Why I Am an Atheist Writer

The question here is not, “Why am I an atheist?” I think I’ve answered that question ad nauseum. (Not that that’s going to stop me from continuing to answer it…)

The question is, “Why am I an atheist writer?” Or maybe, since I consider my writing to be a form of activism: Why am I an atheist activist? Why am I involving myself so deeply in the so-called “new” atheist movement?

This question sometimes gets asked of me by trolls. People who don’t want anyone to be involved in the atheist movement. People who think the whole movement is a waste of time (or who want to convince people in the movement that it’s a waste of time… probably because it’s anything but).

But it also gets asked of me by… well, by me.

I have become involved in this movement to a degree that surprises even myself. It’s taken over my writing career, my personal life, my time wasted on the Internet, my time just in general, my conversations with Ingrid, the inside of my head… to a degree I never would have expected when I first picked up a copy of The God Delusion.

I’ve been thinking about why. And I think my reasons boil down to three basic categories: the noble and inspired, the pragmatic and Machiavellian, and the broad sweep of history/ just plain fun.

1) The noble, inspired reasons.

I’m an atheist writer and activist because I think atheism is important. Really, really important.

Religion, obviously, is a hugely influential force in human society. And I have come to the conclusion that it’s (a) a mistaken idea about the world, and (b) an idea that, on the whole, does significantly more harm than good. I think the world would be far better off without religion, and while of course I passionately defend people’s religious freedom and their right to believe whatever the hell they want, I also think that trying to persuade people out of religious belief — and trying to make the world a safer place to be a non-believer — are goals worth reaching for.

(To be more specific — and to give credit where credit is due — I’m an atheist writer and activist because of Richard Dawkins and The God Delusion. I argued my way through the entire length of that book; I called Dr. Dawkins an astonishing assortment of rude names during the course of reading it… and by the end, I had not only given up calling myself agnostic and was proudly calling myself an atheist, but had been persuaded that atheism was an important issue, and one that deserved a significant portion of my time and writing career. I was inspired by his writing, and I want to pass on this inspiration to others.)

2) The pragmatic, Machiavellian reasons.

Atheism is a growth industry.

Whenever I’m commiserating with a fellow writer about the trials of a writing career, I always take pains to point this out. I’ve gotten more traction out of my atheist writing than I have out of any other topic I’ve written about. And yes, that includes the sex writing. My atheist writing gets me more traffic, more recognition, more credibility, than anything I’ve ever written. By several orders of magnitude. (And it earns me more money, too.) Any hope I have of being a seriously successful full-time writer hinges on the atheism. I’d be an idiot not to ride this pony all the way to the finish line.

Gay liberation day 1970
3) The broad sweep of history/ just plain fun reasons.

It’s easiest to explain this one to queers. Whenever I’m explaining my atheist activism to queer activists, I always ask them, “If you could go back in time and be part of the queer movement right after Stonewall… wouldn’t you do it? Wouldn’t you want to be part of this movement right as it was getting off the ground — when it was all new and exciting, and you could make a real mark and shape the direction it went in?”

That’s how I feel about the atheist movement.

When it comes to social change movements, I’ve always been late to the party. I was late to the feminist party; I was late to the LGBT party; I was late to the lesbian sex wars (although not as late as I was to these other parties).

But I’m not late to the atheism party. Or at least, not very late. The atheist movement, in my opinion, is very much where the LGBT movement was about 35 years ago, right after the Stonewall riots. Like the post-Stonewall LGBT movement, there’s been an atheist movement for decades (if not longer) — but in the last few years, it’s become more visible, more vocal, more outspoken, less apologetic, more activist, better organized. Dramatically. By several orders of magnitude. We’ve gone from being on almost nobody’s radar, to being a major topic of conversation on TV news shows and in op-ed pages, at water coolers and on Facebook… in a stunningly short amount of time.

And I get to be part of it. Now. Not twenty or thirty years from now — now. I get to be in on the ground floor. (Or the floor just above the ground floor, anyway.)

Which means two things about my involvement.

It means I have a chance to make a real mark. As I’ve gassed on pompously in the past: If the atheist movement succeeds — if those of us trying to persuade people out of religion eventually succeed, if current trends continue and the number of people who don’t believe in God continues to grow, if eventually everybody (or almost everybody) abandons the religion hypothesis entirely — it will be one of the most important developments in human history. It will be like the Enlightenment, or the Industrial Revolution. It will be the sort of thing historians write about. People will see human history as divided into two eras: When We Believed In Gods, and When We Stopped Believing In Gods. Having a chance to be part of that — having a chance to be even a small footnote when the history of this movement gets written — is one of the most richly rewarding things I’ve ever done.

