More Atheist Leaders Who Aren’t Dawkins or Harris: Vic Wang

In June, I wrote a piece for AlterNet, titled 8 Awesome Atheist Leaders Who Aren’t Richard Dawkins or Sam Harris. The gist: When a media outlet decides that atheism is important, they all too often turn to Richard Dawkins or Sam Harris. Then, when Dawkins or Harris puts their foot in their mouth about race or gender — again — the reporter cries out, “Atheism needs better leadership! Why doesn’t atheism have better leaders?” Atheism does have better leaders — so I profiled eight of them, to bring just a small fragment of the range and variety of atheist leadership to more people’s attention.

At the end of that piece, I wrote, “And these eight are the tip of the iceberg… I could write a new profile of a different atheist leader every week, and still be at it ten years from now.”

So I decided: Why not do that?

I don’t know if I’ll do it for ten years. But for at least a while, once a week I’ll be profiling and interviewing a different leader in organized atheism.

This week’s profile: Vic Wang.

GC: Tell me briefly what your organization does and what you do for them. (If you’re in a leadership position with more than one atheist organization, feel free to tell me about more than one.)

Vic WangVW: I’m currently the President of Humanists of Houston. We’re a chapter of the American Humanist Association and host events such as guest speakers, discussion groups, book clubs, volunteer outings, activism, and social gatherings. We average around 20-25 events per month and we’re currently at almost 1,900 Meetup members, making us the second largest AHA chapter on the Meetup network (and on pace to become the largest by the end of the year).

As President I basically oversee all aspects of the organization, both in “real life” and online across our social media presence (Meetup, Youtube, Facebook, Twitter, etc), as well as our in-person monthly board meetings.

I also have a blog at deusxed.wordpress.com where I write about humanism, religion, and secularism.

Tell me about a specific project or projects your organization is working on.

We’ve been collaborating with Atheists Helping the Homeless to hold monthly giveaways of supplies to the homeless, usually serving around 40-50 people per giveaway. We’ve also held numerous demonstrations outside the Saudi Arabian Consulate in support of Raif Badawi, the Saudi blogger who was sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes for advocating secular values online. We recently completed a fundraiser for Camp Quest Texas, where we raised over $3,000 from our members to help underprivileged children attend the camp, which turned out to be the most ever raised by an organization in a single year. And we recently had a booth at the Houston Pride festival as well as a float in the Pride Parade, which I believe was a first in the history of the Houston freethought community.

Where would you like to see organized atheism go in the next 10 to 20 years?

Vic Wang Humanists of HoustonI’d love to continue seeing further diversification of the freethought community. I’d love to see further growth in the community, both in terms of numbers and in resources. I’d love to see local freethought groups throughout the country with their own facilities and paid staff positions, enabling us to provide services at the level that have traditionally been the exclusive domain of churches and “mainstream” non-profits. I’d love for there to be vastly more opportunities for people to be full-time freethought activists, without being limited to the national organizations or needing to necessarily be a “big name” in the movement. Of course, on the other hand if the secularization of society continues to the point where the need for explicitly atheistic organizations disappears, I can live with that too.

What do you think are the main challenges facing organized atheism now?

One challenge I’ve observed involves the rise of what have been loosely referred to as “atheist churches”. The idea of taking the best of what churches have to offer and stripping away the supernatural elements sounds great in principle (one analogy I’ve heard is a person who finds a rock in their shoe, and tosses out the rock instead of the entire shoe). But consider the problems we’ve seen (and continue to see) throughout the church world: groupthink, tribalism, hero worship, shunning, willful ignorance of leadership abuses… These failings aren’t necessarily tied to a god belief or supernaturalism; if anything they’re pitfalls that everyone is susceptible to, and secular organizations certainly aren’t immune. So, is simply tossing out the supernaturalism enough? Or are there other aspects of the church format/structure which, if left unchecked, tend to reinforce these behaviors and leave people even more susceptible to these failings? Unfortunately I suspect the answer is yes, and that this is an issue we’re going to see even more of going forward.

Then of course there’s the ongoing rift between those in the freethought community who embrace positive humanistic values, and those who don’t (and in some cases outright reject them, or even reject the “humanist” label entirely). Fortunately it seems that the vast majority of atheists (and the overwhelming majority of those who consider themselves humanists) believe in actively working to make the world better, including supporting the fight for equal rights, promoting altruism, and demonstrating compassion for disadvantaged groups. But those who don’t share those values seem to be disproportionately vocal — particularly online — which I think leads to a skewed perception of what the freethought community is about.

