Is Repression Necessary for Kink? Notes on the Godless Perverts Social Club Discussion

Is repression necessary for kink?

BDSM Gear With a Red Rose

That was the topic for discussion at last night’s Godless Perverts Social Club. The Social Club is now meeting twice a month, and we’ve been alternating the format: the third Thursdays are “Topical Thursdays,” where we pick a discussion topic that we announce ahead of time, while first Tuesdays are more casual and we discuss whatever’s on people’s minds that day.

So our topic last night:

Is repression necessary for kink? Imagine a world in which there are no boundaries on what is considered normal consensual sexual expression, a world in which sexual practices are openly discussed and fully accepted as personal preference without shame or recrimination. In this imaginary utopia, would kink exist? Is kink a response to repression and, if so, how has repression formed the current ideas of what is or is not kink? Would we always find a path to kink, regardless of the enforced societal standards? We’ll discuss how repression, whether societal or religious, has shaped the idea of kink and how our personal experiences have defined our understanding of and preferences for kink. Come talk about religion’s role in shaping your kinky (or non-kinky) choices.

We had a really interesting conversation, and I thought I’d blog about it. This post isn’t going to be a coherent essay on the topic, by the way: it’s just presenting some of the ideas that got tossed out and discussed, in no particular order. [Read more...]

The Godless Perverts Social Club — Thursday August 21! Topic: “Is repression necessary for kink?”

BDSM Gear With a Red Rose

The Godless Perverts Social Club is meeting again this Thursday, August 21!

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! We’re now meeting twice a month — first Tuesdays, and third Thursdays. We’re meeting again this Thursday, August 21.

We’re doing slightly different formats for the two clubs. Our Third Thursday Social Clubs are a little more structured — we 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 August, that’ll be Thursday August 21.

The topic for August’s Topical Thursday: Is repression necessary for kink? Imagine a world in which there are no boundaries on what is considered normal consensual sexual expression, a world in which sexual practices are openly discussed and fully accepted as personal preference without shame or recrimination. In this imaginary utopia, would kink exist? Is kink a response to repression and, if so, how has repression formed the current ideas of what is or is not kink? Would we always find a path to kink, regardless of the enforced societal standards? We’ll discuss how repression, whether societal or religious, has shaped the idea of kink and how our personal experiences have defined our understanding of and preferences for kink. Come talk about religion’s role in shaping your kinky (or non-kinky) choices.

The first Tuesday Social Clubs are more loosely-structured casual affairs: we typically start with a check-in question and do a little moderating to make sure everyone gets to talk who wants to, but mostly we just nosh and sit around schmoozing about whatever topics happen to come up. On First Tuesdays, we’ll keep doing that. Our next First Tuesday: September 2.

All Social Clubs are at Wicked Grounds, San Francisco’s renowned BDSM-themed coffee house — 289 8th St in San Francisco, near Civic Center BART. All orientations, genders, and kinks (or lack thereof) welcome. 7:00 – 9:00 pm. There’s no admission, but we ask that you buy food and drink at the counter. (Their food is quite yummy, with both full dinners and lighter snacks/ beverages, and they have the best milkshakes in town.)

If you want to be notified about all our Godless Perverts events, sign up for our email mailing list, or follow us on Twitter at @GodlessPerverts. You can also sign up for the Bay Area Atheists/ Agnostics/ Humanists/ Freethinkers/ Skeptics Meetup page, and be notified of all sorts of godless Bay Area events — including the Godless Perverts. And of course, you can always visit our Website to find out what we’re up to, godlessperverts.com. Hope to see you soon!



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.

Annabeth Leong on “Bending: Dirty Kinky Stories About Pain, Power, Religion, Unicorns, & More”

Long before I read Greta Christina‘s book Bending: Dirty Kinky Stories About Pain, Power, Religion, Unicorns, & More, I was lucky enough to encounter its title story. This was early in my career as a reader of erotica, and it pushed buttons I didn’t even know I had. Though I got off a great deal, I also found myself moved by the story of shifting desires, love as insufficient, and exploration as paramount. Reading “Bending” was one of the first times I realized that erotica isn’t the low form it’s made out to be.

Fast-forward many years, and “Bending” has become one of a handful of stories I return to again and again. It’s not just for the filthy, lovingly fetishized, obsessive ass play, though I do still love that. It’s also that few pieces of writing have been wiser about the issues I’ve faced in BDSM as I’ve come to practice it, not just read about it. When I’m distressed about having changed in a way I swore I never would, it’s to “Bending” that I turn.

