The Great Gruesome Christmas Carols

Reposting this, as part of my holiday tradition.

christmas carols bookAnd now for something completely different.

I’m one of those freakish people who actually likes Christmas carols. Not the gloppy, cutesy, “Suzy Snowflake” modern variety so much (although I do have a soft spot for “Silver Bells”), but the soaring, haunting, gorgeous classic ones. “Angels We Have Heard On High,” “The Holly and the Ivy,” “The Angel Gabriel,” that sort of thing.

And one of the things I like about them is how totally freaky some of them are.

There’s this annual Christmas party I go to every year, at which the singing of Christmas carols and other seasonal and not- so- seasonal music is a centerpiece. A few years back, I went on the Internet and pulled together a lyric sheet, so we could actually sing all the songs all the way through instead of tapering off pathetically after the first verse.And you know what I found? Some Christmas carols are truly gruesome. Startlingly gruesome. Freakishly and hilariously gruesome.

So I thought I should share with the rest of the class. [Read more…]

“I want to show it to all my friends who are dealing with death”: Greg Epstein on “Comforting Thoughts About Death That Have Nothing to Do with God”

Comforting Thoughts book cover oblong 200 JPG“Reading this book felt like one of those moments, standing in a dark and silent room, when glass powder strikes red phosphorous and turns a little of it into white phosphorous, which causes a match to light up in a warming flame. I want to show it (the book, not the match) to all my friends who are dealing with death, which is of course all of my friends. Thank you for writing it!”
-Greg M. Epstein, Humanist Chaplain at Harvard University

Got a nice blurb for my new book, Comforting Thoughts About Death That Have Nothing to Do with God, now available in ebook. Many thanks to Greg Epstein! I’m really touched.

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; and the Smashwords edition is available on Smashwords. All ebook editions and formats cost just $2.99. (The audiobook version is scheduled for publication on December 30; plans for a print edition are in the works.)

Here’s 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…]

No, Virginia, There Is No Santa Claus

Recapping this for the holiday season. For those who aren’t familiar with the famous essay, “Yes, Virginia, There Is A Santa Claus” which this piece is satirizing/ commenting on/ replying to, here’s the original, published in 1897. Enjoy!

santa claus 1“Dear Editor: I am 8 years old. Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus. Papa says, ‘If you see it in The Sun it’s so.’ Please tell me the truth; is there a Santa Claus?”

-Virginia O’Hanlon

Virginia, your little friends are right. There is no Santa Claus. It’s a story made up by your parents.

Your friends have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except when they see. And good for them. Skepticism is healthy. It keeps us from being duped by liars and scam artists and people who want to control and manipulate us. More importantly: Skepticism helps us understand reality. And reality is amazing. Reality is far more important, and far more interesting, than anything we could make up about it.

Your friends understand that there is plenty about the world which is not comprehensible by their little minds. They understand that all minds, whether they be adults’ or children’s, are little. They see that in this great universe of ours, humanity is a mere insect, an ant, in our intellect, as compared with the boundless world about us. But your friends also see that the only way we can gain a better understanding of this great universe is to question, and investigate, and not believe in myths simply because they’re told to us by our parents and teachers and newspaper editorial writers.

Or maybe they don’t. Maybe they simply understand that Santa Claus does not freaking exist. [Read more…]

Godless Perverts Social Club, Thursday Dec. 18! Topic: Sex and Secular Mindfulness

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The next Godless Perverts Social Club is this Thursday, December 18. I’ll be hosting the discussion this time! The discussion topic: “Sex and Secular Mindfulness.” Meditation and mindfulness techniques have been taught in religious settings for thousands of years. But now they’re being researched and taught in entirely secular, evidence-based settings. How can meditation and mindfulness work for atheists? And how can these techniques and philosophies be applied to sex?

Godless Perverts presents and promotes a positive view of sexuality without religion, by and for sex-positive atheists, agnostics, humanists, and other non-believers — and the Godless Perverts Social Club is our socializing/ hanging out branch. Community is one of the reasons we started Godless Perverts. There are few enough places to land when you decide that you’re an atheist; far fewer if you’re also LGBT, queer, kinky, poly, trans, or are just interested in sexuality. And the sex-positive/ alt-sex/ whatever-you-want-to-call-it community isn’t always the most welcoming place for non-believers. So please join us — we meet at Wicked Grounds, San Francisco’s renowned BDSM-themed coffee house, 289 8th Street in San Francisco (near Civic Center BART), the first Tuesday and third Thursday of every month. Our next meeting is this Thursday December 18!

