Quantcast

Apr 09 2014

“Unmatched in passion and clarity of thought”: Gem Newman’s Blurb for “Coming Out Atheist”

Coming Out Atheist cover 150“Greta Christina is unmatched in passion and clarity of thought. Her writing manages to be both friendly and confrontational. Why Are You Atheists So Angry? quickly became the #1 book that I recommend to atheists and curious believers alike, and I can’t imagine a better or more complete guide to telling someone that you don’t believe than Coming Out Atheist.”
-Gem Newman, Life, the Universe & Everything Else Podcast

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

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

Apr 08 2014

Psychics and Mediums: Where’s the Harm? Guest Post by Rebecca Hensler

This is a guest post by Rebecca Hensler, founder and co-moderator of Grief Beyond Belief, the online grief support group for atheists and other non-believers.

A lot of people think professional “psychics” are harmless. (Please henceforth assume that any time I use the word “psychic” it is in quotes.) Especially if you are sophisticated enough to understand the learnable skill of cold reading, you may simply chuckle at the gullibility of an audience gasping in awe as a celebrity psychic seems to “know things she couldn’t possibly know” about some stranger’s dead mother or grandfather or dog. Most of us even know otherwise intelligent people who believe that they or others have supernatural powers beyond their human powers of observation, insight into human nature, and a knack for the educated guess.

It wasn’t until I began grieving myself that I started seeing how psychics and mediums manipulate and profit from the bereaved. They can be particularly dangerous to — and particularly exploitive of — those experiencing the more complex, more painful and often longer-lasting grief that results from a traumatic death, a suicide, or the death of someone with whom the bereaved had a conflicted relationship. And boy, can they milk the heck out of the grief of parents! A friend for whom I care deeply has spent literally thousands of dollars on psychics since the drowning death of her toddler.

Some might still wonder, “If it makes her feel better, where’s the harm? It isn’t hurting anyone else.” I thought that too, until she began encouraging another grieving mother — a vulnerable younger woman — to seek help from the same high-priced psychic to contact her own baby who had died just days after birth.

Others might point out that not all self-declared psychics are out to make money. Some honestly believe that they can communicate with the dead, and are just trying to help people feel better, as we do at Grief Beyond Belief.

Just a week after my son died, my coworker tried to offer me that kind of “help.” She told me she had been in touch with my son, could “see” him. She told me he had told her why he had died. She told me that he hadn’t wanted me to suffer the pain of taking care of such a sick child.

As if there was anything I would not have been willing to suffer to keep him alive.

I left the room before I could start screaming at her. She thought she was being kind and supportive, so much so that she told me the same thing again a few weeks later. Her belief in her own psychic powers gave her permission to say something that as a friend and a counselor she would never have said otherwise.

Celebrity “psychics” such as Theresa Caputo, aka The Long Island Medium, present their own dangers. They do make money from private and group readings — a 30-minute session with Caputo is reported to cost around $400 to $500 — but most of their work is as performers, doing live shows, TV talk shows and their own “reality” programming. People who watch purely for entertainment or to admire the trick, as one would watch a magician or a hypnotist, are unharmed. But for those who are themselves grieving, the credulous crowds and fawning talk show hosts give undeserved weight to the promises that our loved ones still exist, still love us, and can be sought and found. Psychics — like preachers — tell believers that that death is not final, and that grief can be addressed through faith in a continuing connection with the immortal soul or spirit of the deceased. In other words, psychics, celebrity and otherwise, tell us that facing the reality of death — the first of psychologist J. William Worden’s “Tasks of Mourning” (Worden, 2009) — is unnecessary.

It’s a load of crap and a harmful one. The psychic — also like the preacher — profits, while the bereaved pay to delay exactly what is necessary for their healing. Psychics dine off the pain of the grieving, and celebrity psychics dine very well.

