Foundation Beyond Belief and the Nepal Earthquake

foundation beyond belief banner logo

humanist disaster recovery banner logo

The Foundation Beyond Belief’s Humanist Disaster Recovery program is raising funds to help with the recovery effort underway in the wake of the Nepal Earthquake.

In case you haven’t heard, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck Nepal overnight. The Capital and Kathmandu valley have faced the brunt of the impacts while an avalanche was triggered on Mount Everest. The government has confirmed over 1000 deaths.

Please support the Foundation Beyond Belief’s fundraising drive. Donate if you can, and spread the word on all the social media that you can. Be good without gods.

(Transparency note: I’m on the Foundation Beyond Belief’s board of directors. I don’t get any money for it, though.)

In Honor of Openly Secular Day, “Coming Out Atheist” Ebook Now Half Price!

openly secular day banner

This Thursday, April 23, is Openly Secular Day! Atheists, agnostics, humanists, freethinkers, and other non-believers are being encouraged to be open about their non-belief, as much as they can, as safely as they can. Tell one person that you’re a non-believer! Being open about our non-belief is how we change people’s minds about us. It’s how we forge communities and create a political movement. And most importantly, it’s how we make life better — for ourselves, for other non-believers, indeed for the rest of the world. Overwhelmingly, people who have come out as non-believers say they’re happy they did it, and their lives are better because of it.

The Openly Secular organization has resources for secular people who want to be more open about their non-belief — including resources specifically created for African-Americans, Hispanics, and family or friends of secular people who want to be allies. There’s even going to be a special flagship event in Orlando, Florida, at the University of Central Florida — I’ll be speaking there, along with Chris Kluwe, Will Gervais, and Hemant Mehta. That date again — Thursday, April 23.

Coming Out AtheistAnd in honor of Openly Secular Day, I’m reducing the price of the ebook edition of my guidebook, Coming Out Atheist: How to Do It, How to Help Each Other, and Why! For the next week, now through Monday April 27, you can get Coming Out Atheist on Kindle or Smashwords for half price — just $4.99! (Sorry, I couldn’t reduce the price of the Nook edition — long, boring tech story.)

Here’s the description of the book; ordering information in all formats (print, ebook, and audiobook); and some wonderfully flattering blurbs. [Read more…]

“Greta is an AMAZING writer”: Amazon Customer Review of “Bending: Dirty Kinky Stories About Pain, Power, Religion, Unicorns, & More”

I’ve gotten some nice Amazon customer reviews for my book Bending: Dirty Kinky Stories About Pain, Power, Religion, Unicorns, & More — now available in print as well as ebook and audiobook — and I thought I’d repost some of them. Here’s a good one, five stars out of five. (As of this writing, the book has nine customer reviews, and eight are 5-star reviews, with one 4-star.) Here’s what Jennifer Erwin “jennie” had to say:

A much loved present for anniversary

Hubby bought us this book for our anniversary trip a couple of weeks ago.
We both loved it! Super hot addition to our weekend away.
Not all the stories were right for both of us, but enough were.
Greta is an AMAZING writer, and these are way better than any romance novel I’ve ever read.

Thanks, Jennifer! And if any of you have read Bending, it’d be awesome if you’d post a review.

***

Here, by the way, is ordering info for the book! [Read more…]

Depression, and Revisionist Ret-con Time Distortion

(Content note: depression. Obviously.)

So I’ve been in this weird place in recent weeks, or maybe not so weird. I’ve been in this place with my depression where I have good days and bad days. I have days where I feel entirely fine — more than fine, actually, days where I feel good and happy and productive and joyful and engaged and connected and optimistic. And I have days where I can’t muster the motivation to work or shower or dress or leave the house. Because these days are coming in somewhat rapid succession (that’s unusual for me — I tend to slip in and out of my depressive states more gradually), it’s giving me a unique opportunity to observe some things about my depression. And here’s something I’ve noticed:

dali clockWhen I’m depressed, my brain sometimes does this weird thing with time. When I’m having a thought or feeling that’s pessimistic or despairing or otherwise depressed, my brain goes back and rewrites my memories — so I think I’ve always felt like this. It writes a revisionist, retroactive-continuity version of my life, in which I have always felt like this. And it filters my perception of possible futures, so it seems obvious and self-evident that I’m always going to feel like this, forever.

