Why You Can’t Reconcile God and Evolution

4 reasons that “God made evolution happen” makes no sense.

human skull evolution“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.

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Thus begins my latest piece for AlterNet, Why You Can’t Reconcile God and Evolution. To read more about why this well-meaning attempt to reconcile science and religion makes no sense, read the rest of the piece. Enjoy!

The “Coming Out Atheist” Donation Recipient for July 2014: Black Skeptics of Los Angeles “First in the Family” Humanist Scholarship Fund

Coming Out Atheist coverAs some of you may already know, I’ve pledged to donate 10% of my income from my new book, Coming Out Atheist: How to Do It, How to Help Each Other, and Why, to atheist organizations, charities, and projects.

Here’s why. I got lots of help with this book, and working on it felt very much like a collaboration, a community effort. (To some extent that’s true with any book, but it was even more true with this one.) Because coming out is really different for different atheists, it was hugely important to get detailed feedback on the book, so my personal perspective wasn’t completely skewing my depiction of other people’s experiences. So I asked lots of friends and colleagues to give me detailed feedback on the book: either on the book as a whole, or on particular chapters about atheists with very different experiences from mine (such as the chapters on parents, students, clergy, people in the U.S. military, and people in theocracies). Many people were very generous with their time helping out: they put a whole lot of time and work and thought into a project that wasn’t theirs, because they thought it would benefit the community. And, of course, I had the help of the hundreds of people who wrote in with their coming-out story, or who told their coming-out story in one of the books or websites I cited, or who just told me your coming-out story in person.

I want to give some of that back. So I’m donating 10% of my income from this book to atheist organizations, charities, and projects: a different one each month. Each month, one of the people who helped with the book gets to pick the recipient, and this month it was chosen by Alex Gabriel. (Who ended up polling his readers for suggestions.)

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The recipient for July 2014, chosen by Alex Gabriel (and his blog readers): Black Skeptics of Los Angeles “First in the Family” Humanist Scholarship Fund, awarding scholarships to South Los Angeles LAUSD students who are going to be the first in their immediate families to go to college, giving preference to students who are (or have been) in foster care, homeless, undocumented and/ or LGBTQ. If you want to support them too, here’s their donation page!

Help Alex Gabriel Give Away My Money!

Alex GabrielAs regular readers may know, I’m doing this tithing thing with my income from Coming Out Atheist: How to Do It, How to Help Each Other, and Why. In many ways, writing this book felt like a community effort, even more so then writing a book usually is — I got loads of help on it from lots of people in the community. So to pay some of that forward, I’m donating 10% of my income from the book to atheist organizations, charities, and projects – a different organization each month (although I may occasionally repeat) — and the people who helped me with the book get to pick one of the recipients.

This month, it’s Alex Gabriel’s turn. Alex helped enormously with the book — he did two full rounds of major copy editing, with excellent suggestions on content, structure, and style. (If you’re looking to hire a copy editor for your book, I can’t recommend him highly enough.) But Alex isn’t familiar with godless organizations in the U.S. (the recipients have to be 501(c)3 non-profits — I can’t afford to do this if I can’t write it off on my taxes). So he’s asking for suggestions. If you have an opinion on where Alex should tell me to donate my money, please go help him out!

Please make your suggestions TO ALEX, AT HIS BLOG, ON HIS BLOG POST. Please don’t make them here (or if you do, please cross-post there). His post sets out the parameters, both mine and his. Thanks!

LGBT Atheists — Creating Change is Seeking Workshop Proposals! UPDATED

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Heads up, LGBT atheists!

Creating Change, the ginormous and mega-awesome LGBT conference, is soliciting workshop proposals (PDF) for 2015. Let’s submit ours! There’s lots of ways that atheism intersects with queerness, lots of particular issues for LGBT atheists, and lots of opportunities for alliance building between the two communities/ movement. Let’s get a good strong atheist presence at the con!

Creating Change will be in Denver, CO, February 4-8, 2015. The deadline to submit workshop proposals (PDF) is September 30, 2014. Hope to see you there!

UPDATE: It’s been pointed out that conference registration for presenters is $225, plus you have to pay for your own travel. If that’s out of your range — I don’t know this for sure, but I would bet that some atheist organizations might be willing to help with funding for atheist presenters at an LGBT conference. Worth asking, anyway.

Godless Perverts Social Clubs — Tuesday August 5 and Thursday August 21!

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The Godless Perverts are so excited! The Godless Perverts Social Club is now meeting twice a month — first Tuesdays, and third Thursdays. In August, we’ll be meeting Tuesday August 5, and 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 — on Tuesday August 5, and/or on Thursday August 21!

We’re doing slightly different formats for the two clubs. The first Tuesday Social Clubs have been 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. In August, that’ll be Tuesday August 5.

Our Third Thursday Social Clubs are a little more structured — we’ll 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: How necessary is repression to 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.

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 — for an evening of conversation and socializing. 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, and/or make a donation to the venue. (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!

