Some More (Slightly Less Charitable) Thoughts About “Special Interest” Atheist Groups

black nonbelievers logoSo I wrote a piece a few days ago, with a partial answer to the question, “Why do there need to be atheist groups for specific kinds of atheists? Why should there be black atheist groups, Ex-Muslim atheist groups, women’s atheist groups?” It was a fairly calm, civil, patient piece. But some of the commentary on it gave me a much less patient, much less charitable view of this, airquotes, “issue.”

No, the commentary wasn’t hostile. That’s not it. See, a number of people pointed out that there are plenty of “special interest” atheist sub-groups that are entirely uncontroversial. (Within the atheist movement, anyway: I’m sure the Christian Right doesn’t much like them.) There are atheist parenting groups. Atheist book clubs. Atheist hiking clubs. Heck, there’s an entire national organization, the Secular Student Alliance, devoted entirely to meeting the needs of a specific sub-group of atheists — namely, atheist students — and supporting their student-centered groups.

And in the years I’ve been involved in organized atheism, I have never once heard a peep of complaint about any of these.

I have never once heard anyone say, “Why do student atheists need a national organization just for their groups? Why can’t they just go to the regular off-campus atheist group?” “Why do atheist parents need their own group and their own activities?” “Doesn’t the atheist book club splinter and divide our community?” “Isn’t the atheist hiking group segregation — discrimination against people who don’t hike?”

Never. Literally never.

secular student alliance logoQuite the opposite. If these sub-groups and specialty groups can get enough members, and if the groups survive and flourish, it’s seen as a good thing. It’s seen as a way to draw new people into the atheist community: if there are atheists who aren’t that interested in the other group activities, but who like to hike or talk about books, the atheist book club or hiking club might bring them in. And it’s understood that parents and students have particular interests and needs — particular scheduling concerns, and activities they’ll want to do, if nothing else — so again, having groups dedicated to them is actually going to draw more people into organized atheism. And it’s also recognized that if a group is surviving and flourishing, then, self-evidently, there’s a desire for it. There might be a little competitiveness — especially if one of these special-interest groups shoots up as its own thing rather than as a sub-group of an existing group, and especially if it starts drawing members away. But as a general principle, it’s understood that these special interest groups are a Good Thing.

So why is it such a problem to have special groups for black atheists, or women atheists, or atheists from other marginalized demographics?

[crickets]

My not-very-charitable interpretation: A lot of people don’t want to recognize that women, African Americans, other marginalized demographics, even have particular needs and interests and concerns.

After all, if you accept that, then you have to accept that racism exists and is a thing, that sexism exists and is a thing, that other marginalizations exist and are things. To understand why black atheists or women atheists might want their own groups, you have to understand some harsh realities about what it’s like to be a woman or an African American — realities that make the experience of being a woman really different from that of being a man, realities that make the experience of being African American really different from that of being white.

And when you accept that racism, sexism, and other marginalizations really exist and are things, a whole lot of other dominoes start tumbling down. You have to accept just how large and pervasive and terrible some of these marginalizations are. You have to accept the fact that you, yourself, sometimes contribute to these marginalizations, even without meaning to. And if you’re a halfway decent person, you have to start working to make a difference.

It’s much easier to maintain the pleasant fiction that, while readers and hikers and parents and students might have their own needs and interests and experiences, marginalization and oppression can’t possibly shape people’s experiences — certainly not enough that they might occasionally want to spend time with other folks who’ve been through the same crap.

Accepting the reality of marginalization knocks over a whole lot of dominoes.

Starting a book club? That hardly knocks over any.


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.

“I was deeply impressed”: Amazon Customer Review of “Comforting Thoughts About Death That Have Nothing to Do with God”

Got a really nice customer review on Amazon of Comforting Thoughts About Death That Have Nothing to Do with God. Five stars out of five. (In fact, the book now has 20 Amazon customer reviews, and 17 are either four or five stars.) Here’s what brent h. perkins had to say:

Five Stars

I was deeply impressed while reading this book. For me it makes complete sense.

