April 7th, 2014

Code Your Own Utopia

My latest at Al Jazeera, on Bitcoin’s most ambitious successor, Ethereum. This may or may not be the future, but for now it’s the hype:

Even the most flexible platform comes with certain built-in tendencies. Ethereum, for example, makes it easier to build organizations that are less centralized and less dependent on geography than traditional ones and certainly more automated. But it also creates a means for corporate ownership and abuse to creep ever deeper into people’s lives through new and more invasive kinds of contracts. To perceive the world through a filter like Ethereum is to think of society as primarily contractual and algorithmic, rather than ethical, ambiguous and made up of flesh-and-blood human beings.

How this new ecosystem will take shape depends disproportionately on its early adopters and on those with the savvy to write its code — who may also make a lot of money from it. But tools like Ethereum are not just a business opportunity. They’re a testing ground for whatever virtual utopias people are able to translate into code, and the tests will have non-virtual effects. Idealists have as much to gain as entrepreneurs. As for any utopia, though, the power struggles of the real world are sure to find their way in as well.

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March 3rd, 2014

A Father Can Also Be a Woman

Photo by William Widmer for Al Jazeera America

Years in the making, my profile of a Catholic nun with a secret ministry to the transgender community has been published at Al Jazeera America. I hope that, above all, it points to some ways in which transgender experience not merely challenges Catholic faith, but is poised to deepen it:

[Hilary] Howes told the story of her life as a parable, a tale of a girl born with a penis and expected to live like a boy. “She died a little each day.” The girl grew up into a man, married a woman and became a father. Yet the dying continued. She decided to reveal herself, at last. Her wife and daughter stuck with her through it all. With the help of hormone treatments, father and daughter went through puberty together.

As the parable caught up with the present, Howes turned to a discussion of the hierarchy’s official position, or lack thereof, and the basic comfort she feels in her church, and in her faith, day to day. “I make a good spokesperson because I’m disarmingly normal,” she said.

She’d observed over the years that liberal Catholics — the kind likely to be friendly toward LGBT rights, the kind likely to be in the room — often feel uncomfortable with the masculine language Catholic tradition tends to use for God: Him, Father, Lord. Some prefer to discard those words altogether. But Howes had noticed that the old-fashioned words have never really bothered her.

With her dimples hinting at a sly smile, she said, “I suppose it’s because I know that a father can also be a woman.”

Read the rest (and see William Wedmer’s moving photographs) at Al Jazeera America.

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January 19th, 2014

Astrology as Metaphor

The Jantar Mantar observatory complex in Delhi. (Flickr/Tony Young)

Jantar Mantar Road, a short passageway through the administrative center of New Delhi, takes its name from a complex of gigantic red astronomical instruments at its north terminus, built by Maharaja Jai Singh II in 1724. The Jantar Mantar consists of a series of geometric jungle gyms that surround the all-important shadow of the Supreme Instrument, a four-story, right-triangular sundial surrounded by semi-circular wings. The complex reflects the style of politics practiced by its autocratic creator — one based on charting the positions of the sun and planets across the zodiac with maximum pomp and precision.

The road named after the Jantar Mantar, however, better reflects the aspirations of India’s past few decades as the world’s most populous democracy. In the space of several hundred yards between two sets of hand-painted red-and-yellow police barricades, an assortment of political and religious outfits have set up tents, encampments and shrines each dedicated to some particular cause — for the prosecution of a high-placed rapist, for the rights of migrant workers, for various flavors of spiritual-social awakening. Several tents contain men on hunger strikes, each reclining on a couch and nursed by supporters, on behalf of a petition like airline employee pensions or voting rights for Indians living abroad. Despite the amplified speeches and droning chants, Jantar Mantar Road is a respite from Delhi’s non-stop hustle; people slowly mill through to listen, strike up conversations and eat deep-fried snacks.

Read the rest at Waging Nonviolence or openDemocracy.