When I read Christina’s entire collection, I recognized the fearless gaze I first met in that story I have loved so well. In her introduction, Christina explains that she hopes each story conveys the respect she has for sex itself. And Christina respects sex enough to visit hot and uncomfortable places, to trust that adults understand what it means “to imagine things we wouldn’t actually want to do—even things we think are immoral.” She respects her audience enough to believe that we will sort out the difference between fantasy and endorsement. “If we have any freedom at all,” she writes, “it’s between our ears: the freedom to think about whatever we like.”

Thus begins a really nice, really thoughtful review of my erotic fiction collection, Bending: Dirty Kinky Stories About Pain, Power, Religion, Unicorns, & More. To read more, read the rest of the review. Many thanks to Annabeth Leong at the Circlet Press blog!

*****

Bending coverHere, by the way, is the most current ordering info for Bending — in ebook, print, and audiobook editions.

Ebook edition:

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.

The book is available on Smashwords in multiple formats, including Apple iPad/iBooks, Nook, Sony Reader, Kobo, and most e-reading apps including Stanza, Aldiko, Adobe Digital Editions, and others.

All ebook editions and formats cost just $7.99.

Audiobook edition:

The audiobook is available on Audible.

The audiobook is also available on Amazon.

The audiobook is also available on iTunes.

And yes, I did the audiobook recording myself!

Print edition:

A print edition is in the works. Please watch this blog for future announcements.

Godless Perverts Story Hour on YouTube!

The Godless Perverts Story Hour that was livestreamed as part of the Freethought Blogs Con online conference was also recorded, and is available on YouTube!

You can watch and hear readings and performances from Greta Christina (“To Give Itself Pleasure”), Virgie Tovar (“Brother David”), Simon Sheppard (“The Tibetan Book of the Fag”), Juba Kalamka (“Jubilee Showcase (for Aaron Muhammad)”), David Fitzgerald (“There’s Something About Paul”), Dana Fredsti (excerpt from “Champagne!”), and Kate Sirls (“One of Those Girls”). We also had Q&A after the performances, and that’s on the video as well.

The video quality isn’t super-mega-awesome, what with it being a recording of a livestream and all. But it’s not bad, and you get a good sense of the flavor and energy of the show.

We hope to be posting all the individual performances as their own short YouTube videos soon, in case there’s one particular one you want to link to (or want to watch over and over and over again…) In the meantime — enjoy!

If you want to be notified about all our Godless Perverts events, sign up for our email mailing list, or follow us on Twitter at @GodlessPerverts. You can also sign up for the Bay Area Atheists/ Agnostics/ Humanists/ Freethinkers/ Skeptics Meetup page, and be notified of all sorts of godless Bay Area events — including the Godless Perverts. Our next Godless Perverts Social Club will be on Tuesday, March 4 at 7:00 pm at Wicked Grounds, 289 8th Street in San Francisco (near Civic Center BART). Hope to see you there!

My Podcast Interview With Masocast!

I have a new podcast interview up! This one is with Masocast, who does “casual interviews with intelligent, funny, and all around interesting kinky people.” We talk about the experience of writing erotic fiction, whether the stories in my erotic fiction collection (“Bending: Dirty Kinky Stories About Pain, Power, Religion, Unicorns, & More”) came from my own sexual fantasies, being out as a kinky person, how the kink community can become more accepted, how the hell I wound up writing “The Unicorn and the Rainbow,” and a lot more.

And we also talk about atheism! Masocast is an atheist, and we had a grand old time talking about godlessness before we got to the sex.

It was a delightful conversation, and Masocast is a great interviewer. I’d never heard of the Masocast podcast before I went on it myself, but I think I’m now going to have to keep listening. Enjoy the interview!

Bending coverThe ebook of “Bending: Dirty Kinky Stories About Pain, Power, Religion, Unicorns, & More” is available on Kindle, Nook, and Smashwords. The audiobook is available on Audible and Amazon. The print edition is in the works.

On Reading Your Own Porn Out Loud in a Recording Studio

It was… unique.

