Greta Speaking in Las Vegas and Springfield, MO!

I have a couple of speaking gigs coming up — one of them very soon! Very, very soon indeed. My apologies for not announcing the Las Vegas event sooner: I’ve been swamped with the “Coming Out Atheist” book, and just about everything else has been slipping through the cracks. Hope to see you there!

CITY: Las Vegas, NV
DATE: Tuesday, November 5
TIME: 7:30 pm
LOCATION: Barrick Museum Auditorium, University of Nevada Las Vegas, 4505 S Maryland Pkwy
HOSTS/SPONSORS: Secular Student Alliance at UNLV, co-sponsored by Spectrum
TOPIC: Coming Out Atheist: How to Do It, How to Help Each Other, and Why
SUMMARY: Coming out is the most powerful political act atheists can take. But coming out can be difficult and risky. What are some specific, practical, nuts-and-bolts strategies we can use: to come out of the closet, to support each other in coming out, and to make the atheist community a safer place to come out into? What can atheists learn about coming out from the LGBT community and their decades of coming-out experience — and what can we learn from the important differences between coming out atheist and coming out queer?
COST: Free and open to the public

CITY: Springfield, MO (Skepticon)
DATES: November 15th-17th
LOCATION: Springfield Expo Center, Springfield, MO
EVENT: Skepticon!
TOPIC: Activism Burnout — Prevention and Treatment
SUMMARY: One of the most important keys to the success of the atheist movement is keeping activists engaged for the long haul. But the most inspired and motivated activists are often the ones most likely to eventually burn out. What are some practical strategies for preventing burnout — and for managing it when it happens? And how can activists support each other in not burning out?
EVENT SUMMARY: Skepticon is an annual skeptic/freethinker/atheist/awesome conference that is held annually in Springfield, MO. It is the mission of Skepticon to support, promote, and develop free-thought skeptic, and scientific communities through inclusive educational programming. Skepticon is also the largest free skeptic conference in the nation.
OTHER SPEAKERS: Seth Andrews, Richard Carrier, John Corvino, JT Eberhard, David Fitzgerald, Debbie Goddard, Rebecca Hensler, Keith Lowell Jensen, Amanda Knief, Amanda Marcotte, Hemant Mehta, Monica R. Miller, PZ Myers, Aron Ra, Shelley Segal, David Tamayo, and Rebecca Watson.
SPECIAL EVENT: At this year’s Skepticon, we’ll be hosting a Godless Perverts Story Hour! The Godless Perverts Story Hour is an evening about how to have good sex without having any gods, goddesses, spirits, or their earthly representatives hanging over your shoulder and telling you that you’re doing it wrong. The Skepticon event will feature readings and performances by Rebecca Watson, Keith Lowell Jensen, and Heina Heina Dadabhoy, as well as hosts David Fitzgerald and my own bad self.
COST: Free. This is a TOTALLY FREE conference. Discount hotel rates available. They do ask that you register for the conference, and they would love donations to help keep it going.
EVENT URL: http://skepticon.org/

Mind is Matter: Why Meditation Is More Humanist than You Might Think

A lot of atheists, humanists, and other nonbelievers are leery or dismissive of meditation and mindfulness. Some see it as an irretrievably religious or spiritual practice, and want no part in it. Others are put off by the faddish, overused, buzzword quality of the practice and the terminology. And I can understand that. For years, I stayed away from trying this stuff out, for exactly those reasons. I was interested in the practice—I had friends who did it, and who seemed to get a lot out of it. But I couldn’t find anyplace to learn that didn’t base their teaching on Buddhism or some other religion. And I’m too ardent an anti-religionist to “take what you need and leave the rest,” the way many nonbelievers do with religion. After all, I literally wrote the book on angry atheism. For me, trying to learn meditation in a Buddhist center would be like trying to learn meditation in a room full of fingernails scraping on blackboards.

But these practices are being increasingly secularized. It’s certainly true that many meditation techniques and approaches originated with Buddhism and other Eastern religions, and have been refined by these religious traditions over centuries. But the version I’ve been learning—mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR)—is evidence-based; its techniques have been researched, and continue to be researched, using good, rigorous scientific methods, examining which effects these practices actually do and don’t generate. It’s commonly taught in medical settings, presented not as a method for spiritual enlightenment, but as a set of physical and mental techniques that can produce specific physical and mental effects. (Much in the way that, say, physical exercise is considered.) MBSR has been shown to help alleviate depression, anxiety, anger, high blood pressure, and other symptoms of extreme or prolonged stress—and can also improve focus, concentration, pain management, self-esteem, the ability to consciously respond to life’s events instead of reflexively reacting to them, and some other effects.

