives. As atheists, we’re free to celebrate our bodies and the pleasures they can bring us as thoroughly and exuberantly as we can.

So why don’t we?

Why isn’t atheist culture more physical? Why isn’t it more focused on sensuality and sensual joy? Why is it so cerebral so much of the time? As atheists, we’ve flatly rejected the idea that there’s a higher, finer world than the physical one. Why does it so often seem that we’ve bought into it instead?

*****

Thus begins my latest piece for Free Inquiry, Atheism and Sensuality. To find out more about why I think atheist culture is commonly so cerebral — and what I think we should do about it — read the rest of the piece. Enjoy!

Fashion Friday: Workout Clothes

Does it really, cosmically speaking, matter what I wear to the gym?

I was buying gym pants at Ross the other day, and I started pondering this question.

Greta in workout clothesTo a great extent, I don’t care all that much what I wear to the gym. I have a very small wardrobe of workout clothes, and when I get dressed for the gym, I spend about fifteen seconds picking an outfit. And yet, when I was looking for gym pants at Ross, I wasn’t just grabbing the first three pairs off the rack and calling it a day. I wasn’t even grabbing the first three pairs in a fabric I liked (breathable stretch cotton, please, no Spandex!). I wasn’t being anywhere near as finicky as I usually am when I shop for clothes… but I was flipping through their entire selection in my size, and picking out maybe one out of every ten or fifteen. I was paying attention to color, and shape, and fit. I was trying them on, not just grabbing them off the rack and heading to the register. And I was keeping some while rejecting others, at least partly, because of how they looked on me.

And I started thinking: Why is that? Why do I care?

If you don’t have a blue-collar job, workout clothes are about the most utilitarian clothes there are. They exist to maintain basic standards of modesty, to maintain a comfortable body temperature, and to be comfortable and durable during vigorous exercise. If you’re hard-core you might care about things like fabrics that wick sweat away, and obviously some sports and forms of exercise have specific sartorial demands (bicycling shorts, running shoes, football helmets). And if you’re someone who cruises at the gym (as many gay men do, for instance), that’s obviously a consideration. But if you’re just doing weights and jogging on a treadmill, and you’re not looking to flirt or hook up… why should you care how your workout clothes look?

And yet, I do care, at least somewhat, about how my workout clothes look. I am somewhat selective about them. And I started wondering: Why?

I tend to wear workout clothes that are fairly body-hugging: not revealing, exactly, but ones that let me see the shape of my body. I don’t wear T-shirts, or loose sweatpants. I wear ribbed racerback tank tops, and snug leggings or bike-style shorts. And I don’t want a lot of distractions. I don’t want bright colors, or even a stripe down the side of my legs. My leggings and bike shorts are plain black or grey; my ribbed racerback tanks are black, with nothing more than a red Rosin Coven logo, or a Longboard Winery surfboard slicing down between my breasts, or the words “San Francisco Dyke March” with “DYKE” in hot pink capital letters stamped on my chest.

Part of this is just so I can clearly see my form, make sure I have the correct angles when I’m doing my weight training. But most of it, honestly, is so I can enjoy the sight of myself, and my body, when I work out.

Here’s the thing. If the experience of looking at myself in the mirror when I work out is enjoyable… that reinforces my desire to go to the gym in the first place. It adds to the pleasure of the experience, makes it more appealing — which makes me more likely to go back, and to keep going back. And gym clothes that let me clearly see my body, and let me see it in a flattering way, add to that pleasure.

Greta in workout clothes making a muscleI like looking at my body when it’s getting strong, and staying strong. I like reinforcing in myself the idea that beauty is strength, and strength, beauty. If I’ve been hitting the gym regularly, I enjoy seeing how ripped and powerful I look. If I’ve had to take a break (like I did when I had surgery), I enjoy watching my definition gradually returning, watching my muscles start to pop back out through the softness.

And I want to be able to see my body clearly — and see it framed by clothes that look good, or at least that don’t look like crap — when I do.

Ingrid once said that she loves seeing me at the gym, because I stride into the weight room like I own it. I think part of why I stride into the weight room like I own it, why I feel entirely comfortable and joyful and at home in the weight room, why I feel with no question like I belong there even though often I’m one of only a couple of women in it, is that I look like I belong there. I stride into the weight room, and I pick out my weights, and I start my set… and I see my image in the mirror, reflecting the message back to me, “This is you. You are a fucking powerhouse. Look at your biceps, your shoulders, your thighs, your calves. You are strong, and getting stronger. You treasure your health, and your body. You value your body’s ability to give you pleasure. You love yourself.”