This is why I am joining Skepchick blogger Rebecca Watson in beseeching Ellen Degeneres to end her willing participation in Theresa Caputo’s exploitation of the grieving members of both her live and television audiences. Ellen is an intelligent woman, and should know better than to support this type of manipulative, deceitful bullshit. Perhaps she thinks she needs to sink to this level to compete with her fellow talk show hosts, but she is mistaken. Truly great hosts have always displayed respect for the minds of their fans, not just played to their emotions. They have challenged their guests, not just enabled them. Great hosts offer their audiences wisdom and compassion, not false empathy and false hope.

Charlatans of Caputo’s ilk have existed for millennia, around the world. For one talk show host to deny one such charlatan one audience does not solve the problem of this particular brand of grief exploitation. But, as the song goes, “it’s a damn good place to start.

Apr 08 2014

“A great how-to-guide for cautious nonbelievers”: Annie Sapucaia’s Blurb for “Coming Out Atheist”

Coming Out Atheist cover 150“Greta’s new book gives advice on how to come out atheist to pretty much everyone you know — and even to those you don’t. Greta’s take-away message from reading and hearing thousands of coming out-atheist stories? Most of the time, despite the initial awkwardness or fear, it turns out all right. This is a great how-to-guide for cautious nonbelievers who may fear the consequences of coming out godless.”
-Annie Sapucaia, New Books in Secularism podcast

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

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

Apr 07 2014

Secular Meditation: Mindfulness and Sex

silhouette lovers kissing on beachSo how might the principles and practices of secular mindfulness be applied to boffing?

In some ways, sex is a perfect arena to practice mindfulness. And in some ways, it’s really, really not. Not that it’s impossible or antithetical or anything. Just that it’s sometimes challenging, and counterintuitive, and complicated.

I’ll start with the ways that I’ve found this to be pretty straightforward. The basic idea behind mindfulness is to be as fully present in the moment as you can be: to consciously focus your awareness on a particular object or activity or experience, to notice when your awareness has wandered, to observe this wandering without judgment, and to gently draw your awareness back to the here and now and to the object/ activity/ experience you’re focusing on. And sex is an obvious, and obviously wonderful, arena for that.

In fact, there’s an established technique used by many sex therapists called “sensate focus”: a way of alleviating anxiety and self-consciousness during sex, in which people focus on and fully experience their immediate sensations rather than being goal-oriented about orgasm (their own, or their partner’s). Letting go of distractions, of judgments, of goals, of anxieties about those goals, and bringing your focus to the immediate sensation of a hand on your thigh, of fingers in your hair, of your own fingers on the curve of their hip… yeah. Hell, yeah. No argument from me. It’s a technique that’s often used for people with performance anxiety, for men with erectile dysfunction or women with problems reaching orgasm — but honestly, this can be a good time for pretty much anyone. And it can be used in masturbation just as well as in partner sex.

Seems pretty simple. Difficult or challenging to practice, perhaps, but the basic idea is pretty straightforward. So how could any of it be complicated, or counterintuitive?

Here’s the thing. For me, anyway. Sex is — how shall I put this? — a multi-media experience. It commonly involves all the senses. Or at least more than one or two. And it involves more than the senses: it involves emotions, memories, images, ideas, associations, psychological connections.

So if I’m working to be fully present with my immediate sexual experience, it begs the question: Which experience? The sensation of my fingers twining in her hair? The sensation of her fingers on my belly? Her scent? The taste of her skin? The sound of her breath? How her curves look in the dim light? The memory of the last time, when we did that other really filthy thing? The warm, spicy glow of deep love blended with skanky lechery? The tightening of my clit? The brightness in her eye as my eye catches hers? When all of this is going on at once — what do I stay present with?

strawberriesOf course, this is true for other experiences as well. Eating is the example that most obviously leaps to mind. Eating isn’t just about flavor: it’s about scent, sensation, sight, even sound. And it’s also about memories, associations, emotions, as well as sensations. And yet mindful eating — eating slowly, finishing each bite before starting the next, staying in the present moment and fully experiencing your food — is a classic mindfulness exercise. It’s almost a chestnut. (Mmmmm — chestnuts!)

