Note to Atheists: Low Incarceration Rates Are Not a Sign of Morality

prison photo

There’s this thing being shared a bunch on Facebook: a piece from 2015 by Hemant Mehta at Friendly Atheist, about the disproportionately low percentage of atheists in the U.S. federal prison system. Mehta himself wrote in the piece that “It would be foolish to use this information to suggest atheists are more moral than religious groups,” but some people are sharing it around, declaring it to one more piece of evidence for atheists’ morality.

No. No, no, no, no no.

Can we please, please, not equate immorality with being in prison, and morality with not being in prison?

Incarcaration in the U.S. is hugely unjust. (Link, link, link, link, link, link.) Among many, many other things: It targets black and brown people in wildly disproportionate numbers: black and brown people are arrested more, are more likely to be convicted, and are more likely to serve longer sentences. Class is a big factor in incarceration rates, including the ability to afford high-priced lawyers, and the ability to shape the laws in the first place. Poor people are regularly incarcerated for minor crimes, while white-collar thieves of millions of people and billions of dollars go free. Plus, incarceration is often self-perpetuating. The often absurd and impossible demands of the parole system turn parole into a revolving door; a prison record makes it harder to get work, get into school, etc. — and given how racist U.S. incarceration is, removing the right to vote from people with prison records contributes to the systematic disenfranchisement of black and brown people, and diminishes their ability to change the system.

And of course, ridiculously huge numbers of people are incarcerated because of the drug war — which is being pursued in racist ways, creating and perpetuating a permanent black and brown underclass. If you smoke weed or do any other illegal drugs, or have ever smoked weed or done any illegal drugs, you’re in no position to claim any sort of moral superiority on the basis of not being in prison.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. I encourage readers to give other examples of injustice in the prison system, here in the comments.

When we argue that atheists are moral because so few of us are in prison, we’re agreeing that being in prison is a reasonable indicator of morality. This is flatly not true. It’s factually inaccurate, which atheists are supposed to care about. And it perpetuates the racism and classism in the U.S. justice system. The reasoning, if you can call it that, is absurdly and depressingly circular: black and brown people are in prison in hugely disproportionate numbers, so people assume that they’re more likely to be criminals — so they’re more likely to be targeted by law enforcement, more likely to be convicted, and more likely to get longer sentences. When we use low incarceration rates as a sign of atheists’ morality, think about what that sounds like to people who have been subjected to the unjust justice system for decades.

There are good arguments for why atheists are as moral as anyone else. This isn’t one of them.

Note to Atheists: Low Incarceration Rates Are Not a Sign of Morality
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Godless Perverts Social Club in Oakland, Thursday March 17!

Godless Perverts Social Club Oakland March 2016
Godless Perverts is having a Social Club in our wonderful new Oakland location, Thursday, March 17! 7-9 pm. We have a new location for the Oakland Godless Perverts Social Clubs — we’re now meeting at Rudy’s Can’t Fail Cafe, 1805 Telegraph Avenue, next to the Fox Theater (and right near the 19th St. Oakland BART station). Rudy’s Can’t Fail is a fun, friendly space that serves meals, small bites, beer, cocktails, soft drinks, and desserts. We’re meeting in the back room/ dining car, which is ridiculously cute: the dining car has somewhat limited space, probably enough for all of us, but it’s a good idea to arrive on time if you want to be sure to get a seat. The Oakland Social Clubs are on the third Thursday of the month (First Tuesdays are still in San Francisco at Wicked Grounds.)

So please join us! Hang out with other nonbelievers and chat about sex, sexuality, gender, atheism, religion, science, social justice, pop culture, and more. 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.All orientations, genders, and kinks (or lack thereof) are welcome. We meet on the third Thursday of every month at Rudy’s Can’t Fail Cafe (we also meet on the first Tuesday of every month at Wicked Grounds, 289 8th Street at Folsom in San Francisco, near Civic Center BART). 7-9 pm. Admission is free, although we do ask that you buy food and/or drink at the venue. Continue reading “Godless Perverts Social Club in Oakland, Thursday March 17!”

Godless Perverts Social Club in Oakland, Thursday March 17!

Welcome to The Orbit!

Welcome to The Orbit!

Comet the cat with laptop

This is my new blogging home. It’s a new blogging network, specifically dedicated to atheism and social justice, co-founded by over twenty bloggers including me.

