Anger, Tone Policing, and Some Thoughts on Good Cop, Bad Cop

So what works better to change people’s minds? Calm, respectful, patient empathetic engagement that offers solutions and is open to compromise — or snarky, uncompromising anger?

I’m going to offer up a data point of one here — that data point being myself.

Back in 2010, I wrote a piece about body policing in popular culture, examining how celebrity gossip magazines give contradictory and impossible-to-follow messages about dieting and bodies, and how they applaud celebrities for staying rail-thin while at the same time gasping in horror about disordered eating. I titled the piece “Don’t Feed the Stars!: Celebrity Bodies and Gossip’s New Schizophrenia.”

I immediately got pushback on that title from more than one person, who complained that using the word “schizophrenia” as a pejorative was insulting to mentally ill people and contributed to their marginalization. One person in the conversation, Kit Whitfield, was very patient with me: they politely asked me to reconsider using the word; calmly explained why it was a problem; made it clear that they basically liked and respected me and just wanted to point out this one problem; stuck with me throughout several rounds of back-and-forth; and stuck with me even when I was getting snippy and defensive.

Sara K., on the other hand, just got angry — not only at my original post, but at my conversation with Kit. In a very snarky tone, she called me out on my privilege, and on how screwed-up it was for me to be telling a marginalized person how to talk about their marginalization with a privileged person. She made it clear that she basically liked and respected me, but she made it every bit as clear that she had lost some of that respect.

At the time, my reaction was to think, “Sara’s being a mean jerk! Kit is so awesome! It’s hard to hear people tell you you’re wrong, but it’s so much easier when they’re being nice and patient! Why can’t everyone be more like Kit?” (I know, I know. You don’t have to tell me. What can I say: I wasn’t as good at the social justice stuff back then.)

But in retrospect, it’s clear that both of these people were important in changing my mind.

I definitely valued Kit’s patience, their sympathy, their willingness to stay focused on the content and to overlook when I was getting impatient and snippy. But it was Sara who made me realize that this was important. It was Sara who made me realize that people were really being hurt by this — hurt enough to get angry, hurt about to get unpleasant with someone they basically liked and respected.

In the moment that this conversation was happening, I was getting that hot, defensive flush that you get when you’re doing something wrong and don’t want to admit it. You know — the Cognitive Dissonance Contortion Tango. So in the moment, of course I was happier with the person who was being all reassuring about how I wasn’t a bad person. But in order to take this seriously, I also needed the person who wasn’t reassuring me; who was forcing that cognitive dissonance on me; who was making me realize that I was not in fact being a good person, and that if I wanted to be a good person, I needed to change.

It took me a little while, but I am now being much more careful about using language that marginalizes the mentally ill. I am being much more careful about using words like “crazy” or “nuts” in a pejorative way, and about using words like “schizophrenic” to mean anything other than “having been diagnosed with the illness of schizophrenia.” And in fact, this conversation, and others like it, helped me accept the reality of my own mental illness. In realizing that my language was “other”-ing, and in working to not do that, I found it easier to not see mentally ill people as “other” — which made it easier to accept myself as one of them.

My point: “Good cop, bad cop” works.

Yes, in that hot, flushed moment when we’re doing the Cognitive Dissonance Tango, we respond more positively to the good cop. But that doesn’t mean the bad cop isn’t having an effect.

So when people are telling us things we don’t want to hear, the best reaction probably isn’t, “Why can’t you be nicer about it?” It’s an admission that we’ve lost the argument anyway: if all we can say is “You’d be more convincing if you were nicer,” and we’re not actually addressing their content, we might as well throw in the towel and not dig ourselves in deeper. (With our towel. Okay, I think I need to abandon that mixed metaphor.) But it’s also just not true. The good cops show us that we can be better people, and help show us how to do it. The bad cops show us that we’re screwing up at this “being a good person” thing, and they help show us exactly how. As uncomfortable as it is, we need both.

So belated thanks, to both Kit Whitfield and Sara K. I’m a better person now, thanks to you both.

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.

Sex-Positive Feminist Icons In Literature: Some Evolving Thoughts on Lydia Bennett

Spoiler alerts for Pride and Prejudice.

Lydia Bennet in P&P 1995 BBCI have been re-thinking Lydia Bennett.