Among many other things, of course. Entertaining. Bizarre. Weirdly hot. But when I think about the experience of reading my own dirty story collection out loud into a high-end microphone in a small soundproof booth in a professional recording studio, the word that leaps most quickly to mind is “unique.” I have never had another experience quite like it; unless I put together another collection of dirty stories, I probably never will again.

bending cover audibleSo I wrote this book, an erotic fiction collection, “Bending: Dirty Kinky Stories About Pain, Power, Religion, Unicorns, & More.” The audiobook version has just been released on Audible and Amazon (it’s also available in ebook on Kindle, Nook, and Smashwords, and a print edition is in the works). I did the audio recording for it myself. And since doing this audio recording was such a… unique experience, I want to write a little bit about it.

Here’s the thing. Reading my own porn out loud is an undeniably erotic experience. My dirty stories almost always get their original inspiration from my masturbatory sex fantasies. They usually take twists and turns from the original fantasy, as I work to make the fantasies plausible, or to make the characters more interesting and human, or to find the backstory behind the sex scenes and figure out why these characters are having this sex and what it means to them and how their lives will be different because of it. But the germ of the story is almost always some sexual image that gets me off, and hard. (“The Unicorn and the Rainbow” is the exception. Long story.)

So reading my dirty stories out loud is almost always at least somewhat erotic for me. And in some ways, recording the audiobook of my dirty stories amplified that experience. I was working hard to immerse myself in the stories, to really experience them, to get deep inside my characters and feel what they were feeling… so I could get it across to my listeners. And because this was being recorded for posterity, because it wasn’t some random erotic reading that would disappear into the night forever once it was done, I felt more compelled to really do it right.

Yet at the same time, I had to stay completely professional throughout the process. I had to pay attention to things like the timbre of my voice, the pitch, whether I was starting to sound scratchy and needed to take a water break. I had to find the sweet spot between sounding sing-songy and sounding monotonous. I had to pay attention to rhythm and speed, reading slowly enough to be understood but quickly enough to keep the momentum and forward motion, and using rhythm and speed to convey different moods and sensations. And when I was reading dialogue, I had to find a way to convey the different characters speaking the words, without doing crappy voices and sounding dorky and “act”-y. (If I were a professional actor, that part probably would have been easier… but I’m not.)

I’ve been doing public speaking and erotic readings for years, so all of this was familiar and comfortable territory. But it was professional territory. I was deeply immersing myself in the deeply filthy content of my stories… while at the same time, keeping a professional distance from them, and viewing them with an analytical eye.

roller_coasterPlus… well, usually when I do an erotic reading, like at Perverts Put Out or the Godless Perverts Story Hour, I just read one story. Ten minutes, fifteen tops. Doing the audio recording for “Bending” took hours: multiple hours-long sessions over the course of two days. So it had a certain “erotic marathon” quality to it. And it had an “erotic rollercoaster” quality as well: I’d immerse myself in one story, in one set of intense and often deeply freaky sexual scenarios…. and then, immediately, as soon as it was done, I’d switch gears to the next one. I’d get completely engrossed by the intrepid young woman screwing dozens of strangers she found on Craig’s List… and on a dime, I had to switch to the tough dyke humiliating a strange woman in front of an open hotel window. I’d get completely engrossed by the college student and her professor, crossing the line between academic and sexual discipline without ever acknowledging it… and on a dime, I had to switch to the self-absorbed porn star, manipulating her innocent, baby-dyke lover into performing in spanking porn. It was like erotic whiplash. And to manage it, I had to have the emotional and sexual willingness to sink deeply into each story… and the professional willingness to detach from it, and move on immediately to the next one.

The physical setting played into this oddity as well, this bizarre juxtaposition of erotic intensity and professional detachment. A voice recording booth is small. It’s dark. It’s intimate. It’s private, carefully designed to be sealed off from the outside world. It’s just you, in a small dark room, and the recording engineer in a larger, brighter, but still hermetically sealed-off room, with just the one window between you. (In the space I was in, anyway: I don’t know how universal this setup is.) It’s just you, in a small, dark, private room, with the filthy images you spent years honing as vividly as you could, reverberating off the walls and surrounding you. (Not literally reverberating, obviously. Metaphorically.) In some ways, it reminded me of the “talk to a live nude girl” booth where I worked at the Lusty Lady peep show. At the same time, it’s an entirely professional setting: all techy and shit, super-clean, plush and slick, with dials and levers and readouts in the engineer’s room that looked like an airplane cockpit. And the relationship with the recording engineer was 100% professional… necessary, desirable, but in its own way, weird. I’ve never before read my dirty stories to someone who showed so little outward interest in their content. (To this day, I wonder what he thought about the stories. Especially the more seriously fucked-up ones. And especially the one about the unicorn and the rainbow.)