I’ll have a lot more to say about it in the coming days. For now, I mostly just want to say Welcome! I am hugely excited and happy to be here. I’m excited to be a co-builder of something new: I think The Orbit is going to be an important and valuable place for atheists who care about social justice, and I’m so proud to be part of creating it. A lot of atheists have felt increasingly disconnected from organized atheism, and we hope to give these people a home. In fact, we hope to give a home to anyone who cares about the things we care about.

If you want to find out more about us — our mission, who we are, how we’re structured, why we chose The Orbit as our name, what’s unique about us, what we even mean by social justice  — please visit our About Us page. You can also ask me questions here in the comments, but I can’t promise to answer all or even any of them: I’m a little swamped right now, as you might imagine.

The other bloggers currently in The Orbit are Alex Gabriel, Alix Jules, Alyssa Gonzalez, Ani, Ania Bula, Aoife O’Riordan, Ashley F. Miller, Benny Vimes, Brianne Bilyeu, Chris Hall, D. Frederick Sparks, Dana Hunter, Dori Mooneyham, Heina Dadabhoy, Jason Thibeault, Luxander Pond, Miri Mogilevsky, Niki M., Sincere Kirabo, Stephanie Zvan, Tony Thompson, and Zinnia Jones. I hope you’ll take some time and visit all of them over the coming days and weeks: pulling together this roster has been one of the most fun and exciting parts of this process, and I am so excited to be working with these people, I cannot even tell you.

happy Greta in colorful outfit in garden
We’ll probably be shaking out a few tech issues over the next few days. If you run into any problems, please let us know — and please be patient. And if you’re excited and happy about this, please help us out if you can — kick in to our Kickstarter campaign to help cover our operating costs (even small amounts help, they really do add up), or just spread the word about us. Welcome to my new home!

Welcome to The Orbit!

Support the Black Skeptics “First in the Family” Humanist Scholarship Fund

Please support the Black Skeptics of Los Angeles First in the Family Humanist Scholarship initiative! Please donate if you can — even small donations help, they really do add up — and please spread the word on social media.

In 2013, Black Skeptics Los Angeles (BSLA), a 501c3 organization, spearheaded its First in the Family Humanist Scholarship initiative, which focuses on providing resources to undocumented, foster care, homeless and LGBTQ youth who will be the first in their families to go to college. Responding directly to the school-to-prison pipeline crisis in communities of color, BSLA is the first atheist organization to specifically address college pipelining for youth of color with an explicitly anti-racist multicultural emphasis. If current prison pipelining trends persist the Education Trust estimates that only “one of every 20 African American kindergartners will graduate from a four-year California university” in the next decade. In addition:

The school-to-prison pipeline disproportionately locks up African American and Latino youth, leaving many with criminal records and no possibility of “re-entry” to employment, housing or higher education

African American youth are severely over-represented in foster care, homeless populations, and juvenile jails

Foster care and homeless youth of color have some of the lowest rates of college transfer and graduation amongst college youth populations

LGBTQ youth of color have disproportionately high suspension/expulsion and push-out rates in U.S. public schools

Black females are consistently suspended at greater rates than ALL OTHER groups besides black males

So-called inner city schools have fewer Advanced Placement, college prep and honors courses and highly qualified STEM teachers than their white suburban counterparts

With your support, Black Skeptics hopes to award at least four youth $1000 scholarships to assist with their books, tuition, housing and other living expenses. Their 2013-2015 scholars are now at USC, UCLA, UC Riverside, Cal State University Long Beach, Babson College, University of North Texas, UC Merced and El Camino College.

So please support the First in the Family Humanist Scholarship initiative! Please donate if you can — even small donations help, they really do add up — and please spread the word. Thanks!

BSLA and their alum also thank their previous supporters: Freedom from Religion Foundation, American Humanist Association, Atheists United, Black Non-Believers, Minority Atheists of Michigan and more!

Comforting Thoughts book cover oblong 100 JPG
Coming Out Atheist
Bending
why are you atheists so angry
Greta 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.

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Support the Black Skeptics “First in the Family” Humanist Scholarship Fund

Godless Perverts Social Club in Oakland Feb. 18: Sex, Gender, and Cultural Appropriation

godless perverts social club sex gender and cultural appropriation
The Godless Perverts Social Club is excited to host a discussion led by Cinnamon Maxxine and Donna about cultural appropriation, especially as it happens in alternative sexuality communities. Come ready for a dynamic, serious discussion about how to have a respectful relationship with other cultures.