In my experience—which, admittedly, has been brief (as of this writing I’ve been practicing MBSR for about six months)—the secularized version of meditation and mindfulness is not just vaguely compatible with a humanist outlook. It is, in many ways, humanist to the core.

*****

Thus begins my most recent column for The Humanist magazine, Mind is Matter: Why Meditation Is More Humanist than You Might Think. To read more about what makes this practice humanist — or at least, what makes it dovetail nicely with humanism — read the rest of the piece. Enjoy!

Godless Perverts Social Clubs, Story Hours, and Holiday Fun Time — Save the Dates!

Godless Perverts Banner

The Godless Perverts are going to be busy bees in the next couple/few months! We have a Godless Perverts Social Club (the informal meetup/ schmooze fest) this Tuesday, November 6; two Story Hours (the reading/ performance event of atheist sex writing and sexy atheist writing), one at Skepticon on November 15 and the other on February 1, 2014 — the latter to be livestreamed as part of the Freethought Blogs Con online conference. And we’re having our very first party, the Godless Perverts Holiday Fun Time, on Saturday, December 14.

Tuesday, November 4, is the next Godless Perverts Social Club — the casual, hanging-out social arm of the Godless Perverts empire. Community is one of the reasons we started Godless Perverts. There are few enough places to land when you decide that you’re an atheist; far fewer if you’re also LGBT, queer, kinky, poly, trans, or are just interested in sexuality. And the sex-positive/ alt-sex/ whatever- you- want- to- call- it community isn’t always the most welcoming place for non-believers. So please join us at Wicked Grounds, San Francisco’s renowned BDSM-themed coffee house — 289 8th St in San Francisco, near Civic Center BART — for an evening of conversation and socializing. All orientations, genders, and kinks (or lack thereof) welcome. 7:00 – 9:00 pm. There’s no admission, but we ask that you buy food and drink at the counter, or make a donation to the venue. (Alas, I’ll personally have to skip this one, as I’ll be out of town — but y’all should have a good time hanging out and schmoozing without me.)

Friday, November 15: We’re taking the show on the road again! We’re having a Godless Perverts Story Hour at Skepticon, the totally free atheist and skeptical conference in Springfield, MO. The Godless Perverts Story Hour is an evening about how to have good sex without having any gods, goddesses, spirits, or their earthly representatives hanging over your shoulder and telling you that you’re doing it wrong. We’ll be bringing you depictions, explorations, and celebrations of godless sexualities, as well as critical, mocking, and blasphemous views of sex and religion. The evening’s entertainment will have a range of voices — sexy and serious, passionate and funny, and all of the above — talking about how our sexualities can not only exist, but even thrive, without the supernatural.

The Skepticon event will feature readings and performances by Rebecca Watson, Keith Lowell Jensen, and Heina Dadabhoy, as well as hosts David Fitzgerald and my own bad self. Skepticon is at the Springfield Expo Center November 15th-17th — the Godless Perverts Story Hour will be on Fri, November 15, at 10:00 pm. The conference is free — did we mention that it’s free? — but they do ask that you register for the conference, and they would love donations to help keep it going.

Saturday, December 14 is our very first Godless Perverts Holiday Fun Time! It’s the most blasphemous time of the year! Save the date for the sexiest and most sacreligious holiday party in the Bay Area! Come celebrate/ desecrate the midwinter holiday of your choice — whether that’s Christmas, Chanukah, Solstice, Kwanzaa, Saturnalia, Yule, or some “return of the sun” holiday we’ve never heard of. Or just have a good time for no good reason other than that the weather is getting cold and dark and crappy, so feasting and forming social bonds is not a bad idea. Axial tilt — it’s the reason for the season!

We’ll have food, drink, entertainment, and adorably stupid icebreaker games (entirely optional). Plus we’ll be giving away door prizes of atheist books, dirty books, and porn from Greta’s years as a porn reviewer. Blasphemous costumes, sexy costumes, awesome combinations of the above, and other festive garb are encouraged, but by no means required.