The specific example that made me want to write about this: I was having this experience, where every time I had a moment of happiness or joy or connection, it would quickly be shot through with an intense consciousness of mortality. “Sure, you’re happy now — but remember, someday you’re going to die, and everyone you love is going to die, and everything you’re experiencing is going to disappear.” And these moments of consciousness of mortality weren’t just fleeting bits of awareness of the obvious. They were intense, they were powerful, they were painful, and they obliterated whatever pleasure I was experiencing. It was, unsurprisingly, extremely upsetting, and extremely hard to deal with.

And I wasn’t just having this crappy experience. It felt as if I had always had this experience. It felt as if every moment of joy I’d ever had in my life had been shot through with an intense consciousness of death. And it felt like this would be true for every future moment of joy, for the rest of my life. [Read more…]

Dealing with Death in an Unjust World

This piece was originally published in The Humanist.

(Content note: racist, transphobic, and misogynist violence.)

In the face of unjust death — what can humanists say and do?

Comforting Thoughts book cover oblong 200 JPGI have a new book out: Comforting Thoughts About Death That Have Nothing to Do with God, a short collection of essays offering secular ways to handle your own mortality and the death of those you love. (It’s out in ebook and audiobook: a print edition is coming later.) In it, I talk about some humanist ways of coping with death, philosophies that might provide some consolation and meaning — including the idea that death is a natural part of the physical universe, that mortality makes us treasure our lives, that we were all astronomically lucky to have been born at all, that religious views of death are only comforting if you don’t think about them carefully, and more.

But when Michael Brown was killed, and when his body was left in the street for over four hours, and when a grand jury decided that the questions about his death didn’t even warrant a jury trial and declined to indict his killer on even the most minor charges — I found myself with very little to say.

Of course I had plenty to say about racist policing, about prosecutors deliberately tanking cases, about how over 99 percent of grand juries indict but less than five percent will do it to a cop. (Although mostly what I’ve had to say about that has been, “Go read these pieces by black writers, they know a lot more about this than I do.”) But when it came to any consolations humanism might have for people grieving this death and the injustice surrounding it, I’ve been coming up largely empty.

So in the face of unjust death — what can humanists say and do?

If the person you’re grieving was one of the black people killed by police in the United States — one every four days? If they were one of the transgender people murdered around the world — one every two days? If they were one of the women killed by their husbands or boyfriends in the United States — more than four every day? I’m not going to respond with, “Well, death is a natural part of cause and effect in the physical universe, and mortality makes our lives more precious, and religious views of death aren’t all that comforting anyway.” I can’t imagine being that callous. Yes, death is a natural and necessary part of life — but being murdered sure as hell isn’t.

So in the face of death caused by human brutality, callousness, and injustice — what can humanists say?

I don’t think there’s any one answer. But in the face of unjust death, one of the few useful things anyone can say is, “What can I do to help?”

That’s true even in the face of natural death, death that isn’t caused by people revealing the ugliest faces of humanity. People who are grieving — humanists and others — often say that the last thing they want is unsolicited philosophizing apparently aimed at making their grief instantly disappear. If grieving people ask us for philosophies and perspectives and insights, by all means we should share them. If they don’t, what they most often want to hear is some version of “I’m so sorry,” “This sucks,” and, “How can I help?”

black lives matterBut in the face of unjust death, those phrases have very different meanings. “Cancer sucks” means something very different than “Police brutality sucks.” (If you don’t believe me, try making both statements on Facebook.) “I’m sorry your friend was killed in a car accident” means something very different than “I’m sorry your friend was beaten to death for being transgender.” As for offering help: When your friend’s father has died of a stroke, you might help by bringing food, cleaning the house, listening to them talk for as long as they need to. When someone’s child has been murdered, and their murder was aided and abetted by a grossly unjust social and political system that’s now ignoring the murder at best and blaming the victim at worst — you might help by speaking out against the racism, or misogyny, or transphobia, or whatever form of hatred it was that contributed to the death, and by working to combat it.