Thanks, brent! And if any of you have read Comforting Thoughts About Death That Have Nothing to Do with God, it’d be awesome if you’d post a review.

Comforting Thoughts book cover oblong 200 JPGThe Kindle ebook 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; and the Smashwords edition is available on Smashwords. All ebook editions are $2.99. You can get the audiobook on Audible, Amazon, and iTunes. The audiobook is $2.99 (discounted slightly on Amazon, of course). (The print edition is scheduled for the fall.)

Here’s the description of the book, and some wonderfully flattering blurbs: [Read more…]

How the Issue of Death Affects Coming Out as Atheist

There’s an interesting piece up on Vice by Simon Davis, my friend and colleague and Vice’s death correspondent. He’s writing about the research that recently came out, suggesting that part of the reason for anti-atheist hostility is people’s fear of death. In these studies, a subtle reminder of death increased disparagement, social distancing, and distrust of atheists — and asking people to think about atheism increased the accessibility of implicit death thoughts. (For the record, I think the research is very preliminary — if for no other reason, the research only looked at a few hundred college students at one particular college — but I do think the findings are plausible, and are worth further study.)

Coming Out Atheist cover 150Simon interviewed me for his piece on this question, asking how often the issue of death and mortality had come up in my research for Coming Out Atheist: How to Do It, How to Help Each Other, and Why. He quoted me in the article, but was only able to quote a small portion of my response. I thought some of you might be interested in my full response.

*****

Yes. In the over 400 “coming out atheist” stories I gathered for my book, the subject of death came up a lot. When atheists come out (to Christians, anyway), the first reaction is often about Hell. Sometimes it’s manipulative or hostile, an attempt to scare atheists back into belief. More often, though, it’s genuine concern or fear — they sincerely believe atheists will burn in Hell, and they don’t want that to happen to the people they love.

Even if they don’t talk about Hell, believers do often respond to atheists’ coming out by asking about death. They ask what we think happens when we die, or how we cope with death, or how we think life can have meaning if it’s finite. Again, sometimes this is just hostile, a way to dismiss our humanity: in one of the ugliest stories I read, a military atheist taking a class was told that his grandfather had died, and the officer teaching the class told him, “Well, since you don’t believe in god I guess you won’t have any need to go to his funeral, I mean you believe he is just going to rot in the ground, right?” But more often, it comes from concern, or curiosity. If someone has used religion to cope with death for their entire life, it can be upsetting, or simply confusing, to imagine their friends or family living without that coping mechanism.

Interestingly, death or mortality is often the catalyst for atheists’ coming out. Death or serious illness is often the time people discuss religion and religious beliefs, even among people who aren’t very religious. It’s not the ideal time for the coming-out conversation, of course: in fact, this is one of the reasons I recommend that atheists come out sooner rather than later, if they can so so safely. When a family is stressed over death or serious illness, it can be extra hard on everyone to add the conversation about “Hey, by the way, I don’t believe in God or Heaven.” It’s generally better if that conversation is already behind you, and everyone’s already adjusted. But I understand why it happens. If atheists know that their coming out will be upsetting, they often don’t want to rock the boat — then all of a sudden, someone’s sick or dying or dead, and things like funerals or last rites become an issue, and everyone’s praying and asking you to pray, and you can’t just put it on the back burner anymore.

***

Here, by the way, is ordering info for Coming Out Atheist: How to Do It, How to Help Each Other, and Why. [Read more…]

Greta’s Perfect Cup of Decaf Coffee

coffee beansI only ever drink decaf coffee. I’ve been off the hard stuff for many years now — it gives me bad mood swings — and with the meds I’m on now, I definitely can’t drink the hard stuff at all. But I still like the taste of coffee, and the aroma, and the ritual. And since I don’t ever drink the hard stuff, the small amount of caffeine that’s left in decaf does have a gentle stimulating effect that I enjoy and am attached to.