And it means that it’s a hoot and a holler.

The atheist movement, right now, is more fun than a barrel of narwhals. (Causing a commotion, ’cause we are so awesome!) As I’ve also gassed on about before: Activists in the early days of a movement tend to be totally freaking amazing. They tend to have strong personalities, independent spirits, a huge amount of self-confidence, a passion for social change, a vision for the future, a wicked sense of humor, a metric shitload of courage, and an unbelievably thick skin. (They can also be stubborn, aggravating, arrogant pains in the ass… but that comes with the abovementioned territory, and IMO it’s a price totally worth paying.)

And that makes this movement exciting, and inspiring, and hilarious, and intellectually stimulating, and wildly entertaining.

I get to work for something I believe in. I get to advance my writing career. I get to be part of history. And I get to have a ball doing it.

Who on Earth wouldn’t want to do that?

Why I Am an Atheist Writer

Greta Speaking at Stanford About Atheism and Sexuality, May 10

I have a new speaking gig scheduled! I’ll be speaking at Stanford University about atheism and sexuality — my two favorite polite dinner-table topics — on Monday, May 10, from 7 to 9 pm. I’ll be speaking for an hour, with plenty of time for Q&A afterward. The event is sponsored by Atheists, Humanists, and Agnostics (AHA!) at Stanford, and is part of my ongoing gig on the speakers’ bureau of the Secular Student Alliance. (Who are awesome, by the way, and you should become a fan of them on Facebook.)

The event will be at Building 420, Room 041, Main Quad, Stanford (here’s a map). If you’ll be in the Bay Area, stop by, listen to me gas on, and come say howdy!

Greta Speaking at Stanford About Atheism and Sexuality, May 10

Greta Speaking This Weekend at Secular Student Alliance New England Regional Summit

Ingrid is (a) doing somewhat better and (b) spending the weekend with her mom, so I’m off to the Secular Student Alliance New England Regional Summit. I’ll be giving my talk on What Atheists Can Learn from the GLBT Movement. If you’re going to be there, be sure to say howdy. (And on Friday, I’ll get to see Mythbusters on Humanism the Mythbusters are getting the Annual Outstanding Lifetime Achievement Award in Cultural Humanism, presented each year by the Harvard Secular Society on behalf of the Humanist Chaplaincy at Harvard and the American Humanist Association. Neat!)

I’ll be back on Sunday, hopefully back to blogging at a semi-regular schedule, although my time and energy may still be pretty shredded, and I’m making no promises. Anyway, see y’all soon!

Greta Speaking This Weekend at Secular Student Alliance New England Regional Summit

Ingrid Update/ Continued Blog Semi-Break

Hi, all. Just wanted to update you yet again on the situation with Ingrid and the blog. Ingrid’s back is doing better, but she still needs a fair amount of attention and care, pretty close to round the clock. Also, I’m going out of town this weekend for the Secular Student Alliance East Coast regional conference, and I need to prepare for that.

So my own time and energy are still very much limited, and I’m still not going to be able to do much blogging. It’s mostly going to be reprints and Memes of the Day, for at least another week. Thanks to everyone for your patience. We will soon return you to your regularly scheduled rabble-rousing.

Ingrid Update/ Continued Blog Semi-Break

Ingrid Update/ Continued Blog Semi-Break

Hi, all. Just wanted to update you on the Ingrid situation, and the blogging situation which is directly related. Ingrid’s bad back turns out to be a ruptured disc, which is pretty effing serious. The long-term prognosis is very good — over 90% of people who get this get better — but at the moment she’s fairly incapacitated, and I’m spending a lot of my time taking care of her. So the blogging is going to be somewhat sparse in the next week, and possibly longer (we don’t really know how long her recovery is going to take). I’ll keep my hand in with reprints and Atheist Memes of the Day and maybe an occasional original piece, but it’s going to be a little more sporadic than usual. I’ll be back on track as soon as I can. Thanks for understanding.

Ingrid Update/ Continued Blog Semi-Break

Greta Interviewed on Amanda Marcotte's Podcast

Amanda marcotte
The brilliant and prolific Amanda Marcotte (Pandagon and more) has been doing a podcast series on the Reproductive Health Reality Check website, and this week’s podcast includes (among other things) an interview with me about atheism and sexuality. We talk about the traditional religious view of sexuality, what atheism can offer as an alternative, what atheists uniquely bring to the table in movements for social and sexual change, and more. Check it out!