Plus, in sex — sex with another person, anyway — I’m not just working to stay present with my own sensations and experiences. I’m working to stay present with my partner’s. (“Working” is maybe the wrong word, that makes it sound like a chore and it’s not in the slightest, but it’s the best I’ve come up with for now.) I’m working to be as richly aware of what’s happening with my own body as I can — and I’m also working to be richly aware of what’s happening with hers. How do I do both of these at once, while still staying focused on one thing at a time?

ultimate guide to sexual fantasy coverAnd how does fantasy play into all this? For many people, accepting and enjoying fantasies is a hugely important part of fully enjoying sex. But isn’t “fantasizing” the exact opposite of being in the present moment? If you’re having sex or masturbating, and you’re imagining that you’re getting spanked by a nun, that you’re having sex in Central Park, that you’re getting a blowjob from George Clooney — isn’t that the exact opposite of fully experiencing whatever sex you’re having right now? Even if the sex you’re having right now is with yourself? But I would never in a zillion years suggest, even to myself, that sexual fantasies are bad for sex, and that in order to more richly and fully experience sex, I should step away from having them. Fuck that noise. I mean, if I were indulging in fantasy at the expense of ever enjoying my body in the here and now, I might see a problem — but I’m not, so I don’t. So how does fantasy fit into all this? How does “enjoying sexual images that drift into one’s head, and deliberately entertaining them and getting off on them” fit in with “staying in the present moment during sex”?

Here’s how I’m working this out for myself. For now, anyway. In MBSR meditation, there’s one technique in which, rather than deliberately focusing your awareness on one object or activity or experience, you let your focus wander. As your awareness drifts from your breath, to your sore back, to the sound of the heater switching on, to your plans for tomorrow, to some fantasy or anxiety about tomorrow, to a grumbling in your belly, to your anxiety about your body shape, to your breath, to some philosophical train of thought about your breath and meditation, to the awareness of your tongue in your mouth… you let it drift. You follow it. And you stay present with all of it, as much as you can. The intent isn’t to keep your awareness focused on one thing. It’s to stay conscious, to stay present, with whatever your awareness wanders into.

When I’m working to be mindful during sex, I do a version of that. I let my focus wander: from sensation to sensation, from image to image, from one part of my body to another (whether I’m having partner sex or masturbating), from my own body to my partner’s (if I’m having partner sex and not masturbating), from the sting of a hand on my ass to assorted mental images I’m having about spankings, and back around again. And with each of these moments and experiences, I work to stay conscious of it, and to stay present with it, and to experience all of it, as fully as I can.

Now, if my awareness drifts into something that isn’t sex — if it starts to drift into anxieties about work, plans to redecorate the house, ideas for the new book I’m working on, some argument I’m having on the Internet — that’s when it’s time to notice that my awareness has wandered, and observe that without judgment, and gently bring my focus back to the present moment. Some piece of the present moment.

Any piece of the present moment will do.

Especially the really skanky ones.

Thoughts? If you’re doing a secular mindfulness practice, how do you incorporate sexuality into it — or incorporate it into sexuality?

Apr 07 2014

“Clarity, passion, and empathy”: Neil Wehneman’s Blurb for “Coming Out Atheist”

Coming Out Atheist cover 150“With her trademark mix of clarity, passion, and empathy, Greta Christina has produced the definitive guide in Coming Out Atheist. More than just a how-to, Coming Out Atheist also empowers those already out in making our movement a more welcoming place.”
-Neil Wehneman, Development Director, Secular Student Alliance

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

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

Apr 06 2014

“A great resource for emerging atheists”: Catherine Dunphy’s Blurb for “Coming Out Atheist

Coming Out Atheist cover 150“What an accomplishment! In Coming Out Atheist, Greta Christina has pulled together a great resource for emerging atheists. She very thoroughly captures the reality that atheists are people too, including non-believing clergy.”
-Catherine Dunphy, Acting Executive Director, The Clergy Project