We have a new location for the Oakland Godless Perverts Social Clubs! We’re now meeting at Rudy’s Can’t Fail Cafe, 1805 Telegraph Avenue, next to the Fox Theater (and right near the 19th St. Oakland BART station). Rudy’s Can’t Fail is a fun, friendly space that serves meals, small bites, beer, cocktails, soft drinks, and desserts. We’re meeting in the back room/ dining car: the dining car has somewhat limited space, probably enough for all of us, but it’s a good idea to arrive on time if you want to be sure to get a seat. Thursday, February, 7-9 pm. The Oakland Social Clubs are on the third Thursday of the month (First Tuesdays are still in San Francisco at Wicked Grounds.)

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! Hang out with other nonbelievers and chat about sex, sexuality, gender, atheism, religion, science, social justice, pop culture, and more. All orientations, genders, and kinks (or lack thereof) are welcome. We meet on the third Thursday of every month at Rudy’s Can’t Fail Cafe (we also meet on the first Tuesday of every month at Wicked Grounds, 289 8th Street at Folsom in San Francisco, near Civic Center BART). 7-9 pm. Admission is free, although we do ask that you buy food and/or drink at the venue.

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, follow us on Twitter at @GodlessPerverts, or follow us on Facebook. 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 many Godless Perverts events. And of course, you can always visit our Website to find out what we’re up to, godlessperverts.com. Hope to see you soon!

Godless Perverts Social Club in Oakland Feb. 18: Sex, Gender, and Cultural Appropriation

Criticize Famous and Powerful Figures, Win Fame and Fortune!

Robyn Blumner, the new CEO of Center For Inquiry, in a podcast interview with Hemant Mehta

I think Richard Dawkins is purposefully misunderstood at times as a way to generate clicks on some bloggers’ page. It’s because his name brings page views and eyes so why not generate a lot of heat around something that is pretty tame if you really unpack it.

Sigh. This again?

Dear Ms. Blumner: Do you really think the way to fame and fortune as a writer is to alienate famous and powerful writers with millions of followers?

Richard Dawkins used to support and publicize my writing. Once I started criticizing him, he stopped. It made a serious dent in my income. And criticizing Dawkins and other powerful atheists for sexism, racism, etc. led to years of harassment, threats of rape and death — which is still ongoing.

People don’t criticize powerful figures for clicks and attention. We do it because we’re trying to make this community better. If you disagree with criticism of Dawkins, address the content. Don’t impugn our motives. This is a hard road, and we don’t take it for fun.

(Amy Roth takes this apart really well, as does PZ Myers and Monette Richards.)

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Criticize Famous and Powerful Figures, Win Fame and Fortune!

Why I Support Foundation Beyond Belief

foundation beyond belief banner

You know about Foundation Beyond Belief, right? It’s the humanist philanthropic organization that channels money and volunteering from humanists, atheists, and other non-believers, into projects that improve this world and this life. As you may know, I’m on their board of directors. So when I ask you to support the organization (and tell you about the fun fundraising competition we’re having, and the fun auction that Be Secular is running for us!), I’m obviously biased. But I’m on their board for a reason.

You know how a bunch of us in the atheist movement keep saying that it isn’t enough to just not believe in gods? You know how we keep saying that organized atheism needs to provide some of what religion provides — including outlets for organized charitable, philanthropic, and social justice work? You know how we keep saying that organized atheism needs be address the interests and channel the energy of a wider variety of people than have traditionally been involved in it? You know how we keep saying that non-belief has implications — and one of those implications is that since there’s no gods and no afterlife, this life is the only one we have, and it’s up to us to make it better for everyone?

Foundation Beyond Belief is actually doing this.

Here are some of the organizations and projects FBB has supported:

transgender law center logo
Transgender Law Center, running one-on-one legal clinics for transgender and gender nonconforming people.

Center for Reproductive Rights, using the law to advance reproductive freedom as a fundamental human right that all governments are legally obligated to protect, respect, and fulfill.

Community Change, Inc., approaching racism, racial relations, and racial responsibility from the perspective that racial inequalities are a white problem.

Global Village Project, an innovative special purpose school for refugee girls and young women with interrupted schooling.

Prison University Project, providing higher education programs to people incarcerated at San Quentin State Prison.

Pure Earth, bringing a scientific approach to pollution reduction meant to benefit extremely poor communities abroad.

DC Central Kitchen, tackling food distribution availability in Washington, DC.

