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Apr 18 2014

Podcast Interviews with Phil Ferguson at “Skeptic Money” and the Matthew Filipowicz Show!

Hi, podcast fans! I’ve being doing some podcast and radio interviews lately, plugging my new book Coming Out Atheist: How to Do It, How to Help Each Other, and Why — and two of them are up now!

Skeptic-Money-on-Air-LogoThere’s one with Phil Ferguson of the Skeptic Money blog and podcast. We talk about difficulties coming out as an atheist; how coming out is different for different people; what atheists can learn from other atheists’ coming-out stories; how to decide not only when to come out but whether to do it at all; why it’s generally better to come out sooner rather than later if you can; and more.

Matthew-Filipowicz-Show-iconThe other is with the Matthew Filipowicz Show. We talk about why it’s important for atheists for atheists to come out; how coming out makes things better for ourselves and others; a few basic guidelines for coming out; how to deal with arguments about whether God exists; the pros and cons of the “no big deal” method of coming out; methods for coming out in the workplace versus coming out to family and friends; and more; how to support other atheists in coming out; and more. (Matthew’s other guest is Betsy Leondar-Wright, author of Missing Class: Strengthening Social Movement Groups by Seeing Class Cultures, and that’s a really interesting interview as well.)

Enjoy! And once again, here’s ordering information for the book if you’re interested — in ebook, print, and audiobook.

Coming Out Atheist cover 150Ebook 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 Smashwords edition is available on Smashwords. Right now, it’s only available on Smashwords in epub format: I’m working to make it available in other formats.

All ebook editions and formats cost just $9.99.

Print edition:

The print edition is now available through Powell’s Books.

The print edition is also available at Amazon. However, be advised (if you haven’t been already) that seriously abusive labor practices have been reported at Amazon warehouses. Please bear that in mind when you’re deciding where to buy my book — or indeed, where to buy anything. (For the records: Powell’s employees are unionized.) Again, that’s the link for Amazon US — it’s available in other regions as well.

The print edition is $17.95 USD. It is being published by Pitchstone Publishing.

Wholesale sales of the print edition:

Bookstores and other retailers can get the book from Ingram, Baker & Taylor, and other standard wholesale distributors. It can also be purchased directly from the publisher, Pitchstone Publishing.

Audiobook edition:

The audiobook version is available on Audible.

The audiobook is also available through Amazon.

The audiobook is also available through iTunes.

And yes, I did the recording for it!

Apr 18 2014

“How harshly should we judge the Church?”

Trigger warning: Burning at the stake and other torture

In response to my earlier post on the burning at the stake of Giordano Bruno, and modern Catholics who try to rationalize it, I got this comment from petersen:

I think you’re confusing two separate issues: the morality of the action and the blameworthiness of the people who took that action. In the lines from Hess you quote, he says that, in his estimation, the execution of Bruno was wrong. He then points out the *historical* fact that at the time, such executions were accepted. So we can say that the Church acted wrongly. But how harshly should we judge the Church for what it did? When the Church executed Bruno, it was acting within a political-philosophical system that allowed and justified such executions. Such a system does not exist today. So what today seems outrageously immoral would at that time have seemed permissible. Now, we can say that a system like that (i.e., a system that allows executions like Bruno’s,) is a bad one and should not exist. But given that it did exist – and that the Church existed within that system – we cannot judge the Church as harshly for executing Bruno as we could if it did the same thing today. The Church acted in a way consistent with its context. When we’re deciding how blameworthy the Church is, we have to take into account the context in which the action occurred; we cannot simply graft our own standards onto another era’s and blame people accordingly. This doesn’t mean that it wasn’t wrong to burn Bruno. That’s wrong no matter the circumstances. But that the Church’s guilt is lessened by its circumstances – its mitigating circumstances.

Are you freaking serious?

Okay. Let’s take this apart a piece at a time.

I think you’re confusing two separate issues: the morality of the action and the blameworthiness of the people who took that action.

????? That’s what the morality of an action means — how blameworthy (or praiseworthy) the person is who took the action. Yes, some actions are morally complex, and circumstances can affect that. If the morality is complicated, the blameworthiness or praiseworthiness of the people who took the action are complicated, and vice versa. But that’s still what morality means.

In the lines from Hess you quote, he says that, in his estimation, the execution of Bruno was wrong.

Yes. And then he goes on to make excuses for it, to trivialize it, to rationalize it — and to chide “Cosmos” for holding the Church responsible for it.