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

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

Apr 05 2014

“An optimistic truth”: Hemant Mehta’s Blurb for “Coming Out Atheist”

Coming Out Atheist cover 150“There’s no doubt that it’s hard to be an atheist in America, but Greta Christina’s message will make you rethink keeping your beliefs to yourself. There’s an optimistic truth that ties her book together: By coming out publicly as non-religious, we are doing something courageous, powerful, and important. Given the choice between simply handing someone a copy of The God Delusion and telling that person you don’t believe in God, Greta reminds us that the personal message may be the most powerful weapon in the atheist arsenal.”
-Hemant Mehta, blogger at FriendlyAtheist.com and author of The Young Atheist’s Survival Guide

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

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

Apr 04 2014

“A pleasure to read both for the seasoned atheist as well as for the person still in the atheist closet”: David Tamayo’s Blurb for “Coming Out Atheist

Coming Out Atheist cover 150“With this work, Greta Christina makes a sensible and reasonable case for coming out of the closet as an atheist. She points to a wide range of excellent real cases focusing on the many positive aspects of doing so. She is clear in saying that no one is looking for martyrs, but contends instead that coming out typically brings one a sense of well-being, happiness, and self fulfillment. As a popular author, Greta’s direct and to the point exceptional arguments are second to none among current authors for the secular communities. One great thing about this book is that it also takes into consideration minorities and other already marginalized groups, helping them deal with the subject of coming out as non-believers. This book offers something for everyone and Greta Christina’s unrelenting positivism makes it a pleasure to read both for the seasoned atheist as well as for the person still in the atheist closet. I strongly recommend getting two copies of this exceptional book: one to keep and one to give as the perfect present for a good friend.”
-David Tamayo, Founder and President, Hispanic American Freethinkers

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

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

Apr 04 2014

Greta Speaking – Iowa Location Changed! Plus St Peter MN, Salt Lake City UT, San Francisco CA, San Jose CA, Phoenix AZ, and Chicago IL

The location of my upcoming talk at Iowa State University has changed! Plus I’m having a book party at Modern Times in San Francisco for my upcoming book, Coming Out Atheist: How to Do It, How to Help Each Other, and Why.

Here are the details of all my upcoming speaking events for the next few months. In addition to San Francisco, I’ll be speaking in Ames IA, St. Peter MN, Salt Lake City (the American Atheists convention), San Francisco CA, San Jose CA, Phoenix AZ (the SSA Con West), and Chicago, IL (Humanism At Work, the Foundation Beyond Belief conference). If you’re in any of these places, I hope to see you there!

CITY: Ames, Iowa (Iowa State University)
DATE: Wednesday, April 9
TIME: 7:00 PM
LOCATION: Carver Hall 101 Now at the Sun Room, Memorial Union, Iowa State University
HOSTS/SPONSORS: ISU Atheist & Agnostic Society (ISUAAS)
TOPIC: What can the atheist movement learn from the LGBT movement?
SUMMARY: The atheist movement is already modeling itself on the LGBT movement in many ways — most obviously with its focus on coming out of the closet. What else can the atheist movement learn from the LGBT movement… both from its successes and its failures?
COST: Free and open to the public
EVENT URL: http://www.lectures.iastate.edu/lecture/32653

CITY: St Peter, MN (Gustavus Adolphus College)
DATE: Thursday, April 10
TIME: 7:00 pm
LOCATION: Wallenberg Auditorium, Nobel Hall, Gustavus Adolphus College
HOSTS/SPONSORS: Gustavus Secular Student Alliance
TOPIC: Why Are You Atheists So Angry?
SUMMARY: The atheist movement is often accused of being driven by anger. What are so many atheists so angry about? Is this anger legitimate? And can anger be an effective force behind a movement for social change?
COST: Free and open to the public