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December 6th, 2013

Give the Gift of God & Anarchy

God in Proof and Thank You, Anarchy

What better gift to give friends and loved ones than stories of grasping at the impossible?

According to the Los Angeles Review of Books, God in Proof “breathes life back into proofs” and is “entertaining, well written, and historically comprehensive.” Says former Washington Post columnist and peace educator Colman McCarthy, Thank You, Anarchy is “rich with metaphors, historical allusions and clearheaded reflections.”

Buy direct from University of California Press

Use discount code 13M4225 for 20% off the list price

You can also get both books pretty much anywhere else if you ask for them. Try your local bookstore. And don’t forget to share your reaction on Amazon or Goodreads.

Sleigh-bells a-ringing

In the coming months, I’ll be making the following live appearances:

Other great gift ideas

  • Contribute to the online communities that made these books possible, and which support countless other writers in doing uncommon work—give the gift of membership to Waging Nonviolence, which covers movements for justice and peace around the world, or Killing the Buddha, a literary magazine of religion, politics, and culture. Both are 501(c)(3) non-profit organizations, and membership dues are tax-deductible.
  • Last month, The New Press published a new edition of Noam Chomsky’s anarchist writings, On Anarchism, and they asked me to write the introduction. The result is a slim, sweet little stocking-stuffer that presents anarchism as a tradition with both a long history and particular relevance today.
  • The growing revival of interest in my favorite theologian, William Stringfellow, continues with a new reader published by Orbis and edited by Bill Wylie-Kellerman. It’s the best introduction yet to a thinker who will turn your cosmic situation upside down.

Thank you, as always, for reading!

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November 19th, 2013

‘This Isn’t, Thank God, Another Book about the Proofs for God’s Existence’

The filter blog Arts & Letters Daily is great, and it’s even greater that today it featured Robert Bolger’s excellent Los Angeles Review of Books review of God in Proof. Writes Bolger:

Schneider tips his hand a bit with the title God in Proof. This isn’t, thank God, another book about the proofs for God’s existence, but rather a search, at once historical and personal, for the God that lives in proofs. The reversal — from proof for God to God in proof — is both linguistically nifty and philosophically important. It isn’t that the proofs for God lead us to God, but rather that God may be found — or may be shrouded — in the language of proofs. People see God in different settings. Some see God in song, others in nature, and others still in humanity as a whole. Schneider, in searching for his God, finds it revealed in the souls who historically sought out proofs for what they believed in.

The review was also picked up two other wonderful blogs, Andrew Sullivan’s Dish and 3 Quarks Daily. The quasi-New Atheist Jerry Coyne even says he’ll read the book. Based on his earlier assessment of my writings on proofs, I don’t expect he’ll like it, but you never know.

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November 12th, 2013

Anarchy Everywhere, Except Online

On AnarchismI suppose this is what you get when you publish a book with “anarchy” in the title. This month I’ve got two new anarchy-related essays, both of which are available in good-old print. Here’s a bit of a taste.

One is an introduction to a new collection of Noam Chomsky’s writings on Anarchism, straightforwardly titled On Anarchism, which comes out this month from the New Press.

The first evening of a solidarity bus tour in the West Bank, I listened as a contingent of college students from around the United States made an excellent discovery: they were all, at least kind of, anarchists. As they sat on stuffed chairs in the lobby of a lonely hotel near the refugee camp in war-ravaged Jenin, they probed one another’s political tendencies, which were reflected in their ways of dressing and their most recent tattoos. All of this, along with stories of past trauma, made their way out into the light over the course of our ten-day trip.

“I think I would call myself an anarchist,” one admitted.

Then another jumped into the space this created: “Yeah, totally.”

Basic agreement about various ideologies and idioms ensued—ableism, gender queerness, Zapatistas, black blocs, borders. The students took their near unison as an almost incalculable coincidence, though it was no such thing.