Men Can Stop Rape, mobilizing men to create cultures free from violence, especially men’s violence against women.

Akili Dada, a full-service developmental program aimed at helping Kenyan girls and women build leadership skills.

Modest Needs Foundation, working to meet the needs of the hardworking, low income members of society, who are often left without a safety net when unexpected expenses occur.

innocence project of texas logo
Innocence Project of Texas, securing the release of those wrongfully convicted of crimes in Texas, and educating the public about the causes and effects of wrongful convictions.

You see what I’m getting at?

A lot of us are saying, and have been saying for some time, that organized atheism needs to do this sort of work. Foundation Beyond Belief is doing it. And we need your support.

We’re doing a big year-end fundraising drive. Your donations will be matched up to $20,000, thanks to a generous matching donation from the Bella and Stella Foundation. And we’re doing a fun fundraising competition, for both individuals and community groups! Prizes for individuals range from T-shirts, autographed books & other secular swag to trips to conferences or shows by celebrity atheists. For groups, FBB will provide speaker(s) to the group that gets the most mentions and/or raises the most funds using the #HumanistsCare hashtag. Detail are at the link. If your atheist/ humanist/ freethought group is looking for a fun activity that will get your group more involved in community service, this is a great one.

Be Secular is also running an auction to support Foundation Beyond Belief, starting at 11:00 AM Eastern time on December 1, 2015, and running for 36 hours (through 11:00 PM Eastern time on December 2, 2015). Items range from small to high-end, including art, jewelry, vacations, signed celebrity photos, and more.

And if you don’t want to do the auction thing or the fundraising competition thing, you can also just… well, donate. You can make a one-time donation, which will be used to fund FBB operations; or you can make a monthly donation in any amount (as low as $5 a month), which will go to fund the causes you care about. (And yes, you can tell us which areas you’d like your money to go to!)

Foundation Beyond Belief is walking the walk. Please join us, and help pave the way. Thanks.

Comforting Thoughts book cover oblong 100 JPG
Coming Out Atheist
Bending
why are you atheists so angry
Greta 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.

Why I Support Foundation Beyond Belief

Dear Conference Organizers: A No-Fooling-Around Note About Diversity

chairs at conference
Dear conference organizers:

Thank you so much for inviting me to speak at your conference. I would love to make this happen if it’s possible! I like speaking at conferences: I like meeting new people and re-connecting with old friends, and I especially enjoy meeting with organizers of local community groups. And, of course, I like selling books. 🙂 I’m happy to speak at local conferences, regional conferences, national and international conferences. My honorarium is low, and my travel requirements are pretty minimal. If I can fit this event into my schedule, I’d love to do it.

However.

If your speaker lineup is overwhelmingly white, I am not willing to speak at your conference.

And when I say this, I mean it. I am not fooling around. Specifically, I mean this:

If you send me a confirmation with a list of scheduled speakers, and that list is overwhelmingly white, I will withdraw from your conference.

I’m sorry to come across like a hardass. But experience has taught me that I have to be. Experience has taught me that if I don’t say something ahead of time, I will often wind up on an overwhelmingly white speaker lineup. Not always — a lot of conference organizers already get this, and are on it — but often. Experience has taught me that, even if I do say something ahead of time, I will still sometimes wind up on an overwhelmingly white speaker lineup. We will then have to have an awkward conversation, where I explain that I’m withdrawing from the conference and why.

Here is a list of prominent atheists of color, and organizations of atheists of color. Many of them are excellent speakers, as are many of the organization leaders. Many of them, like me, have low honoraria and minimal travel requirements. If you book me for your conference, and you then put together an overwhelmingly white speaker lineup, you will have an open slot in your schedule. Please consider filling it with one of these people. Better yet: Please look at this list before you start putting together your speaker lineup, so you have a diverse lineup to begin with.

I understand that event organizing is very difficult, and conference organizing is especially difficult. I understand that it’s hard to co-ordinate schedules, balance content, and arrange for travel and honoraria that will fit your budget. So here’s a tip: When you’re putting together a speaker lineup, START with diversity. START by inviting African-Americans, Latinos, women, disabled people, transgender people, people of Asian descent, people of Middle Eastern descent, other people of color, lesbian and gay and bisexual people, people who have left religions other than Christianity. Don’t just invite the usual suspects, fill up three-quarters of your lineup — and then go, “Crap! Diversity!” and scramble to fill in the last two or three open slots with people who aren’t white, middle-class, college-educated, cisgender, straight, able-bodied, ex-Christian or lifelong-atheist men.

