I’m in USA Today!

My photo is in the USA Today’s shitty article about the Reason Rally:

“Jennifer McCreight came from Seattle to Washington, D.C., to hoist this sign at the Reason Rally where 20,000 atheists and free-thinkers came to denounce religion and stand up for unbelief.”

I’ll write up a summary while I’m traveling home today. Right now I have to pull myself out of my zombie-like state and shuffle off to the airport.

This hilariously awkward run-in made my Reason Rally trip worthwhile

I was sitting in the Indianapolis airport waiting for my flight to DC when I ran into Reba Wooden, director of the Center for Inquiry Indy (where I just spoke on Monday). In a funny coincidence, she was on my flight! We started talking about the rally, and the couple sitting next to me said they were going to the rally too, and were really excited other people from Indiana were going.

As we were chatting about the rally, another woman sitting by us chimed in. She apologized to Reba for butting in and said she’s from the Indiana Family Institute and has been meaning to talk with CFI about teaming up about the recent creationist legislation in Indiana.

I thought to myself… an organization with the word “Family” in their title isn’t some crazy right wing religious institution?

Reba recognized her because apparently they’ve testified in front of the Indiana congress before for similar bills. The woman kept talking about how that creationist law was so poorly written, and that IFI and CFI should team up to write a law that can actually pass. It’s getting a little awkward until Reba points out that CFI is against the creationist legislation.

Her: Oh, I must be confused…maybe it was another organization we wanted to team up with.
Me: …Are you thinking of the Discovery Institute?
Her: Yeah, that’s it!
Me: …They’re in Seattle.
Reba: Yeah, we’re on opposite sides. In Congress I was always testifying on the side that disagreed with you.
Her: Yeah, I’m pro-creationism and pro-life…whoops.

And then we all laughed and continued to have a congenial (though slightly awkward) conversation about random stuff.

Guest Post: Play Dates, Religion and Knock-Knock Jokes

The following is a guest post by Amy Watkins, a poet, artist and host of the weekly poetry podcast Red Lion Square. She writes about atheism and parenting at OffBeatMama.com.

Making friends as an adult is awkward, slightly less awkward than dating only because there’s rarely sex involved. All the same issues apply. Do we have things in common? Are we compatible emotionally, financially, and ideologically? It’s not like I have list of friendship deal breakers, but I’m a broke, introverted, atheist teacher with an art habit and an 8-year-old. Some friendships just aren’t going to work out.
For my daughter, making friends is still simple. She just marches up to the other kid and says, “Hi. I’m Alice. Let’s be friends.” That’s how she became friends with L. L and her mom J cut through our apartment complex on their walk home from school. Alice, playing outside, befriended L simply by being friendly. Soon L and J were stopping most afternoons to play in the apartments’ common area, and J and I eventually struck up brief conversations about the kids, the weather and preschool.
I was nervous when they invited us over for a play date. When Alice was a toddler and I was a stay-at-home mom, I never hit it off with other parents at the park or story time. None of them ever talked about themselves, sticking instead to the one thing we had in common–our kids. The small talk quickly bored me or made me feel vaguely judged or, worse, vaguely competitive. Our kids were a mask that let us pretend we were all middle class with no political opinions or controversial problems. Sometimes I felt a strong urge to swear or shout, “I have $80 in my checking account! I don’t care about choosing a preschool! I have a master’s degree, for fuck’s sake!”
At J’s, I sat in the living room as anxious as a girl on a blind date, relieved that the house was a little messy and the baby was toddling around in a diaper. Turns out we had a lot in common. We both had daughters and had been both stay-at-home and working moms. She had been a theater major in college–not the same as my creative writing degree, but we both knew Shakespeare, loved art and had often answered the question, “What are you going to do with that degree?” It was a great first play date, and we invited them to an open house at Alice’s dance school the next week. While the girls were in class, J and I had coffee and didn’t talk about our kids. She was smart and funny, talkative but interested in what I had to say. I liked her big curly hair and her openness. It felt like I was making a friend.
On the way home from dance class, L pointed out the car window, “Look, a church.”
Without pause, Alice replied, “I don’t go to church. I’m not ever going.” In the front seat, I kept my eyes on the road and held my breath, thinking, You can’t just jump into a religious discussion on the second play date! You have to ease it into conversation around play date eight or ten after casually swearing and name dropping Chuck Darwin. You’ll offend them and then neither of us will have a new friend.
What matters in friendship, the big or the little things? And which is religion? Is it too big to overcome, something with which we will always hurt or offend each other if we don’t see eye to eye, or is it one of the little things we can agree to disagree about, like reality TV or Thai food? I have friends from a wide spectrum of faith and skepticism—agnostic recovering Catholics; militantly anti-religious atheists; thoughtful, devout Christians; hip young churchgoers who picture Jesus as the sort of guy you could take out for a beer. On hopeful days, I believe we enrich each other’s lives, help each other see the world through a different lens. Other days, I feel only the disconnect between our points of view. When it comes to making friends with other parents, the assumptions we make about each others’ religious views are another mask to get past. I think of a lesbian mom friend saying she doesn’t want to “pass” for straight but is exhausted by having to come out over and over. I feel the same.
In the backseat, they kept it simple. “Well, I’m going to church,” L said. “When I grow up, I’m going to church all the time.”
“Well,” Alice said, “I’m not.” Then they told knock-knock jokes all the way home.

Catch me on the radio tomorrow morning!