Do you consider yourself a “new atheist”? Why or why not?

It depends on the context, really; when I encounter people pushing their religious views in a dishonest or bigoted way, I have no problem with calling them out on it. And on my blog, I certainly don’t hold back in my critiques of religion.

But really, outside of those contexts I rarely spend much time criticizing religion in my day to day life, or even really bring it up at all. And as an organization (HOH), we’ve certainly made a conscious effort to show that our goal is to promote positive secular humanistic values, as opposed to being just an “anti-religious” group. Not that it isn’t an important part of humanism to be skeptical of religious claims and call out the harms that religion causes, of course. But we’ve made it clear that we’d much rather be defined by the positive values we believe in as opposed to the supernatural ones we don’t.


Comforting Thoughts book cover oblong 100 JPGComing Out Atheist Bendingwhy are you atheists so angryGreta Christina is author of four books: Comforting Thoughts About Death That Have Nothing to Do with God, Coming Out Atheist: How to Do It, How to Help Each Other, and Why, Why Are You Atheists So Angry? 99 Things That Piss Off the Godless, and Bending: Dirty Kinky Stories About Pain, Power, Religion, Unicorns, & More.

An Encouraging Word to Atheists in Conservative Areas

red state blue state by county credit michael gastnerI spend a lot of time traveling around the U.S., giving talks to atheist groups. I’ve spent a lot of time talking with the people in these groups — especially with the organizers. And I’ve noticed some patterns. With the caveat that these are just my own personal observations and not any kind of careful scientific study, and with the caveat that there are many exceptions to these patterns, I’ve noticed the following.

The strongest, healthiest atheist groups, with the most members, the most volunteers, the widest variety of activities, the most visibility, the most staying power of members, the members who seem happiest with the group and most committed to it, tend to be either:

a) Groups that have strong, energetic leaders with good social skills,

and/or b) Groups in conservative areas.

I’m going to say that again: All other things being equal (which of course they never are), the strongest, largest, healthiest, most robust atheist groups in the United States tend to be the ones in conservative areas.

I’m repeating that observation, and stressing it, because of another pattern I’ve noticed: When I talk with members of atheist groups in conservative areas, even when I talk with the leaders of those groups, they often seem surprised that their group is doing so well. They often say things like, “This area is actually pretty conservative. I’m kind of surprised that our group is so large and healthy.”

And I always reply: I am not in the least bit surprised. This surprised me a bit when I first started traveling around the country speaking to atheist groups — but I’ve now seen it over and over and over again. And it now makes perfect sense.

Conservative regions are where atheist communities are needed most. In conservative regions, the social and economic and political life is often built around religion, and religion is deeply woven into it. The places people go to for social support, for political and business networking, just to hang out with friends, are often religious. The places people go to do charitable and social justice work, for themselves and for others, are often religious. Even the entertainment and activities, the things to see and do, are often built around religion. In conservative regions, the religion itself is more likely to be conservative — and thus more likely to be oppressive. There’s a lot more anti-atheist hostility. Atheists are more likely to feel isolated, alienated, like they can never speak their minds or be themselves. Etc., etc., etc.

Conservative regions are where atheist communities are needed most. It’s not in the least bit surprising that that’s where atheist groups tend to be strongest. There are exceptions, of course: there are some very strong atheist communities in some fairly liberal parts of the country (Minneapolis leaps to mind). But as a general trend, this pattern is very striking.

I’m saying this for a couple of reasons. One: I want to make sure atheists in conservative regions don’t assume they’re alone.

arkansas mapI’m remembering a conversation at the atheist caucus of Creating Change, the big annual LGBT conference in the U.S. One of the people at the caucus, someone who wasn’t very familiar with organized atheism, said they lived in Arkansas — and they were sure they were the only atheist in Arkansas. In response, the professional atheists at the caucus practically fell over each other to reassure that person: No, you are definitely not the only atheist in Arkansas. Not only are you not the only atheist in Arkansas — there’s an atheist community in Arkansas. There’s probably more than one. And in fact, the atheist groups in Arkansas stand a good chance of being pretty robust.