Coming Out Atheist cover 150CITY: Salt Lake City, UT (American Atheists Convention)
DATE: April 17-20 (I’m speaking on Saturday April 19 at 5:30pm, and will then be signing books)
LOCATION: Hilton Salt Lake City Center
HOSTS/SPONSORS: American Atheists
TOPIC: Coming Out Atheist: How To Do It, How to Help Each Other Do It, And Why
SUMMARY: Coming out is the most powerful political act atheists can take. But coming out can be difficult and risky. What are some specific, practical, nuts-and-bolts strategies we can use: to come out of the closet, to support each other in coming out, and to make the atheist community a safer place to come out into? What can atheists learn about coming out from the LGBT community and their decades of coming-out experience — and what can we learn from the important differences between coming out atheist and coming out queer?
OTHER SPEAKERS: Chris Kluwe, Denise Stapley, Mark White, PZ Myers, Maryam Namazie, Marsha Botzer, Matt Dillahunty, Sikivu Hutchinson, Rev. Barry Lynn, Juan Mendez, Faisal Saeed Al-Mutar, Vyckie Garrison, David Fitzgerald, Beth Presswood, Amanda Knief, and many more
COST: $40 – 329
EVENT URL: http://www.atheists.org/convention2014

Coming Out Atheist cover 150CITY: San Francisco, CA
DATE: Saturday, April 26
TIME: 3:30 PM
LOCATION: Modern Times Bookstore Collective, 2919 24th Street in San Francisco (close to the 24th and Mission BART station)
HOSTS/SPONSORS: San Francisco Atheists
TOPIC: Coming Out Atheist: How To Do It, How to Help Each Other Do It, And Why
SUMMARY: See above
SPECIAL INFO: This is a book party as well as a talk, and food/ drink will be served
COST: Free and open to the public

Coming Out Atheist cover 150CITY: San Jose, CA
DATE: Wednesday, April 30
TIME: 7:00 PM
LOCATION: San Jose Woman’s Club, 75 South 11th Street, San Jose, CA
HOSTS/SPONSORS: San Jose Atheists
TOPIC: Coming Out Atheist: How To Do It, How to Help Each Other Do It, And Why?
SUMMARY: See above
COST: Free and open to the public
EVENT URL: http://www.meetup.com/Atheist-Community-of-San-Jose/events/161081902/

CITY: Phoenix, AZ (Secular Student Alliance Conference West)
DATE: Friday, June 20 – Sunday, June 22
LOCATION: Arizona State University in Phoenix
HOSTS/SPONSORS: Secular Student Alliance
TOPIC: Coming Out Atheist: Special Student Edition
SUMMARY: Coming out is the most powerful political act atheists can take. But coming out can be difficult and risky. And students — college, high school, and earlier — face special challenges in coming out. What are some specific, practical, nuts-and-bolts strategies we can use: to come out of the closet, to support each other in coming out, and to make the atheist community a safer place to come out into?
COST: $39 – $149; group rates and travel aid are available
EVENT URL: https://www.secularstudents.org/2014con/west/

CITY: Chicago, IL (Humanism At Work, the Foundation Beyond Belief conference)
DATE: Friday July 18 – Sunday July 20
LOCATION: Hilton Rosemont/ O’Hare, Chicago, IL
HOSTS/SPONSORS: Foundation Beyond Belief
TOPIC: Coming Out Atheist — How It Helps the World
SUMMARY: Coming out is the most powerful political act atheists can take, and one of the most powerful acts we can take to make life better for ourselves and other atheists. But are there ways that coming out makes life better, not just for atheists, but for believers and the rest of the world?
OTHER SPEAKERS: Hemant Mehta, Leo Igwe, Rebecca Vitsmun, Caroline Fiennes, Brittany Shoots-Reinhard, Hemley Gonzalez, Alix Jules, Pathfinders Panel (Conor Robinson, Ben Blanchard, Michelle Huey, Wendy Webber), and more
COST: $129/ticket ($149 after April 15)
EVENT URL: http://humanismatwork.org/

Apr 03 2014

In (Moderate) Praise of Not Being Yourself

legally-blonde-movie-posterElle: “No more trying to be something that I’m just — I’m just not.”

