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Apr 22 2014

Greta Speaking/ Book Party at Modern Times in SF Ths Saturday! Plus San Jose, Phoenix AZ, and Chicago IL!

Coming Out Atheist cover 150I’m having a book party for my upcoming book, Coming Out Atheist: How to Do It, How to Help Each Other, and Why! It’ll be in San Francisco at Modern Times Bookstore Collective, on Saturday April 26, from 3:30-5:30 pm. There’ll be food and drink, and I’ll be speaking about the book and answering questions. The event is being sponsored by San Francisco Atheists.

Here are the details of all my upcoming speaking events for the next few months. In addition to San Francisco, I’ll be speaking in San Jose CA, Phoenix AZ (the Secular Student Alliance Conference West), and Chicago, IL (at Humanism At Work, the Foundation Beyond Belief conference). If you’re in any of these places, I hope to see you there!

CITY: San Francisco, CA
DATE: Saturday, April 26
TIME: 3:30 PM
LOCATION: Modern Times Bookstore Collective, 2919 24th Street in San Francisco (close to the 24th and Mission BART station)
HOSTS/SPONSORS: San Francisco Atheists
TOPIC: Coming Out Atheist: How To Do It, How to Help Each Other Do It, 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?
SPECIAL INFO: This is a book party as well as a talk, and food/ drink will be served
COST: Free and open to the public
EVENT URL: http://moderntimesbookstore.com/event/greta-christina-coming-out-atheist-book-readingsigning/

CITY: San Jose, CA
DATE: Wednesday, April 30
TIME: 7:00 PM
LOCATION: San Jose Woman’s Club, 75 South 11th Street, San Jose, CA
HOSTS/SPONSORS: San Jose Atheists
TOPIC: Coming Out Atheist: How To Do It, How to Help Each Other Do It, And Why
SUMMARY: See above
COST: Free and open to the public
EVENT URL: http://www.meetup.com/Atheist-Community-of-San-Jose/events/161081902/

CITY: Phoenix, AZ (Secular Student Alliance Conference West)
DATE: Friday, June 20 – Sunday, June 22
LOCATION: Arizona State University in Phoenix
HOSTS/SPONSORS: Secular Student Alliance
TOPIC: Coming Out Atheist: Special Student Edition
SUMMARY: Coming out is the most powerful political act atheists can take. But coming out can be difficult and risky. And students — college, high school, and earlier — face special challenges in coming out. 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?
COST: $39 – $149; group rates and travel aid are available
EVENT URL: https://www.secularstudents.org/2014con/west/

CITY: Chicago, IL (Humanism At Work, the Foundation Beyond Belief conference)
DATE: Friday July 18 – Sunday July 20
LOCATION: Hilton Rosemont/ O’Hare, Chicago, IL
HOSTS/SPONSORS: Foundation Beyond Belief
TOPIC: Coming Out Atheist — How It Helps the World
SUMMARY: Coming out is the most powerful political act atheists can take, and one of the most powerful acts we can take to make life better for ourselves and other atheists. But are there ways that coming out makes life better, not just for atheists, but for believers and the rest of the world?
OTHER SPEAKERS: Hemant Mehta, Leo Igwe, Rebecca Vitsmun, Caroline Fiennes, Brittany Shoots-Reinhard, Hemley Gonzalez, Alix Jules, Pathfinders Panel (Conor Robinson, Ben Blanchard, Michelle Huey, Wendy Webber), and more
COST: $129/ticket ($149 after April 15)
EVENT URL: http://humanismatwork.org/

Apr 22 2014

Atheist Highway Cleanups, and Some Further Thoughts On “Mission Drift”

So I’ve been thinking lately about this question of organized atheism getting involved in other social justice and social change issues. I’ve been thinking about the concern that often gets voiced when this question comes up — namely, that this would result in “mission drift,” and that organized atheism will get so involved in these non-atheist-specific issues, we won’t have the resources to work on, you know, atheism.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot. And something recently occurred to me.

atheists-united-highway-cleanupLocal atheist groups often do volunteer work and service projects. Highway cleanups. Blood drives. Helping in community gardens. Rebuilding houses in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. That sort of thing.

And I’ve never heard anyone complain that any of this is “mission drift.”