Again, I’m sorry to be a hardass. Generally speaking, I’m an easy speaker to work with: again, my honorarium is low, my travel requirements are pretty minimal, and I try to be as flexible as possible. But this is an extremely high priority for me. In my opinion, this issue — making our communities more welcoming and more supportive of a wider variety of people than are currently participating — is the most important issue currently facing organized atheism in the United States. Diverse speaker lineups at conferences isn’t the only thing we need to do to address this issue, of course, or even the most important thing. Very, very far from it. But it’s one of the things I can do something about. So I’m doing it. Thanks for understanding. Hope we can make this work!

Sincerely,
Greta Christina

P.S. This also applies to harassment policies/ codes of conduct. I won’t speak at a conference that doesn’t have one. That’s been less of an issue lately, though — almost all atheist and skeptic conferences have them now — so I didn’t feel a need to write a whole thing about it.

Note: Yes, this is in reference to a specific event — and no, I’m not going to tell you which one. It was a private conversation, and I’m going to respect that.

Comforting Thoughts book cover oblong 100 JPG
Coming Out Atheist
Bending
why are you atheists so angry
Greta 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.

Dear Conference Organizers: A No-Fooling-Around Note About Diversity

Secular Social Justice Conference, Houston, January 30-31

secular social justice flyer
I don’t often go to conferences if I’m not speaking at them. I’d like to, I just can’t afford it. I did, however, pay my own way to go to Skepticon this year. And I’m going to the Secular Social Justice Conference.

I heard AMAZING things about last year’s predecessor, Moving Social Justice. I wasn’t able to go — I had a previous commitment — but everyone I talked to who did go said it was extraordinary and life-changing. So I am absolutely not going to miss it this year.

Here’s a little more about it, from the conference website:

In a global climate in which the criminalization and economic disenfranchisement of people of color of all genders and sexualities has become more acute, what role can secular humanism play in communities of color in the U.S.?

Last year’s Moving Social Justice conference featured an incredible array of activists, organizers and educators from the secular and social justice communities. Building on that momentum, the 2016 Secular Social Justice conference will be held January 30 and 31st at Rice University in Houston, Texas. The conference will address the lived experiences, cultural context, shared struggle and social history of secular humanist people of color and their allies. It will focus on topics such as economic justice, women of color beyond faith, LGBTQ atheists of color, African American Humanist traditions in hip hop, racial politics and the New Atheism and more.

Speakers include Sikivu Hutchinson, Anthony Pinn, Soraya Chemaly, Heina Dadabhoy, Debbie Goddard, Sincere T. Kirabo, Alix Jules, Donald Wright, Monica Miller, Frank Anderson, Maggie Ardiente, Georgina Capetillo, Daniel Myatt, Juhem Navarro-Rivera, and Secular Sistahs, with more speakers (I believe) still to be announced. And it’s cheap: $40, and $25 for students. January 30 and 31 in Houston (here’s info on courtesy hotel rates). Hope to see you there!

Comforting Thoughts book cover oblong 100 JPG
Coming Out Atheist
Bending
why are you atheists so angry
Greta 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.

Secular Social Justice Conference, Houston, January 30-31

#mencallmethings: “hideous,” “ugly,” “cunt”

Content note: misogyny

On Twitter:

Screen Shot 2015-11-15 at 5.51.01 PM

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Transcription:

Me:

#Mizzou event at #skepticon was just a PR event for white videographer. Totally inappropriate and fucked-up use of platform. [For those who weren’t following it, this was in reference to this incident, for which Skepticon has apologized.]

Asshole on Twitter:

Man, this is one stupid feminist-because-she’s-ugly cunt!

It’s almost magical how women named “Greta” are invariably hideous!

#mencallmethings, Intersectional Edition! It’s weird how speaking about racism got me hit with misogynist slurs and hate-trolled about being an ugly feminist. No, actually, it’s not weird. It’s entirely predictable.

Also, can I just say: hate-trolling about my name? That is deeply weird, so irrelevant as to be incoherent. It’s like saying, “It’s almost magical how women born in Chicago are invariably hideous,” or “It’s almost magical how women with mild asthma are invariably hideous.”

Continue reading “#mencallmethings: “hideous,” “ugly,” “cunt””

#mencallmethings: “hideous,” “ugly,” “cunt”