Alas, being a decaf-only drinker means that coffee in cafes is very hit-or-miss. Some cafes do decaf very well indeed (a shout-out to the decaf French roast at Philz); others either don’t know how to do it or don’t care. (Do not get me started on cafe snobbery about decaf.) So since I drink decaf coffee every day, I’ve learned to make it myself.

I’ve been refining my technique over the years, to get it exactly how I like it. And on the off-chance that there are other decaf drinkers out there, I thought I’d share with the rest of the class.

Note that this is made to my taste (obviously). I like my coffee quite strong, and I like it with cream and sugar. So this might not be your perfect cup of decaf coffee. But if you’re a decaf drinker and haven’t been happy about it, it’s probably worth a try.

INGREDIENTS

12 fluid ounces filtered water. (If you have good tap water, filtered isn’t necessary — but if you have a water filter, there’s no reason not to use it.)
3 Tbsp. whole decaf coffee beans, French roast. (French roast is very important — possibly the most important feature of this process, except maybe the heavy cream. The most common way for decaf coffee to suck is for it to be sour. French roast is rarely sour. I use the fair-trade organic French roast beans they have at Rainbow Grocery in San Francisco, but other decaf French roasts are good, too.)
1 Tbsp whipping cream. (NOT half-and-half!!! Whipping cream! Heavy whipping cream. Strauss if I can get it, another brand if I can’t. In a pinch, when I’m out of cream, I have been known to use vanilla ice cream. In fact, I keep vanilla ice cream in the house just for this purpose.)
1 tsp. (packed) brown sugar.

French press coffee makerEQUIPMENT

Tea kettle.
French press coffee maker. (This is not absolutely 100% necessary: if you don’t have one, you don’t have to run out and buy one. At times when French press isn’t an option, I make drip coffee that I’m reasonably happy with. But I do prefer French press: it makes the coffee stronger and somehow more substantial.)
Coffee grinder.
Coffee cup (12 oz.).
Timer that will let you time in both minutes and seconds (I use the one on the microwave oven).

INSTRUCTIONS

Grind beans for French press. With our coffee grinder, this means grinding for ten seconds. Yes, I time it — ten seconds is both longer and shorter than I think. If you don’t have French press instructions for your coffee grinder (what? you threw away the instructions for your coffee grinder?): A French press grind is coarser than a drip grind. (For drip coffee, we grind for twenty seconds.)

Put grounds into French press coffee maker.

Boil water. If possible, I actually try to heat the water to just below boiling, and take it off the stove right before the tea kettle starts to whistle. Coffee is supposed to be made with just-under-boiling water: boiling water will sour it. If I don’t successfully do this, though, it doesn’t matter hugely, because my next step is to:

Decant the water into the coffee cup, and THEN pour it into the French press coffee maker. This accomplishes two things: it brings the water temperature slightly down, and it warms the coffee cup.

Stir grounds into water, put top on French press coffee maker, and let steep for eight minutes. (Yes, eight minutes. I know most French press instructions say three to five minutes, but that doesn’t make it strong enough for me. And again: Yes, I time this.)

While coffee is steeping: Mix cream and sugar into a slurry in the coffee cup, and let sit. (The reasoning behind this: I find that if I stir the sugar into the coffee after I pour it, it tends to settle into the bottom of the cup. If I mix the cream and sugar ahead of time and give the sugar time to dilute into the cream, it mixes into the coffee better.) Stash cup in pantry so Comet can’t get at the cream.

While coffee is steeping, make breakfast (usually toasted bread and cheese, and a piece of fruit).

After eight minutes, press the French press filter. Re-stir cream-and-sugar slurry, as some sugar may have settled out. Pour coffee slowly into cup with cream-and-sugar, stirring briskly. (A brisk stir thoroughly mixes the cream-and-sugar into the coffee, and also aerates it slightly.) Do not pour all of the coffee — the French press method leaves a bit of sludge in the bottom of the coffee maker.