But how harshly should we judge the Church for what it did? When the Church executed Bruno, it was acting within a political-philosophical system that allowed and justified such executions.

And here’s where we get into the truly ugly meat of the matter.

?????

The Church were, in large part, the ones who created the political-philosophical system. They were largely responsible for it. It’s not like they were serfs in a serfdom. They held the power. They were the ones who created the system that allowed and justified these executions. Why should they not be held responsible for it?

Now, we can say that a system like that (i.e., a system that allows executions like Bruno’s,) is a bad one and should not exist. But given that it did exist – and that the Church existed within that system – we cannot judge the Church as harshly for executing Bruno as we could if it did the same thing today.

YES WE CAN. That is exactly my point. Some things are not only wrong — they are unquestionably wrong, and have always been wrong.

The Church acted in a way consistent with its context. When we’re deciding how blameworthy the Church is, we have to take into account the context in which the action occurred

And once again: They created the context. They were the ones in power.

we cannot simply graft our own standards onto another era’s and blame people accordingly.

YES WE CAN. There are some instances where moral relativism is reasonable. Burning people at the stake is not one of them.

But that the Church’s guilt is lessened by its circumstances – its mitigating circumstances.

They were the ones setting the circumstances. They were the ones in power. And they abused that power in one of the most grotesque ways imaginable. They put Bruno in prison for years. They deliberated carefully, and cold-bloodedly chose to burn him. They paraded him through the streets. When he responded to the screaming crowds, they silenced him by ramming metal spikes through his cheeks and tongue and lips — in the form of a cross. They tied him to a stake. They piled fuel under his feet. They set him on fire. They watched as he burned to death. (As the people who try to terrorize kids about Hell say: Think about what it feels like to have your hand in a flame for even a second — and now think about what it would feel like to have your entire body in flames, and to be helpless to escape from it, and to have it continue for as long as it took to end your life.) They did this in public — as spectacle, and as warning to others. And they did all this, solely and entirely, because they didn’t like the fact that he openly disagreed with their opinions. To speak of how their “guilt is lessened” by “mitigating circumstances” is morally repugnant.

What they did was wrong. It was terribly, horribly wrong. It was vile and despicable. It was among the worst things human beings could possibly do to other human beings, and for among the worst possible reasons. How hard is it to just say that? How hard is it to say it, with no minimizing, rationalization, or excuses?

What the hell is wrong with you?

Apr 17 2014

“Greta Christina has a question for closeted atheists”: Religion News Service Story on “Coming Out Atheist”

(RNS) Greta Christina has a question for closeted atheists: Ask your openly gay and lesbian friends if their lives are better for coming out.

The answer, almost universally, she claims, is yes.

That’s the message of her new book, “Coming Out Atheist: How to Do It, How to Help Each Other, and Why.” A well-known atheist activist, author, blogger and speaker, Christina will speak at the American Atheists convention in Salt Lake City this weekend (April 17-20), an event geared to raising the public profile of those who do not believe in God.

Coming Out Atheist coverThus begins the story on Religion News Service — the wire service for news stories about religion — on my new book Coming Out Atheist: New book exhorts atheists to ‘come out’ of the closet.

It’s a good story: it covers both how atheists are stigmatized and why coming out helps. And it does a good job drawing parallels between the atheist movement and the LGBT movement — which I think makes the story more personal, and gets the issues across to people who might not be familiar with them. Many thanks to the story’s author, Kimberly Winston!

So I have a quick favor to ask y’all. If you — or anyone you know — works for a newspaper that uses wire service stories, please let them know about this! Getting this into mainstream papers could get out the word about the book — and the ideas in it — to a lot of people who aren’t cued into organized atheism and might not otherwise hear about it. (The RNS story about Grief Beyond Belief was how it got into USA Today.) This piece has been picked up by the Washington Post — if more papers pick it up, it could get the word out to more people who really need it. Thanks!

And here, once again, is ordering information for the book if you’re interested — in ebook, print, and audiobook.

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 Smashwords edition is available on Smashwords. Right now, it’s only available on Smashwords in epub format: I’m working to make it available in other formats.

All ebook editions and formats cost just $9.99.

Print edition:

The print edition is now available through Powell’s Books.

The print edition is also available at Amazon. However, be advised (if you haven’t been already) that seriously abusive labor practices have been reported at Amazon warehouses. Please bear that in mind when you’re deciding where to buy my book — or indeed, where to buy anything. (For the records: Powell’s employees are unionized.) Again, that’s the link for Amazon US — it’s available in other regions as well.