We’re doing slightly different formats for the two clubs. Our Third Thursday Social Clubs are Topical Thursdays — we pick a topic ahead of time, have a moderator/ host who leads the discussion, maybe even get special guests to guide discussions on particular topics. In December, that’ll be Thursday December 18. Once again, I’ll be hosting the discussion, and the topic will be “Sex and Secular Mindfulness.” [Read more…]

10 Christmas Carols Even An Atheist Could Love

This piece was originally published on AlterNet in 2010. I’m dragging it out again for the holidays.

carol singingWhat do you do if you’re an atheist who likes Christmas carols?

It’s widely assumed that atheists, by definition, hate Christmas. And it’s an assumption I’m baffled by. I like Christmas. Lots of atheists I know like Christmas. Plenty of atheists recognize the need for rituals that strengthen social bonds and mark the passing of the seasons. Especially when the season in question is dark and wet and freezing cold. Add in a culturally- sanctioned excuse to spend a month of Saturdays eating, drinking, flirting, and showing off our most festive shoes, and we’re totally there. And we find our own ways to adapt/ create/ subvert the holiday traditions to our own godless ends.

Sure, most of us would like for our governments to not be sponsoring religious displays at the holidays. Or any other time. What with the whole “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion” thing. And some of us do rather resent the cultural hegemony of one particular religious tradition being crammed down everybody’s throat, in a grotesque, mutant mating of homogenized consumerism and saccharine piety. But it’s not like all atheists are Grinchy McScrooges. Many of us are very fond of Christmas. Some atheists even like Christmas carols. I’m one of them.

It is, however, definitely the case that, since I’ve become an atheist activist, my pleasure in many Christmas carols has been somewhat diminished. It’s harder for me to sing out lustily about angels and magic stars and the miracle of the virgin birth, without rolling my eyes just a little. And I do notice the more screwed-up content of many Christmas songs more than I used to: the guilty self-loathing, the fixation on the blood sacrifice, the not- so- subtle anti-Semitism. I’m content to sing most of these songs anyway (except “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel,” which always makes me cringe). But for some time now, I’ve been on the lookout for Christmas songs that I can sing entirely happily, without getting into annoying theological debates in my head.

So, with the help of my Facebook friends, I’ve compiled a list of Christmas songs that atheists can love unreservedly.

The rules:

mary and baby jesusSongs cannot have any mention of God, Jesus, angels, saints, or miracles. Not even in Latin. This is the key, the raison d’etre of this whole silly game. I’m not going to start making exceptions just so I can sneak in the “Boar’s Head Carol.” And yes, this rules out “Good King Wenceslas.” Hey, I like it too, it’s pretty and has a nice (if somewhat politically complicated) message about how rich kings should help poor people. But come on, people. It’s about a Christian saint with magical powers. No can do. (I will, however, grant a “saints with magical powers” exemption to Santa.)

Songs must be reasonably well-known. Yes, this rules out some truly excellent stuff. Many of my favorite Christmas songs, atheist or otherwise, are on the obscure side: from the grisly, gothy, paganesque “Corpus Christi Carol” (I do love me some gruesome Christmas songs), to the simultaneously haunting and peppy “Patapan,” to Tim Minchin’s funny, touching, pointedly godless “White Wine in the Sun.” But it’s no fun singing Christmas songs by yourself. For a song to make my list, a reasonable number of people at your holiday party should be able to sing it… or at least chime in on the first verse before trailing off into awkward pauses and “La la la”s.

No song parodies. It hurts like major surgery for me to make this rule. Some of my very favorite Christmas songs of all time are song parodies: my friend Tim’s hilariously on-target Christmas-themed parody of “Bohemian Rhapsody”, “Christmas Rhapsody”; the entire “Very Scary Solstice” songbook from the H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society; every Mad Magazine Christmas carol parody ever written. Song parodies are an excellent way to redeem a pretty Christmas tune from cringe-inducing lyrics, and many are just excellent songs on their own. But the idea here is that atheists can have a completely heartfelt, non-snarky love for Christmas music. So to make it onto my list, songs must be entirely sincere. (I will, however, give bonus points to classic Christmas songs that have spawned good parodies.)

Songs have to be good songs. A subjective judgment, I realize. And for the purposes of this game, one that is to be made entirely by me. Deal with it. I don’t care how secular it is: “Suzy Snowflake” is not making it onto my freaking Christmas song list.