If you’re in the Boston area on November 18, come hear me introduce Chomsky (and you can stay to hear him speak if you want…) at MIT at 5:30.

The other bit is a retrospective review in Commonweal (the online version is behind a paywall) of Paul Goodman’s 1960 sort-of classic Growing Up Absurd:

Goodman’s prose sets out to dazzle us with its iconoclastic attitude and the striking phrases that clothe the author’s not-always-consistent arguments. He quotes from his previous books at length. Throughout he attempts to reconcile his claim to be an anarchist with his conservative instincts, a tension borne out in his life as well as on the page; he was a married family man who was promiscuously bisexual, a Jew who opposed World War II.

Among the other “mansplainers” of Goodman’s time—to borrow a neologism from the feminist blogosphere—one could be forgiven for preferring Ivan Illich, who presented his similarly adventuresome anarcho-conservative proposals with considerably more rigor and coherence; or James Baldwin, who as a black man in exile came by his prophetic tone more honestly. “Allen Ginsberg and I once pointed out to Stokely Carmichael how we were niggers,” Goodman recalled in a memoir-ish essay, referring to a 1967 BBC broadcast, “but he blandly put us down by saying that we could always conceal our disposition and pass.” Carmichael was right.

For more: stop by a fine newsstand or bookstore near you.

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October 19th, 2013

A Holiday from Politics?

I’m a little perplexed by the new review of Thank You, Anarchy by Adam Kirsch, an editor of The New Republic among other things. Short of outright disapproving of my book, he replays a common liberal dismissal of Occupy. “For the vast majority of Americans, it was little more than a news story,” he begins, and he ends by claiming, utterly falsely, that “Schneider’s book suggests that the best way to understand Occupy is as a long, earnest holiday from reality, including the reality of politics.” I never once used the word “holiday” in that way; nor is that even what the book “suggests.” The last chapter concludes with a series of reflections on how to carry the ideals of Occupy into reality, and how people are doing so already. The book throughout strenuously insists that through Occupy, people experienced a return to the real politics of the needs of their communities, a break from the false politics of a deeply corrupted system. Kirsch’s reading, anyway, is suggestive of his assumptions, and, unfortunately, of my own failure to be clear enough to disabuse him of them. In that sense, the subtext of the review may be more revealing than the review itself.

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October 2nd, 2013

30% Off Thank You, Anarchy—Plus Events!

“Schneider does a remarkable job of conveying the euphoric sense of possibility that transformed so many people in the square, as well as the frustrations”—Nick Pinto, Al Jazeera America

“I consider this book one of the lasting benefits of Occupy”—David Swanson, WarIsACrime.org

“[A] fast-moving cinematic chronicle”—Jonah Raskin, Occupy.com

“Part history, part on-the-scene reporting, and part hope for a better future, the work is valuable and delightfully controversial.”—John Scott G, Publishers Newswire

Agree? Disagree? You can share your own reaction with a review at Goodreads and Amazon. And don’t miss the interviews with Democracy Now, HuffPost Live, and The New Inquiry.

Get a Discount

Between now and the end of October, thanks to a special arrangement with The Nation, the folks at University of California Press are offering a 30% discount on Thank You, Anarchy if you order directly from their website using the discount code 14W3726.

You can also find it at all sorts of fine retailers—ask for it at your local bookstore. If not now, when?

