Godless Perverts Social Club Tuesday May 5: Religion and Gender Roles

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The next Godless Perverts Social Club is Tuesday, May 5! We’re picking a discussion topic ahead of time — and this week, the Godless Perverts enter the world of chaste maidens and chivalrous knights. No, we’re not playing Dungeons and Dragons, we’re talking about the various religious dogma governing gender roles.

Were you taught that men shouldn’t express emotion?
Were you taught that women were to submit to male authority?
Did you attend a purity ball (and have a class in high school that taught you how to curtsey with a stack of books balanced on your head?)
Do you identify as someone who completely wrecks the notion of a gender binary?

We want your stories!

Our co-moderator for the evening, Ember Atwell, is in the odd position of being an atheist attending divinity school, and she’s extremely knowledgeable about many of the odder aspects of religion and sex, such as purity balls and Christian Domestic Discipline.

The Godless Perverts Social Club meets on the first Tuesday and the third Thursday of every month, 7-9 pm, at Wicked Grounds, 289 8th Street at Folsom in San Francisco (near Civic Center BART). 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.

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.

Help Get Student Leaders to the Secular Student Alliance Leadership Conference!

secular student alliance logoThe Secular Student Alliance has a nice problem. There are too many students who want to go to their leadership conference — and there’s not enough money to get them there. The SSA keeps their conference registration fee very low — but students still have to get there, and depending on what their financial circumstances are and how close they are to Columbus, Ohio, that can be a big hurdle.

So please support the SSA travel grant fundraiser, and help train the new generation of secular leaders! Student leaders aren’t just the future of the movement — they’re the present of the movement as well. They’re doing a huge amount of the atheist community-building and visibility that we all keep saying we need — and they’re doing it for a population that’s proven highly receptive to our message. (Rates of religious non-belief among young people are skyrocketing.)

The SSA travel grant fundraiser is really close to their goal. Even small amounts make a difference — they really do add up — and spreading the word on social media makes a big difference as well. Please help out. Thanks!


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.

Pride and Prejudice and Class Warfare: An Homage to Mallory Ortberg’s “Texts From Jane Eyre”

Okay. Longish preface with short but hopefully worthwhile payoff.

So. In order to share my snarky class-warfare analysis of Pride and Prejudice, I need to briefly preface with two things.

texts-from-jane-eyre1: If you haven’t read Texts from Jane Eyre, by Mallory Ortberg of The Toast fame, I passionately suggest that you stop whatever you’re doing and get a copy right this minute. It is hilarious — and it is incisively, snarkily brilliant. It’s a collection of imagined text-message conversations involving famous writers, philosophers, artists, literary characters, and mythological figures — and it does a brilliant job of skewering these figures and characters and stories, stripping them of their pretensions, and bringing them down to Earth. It’s also got some amazing social and political commentary: in putting these stories and ideas into a modern framework, Ortberg shines a merciless spotlight, not only on the casual oppression and clueless privilege of the past, but on how it resonates into the present.

And did I mention hilarious? Ingrid will testify to this: I have been giggling and poking her and reading her bits from the book pretty much every day since I got it. And the first time I read the Edgar Allen Poe chapter, I laughed so hard I could barely breathe. I have now re-read that chapter probably thirty times, and it still makes me laugh out loud. Even just thinking about it now is making me chuckle. Get it. (Here, btw, is a very good Serious Literary Review of the book, by Sarah Mesle at Los Angeles Review of Books. There are also “Texts From” on The Toast site itself.)

2: In my last re-reading of Pride and Prejudice, I was thinking (not for the first time) of an oddity of the Regency class system. In the Regency class system, being in trade, or having a job, automatically cut you off from the higher levels of society. You could be in the aristocracy if you had land and investments, of course — those were pretty much de rigeur — but you couldn’t actually make stuff, or sell stuff, or provide a service. Among the gentry and gentry-adjacent, having a job or being in trade — or having relatives who had jobs or were in trade — was gauche, almost shameful. If you had social ambitions about being in the aristocracy or the gentry, the best you could hope for was that your children or grandchildren might marry into it. (As long as they didn’t make stuff or sell stuff or have a job, that is.) There were a couple of exceptions — being a military officer or a clergyman — but even with those, there was a social glass ceiling. Not glass, actually. Just a regular ceiling that everyone could see.