In the face of unjust death, the personal becomes political. And that includes the very personal statements we make in the face of grief, the statements of “I’m so sorry,” “This sucks,” and, “How can I help?” Expressing compassion for an unjust death, speaking out against it, and working to stop the injustice — these shouldn’t be acts of social defiance, but all too often they are.

I do think there are a handful of humanist philosophies that might speak, at least a little bit, to unjust death. The idea that being dead is no different than not having been born yet, so being dead doesn’t involve any pain or suffering — this is an idea that many grieving non-believers find comforting, regardless of how their loved ones died. What’s more, many former believers found their beliefs deeply upsetting when they were coping with ugly or unjust deaths: they contorted themselves into angry, guilty knots trying to figure out why God let this death happen or made it happen, and they were profoundly relieved to let go of the notion that “everything happens for a reason.’ And I think almost anyone, humanist or otherwise, might be consoled by the thought that people who have died are still alive in our memories, and in the ways they changed us and the world.

But in the face of unjust death, sometimes the most comforting thing we can do is to not try to give comfort. Sometimes, the most comforting thing we can say is, “This absolutely should not have happened. There is nothing anybody can say or do that will make it okay. It is not okay, and it should not be okay. What can I do to help keep it from ever happening again?”


Comforting Thoughts book cover oblong 100 JPGComing Out Atheist Bendingwhy are you atheists so angryGreta Christina is author of four books: Comforting Thoughts About Death That Have Nothing to Do with God, Coming Out Atheist: How to Do It, How to Help Each Other, and Why, Why Are You Atheists So Angry? 99 Things That Piss Off the Godless, and Bending: Dirty Kinky Stories About Pain, Power, Religion, Unicorns, & More.

Female Fantasy, and Some New Thoughts on “Pride and Prejudice”

And now for something completely different. Spoiler alert: This post has spoilers about “Pride and Prejudice”.

Pride and Prejudice BBCNo, this isn’t about how hot Colin Firth was in the BBC mini-series of Pride and Prejudice. Although… well, yes. Damn. Day-um. But this isn’t about that.

In movies, books, TV shows, etc. aimed at women, there’s a common trope, a fantasy that gets trotted out a lot: Reforming the Bad Boy. In the trope/ fantasy, the heroine is so amazingly awesome — so beautiful, so sexy, so brilliant, so charismatic, so noble — that the bad boy reforms his bad boy ways in order to be with her. Think Spike on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, or George Clooney on E.R. (Please feel free to cite other examples in the comments. Ideally with links to pictures. No, I’m not immune to this fantasy, even though I know how ridiculous it is.)

This trope even got poked fun at in The Simpsons, when Bart’s babysitter Laura is dating Jimbo Jones: Bart asks her, “What do you like about him? He’s just a good-looking rebel who plays by his own rules” — and Laura, Lisa, and Maggie all sigh wistfully.

And I was thinking: Does Pride and Prejudice fit this category?

In the most obvious sense, of course it does. Mr. Darcy is a handsome, not-very-nice man who initially dismisses the heroine, but is quickly struck by her fine eyes; becomes increasingly taken with her intelligence and wit and spirit; falls in love with her; courts her; is spurned by her; is initially enraged by her spurning; takes her chiding to heart; and betters himself to win her over. Yup, that sure sounds like the “I Can Reform Him” trope.

But I think in the larger sense, Pride and Prejudice doesn’t fit this trope at all.

For one thing: Mr. Darcy is anything but your standard Bad Boy. He’s not a rake or a bounder or a ramblin’ man. He’s a stuck-up snob who’s way too full of himself. In order to earn Elizabeth Bennet’s love, he has to get over his priggish superiority, stop worrying so much about propriety, and let go of some of his rigidity about social class. (Some of it, I said.) Yes, he reforms to be worthy of Elizabeth, but her influence doesn’t tame him — if anything, she loosens him up. He’s not a good-looking rebel who plays by his own rules. He’s a good-looking tight-ass who plays by society’s rules.

