My Evening with Greta Christina

You can catch gayness from a rainbow?

Wow. You guys missed the most amazing talk. Greta Christina spoke tonight at the San Francisco Atheists meeting. Her subject was “What can the atheist movement learn from the gay movement?

I wish I had taken notes. I did write down one thing she said, because it touched upon a matter that I occasionally struggle with:

Let firebrands be firebrands and diplomats be diplomats.… Both methods together [are] more effective than either alone.… The good-cop/bad-cop dynamic should not be underestimated.

The funny thing is, in real life, I’m very much the diplomat. My carbon-based incarnation is not nearly as dickish as my silicon-based alter-ego. In the past, I have struggled with just what my online role should be. For the moment, the matter is settled.

But Greta is right. The atheist movement can learn a lot from what the gay-rights movement did right and where it stumbled.

So go out there, find yourself a gay friend, and probe him.

For ideas.

24 Responses to “My Evening with Greta Christina”

  1. vjack Says:

    I agree completely. We can learn much from the successful social movements that have gone before us.

  2. ericsan Says:

    Actually that’s not true I find your silicon avatar to be a model of restraint whereas your meat self has a really low tolerance threshold for bullshit. I like both tho :)

  3. ericsan Says:

    Oh, and you’re not probing ME sunshine. :D

  4. YogaforCynics Says:

    I’d say the main thing atheists could learn is to tone down the anger. Could you imagine if the public face of the gay rights movement was gay people talking about how stupid straight people are? (Actually, in the 70′s, the public face of feminism kind of became angry lesbians talking about how inherently oppressive heterosexuality was…though the prominence of that viewpoint might be more the fault of the media than of the feminist movement itself…and feminism is still recovering).

    And this comment probably won’t be posted because that code down there is totally unreadable…

  5. Ron Britton Says:

    I’d say the main thing atheists could learn is to tone down the anger. Could you imagine if the public face of the gay rights movement was gay people talking about how stupid straight people are?

    Actually, that’s exactly what that bit I quoted above is about.

    The important thing to remember is not all atheists are angry. Some are friendly. The few who inflame make all the rest appear reasonable.

  6. Jeff Eyges Says:

    I see neither room nor reason for diplomacy, and I utterly reject the gay analogy. These are completely different sets of considerations. The fundies are correct on one point – this is a war, and there can be only one winner. They aren’t looking for a way in which we can all “just get along”. They’re completely uninterested in compromise, and I see no reason why we should have to, in any case.

    This is a battle for human continuity – and, unfortunately, we’re waging it with people who are, quite literally, mentally defective. They aren’t merely mistaken; the evidence would indicate they’re neurologically impaired. They need to be quarantined, their impact upon society mitigated, their voting and reproductive rights rescinded. Of course, none of this will happen – which is precisely the reason we’re screwed.

    We’re nearly finished as a civilization, and quite possibly as a species. We won’t survive beyond the next five to ten years at most, and it’s their fault. They’ve spent the past thirty years voting into office the criminals and lunatics chiefly responsible for our current state of socioeconomic crisis – and as we go down, we’ll be taking the rest of the world down with us. I’ve learned recently that some scientists think it’s already too late in ecological terms, that we’ve passed the point of no return (and, of course, even those who won’t go that far aren’t very hopeful) – and they’re responsible for that as well, through their suborning of corporate America. The Republican-Christian alliance is the most evil collaboration since the Axis. Naturally, none of that matters. All that does matter is gettin’ into heaven and makin’ sure the young’uns don’t sass you on the way there – and, of course, on his death bed, the last Christian, gasping, with his dying breath, will curse those he knows to be the real culprits, because his pastor told him so – the liberals, the atheists and the gays.

    Fuck ‘em. I don’t have to be nice to them on our way out the door.

  7. Parrotlover77 Says:

    Wow. Well, I agree with the start of your post, Jeff, but as usual you descend into some kind of madness that I don’t really comprehend.

