Self-Help, Vampire Romance, and Atheism

Phil Zuckerman Visits the Humanist Society and Ventura Book Festival Rundown

DOING WITHOUT DEITIES: Unbelief is big these days: Witness the spate of recent books on the subject by such prominent public intellectuals as Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, and Richard Dawkins and the far-reaching discussions that continue to roil in their wake. On Saturday, July 17, the Humanist Society of Santa Barbara continues its own pro-people, anti-religion mission with a visit from speaker Phil Zuckerman. A professor of sociology at Pitzer College, one of the seven Claremont Colleges, Zuckerman specializes in the sociology of religion, which places him well to deliver this lecture, Goodness in Godlessness.

Phil Zuckerman

While Dostoevsky wrote that “if God does not exist, everything is permitted,” Zuckerman believes that there’s plenty of morality without religion—maybe even more of it. His academic publications include papers on the rates and patterns of atheism in the modern world and how social-science data contradicts common assumptions about the well-being of nonbelievers. Currently hard at work on a book called Faith No More: How and Why People Reject Religion, he’ll discuss a wide range of issues that his research has prompted him to explore. He’ll lecture on and address questions about the correlation between a nation’s lack of religiosity and its health and wealth; the ever-controversial dynamic between religion and sex; the relationship between atheism, secularism, and morality; and the influence of Jews and the Christian right.

Zuckerman’s lecture happens in the Patio Room of the Vista del Monte Retirement Community (3775 Modoc Rd.) at 3 p.m. Doors open at 2:30 p.m. For more information, call 689-2716 or visit

VENTURA BRINGS THE BOOKS: Also on Saturday, July 17, though quite a bit farther afield, the fifth annual Ventura Book Festival will run from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. at Ventura’s beachside Crowne Plaza Hotel. The festival, put on by the California Literary Arts Society (CLAS), brings in a pack of authors and literary agents to talk about the craft, the business, and the community of writing. Not only will authors make appearances and sign books, but they’ll also put on educational sessions, the proceeds of which benefit CLAS’s youth writing programs and literacy projects, dealing with many subjects to do with both writing and reading.

Notable festival guests include editor Ellen Reid, nonfiction author Kristen Moeller, book promoter Eddie Kritzer, and teen author Dallas Woodburn. They and others will lead sessions on the process of getting an agent, mining the headlines for the most relevant writing material possible, writing for (and by) children, working with the combined editor-marketer-consultant known as a “book shepherd,” and not getting discouraged and defeated by the challenges inherent in writing and publishing.

At least one session is dedicated entirely to success in the romance genre, which happens to be the largest and best-selling in the publishing industry. The whole festival, in fact, looks to be aimed at the types of books moving fastest off the shelves right now, whether they’re long-standing champions, like romance or self-help, or more recently emerging ones, such as romantic thrillers with a specifically vampiric bent or studies of infidelity that drop such high-profile names as Tiger Woods. Those looking to break into these particularly lucrative sectors of the writing game will undoubtedly find out things worth learning.

In addition to the sessions, the Ventura Book Festival will, as usual, feature its book expo, a gathering of book-related exhibitors free for the public’s browsing. Visitors at this year’s expo will find, among others, The Firewatcher author Geoff Aggeler, multitalented Santa Barbara writer Diana Raab, well-known Ventura bookstore Bank of Books, poet and playwright Sojourner Kincaid Rolle, and the American Association of University Women. For details, visit


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