I want to make sure atheists in conservative regions know they’re not alone. I want them to Google “Atheists in Arkansas,” “Atheists in Kansas,” “Atheists in Arizona.” I want them to go to Meetup and search for atheist groups in their area. I want them to go looking for communities if they need and want them; I want them to just have the reassurance that these communities exist.

The second reason I’m saying this: I want atheists in conservative regions to start more atheist groups.

I want atheists in conservative regions to know they’re not alone — and I want them to know that starting an atheist group is not a waste of time. If there isn’t an atheist group super-close to them, if the nearest atheist group is in the biggest city in the state and it’s an hour or two drive away — I want them to consider just starting one up.

If you’re a strong, energetic leader with good social skills, and if you think you’d make a good leader of an atheist community, I don’t I want you thinking, “That’s a waste of time. There’s no way an atheist group will take off here. It’s too conservative. It’s too religious.” If you live in a conservative, very religious part of the country — that is exactly the kind of place where atheist communities thrive.

There are other reasons you might decide not to start an atheist group. You may decide that it’s too risky, that you can’t afford the blowback, that you don’t have the time. But please, please, DO NOT assume that it’s a waste of time. If you’re a strong, energetic leader with good social skills, and you’re in a conservative area — you are exactly the right person, in exactly the right place. The community you start stands an excellent chance of surviving, of thriving, and of being awesome.

(Red state/blue state map by Michael Gastner, via Wikimedia Commons.)


Comforting Thoughts book cover oblong 100 JPGComing Out Atheist Bendingwhy are you atheists so angryGreta Christina is author of four books: Comforting Thoughts About Death That Have Nothing to Do with God, Coming Out Atheist: How to Do It, How to Help Each Other, and Why, Why Are You Atheists So Angry? 99 Things That Piss Off the Godless, and Bending: Dirty Kinky Stories About Pain, Power, Religion, Unicorns, & More.

More Atheist Leaders Who Aren’t Dawkins or Harris: Jim G. Helton

In June, I wrote a piece for AlterNet, titled 8 Awesome Atheist Leaders Who Aren’t Richard Dawkins or Sam Harris. The gist: When a media outlet decides that atheism is important, they all too often turn to Richard Dawkins or Sam Harris. Then, when Dawkins or Harris puts their foot in their mouth about race or gender — again — the reporter cries out, “Atheism needs better leadership! Why doesn’t atheism have better leaders?” Atheism does have better leaders — so I profiled eight of them, to bring just a small fragment of the range and variety of atheist leadership to more people’s attention.

At the end of that piece, I wrote, “And these eight are the tip of the iceberg… I could write a new profile of a different atheist leader every week, and still be at it ten years from now.”

So I decided: Why not do that?

I don’t know if I’ll do it for ten years. But for at least a while, once a week I’ll be profiling and interviewing a different leader in organized atheism.

This week’s profile: Jim G. Helton.

GC: Tell me briefly what your organization does and what you do for them. (If you’re in a leadership position with more than one atheist organization, feel free to tell me about more than one.)

Jim G HeltonJH: I’m Founder & President of the Tri-State Freethinkers, Regional Director in Kentucky for American Atheists, and consultant for the Secular Student Alliance. I also oversee legislation for Kentucky, Ohio, Indiana, Wyoming, & Washington for Hemant Mehta, in which he gave me my favorite title, Overlord.

The group that I spend most of my time with is the Tri-State Freethinkers. We are a local group that has members from Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana. Our group can most easily be summarized through the acronym A.C.E.S., which stands for Activism, Community, Education, and Social. We provide a community for people and have been repeatedly praised for our well-rounded activities.

Tell me about a specific project or projects your organization is working on.

Equal Rights and separation of church and state are the two biggest issues we tend to tackle. They seem to go hand in hand. We have also partnered with several other organizations who are helping people in the community, including Planned Parenthood. We have taken a stance on several social issues, such as the humane treatment of animals and trying to stop the death penalty in Ohio.

Abstinence Only Sex Ed: Eliminating abstinence only sex education in public schools. We have had success with my son’s school. We are working on some of the districts now with the goal to be to take this to the state level next year.

Gideons Bibles: We have successfully challenged bible distributions in several public schools in Kentucky by passing out humanist and atheist books. As long as the press covers the event the Gideons cannot show up, according to their own by-laws.