We recognize that these projects are part of the public face of atheism. They’re how we change people’s minds about us. They’re how we push back against the bigotry and myths people hold about us, and show the world that we’re good, caring people with meaning in our lives. They’re part of how we let the public simply know we’re here — including other atheists who don’t know that these groups exist and might be interested in taking part. And they’re part of how we do our own community building. Working on these projects together creates social bonding, and strengthens our communities, and gives them a sense of common purpose.

So if atheist highway cleanups and blood drives and so on aren’t “mission drift,” then why would it be mission drift for atheist groups to work on, say, clinic defense of abortion clinics? Underfunded public schools? Racist police and drug policies? Abstinence only sex education? Reinstatement of the Voting Rights Act?

Some people argue that these other issues don’t have anything to do with atheism, or church/state separation, or the incursion of religion into people’s private lives. In many cases that’s simply not true: voucher programs that fund religious schools at the cost of de-funding public schools is damn well a church/state separation issue. As is abstinence only sex education. Lots of social justice issues intersect with religion, in ways that are both subtle and obvious.

But that actually leads me back to my original question:

What do clean highways and blood banks have to do with atheism?

voting rights act mapWhy would be it “mission drift” for an atheist group to work on reinstatement of the Voting Rights Act — but not to do work on cleaning up a highway?

It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that clean highways aren’t considered mission drift because the issue is of more concern to white, male, middle-class, college-educated atheists — the people who have traditionally been most involved in organized atheism. It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that reproductive rights and voting rights and so on are considered mission drift because these issues are of more concern to women, people of color, poor and working-class people — the people who have traditionally not been as involved in organized atheism. It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that the “mission” of atheism is being circularly defined as “whatever the people currently in organized atheism say the mission is.” Or “whatever the mission has traditionally been.” It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that, when groups are putting a good public face on atheism, they don’t care all that much about presenting that face to people who don’t already look like them.

Would expanding our volunteering and service projects into more social justice-y areas cause us to spread our resources thin? Maybe at first. But doing so would also expand our ranks. It would get more people involved in organized atheism who aren’t currently involved. And that means more resources: more person-power, more money, wider visibility, a greater ability to do alliance work with other groups.

I’m not dissing highway cleanups and blood drives. Not for a second. I think these are wonderful things for atheist groups to be doing. But when we’re looking at opportunities to do volunteer work and service projects, let’s start expanding our ideas of what kinds of projects we might get involved in — and start working on projects that marginalized people care more about.

Similar posts:
Does Social Justice Activism Mean Mission Drift for Atheism and Skepticism?
“We have had some success, although we sure as hell need more”: Greta’s Interview with Black Skeptics

Apr 22 2014

Greta Christina and Alex Gabriel Yak About Sexual Identity, Secularity, and Politics

Alex Gabriel: I’ve tended to observe that people who march under the banner of humanism in the states lean somewhat more strongly to the left than humanists in Britain. I’m not sure why that is, but – in my experience, anyway – it’s more of a countercultural identity, [with] more immediate openness to class concerns in politics, feminism and that kind of thing.

I’ve found that humanists in the UK are first of all a little less well defined. You find people under the humanist banner everywhere politically, but as far as major organisations, I think that the British Humanist Association – the people that run it, and I’ve met quite a few of them, I would place more in the political centre than people I know at African Americans for Humanism or the American Humanist Association.

Greta Christina: I’m not sure why that is, but it’s interesting.

That’s a good question. Because this is me, and this is what I do, I’m going to speculate and pull speculative conclusions totally out of my ass – so, therefore, this is a provisional guess – but I think that to some extent [it’s] because being a nonbeliever in Britain is more normal, it’s more ordinary, it’s more common anyway.

Being a nonbeliever in the states is oppositional, and there’s no way around that. It’s a little different if you live in New York City or some place like that, but even then you have to contend with the rest of the country. And so I wonder if because of that, right now at least in the United States, we have a situation where in order to reject religion you have to be willing to question the religious right, for one thing.

Certainly in the United States, religion and conservative politics are very much welded together. One of the reasons why I’m engaged in atheist activism is that I do see it as a crowbar: when people become atheists, they do tend to become more liberal, more progressive. I think that may not always be true. I think that if atheism does become more common in the United States, then in a few decades that tendency of atheists, humanists, just any nonbeliever…

So I don’t think that humanists are more progressive: just ‘nonbelievers’ in the States tend to be more progressive, because the kind of personality that gets you questioning religion is also perhaps the kind of personality that gets you questioning other conventions about politics and society and so on. I think it’s possible that in a few decades that won’t be true.