Yield: About 10 ounces of coffee. (You lose a little water in the process, mostly in the sludge.) That’s just about right for a 12-ounce coffee cup, with room for cream and room for the cup to not be full to the absolute brim.

IF I WERE GOING TO GET SERIOUSLY OBSESSIVE ABOUT THIS, I WOULD:

Get a burr-style coffee grinder: apparently these grind the beans more evenly, thus creating less sludge.

Get one of those electric kettles that you can set to heat water to exactly the temperature you want. Or, alternately: Use an instant-read meat thermometer to measure the temperature of the water before pouring into the coffee grounds.

Aerate the coffee, by pouring it back and forth between two cups a few times after it’s brewed. They used to do this at Philz before they got so busy, and it does seem to make a difference — but not enough to be worth dirtying two cups every time I want coffee.

***

So if you have a coffee ritual — what is it? Decaf drinkers are especially encouraged to share.


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.

Some Thoughts On Depression, and Why Self-Care is So Hard

(Content note: depression. Obviously.)

I’m currently pulling out of a depressive episode — not a horrible one, but not a trivial one either. I’ve been looking at one of the shittiest aspects of depression — the self-perpetuating nature of it, the fact that the depression itself kills my motivation to do the things I need to do to help pull out of the depression. And I think I have a new insight as to why that is. (For me, anyway — not sure if this is true for anyone else.)

Depression is generally a motivation-killer. But for me at least, it’s not an equal-opportunity motivation-killer. It does reduce my motivation to do much of anything — but it’s especially murderous when it comes to my motivation to do self-care, to do the very things that would make me feel better. Exercise, eating well, meditating, masturbating, going outside, seeing people — these are the things that are hardest to do when I’m depressed.

And I think the clue is in the phrase “make me feel better.”

hand holding ivyExercise, eating well, meditating, masturbating, going outside, seeing people — these are all things that make me feel better. But they are also things that make me feel, period. That’s not some sort of goofy coincidence. Feeling better means feeling, you know, something. To some extent, self-care makes me feel better because it makes me feel something.

And feeling is exactly what I don’t want to do when I’m depressed.

Depression, among other things, cuts me off from feeling pretty much anything. It disconnects me from my emotions. Hell, it disconnects me from pretty much everything. At its worst, being depressed feels like being wrapped in thick layers of cotton wadding, which little or nothing can penetrate. Emotion, physical sensation, other people, even my own basic experience of my own consciousness — all of it feels distant, unreachable. This disconnection is a core defining feature of the illness — and it also serves a function, if it can be put that way. I get depressed when there are things happening in my life that I can’t cope with. For me, depression gets triggered when I have two or more horribly stressful things happening in my life, and my brain goes, “Nope. Too much. To hell with that. Not gonna experience that. Time to shut down.”

So when I’m depressed, things that make me feel better are things that I resist — because I don’t want to feel anything at all.

It’s often said that the most dangerous time for a dangerously depressed person is the time when they’re just starting to feel a little bit better. When depressed people start to feel a little bit better, two things happen. We’re feeling something at all — which means we’re actually deeply experiencing the shitty depressed feelings instead of being cut off from them. And we’re starting to feel motivated again — which, if someone is dangerously depressed, can mean they now have the motivation to hurt themselves, something they might not have had when they were in the deepest part of the pit. (This is one of the reasons suicide risk goes up in the first few weeks that people are on anti-depressants — and thus, it’s one of the reasons people need to be monitored very carefully during this period.) I’m not dangerously depressed in that sense — I’m not suicidal, and I’m not self-harming except in the sense that when I’m depressed, I don’t always take care of business and my self-care sucks — but I do experience this “Holy shit, do I really feel this bad?” thing when my depression starts to ease and I’m starting to feel a little bit better.

When I’m feeling okay — when I’m not in a depressive episode — these self-care things aren’t a struggle. In fact, I actively enjoy them. Exercise, eating well, meditating, masturbating, going outside, seeing people — these are some of my greatest pleasures, some of what make me feel most alive and most connected to the world. But in one of the shittier paradoxes of depression, the very fact that they are deep pleasures, pleasures that make me feel alive and connected — that’s part of what makes me push them away.

