Is It Ethical to Conceal Your Atheism?

This piece was originally published in Free Inquiry magazine.

Let’s say you’re an atheist. Let’s say you’re a college student. Let’s say your parents are supporting you, including paying your tuition. And let’s say your parents are adamantly opposed to atheism — so much so that if they learned about your atheism, they would stop paying your tuition, cut off all financial support, and cut you out of the family. (Not a hypothetical situation, unfortunately.)

Is it ethical to conceal your atheism?

Coming Out AtheistWe often treat this question, and questions like it, as a no-brainer. In my book, Coming Out Atheist: How to Do It, How to Help Each Other, and Why, I repeatedly counsel atheists to hold off on coming out if they don’t think it’s safe — if they think it will get them fired from their jobs, cut off by their parents, kicked out of their homes. I do think coming out is ultimately the right choice for most people — overwhelmingly, most atheists who have come out say it made their lives better and they’re glad they did it — but I think it makes sense to hold off if the timing is bad. As I delicately phrased it in the book, “Don’t screw up your life.” I give this advice without hesitation, and it’s mostly accepted without hesitation.

But I’ve gotten some questions about this — yes, from atheists — that have made me look at this question more carefully. I’m still coming to the same conclusion — but I think it’s more difficult than I’d originally thought, with a more nuanced answer.

The issue at hand: If people are giving you something, and they wouldn’t give it to you if they knew something about you, is it ethical to lie about that information, or even simply to withhold it? If a boss were considering hiring you, and you knew they wouldn’t if they knew about your embezzlement conviction, is it ethical for you to conceal that? If someone you were dating were considering marrying you, and you knew they wouldn’t if they knew you were a Republican, is it ethical for you to conceal that? I think most people would say No.

So by the same token, if your parents wouldn’t pay your tuition if they knew you were an atheist — don’t they have the right to make that decision? Isn’t it their money, and their right to decide what to do with it? Isn’t honesty a core ethical value — especially when people are making decisions that would be affected by your information? [Read more...]

Why, Despite the Incredibly Discouraging Crap That’s Been Going On in Recent Weeks and Months and Years, I Still Have Hope for Organized Atheism

Cologne_Germany_Cologne-Gay-Pride-cheerleadersI know. Here comes Greta, the eternal optimist, the relentless Pollyanna cheerleader, always holding out for hope. Stay with me. I really think I’m right about this.

Yes, the recent weeks in organized atheism have been incredibly discouraging, disheartening, disillusioning, demoralizing, dis- and de- just about every good thing that keeps people engaged in activism. Heck, the recent months and years in organized atheism have often been discouraging. Our most visible representatives are saying and doing horrible things: they’re perpetuating horrible sexist and racist ideas, they’re trivializing rape and making excuses for it and blaming the victims of it, they’re apparently committing sexual assault. The online hatred and harassment squad has been in full force. The defenses, denials, rationalizations, trivializations, and victim-blaming about all of this have been in full force. And in the last few weeks, all of this has been in overdrive. I can totally understand why some people, even people who have been in organized atheism for years — strike that, especially people who have been in organized atheism for years — would be losing hope. I’m feeling it, too.

And I’m not going to say for a second that the awful shit isn’t awful. I’m certainly not going to say that we shouldn’t talk about it just because it’s giving people a sad. I’m not going to tell anyone else that they’re bad or wrong for being disheartened — or even that they have any obligation to stay in organized atheism.

What I’m going to say is that I have hope. And I’m going to explain why. [Read more...]

Godless Perverts Social Club, October 16! Discussion Topic: “Being Godless During the Holidays”

Godless Perverts Banner

The next Godless Perverts Social Club is this Thursday October 16 — and the discussion topic is “Being Godless During the Holidays”!

The 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, 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 October 16!

Road sign that says "Holiday season just ahead" on blue sky backgroundWe’re doing slightly different formats for the two clubs. Our Third Thursday Social Clubs are a little more structured — we’ll pick a topic, let people know what it is ahead of time, have a moderator/ host who leads the discussion, maybe even get in special guests to guide discussions on particular topics. In October, that’ll be Thursday October 16. The topic for this Thursday: Being Godless During the Holidays. As the year draws to a close, we can look forward to taking a double-barrelled hit of good cheer from all directions, whether we want it or not. The holidays can be a lot of fun, but they can also be scary, lonely times. For nonbelievers, or people with alternative sexualities or genders, the holidays can be that time when our communities or families remind us that we just don’t fit. How do you handle the holidays? Love them or hate them? Do you start to clash with friends, lovers, or family members who just wish you’d join in and be “normal”? Or do you just find your own way to go along and enjoy the party? [Read more...]

“Keep up the good work”: Fighting sexism helps

I got this email a few days ago from Shane, which I’m quoting with permission, responding to my post, A Woman’s Room Online: Misogyny, and the Idea That the Internet Isn’t Real.