Also… I don’t know if you know this, if you don’t do public speaking yourself you might not, but public speaking is physically demanding. It’s not just emotionally draining: there are physiological reasons why it’s tiring, having to do with the way you breathe when you’re talking versus when you’re not (tl;dr: you don’t take in as much oxygen when you talk). Doing it for an hour is tiring: doing it for hours is exhausting. So it felt like an erotic marathon… but it also felt like the regular kind of marathon. Again reminding me, especially at the end of the recording day when I was fried, that this was work.

I guess in a lot of ways, it was like any other kind of sex work. When I worked as a stripper, I had to maintain a similar blend and balance of sexual engagement with professional detachment. And other sex workers I’ve known — at least, the ones who’ve liked their work and cared about it — have said much the same thing. I just hadn’t expected it here. And because this particular work was so very much my own — because I cared so much about these stories, because I’d put so much work and love into them, because it mattered so much to me to make the audio recordings as first-rate as I possibly could — the intensity, on the eroticism and the professionalism and the weird balance and blend between them, was dialed up to eleven.

I hope it paid off. I think it did.

The audiobook of “Bending: Dirty Kinky Stories About Pain, Power, Religion, Unicorns, & More” is available on Audible and Amazon. The ebook is available on Kindle, Nook, and Smashwords. The print edition is in the works.

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:

6/3:
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)

6/4:
Brute Reason: Greta Christina on Writing Dirty Stories (interview with Miri)

6/5:
Lusty Lady, Rachel Kramer Bussell: Excerpt from Craig’s List (extended excerpt)

6/7:
Charlie Glickman’s Blog: “Discover just how far sexy goes” (brief review/ blurb)

6/10:
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)

6/12:
Passions and Provocations, Pam Rosenthal (a.k.a. Molly Weatherfield): How to Read a Remarkable Work of Erotica (review/ essay)

6/13:
Curvacious Dee’s Blog: Bent Fiction, plus Excerpt from Doing It Over (review, plus extended excerpt)

6/13:
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

6/14:
En Tequila Es Verdad, Dana Hunter’s blog: Why Is Kink Fun? (guest post by me)

6/18:
Under His Hand, Kaya’s blog: Excerpt from This Week (extended excerpts)

6/19:
Heina, Skepchick: Why Atheists Say “God” When They Have Sex (essay)

6/21:
Girl on the Net: Someone else’s story (essay/review)

6/23:
Trollop Salon, Alison Tyler’s interview blog: Greta Christina is in the Salon! (interview plus excerpt)

6/25:
io9: How to Write a Sex Scene Between a Unicorn and a Rainbow (guest post)

6/27:
Maggie Mayhem’s blog: 5 Things That Piss Off This Godless Pervert (guest post)

Compassion for the Religious

This piece was originally published in The Humanist.

“These people bring it on themselves.”

“Their hijinks should be held up as an example.”

“We can’t be soft on these people.”

call 911These are some of the reactions I got when I posted a piece of news on my Facebook page, and wrote my commentary about it. The piece of news: A person had gotten stuck in a consensual but dangerous situation involving unconventional sexuality, had called 911 for help… and then had their story spread all over the Internet, with all the lurid details including the person’s name, when the recording of the 911 call was made public.

These reactions came, as far as I can tell, from atheists. Given the context, they were almost certainly atheists. But their anger and contempt wasn’t directed at the people who had exposed the 911 caller. It wasn’t directed at the people all over the Internet who were ridiculing him. It didn’t come from a humanist embrace of consensual human sexuality, and it wasn’t directed at the people who were dragging this person’s private sex life all over the Internet and taking gleeful pleasure in mocking it.

It was directed at the person who had placed the 911 call. And it was sharing in the Internet’s gleeful pleasure.

Why?

Because the person who made the 911 call was a priest.

He was a priest. And therefore, according to these atheists on my Facebook page, he had abdicated any right to call 911 for help when he was in danger, without having his sex life dragged all over the Internet. He was a hypocrite. Actually, we don’t know that for sure — we don’t know anything about this priest other than what he said in the 911 call, and we don’t know whether he was in a conservative church that practiced a lot of sexual shaming, or a more inclusive one that cherry-picked out the nasty pits of Catholic sexual shame. But he had perpetuated an institution — the Catholic Church — that’s created pointless sexual guilt for exactly the kinds of activities he was engaging in. So on at least some level, he was a hypocrite. And the punishment for religious hypocrisy — according to these people on my Facebook page — should be the public shaming of his private sexuality, and of his call for help. Even if the result is that other people with unconventional sexualities are now more afraid to call 911 if they need help, for fear that they’ll be exposed and humiliated… that’s okay. That’s a price these folks are willing to pay, if it means we can expose a religious sexual hypocrite. Another one. This week.