    Of course, I agree that you attract more flies with honey (etc blarg blarg), but there does come a point where no amount of ‘honey’ is going to convince the other side. It’s at that point that you need to call bullshit for what it is: bullshit. It may have a gold cross pendant and a funny hat, but it’s still bullshit. It’s at that point that you need to fight to prevent the bullshit from creeping into education and other institutions. And also too etc been-discussed before too also.

    Anyway, Jeff, I feel bad that you think civilization is doomed. I’m not that pessimistic. I think overall, the course of humanity has been on a positive upward march towards more freedom, equality, fairness, and intelligence, since we started thinking in such abstract terms.

    It’s depresing, sure, very depressing, when you see things like the gulf oil spill, financial collapse, recession/depression, housing crisis, job market, etc., and you KNOW it could have largely been prevented. Still, despite the many, many bad apples, I think we are progressing.

    Now, of course, we should never stop fighting! I’m just not that pessimistic.

    P.S. – I swear now that I’ve typed the correct CAPTCHA on each of the posts I did today (three, I think), but it seems the comments that took a while to type are getting EATED by the great CAPTCHA filter in the sky and I have to submit twice. Is there a timeout on the CAPTCHA?

  8. Ron Britton Says:

    Is there a timeout on the CAPTCHA?

    I hope not. I’ve seen that “feature” on other systems. There’s no setting for that on the Preferences page.

    I grabbed this particular captcha plugin, because I was in a rush and hoped that the most popular would have the fewest flaws. (That idea tends not to be true in technology, so I don’t know what I was thinking.)

  9. Jeff Eyges Says:

    Well, you know my opinion, PL. In my view, they’re the worst people who have ever lived.

    And while I agree we should continue to try – yes, I think it’s too late.

  10. Jeff Eyges Says:

    And another thing – they get great, big erections at the thought of getting to watch us being roasted alive for all of eternity – and I’m mad?

  11. OtherRob Says:

    The important thing to remember is not all atheists are angry. Some are friendly. The few who inflame make all the rest appear reasonable.

    I remember reading a while back that MLK felt the same way about Malcom X’s more confrontational approach. It made him, MLK seem reasonable by comparison.

    And, PL77, I’m sure that I entered the CAPTCHA correctly in my earlier comment on another post and it bounced me. I doubt it was a timeout issue since my previous comment was just one sentence.

    And it just happened again. I entered the correct code and it bounced me. Attempt #2…

  12. Syldoran Says:

    I resent it being said “you atheists” like everyone is angry and screaming.

    Not all of us.

    Some of us are quite reasonable, and the rest of us are annoyed because we’ve been told to go to hell while we’re trying to mind our own business and make progress.

    If an atheist ever says he hates anyone of religion (with no specification to fundies as done here, who have potential to be harmful), ignore him plz.

  13. Parrotlover77 Says:

    Jeff – Just to clarify, I meant “madness” as in angry/frustrated/ranting, not as in “crazy” which clearly it can be easily interpreted that way. Just felt I should clear that up as despite our very different views on some things, I highly respect your opinions as I like being challenged from all angles. :-)

  14. Monado, FCD Says:

    Look for ReCaptcha. It uses the input to correct OCR’d books for the online version. Also, try lower case. Some cheap Captchas display in uppercase but expect lowercase input.

    Atheists should be as loud and irreverent as they want to be. They should be incredulous and contemptuous of money-squeezing preachers–not befuddled followers whose fact-processing ability has been contaminated by childhood indoctrination. You realize that it’s the world’s most successful version of the Gypsy Curse scam, right? “Someone has put an ancient curse on your money/jewels/family jewels/sex organs/measly self but if you pay me and do what I tell you to do, you’ll be safe/saved.”

    People often adopt beliefs strongly if they are not aware of alternatives. The Atheist and Skeptic communities should be the very vocal voice of alternatives.