The Godless Perverts Holiday Fun Time is happening at the Center for Sex and Culture, 1349 Mission St in San Francisco (near Civic Center BART), on Saturday December 14, starting at 7:00 pm. It’s a benefit for the Center for Sex and Culture. Admission $10-$20 OR a yummy holiday treat to share. We’ll provide food, but we’d love to add your holiday specials to the buffet. No-one turned away for lack of funds or cooking skills. Hope to see you there!

And on Saturday, February 1, 2014, the Godless Perverts Story Hour returns to San Francisco — livestreamed as part of the Freethought Blogs Con online conference! This reading/ performance event will feature Juba Kalamka, Dana Fredsti, Virgie Tovar, Simon Sheppard, Kate Sirls, and hosts David Fitzgerald and me me me! The format’s going to be a little different from our usual story hours — we just have a two-hour time slot for the online conference, so we’ll have seven performers in a row… followed by a Q&A with all seven, taking questions from both the online and the live audiences. It’ll be at the Center for Sex and Culture, 1349 Mission St. in San Francisco (near Civic Center BART). Festivities start at 7:00 pm ***SHARP*** (again, this is being livestreamed as part of the online conference, so none of this “we’ll wait for stragglers to come in and actually start at 7:10″ nonsense, if you’re not there by 7:00, you’ll miss the start of the show). $10-20 sliding scale donation; no-one turned away for lack of funds; benefit for the Center for Sex and Culture.

If you want to be notified about all our Godless Perverts events, sign up for our email mailing list, or follow us on Twitter at @GodlessPerverts. You can also sign up for the Bay Area Atheists/ Agnostics/ Humanists/ Freethinkers/ Skeptics Meetup page, and be notified of all sorts of godless Bay Area events — including the Godless Perverts. You can even RSVP on the Meetup page for the next Social Club, if you like to RSVP to things. Hope to see you there!

“Coming Out Atheist” — First Draft Done

Thank you all so much for your patience, and for putting up with weeks of cat photos. The first draft of “Coming Out Atheist: How to Do It, How to Help Each Other, and Why” is done. It’s going to need revisions, and that’s going to take a certain amount of work, so I won’t be back on a totally full blogging schedule until that’s completed. And I may have take a couple/few more shorter hibernations during various upcoming pushes in the process. But the overwhelming bulk of the work is done.

And I am hugely excited about it, and happy with it.

The process of reading through all the coming-out stories I gathered, and thinking about them, and looking at the themes and patterns in them, and figuring out what I wanted to say about them, has been fascinating. There were lots of surprises. I’ll talk about those more in coming weeks — and of course I’ll talk about them in the book itself. But I want to talk about a few of the biggest and most important ones now.

1: The overwhelming majority of “coming out atheist” stories had pretty happy endings. Truly dire outcomes were fairly rare. There were a lot of stories that started badly but turned out fine. And even people who did have traumatic experiences still think that coming out was right, and are happier now that they’ve done it. In all the stories I’ve read, literally one person who came out as an atheist said they regretted it. I think we tend to tell each other the sad stories a lot — which is understandable — but most of the time, coming out as an atheist seems to turn out well.

2: I was extremely surprised at how many people came out as atheists at a young age: not just college, but high school, middle school, even younger. If I recall correctly, the youngest age was six. Seriously.

3: The diversity of coming-out experiences was enormous. I’ll have a lot more to say about that later, and I talk a lot about it in the book itself. But in reading the stories and writing about them, I had a pretty major shift in the entire way I was envisioning the book.

When I first decided to write a how-to guide for coming out atheist, I’d originally been thinking of it as a set of directions. “Here’s what to do, here’s what not to do.” But the huge diversity of stories and experiences made me realize that this was totally the wrong way to look at it. The book isn’t going to tell people the right way to come out as an atheist — because there is no right way. It’s too different for different people. The book isn’t providing a set of directions. It’s providing a map: a map of territory that people are likely going to be dealing with… so they can decide how to proceed for themselves. There are a few basic guidelines that seem to work for most people. But a lot of the book is, “Here’s a situation that may come up. You could do A, or B, or C. Here are some things to think about when making that decision; here’s what other people dealing with it did, and how they feel about it now.”

I am exhausted. I have been doing just about nothing but eat, sleep, occasionally hang out with Ingrid, and write, for days. To a lesser extent, for weeks. So I’m going to post a couple of announcements that I’ve let slip through the cracks in the last few weeks. And then I’m going to sleep for about sixteen hours, take a long long walk, sleep some more, go to the gym, and take a break from looking at a computer screen for a couple of days. I’ll see y’all soon. The kitties say hi.