I’m re-reading Pride and Prejudice for the 33,257th time. And I’m finding that my views on Lydia Bennett are changing.

(Quick summary for those who haven’t read P&P: Lydia Bennett is the youngest of five sisters in the Bennett family. Near the end of the book, she runs off with the villain of the piece, George Wickham — she thinks of it as an elopement, but he doesn’t actually intend to marry her at first, and they don’t marry for two weeks. It’s a huge crisis in the family, and only the hasty marriage protects Lydia, and in fact the entire Bennett family, from complete social ruin. Lydia, however, is unashamed about the elopement, and unashamed about having lived with Wickham for a fortnight before their wedding.)

Lydia is presented throughout the book as, to say the least, problematic. She’s not a villain exactly, but she’s presented as not at all a good person: she’s shallow, frivolous, self-absorbed, short-sighted, concerned only with trivialities, and inconsiderate of the feelings of others. Her life is consumed with flirtation, gossip, dancing, fashion, and handsome men in uniforms. (Yeah, I know what you’re thinking — there are worse things, right?) Austen describes her as “self-willed and careless,” “ignorant, idle, and vain.” And yes. She is all of these things.

But she’s also something else.

She is a woman who thinks of her body, and her life, as hers.

She’s a woman who — in defiance of the powerful social pressures of 19th century England — decides that who she marries, and when, and when they do or don’t have sex, is nobody’s business but hers. (Well, hers and her partner’s, obviously.) She’s a woman who — when everyone around her is clutching their pearls and freaking their shit over the fact that she had sex before marriage — doesn’t understand what all the fuss is about. (“She was sure they should be married some time or other, and it did not much signify when.”) She’s a woman who — shortly before her wedding, when her aunt is lecturing her about the wickedness of what she did — is ignoring her, and instead is thinking about the man she’s about to marry, and what he’s going to wear. She’s a woman who — after the marriage has been patched together — has the audacity, much to the horror of her father and eldest sisters, to not be ashamed, to take pleasure in her life, and to look forward with excitement to her future.

She’s something of a pioneer. I find myself having a sneaking admiration.

Yes, yes, I know. Different times, different mores. The unfortunate reality of 19th century England, even in the relatively loose (compared to the Victorians) Regency period, was that for a gentlewoman to have sex before marriage probably did mean social ruin, not only for herself but for her family. Part of Austen’s point was that Lydia’s behavior was selfish. She didn’t just have loose sexual morals, which Austen clearly thought of as wicked just in and of itself. She had a lack of concern for how her sexual choices would affect her family.

But — well, actually, that’s sort of my point.

Gay men Kiss Alessandro MarveloosThink about people who brought shame to their families by marrying someone of another race, or another religion. Think about people who brought shame to their families by marrying who they chose, and not who their families chose for them. Think about people who brought shame to their families by coming out as gay. If I’m going to admire these people for deciding that their own sexual happiness was more important than the shame and suffering brought to their families by their breaking of vile and unreasonable rules — for being, as Elizabeth Bennett herself said in her famous confrontation with Lady Catherine de Bourgh, “only resolved to act in that manner, which will, in my own opinion, constitute my happiness” — why would I not admire Lydia Bennett for doing the same thing?

It’s not a stretch to say that, for 19th century English aristocracy and gentry, society was, to a great extent, structured for the purpose of protecting unmarried women’s virginity. Unmarried women were rarely left alone; they were even more rarely left alone with men other than their relatives. They were considered “compromised” if they even slept under the same roof as an unrelated man without a chaperone: even having the opportunity to have sex was enough to destroy your reputation.

In that world — where the cage around unmarried women’s virginity was locked tight, and the social penalties for breaking out were severe — Lydia Bennett decided, “Fuck that noise. The rules are fucked up, and I’m going to ignore them. My body, my right to decide.” And she snuck out of the cage, and ran off into the night.

Good for her.