CEDAW: The Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women. We helped get this resolution passed this spring and are hoping to have the ordinance passed this fall with funding. A couple key points from CEDAW are equal pay for women, access to healthcare, domestic violence support, and stopping human trafficking.

Baptists Park: The Mayor of Cincinnati has proposed to build a park on church property. We have sent a letter and contacted the FFRF.

Feeding the homeless: We have been working on a farm, growing fresh produce for those in need. Next month we are going to feed around 150 people. This includes buying all the food, preparing it, and distributing it.

Where would you like to see organized atheism go in the next 10 to 20 years?

I would like to see it organized enough to not only take on atheist issues, but also tackle social issues and have the power to effect elections. We are starting to see some of the national and local organizations work together on projects such as the Reason Rally. I would like this type of cooperation to happen on a regular basis.

What do you think are the main challenges facing organized atheism now?

Tri State Freethinkers at Pride ParadeThe main challenge I see for local groups is that it’s usually one person leading the charge, and if something happens to that one person or that person burns out, the organization falls apart. A true leader has the ability to inspire others and get a lot more people involved. We need to prepare future leaders so the movement doesn’t skip a beat.

Do you consider yourself a “new atheist”? Why or why not?

Yes, because I have only been an atheist for less than three years. I think the difference with “new atheism” is that we are no longer staying silent — we are much more organized. Many more people are coming out of the closet every day.

Any questions you wish I’d asked, or anything else you’d like to add?

Advice I can give other leaders of organizations: There are a lot of good leaders out there doing amazing things. What separates the great leaders from the good leaders is the ability to inspire others. There are too many grassroots groups where the leader of the organization does everything. The reason the Tri-State Freethinkers have been so successful is we have built a team. I wanted to change the world and I thought the best place to start was in my own backyard.


Comforting Thoughts book cover oblong 100 JPGComing Out Atheist Bendingwhy are you atheists so angryGreta Christina is author of four books: Comforting Thoughts About Death That Have Nothing to Do with God, Coming Out Atheist: How to Do It, How to Help Each Other, and Why, Why Are You Atheists So Angry? 99 Things That Piss Off the Godless, and Bending: Dirty Kinky Stories About Pain, Power, Religion, Unicorns, & More.

The Patheos Atheist Channel is Not the Enemy

In the wake of Ed Brayton leaving Freethought Blogs for the Patheos Atheist channel, some people are apparently targeting the entire channel as terrible. This is both unnecessary and inaccurate. Yes, there are some jerks at Patheos Atheist. There are also excellent atheist bloggers there. Many of them are serious social justice advocates. Excellent bloggers at Patheos Atheist include (please note that this is not ane exhaustive list):

Sincere Kirabo, Notes from an Apostate
Alix Jules, The Graffiti Wall
Adam Lee, Daylight Atheism
James Croft, Temple of the Future
Libby Anne, Love Joy Feminism
Kylie Sturgess, Token Skeptic

And of course, Ed Brayton, Dispatches from the Culture Wars.

This isn’t war, people. It’s not even a football rivalry or Coke vs. Pepsi. There is plenty of room in the atheist blogosphere for more than one blog network.

Here’s a link to the Patheos Atheist channel. Ignore the jerks, and check it out.


Comforting Thoughts book cover oblong 100 JPGComing Out Atheist Bendingwhy are you atheists so angryGreta Christina is author of four books: Comforting Thoughts About Death That Have Nothing to Do with God, Coming Out Atheist: How to Do It, How to Help Each Other, and Why, Why Are You Atheists So Angry? 99 Things That Piss Off the Godless, and Bending: Dirty Kinky Stories About Pain, Power, Religion, Unicorns, & More.

Sad News: Ed Brayton is Leaving Freethought Blogs

Sad news: Ed Brayton, blogger at Dispatches from the Culture Wars and the creator of Freethought Blogs, is leaving the network. He’ll now be blogging at the Patheos Atheism channel. He’s turned over control of the Freethought Blogs network to the FTB executive committee.

So why am I leaving? Also omnipresent since the start of FTB, as I’m sure you well know, has been controversy. The bloggers here have often gone on crusades and launched battles, most of them necessary and justified. But along with that has come a great deal of drama and stress. I’ve endured several threats of lawsuits against me as the owner of the network over the words and actions of others. I’ve had continual demands that I do something about this or that blogger, that I throw them off the network or censor them. I’ve been caught in the crossfire of a great many fights, continually taking shrapnel in battles that I wasn’t even involved in.

