How Humanism Helps With Depression — Except When It Doesn’t

This piece was originally published in The Humanist.

What is it like being a humanist with depression?

I’m going to preface this right off the bat by saying: I am not a doctor. I am not a therapist. I am not a mental health care professional, or indeed a health care professional of any kind. I’m just talking about myself here, and my own experiences. I freaking hate it when people give me unsolicited amateur medical advice about my mental health, so I’m very careful not to do that with other people. If you have depression — your mileage may vary from mine. Take what you need from this, and leave the rest. (And if you’re not already doing it, get professional help if you possibly can.)

So. Caveats are in order. What is it like for me to be a humanist with depression?

As regular readers may know, I’ve been diagnosed with clinical depression. My form of it is chronic and episodic: I’m not depressed all the time, I’m not even depressed most of the time, but I’ve had episodes of serious depression intermittently throughout my adult life. I had a very bad bout of it starting about a year and a half ago: I’m pulling out of it now, but my mental health is still somewhat fragile, I still have to be extra-careful with my self-care routines, and I still have relapses into fairly bad episodes now and then. And I’ve been thinking lately about what it means to be a humanist with depression, and how these experiences intertwine. [Read more...]

Greta Speaking This Weekend in Charlotte, NC! Plus Sacramento CA, Springfield MO, and Austin TX!

I’m speaking this weekend in Charlotte, NC, at the Carolinas Secular Conference! Other speakers include Bridgett Crutchfield, Mandisa Thomas, Steve Ahlquist, Harry Shaughnessy, Amy Monsky, Faisal Saeed Al Mutar, Fred Edwords, Marshall Brain, and Conor Robinson. Tickets are still available. Should be a barn-burner!

And I also have speaking gigs coming up in Sacramento CA, Springfield MO, and Austin TX. Details below. If you’re near any of these cities, I hope to see you there! [Read more...]

Some Clarifications on the Mythology Springing Up Around My Recent Twitter Exchange with Sam Harris

Some very strange mythology is springing up around the recent Twitter exchange I had with Sam Harris. I’m getting tired of repeating the same clarifications again and again, so I’m going to post them here and just link to them.

Two key points:

1: No, I don’t think Sam Harris is responsible for everything that all of his fans say or do. I don’t think any writer is responsible for everything that all of our fans say or do. I don’t think that, and I never said that. I do think that in general, writers should be aware of the effect we’re having, and if our fans are saying or doing bad things in our name, it’s certainly a good thing to speak out against it. But writers are not responsible for everything that all of our fans say or do. I don’t think they are, and I never said that they are.

2: No, I don’t think Sam Harris, or any writer, has a responsibility to speak out against absolutely every bad thing that ever happens. I understand that writers are busy — heck, I understand that people in general are busy — and I don’t expect everyone to speak about everything. And I understand that Sam Harris, in particular, is probably more busy than most of us. (However, if a writer is responding to a bad thing that happened, and they’re spending more time getting defensive and hostile towards the person who’s calling it to their attention than they are actually speaking out against the bad thing, that’s somewhat troubling.)

So. For anyone who cares, here’s how the exchange actually unfolded. [Read more...]

Four Reasons “God Made Evolution Happen” Makes No Sense

This piece was originally published in AlterNet.

“Of course I believe in evolution. And I believe in God, too. I believe that evolution is how God created life.”

You hear this a lot from progressive and moderate religious believers. They believe in some sort of creator god, but they heartily reject the extreme, fundamentalist, science-rejecting versions of their religions (as well they should). They want their beliefs to reflect reality — including the reality of the confirmed fact of evolution. So they try to reconcile the two by saying that that evolution is real, exactly as the scientists describe it — and that God made it happen. They insist that you don’t have to deny evolution to believe in God.

In the narrowest, most literal sense, of course this is true. It’s true that there are people who believe in God, and who also accept science in general and evolution in particular. This is an observably true fact: it would be absurd to deny it, and I don’t. I’m not saying these people don’t exist.