And the sharper and more pleasurable that image is, the more clearly that message gets through.

I love my body. I especially love my body when I’m at the gym. Going to the gym is an act of loving my body. And wearing gym clothes that let me appreciate my body is a sign of that love… and helps that love to flourish.

You may also enjoy:
The Eroticism of Exercise
A Hedonistic View of Physical Health

Greta on “Thinking Atheist” Podcast about Atheism and Sexuality

I’ve been interviewed by Seth Andrews at the Thinking Atheist podcast, along with Zinnia Jones and Dr. Darrel Ray, on the always- fascinating topic of Atheism and Sexuality. Here’s a quick summary:

Do atheists have better sex?

In this episode, we talk about the models of sexuality outside of religion, and we explore some obstacles to healthy sexual expression in religious (and not so religious) cultures.

Guests for this show include:

Dr. Darrel Ray is President of Recovering From Religion and author of the book, “Sex & God: How Religion Distorts Sexuality”

Zinnia Jones is an atheist activist, writer, and video blogger focusing on the impact of religious belief, political follies, and LGBTQ rights.

Greta Christina is a prominent atheist blogger, speaker and author whose recent book is titled, “Why Are You Atheists So Angry: 99 Things that Piss Off the Godless”

Plus your calls and emails (send to: [email protected])

I had a great time talking with Seth, and I hope you enjoy listening!

“A lifetime of indoctrination…”

I got a kind of amazing comment yesterday by bexie on my Atheists and Anger post (kind of amazing that it’s still getting comments all these years later!), and I wanted to quote it here in its entirety so people wouldn’t miss it. Take it away, bexie.

*****

“And I’m angry that their religion, which if nothing else should have been a comfort to them in their old age, was instead a source of anguish and despair — because they knew their children and grandchildren were all going to be burned and tortured forever in Hell, and how could Heaven be Heaven if their children and grandchildren were being eternally burned and tortured in Hell?”

This right here is the original thing that led to me losing my Christian faith. I was raised Christian, by my Baptist mother. We went to church every week, and I liked it – I liked the hymns, I liked the other children there, and I liked skipping up and down the aisle to the music when the hymns were being sung (I remember my favourite was ‘Shine Jesus Shine’). And for a while, I liked Sunday School, until I hit about ten years old, moved up to the next age group, and we stopped just being told the nicey nice stories about what Jesus did. I remember one Sunday School session being almost exclusively about the following passage from the Bible (I forget where in the Bible it’s from, and the wording may not be exact, but):

“I am the way, the truth, and the light. There is no way to the Father, except through me.”

And we were told that this meant the only way people could get into heaven was if they accepted Jesus Christ. Everyone else would go to Hell.

This didn’t sit right with me, even then. I remember raising my hand and saying “What, even nice people? People who don’t do anything bad?” and was told that not believing in Jesus made them bad people, and that’s why they would go to Hell.

We were also told “All sins are equal in the eyes of the Lord” – so if we told a small white lie, like the good old “The dog ate my homework”, in the eyes of God, this would be the same as going out and murdering someone – which even to my childhood self, seemed like a completely and utterly crazy concept. It made absolutely no sense. I didn’t understand why these adults, who were supposed to know so much more than us, could actually say such a thing.

But back to the not believing in Jesus = Hell thing. This caused me much, much panic and terror and crying later on, once I’d had time to think about it, because I remembered – my father, who was divorced from my mother, who had never harmed anyone in his life, and who, in my opinion, was the single most wonderful, amazing and greatest person in the universe, had told me, after I asked why he didn’t go to church, that he didn’t believe in God.

And according to what I was taught at church, by the minister, the Sunday school teachers, my own mother – this meant that he would go to Hell.

I didn’t want my daddy to go to Hell. Why would God ever want to send him to Hell? He’s such a wonderful man – and he has primary progressive multiple sclerosis. He’s been in a wheelchair since I was about seven years old, and will never walk again. Over the years since, he’s been slowly losing the use of his arms and hands as well as his legs, is confined to his home, and lives in almost constant pain. So according to my Church, God gave him a horrible, progressive, incurable disease, that makes him suffer greatly in life – and then punishes him further when he’s gone by sending him to be tortured for an eternity in Hell?

Why would anyone WANT to believe in a God like that?!