Attend an Event

The interest in Thank You, Anarchy and God in Proof have spawned an improvised book tour:

  • 10/8, New York, NY: KGB Bar
  • 10/9, Hempstead, NY: Lecture on proofs at Hofstra University
  • 10/24, Brooklyn, NY: An Evening of Song and Abstraction at the Oratory Church of St. Boniface
  • 10/26, New London, CT: Monte Cristo Bookshop
  • 10/30, Brooklyn, NY: “Was Jesus a Zealot?” at St. Joseph’s College
  • 11/1, Philadelphia, PA: Wooden Shoe Books
  • 11/3, Brooklyn, NY: BookCourt
  • 11/8, Providence, RI: Beckett Lecture of the Brown-RISD Catholic Community
  • 11/18, Cambridge, MA: Celebrating On Anarchism with Noam Chomsky and the Boston Review
  • 11/23, Baltimore, MD: Panel at the American Academy of Religion
  • 11/26, Baltimore, MD: Red Emma’s Bookstore
  • 2/22, San Francisco, CA: The Green Arcade
  • 2/24, Corvallis, OR: Oregon State University
  • 2/26-3/1, Seattle, WA: Association of Writers and Writing Programs conference
  • 3/9, Washington, DC: Center for Inquiry lecture

More are in the works. If you’d like to try to bring me to your hometown, please don’t hesitate to let me know how I can help.

I hope to see you somewhere along the line!

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September 9th, 2013

The Official Guide to Thank You, Anarchy

Thank You, AnarchyMaybe you saw a scene from it on HBO’s The Newsroom. Or perhaps you annotated part of it on RapGenius. Some of you may have even glimpsed the foreword by Rebecca Solnit, in which she wrote:

Thanks to this meticulous and elegant book, we know what one witness-participant was thinking all through the first year of Occupy, and what many of the sparks and some of the tinder were thinking, and what it was like to be warmed by that beautiful conflagration that spread across the world.

One way or another, the news about Thank You, Anarchy: Notes from the Occupy Apocalypse is getting out!

Get your copy

Thank You, Anarchy is available as an affordable paperback, extravagant hardcover, or ephemeral ebook. To support fine non-profit publishing, you can buy it directly from University of California Press using the discount code 13W4710. That should bring the price to just about where Amazon has it (and I guess you also can get it there if you have to).

Also, between now and Occupy’s second anniversary on September 17, you can get a signed copy of the book by becoming a member (at $5/month or more) of Waging Nonviolence, the publication where the Thank You, Anarchy got its start.

Once you’ve read the book, I hope you’ll consider writing a review at Goodreads or Amazon, or anywhere really, to tell the world what you think.

Attend an event

There are lots of opportunities coming up:

Keep up with more events to come on my speaking page. If you’re interested in helping organize an event in your hometown, don’t hesitate to contact me.

There’s more

On AnarchismCan’t get enough anarchy? Here’s what else to look out for this fall:

Thank you, as always, for reading.

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July 8th, 2013

God in Proof: The Official Update

God in Proof trailer

You can be among the first to see this new animated book trailer! Share it with your friends on YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter.

God in Proof: The Story of a Search from the Ancients to the Internet by Nathan SchneiderJoin a live interactive book event this Wednesday
In conversation with Texas-based philosophical artist Alyce Santoro, I’ll be discussing God in Proof in an online event on Wednesday at 9 p.m. eastern time, “God-Proofs and Philosoprops: Illustrating the Intangible.” You can join us from anywhere that has a decent Internet connection. Register for the event here and spread the word on Facebook.

Get the ebook
God in Proof is now available as an ebook, complete with all the illustrations and charts that appear in the print edition. Get the Kindle version at Amazon and the epub or pdf versions from other fine booksellers. (See GodInProof.com for details and a discount code.) If you like it, please consider writing a review at Goodreads or Amazon.

Thank You, Anarchy: Notes from the Occupy ApocalypseNew book coming in September: Thank You, Anarchy
My study of the first year of Occupy Wall Street, Thank You, Anarchy: Notes from the Occupy Apocalypse, is now available for preorder in paperback and hardcover. In the foreword, Rebecca Solnit writes: “Thanks to this meticulous and elegant book, we know what one witness-participant was thinking all through the first year of Occupy, and what many of the sparks and some of the tinder were thinking, and what it was like to be warmed by that beautiful conflagration that spread across the world.” Expect more news soon!

Thank you for reading,

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