Bonus points: A song gets bonus points for not mentioning the word “Christmas.” It’s okay if it does — I don’t think the word has to mean “Christ’s Mass,” any more than “goodbye” has to mean “God be with you” or “Thursday” has to mean “Thor’s day.” But songs that have become widely accepted Christmas carols without even mentioning the concept get bonus points: for chutzpah, if nothing else.

And songs get bonus points for being written more than 100 years ago. I’m not a reflexive hater of modern Christmas songs; in fact, some of them I quite like. But some of the best stuff about Christmas music is the old, old, tunes: the soaring, haunting melodies and harmonies that resonate back through the centuries. If a song can do that and still not mention the baby Jesus, I’m sold.

So with these rules in mind, here are my Top Ten Christmas Carols Even An Atheist Could Love. [Read more…]

“Comforting Thoughts About Death That Have Nothing to Do with God” – Ebook Out Now!

My new book, Comforting Thoughts About Death That Have Nothing to Do with God, is now available in ebook!

Comforting Thoughts book cover oblong 550 JPG

The Kindle edition of the ebook 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.
All ebook editions and formats cost just $2.99.

The audiobook version is scheduled for publication on December 30. It will be available on Audible, Amazon, and iTunes. I’ll post another notice when the audiobook is released. And yes, I did the recording for it!

Plans for a print edition are in the works, but there’s currently no publication date scheduled.

Here’s 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.

“In this book Greta Christina tackles the subject of death with the insight of a philosopher and the relaxed candor of a friend — that really cool, intelligent friend who understands and cares.”
-David Niose, author of Fighting Back the Right: Reclaiming America from the Attack on Reason

“Required reading for anyone alive. Greta Christina’s clear, bold, gentle and endlessly thought-provoking writing style constantly reminds me why I love her. She provides elegant proof that the even the hardest truths can be as beautiful, wonderful and uplifting as any other facet of our existence.”
-David Fitzgerald, author of Nailed and The Complete Heretic’s Guide to Western Religion

“When I was very young, I lost someone close to me in a car accident. Almost more painful than the loss was the way by which those around me attempted to find meaning in the senseless death of a young person. This is the book that seven-year-old me needed instead of the endless religious tracts that assured me that everything happens for a reason.”
-Heina Dadabhoy, Heinous Dealings blog

“Reading this book felt like one of those moments, standing in a dark and silent room, when glass powder strikes red phosphorous and turns a little of it into white phosphorous, which causes a match to light up in a warming flame. I want to show it (the book, not the match) to all my friends who are dealing with death, which is of course all of my friends. Thank you for writing it!”
-Greg M. Epstein, Humanist Chaplain at Harvard University

“Bravo, Greta Christina. Your book is a feat of logic, wisdom, compassion, insight, humor, and lived experience presented in the most accessible way. Your ideas are compelling and I wish your words could be made available in hotel rooms everywhere, tucked into the drawer of the nightstand, in addition to hospital waiting rooms, train and bus stations, airports and classrooms. Death is certainly a Big Deal but humanism and non-belief have plenty of comfort to offer, as you so eloquently have put forth. In short, ‘What she said.'”
-Nina Hartley, author of Nina Hartley’s Guide to Total Sex

“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.”
-Darrel Ray, founder, Recovering from Religion

“Atheism frees us to craft our own meaning for life, but we must still confront the specter of death. In this brief-yet-essential volume, Greta Christina presents an array of humanist perspectives that provide very real comfort and meaning in the face of death.”
-Neil Wehneman, Development Director, Secular Student Alliance

Godless Perverts is Not for Everyone: What Inclusivity Means to Us, and What It Doesn’t Mean

I Love Feminism, by Jay Morrison

This is a joint statement by Greta Christina and Chris Hall, originally posted on the Godless Perverts site.

Godless Perverts is not for everyone.

We mean that in the gentler, more informal sense of the term: Not everyone is going to like it. Not everyone is going to enjoy discussion groups, entertainments, or parties centered on godless views of sexuality. They may not enjoy our frank, explicit explorations of sex, including a wide variety of unconventional sexualities; they may not enjoy the views of religion that come up in our meetups and entertainments — some of which are harshly critical and mocking, others of which are sympathetic. That’s okay. We can’t be all things to all people, and we’re fine with that.

But we’re also not for everyone in the somewhat harsher sense of the term: We are not open to everybody. There are going to be times when we have to tell people they’re not welcome.