And then, later, I came to another realisation – Heaven was supposed to be a paradise, where we all lived happily for eternity. But for me, it wouldn’t be Heaven unless my Dad would be there, too. How on earth would I EVER be able to enjoy a paradise, knowing that my own dear father was suffering an eternity of torment in Hell instead? It wouldn’t BE heaven. It wouldn’t be a paradise.

And that’s when it struck me – the whole promise of Heaven is a complete and utter lie. They promise me Heaven – yet also promise that my father would go to hell – meaning that it wouldn’t be Heaven. And in the years since, not just my father – my sister, who is atheist. Practically all of my friends. My fiancé, who is Jewish. According to what I was taught, they would all go to hell.

So basically, if I went to Heaven, I’d be totally alone (apart, it must be said, from my mother, and while I love her with all my heart she does my head in after a couple of hours on earth, an eternity with ONLY her for company would be… gargh) with the knowledge that everyone else I’ve ever loved or cared about was burning in Hell. And at risk of sounding like a broken record… that would mean it’s not Heaven.

And that’s what eventually made me stop believing in God, Jesus and religion in general – because isn’t the whole POINT of religion “Do what it says here and you’ll go to a lovely place when you die”. That’s what it all revolves around. Not just Christianity, but ALL religions revolve around something good happening when you die. And if that isn’t true… then the whole thing is a lie.

I didn’t come to all these conclusions that day when I was ten, however. It took a long, long time before I finally realised this truth – or maybe I realised it then, and it took me that long to accept it. It wasn’t an easy thing. In those years I still went to church, Sunday school, and when I was older, Bible study sessions. Each one seemed to slowly push me further away, as I found problems with more and more things I was being taught as fact.

But you know what… sometimes, even though I’ve now been an atheist for years, and I’m now a woman in my twenties, I sometimes still sit bolt upright in the night in terror, thinking “What if there IS a Hell, and I end up there?”

A lifetime of indoctrination is pretty hard to completely shake off.

On Writing Kinky Porn in Rape Culture

Content alert: discussions of rape and borderline-consensual sex, in the context of kinky porn. Also, there’s a somewhat different comment policy here than usual: please read to the end if you’re going to comment (you should be doing that anyway), and see the policy there.

So I’m having this conundrum, and I’d like some feedback on how to handle it.

I’m preparing to self-publish a collection of my erotic fiction. Lots of my erotic fiction is kinky: not all of it is, but most of it is, and most of the stories in this collection are kinky.

Now, here’s the thing about SM porn. It’ll be simpler to just quote myself, from the introduction I’ve written to this very collection:

Some of these stories are about consensual sadomasochism. They’re about negotiated SM scenes between consenting adults, with safewords and limits and attention to safety. There’s conflict in the stories, and mis-steps, and bad decisions… but fundamentally, what happens within those stories is consenting. They are attempts to express, in fiction, some of the things that consensual sadomasochists do.

And some of these stories aren’t. Some of these stories are about force, and violation, and abuse of power. (The ones in the “Force, Power, and Messed-Up Consent” section, mainly, and also some of the ones in the “Religion” section.) They are attempts to describe, not some of the things consensual sadomasochists do, but some of the things we think about. They are attempts to describe some of the images that come into some of our minds when we masturbate, or have sex, or engage in consensual SM. They are attempts to describe some of the activities and relationships that some of us consensually act out with each other. They are fantasies.

I am entirely comfortable with these fantasies. I am entirely comfortable with the fact that I fantasize about things I would find morally repugnant in real life. I have no more problem with these fantasies than I do with fantasies about robbing casinos, or slaughtering Orcs. And I’m not willing to debate that.

My conundrum is this: How do you write about fantasies of non-consent in a way that doesn’t glorify actual, real-world non-consent?

fifty shades of grey coverWhen “50 Shades of Grey” came out (which I haven’t yet read, btw), it was slammed with a whole lot of feminist criticism, largely about how the book was a terrible model for relationships… even kinky ones. “This isn’t what relationships should look like! This isn’t what healthy SM relationships are like! This feeds all sorts of stereotypes and harmful gender tropes! This reinforces terrible ideas of what romance and sex should be like! This reinforces the idea that control and force and denial of autonomy are romantic! If this is people’s first exposure to kink, they’re going to think this is what real-world kink is like — or what it should be like!”

Part of me is sympathetic. I think people who create narrative art do have something of a responsibility to be aware of the culture they’re working in, and to be aware of the biases and blind spots around them and in them, and to try not to feed them if they can avoid it. I think, for instance, that it’s totally fucked-up to make movies or TV shows where “getting the girl so drunk she has no idea what’s going on” is seen as a seduction technique… as opposed to, you know, rape. I think movie and TV writers need to be aware of how this plays into rape culture, and I think they should knock it off.