Emmett: “What if you’re trying to be somebody you are?”

-Dialogue from “Legally Blonde” (a surprisingly good, smart, funny, and feminist movie).

We talk a lot about how important it is to “be yourself.” And of course I see the great value in this. When you live in a culture that has powerful and unreasonable expectations about what you’re supposed to be like — based on your gender, your race, your age, your upbringing, your looks, your geography, and more — of course there’s value in pushing back against that. Of course there’s value in insisting that as long as you’re a basically decent and ethical person, you shouldn’t have to try to force yourself into boxes you just don’t fit into, and you don’t have to live up to anybody’s standards but your own.

Totally agreed.

But I think that sometimes, in some situations, there is value in not being yourself.

Here’s what I mean. I started thinking about this when I was talking with a fellow writer, someone a couple/few decades younger than me, who was talking about their anxieties about self-promotion. I said that I totally understood this anxiety: I have it as well. Writers tend to be introverts, remote observers, the exact opposite of the personality required to be a publicist. And self-promotion requires a degree of self-confidence, and confidence in the value of your work, that borders on arrogance — confidence that many people lack, and that women especially get pounded out of us from an early age.

But I also said that my greatest regrets as a writer were regrets over missed opportunities: large, exciting doors that opened briefly, and then closed, because I didn’t have the gumption to walk through them and announce myself. And I said that a huge part of the reason I’d gotten to a place where I could work as a writer full-time — something I wanted passionately and had been working towards fiercely, for decades — was that I was willing to suck it up and do self-promotion. Despite the fact that I hated it, that I wasn’t any good at it, that I had no aptitude or stomach for it, I had to suck it up and do it anyway. If I was going to do the thing that was most deeply in my nature — writing — and devote myself to it full-time, I had to be willing to do something that was entirely antithetical to that nature. And I had to get good at it. Or at least competent.

Learning_curve_chartI’ve found that many smart, talented people have a stumbling block: We don’t like to be bad at things. We’re used to learning things quickly, and we’re used to being good at things. So when we come across something that’s hard, something that doesn’t come naturally, something where our learning curve is slow and torturous, something that makes us actively uncomfortable, we tend to give up. Because we’re used to picking things up quickly, we often assume that, if we aren’t picking something up quickly, we’re never going to pick it up at all.

But I think that there are very few areas in life where we’re naturally good at every single aspect. You might have an aptitude for medical care, but not have an aptitude for rigorous record-keeping. You might have an aptitude for plumbing, but not have an aptitude for customer relations. You might have an aptitude for scholarship, but not have an aptitude for bureaucracy. You might have an aptitude for starting a business, but not have an aptitude for bill collecting. You might have an aptitude for writing or painting or music or just about any art form, but not have an aptitude for the self-promotion that just about any artist needs. If you want to do the thing you most love, the thing at which you would excel, you might have to learn to do something you hate, and are not very good at.

And I’ve found that, at least sometimes, learning to do things that didn’t come naturally to me had unexpected payoffs, in surprising areas of my life. I worked for years as a bill collector for a local LGBT newspaper — a job that absolutely, 100% did not come easily to me. But learning how to do it didn’t just give me the opportunity to work at that newspaper. It taught me how to ask for what I need and want and deserve, clearly and firmly, while still being respectful, being reasonably flexible, and maintaining an ongoing friendly relationship. And learning how to do self-promotion has done wonders for my self-confidence as a writer. I think I write better, with less self-doubt and more strength and clarity, because of it.

We should absolutely be who we are. (As long as “who we are” isn’t “total raging asshole.”) But if we’re going to be who we are, I think we sometimes have to work to be things that we’re not.

Thoughts?

Older posts «

» Newer posts