And perhaps more importantly: Mr. Darcy doesn’t just reform to be worthy of Elizabeth Bennet. Elizabeth reforms to be worthy of Mr. Darcy.

pride and prejudice penguinThis is one of my favorite things about the novel — the two parallel character arcs. Yes, Mr. Darcy changes to earn Elizabeth’s love — and since we see the story primarily through her eyes, we see those changes through her eyes as well. But we also see — much more uncomfortably, much more painfully — her own changes, and her own growth. Yes, we see Elizabeth’s pleasure in realizing how much Mr. Darcy has been willing to change for her. We also see her pain in realizing how much of a jerk she’s been: how quickly she’s willing to dislike people, how attached she is to being right about that dislike, how easily her judgments of people are shaped by whether those people flatter her. The scenes where she realizes how much she misjudged both Mr. Darcy and Mr. Wickham — they’re not fantasy wish-fulfillment at all. They are extremely uncomfortable scenes, vividly depicting the dark night of her soul. (Or, if you prefer more secular phraseology: They are extremely uncomfortable scenes, vividly depicting her cognitive dissonance collapsing in on her with a thud.) Her story arc isn’t, “He is inspired to change by his love for me, because I am so awesome!” Her story arc is, “He is inspired to change by his love for me — but I need to change too, because I’m not quite as awesome as I thought I was.”

This isn’t a story about a good woman reforming a bad boy. This is a story about two complicated people, each with good qualities and bad qualities, inspiring each other to be better.

Thoughts?

“Simply one of the best contemporary erotic writers alive”: Amazon Customer Review of “Bending: Dirty Kinky Stories About Pain, Power, Religion, Unicorns, & More”

Bending-cover-jpg-150I’ve gotten some nice Amazon customer reviews for my book Bending: Dirty Kinky Stories About Pain, Power, Religion, Unicorns, & More, and I thought I’d repost some of them. (The book is now out in paperback print, as well as ebook and audiobook!) Here’s a good one, five stars out of five. (As of this writing, the book has nine customer reviews, and eight are 5-star reviews, with one 4-star.) Here’s what Susie Bright had to say:

Mouth AND Pants-Dropping!

Greta and I worked together at “On Our Backs” in the 1980s. As llong as I’ve known her, she has been a visceral erotic philosophizer, the kind of person I’d want to put in a time machine just to go back and spar with De Sade.

I think she’d lay him out flat.

Christina is fearless about difficult topics– and furthermore, taking a taboo, like “shame” or humiliation and putting them in a wicked sexual context where there are NO banal lessons to be doled out. This is not your after-school-special erotica.

I published her work repeatedly in “Best American Erotica,” and her first novella “Bending,” (reprinted here). I nearly added her essay “Are We Having Sex Now or What?” to my email signature! When she hands me a new manuscript, I cancel my evening plans… and I hope you will enjoy the same singular sensation. She is simply one of the best contemporary erotic writers alive, and this collection is mouth- and pants-dropping.

Thanks, Susie! (In the interest of full disclosure, I should say that Susie is a long-time friend, colleague, and mentor, and is also my editor at Audible.) And if any of you have read Bending, it’d be awesome if you’d post a review.

***

Here, by the way, is ordering info for the book! [Read more…]

Two Atheist Movements — And the One I Want to Be Part Of

There’s this thing I’ve been noticing.

lane split road sign.svgIt seems that increasingly, we have two atheist movements. I’m seeing national atheist organizations, local atheist communities, individual atheist organizers and activists and voices and participants, increasingly sorting ourselves into two different movements.

There are the ones who care about social justice; the ones who want to make organized atheism more welcoming to a wider variety of people; the ones who want their atheist communities to do a better job replacing the very real services that many marginalized people get from their religions; the ones who want their atheist communities to work in alliance and solidarity with other social change movements. (Or, to be more accurate — the ones who care enough to take real action.)

And there are the ones who don’t care, who aren’t interested in connecting their atheism to social justice — or don’t care enough to take significant action. They’re the ones who would be perfectly happy to have more women or black people or other marginalized folks at their events, but don’t care about it enough to examine why their events aren’t diverse, to listen to criticism about it, to accept some responsibility for it, or to change what they do. In some cases, they’re the ones who don’t want to connect their atheist activism with social justice — and don’t want anyone else to do it, either, to the point where they’re actively working to poison any efforts in that direction.*

Yes, this is an oversimplification, as almost any analysis saying “you can sort all X’s into two categories” will be. There’s non-trivial slippage between the two movements, and there are people and organizations (such as the atheist support organizations) who, for legitimate reasons, are trying to keep a hand in both. It might be more accurate to say that there are at least two atheist movements. But there are definitely these two: the ones who care about social justice, and the ones who don’t, or who don’t care all that much.