I believe it has to some degree impeded my ability to engage in important activist projects by making some people reluctant to work with me because of all that controversy. That frequent stress has also begun to affect my health. I have two autoimmune disorders that are triggered by stress and I have come to the conclusion that it would be better for my health, both physical and mental, to get out of the crucible and be responsible only for myself and my own words and actions.

Here is his full announcement, explaining his decision in more detail.

I will miss him hugely, but I 100% support his decision to take care of his health and well-being, and wish him all the best. As many people have heard me say, sometimes holding up a four-foot-long banner with the words in big block letters: Self-care is not selfish. I’ll be following him at his Patheos blog, and hope to have many years of happy and fruitful work with him in other arenas.


Comforting Thoughts book cover oblong 100 JPGComing Out Atheist Bendingwhy are you atheists so angryGreta Christina is author of four books: Comforting Thoughts About Death That Have Nothing to Do with God, Coming Out Atheist: How to Do It, How to Help Each Other, and Why, Why Are You Atheists So Angry? 99 Things That Piss Off the Godless, and Bending: Dirty Kinky Stories About Pain, Power, Religion, Unicorns, & More.

Godless Perverts Social Club is Finally in Oakland! Thursday, August 20!

Greetings-from-Oakland-postcard-700x400

Godless Perverts Social Club is expanding to Oakland!

Godless Perverts are very excited to announce the expansion of our empire, which is now stretching its tendrils into the East Bay! We’re having our very first Oakland Godless Perverts Social Club on Thursday, August 20, 7-9 pm, at Telegraph Beer Garden. Telegraph is located at 2318 Telegraph Ave., between 23rd St & 24th Streets: it’s about a ten-minute walk from the 19th Street Oakland BART station, and is close to several bus lines.

We’ll be meeting in the back room behind the bar, so we’ll have a separate, somewhat private-ish space to talk about sex and blasphemy and whatnot. Telegraph has lots of food options, mostly in the sandwich/ sausage/ burger family, and including many vegetarian and vegan options. They have a wide selection of beers, and they also have soft drinks for those who don’t drink alcohol. (It is a bar, which means you need to be at least 21 to attend.) Admission is free, but we ask that you buy food and/or drink if you can.

All orientations, genders, and kinks (or lack thereof) are welcome. 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’ll meet on the third Thursday of every month in Oakland: we’ll also still meet in San Francisco at Wicked Grounds, on the first Tuesday of every month.

Godless Perverts presents and promotes a positive view of sexuality without religion, by and for sex-positive atheists, agnostics, humanists, and other non-believers, through performance events, panel discussions, social gatherings, media productions, and other appropriate outlets. Our events and media productions present depictions, explorations, and celebrations of godless sexualities — including positive, traumatic, and complex experiences — focusing on the intersections of sexuality with atheism, materialism, skepticism, and science, as well as critical, questioning, mocking, or blasphemous views of sex and religion.

Godless Perverts is committed to feminism, diversity, inclusivity, and social justice. We seek to create safe and welcoming environments for all non-believers and believing allies who are respectful of the mission, and are committed to taking positive action to achieve this. Please let the moderators or other people in charge of any event know if you encounter harassment, racism, misogyny, transphobia, or other problems at our events.

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!


Comforting Thoughts book cover oblong 100 JPGComing Out Atheist Bendingwhy are you atheists so angryGreta Christina is author of four books: Comforting Thoughts About Death That Have Nothing to Do with God, Coming Out Atheist: How to Do It, How to Help Each Other, and Why, Why Are You Atheists So Angry? 99 Things That Piss Off the Godless, and Bending: Dirty Kinky Stories About Pain, Power, Religion, Unicorns, & More.

#mencallmethings: “mentally compromised,” “should be removed from society,” “it”

Content note: misogyny, ableism

Jerk on my blog, in response to my year-old post on The Amazing Atheist:

Screen Shot 2015-08-03 at 10.52.01 PM

The author of this article is an uneducated and mentally compromised, it should be removed from society and made into an example of how not to live.

#mencallmethings

I see. So in an effort to persuade people that The Amazing Atheist isn’t really sexist or misogynist and we should give him a chance to explain himself, this person goes onto a feminist’s blog and tells her that she’s mentally compromised and should be removed from society. Also, he (the online handle doesn’t give clues about gender, but the email address did, so I’m assuming the commenter is male) literally dehumanizes me, referring to me as “it.”