I’m saying that this position is untenable. I’m saying that the “God made evolution happen” position is rife with both internal contradictions and denial of the evidence. You don’t have to deny as much reality as young earth creationists do to take this position — but you still have to deny a fair amount. Here are four reasons that “God made evolution happen” makes no sense. [Read more...]

#mencallmethings: “NO chance of being raped “

Content note: misogynist harassment, rape

On Twitter:

Sam Harris on Twitter:

@GretaChristina You really think I should take a public position against threats of rape and murder? Does *anything* go without saying?

Asshole on Twitter:

@SamHarrisOrg @GSpellchecker @GretaChristina it’s ok Greta you’re NO chance of being raped #sithlord


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

Sam Harris Responds to Misogynist Fan — Well, Sort Of – UPDATED

Me on Twitter:

#mencallmethings: “ugly dyke,” “irrelevant whore,” “just die.” (Note that this was in defense of @SamHarrisOrg .)

Sam Harris, in response:

@GretaChristina And you’re holding me responsible for that? (Meanwhile, look at what you said about me on your blog.)

Where did I say I hold Sam Harris responsible?

It would be nice, however, if he’d speak against it, and tell his readers not to do that. It’d be nice if atheist leaders answered misogyny in movement with concern for targets and censure for perpetrators — not with defensiveness. It’d be nice if atheist leaders told their misogynist fans, “Guys, don’t do that.”



UPDATE: [Read more...]

#mencallmethings: “ugly dyke,” “irrelevant whore,” “just die”

Content note: misogynist harassment, not-so-veiled threats

Commenter on my blog, in response to my recent post, Sam Harris is Just Factually Wrong — Globally, Atheism Has No Gender Split

Screen Shot 2014-09-22 at 11.23.18 AM

fuck you,you ugly dyke.sam will be of more relevant to humanity than you. you irrelevant whore.just die already.


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

Why Free Conferences Are Important — And Why You Should Support Skepticon

Atheist and skeptical conferences matter. They help us find each other and create community. They give organizers and activists a chance to network. They give people who are closeted a place to be themselves, if only for a weekend. They generate ideas. They spread ideas. They’re a testing ground for ideas. They inspire and energize people. Miri Mogilevsky has a great piece on why conferences matter, in case you’re not persuaded.

Conferences are also, much of the time, expensive. And that means that all these wonderful benefits are only accessible to people who can afford them. The high expense of conferences isn’t the only barrier to marginalized people who want to participate in our community and our movement, it’s not even the most important one — but it is a barrier, and it’s not trivial.

This is why I am so tickled to see the increasing trend in our community of free conferences.

And this is why I’m asking you to donate to Skepticon.

skepticon 7 logo

Skepticon is the mothership of free conferences in the atheist and skeptical community. In seven years, it’s grown from a small local conference by and for a student group, into one of the largest, most recognized, most awesomely fun conferences in our community. And it’s become a model for other free conferences.

But free conferences are, obviously, not free to put on. It’s like public radio — it’s funded by the support of generous donors like you.

Please donate to Skepticon. You can make a one-time donation, or get set up to automatically donate a small amount each month. (Or a large amount each month, if you can manage it.) Help keep this free conference going — and help it continue to inspire other free conferences like it. Even small amounts help — they really do add up. So donate whatever you can.

skepticon 7 tshirtYou can also support Skepticon by buying one of these awesome T-shirts. 100% of the profit goes back to Skepticon, and if you order now or soon, they’ll ship them before the event.