I’m tempted to write an erotica story about her, from her perspective. Probably not as a simple account of her elopement and defloration: I mostly don’t find “virgin’s first time” stories interesting, and given that she’s fifteen, it’d also be somewhat creepy. I’m thinking of her a couple of decades later: a married woman, not in a particularly happy marriage, but merrily screwing around with other libertines in the “if we do it behind closed doors everyone will pretend it isn’t happening” brigade, mooching off relatives and flirting with handsome men at parties and running in and out of bedrooms. (Think Dangerous Liaisons, but less Machiavellian and more of a romp.) I’m thinking of her, older, not very wise but certainly more experienced, looking back on her bawdy life, and looking back on her elopement and defloration — and seeing it as a moment of liberation, the moment when her new life began. I’m imagining her looking at her disappointing and difficult marriage (there’s no way that’s going to turn out well, George Wickham is vile) — and looking at the life she’s had, versus the life she would have had — and deciding that, on the whole, she made a good bargain.

There’s a line in Chapter 9 that kind of sums up what I’m getting at; a line that sums up how Austen saw Lydia when she wrote her in 1812, versus how I’m seeing her today. It’s when Lydia and George have come back to the Bennett home right after their marriage, and her elder sisters (Jane and Elizabeth) are appalled at her shameless attitude. “Lydia was Lydia still; untamed, unabashed, wild, noisy, and fearless.”

Untamed, unabashed, wild, noisy, and fearless.

Sounds like my kind of woman.

(Alessandro_+_Marveloos kissing photo by See-ming Lee, via Wikimedia Commons)

“Planning to write is not writing”: Like Hell It Isn’t

“Planning to write is not writing. Outlining, researching, talking to people about what you’re doing, none of that is writing. Writing is writing.”
-E. L. Doctorow

My friend and fellow writer Dana Fredsti posted this quotation on her Facebook page, and asked people — especially other writers — if they had thoughts about it.

Boy, do I ever.

I think Doctorow has his head so far up his ass it’s coming out the other side.

A huge amount of writing is thinking about writing. It’s absurd to say that it isn’t writing unless you’re typing out words that very second. I mean, even when I’m in the “typing out words” part of writing, I spend a fair amount of time staring at the wall or out the window thinking about what I’m going to write — or looking over what I’ve written and thinking about how and whether to revise it. Does that not count as writing, either? And if it does, why does it count ten seconds before I type words, or a minute before I type words, but not an hour or a day before? Why does the revising count ten seconds after I typed words, or a minute after, but not an hour or a day after?

Is there some sort of statute of limitations determining when “thinking about writing” no longer qualifies as writing?

Yes, there are some differences between the “typing out words” part of writing and the “thinking about what to write” part of writing. But in my experience, those are differences of degree, not of kind…. and the degree isn’t that great. And yes, it’s easy to procrastinate by telling yourself things like, “I’m writing in my head,” or by doing every possible thing even vaguely related to writing that isn’t the “typing out words” part. (It’s one of the things that’s so dangerous about Facebook and Twitter: if you’re a writer, going onto Facebook and Twitter do qualify as work, since it’s part of publicity and promotion.) At some point, you have to sit down and do the “typing out words” part of writing: if you never ever get to that, then no, all the planning and thinking in the world doesn’t really count as writing.

But if you do eventually sit down and do the “typing out words” part, then yes — all the planning and thinking and re-thinking totally counts.

Thoughts — from other writers, from other artists, from anyone else with ideas about this?

Atheism For Dummies: Guest Post by Dale McGowan

I’m going into writer hibernation and taking a blog break through October 31, while I finish my next book, “Coming Out Atheist: How To Do It, How to Help Each Other, and Why.” This is a guest post from Dale McGowan. Dale McGowan is the editor and co-author of Parenting Beyond Belief: On Raising Ethical, Caring Kids Without Religion, and Raising Freethinkers: A Practical Guide for Parenting Beyond Belief. His most current title, Atheism For Dummies, was released in March of this year.

Atheism for Dummies coverWhen Wiley & Sons asked me to write Atheism For Dummies, my first reaction was complete disbelief that there wasn’t one already.

There are 1,600 For Dummies books in print, from the pedestrian (Container Gardening For Dummies) to the intellectual (Logic For Dummies, no kidding). There is Religion For Dummies, as well as a title for each of the five majors (Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism), several specific denominations (Mormonism, Catholicism) and even a few hyper-specialized religious titles—The Book of Revelation For Dummies and Lost Books of the Bible For Dummies, to name just two. But nothing for atheism until now.

There was apparently an urgent need for a book called Starting an eBay Business For Canadians For Dummies before a book exploring the worldview of a billion current humans.