I’m reminded once again of Lewis’s Law: “Comments on any article about feminism justify feminism.”

And I’d like to point out: That post came out over a year ago. I’m reminded of the sexist atheistbros who are still — STILL — dredging up wildly distorted versions of Elevatorgate and arguing with them. It’s funny — almost — in the light of how often feminists get accused of hanging on to old injuries and dredging up old muck.

[Read more…]

Godless Perverts Social Club Meets Tuesday, August 4!

godless perverts social club august 4

The next Godless Perverts Social Club is Tuesday, August 4!

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. All orientations, genders, and kinks (or lack thereof) are welcome.

So please join us at Wicked Grounds, the kink cafe and boutique at 289 8th Street at Folsom in San Francisco (near Civic Center BART). We meet on the first Tuesday and the third Thursday of every month. 7-9 pm. Admission is free, but we ask that you buy food and/or drink at the cafe if you can: they have beverages, light snacks, full meals, and milkshakes made of literal awesome sauce. [Read more…]

More Atheist Leaders Who Aren’t Dawkins or Harris: Monette Richards

In June, I wrote a piece for AlterNet, titled 8 Awesome Atheist Leaders Who Aren’t Richard Dawkins or Sam Harris. The gist: When a media outlet decides that atheism is important, they all too often turn to Richard Dawkins or Sam Harris. Then, when Dawkins or Harris puts their foot in their mouth about race or gender — again — the reporter cries out, “Atheism needs better leadership! Why doesn’t atheism have better leaders?” Atheism does have better leaders — so I profiled eight of them, to bring just a small fragment of the range and variety of atheist leadership to more people’s attention.

At the end of that piece, I wrote, “And these eight are the tip of the iceberg… I could write a new profile of a different atheist leader every week, and still be at it ten years from now.”

So I decided: Why not do that?

I don’t know if I’ll do it for ten years. But for at least a while, once a week I’ll be profiling and interviewing a different leader in organized atheism.

This week’s profile: Monette Richards.

GC: Tell me briefly what your organization does and what you do for them. (If you’re in a leadership position with more than one atheist organization, feel free to tell me about more than one.)

Monette Richards photo by Amy Davis RothMR: I currently hold dual citizenship in the secular movement. My first home is on the Board of Secular Woman. Our goal is to amplify the voices of secular women and, basically, find ways to make the secular movement more friendly and welcoming to them. I do all the backend IT work and whatever else I can do to help: tabling and speaking at conferences, membership fulfilment, whatever we need at the moment.

I am also the President of our local chapter, Center For Inquiry – Northeast Ohio. While wearing this particular hat, I am working hard to build a community that is welcoming, accepting and able to support its members. Everyone needs a community that has their back whether they find themselves facing a violation of their First Amendment rights or without reliable day care.

Tell me about a specific project or projects your organization is working on.

Secular Woman, along with C.A.S.H. and Minnesota Atheists, are sponsoring Secular Women Work, an activist conference. Our secular movement is widespread, loosely connected and is made up, as movements are, primarily of volunteers. Many of us spend so much of our volunteered time learning how to navigate the particular activist corners we occupy. This is a perpetual reinvention of the wheel. We will be bringing as many of those skills together as we can, so we can all learn from each other and become a much more effective movement. Then nothing, nothing will be able to stop us from taking over the world!

CFI – NEOhio, on the other hand, is working with Senator Skindell on Ohio SB50, a Secular Celebrant bill. In Ohio, only individuals ordained through a church, along with a few elected officials, can solemnize marriages. This puts our community at a disadvantage when it comes to being able to have the ceremonies we want to have, where we want to have them. The bill is currently stuck in committee, If you live in Ohio, call the head of the committee, Senator Bill Coley (614-466-8072) and tell him to get this bill moving! Then call your Senator and tell them to support the bill. Then come to our next Lobby Day and tell them both in person!

Where would you like to see organized atheism go in the next 10 to 20 years?

I would absolutely love it if organized atheism was completely unnecessary within the next decade or so. Failing that, I fantasize that it has grown up and grown big enough to include so much more than First Amendment battles, that it has taken on the anti-choice movement head on and forced them back, that it has fully embraced BLM [Black Lives Matter], that it has grown so diverse that Secular Woman becomes completely irrelevant and redundant! Go Team!