The print edition is $17.95 USD. It is being published by Pitchstone Publishing.

Wholesale sales of the print edition:

Bookstores and other retailers can get the book from Ingram, Baker & Taylor, and other standard wholesale distributors. It can also be purchased directly from the publisher, Pitchstone Publishing.

Audiobook edition:

The audiobook version is available on Audible.

The audiobook is also available through Amazon.

The audiobook is also available through iTunes.

And yes, I did the recording for it!

Apr 17 2014

Special SSA Student Discount for “Coming Out Atheist”!

Coming Out Atheist coverAre you a student in a Secular Student Alliance group? If so, you can get my new book, Coming Out Atheist: How to Do It, How to Help Each Other, and Why, at a special discount rate!

We — that is to say, myself and my publisher, Pitchstone Publishing — understand just how important the student atheist movement is to the atheist movement as a whole: both for its future, and for its present. We also understand that coming out can be particularly challenging for atheist students. And we understand that money can be particularly challenging for students as well.

So Pitchstone is generously offering a student discount on Coming Out Atheist: How to Do It, How to Help Each Other, and Why. (The print edition, that is, not the ebook or audiobook.) If Secular Student Alliance groups buy five (5) or more copies at once directly from Pitchstone, they’ll sell them to you at a 40% discount off the $17.95 cover price. Plus they’ll give you free shipping! (Free shipping only applies to groups in the United States.)

To take advantage of this offer, or to find out more, email [email protected]

And if you’re not a student in a Secular Student Alliance group, you can still buy the book! Just not at the student discount. Here’s ordering information. Enjoy!

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 Smashwords edition is available on Smashwords. Right now, it’s only available on Smashwords in epub format: I’m working to make it available in other formats.

All ebook editions and formats cost just $9.99.

Print edition:

The print edition is now available through Powell’s Books.

The print edition is also available at Amazon. However, be advised (if you haven’t been already) that seriously abusive labor practices have been reported at Amazon warehouses. Please bear that in mind when you’re deciding where to buy my book — or indeed, where to buy anything. (For the records: Powell’s employees are unionized.) Again, that’s the link for Amazon US — it’s available in other regions as well.

You can also get it through your local bookstore — it’s being distributed by standard wholesalers (including Ingram and Baker & Taylor), and most bookstores should be able to get it.

The print edition is $17.95 USD. It is being published by Pitchstone Publishing.

Wholesale sales of the print edition:

Bookstores and other retailers can get the book from Ingram, Baker & Taylor, and other standard wholesale distributors. It can also be purchased directly from the publisher, Pitchstone Publishing.

Audiobook edition:

The audiobook version is available on Audible. And yes, I did the recording for it! (It will very likely be on Amazon and iTunes soon.)

Here, by the way, is the description of the book, and some wonderfully flattering blurbs. Read the rest of this entry »

Apr 17 2014

How Religious Fundamentalism, Ironically, Leads to a Screwed-Up Moral Relativism

Trigger warning: Burning at the stake and other torture

It is odd therefore that Cosmos focuses almost exclusively on the marginal case of Giordano Bruno. Of course, I am not defending Bruno’s persecution and death—no decent human being now would ever condone burning a person alive for any reason. Moreover, in 2014 we view legitimate theological dissent very differently than did our ancestors.

But the circumstances were quite different 400 years ago. According to the 16th century Italian legal code and the customs of Renaissance politics, Bruno was judged by an ecclesiastical court to be an obdurate heretic for refusing to cease in promulgating his theological ideas. As such he was deserving of capital punishment and was turned over for execution by the civil arm in Rome. In the 21st century we inhabit a very different era, a religiously pluralistic age of largely secular states in which the nature and exercise of authority are vastly different than they were in Post-Reformation Italy.
-Peter Hess, co-author of Catholicism and Science, for the NCSE blog, commenting on the new TV show, “Cosmos”

giordano bruno burning at stakeI see. Circumstances were different 400 years ago. According to the 16th century Italian legal code. We inhabit a very different era. So therefore, it’s not reasonable or fair to criticize the Catholic Church of the 16th century for burning Giordano Bruno at the stake.

It’s hard not to read this, and think about all the religious believers who insist that without belief in God, we would have no solid foundation for morality.

It hadn’t occurred to me before in quite this way. But religious fundamentalism and dogma doesn’t just often end up being morally relativistic in some screwed-up ways. It positively demands it. If you’re going to insist that a holy book written hundreds or thousands of years ago is the permanent and perfect moral guidebook written by God — then you’re stuck with defending behaviors that were considered ethical and even admirable at the time they were written, but that we now recognize as morally repulsive.