  15. Parrotlover77 Says:

    I think atheists need to advertise their charitable efforts more. Yes, I know it sounds tastelessly disgusting, but it’s what churches do. Look at our mega-church! Last year we raised $xxxxxx and fed yyyyy families!

    I’m sure it could be done tastefully. I’m not sure how you organize such a large group of freethinkers with their own diverse opinions, though. That’s the biggest obstacle.

    So, yea, tasteless, sure. But it’s a part of the messaging model. You can be good and do really good things without religion or religiosity. I can’t count the number of times that I’ve heard it brought up that churches are SO good because they do SO much charity. Meanwhile, back in reality land, churches are far less efficient with the money, as they have to spend a lot on their operations, staff, and rituals. Whereas a charity designed to be charitable as its only mission, only has to spend money on stuff that can’t be done for free or with volunteer time, so the money more directly benefits the cause.

  16. Jeff Eyges Says:

    At the risk of being told again that I’m descending into “madness”, I want to say one more thing before this gets to be too old.

    PL, I’m very torn whenever someone tells me things are getting better. On the one hand, although they may have gotten a little better for a narrow segment of the population, on the whole I’m convinced that globally, things are not merely not getting better, but are, in fact, growing much, much worse. I don’t see how anyone not in a profound state of denial can perceive it otherwise.

    On the other hand, as I’m convinced that humanity is a bunch of lemmings and it’s already too late, why should I attempt to take away what little comfort to which someone else may cling on our way out?

    However, when I come upon something like this, I get my hackles up. This is merely one small example of what goes on all over this country, every day. These people are the enemy, and, even if I’m wrong in my pronouncements of immanent doom*, they pose a very real threat to the future of humanity. For us to pretend otherwise is escapist and irresponsible. The mere suggestion that we should be civil to them makes me angry.

    As I told Ron privately the other day – PZ and his followers like to use the term, “accommodationist” to refer to people like Ken Miller, the Brown University professor who is both an evolutionary biologist and a devout (but not, I think, conservative) Catholic, for whom PZ has it in, for some reason. However, when I hear the term, I think of people like vjack and Daniel Florien, who want to make nice-nice with fundies. These people are the Rodney Kings of atheism – whining plaintively, “Can’t we all just get along?”

    No, people, we can’t – and the sooner you all grow up and realize that, the better our chances (if there are any) for survival will be.

    (*If you guys come up with a demeaning, sarcastic nickname for me, can it be “Dr. Doom”? I’d kinda like that.)

  17. bunkie Says:

    Parrotlover77 “I think atheists need to advertise their charitable efforts more……So, yea, tasteless, sure. But it’s a part of the messaging model. You can be good and do really good things without religion or religiosity.”

    If you go advertising what you did that was so great, then yes, that would probably be a bit tasteless. BUT, if someone ELSE, not involved, reports the story then that would be different. It then becomes of more interesting and believable to the public and better received – not to mention more tasteful.

    “I’m sure it could be done tastefully. I’m not sure how you organize such a large group of freethinkers with their own diverse opinions, though. That’s the biggest obstacle.”

    Letting others in the community know what you are doing so that they can get the word out (be the uninvolved reporter), then that would probably be easier to organize.

    For example, an email (with details that can be verified outside of the email)to someone, such as a blogger, who could then mention it in his/her blog. That message could then get distributed by readers via their blogs and, hopefully either picked up by news or reported directly to news (Hey – did you hear what person/organization is doing? They are ……. Here are some details…..). That might help.

  18. Parrotlover77 Says:

    Dr. Doom – You are descending into madness! ;-) j/k

    I think in order to progress the discussion, a neutral definition of ‘progress’ must be decided upon, with regard to human social evolution. The world is pretty fucked up in a lot of places — no argument from me. I guess I just look back in history at 2000 years ago and apply a general ‘did most things suck more’ question to the general living conditions back then. But it’s so subjective, it’s easy to have differing opinions.