*****

In which Alex Gabriel and I have a conversation about sexual identity, secularity, and politics.

Here’s the deal. When I was writing Coming Out Atheist: How to Do It, How to Help Each Other, and Why, Alex Gabriel (of the Godlessness In Theory blog) was deeply involved in the process. He did two rounds of very thorough copy editing on the book, and I made numerous changes both small and large based on our conversations. (He’s a first-rate copy editor, by the way: I don’t know if he’s hiring himself out for that, but if he is, I can’t recommend him highly enough. UPDATE: Yes, Alex is hiring himself out as a copy editor. And I can’t recommend him highly enough. Seriously. Hire him.)

Anyway, when we were going over the book together, a number of topics came up where we said, “That’s an interesting topic, we should really talk about that more sometime.” How non-religious people name ourselves; whether sexual orientation is fluid depending on culture and awareness of possibilities; political differences between humanism and atheism; whether the phrase “coming out” was a cultural appropriation of LGBT language; whether the “born this way” narrative of the LGBT movement makes bisexuals even more invisible; and more.

This is that conversation. (Or the first of those conversations, anyway. Next time we’ll get into assimilationism and the Oxford comma.)

If you prefer to read than to watch the video, Alex has the conversation transcribed on his blog. Enjoy!

*****

Oh, and once again, here is ordering information for Coming Out Atheist in all three formats — print, ebook, and audiobook.

Coming Out Atheist cover 150Ebook edition:

The Kindle edition is available on Amazon. (That’s the link for Amazon US, btw — it’s available in other regions as well.)

The Nook edition is available at Barnes & Noble.

The Smashwords edition is available on Smashwords. Right now, it’s only available on Smashwords in epub format: I’m working to make it available in other formats.

All ebook editions and formats cost just $9.99.

Print edition:

The print edition is now available through Powell’s Books.

The print edition is also available at Amazon. However, be advised (if you haven’t been already) that seriously abusive labor practices have been reported at Amazon warehouses. Please bear that in mind when you’re deciding where to buy my book — or indeed, where to buy anything. (For the records: Powell’s employees are unionized.) Again, that’s the link for Amazon US — it’s available in other regions as well.

The print edition is $17.95 USD. It is being published by Pitchstone Publishing.

Wholesale sales of the print edition:

Bookstores and other retailers can get the book from Ingram, Baker & Taylor, and other standard wholesale distributors. It can also be purchased directly from the publisher, Pitchstone Publishing.

Audiobook edition:

The audiobook version is available on Audible.

The audiobook is also available through Amazon.

The audiobook is also available through iTunes.

And yes, I did the recording for it!

Apr 21 2014

“Coming Out Atheist” Mentioned On Christian Radio!

I don’t have any way to confirm this for sure, since it was on regular radio and not a podcast you can replay and link to. But I got this Tweet the other day from Mark, a.k.a. @LibraryOgre:

GF reports that @gretachristina’s “Coming Out Atheist” has been mention on the Xtian radio her dad listens to.

When I asked (naturally) which radio show, Mark did a little digging and said this:

@GretaChristina found it. http://www.khcb.org/schedule-sat.php … GF texted me about 1154, so one of those two shows, probably.

Here is the radio station in question, by the way. KHCB Radio Network. Keeping Him Close By.

This makes me ridiculously happy. Of course, I seriously doubt that any mention of Coming Out Atheist on Christian radio was likely to be complimentary. And obviously, avid listeners of Christian radio are not exactly the target market for this book. But plenty of people listen to Christian radio who are not avid listeners. People stuck listening to it in grocery stores, offices, the back seat of their parents’ cars. And I know more than one atheist who listens to Christian radio just to keep tabs on what they’re saying (and to angry up their blood).

I dearly want to get word out about this book to people outside organized atheism. Am very happy to see it happening. And that includes this rather odd venue. Thanks, Mark, for letting me know!

