Greta Christina is one of the most beloved and admired figures in this movement. She has also become one of my confidants and closest friends over the course of the last year. It is with no small amount of giddiness that I got to conduct this interview with her and post it here for all of you.
You and PZ were the two blogs I would never miss in college. My father reads your blog religiously. You were a hero of mine for years and would still be if I weren’t afraid you’d punch me for it. Not many people get to become best friends with one of their heroes. And now I’m fighting this fight at your side (well, behind you and to the side…but still close!). It’s like a dream come true. Thank you so much for your friendship and counsel in the last few years – it continues to mean the world to me.
Awwwwwww. (blush) But you really have to knock it off with that “hero” crap. We’re in this together. We all inspire each other.
And say Hi to your dad for me.
How did you get into blogging?
Two words: Susie Bright. My friend/ colleague/ mentor. She edited a book I was in — a three-novella erotica collection titled Three Kinds of Asking For It — and she said that if I wanted to help promote it, I should start a blog. She was so right. I frequently tell aspiring and struggling writers that if they’re not blogging, they’re high. Yes, it’s a huge time suck, and it means you have to give away for free what you’re trying to sell. Suck it the fuck up. If you’re a writer in the early 21st century and you don’t blog, it’s like being a pop musician in the mid- to- late 20th century and not letting your songs be played on the radio. You’re depriving yourself of one of the most effective ways you have of promoting your writing. And besides, in a blog, you can write whatever the hell you want, whenever you want, on whatever topic you want, with a direct connection with/ immediate feedback from your readers, and without any worries about what editors and publishers expect or want. If you’re a writer, that should be like a wet dream.
So long story short: I got into blogging to promote my writing career…and the blog soon became the heart of it.
For what are you most known?
In the atheist world, I’m probably best known for my post Atheists and Anger, which went viral a few years ago and is still probably my most widely- read and widely-linked-to post. It’s funny — if I could have picked a piece of mine to go viral, that’s not necessarily the one I would have picked. It’s not really representative of my usual style — I’m not normally that ranty. But I’m really happy that it happened. It clearly has hit a nerve for a lot of people. And it tickles me as a feminist: both that as a woman, one of my most famous pieces is an angry atheist rant, and that one of the best-known angry atheist rants our movement has was written by a woman.
Outside the atheosphere, I’m probably best known for my piece Are We Having Sex Now Or What? — a disquisition on what exactly “sex” is and what we mean by the word. It’s been reprinted a zillion times… including in some serious and widely- read academic anthologies, most notably The Philosophy of Sex. Thousands of college students have been assigned to read about my sex life in class. It’s weird, but it’s kind of awesome.
Then, of course, there are those photos with the polar bears and the turnips and the Crisco. My family tried to hush them up, but with the Internet, that’s pretty much impossible these days.
What is a misconception people have about you?
That thing with the polar bears was totally taken out of context.
What are you afraid of?
Bad things happening that are my fault.
Seriously. I used to have a recurring series of nightmares — night terrors, in fact — in which some tiny action I took or didn’t take literally started the end of the world. I’d flip on a light switch or something, and would suddenly realize, “That’s the light switch that starts World War III! What have I done?” I would wake up screaming and scrambling out of bed in a panic. I haven’t had one of those in a while…but it gives you an idea of the kind of thing that frightens me.
Do you have any weird talents?
I can put my entire fist in my mouth. It’s disgusting. I’ll show you the next time we hang out.
What is one thing you’re terrible at?
What are you most proud of?
Making a happy marriage with Ingrid, and creating a writing career with any degree of success.
Who is/was your hero?
Ingrid. She works harder at being a good person than anyone I know. And she’s a total badass. And she’s brilliant. And she does all that, while still being fun and hilarious and easy to get along with. I am most myself when I’m with her… and at the same time, she inspires me to be my best self.
Are you famous?