So. That being said. Here’s the short but hopefully worthwhile payoff: my own “Texts From Pride and Prejudice,” an imagined text-message conversation between Caroline Bingley and Jane Bennet.

so your uncle is an attorney
and your other uncle is in trade
well that’s just
well you’re such a sweet girl
i’m sure you’ll do fine
it’s such a shame though

yes
it’s so shameful
i have relatives who provide goods and services that people need and want
who don’t leech off other people’s labor
whose wealth wasn’t inherited
from people who inherited
from people who inherited
i have relatives who aren’t parasites
i don’t know how i can hold my head up
i might as well go lie in the gutter
oh, maybe with your brother
that sounds like a good idea
i’ll go do that

brb

“A magnificent and powerful book”: Amazon Customer Review of “Comforting Thoughts About Death That Have Nothing to Do with God”

Got a really nice customer review on Amazon of Comforting Thoughts About Death That Have Nothing to Do with God. Five stars out of five. (In fact, the book now has 20 Amazon customer reviews, and 17 are either four five stars.) Here’s what Anthony Reaves Jr. had to say:

Greta Christina’s book will change lives and challenge perspectives.

I purchased the audiobook tonight and listened to it. This is a magnificent and powerful book that is refreshing because of how honestly it deals with mortality and what we as human beings can do to make our awareness of it matter to how we live now. Greta Christina understands how both secular and religious individuals are capable of mishandling and trivializing what Shakespeare calls “that undiscovered country” of death, and what we can do to acknowledge it’s reality and finality without losing hope and the need to develop what our lives mean to us. Everyone, believer or not, will learn something from this book and it will be cherished for generations to come. Greta Christina has shown herself yet again to be one of the most intelligent, sympathetic and wise secular authors of her generation and she should be proud of what she’s accomplished here.

Thanks, Anthony! And if any of you have read Comforting Thoughts About Death That Have Nothing to Do with God, it’d be awesome if you’d post a review.

Comforting Thoughts book cover oblong 200 JPGThe Kindle ebook 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; and the Smashwords edition is available on Smashwords. All ebook editions are $2.99. You can get the audiobook on Audible, Amazon, and iTunes. The audiobook is $2.99 (discounted slightly on Amazon, of course). (The print edition is scheduled for the fall.)

Here’s the description of the book, and some wonderfully flattering blurbs: [Read more…]

The Pros and Cons of Caring Deeply About Other People’s Suffering

This piece was originally published in The Humanist.

The Pros and Cons of Caring Deeply About Other People’s Suffering

Minuses:

Symbol_thumbs_down.svgYou get to suffer. When you care deeply about other people’s suffering, you suffer too. Not as much as they do, generally, but you still suffer. You feel a small piece of what it feels like to be homeless, to be a suicidal gay teenager, to be sexually assaulted, to be beaten for being transgender, to have your teenage son shot for the crime of existing while black.

You don’t get to go for the big bucks. Unsurprisingly, there’s not a lot of money in caring about other people’s suffering. Unless you’re very, very lucky (like if you write a song about other people’s suffering that goes to Number One), the best you’ll probably do financially is to be reasonably comfortable. And even if you do get lucky, you’ll probably turn around and plow a good chunk of your good fortune into alleviating the suffering you care about.

You get to waste a lot of time. You get to spend a lot of time trying to persuade other people that the suffering right in front of their faces is real; that the people who are suffering shouldn’t be blamed for it; that working to alleviate suffering isn’t futile. (When I was writing about misogyny recently, and was asking people to say something about it, I saw people seriously argue that speaking out against misogyny was a waste of time, and that nobody’s mind would ever be changed by it.) This isn’t a waste of time, in the sense that it often is effective, and it does amplify the work you’re doing and get other hands on deck. But it’s a waste of time in the sense that it’s valuable time spent arguing for what should be obvious. It’s valuable time that all of you could have spent just doing the damn work.

And when you’re persuading people that suffering is real and that they should give a damn, you get to feel just a little bit guilty about it. As you’re desperately trying to pry open other people’s eyes, you get to feel just a little bit bad about the life of suffering you’re exposing them to.

You get to feel guilty. You get to worry about whether you’re doing it right, whether you should be working on something different, whether you could do better. You get to feel vividly conscious of the ways that you, yourself, contribute to other people’s suffering: buying products made by exploited labor, banking with banks that exploit the poor, driving cars that spew greenhouse gas. Every time you don’t take action, every time you don’t help, every time you don’t donate money or don’t volunteer time or don’t hit “Share” or “Retweet” on the fundraising letter, you get to feel bad about it. And every time you do donate or volunteer or spread the word, you get to worry about whether you could have done it better, or whether you could have done more.