But they got to it, and they gave it to me, and I still can’t believe my luck. It’s the most fun I’ve had writing a book, and I don’t see anything passing it up for a long time.

When I announced that I was writing it, several people had the same slightly weird reaction. “The book can be just one sentence long,” they said: “Atheists are people who don’t believe in God.” I heard the same line about a dozen times.

Of course that would be as incomplete as a book on the Grand Canyon that only said, “The Grand Canyon is a big hole in Arizona.” There’s a bit more to say.

Wiley wanted a relaxed, accessible introduction to atheism that didn’t require specialized knowledge. Ideally, a reader should be able to open to any heading and read without having read anything else in the book. In writer’s terminology, this is known as “a bitch.” They also wanted humor and even a little self-deprecation. That was easy. We can be a silly and self-important group at times, and poking fun at myself is a good way to get the reader relaxed and listening.

Even though the book is mostly for the uninitiated, I wanted to make it worthwhile for the rest of us as well. If you don’t mind sitting in the nosebleed seats, I do occasionally shoot a T-shirt your way, including some history that you may not have seen before.

The book starts with the basics—the varieties of religious doubt, terms and labels, Dawkins’ seven-point scale, how someone can be both an agnostic and an atheist, why most people think atheists don’t believe in God and why we actually don’t, and so on.

The middle of the book is a flying overview of the history of atheist thought. For this, I wanted to go as far off-road as possible. I include the major Europeans, but also went into China and India, where atheist philosophy has always been much more mainstream.

I also introduce some especially courageous figures who might be unfamiliar. There’s Ibn al-Rawandi, who stood up in the middle of the Islamic Empire in the 9th century and called Muhammad “a liar” and the Qur’an “the speech of an unwise being” that contains “contradictions, errors, and absurdities,” as well as Raimond de l’Aire, a French villager caught in the net of the 14th century Inquisition who said Christ was created not through divine intervention, but “just through fucking, like everybody else!” He reportedly slammed the heel of one hand into the other a few times for emphasis, a detail the Inquisitor’s scribe for some excellent reason included.

At the request of the polite Canadian publisher, I substituted “screwing” for “fucking” in the book. That’s a shame, but probably better for the Aunt Diane reader anyway. And in case you’re wondering, there’s no record of Raimond’s fate—though atheists were seen as much less threatening than heretics, and so were less often executed.

The pioneering feminists of the 19th and 20th centuries were overwhelmingly atheists and agnostics, as were many abolitionists and other social reformers. It’s a fact too often left out of their stories, so I devoted space to underlining those connections.

mark twain letters from the earth coverSatire never gets enough credit for sticking a finger in God’s eye, so I gave a full chapter to Twain, Carlin, The Onion, Monty Python, The Simpsons, South Park, Mr. Deity, Family Guy, Jesus and Mo, Tim Minchin, and the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Diderot and d’Holbach are great, but honestly, I think I’ve learned more from the satirists than from the whole Enlightenment.

The last hundred pages or so explore what it’s like to be an atheist today, to see the world naturally, and to live in the midst of a majority that does not. There’s a look at the ways atheists are undercounted, how it’s different to be an atheist in Norway, Quebec, and Peoria, the geographic and demographic trends currently underway, “atheist anger” (thanks Greta!), gender, race, community, parenting, morality, politics, sex, death…stuff like that.

Writing a book that would appeal to atheists and interested believers alike was a serious challenge. The trick was in keeping it descriptive, not persuasive, since atheists don’t need convincing and believers generally don’t want it.

More than anything else, I wanted to create an easygoing introduction that atheists could give to family and friends who just don’t get atheism but are open enough to want to learn something about it. Hearing that atheists are enjoying it as well is a huge bonus, since I was mostly writing for Aunt Diane. It’s about time she had a way to figure us out.

(Thanks to Greta for the invitation to submit this post. Her reward is on page 225.)

Lynda Barry’s “The Stages of Reading”

A truly wonderful comic by Lynda Barry, on the 20 stages of reading, from infancy onward.

Lynda Barry Stages of Reading 7 and 8

I can think of a couple of other stages that aren’t here, though:

Somewhere between #9 and #12: First adult book — not sexy book necessarily, “adult” as in “not written for kids” — that you read and at least somewhat comprehended. (Mine, IIRC, was Slaughterhouse-Five.)