It’s a funny thing. Religious believers — especially the fundamentalist ones, or the ones attached to specific religious dogma or an authoritative religious structure — are always going on about the horrors of secular moral relativism. They’re always going on about how, without a belief in an ultimate divine moral arbiter, we would be morally lost: unmoored, unanchored, unable to distinguish right from wrong, basing our moral choices solely on what we find immediately self-serving or convenient.

But it isn’t the atheists who are excusing, defending, minimizing, and rationalizing the burning at the stake of Giordano Bruno. Read the rest of this entry »

Apr 17 2014

“A Must-Read Book”: Kaveh Mousavi on “Coming Out Atheist”

I saw a fundamental respect for all of these different walks of life in the book. Greta Christina never goes off the grid, assuming things about people, forcing a view from a dramatic point of view. This is not a revolutionary book, written with the content to enlist as many soldiers to the cause with disregard to their individuality and safety – Greta Christina very clearly states that “we want no martyrs”. This is not a pamphlet. There is genuine sense of concern for the safety and well-being of the reader. It’s a humane and empathetic book. Ultimately, that’s even more reason to love this book.

On the On the Margin of Error blog, Kaveh Mousavi has written a review of Coming Out Atheist: How to Do It, How to Help Each Other, and Why — one that’s both very flattering and very thoughtful. I’m going to give you one more quote, where he talks about why this book is valuable even to atheists who are already out:

Of course, I’m not the intended reader of this book – I’m an already an “out” atheist, in a situation that being out is not quite pleasant, so I need no convincing that coming out is a good thing to do, and I have already burned all the bridges so coming out tips may not be useful to me now because it’s too late – but this book is quite valuable for another reason. To me the main value of this book was that it helped me to understand other atheists from other walks of life and their struggle better. I could understand things like struggling with families and friends, etc.

Coming Out Atheist cover 150Mousavi is an atheist in Iran, and his perspective on the book’s “Theocracies (Overt and De Facto)” chapter is particularly insightful. I researched that chapter extra-carefully, and was happy with how it came out (as is Mousavi) — but I am wishing I’d gotten his input before I finalized the book. He has ideas and perspectives on the topic that are very valuable. If I write a second edition, I’ll almost certainly incorporate it. Check it out!

Here’s ordering info for the book, in all formats — ebook, print, and audiobook.

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 Smashwords edition is available on Smashwords. Right now, it’s only available on Smashwords in epub format: I’m working to make it available in other formats.

All ebook editions and formats cost just $9.99.

Print edition:

The print edition is now available through Powell’s Books.

The print edition is also available at Amazon. However, be advised (if you haven’t been already) that seriously abusive labor practices have been reported at Amazon warehouses. Please bear that in mind when you’re deciding where to buy my book — or indeed, where to buy anything. (For the records: Powell’s employees are unionized.) Again, that’s the link for Amazon US — it’s available in other regions as well.

You can also get it through your local bookstore — it’s being distributed by standard wholesalers (including Ingram and Baker & Taylor), and most bookstores should be able to get it.

The print edition is $17.95 USD. It is being published by Pitchstone Publishing.

Wholesale sales of the print edition:

Bookstores and other retailers can get the book from Ingram, Baker & Taylor, and other standard wholesale distributors. It can also be purchased directly from the publisher, Pitchstone Publishing.

Audiobook edition:

The audiobook version is available on Audible. And yes, I did the recording for it! (It will very likely be on Amazon and iTunes soon.)

Apr 16 2014

“Coming Out Atheist” Is Out!

Coming Out Atheist: How to Do It, How to Help Each Other, and Why is now available!

Coming Out Atheist cover

Coming Out Atheist: How to Do It, How to Help Each Other, and Why, my guidebook to coming out as an atheist and supporting one another in doing it, is now available! It’s available in ebook, print, and audiobook editions. Here’s the ordering info! If you know people who you think would be interested in this book — please spread the word!

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 Smashwords edition is available on Smashwords. Right now, it’s only available on Smashwords in epub format: I’m working to make it available in other formats.

All ebook editions and formats cost just $9.99.

Print edition:

The print edition is now available through Powell’s Books.

The print edition is also available at Amazon. However, be advised (if you haven’t been already) that seriously abusive labor practices have been reported at Amazon warehouses. Please bear that in mind when you’re deciding where to buy my book — or indeed, where to buy anything. (For the records: Powell’s employees are unionized.) Again, that’s the link for Amazon US — it’s available in other regions as well.