What do you think are the main challenges facing organized atheism now?

Monette Richards at Ohio State HouseA narrow focus on the establishment clause has left our movement myopic and ill prepared to engage with many of the other issues facing us. This year alone, states have enacted 51 restrictions on reproductive health and our movement is still arguing over whether atheism means more than disbelief in gods. It is time to accept that our movement is about more than prayers before football games, more than Ten Commandment displays in courthouses, more than Bibles in classrooms. We need diversity, not just in our membership but in our goals as well.

Do you consider yourself a “new atheist”? Why or why not?

I honestly don’t know. I’m not familiar enough with the term. I googled. I read. I am undecided that it matters. I am an anti-theist in that I do think religion, eventually, should be made irrelevant. But, that doesn’t mean I’m forging a hardcore schedule of stopping grandma from thanking Jesus as the nice man who made her dinner possible or calling CPS on families who teach their children about hell.

Any questions you wish I’d asked, or anything else you’d like to add?

Something I feel necessary to say whenever I talk about me and my place in the movement. I have no college education. I am not especially smart. I have no wicked talents. I am not ambitious. I am nothing special. This is important to recognize because it can be anyone of us (but more correctly, all of us) working to make the secular movement a success. It doesn’t take a degree to be effective, but it does take getting involved.

(Black and white photo by Amy Davis Roth.)


Comforting Thoughts book cover oblong 100 JPGComing Out Atheist Bendingwhy are you atheists so angryGreta Christina is author of four books: Comforting Thoughts About Death That Have Nothing to Do with God, Coming Out Atheist: How to Do It, How to Help Each Other, and Why, Why Are You Atheists So Angry? 99 Things That Piss Off the Godless, and Bending: Dirty Kinky Stories About Pain, Power, Religion, Unicorns, & More.

Some Thoughts on Depression and Solitude

So I’m having this conundrum.

woman alone in window seatOn the one hand: I love solitude. And I mean LOVE it. Long stretches of time to myself have always been a luxurious pleasure for me. Before I was with Ingrid, there were years where I spent Christmas Day alone every year — and it was one of the most delightful parts of the holiday season, an oasis of quiet solitude and self-indulgence in the middle of a social whirl. When Ingrid and I first got together and were contemplating whether to move in together, one of the issues we looked at was how I would get my much-needed time and space alone. (In fact, we didn’t move in together for seven years — not entirely for this reason, but partly.) And one of the biggest benefits of quitting my day job and becoming a full-time freelance writer was that it gave me long stretches of solitude.

In fact, I don’t just love time alone. I need it. I’m an introvert, and a big part of what that means is that I’m replenished and rejuvenated by time alone, and exhausted by time with others. It’s not that I don’t enjoy time with others — I do, very much. It’s just that I hit a wall with it. I enjoy it for a couple/few hours (more or fewer hours depending on the people and the situation), and then I get tired and need to go away and be alone for a while. (I believe the term for this is “social introvert.”) Solitude isn’t just a pleasure: it’s a necessity.

On the other hand:

Ever since this current stretch of depression, I’ve been paying attention to when I’m depressed and when I’m not. I’m paying attention to what gives me depressive symptoms, and what alleviates them, and what actually bolsters my mental health and makes me feel positively robust.

And I’m finding that when I have many days in a row where I spend many hours alone in the house without interacting with anyone but Ingrid and the cats, I tend to get depressed. When I get out of the house every day, and interact every day at least briefly with human beings who aren’t Ingrid, my mental health improves. This isn’t the entire picture, of course — my mental health also improves when I take my meds, go to therapy, get exercise, meditate — but it’s a big part of it.

I’m thinking about this because I’ve recently started a new mental health self-care routine. Instead of just generically promising myself that I’ll leave the house once a day to do some unspecified thing, I now have a specific routine. Every weekday, unless I have some particular other thing scheduled, I get to a cafe by 1:00 pm, and work on my laptop there. And I’ve found, just in the week that I’ve been doing this, with no other substantial change in my life, that my mental health has significantly improved. I’ve been having a rough patch with depression in the last few months — not terrible, but not great, and very stubborn — and just in this past week, I’ve become more alert, more energetic, more hopeful and optimistic, more engaged with the world. Heck, I’ve been positively bouncy at times — and I haven’t been bouncy in months.

Dammit to fucking hell. [Read more…]