And if you register for Skepticon by October 17 (yes, even though it’s free, they want you to register, it makes it easier for them to plan if they know how many people are coming), you get get a free lanyard & badge. So if you’re planning on coming, register now! Skepticon 7 is Friday November 21 to Sunday November 23, and speakers this year include me me me, PZ Myers, Jamie Kilstein, Cara Santa Maria, Hemant Mehta, Heina Dadabhoy, Amy Davis Roth (“Surly Any”), Dr. Nicole Gugliucci, Ben “Sweatervest” Blanchard, Sheree Renee Thomas, Kayley Whalen, Daniel Bier, Peggy Mason, Dr. David Gorski, JT Eberhard, Scott Clifton, and Melanie Brewster.

skeptipromPlus this year they’re having Skeptiprom — it’s going to be the best prom ever, as they’ve taken out all the raging teenage hormones and added a crapload of glitter and skepticism. This thing is going to be mega-awesome.

And if you can’t make it — if your sister is getting married that weekend or something (pfff! shabby excuse) — please support them anyway. Think of it this way — if you can’t go this year, you might be able to go next year, and supporting it now means they’ll be able to keep on doing it!

Srsly. If you can, donate now.

Sam Harris is Just Factually Wrong — Globally, Atheism Has No Gender Split — UPDATED WITH IMPORTANT CORRECTION

VERY IMPORTANT CORRECTION: It looks like I was mistaken about the global gender breakdown of atheism. Details here. I still think the bulk of my criticism of Harris was correct and fair — I think his remarks were sexist, even if you do recognize a global gender split in atheism (which I now do), and even if you do accept some degree of innate gender difference between women and men. But when it comes to the specific question of whether there really are more male atheists than female atheists worldwide, it seems likely that I was mistaken, and that the study I was citing was an outlier. My apologies.

Sam Harris is just factually wrong. Globally, there is no gender split in atheism. Globally, women and men are religious, not religious, and convinced atheists at about the same rate. In fact, globally, women are slightly more likely to be atheists than men (although that difference is small, probably too small to be significant).

In case you haven’t already heard this: Sam Harris recently gave an interview to the Washington Post. When asked why the vast majority of atheists — and many of those who buy his books — are male, he said this:

“I think it may have to do with my person slant as an author, being very critical of bad ideas. This can sound very angry to people..People just don’t like to have their ideas criticized. There’s something about that critical posture that is to some degree instrinsically male and more attractive to guys than to women,” he said. “The atheist variable just has this – it doesn’t obviously have this nurturing, coherence-building extra estrogen vibe that you would want by default if you wanted to attract as many women as men.”

Why Are You Atheists So Angry? coverThere are a lot of possible responses to this. The first one that springs to my mind, and to many people’s minds, is, “Fuck you, you sexist, patronizing asshole. You think women don’t take a critical posture? Come talk to some women in the atheist movement, and we will give you an earful of our critical posture.” The second response that springs to my mind, and to many people’s minds, is, “Do you think that maybe — just maybe — the fact that not that many women read your books might have something to do with the fact that you say horrible sexist bullshit like this, and we’re sick of it, and we don’t want to hear it, or anything else from you, ever again?” And the third response, from me in particular, is, “Do you seriously not know that the person who literally wrote the book on angry atheism — Why Are You Atheists So Angry? 99 Things That Piss Off the Godless — is me, a woman? Have you seen the cover art for that book? Would you really not describe the woman standing on the soapbox labeled ‘REASON’ with her fist in the air as, quite literally, a critical posture?”

But it’s also very, very important to say this, since it’s something that even a lot of feminist atheists don’t know: The gender split in atheism is not universal. It seems to be an American phenomenon. It may exist in some other countries as well — but globally, women and men are religious, not religious, and convinced atheists at about the same rate. According to the WIN-Gallup International “Global Index of Religiosity and Atheism 2012,” August 6, 2012 (PDF, Table 8, page 20 of 25), when asked, “Irrespective of whether you attend a place of worship or not, would you say you are a religious person, not a religious person or a convinced atheist?”, 60% of men and 57% of women said “A religious person.” 23% of men and 23% of women said, “Not a religious person.” 12% of men and 14% of women said “A convinced atheist.” (“Don’t know/no response” got 5% from men and 6% from women.) [Read more...]