You get to feel helpless. A lot. Once you open yourself up to other people’s suffering, you quickly become aware of just how much of it there is, and how little you personally can do about it. You get to feel overwhelmed. You get to be vividly aware of the fact that no matter what you do, no matter how much you work and sacrifice, at the end of your life there will still be a massive amount of suffering in the world. I sometimes think the helplessness is worse than the guilt, that the guilt is a defense mechanism against the helplessness. Feeling like you could have prevented suffering gives you a sense of control, makes you feel like you can prevent it in the future. As crappy as it is to feel like you could have done something and didn’t, I think it’s sometimes harder to feel like there’s nothing you could have done.

And you never, ever, ever get a break. You never really get a vacation; you never get to retire. When you do go on vacation, you think about the lives of the people who clean your hotel rooms and wait on your tables. You leave generous tips, and feel how inadequate that is. It’s like the red pill in The Matrix: once you’ve swallowed it, you can’t un-swallow it. Once you know, really know, about other people’s suffering, you can’t un-know it. You have to care about it, and feel it, and feel guilty about not doing enough about it, and feel helpless over how little you can do about it — for the rest of your life.


Symbol_thumbs_up.svgPlusses:

You get to have a life that matters. [Read more…]

The Riots That We Care About

“A riot is the language of the unheard.” -Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., March 14, 1968

It’s been occurring to me that Martin Luther King wasn’t totally right. Riots aren’t always the language of the unheard. When white folks riot over sports events or pumpkin festivals, it’s not the language of the unheard. It’s the language of people who get heard plenty, people with a toxic sense of entitlement about being heard, people who never fucking shut up.

But who does the media and the culture clutch their pearls about? People who riot because they’ve been stretched way past the breaking point, who riot because they’ve been kicked and kicked and kicked and kicked and kicked and are fucking well kicking back? Or people who riot because they like to, because they think it’s fun, because they think the entire world literally belongs to them and is their toy to destroy if they want?

The Slymepit, Documented – UPDATED

Content note: Pretty much everything. Racism, misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, rape jokes, rape denial, threats of violence, and more, too much to thoroughly trigger-warn.

UPDATE NOTE: This post has been updated to document several responses from Slymepit regulars, to document and confirm that the examples of behavior linked to here are, in fact, entirely representative of the Slymepit culture. Updates at end of post.

There’s this problem. A couple of problems, actually.

Problem 1: There’s this online forum, the Slymepit. (No, I’m not linking to them — you can find them yourselves if you like.) They have routinely, persistently, doggedly, for years, engaged in a campaign of hateful online harassment against feminists and social justice activists in the atheist and skeptic communities.

This campaign includes, but is not limited to: racist slurs and imagery, misogynist slurs and imagery, homophobic slurs and imagery, transphobic slurs and imagery, the deliberate misgendering of trans people, anti-Semitism, polyamory-shaming, fat-shaming, mental-illness-shaming, sexually-transmitted-disease shaming, baseless accusations of their targets as having sexually transmitted diseases, other baseless accusations verging on libel (if not actually veering into it), the creation of degrading Photoshopped images of their targets, jokes about their targets being raped, cheerful speculation about their targets’ ugly and painful deaths, the mocking of PTSD, the deliberate triggering of PTSD, even threats of physical violence.

Problem 2: A lot of people don’t believe this.

Part of me understands this. When you describe the Slymepit to people, it sounds like something you’d make up. And it’s a hard thing to accept. Atheists and skeptics get enough harassment and abuse from religious believers: it’s hard to accept that this is happening within our own communities. And very few people want to wade into the Slymepit to find this for themselves.

This is why I am enormously grateful to Jadehawk. Jadehawk has created a Storify page, documenting examples of what the Slymepit does on a regular basis. (The page sets the context first, briefly explaining the background for why this Storify was created, before getting into the documentation.)

The page is by no means a thorough documentation of every example of this behavior. It includes just a very tiny sample it. And this behavior is not just a small bad-apple minority of the Slymepit: it is very much the forum’s standard.

So. The next time someone asks “What is the Slymepit?” or “Is what they do really so bad?” or “Isn’t that just a few bad apples?” — you can point them to this page. And the next time you ask a blogger or a forum moderator why they permit Slymepit regulars to spread their slime in their online spaces — you can point them to this page.

Thanks, Jadehawk. Having this documentation is really helpful, and creating it must have been intensely unpleasant.

UPDATE: In case anyone is thinking that these examples were cherry-picked, that they’re just a few bad apples, that they don’t represent the general Slymepit culture, or that the Slymepit in general condemns this behavior: Here are screenshots of several responses by Slymepit regulars to Jadehawk’s Storify. They make it clear that this behavior is the Slymepit standard, that the forum’s participants are proud of it, and that it is welcomed and encouraged by the forum.

Below the jump. I’ve transcribed the screenshots, but I’m not quoting the speakers by name. You can click the images to enlarge. [Read more…]

“A good, passionate book”: Amazon Customer Review of “Why Are You Atheists So Angry?”