***

I’m not sure yet how to apply this insight. But I’ve found in the past that having some intellectual insight into how my depression works — and what works to pull me out of it — does help. It’s not a magical cure-all, but it does do some harm reduction. As I’ve written before: The habit of skepticism, the habit of knowing about cognitive biases and the ways our brains deceive us, makes it easier for me to trust my knowledge of what’s really real rather than my lying depressed brain. It doesn’t make me feel any better in the moment — but it gives me a lifeline, something to hang onto, a sense of trust that I won’t always feel this way. Sometimes, when I’m depressed, it’s like riding out a bad drug trip — it’s like, “I can’t see it at the moment, but I know this isn’t going to last forever, so I just have to hang in there and feel like shit until it lets up.” So I’m trying to document these insights, in the hopes that the next time I have a bad episode, I’ll have yet another lifeline. The more I can remember, “Depression lies, and in my case one of the biggest lies it tells me is that I’ve always felt this way and always will,” the easier it is to ride it out.


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.

“One of the best books I have ever read”: Amazon Customer Review of “Why Are You Atheists So Angry?”

I’ve gotten some nice Amazon customer reviews for Why Are You Atheists So Angry? 99 Things That Piss Off the Godless, 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 154 customer reviews, averaging 4.4 out of 5 stars.) Here’s what Korkio had to say:

Best Book

This is one of the best books I have ever read. If anyone ever asks me what my views are on religion I just tell them to read this book.

Thanks, Korkio! And if any of you have read Why Are You Atheists So Angry?, it’d be awesome if you’d post a review.

***

Here, by the way, is ordering info for the book in all three formats — print, ebook, and audiobook!

Why Are You Atheists So AngryEbook editions:
The Kindle edition is available at Amazon.
The Nook edition is available at Barnes & Noble.
Smashwords has the book in multiple formats, including iBooks, Sony Reader, Kobo, Kindle (.mobi), Stanza, Aldiko, Adobe Digital Editions, any other reader that takes the Epub format, Palm Doc (PDB), PDF, RTF, Online Reading via HTML, and Plain Text for either downloading or viewing.
All ebook editions and formats cost just $7.99.

Print edition:
The print edition is available at 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 record: 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 available at Last Gasp.
The print edition is $14.95 USD. It is 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 at Audible.
The audiobook version is available on iTunes.
The audiobook version is available on Amazon.
And yes, I did the recording for it!

Here is the description of the book, and some wonderfully flattering blurbs. [Read more…]

The “Coming Out Atheist” Donation Recipient for January-April 2015: Secular Avenue!

Coming Out Atheist coverAs some of you may already know, I’ve pledged to donate 10% of my income from my new book, Coming Out Atheist: How to Do It, How to Help Each Other, and Why, to atheist organizations, charities, and projects.

Here’s why. I got lots of help with this book, and working on it felt very much like a collaboration, a community effort. (To some extent that’s true with any book, but it was even more true with this one.) Because coming out is really different for different atheists, it was hugely important to get detailed feedback on the book, so my personal perspective wasn’t completely skewing my depiction of other people’s experiences. So I asked lots of friends and colleagues to give me detailed feedback on the book: either on the book as a whole, or on particular chapters about atheists with very different experiences from mine (such as the chapters on parents, students, clergy, people in the U.S. military, and people in theocracies). Many people were very generous with their time helping out: they put a whole lot of time and work and thought into a project that wasn’t theirs, because they thought it would benefit the community. And, of course, I had the help of the hundreds of people who wrote in with their coming-out story, or who told their coming-out story in one of the books or websites I cited, or who just told me your coming-out story in person.

I want to give some of that back. So I’m donating 10% of my income from this book to atheist organizations, charities, and projects: a different one each month. Each month, one of the people who helped with the book gets to pick the recipient.