    The world’s current biggest problem, which I feel most other problems can trace their roots to, is overpopulation. It’s amazing to me how many people don’t see this as a problem right now. I had an argument with a coworker the other day about this at lunch. But his wife was preggers, so he had ‘skin in game’ so-to-speak. His blinders were pulled down because he couldn’t possibly admit that his little bundle of joy is going to be a huge drain on society, as every one of us already is right now.

    It would unethical and contrary to the point of the entire situation to even joke about proposing forms of forced birth control, so I’m going to unequivocally say that is out of the question, less my words be used against me by some fundie quote miner. But at the same time, organizations like the Catholic Church and any other quiverful movement, need to start taking responsibility for all those “lives” they are saving. If you force the cost and burden of unwanted children on the world, you need to not only help with the cost and care of the child, but also with the cost and care of the negative impact that child will have on the world.

    Whoa, I’m starting to sound like I agree with you, Dr. Doom. I better stop! I still believe a hundred years from now, we’ll be better off, and a hundred years after that, etc. Might drop down, depending on the current planetary war and evildoers, but I still think the net result is positive.

  19. Jeff Eyges Says:

    It’s amazing to me how many people don’t see this as a problem right now.

    It is amazing. You’ll get statements like, “The earth can support X billion more people, if we cultivate the deserts, etc… ” Apart from the appalling lack of consideration for ecological impact in the near future, they never consider the long-term effects that the exponential increase in population will have several generations down. We’d end up like that old episode of Star Trek in which Kirk visits a planet that’s so over-populated people are literally shoulder-to-shoulder all of their lives.

    You know my opinions concerning the effect fundies have had on this country, and the effect this country will continue to have on the rest of the world. They’ve destroyed civilization. On top of that, I look at the horrific suffering in other parts of the world – the grinding poverty in India, the genocides in Africa. It goes on and on. Combine this with human greed, and the fact that if you group together all of the Christian and Islamic fundies, along with the handful of ultra-Orthodox Jews, you end up with over a billion people who are perfectly comfortable with the notion of abandoning the vast majority of humanity for all of eternity.

    I simply see no way in which beings like these can solve their collective problems. The fundies aren’t the sum total of it, but they are the most egregious symptom of the illness of which humanity needs desperately to be cured, but almost certainly won’t be.

  20. Parrotlover77 Says:

    Can we ship them off to Mars when we learn how to terraform it? I rather like the Earth and her many diverse life forms, and since the fundies have no respect for any forms of life (even humans, as they are just pawns in their games of amassing followers), they shouldn’t get the home field.

  21. Jeff Eyges Says:

    I don’t know that Mars is far enough away.

    You know, even if one doesn’t, like me, see red every time they threaten us with eternal damnation (because that really is the hot-button issue for me – always has been, and most likely always will be), if this recent business with the Texas SBOE doesn’t convince one that they are to be feared and despised, I don’t know what will.

  22. Parrotlover77 Says:

    But Texas is like a whole other country! (According to their board of tourism anyway). Can we give them back to Mexico? We lose some land, some oil, some taxes, and some tornados, but we basically seal the deal on a liberal majority for quite some time to come.

  23. Jeff Eyges Says:

    I understand there is a secessionist movement in Texas, and I’ve been told that Mexico (the government, I assume) would actually like to have it back. ABSOLUTELY, let’s give it back to them – along with the surrounding, developmentally challenged smaller states. Let’s make them a nice, big gift package.

    Texas is simply the problem writ large, though.

  24. Jeff Eyges Says:

    This was in an email I just received from Amnesty:

    Texas has, by far, the highest number of executions in the U.S. – last year, the state was responsible for roughly half of all U.S. executions, and ranked 7th in the world.

    What an abortion that state is. At this point, I’m in favor of forcing them to secede. I’m not joking.