Yes? No? Sort of? This is going to seem like a tangent, but I promise it’s not: A couple of years ago, Ingrid and I were going to see PZ Myers speak, we were all excited and were telling our friends about it, and they were like, “PZ who?” We were like, “PZ Myers! You know! The famous atheist blogger!” And they just stared blankly. It occurred to us that, to most people, the phrase “famous atheist blogger” is kind of meaningless.
So anyway. Inside the world of atheism… yeah, I guess so. Outside of it — not so much. I sometimes describe myself as a decent-sized fish in a small but growing pond.
Who is your arch nemesis?
There’s this accountant at an auto parts chain in Wichita. He doesn’t know. He’s never even heard of me. He’ll rue the day he finds out…
Seriously, though: I don’t have one. There are certainly people whose work and views I’m passionately opposed to… but there’s no one person who I’d call an arch nemesis. And I don’t want one. I don’t want my life defined by who I hate.
Describe a time when you were wrong about something.
So very many! I was wrong about religion, obviously. Thought I had a soul. Dead wrong.
More interestingly (I mean, come on, like it’s a surprise that I don’t believe in religion anymore!): I’ve changed my mind about whether sexual orientation is born or learned. I used to be a strict social constructionist — not on the basis of any good evidence, just on the basis of that’s the idea that most appealed to me, and that’s what the queer theory crowd I was hanging around with was all excited about. But the evidence is pretty strongly pointing to sexual orientation being at least partly something we’re born with. So I’ve had to change my mind.
And I could go on and on. I actually used to do a thing on my blog where I’d post a list of things I’d recently changed my mind about. I’m going to start doing that again. It’s good practice for skepticism.
Did you ever believe in god?
Sort of. I never believed in a personal God, or in any Abrahamic religion. But I had a woo belief in a world-soul: I believed that people had immaterial souls that survived death, and that these souls taken together formed a whole being that had some sort of selfhood and identity and consciousness. I didn’t usually call this being God — I usually called it the world-soul — but if someone called it God, I wouldn’t argue too strenuously. When I deconverted, that was the belief I had to let go of.
Which blog will you never miss an entry on ever!
Pharyngula, BlagHag, and yours are the ones I always always always read. I keep up pretty consistently on the other Freethought Blogs, plus Friendly Atheist, Daylight Atheism, and Susie Bright’s Journal. Oh, and a weight management blog called Weighty Matters.
On what projects are you presently working?
Keeping my head above water.
What has the transition to FtB been like?
Entirely awesome. (Except for a couple of tech headaches at the beginning.) It’s radically changing blogging for me, and almost entirely for the better. As a freelance writer, actually making something resembling real money through blogging is a huge step forward. And I am so proud to be part of the team with these other bloggers, I can’t even tell you. Every one of them is first rate. And I think we’re all making each other stronger. Sort of a combination of friendly competition and mutual inspiration. Ian Cromwell at The Crommunist Manifesto called it “mutually assured construction.”
What do you do for fun?
Fun? That’s that thing you do when you’re not working, right?
No, that’s not fair. This work is often big fun. And I do manage to find time to have at least some non-work fun. Including: Cooking food and eating it. Eating food that other people have cooked. Walking in my neighborhood, which I am having this wildly intense love affair with. Reading. Listening to music. Lifting weights. Dancing, when I have time. Shopping, when I have money, which isn’t often. Watching silly reality TV about fashion. Just hanging around with people I connect with.
How did the idea for the great pillow fort come about, and has Jen fully recovered?
You know, I don’t even remember. Which of us first came up with the idea? I think we were yakking about how much we were looking forward to the conference and to hanging out in our assorted hotel rooms with just the three of us, and we were tossing around all these ideas for what we wanted to do during our down time, and the words “pillow fort” popped out. I don’t even remember who said it first. I just remember that we pounced on it like a cat on a bug.
Where would you like to live?
The Mission District of San Francisco. Hey, that is where I live! Lucky me!
What motivates you to do what you do?
The desire to make the world a better place. The desire to be a part of history. The desire to have fun.
What really annoys you?
Pascal’s Wager. Do not fucking get me started.