#mencallmethings: “coma inducing halfwits,” “rape obsessed and victim embracing”

Content note: rape threats, rape trivialization

Jerk on my blog, in response to my recent #mencallmethings: “fascists,” “imbeciles” post:

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Wow, the replies hahahaha. Is that really the intellectual caliber of Greta Christina’s cult members? No wonder she has to delete all the antithetical comments. I think I’m going to become a far right wing, woman raping clergyman just so I’m metaphysically as far away from you coma inducing halfwits as possible.

And then, a bit later, in response to my original post about The Amazing Atheist that began this influx of comments from his fans:

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I’ve been working on my wife trying to convince her that Feminism has become this militant, rape obsessed and victim embracing distortion of it’s former self and she has been arguing with me, saying that you guys only represent a tiny minority of Feminists. Then I showed her this blog and made her aware of Greta Christina’s popularity. It finally convinced her that I was right all along. I’d just like to thank you guys for that! :-)

#mencallmethings

A couple of notes on these. First, if The Amazing Atheist really does now abjure rape threats as some of his commenters are claiming, it’s not working, as it seems to have induced this commenter to make their own rape threat.

Second: 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 woman’s blog and tells her that she and her readers are coma inducing halfwits, and that her variety of feminism is militant, rape obsessed and victim embracing.

Third: This person seems to think that embracing victims is a bad thing. Hm. Interesting.

Fourth: Please take note of the handle. Nunraper. Yeah, that’s definitely calculated to make us listen to him on the subject of feminism, rape, and rape threats.

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

Note: The #mencallmethings hashtag does not say #allmencallmethings, or #mostmencallmethings. If you want to learn more about the history of this hashtag and why people started using it, please read But How Do You Know It’s Sexist? The #MenCallMeThings Round-Up and Why Are You In Such A Bad Mood? #MenCallMeThings Responds! on Tiger Beatdown, where the hashtag originated. And please do not start a “but not all men are like that, so the #mencallmethings hashtag is reverse sexism!” argument. That has been addressed, at length, in the comments in the #mencallmethings: “FUCKIN HOE,” “FUCKIN FEMINAZI SLUT” post, as well as elsewhere. Please read Why “Yes, But” Is the Wrong Response to Misogyny if you’re wondering why I will not take kindly that that particular line of conversation.

Freethought Blogs Is Back Up — With A Sniny New Design!

Freethought Blogs is now back up — with our long-awaited new design!

We’re very excited about this. We encourage you all to explore all the blogs — and in particular, we encourage you to explore the sniny new home page for the whole network, with categories and everything!

And now that the switch-over has happened, we can start adding new bloggers again! We have a few already waiting in the wings — I’m sure you’re going to be very excited to meet them. They’ll be coming very soon.

We’re sure there will be some bumps in the transition, as there always are. (If there aren’t, that might actually be a bad thing: it would probably be a sign of the impending Apocalypse, which would make this whole atheism blog network kind of a moot point, wouldn’t it?) Please do let us know if you run into problems (here’s our technical support page), and please be patient during the transition. Enjoy!

#mencallmethings: “another lie within your air-filled head”

Jerk on my blog, in response to my recent collection of comments from fans of The Amazing Atheist:

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Greta, Greeto, whatever, what you’re doing is so apparent… that it’s sad. You continue to assail top-viewed atheists so you can step into the spotlight, by doing this, you think you can get more viewers and continue your work on imaginary misogyny, because you know if you go out into the real world you wouldn’t survive or something by your lack of skills. Honestly, now, do you really think you’re helping women? Well, you’re not. Sorry, I didn’t give you time to think about it; I just thought you’d create another lie within your air-filled head.

#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 woman’s blog and tells her that she’s a lying airhead who’s making up imaginary stories about misogyny to get traffic.

Also, he’s the expert on what does an does not help women.

And he thinks a good way to make a point is to start by making fun of someone’s name. Because that definitely makes people frame your arguments as mature, and not at all coming from the mindset of a first-grader.

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

Note: The #mencallmethings hashtag does not say #allmencallmethings, or #mostmencallmethings. If you want to learn more about the history of this hashtag and why people started using it, please read But How Do You Know It’s Sexist? The #MenCallMeThings Round-Up and Why Are You In Such A Bad Mood? #MenCallMeThings Responds! on Tiger Beatdown, where the hashtag originated. And please do not start a “but not all men are like that, so the #mencallmethings hashtag is reverse sexism!” argument. That has been addressed, at length, in the comments in the #mencallmethings: “FUCKIN HOE,” “FUCKIN FEMINAZI SLUT” post, as well as elsewhere. Please read Why “Yes, But” Is the Wrong Response to Misogyny if you’re wondering why I will not take kindly that that particular line of conversation.

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

Spoiler alerts for Pride and Prejudice.

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

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

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

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

But she’s also something else.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good for her.

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

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

Untamed, unabashed, wild, noisy, and fearless.

Sounds like my kind of woman.

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