I’ve gotten some nice Amazon customer reviews for Why Are You Atheists So Angry? 99 Things That Piss Off the Godless, and I thought I’d repost some of them. Here’s a good one, five stars out of five. (As of this writing, the book has 155 customer reviews, and 126 are either 5-star or 4-star.) Here’s what KCdeeah had to say:

I agree with her

This is a good, passionate book and I agree with her on all issues some of which I’d never thought of. I too get angry or rather highly irritated about some important issues that surely needs addressing. But things are moving forward for atheists and it’s high time it did. I would recommend this book.

Thanks, KCdeeah! And if any of you have read Why Are You Atheists So Angry?, it’d be awesome if you’d post a review.

***

Here, by the way, is ordering info for the book in all three formats — print, ebook, and audiobook!

Why Are You Atheists So AngryEbook editions:
The Kindle edition is available at Amazon.
The Nook edition is available at Barnes & Noble.
Smashwords has the book in multiple formats, including iBooks, Sony Reader, Kobo, Kindle (.mobi), Stanza, Aldiko, Adobe Digital Editions, any other reader that takes the Epub format, Palm Doc (PDB), PDF, RTF, Online Reading via HTML, and Plain Text for either downloading or viewing.
All ebook editions and formats cost just $7.99.

Print edition:
The print edition is available at 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 record: 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 available at Last Gasp.
The print edition is $14.95 USD. It is 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 at Audible.
The audiobook version is available on iTunes.
The audiobook version is available on Amazon.
And yes, I did the recording for it!

Here is the description of the book, and some wonderfully flattering blurbs. [Read more…]

“A riot is the language of the unheard”: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

“it is not enough for me to stand before you tonight and condemn riots. It would be morally irresponsible for me to do that without, at the same time, condemning the contingent, intolerable conditions that exist in our society. These conditions are the things that cause individuals to feel that they have no other alternative than to engage in violent rebellions to get attention. And I must say tonight that a riot is the language of the unheard. And what is it America has failed to hear? It has failed to hear that the plight of the negro poor has worsened over the last twelve or fifteen years. It has failed to hear that the promises of freedom and justice have not been met. And it has failed to hear that large segments of white society are more concerned about tranquility and the status quo than about justice and humanity.”

-Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., March 14, 1968

Right now, I don’t have anything else to add to that.

(Oh, except this: My fuse on this one on is extremely short. I will not be tolerating bullshit that shows more concern about tranquility and the status quo than it does about justice and humanity.)

Should We Care What Other People Think?

“Care about what other people think and you will always be their prisoner.”

—Lao Tzu

In modern American culture—and in many cultures in many ages—there’s great admiration for the trailblazer, the inventor, the social reformer, for those who defy public opinion to speak the truth as they see it. (As long as they defy the right opinions, of course.) If you Google the phrase “care what others think,” the first page of results (as of this writing, on my computer) gives nine links and five images—and with one exception, all of them either passionately argue that caring what others think is a terrible idea, or they give suggestions on how not to do it. And I get that. After all, the trailblazers and defiers are the ones who make history, who change the world with their new ways of seeing and doing. As a card-carrying member of the Strong-Minded Independent Thinker Task Force, I admire that too.

But as an independent thinker who questions truisms and social norms, I want to question this one as well. I understand the desire to reject conformity and defy public opinion. Boy, howdy, do I understand it. But as a catch-all guideline for how we should all live our lives, “Don’t care what other people think” is far too simplistic.

As a matter of pure practicality, it makes sense at least sometimes to care what other people think. To give an obvious example: If I’m preparing for a job interview, I need to put at least some thought into what my potential bosses will think of me. Humans are social animals: we live in an intricately interconnected piece of social machinery, and we depend on other people for our survival and happiness. Being aware of how we’re perceived by others is part of what makes that work. If other people see us as arrogant and unfeeling, disorganized and flaky, or shortsighted and reckless—and we don’t realize it or don’t care—we’re going to be in trouble.

There’s a social justice angle to this as well. When other people have power over you, you bloody well have to care what they think. In some cases, your actual life might depend on it. Not caring what other people think is a privilege. It’s a whole lot easier when you have power, wealth, or other advantages—even to a relative degree.

But apart from these practical concerns, it’s important, at least sometimes and in some ways, to care what other people think. It’s important for one very important reason, one that should matter to humanists and freethinkers and skeptics: other people are a reality check.

*****

the humanist coverThus begins my latest Fierce Humanism column for The Humanist, Should We Care What Other People Think? To read more, read the rest of the piece. Enjoy!


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.