You can also get it through your local bookstore — it’s being distributed by standard wholesalers (including Ingram and Baker & Taylor), and most bookstores should be able to get it.

The print edition is $17.95 USD. It is being published by Pitchstone Publishing.

Wholesale sales of the print edition:

Bookstores and other retailers can get the book from Ingram, Baker & Taylor, and other standard wholesale distributors. It can also be purchased directly from the publisher, Pitchstone Publishing.

Audiobook edition:

The audiobook version is available on Audible.

The audiobook is also available through Amazon.

The audiobook is also available through iTunes.

And yes, I did the recording for it!

Here is the description of the book, and some wonderfully flattering blurbs.

*

Coming out as an atheist is a powerful, liberating act. It makes life better for yourself, for other atheists, and for the world. But telling people you’re an atheist can be risky. What are the best ways to do it? And how can we help each other take this step?

In this compassionate, friendly, down-to-earth how-to guide, popular author and blogger Greta Christina (Why Are You Atheists So Angry? 99 Things That Piss Off the Godless) offers concrete strategies and guiding philosophies for coming out as an atheist. Based on hundreds of coming-out stories, the book offers a map of the territory atheists are likely to encounter — and ideas on how to pick the path that’s best for you.

This accessible, empathetic guide reflects a wide range of atheist coming-out experiences. It includes dedicated chapters on:

Family
Friends
Spouses and Partners
Work
The Internet
Parents
Students
Conservative Communities
The Already Marginalized
and much more.

For atheists who are already out, it gives practical ideas on how to help others join you in the sunlight. And for atheists who are on the fence, it offers guidance on making that decision — and gentle encouragement to take that step.

Inspiring and realistic, kind and powerful, Coming Out Atheist is the much-needed guidebook atheists have been waiting for.

Author Greta Christina is donating 10% of her income from this book to atheist organizations, charities, and projects.

REVIEWS

“Witty, wise, helpful, and humane, this clear and engaging book is most timely. ‘Coming Out Atheist’ is a great resource for the many Americans out there who have rejected religious faith and are moving towards embracing, acknowledging, and proclaiming their atheism.”
-Phil Zuckerman, Ph.D., author of “Faith No More: Why People Reject Religion” and “Society Without God: What the Least Religious Nations Can Tell Us About Contentment” Read the rest of this entry »

Apr 15 2014

“They’re supposed to be stand-ins for all people.”

noah still

Ari Handel, co-screenwriter of the movie “Noah,” on why the cast was all-white:

From the beginning, we were concerned about casting, the issue of race. What we realized is that this story is functioning at the level of myth, and as a mythical story, the race of the individuals doesn’t matter. They’re supposed to be stand-ins for all people. Either you end up with a Bennetton ad or the crew of the Starship Enterprise.

And then:

You either try to put everything in there, which just calls attention to it, or you just say, “Let’s make that not a factor, because we’re trying to deal with everyman.” Looking at this story through that kind of lens is the same as saying, “Would the ark float and is it big enough to get all the species in there?” That’s irrelevant to the questions because the questions are operating on a different plane than that; they’re operating on the mythical plane.

Because white people are “stand-ins for all people.” White people are “everyman.” Whereas people of color or a mixed-race cast “calls attention” to race.

He actually said this. In words.

Jesus. Fucking. Christ.

In case you were in any doubt about how whiteness is seen as normal and default, and non-whiteness is seen as other: This.

You know what? If the issue of race “doesn’t matter” and is “irrelevant,” then why not make a mixed-race cast? If it doesn’t matter, then how about not being a racist douchebag?

And the thing that really gets to me — well, a thing that really gets to me — is that they actually thought about this. This wasn’t just generic, unconscious, reflexive racism of thoughtless omission. They actually considered this question carefully — and after this careful consideration, decided to make white people the mythical, iconic stand-ins for all of humanity.

Oh, and for the record: There are, in fact, people who find mixed casts to be, you know, representative of humanity, and who find all-white casts distracting and weird.

Apr 15 2014

Some Thoughts on Beauty and Ownership

“At last, something beautiful you can truly own.”

jaguar xke in mad menThis is the fictional tagline that Sterling Cooper Draper Price comes up with for the Jaguar ad campaign in “Mad Men.” (It’s in the episode The Other Woman — warning, synopsis has spoilers. Yes, I’m re-watching old episodes, it’s getting me caught up on where we are in the new season.)