Ouch and thanks.

I’ve been reading your blog for a long time. You have opened my eyes on a lot of issues, especially LGBT and women’s issues. I have room to grow. The Woman’s Room Online post hit me in the gut and then I realized, that’s what it feels like for a white straight male. Holy shit. For me, it’s terrible. For a woman, it’s got to be terror. How fucking awful we people manage to be. Anyway, thanks.

Keep up the good work.

Keep up the good work.

I get emails and comments like this every week. I used to get emails and comments every week saying, “I am now an atheist, in part, because of you.” I do still get those, although not quite as often, since I’m not spending as much time writing about 13 More Reasons God Doesn’t Exist. Now I get emails and comments every week saying, “I am now a feminist, in part, because of you.” And every feminist writer, speaker, podcaster, organizer, activist of any stripe that I know gets these comments as well.

So keep up the good work. All of us. All of us who are working to change people’s minds about sexism, about racism, about all the awful shit that happens in the world. Keep up the good work. It’s working.

A Woman’s Room Online: Misogyny, and the Idea That the Internet Isn’t Real

Content note: misogyny, harassment, threats of violence and rape and death, images of same

Here’s the thing. For hundreds of millions of people, the Internet is our workplace: we go there to collaborate, to do research, to promote our work. The Internet is the place where we meet our friends. It’s where we get our news. It’s where we organize charity activity, or political activity. For hundreds of millions of people, the Internet is a central hub of human activity.

Now. Think about what it would be like if every time you went to work, every time you went out with friends, every time you went out to get a newspaper, every time you went on a charity walkathon, every time you went to a neighborhood meeting to plan the new public park, you had people screaming at you how worthless you are, how ugly you are, how much they hate you, how much they want to torture and rape and kill you.

Think about showing up to work at 8:30 in the morning, and sitting down in this room.

A Woman's Room Online 23 [Read more...]

Godless Perverts Social Club, October 7 and October 16!

Godless Perverts Banner

The Godless Perverts Social Club is now meeting in San Francisco twice a month — first Tuesdays, and third Thursdays! In October, we’ll be meeting Tuesday October 7, and Thursday October 16.

The Godless Perverts Social Club is the socializing/ hanging out branch of Godless Perverts. 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 — on Tuesday October 7, and/or on Thursday October 16! [Read more...]

“Coming Out Atheist” at the Upper Arlington Library!

This makes me so happy! One of my readers sent me this picture. It’s a photo of my book, Coming Out Atheist: How to Do It, How to Help Each Other, and Why — the copy that belongs to the Upper Arlington Library in Ohio!

Coming Out Atheist Upper Arlington Library

It makes me supremely happy to see that my books are in libraries. It means that people who can’t afford to buy books can still read them. (My books are pretty affordable if you get them as ebooks — and no, you don’t need an ebook reader to read ebooks, you just need a computer or a smartphone — but I understand that even the cost of an ebook will stretch the budget for many people.) It means that my books are available to people who are doing research. And it means that people who are just browsing in library shelves can come across them.

In fact, I’m going to ask all y’all a favor. Could you request that your library carry either or both of my 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? It’d be nice to ask bookstores about it, too. Yes, the books are carried by standard distributors, including Ingram, Baker & Taylor, and IPG. (Bending: Dirty Kinky Stories About Pain, Power, Religion, Unicorns, & More isn’t out in physical print yet, otherwise I’d be asking you to request that one, too.)

And if you see a copy of either book in your library and/or bookstore, could you take a picture and send it to me? Thanks!



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.

The “Coming Out Atheist” Donation Recipient for September 2014: Secular Student Alliance

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.

secular student alliance logoI 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. The recipient for September 2014, chosen by Dale McGowan, is the Secular Student Alliance. [Read more...]

Help Get Jamila Bey’s Radio Show Back As a Podcast!

Jamila BeyJamila Bey’s voice is one of the smartest, funniest, most insightful, most powerful voices in the atheist movement. A Washington, DC-based journalist, she put herself through college as a reporter, and did a decade’s worth of hard labor at NPR as an editor and a producer for Morning Edition, All Things Considered, and more. And she is one of the best speakers on the atheist speakers’ circuit. If you’ve never heard her speak, you’re missing out.

She wants to relaunch her Sex, Politics and Religion Hour radio show as a podcast — exploring all the topics one was never supposed to raise in polite company. Please help her do it! The goal is a pretty modest one — we should be able to reach it pretty easily, if everyone who reads this blog donated just $5 we’d be there in a heartbeat — but today is the last day of the crowdfunder, so we have to do it now!

Please donate if you can. Even small amounts help — they really do add up. And spreading the word also helps — share the crowdfunder on Facebook, Twitter, Ello, whatever social media you use. Let’s make this happen, people!