I know you’re all a bunch of godless heathens who have their Sunday mornings wide open, so you should tune into Atheist Talk tomorrow! I’ll be on with fellow Freethought Bloggers Greg Laden, Stephanie Zvan, and Brianne Bilyeu:

Listen to AM 950 KTNF this Sunday at 9 a.m. Central to hear Atheists Talk, produced by Minnesota Atheists. Stream live online. Call in to the studio at 952-946-6205, or send an e-mail to radio@mnatheists.org during the live show. If you miss the live show, listen to the podcast later.

The topic is blogging – does it make a difference, or is it just a giant internet circle jerk? It will be especially interesting because I’m going drinking tonight, and the show starts at what will feel like 7am my time. I might be extra loopy and caffeinated.

Spring break speaking schedule – MN, IN, DC

My spring break is next week! While my fellow grad students will be heading off to beaches or mountains to enjoy their time off, I’ll be going to… the Midwest. The place I’m constantly thankful for escaping. Yaaaaay.

In all seriousness, I am excited. I get to see a lot of friends during the trip and return to some of my old stomping grounds in Indiana. Plus I get a home cooked meal from my grandparents! But one of my favorite parts of doing these speaking tours is getting to meet my readers, so come check them out!

If you need added incentive, I’ll be debuting a new talk at the Indiana events called The Indiana Theocracy. Consider it an amusing summary of my various Indiana rants over the last couple of years. Hopefully it’ll be motivational for the local groups, rather than depressing.

Sunday, March 18
2:00 – 3:30 pm
Roseville Public Library
2180 Hamline Ave. N
Roseville, MN
Topic: God’s Lady Problem
Sponsored by the Minnesota Atheists (more info)

Monday, March 19
7:00 – 8:00 pm
350 Canal Walk, Suite A
Indianapolis, IN
Topic: The Indiana Theocracy
$10 ($5 for Friends of the Center)
Sponsored by the Center for Inquiry – Indianapolis  (more info)

Tuesday, March 20
8:00 pm
SULB 321
Purdue Calumet Campus
Hammond, IN
Topic: The Indiana Theocracy
Sponsored by the Secular Student Alliance at Purdue Calumet

Thursday, March 22
6:30 – 8:00 pm
WTHR 172
Purdue Main Campus
West Lafayette, IN
Topic: The Indiana Theocracy
Sponsored by the Society of Non-Theists at Purdue University (my old group!)
Post talk debauchery at the Neon Cactus

I won’t be speaking in DC, but I will be there for the Reason Rally on March 24th! I’ll be tweeting like mad, roaming through the crowd, and occasionally working at the SSA’s table, so try to find me. I might even invest in a funny sign.  There’s also the post-rally celebration co-hosted by Freethought Blogs and Friendly Atheist. Maybe we should have a pre-game pub night in DC on March 23? I could also do a pub night in Minneapolis on the 17th or 18th. What do you guys think? If there’s enough interest, I’ll pick a time and a bar (suggestions welcome).

I have angered some sort of water god

Remember how my car randomly flooded a couple of weeks ago? Well, now it’s my apartment’s turn! The apartment above mine had their bath tub’s plumbing leak, resulting in water draining down the wall into my apartment. My hallway carpet is grossly soaked, and is currently covered in towels and has a fan blowing on it. My landlord was very prompt about fixing the leak and says he’ll take care of any damage to the carpet, but it’s still a pain in the ass.

I guess this exposes my biases. I always thought that if I were going to get smited by an angry god, it would be the Christian one. Not because that one is more likely to exist than the rest, but because I make fun of it the most. Little did I know it would be a water god who finally took their wrath out against this atheist. I’m not sure which of the dozens of water gods that may be, but I’m going to guess Poseidon since I’m half Greek.

Damn you, Poseidon!

The Atheist’s Guide to Sex: The abridged version

Ask your partner(s) for consent, not mythological or supernatural beings.

I think that about sums it up.

On a more serious note, if/when I get any free time, a book called The Atheist’s Guide to Sex is my number one goal (or perhaps editing an anthology, if I can rope others into it). Think of the endless chapter possibilities! Secular sexual ethics, the effects of religion on sexual guilt, religious bullying of GLBT teens, interesting sex acts in other species, the religious right’s war on women’s reproductive health, giving “the talk” as a secular parent, bizarre sex stories from religious mythology… I could go on all day.

What would you want to see covered? …And do grad students ever go on sabbatical to write a book?

Those radical, offensive atheists!

Are you sitting down? Got some smelling salts available near by? Prepared to clutch your pearls? Well then take a look at this horrible bus ad the NEPA Freethought Society wanted to run in Pennsylvania!

Awful, right? That’s why the ad was rejected outright by the bus company:

Jim Smith, the advertising contact at COLTS, said that the reason for refusal — appealing to the very questionable and vague advertising policyof COLTS — was that COLTS does not accept ads which could be deemed controversial or otherwise spark public debate.

The ironic part? This ad was created specifically to be as inoffensive as possible, inspired by this idea from Richard Wade:

In the continuing debate over the benefits and drawbacks of “in your face” atheist billboards versus “soft sell” atheist billboards, the assertion that the religious public will claim that they’re “offended” whether the message is strident or mild is frequently put forward.

As a good skeptic, I thought that perhaps this proposition should be put to a test. So in a half-serious, half-lighthearted spirit, I propose that we try displaying billboards that are truly innocuous, so that the only thing that might provoke “offense” would be the word “atheist” in the billboard sponsor’s name. Then we would see if the claim is true that “our mere existence is what offends them.”

So yes, it’s not just controversial to say that the claims made by religions are false. It’s not just controversial to say that atheists can be moral. It’s controversial to say the word “atheist” because our existence implicitly says that we think the religious beliefs of others are wrong.

(Via Friendly Atheist)