And it’s gotten me thinking: What does beauty mean?

So the idea behind this tagline, and the ad campaign, and indeed this entire episode, is that the Jaguar XKE is like a mistress: beautiful, sexy, desirable, impractical, temperamental, unpredictable. And the tagline is, “At last, something beautiful you can truly own.” The implication being that you can’t really own beautiful women, and that many men feel this is a sad sad thing (one of the major themes of this episode) — but you can own a Jaguar XKE. You can get that sense of deep satisfaction from it — and you can keep it, and own it, and have that experience of beauty whenever you like.

But the thing is, as Michael Ginsberg himself says (the copywriter who comes up with the campaign and the tagline): It isn’t just people who you can’t own and keep. It isn’t just people who are elusive and changeable. Possessions are like that, too. Or at least, the experiences of pleasure we get from possession are like that. As Michael says when he’s pitching this idea to Don: Even very rich men, who already own many beautiful things, are still dissatisfied. The beautiful things they have aren’t enough. The Jaguar ad promises that this thing — finally, at long last, unlike all the other things — will satisfy their longing for the unattainable.

It’s a false promise, of course. And I started thinking about why that is.

Beauty is, literally, in the eye of the beholder. And by that, I don’t mean that it’s a matter of taste or opinion (although of course, that’s also true). I don’t mean that different people experience different things as more or less beautiful, or that duck-billed platypuses see each other as beautiful and see us as fugly. Well, what I mean is close to that.

I mean that the experience of beauty is literally in the eye, or the brain, of the beholder.

I mean that beauty is an experience.

And that means that it can’t be owned, or kept, or held onto.

Some objects or people are “more beautiful,” in that they’re more likely than others to evoke that experience in more people. But the beauty doesn’t really reside in the objects or the people. It resides in the mind and the heart and the body of the beholder. And trying to hold and own and keep this experience of beauty is actually what makes it slip through our fingers. Letting transitory experiences be what they are is what lets them sink in deeply and resonate throughout our lives. Struggling to keep them, to make them permanent, is what makes them slip away — and makes us miss the point.

megan-don-draper-mad-menIt’s one of the themes of this episode (and indeed of the entire freaking series). When we try to hold and own and keep the people in our lives who give us pleasure and satisfaction and a sense of beauty, we actually drive them away. And when we take them for granted, when we act as if they’re ours forever and we never have to do anything else to keep them around, we drive them away. It’s only by letting people be who they are, by not taking them for granted and respecting their right to make their own damn decisions, that we deepen our connections with them — and increase the chances that they’ll stick around. If you love something, set it free, and all that. Except that if it comes back, it still isn’t yours. It never was. We don’t own each other. We can’t.

blue suede shoesEven with objects, ownership often doesn’t work. Often, the experience of beauty is one of surprise. We tend to get inured to the beautiful things that are all around us. (I think this is one of the reasons I like buying new clothes and putting together new outfits: I like seeing myself in a new way, so I can more easily see myself as beautiful.) Part of the experience of beauty is the experience of the extraordinary — and when something is in our life every day, it becomes ordinary. We can find the extraordinary in the everyday, but it takes more work.

And you know how, if you’ve had an amazing vacation someplace, you often have this desire to try to re-create it, to go back to the same hotel and eat at the same restaurants and visit the same museums — but if you do, it isn’t the same? And if the place is amazing again, it’s because you did something different, or saw something you weren’t expecting? That.

We can certainly load the dice. We can own beautiful objects. We can make connections with beautiful people (beautiful in all senses of the word, not just physical). We can create beautiful experiences for ourselves — or experiences that are likely to be beautiful. We can work to make a life that is more likely to create the experience of beauty.

We can own beautiful things. But we can’t own beauty.

Apr 15 2014

“Witty, wise, helpful, and humane”: Phil Zuckerman’s Blurb for “Coming Out Atheist”

Coming Out Atheist cover 150“Witty, wise, helpful, and humane, this clear and engaging book is most timely. Coming Out Atheist is a great resource for the many Americans out there who have rejected religious faith and are moving towards embracing, acknowledging, and proclaiming their atheism.”
-Phil Zuckerman, Ph.D., author of Faith No More: Why People Reject Religion and Society Without God: What the Least Religious Nations Can Tell Us About Contentment

Another nice blurb for Coming Out Atheist: How to Do It, How to Help Each Other, and Why. Thanks, Phil!

The book is being published on April 16, in all formats — print, ebook, and audiobook. Here’s ordering information for all three formats. Enjoy!

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