And I want to put my time and energy into building the first one. [Read more…]

Greta Speaking in San Francisco, Orlando, and Richland WA!

Hi, all! I have some speaking gigs coming up in San Francisco, Orlando, and Columbia WA. If you’re in or near any of these cities, I hope to see you there!

CITY: San Francisco, CA
DATE: Sunday, April 19
TIME: 1:00 pm
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?
LOCATION: First Unitarian Universalist Society of San Francisco, 1187 Franklin St (at Geary), Martin Luther King room, San Francisco, CA
HOST: Humanists and Non-Theists of UUSF
COST: FREE
EVENT URL: http://www.meetup.com/Humanists-and-Non-Theists-of-San-Francisco-UU-Society/events/221205641/

CITY: Orlando, FL – Openly Secular Day Flagship Event
DATE: Thursday, April 23
TIME: Noon – 9pm
TOPIC: Coming Out Secular
LOCATION: University of Central Florida (various locations, see Openly event link)
HOST: Openly Secular, for Openly Secular Day
EVENT: Openly Secular Day Flagship Event
OTHER SPEAKERS: Chris Kluwe, Will Gervais, Hemant Mehta
EVENT URL: http://www.openlysecularday.org/flagship/

CITY: Richland, WA
DATE: Tuesday, June 16
TIME: 6:00 pm
TOPIC: What Can the Atheist Movement Learn From the LGBT Movement?
SUMMARY: The atheist movement is already modeling itself on the LGBT movement in many ways — most obviously with its focus on coming out of the closet. What else can the atheist movement learn from the LGBT movement… both from its successes and its failures?
LOCATION: Riverfront Shilo Inn, International Ballroom, 59 Comstock, Richland, WA
HOST: Tri-CIty Freethinkers
CO-SPONSORS: Mid-Columbia Pride and the Mid-Columbia Coalition of Reason
EVENT URL: https://www.google.com/calendar/render?eid=YzF1NW5laTNsMWltcjQ3OHN1ZzExcWdvaHMgZnJlZXRoaW5rZXJqZW5uQG0&sf=true&output=xml#eventpage_6

“It should be in the hands of every hospital and military chaplain, every hospice care giver”: Darrel Ray on “Comforting Thoughts About Death That Have Nothing to Do with God”

Greta Christina continues to provide unique advice and information to the growing community of seculars. We all need to consider our mortality and learn positive and productive ways to deal with our inevitable deadline. Thanks for this little book of wisdom. Christina has written a handbook we can all use. But it should be in the hands of every hospital and military chaplain, every hospice care giver, even ministers, etc. No secular person should be subjected to supernatural ideas and wishful thinking when they are dealing with death, dying and grief.

Comforting Thoughts book cover oblong 200 JPGGot a really nice blurb about my new book, Comforting Thoughts About Death That Have Nothing to Do with God, from Darrel Ray, founder of Recovering from Religion. Thanks so much, Darrel!

The ebook is available at Kindle/Amazon (that’s the link for Amazon US — it’s available in other regions as well), Nook/Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords. The audiobook is available at Audible, Amazon, and iTunes. All ebook and audiobook editions are just $2.99. And yes, I did the recording for the audiobook. (Plans for a print edition are in the works, but there’s currently no publication date scheduled.)

Here is the description of the book:

*

If you don’t believe in God or an afterlife — how do you cope with death?

Accepting death is never easy. But we don’t need religion to find peace, comfort, and solace in the face of death. In this mini-book collection of essays, prominent atheist author Greta Christina offers secular ways to handle your own mortality and the death of those you love.

Blending intensely personal experience with compassionate, down-to-earth wisdom, Christina (“Coming Out Atheist” and “Why Are You Atheists So Angry?”) explores a variety of natural philosophies of death. She shows how reality can be more comforting than illusion, shatters the myth that there are no atheists in foxholes — and tells how humanism got her through one of the grimmest times of her life. [Read more…]