This is hard. Almost everyone has had painful experiences with being told, openly or otherwise, that they’re not welcome in a group. Almost all of us have had painful experiences being picked last for a team at school, or being treated like an outcast at a social event. The two of us certainly have. It’s a difficult thing to experience, and it’s not an experience we dole out lightly. (The Geek Social Fallacies can be very seductive, including Geek Social Fallacy #1: Ostracizers Are Evil.) But the unfortunate reality is that if we want to create a welcoming space for people who support and value our mission, we will sometimes have to ask people to leave. [Read more…]

“Why Are You Atheists So Angry?” On Religion News Service Holiday Gift Guide!

Why Are You Atheists So AngryWhy Are You Atheists So Angry? 99 Things That Piss Off the Godless has made the Religion News Service 2014 Holiday Gift Guide.

No, really.

It’s right there alongside the interfaith ugly Christmas sweater, the seven deadly sins shot glass set, the recycled bike chain menorah, the Jesus toaster, and more.

I’m not sure what to think about this. I mean, I guess it’s not totally bizarre — the RNS does cover atheism a fair amount — but it’s a little bizarre. I’m not complaining or anything, I’m always happy to get more eyes on my books. It’s just… unexpected. (I also wish their “buy it here” link didn’t link to the Richard Dawkins Foundation bookstore. But whaddya gonna do.)

And yes — the interfaith ugly Christmas sweater does include atheism. At least, I assume the atoms are meant to represent atheism.


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.

Godless Perverts Holiday Fun Time Saturday December 13 — With Burlesque and Boylesque Performances!

godless-perverts-holiday-2014-banner

It’s the most blasphemous time of the year!The Godless Perverts Holiday Fun Time party was giant fun last year — so we’re bringing it back this year! And this time, were livening things up with burlesque performance from Cinnamon Maxxine, and boylesque performance from Camryn Obscura!

Cinnamon-and-Camryn

Who says that the holidays are only for the believers? Just as families don’t stop giving presents after the kids realize that Santa is a fake, the godless can have a great time during the holidays even without any gods, deities, angels, or spirits watching over them. And Godless Perverts Holiday Fun Time at the Center for Sex and Culture is just the place to do it!

Join us for:

  • Singing holiday songs that celebrate the improper, twisted, and just plain silly;
  • Hot burlesque and boylesque performances from Cinnamon Maxxine and Camryn Obscura;
  • Door prizes! Blasphemous sex toys will be provided by the good folks at Divine Interventions; Maybe you’ll be the lucky person who takes home a Jackhammer Jesus for some unholy pleasures. Plus we’ll be giving away atheist books, dirty books, and porn from Greta’s years as a porn reviewer.
  • Good eats! We’ll be having a potluck, so feel free to bring food to contribute.

Blasphemous costumes, sexy costumes, awesome combinations of the above, and other festive garb are encouraged, but by no means required.

The Godless Perverts Holiday Fun Time is happening at the Center for Sex and Culture, 1349 Mission St in San Francisco (near Civic Center BART), on Saturday December 13, from 7:00 to 10:00 pm. It’s a benefit for the Center for Sex and Culture. Admission $10-$20 OR a yummy holiday treat to share. We’ll provide food, but we’d love to add your holiday specials to the buffet. No-one turned away for lack of funds or cooking skills. Hope to see you there!

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.

Death and Injustice: How Can Humanists Respond?

Protests

(Note: the following contains references to racist, transphobic, and misogynistic violence.)

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

I have a new book out called 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 deaths of those you love. [It comes out December 11 in ebook and audiobook; print edition will come later.] In it, I talk about some humanist ways of coping with death and highlight 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 by police officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri, on August 9, 2014, 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 warrant a jury trial and declined to indict his killer on even the most minor charges—I found myself with very little to say. And when, a week after that grand jury announcement, another grand jury in New York City declined to indict another police officer (Daniel Pantaleo) in the death of another unarmed black man (Eric Garner)—I was almost speechless.

Of course I’ve 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 comes to any consolations humanism might have for people grieving for Michael Brown and Eric Garner and the injustice surrounding their deaths, I’ve been coming up largely empty.

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

*****

Thus begins my latest piece for The Humanist magazine, Death and Injustice: How Can Humanists Respond? To read more, read the rest of the piece.

(Note: Some of the comments at the link are okay, but some are appalling. The next time someone says, “You shouldn’t call yourself an atheist, if you care about atheism plus social justice you should call yourself a humanist” — or the next time someone says, “Humanism already means caring about racism and sexism and all that, so why should I call myself a feminist or anti-racist, I just call myself a humanist and that covers it” — I’m pointing them to these comments. Self-identified humanists can be total fucking assholes.)