Apr 21 2014

“We have had some success, although we sure as hell need more”: Greta’s Interview with Black Skeptics

Black Skeptics: In the book you stress the value of engaging in debates about religion with believers to encourage questioning and coming out. However, as you acknowledge, debating the validity of religious belief is only one part of the equation. For example, the vast majority of LGBTQ people of color and straight people of color are faith-aligned/identified precisely because mainstream America is racially segregated, faith (for many) is a form of cultural “home space” and social welfare resources in communities of color are extremely impacted. What further “intersectional” steps need to be taken to promote humanistic communities beyond just “coming out”?

Greta Christina: I’m surprised to hear you say that — I don’t think I did stress the value of debating with believers all that much. I mention in the book, but I don’t give it much space, and I mostly mention it because I actually advise against having those debates while you’re in process of coming out to people. I think that’s the wrong time for those debates. It is true that I think debating believers can be useful and valuable: a lot of atheists rag on other atheists for getting into those debates, insisting that they never work and are always a waste of time, so I think they deserve defending. And it can be difficult to draw a clear line between simply explaining your atheism, and explaining why you think religion is bunk. That’s one of the main reasons I talk about the topic at all. But it’s certainly not something I think everyone should do, I don’t think it’s a moral imperative or anything, and I think lots of other forms of activism are valuable.

So, with that being cleared up. The answer to your main question: Yes, for lots of people of color, faith is a home: it’s where people get social services, social support, a sense of identity and continuity and stability and history, and more. (It does seem that it can be a toxic home — that’s one of the takeaways I got from Candace Gorham’s book, “The Ebony Exodus Project,” I kept being struck throughout the book by how so many black women found their churches unsupportive and actually undermining. But it’s still a home.) So one of the biggest intersectional steps that godless communities can take is to make atheism a safer place to land for these folks. We need to look at what people of color are getting from their faith communities, and do more in our own communities to provide it. It wouldn’t suck if we did more to make some of these needs less necessary while we’re at it: to do political work on poverty and safety nets and institutional racism and so on. And no, that’s not “mission drift”: if local atheist communities can do blood drives and roadside cleanups and so on, there’s no reason they can’t do this sort of political work, too. And we need to be willing to take a hard look at the ways that we actually make our spaces unwelcoming: not just with racism of omission (e.g., failing to recognize what these folks need and provide it), but with more overt racism of commission. And all this actually does go back to the question of debates about religion: there’s not much point — strategically, poltically, or indeed morally — in arguing people out of religion if we don’t provide them a safe place to land if we succeed.

***

Coming Out Atheist cover 150Thus begins my interview with Black Skeptics. We talk about assorted issues with intersectionality: what intersectional steps humanist communities need to take, how we can shift the leadership of our organizations, whether atheist feminists need to focus more on ways that women of color are marginalized (hint — yes), how to prioritize our issues and get others interested in our priorities, and more. And, of course, we talk about my new book, Coming Out Atheist: How to Do It, How to Help Each Other, and Why — and how coming out fits into these intersectional interviews. Smart, thoughtful questions that really made me think carefully. (And they call the book “timely and insightful,” which makes me happy.) Enjoy!

Apr 18 2014

Are Addicts and the Mentally Ill Responsible for Their Behavior?

Are people with mental illness responsible for their behavior, and for how their behavior affects others? If so, to what degree? Does the degree of mental illness affect how we answer this question?

I’ve been thinking about this question for a long, long time. Many years, in fact. I’ve been thinking about it harder in the last year or so, since my father died, and since my most recent bout with depression. I’ve been thinking about it in terms of my own life and my own mental health; I’ve been thinking about it in terms of the lives and mental health (healths?) of my friends and family members who are dealing with mental illness, or who have dealt with it in the past. But mostly, I’m thinking about it in terms of my father.

My father died on Oct. 1, 2012. Dad was a pretty mixed bag: many wonderful qualities, many not-so-wonderful ones. Specifically, he was an alcoholic, apretty bad one for many decades, and a significantly worse one as the years and decades wore on. And largely due to his alcoholism, he often behaved very badly. He wasn’t abusive, but he was often selfish, irresponsible, callous, quick with a barbed comment or a cruel joke just for his own entertainment, dismissive of other people’s feelings, unconcerned with how his actions affected others. It got worse, much worse, as the years went on and the disease of alcoholism progressed.