First movie or TV adaptation of a beloved book that made you furious because they changed or deleted things that you loved. (For me, that was definitely Winnie the Pooh. FUCK YOU, DISNEY!)

And first time you re-read a beloved children’s book as an adult, and realized that it was even better than you remembered, and that there was tons of stuff in it that had totally gone over your head when you were eight or whatever. (“Alice in Wonderland/ Through the Looking Glass.”) See also: first time you re-read a beloved children’s book as an adult, and realized it really wasn’t all that great. (“Little Women,” anybody?)

Oh, and apropos of nothing: I am being entertained all out of proportion by “The Boring Butterfly” in #2.

So what other stages of reading can you think of?

(Via Pharyngula.)

Poster for “A Better Life,” a.k.a. The Atheist Book

Photographer Chris Johnson has been traveling around the world: photographing atheists, asking us to tell our stories, and putting it all in a photography book, titled “A Better Life: 100 Atheists Speak Out on Joy & Meaning in a World Without God.” Participants include Jamila Bey, Jessica Ahlquist, Rebecca Goldstein, Steven Pinker, Julia Sweeney, Anthony Pinn, Teresa Macbain, Dan Barker, Annie Laurie Gaylor, Rebecca Watson, Cara Santa Maria, A.C. Grayling, PZ Myers, Indre Viskontas, Daniel Dennett, Matt Dillahunty, and lots more.

The Kickstarted project is in its final stages of production, and he sent me a copy of this lovely promotional poster for it.

A Better Life poster

My, those are some fine-looking atheists, aren’t they?

If you want to get a notification when the book comes out, go to Chris’s website and get on his notification thingie. It should be gorgeous — I can’t wait to get my copy!

The Audiobook of “Bending” Is Now Available — Recorded By Me!

Bending coverThe audiobook version of my erotic fiction collection, Bending: Dirty Kinky Stories About Pain, Power, Religion, Unicorns, & More, is now available on Audible! It’s $19.95 for Audible non-members, less for Audible members, free with a 30-day Audible trial membership.

And yes — I did the audiobook recording myself! Come on… you know you want to hear me reading these stories out loud….

For those who somehow missed hearing about this book:

These are not nice stories.

They’re filthy. They’re fearless. Some are even funny.

Greta Christina’s erotic stories are written to get you hard and wet — and to change the ways you think about sex. Be forewarned — stuff happens here that’s borderline consensual. Or not at all consensual. These are dirty, kinky stories about shame, about pain, helplessness and danger, reckless behavior and bad, bad ideas….

A baby dyke is manipulated into fetish porn by her beautiful, self-absorbed porn-star lover.

A good Christian wife follows her duty to obey, even as her husband’s sexual demands become bizarre.

A student, hungry for punishment, seeks it from a professor who should know better.

A woman with a dedicated fetish finds a lover who meets her more than halfway.

And then there’s the one about the unicorn and the rainbow…

Raw, exciting, joyful, intensely believable, Greta’s stories are written with a fierce respect for erotic fiction — and for sex itself.

Once again: Bending: Dirty Kinky Stories About Pain, Power, Religion, Unicorns, & More, is now available in audiobook format on Audible! Once again… read by me!

The book is also available as an ebook on Kindle, Nook, and Smashwords. A paperback edition is coming soon. Here are some wonderfully flattering blurbs about it: [Read more…]

Audiobook of “Bending” Available for Pre-Order!

Bending coverThe audiobook version of my erotic fiction collection, Bending: Dirty Kinky Stories About Pain, Power, Religion, Unicorns, & More, is now available for pre-order on Audible! It’s scheduled for release on July 31. It’s $19.95 for Audible non-members, less for Audible members.

And yes — I did the audiobook recording myself! That was an interesting experience, let me tell you…

For those who somehow missed the dealio about it:

These are not nice stories.

They’re filthy. They’re fearless. Some are even funny.

Greta Christina’s erotic stories are written to get you hard and wet — and to change the ways you think about sex. Be forewarned — stuff happens here that’s borderline consensual. Or not at all consensual. These are dirty, kinky stories about shame, about pain, helplessness and danger, reckless behavior and bad, bad ideas….