If you think I’m exaggerating, here are some other comments from the same discussion: “I am glad he was humiliated.” “You deserve whatever embarrassment is heaped upon you when your hypocrisy is revealed… I am glad that I live in a world where that dbag was forced to own up to his hypocrisy.” “It is his and his fellow clergy’s fault that ‘unconventional’ sex is taboo. Fuck him.” “Priests are terrorists and con-men.” “When you know the history of these institutions, you have no sympathy for these people…. Fuck this wrinkled old sack of hypocritical horseshit.”

I found this profoundly upsetting.

Why Are You Atheists So AngryI am, as anyone knows who’s at all familiar with my work, a passionate defender of atheist anger. I literally wrote the book on atheist anger (“Why Are You Atheists So Angry? 99 Things That Piss Off the Godless”). I think anger can be a powerful tool in a social change movement: in fact, I think it’s a necessary one, one that no social change movement I know of has ever been able to do without. I think anger motivates us to correct injustice, to alleviate harm, to make the world a better place. And I can absolutely understand the anger at the sexual hypocrisy of some leaders in the Catholic Church, who shame their followers for the exact sexual practices they themselves partake in. Hell, I share it.

But there’s a difference between anger and hatred.

Here’s the thing. Religion, and the harm that so often comes from it, creates a complex moral paradox: The people who are perpetrating the harmful things about religion are, for the most part, also its victims. And vice versa. Which means — among other things — that we need to have at least some degree of compassion for the people we’re angry at.

The people who traumatize their young children with vivid and horrific images of hell were, themselves, traumatized by those horrors. The religious leaders who fill their flocks with close-minded ignorance and hateful bigotry were, themselves, taught that ignorance and bigotry are divine virtues, dearly treasured by God. The people who are warping the sexuality of their kids and teenagers, filling them with guilt and shame over normal healthy feelings, were, themselves, warped in this same way. The perpetrators of religion are also its victims. And as humanists and atheist activists, we’re supposed to have compassion for the victims of religion.

And a priest who felt he had to be secretive about his unconventional sexuality because it was forbidden by the teachings of his church… that is a perfect example of this principle in action. Sure, if someone is an immensely powerful, truly horrible perpetrator of religion — Osama Bin Laden, Jerry Falwell, the Pope — I could see the anger/ compassion balance tilting pretty strongly in the direction of anger. But a kinky priest who was giving himself pleasure that his Church preaches against? Is that really an appropriate target for our unbridled, contemptuous, take-no-prisoners rage? Talk to the folks at the Clergy Project, the support organization for clergy members who have become atheists. Ask them what it’s like to be a member of the clergy who no longer believes in the teachings of their religion… whether those teachings are, “Kinky sex is bad,” or, “God exists.” Talk to them about how trapped they feel, how isolated, how ashamed, how afraid. And then tell me that they’re terrorists and con-men, that you have no sympathy for them, that their hijinks should be held up as an example, that they deserve whatever embarrassment is heaped upon them, that you are glad for their humiliation.

Our anger about religion is supposed to come from a place of compassion. It’s supposed to come because we see so much dreadful harm committed by religion, and we desperately want to see it end. When anger at religion turns into hatred — and when it becomes so hateful that it gets uncompromisingly aimed at the very people our compassion should be motivated by, simply because they’re part of the toxic system — it has gone seriously wrong.

I do not want an atheist movement where anger at religion is so blind that we lose all compassion for anyone who’s involved in it. I do not want a movement where we reflexively hate all priests so much — without knowing anything about them — that we think it’s okay that they should risk their safety and their life rather than call for help. I do not want a movement where the public humiliation of religious sexual hypocrites is so important to us that we don’t even care that other people, people who aren’t priests but who share this one’s sexual proclivities, are now being made even more afraid to call 911 when they need help.

Reading these Facebook responses… it was like a caricature of atheism, drawn by someone who hates atheists. But it was atheists drawing the caricature themselves. A self-portrait. And it’s not a portrait I want any part of.