And part of me is entirely unsympathetic. I don’t think every piece of fiction has to provide a model of what people should act like. That’s true if the fiction is aiming to be realistic and shine a light on real life — and it’s true if the fiction is aiming to be a fantasy. It’s okay to write about human reality in ways that are morally complex and acknowledge human imperfection. And it’s okay to write about fantasies that are entirely unrealistic, just fun things to imagine. Not every piece of fiction has to be a preachy morality play, in which the good are universally rewarded and the wicked are universally punished. In fact, almost no fiction has to be a preachy morality play, in which the good are universally rewarded and the wicked are universally punished. Those are monumentally boring. (Unless, of course, the punishment is really hot.)

consensual sadomasochism coverAnd I am really, really unsympathetic to a criticism of kinky porn that slams it purely for being kinky. It’s one thing to (for instance) criticize kinky video porn for perpetuating rigid and unrealistic body ideals, or to criticize kinky porn fiction for promoting the idea that being wealthy is a key element of being a hot and powerful top. It’s another to criticize it purely on the basis of, “They’re hitting each other! That’s violent!” “Or, “The man is dominating the woman! That’s sexist!” Or, “One of them is controlling the other’s life! That’s unhealthy!” That’s basically saying, “You’re a bad person for being kinky. You’re a bad person for having these fantasies and wanting to read about them. You should stop it right now.”

I do think it’s worth critiquing the ways pop culture feeds fantasies, especially when it’s a consistent or ongoing pattern with little or no variety (such as the trope of macho men rescuing helpless women). But if the critique consists solely of “This is kinky, and kink is bad”… I am not on board. (More thorough thoughts on this are in my earlier piece, Porn, Social Criticism, and the Marginalization of Kink.)

So I’m not sure where the balance is here.

I’m not so much concerned about triggering. I plan to put the equivalent of a trigger warning/ content alert in the book description, so people who don’t want to read about this stuff know to not read the book (and so people who do want to read about this stuff know to buy it right away!). My problem is more with the question of how to publicly explore fantasies of non-consent in a way that doesn’t glorify actual, real-world non-consent. And my problem is with how people who aren’t familiar with kink, or with kinky people and the kink community, are going to perceive it.

How should I go about this? Will it be enough if I make it clear in the introduction that these are fantasies, and not a relationship guide or a kink how-to manual? Not everyone reads introductions, so I don’t know if I can count on that. What if I included a resource guide at the end, with info on safe/ sane/ consensual SM, and again stating, “This is not a how-to guide, here are some actual how-to guides”? Is there something I’m missing here? Thoughts?

COMMENT POLICY FOR THIS POST: For comments in this post, I am not interested in debating (a) the validity of kink, (b) the validity of erotica, kinky or otherwise, or (c) the existence of sexism and rape culture, and the importance of countering them. I might be okay hosting those debates elsewhere, but I don’t want to do it here. Please don’t comment here unless you are basically okay with the idea of erotica, basically okay with the idea of kink, and basically on board with feminism. Violations will be disemvoweled or deleted; repeated violators will be banned. Thank you.

Why the Kinky Priest’s 911 Call Should Not Have Been News

Wow. I didn’t think it was possible. But I’m actually finding myself feeling sorry for a sexually hypocritical Catholic priest.

You may have already hear about this story. In November of 2012, a Catholic priest made a 911 call asking for emergency help, because he had gotten stuck in a bondage mask and handcuffs (he was apparently alone at the time). The story is now all over the Internet — as is the recording of his 911 call.

Normally, I’d be all over a “religious sexual hypocrisy” story like this one. The Catholic Church’s teachings on sex and sexuality are repugnant to me. And I’m revolted by the hypocrisy of priests and other leaders in the church who demand that their followers practice an absurd, morally convoluted, out-of-touch set of sexual ethics… and then don’t even practice those ethics themselves.

But this story has me creeped out. And not in the usual way.

It’s creeping me out because of the violation of privacy.

People in sexual situations that are both dangerous and potentially embarrassing need to be able to call for help, without fearing that they’re going to be publicly humiliated and that their call for help is going to be spread all over the Internet. How many kinky people — hell, not just kinky people, anyone with any unconventional sexual practices — are going to read this story and be reluctant to call 911 when they’re stuck in handcuffs, when they have something stuck in their ass, when they can’t get a cock ring off, when they stumble in their bondage boots and break their nose?