A baby dyke is manipulated into fetish porn by her beautiful, self-absorbed porn-star lover.

A good Christian wife follows her duty to obey, even as her husband’s sexual demands become bizarre.

A student, hungry for punishment, seeks it from a professor who should know better.

A woman with a dedicated fetish finds a lover who meets her more than halfway.

And then there’s the one about the unicorn and the rainbow…

Raw, exciting, joyful, intensely believable, Greta’s stories are written with a fierce respect for erotic fiction — and for sex itself.

Once again: Bending: Dirty Kinky Stories About Pain, Power, Religion, Unicorns, & More, is now available for pre-order in audiobook format on Audible! The book is also available as an ebook on Kindle, Nook, and Smashwords. A paperback edition is coming soon. Here are some wonderfully flattering blurbs about it: [Read more…]

On Being a Feminist Writing Dirty Kinky Porn

So, I write porn. Most of my porn is kinky. Most of my kinky porn is female-submissive. And most of my female-submissive kinky porn is opposite-sex, male-dominated. I’ve just come out with a collection of my smut — excuse me, erotic fiction — “Bending: Dirty Kinky Stories About Pain, Power, Religion, Unicorns, & More” (available as an ebook on Kindle, Nook, and Smashwords; audiobook and paperback coming soon). And while the book has lesbian kink, bisexual kink, gay male kink, fem-dom/ male-sub kink, unicorn-dom/ rainbow-sub kink, and even some non-kink, it’s true that women being spanked, beaten, controlled, used, objectified, humiliated, punished, and generally overpowered by men in dreadful dreadful ways is a dominating theme. (I know. Terrible pun.)

Also, I’m a feminist. An ardent one at that.

So what’s that about? And how do I reconcile it? Is there even anything to reconcile?

I know that when 50 Shades of Gray went viral, pundits from all over the pundit-sphere were racking their brains trying to figure out why all these ladies were so hot to read kinky porn about a woman getting sexually pushed around. I’ve written my own convoluted analysis: not about 50 Shades per se, I haven’t read it and probably won’t, but about the general trend of female-penned, female-submissive porn. But the more I think about this question, the more I think that we may be overthinking it.

I think the question may not be, “Why do women want to fantasize about being submissive?” I think the question may be, “Why do people want to fantasize about being submissive?”


Bending coverTo read the rest of my essay, go to On Being a Feminist Writing Dirty Kinky Porn, my guest post on Erotica For All.

Here’s the deal: I’ve been doing a blog tour for my new erotic fiction collection, “Bending: Dirty Kinky Stories About Pain, Power, Religion, Unicorns, & More.” Today’s installment in the tour is a guest post I wrote for Erotica For All, On Being a Feminist Writing Dirty Kinky Porn: a feminist perspective on male-dominant female-submissive kinky porn, with thoughts on why some women enjoy consuming and creating it, and how it might fit into feminism.

And remember — the book is currently available as an ebook on Kindle, Nook, and Smashwords. Audiobook and paperback are coming soon!

Previous stops on this blog tour:

Ozy Frantz’s Blog: Is Erotic Shame Real Shame? (guest post by me)
Ozy Frantz’s Blog: Christian Domestic Discipline (extended excerpt)

Ozy Frantz has taken down their blog. These posts have now been reprinted on my own blog:
Is Erotic Shame “Real” Shame? (essay)
Excerpt from Christian Domestic Discipline (extended excerpt)

Brute Reason: Greta Christina on Writing Dirty Stories (interview with Miri)

Lusty Lady, Rachel Kramer Bussell: Excerpt from Craig’s List (extended excerpt)

Charlie Glickman’s Blog: “Discover just how far sexy goes” (brief review/ blurb)

WWJTD? JT Eberhard: On Being an Atheist Writing Religious Porn, plus Excerpt from Penitence as a Perpetual Motion Machine (guest post by me, plus extended excerpt)

Passions and Provocations, Pam Rosenthal (a.k.a. Molly Weatherfield): How to Read a Remarkable Work of Erotica (review/ essay)

Curvacious Dee’s Blog: Bent Fiction, plus Excerpt from Doing It Over (review, plus extended excerpt)

Susie Bright’s Journal: Pain, Kink, Shame — and a Unicorn Chaser. Greta Christina’s New Erotic Epic! (brief review and extended excerpt from The Shame Photos