By the time he had his first stroke, the alcoholism had advanced to late-stage, brain-damage, memory- and speech-impairment territory, and the accompanying selfishness and irresponsibility got worse with the deterioration. (According to the doctors, the years of alcoholism almost certainly contributed to the stroke itself, and may have even been a primary cause.)

I don’t want to get into the litany of the details of his behavior right now. It’s too upsetting, and it’s kind of not the point. The point — the question I’ve spent decades asking myself, as I kept taking step after step away from my father and it kept not being far enough — is this: To what degree are mentally ill people — including alcoholics and other drug addicts — responsible for their behavior?

*****

Thus begins my latest piece for AlterNet, Are Addicts and the Mentally Ill Responsible for Their Behavior?. To read more about some of the many sides of this complicated and difficult question, read the rest of the piece.

Apr 18 2014

“Some people need help leaving closets, she posits”: Digital Cuttlefish’s Verse About “Coming Out Atheist”!

Some godless are “out” very loudly and proudly,
Some stay in the closet for decades or more–
The former will find Greta’s writing exciting;
The latter, of course, are the folks that it’s for…

Okay, I am ridiculously excited about this.

digital cuttlefish iconWhen The Digital Cuttlefish — poet laureate of the atheist blogosphere — got a review copy of Coming Out Atheist: How to Do It, How to Help Each Other, and Why, he offered to review it in verse… and asked me if there were any verse forms I was particularly fond of. Being a smart-aleck, I said that I was fond of sestinas and villanelles — but that a limerick or a song parody would also make me entirely happy.

Well, he didn’t write a sestina. He apparently is allergic to sestinas. (Understandably so– it’s kind of a ridiculous verse form, and I was only semi-serious in even suggestin git.) So instead, he’s written a review of Coming Out Atheist — in the form of a sepielle.

I am excited about this out of all proportion. Check it out!

Oh, and here is ordering info for the book, in all three formats — print, ebook, and audiobook.

Coming Out Atheist cover 150Ebook edition:

The Kindle edition is available on Amazon. (That’s the link for Amazon US, btw — it’s available in other regions as well.)

The Nook edition is available at Barnes & Noble.

The Smashwords edition is available on Smashwords. Right now, it’s only available on Smashwords in epub format: I’m working to make it available in other formats.

All ebook editions and formats cost just $9.99.

Print edition:

The print edition is now available through Powell’s Books.

The print edition is also available at Amazon. However, be advised (if you haven’t been already) that seriously abusive labor practices have been reported at Amazon warehouses. Please bear that in mind when you’re deciding where to buy my book — or indeed, where to buy anything. (For the records: Powell’s employees are unionized.) Again, that’s the link for Amazon US — it’s available in other regions as well.

The print edition is $17.95 USD. It is being published by Pitchstone Publishing.

Wholesale sales of the print edition:

Bookstores and other retailers can get the book from Ingram, Baker & Taylor, and other standard wholesale distributors. It can also be purchased directly from the publisher, Pitchstone Publishing.

Audiobook edition:

The audiobook version is available on Audible.

The audiobook is also available through Amazon.

The audiobook is also available through iTunes.

And yes, I did the recording for it!

Apr 18 2014

Podcast Interviews with Phil Ferguson at “Skeptic Money” and the Matthew Filipowicz Show!

Hi, podcast fans! I’ve being doing some podcast and radio interviews lately, plugging my new book Coming Out Atheist: How to Do It, How to Help Each Other, and Why — and two of them are up now!

Skeptic-Money-on-Air-LogoThere’s one with Phil Ferguson of the Skeptic Money blog and podcast. We talk about difficulties coming out as an atheist; how coming out is different for different people; what atheists can learn from other atheists’ coming-out stories; how to decide not only when to come out but whether to do it at all; why it’s generally better to come out sooner rather than later if you can; and more.

Matthew-Filipowicz-Show-iconThe other is with the Matthew Filipowicz Show. We talk about why it’s important for atheists for atheists to come out; how coming out makes things better for ourselves and others; a few basic guidelines for coming out; how to deal with arguments about whether God exists; the pros and cons of the “no big deal” method of coming out; methods for coming out in the workplace versus coming out to family and friends; and more; how to support other atheists in coming out; and more. (Matthew’s other guest is Betsy Leondar-Wright, author of Missing Class: Strengthening Social Movement Groups by Seeing Class Cultures, and that’s a really interesting interview as well.)