I took a break from this donation project for the first few months of 2015, when I was taking a break from blogging and the Internet and just from work generally. I feel bad about this, though — I made a commitment which I should have kept. So this catch-up donation isn’t just 10% of my Coming Out Atheist income for the period in question — it’s 10% of all my income from that period.

secular avenue banner

The recipient for January – April 2015, chosen by Heina Dadabhoy, is Secular Avenue.

Secular Avenue is a 501(c)(3) organization formed to help secular people in need to achieve safety, stability, and autonomy. The initial focus of Secular Avenue is SAFE, a program to assist people who are unsafe at home due to leaving religion, religious extremism, domestic abuse, or coming out as LGBTQ. Services include financial assistance, counseling, legal assistance and resource coordination. As Secular Avenue grows, additional programs will be created to serve other groups of people in need within the secular community.

Secular Avenue is a 501(c) nonprofit, and donations to them are tax-deductible. If you want to support them too, here’s their donation page!



Coming Out Atheist Bendingwhy are you atheists so angryGreta Christina’s books, Coming Out Atheist: How to Do It, How to Help Each Other, and Why and Why Are You Atheists So Angry? 99 Things That Piss Off the Godless, are available in print, ebook, and audiobook. Bending: Dirty Kinky Stories About Pain, Power, Religion, Unicorns, & More is available in ebook and audiobook.

“Warmth, humor, honesty”: Amazon Customer Review of “Comforting Thoughts About Death That Have Nothing to Do with God”

Got a really nice customer review on Amazon of Comforting Thoughts About Death That Have Nothing to Do with God. Five stars out of five. (In fact, the book now has 20 Amazon customer reviews, and 17 are either four five stars.) Here’s what Butterfly had to say:

Do Check It Out!

Greta Christina does it again; tells it like it is with warmth, humor, honesty and the one-of-a-kind personality all her own. This a great book for believers or non-believers. For me, the fact that the talk of death is being had is what makes this book unique. Plus, I just love Greta’s style; I feel as if she were right in front of me having this discussion with me personally.

Thanks, Butterfly! And if any of you have read Comforting Thoughts About Death That Have Nothing to Do with God, it’d be awesome if you’d post a review.

Comforting Thoughts book cover oblong 200 JPGThe Kindle ebook 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; and the Smashwords edition is available on Smashwords. All ebook editions are $2.99. You can get the audiobook on Audible, Amazon, and iTunes. The audiobook is $2.99 (discounted slightly on Amazon, of course). (The print edition is scheduled for the fall.)

Here’s the description of the book, and some wonderfully flattering blurbs: [Read more…]

Why Do There Need to Be “Special Interest” Atheist Groups?

black nonbelievers logo“Why do there need to be atheist groups for specific kinds of atheists? Why should there be black atheist groups, Ex-Muslim atheist groups, women’s atheist groups? Why should there be local groups, national organizations, online forums, dedicated to atheists with these specific identities or experiences? Doesn’t that splinter and divide our community? Isn’t that segregation, discrimination — exactly the things we’re fighting against? Why can’t these folks just join the regular atheist group?”

This question comes up a lot. In almost every discussion of diversity in the atheist community that I’ve seen, it’s come up at least once. A lot of people have written and spoken with good, clear, specific answers to these questions. (Here are just a few links.)

But I had a conversation recently at an atheist event that gave me a new perspective on the answers, one that will hopefully help shed some light for some people who have a hard time with this.

So. If you’re wondering why there need to be special-interest atheist groups, ask yourself this:

Why do you need an atheist group?

Why don’t you just join “regular” groups? Why don’t you just join the Elks Club, the bowling league, the knitting circle, the book club, the Democratic Club, the Socialist Workers’ Union, the PTA?