En Tequila Es Verdad, Dana Hunter’s blog: Why Is Kink Fun? (guest post by me)

Under His Hand, Kaya’s blog: Excerpt from This Week (extended excerpts)

Heina, Skepchick: Why Atheists Say “God” When They Have Sex (essay)

Girl on the Net: Someone else’s story (essay/review)

Trollop Salon, Alison Tyler’s interview blog: Greta Christina is in the Salon! (interview plus excerpt)

io9: How to Write a Sex Scene Between a Unicorn and a Rainbow (guest post)

Maggie Mayhem’s blog: 5 Things That Piss Off This Godless Pervert (guest post)

How a Pentecostal Preacher in Small-Town Louisiana Became an Atheist Activist

Try to imagine: You’re a Pentecostal preacher in small-town Louisiana. Your public reputation, your connection with the people you love, indeed your own sense of self-worth — not to mention your livelihood — are hugely dependent on your passionate faith in Christ.

You’ve struggled to make a reputation for yourself as a man of God, a conduit of the Holy Spirit, who can bring spiritual hope and healing to the people around you. You’ve struggled to balance the rigorous demands of your religious calling with the pressing practical needs of your family. You’ve struggled to make sense of the contradictory teachings of the Bible; of the widely divergent and often contentious sects competing for your loyalty; of the deep conflicts between your deeply-held Christian doctrine and what you know, as an ethical human being, to be right.

And you’re realizing that you don’t believe in God. At all. Not just in Pentecostalism; not just in Christianity. You have come to realize that religion — of any kind — simply doesn’t add up.

What do you do?

That’s the story of Jerry DeWitt. It’s a story you may have heard bits and pieces of: if you read his profile in the New York Times, or if you’ve heard about The Clergy Project, the support network for non-believing clergy members, with whom DeWitt has been intensely involved since its earliest days. It’s a story that paints a very different picture from the one many people have of atheists: set in the blue-collar and working-poor small-town Bible Belt, it’s a story of a life driven by emotional devotion to service as much as an intellectual devotion to learning. It’s a story of a deep desire to understand and serve God… battling with a deeper desire to understand and accept the truth.

Hope After Faith coverIt’s the story told in DeWitt’s new book: Hope after Faith: An Ex-Pastor’s Journey from Belief to Atheism (available in print and Kindle editions). Fascinating, suspenseful, compellingly written, often heartbreaking, sometimes hilarious, and always hopeful even at its darkest, the book had my head spinning — and Jerry very kindly took the time to discuss the book with me, and to talk about some of its more absorbing questions and ideas.

Greta Christina: I know that this is what your whole book is about — but can you sum up briefly what got you started questioning your faith? What were some of the thoughts and experiences that moved you forward out of religion and into atheism? And what was the final straw?

Jerry DeWitt: The catalyst was an investigation into the idea of Hell and Eternal Punishment. I grow up with an awareness of the Hell concept and even prayed for forgiveness before falling asleep most nights of my childhood, but it wasn’t until it became my responsibility to teach this doctrine that I began to be troubled by it. Is it justifiable for a person to be painfully punished ETERNALLY for seventy years of sinful behavior? Something wasn’t adding up.

After more than 25 years of ministry and misery, I found that I had completely dismantled the theological house that I had been dwelling in. Although there were countless timbers of religious thoughts that one by one were tearfully discarded, I have condensed my transition into five stages:

1. God LOVES everyone
2. God SAVES everyone
3. God is IN everyone
4. god is everyone’s INTERNAL dialog
5. god is a DELUSION


Thus begins my latest piece for AlterNet, How a Pentecostal Preacher in Small-Town Louisiana Became an Atheist Activist, an interview with Hope After Faith author Jerry DeWitt. To find out more about Jerry’s unique perspectives on both atheism and religion; on the competition between religious sects; on the comfort religion offers — and the price it exacts for that comfort; on the power of religion to control and manipulate; on the value of atheist visibility; on the intensity of personal religious experience; on how his years as a Pentecostal preacher have affected his work as an atheist speaker and activist; on both the difficulty and the delight of letting go of religion and embracing the natural world; and more… read the rest of the interview. (And again, Jerry’s book is available in both print and Kindle.) Enjoy!