Enjoy! And once again, here’s ordering information for the book if you’re interested — in ebook, print, and audiobook.

Coming Out Atheist cover 150Ebook edition:

The Kindle edition is available on Amazon. (That’s the link for Amazon US, btw — it’s available in other regions as well.)

The Nook edition is available at Barnes & Noble.

The Smashwords edition is available on Smashwords. Right now, it’s only available on Smashwords in epub format: I’m working to make it available in other formats.

All ebook editions and formats cost just $9.99.

Print edition:

The print edition is now available through Powell’s Books.

The print edition is also available at Amazon. However, be advised (if you haven’t been already) that seriously abusive labor practices have been reported at Amazon warehouses. Please bear that in mind when you’re deciding where to buy my book — or indeed, where to buy anything. (For the records: Powell’s employees are unionized.) Again, that’s the link for Amazon US — it’s available in other regions as well.

The print edition is $17.95 USD. It is being published by Pitchstone Publishing.

Wholesale sales of the print edition:

Bookstores and other retailers can get the book from Ingram, Baker & Taylor, and other standard wholesale distributors. It can also be purchased directly from the publisher, Pitchstone Publishing.

Audiobook edition:

The audiobook version is available on Audible.

The audiobook is also available through Amazon.

The audiobook is also available through iTunes.

And yes, I did the recording for it!

Apr 18 2014

“How harshly should we judge the Church?”

Trigger warning: Burning at the stake and other torture

In response to my earlier post on the burning at the stake of Giordano Bruno, and modern Catholics who try to rationalize it, I got this comment from petersen:

I think you’re confusing two separate issues: the morality of the action and the blameworthiness of the people who took that action. In the lines from Hess you quote, he says that, in his estimation, the execution of Bruno was wrong. He then points out the *historical* fact that at the time, such executions were accepted. So we can say that the Church acted wrongly. But how harshly should we judge the Church for what it did? When the Church executed Bruno, it was acting within a political-philosophical system that allowed and justified such executions. Such a system does not exist today. So what today seems outrageously immoral would at that time have seemed permissible. Now, we can say that a system like that (i.e., a system that allows executions like Bruno’s,) is a bad one and should not exist. But given that it did exist – and that the Church existed within that system – we cannot judge the Church as harshly for executing Bruno as we could if it did the same thing today. The Church acted in a way consistent with its context. When we’re deciding how blameworthy the Church is, we have to take into account the context in which the action occurred; we cannot simply graft our own standards onto another era’s and blame people accordingly. This doesn’t mean that it wasn’t wrong to burn Bruno. That’s wrong no matter the circumstances. But that the Church’s guilt is lessened by its circumstances – its mitigating circumstances.

Are you freaking serious?

Okay. Let’s take this apart a piece at a time.

I think you’re confusing two separate issues: the morality of the action and the blameworthiness of the people who took that action.

????? That’s what the morality of an action means — how blameworthy (or praiseworthy) the person is who took the action. Yes, some actions are morally complex, and circumstances can affect that. If the morality is complicated, the blameworthiness or praiseworthiness of the people who took the action are complicated, and vice versa. But that’s still what morality means.

In the lines from Hess you quote, he says that, in his estimation, the execution of Bruno was wrong.

Yes. And then he goes on to make excuses for it, to trivialize it, to rationalize it — and to chide “Cosmos” for holding the Church responsible for it.

But how harshly should we judge the Church for what it did? When the Church executed Bruno, it was acting within a political-philosophical system that allowed and justified such executions.

And here’s where we get into the truly ugly meat of the matter.

?????

The Church were, in large part, the ones who created the political-philosophical system. They were largely responsible for it. It’s not like they were serfs in a serfdom. They held the power. They were the ones who created the system that allowed and justified these executions. Why should they not be held responsible for it?

Now, we can say that a system like that (i.e., a system that allows executions like Bruno’s,) is a bad one and should not exist. But given that it did exist – and that the Church existed within that system – we cannot judge the Church as harshly for executing Bruno as we could if it did the same thing today.

YES WE CAN. That is exactly my point. Some things are not only wrong — they are unquestionably wrong, and have always been wrong.