I know many of the answers. Because in those “regular” groups, you’re likely to encounter anti-atheist bigotry and discrimination.
Because in those “regular” groups, even if people aren’t overtly and consciously anti-atheist, they may unintentionally say or do things that are bigoted against atheists, or ignorant about us — and sometimes that ignorance can be very stubborn, even willful.
Because you don’t want to always have to do Atheism 101.
Because even if nobody ever says or does anything bigoted or ignorant against atheists, you still sometimes want to spend time with people who have similar experiences to yours.
Because atheists’ experiences and perspectives can be really different from those of religious believers — we often handle things like death, suffering, political and social change, sexuality, and other issues in ways that are very different from believers, and it can be helpful to socialize and organize with people who share those experiences.
Because our needs and interests are often different from those of believers — and groups that aren’t atheist-specific can often show a complete lack of concern about those needs and interests.
Because even if nobody ever says or does anything bigoted or ignorant against atheists, intentionally or unintentionally, you can still sometimes feel like the Other, like an outsider, if you’re the only atheist in the group, or one of the few.
Because we sometimes want a place to strategize, or just to vent, about anti-atheist bigotry and ignorance, or even about religion itself — and we often don’t feel comfortable doing that around religious believers.
Because having an atheist group creates atheist visibility: it lets other atheists know they’re not alone, it helps us find each other, it pushes back against anti-atheist stigma, it does all the other good things that increased atheist visibility does.
Because the whole idea that an atheist group somehow isn’t a “regular” group is insulting.

So. Keep all that in mind. Remember the reasons you want and need an atheist group. And now ask yourself again: Why do there need to be atheist groups for specific kinds of atheists?

I hope I don’t have to spell this out. But I’m going to anyway:

Every single one of these answers also applies to “special-interest” atheist groups.

exmna-logoBlack atheists, women atheists, ex-Muslim atheists, other specific sub-groups of atheists, want and need their own groups because they/we often encounter bigotry and ignorance in the “regular” atheist groups — usually unintentional, sometimes intentional, often stubborn and even willful in its ignorance. (And don’t tell me that this never happens just because you’ve never seen it. You don’t always know what to look for. In fact, you’re almost certainly doing some of this yourself, without knowing it: unconscious racism, sexism, etc. is pretty damn near universal. This is thoroughly documented: if you’re an evidence-loving skeptic, you shouldn’t be denying it.) Because they/we don’t always want to do Race 101, Feminism 101, Islam 101. Because even if, by some miracle, there were absolutely zero prejudice and ignorance in your atheist group, they/we still sometimes want to spend time with people with similar experiences. Because even if there were no prejudice or ignorance in your atheist group, being the only black person, the only woman, the only ex-Muslim, can still make them/us feel like the Other. Because…

…You get the idea. I don’t need to fill in every search-and-replace. Or at least, I hope I don’t have to.

The parallels aren’t exact, of course. This kind of “search and replace” that substitutes one kind of marginalization for another can be tricky: not all marginalizations are the same, and while these parallels and analogies can help create understanding, sometimes they do the opposite. Saying things like “I understand what it’s like to be black in the United States, since I’m an atheist and we’re oppressed too” can be seriously off-putting, to say the least. (Yes, atheists in the U.S. are at the bottom of the list of who people would vote for. We aren’t getting killed by cops every four days.) So I’ll spell this out: There are reasons atheists form groups that don’t apply to “special-interest” atheist groups, and vice versa.

secular woman logoBut a lot of the reasons are the same. If you understand why atheists want and need an atheist group, you should understand why black atheists, women atheists, ex-Muslim atheists, other specific kinds of atheists, want and need their groups. So if you want them to feel welcome in your atheist group as well — support them in that.


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.

“Unlike any erotica I’ve previously read”: Amazon Customer Review of “Bending: Dirty Kinky Stories About Pain, Power, Religion, Unicorns, & More”

The print edition of my erotic fiction book, Bending: Dirty Kinky Stories About Pain, Power, Religion, Unicorns, & More, is now available! I’ve gotten some nice Amazon customer reviews for it, 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 Lori had to say:

Good. Very good.

An exquisite exploration of boundaries. Finding them, testing them, and sometimes brutally crossing them. Unlike any erotica I’ve previously read, it is thought provoking as well as orgasm inducing. A nice combination.

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

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