I don’t know anything about this priest, other than the fact that he got stuck in bondage gear and made a 911 call to help get him out. I don’t know if he was in a more conservative church that practiced a lot of sexual shaming, or if he was in a more inclusive one that cherry-picked out the nasty pits of Catholic sexual shame. I don’t know if he preached sexual shame to his followers while secretly doing kinky stuff, or if he openly opposed the Church’s teachings on sexuality, or if in his public life he just stayed away from the whole topic. I don’t know that it matters. Well, of course it matters in the larger sense.

But I don’t think it matters to this story. I think that, when he was stuck in handcuffs, he should have been able to call 911 without fearing that it would result in his massive public humiliation. His public shaming sends a really crappy message to anyone involved in unconventional sex: “If you’re responsible and take care of your safety by asking for help when you need it, from the people whose job it is to help you, you could easily wind up with your sexual practices becoming the laughing stock of the Internet.”

Since the founding of the Clergy Project, I’ve become more sympathetic to the plight of clergy members who find themselves no longer believing in the teachings of their religion, but who don’t see a way to get out. And that’s true whether the teachings they no longer believe are, “Kinky sex is bad,” or, “God exists.” But again, I don’t know whether that’s the story here or not. I don’t know whether this priest — whose name I’m deliberately not using, since I don’t want to be contributing to the very dogpile I’m critiquing here — was ethically tormented by the conflict between his private actions and the tenets of the faith he was publicly espousing… or whether he was just a straight-up hypocrite, secretly cackling with glee over how he was pulling the wool over everyone’s eyes.

And I don’t think it matters. I think he should have been able to make that 911 call, without fearing that it would result in him being publicly humiliated all over the Internet. I know he didn’t have that legal right — 911 calls in most states are a matter of public record, and there are good reasons for that, having to do with government accountability. But I think he had that moral right.

I’m an atheist, and I think it’s fine for people to mock religious hypocrisy. I think it’s more than fine: I think it’s a positive and beneficial good. But this instance of it is giving me the creeps. Calling 911 is… well, I’m not going to say it’s sacred, obviously. But it’s important. It is, literally, vital. And it’s certainly way too important to screw around with for anything other than the best possible reasons. There are certainly some good reasons to publicize 911 calls: incompetent police responses, bigotry or insensitivity in 911 operators, reporting on a serious news story about a crime, etc. But providing the Internet with this week’s example of religious sexual hypocrisy for everyone to laugh at… that’s not one of them.

I am willing, happy even, to publicly mock religious hypocrisy, and especially religious sexual hypocrisy. Religion is one of the primary sources of pointless sexual shame in our culture, and I will gladly excoriate it on that account. But I don’t want to buy in to the exact sexual shame that I’m condemning in religion. This is not cool.

Greta Speaking in San Francisco Sunday 1/13

One last reminder: If you’re going to be in the San Francisco area on Sunday January 13, come hear me speak! This is the first talk I’ve given since my surgery (unless you count the Skyped-in one I did for Skepticon), and I’m very happy to be getting back in that saddle.

The event will be from 3:00 to 5:00 pm in the Women’s Building (near BART), hosted by Atheist Advocates of San Francisco. My topic: “Resistance Is Not Futile: Is Arguing About Religion Worth It?” I’ll be speaking for about 40 minutes or so, and then doing Q&A. Here are more details:

CITY: San Francisco, CA
DATE: Sunday, January 13
TIME: 3:00 – 5:00 PM
LOCATION: Audre Lorde Room (Upstairs), Women’s Building, 3543 18th (at Valencia), San Francisco. (Three blocks from the Mission and 16th St. BART station; there’s also a nearby parking garage at 3255 21st Street at Lexington.)
HOSTS: Atheist Advocates of San Francisco
TOPIC: Resistance Is Not Futile: Is Arguing About Religion Worth It?
SUMMARY: Many atheists think that trying to persuade people out of religion never works, and simply alienates people. But debating believers about their beliefs can be effective — in changing people’s minds about religion, as well as in achieving other goals of the atheist community. When does it makes sense to debate about religion? How should we go about it? And what should our expectations be for what these debates can accomplish?

In this talk, Greta will discuss: why arguing about religion is effective; why many people assume that it isn’t effective; who it is and isn’t worth arguing about religion with; what expectations to have when arguing about religion; when — or with whom — you might decide not to engage in these arguments; and what goals arguing about religion can help us accomplish.
COST: $6 donation to cover the cost of renting the space.

Hope to see you there!