Greta Interviewed on Amanda Marcotte's Podcast

Greta's "Atheism and Sexuality" Talk at Purdue: Video!

Purdue non theist society
I’m back, baby! Exhausted from the speaking tour… but also exhilarated. (The pic is me with the secretary, treasurer, and president of the Society of Non-Theists at Purdue University. As Jen McCreight — of BlagHag fame, and the abovementioned president and co-founder of the Society of Non-Theists at Purdue — points out in her write-up of the talk: Who says there aren’t any female atheists?)

I’ll post a more complete write-up of the event as soon as I’ve had time to recover. But in the meantime, Jen has posted a video of the Purdue talk. (Give it a minute or two to load.) Including the Q&A, which was one of the best and most fun parts. I’ve embedded it below the jump, since for some reason putting videos below the jump screws up my archives. If you want to see it full size, you can do that on Vimeo. (Again, give it a minute or two to load.) For those of you who wished you could come… seeing it on video is the next best thing!

Enormous thanks to Jen… and to the Purdue Queer Student Union, who co-sponsored the Purdue event… and to Joe Hughto of the Secular Alliance of Indiana University… and to Lyz Liddell of the Secular Student Alliance… and to everyone in all these organizations who helped make this trip run so smoothly. I’m totally hooked now. I want to do this all the time. If you want me to come speak about atheism and sexuality — or an assortment of other atheism- related topics — I’m yours, for the cost of a plane ticket and a hotel room. (Which the SSA will help you out with, if you’re part of their organization.) Wa-hoo!

Continue reading “Greta's "Atheism and Sexuality" Talk at Purdue: Video!”

Greta's "Atheism and Sexuality" Talk at Purdue: Video!

Brief Blog Break/ Shameless Self-Promotion Opportunity

As y’all know, I’m leaving town tomorrow to give my talk on atheism and sexuality at Indiana University and Purdue. Between the travel and the recent nasty tendinitis flare-up in my right arm (getting better, but I still have to limit my computer time), I won’t be blogging much for the next few days, if at all. I’ll try to keep up the Atheist Memes of the Day, but I don’t know what my free time or Internet connectivity is going to be while I’m gone, so I’m making no promises.

So while I’m away, let’s make this a Shameless Self-Promotion Thread! If you’re a blogger, I’m inviting you to post a link to your blog in this post’s comments. You can link to a specific post or two that you’re extra-fond of, or just let us know about your blog generally.

If you’re not a blogger, feel free to post a link to somebody else’s blog that you like — again, either a specific post you like, or the blog as a whole.

No commercial content, advertising, sales, marketing, etc. However, if you’re an artist or activist or something, and you don’t have a blog but you have a Website, please feel free to link to that instead. Have fun, and I’ll see you when I get back!

Brief Blog Break/ Shameless Self-Promotion Opportunity

Greta's "Atheism and Sexuality" Talks at Indiana University and Purdue: Full Itinerary

Ssa logo
The full details of my mini-tour in Indiana are now complete! As part of my gig as a speaker on the Secular Student Alliance Speakers Bureau, I’m going to be speaking this week at both Indiana University and Purdue, on the topic of atheism and sexuality. I am more tickled than I can possibly express in words.

The topic for both talks is going to be the same: Atheism and Sexuality. The sexual morality of traditional religion tends to be based, not on solid ethical principles, but on a set of taboos about what kinds of sex God does and doesn’t want people to have. And while the sex-positive community offers a more thoughtful view of sexual morality, it still often frames sexuality as positive by seeing it as a spiritual experience. What are some atheist alternatives to these views? How can atheists view sexual ethics without a belief in God? And how can atheists view sexual transcendence without a belief in the supernatural?

Here are the details on the Indiana University gig:

Thursday, February 4, 2010
5:30pm – 7:00 pm
Jordan Hall 124
Indiana University, Bloomington, IN
Hour lecture followed by Q&A
Free, open to public

This event is being sponsored by the Secular Alliance of IU.

Purdue nontheists
And here are the details on the Purdue gig:

Friday, February 5, 2010
5:30pm – 7:00pm
WTHR 172
560 Oval Dr
West Lafayette, IN
Hour lecture followed by Q&A
Free, open to public

The event is being sponsored by the Society of Non-Theists at Purdue University and the Purdue Queer Student Union. Both events are being co-sponsored by the Secular Student Alliance. If you’re in Indiana, I hope to see you there!

Greta's "Atheism and Sexuality" Talks at Indiana University and Purdue: Full Itinerary