The Church acted in a way consistent with its context. When we’re deciding how blameworthy the Church is, we have to take into account the context in which the action occurred

And once again: They created the context. They were the ones in power.

we cannot simply graft our own standards onto another era’s and blame people accordingly.

YES WE CAN. There are some instances where moral relativism is reasonable. Burning people at the stake is not one of them.

But that the Church’s guilt is lessened by its circumstances – its mitigating circumstances.

They were the ones setting the circumstances. They were the ones in power. And they abused that power in one of the most grotesque ways imaginable. They put Bruno in prison for years. They deliberated carefully, and cold-bloodedly chose to burn him. They paraded him through the streets. When he responded to the screaming crowds, they silenced him by ramming metal spikes through his cheeks and tongue and lips — in the form of a cross. They tied him to a stake. They piled fuel under his feet. They set him on fire. They watched as he burned to death. (As the people who try to terrorize kids about Hell say: Think about what it feels like to have your hand in a flame for even a second — and now think about what it would feel like to have your entire body in flames, and to be helpless to escape from it, and to have it continue for as long as it took to end your life.) They did this in public — as spectacle, and as warning to others. And they did all this, solely and entirely, because they didn’t like the fact that he openly disagreed with their opinions. To speak of how their “guilt is lessened” by “mitigating circumstances” is morally repugnant.

What they did was wrong. It was terribly, horribly wrong. It was vile and despicable. It was among the worst things human beings could possibly do to other human beings, and for among the worst possible reasons. How hard is it to just say that? How hard is it to say it, with no minimizing, rationalization, or excuses?

What the hell is wrong with you?

Apr 17 2014

“Greta Christina has a question for closeted atheists”: Religion News Service Story on “Coming Out Atheist”

(RNS) Greta Christina has a question for closeted atheists: Ask your openly gay and lesbian friends if their lives are better for coming out.

The answer, almost universally, she claims, is yes.

That’s the message of her new book, “Coming Out Atheist: How to Do It, How to Help Each Other, and Why.” A well-known atheist activist, author, blogger and speaker, Christina will speak at the American Atheists convention in Salt Lake City this weekend (April 17-20), an event geared to raising the public profile of those who do not believe in God.

Coming Out Atheist coverThus begins the story on Religion News Service — the wire service for news stories about religion — on my new book Coming Out Atheist: New book exhorts atheists to ‘come out’ of the closet.

It’s a good story: it covers both how atheists are stigmatized and why coming out helps. And it does a good job drawing parallels between the atheist movement and the LGBT movement — which I think makes the story more personal, and gets the issues across to people who might not be familiar with them. Many thanks to the story’s author, Kimberly Winston!

So I have a quick favor to ask y’all. If you — or anyone you know — works for a newspaper that uses wire service stories, please let them know about this! Getting this into mainstream papers could get out the word about the book — and the ideas in it — to a lot of people who aren’t cued into organized atheism and might not otherwise hear about it. (The RNS story about Grief Beyond Belief was how it got into USA Today.) This piece has been picked up by the Washington Post — if more papers pick it up, it could get the word out to more people who really need it. Thanks!

And here, once again, is ordering information for the book if you’re interested — in ebook, print, and audiobook.

Ebook edition:

The Kindle edition is available on Amazon. (That’s the link for Amazon US, btw — it’s available in other regions as well.)

The Nook edition is available at Barnes & Noble.

The Smashwords edition is available on Smashwords. Right now, it’s only available on Smashwords in epub format: I’m working to make it available in other formats.

All ebook editions and formats cost just $9.99.

Print edition:

The print edition is now available through Powell’s Books.

The print edition is also available at Amazon. However, be advised (if you haven’t been already) that seriously abusive labor practices have been reported at Amazon warehouses. Please bear that in mind when you’re deciding where to buy my book — or indeed, where to buy anything. (For the records: Powell’s employees are unionized.) Again, that’s the link for Amazon US — it’s available in other regions as well.

The print edition is $17.95 USD. It is being published by Pitchstone Publishing.

Wholesale sales of the print edition:

Bookstores and other retailers can get the book from Ingram, Baker & Taylor, and other standard wholesale distributors. It can also be purchased directly from the publisher, Pitchstone Publishing.

Audiobook edition:

The audiobook version is available on Audible.

The audiobook is also available through Amazon.

The audiobook is also available through iTunes.

And yes, I did the recording for it!

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