As an experiment, I tried arguing in a few different online atheist forums, and I used two different versions of my name: a definitely female one, and a gender-neutral nickname derived from it.
With the female name, I received a number of condescending, patronising, and sexist remarks, and quite a few highly inappropriate and sexually-explicit/violent personal messages.
When using the gender-neutral nickname, I didn’t get condescending or patronising comments… and I didn’t get sexist “go make me a sammich” or “boob pics or STFU” crap either. I also didn’t receive any personal messages. They either openly discussed issues with me or I got soundly bashed based on the actual content of my posts, and that was that.
I want to receive the latter treatment regardless of whether people think/know I’m a woman. I don’t understand why certain people think I’m asking for special treatment by saying so as this appears to be how a number of atheists treat each other.
I want to ask D.J. Grothe this: Are you really not aware that one of the most common ways to dismiss and trivialize serious women is to say that we’re just trying to get attention? Are you really not aware that men’s ideas are generally taken seriously, and when they express them they’re generally considered to be sincere unless they prove otherwise… but women’s ideas are generally considered to be trivial, and when we express them, our motivations are called into question? Are you really not aware that men are generally seen as having an automatic right to express their ideas and to have them listened to and taken seriously… but that women are not, and that we commonly get treated as shrill, strident, insecure attention-hogs when we ask that our ideas be listened to?
Oh cry me a fucking river, mate. Seriously.
aww, let me get you poor fellows some tissues to dry your tears!
As someone who used to be a Christian—even by this guy’s definition!—whatever, man. It’s not hard to be a Christian at Christmas.
He did say one small snippet I agreed with:
As Christians we need to turn off the fights about “Merry X-Mas” at malls and Santa Claus and “Holiday” celebrations as opposed to Christmas celebrations and unplug ourselves from the collective cacophony of the modern Christmas season.
Yep. Turn off the pointless fight over (some) of y’all hating to admit you’re not the center of the universe. And if you want to turn off cacophony too, sweet. Just feel free to start owning up to the fact that the fundamentalist Christianity you follow is married to capitalism and that capitalism is responsible for the cacophony specific to this season.
It’s not caused by secularism.
On a related note, I spend too much time with my family already. Heh.
Black Scholarship, Non-Theism and Radical Politics
This is the opening paragraph of Sikivu Hutchinson’s article introducing her book. I suggest reading the entire article. The link is at the bottom of the post.
When I began researching my book Moral Combat: Black Atheists, Gender Politics and the Values Wars in 2009 I was interested in discovering what other Black writers had published on the intersection of non-theism, feminism, and Black liberation. Historically, Black writers and scholars have been marginalized by what might be dubbed the To Kill a Mockingbird or The Help effect, i.e., that all-American phenomenon wherein a white writer playing cultural anthropologist on domestic safari travels to the “hood” to capture some aspect of Black lived experience and garners international acclaim and legitimacy denied Black writers publishing on similar topics. Commenting on this theme in her book Talking Back, bell hooks’ contends that, “Until the work of Black writers and scholars is given respect and serious consideration, this overvaluation of work done by whites, which usually exists in a context wherein work done by Blacks is devalued, helps maintain racism and white-supremacist attitudes.”
So, an Evangelist Science team…
…claims to have discovered Noah’s Ark! Carbon dating has shown that this enormous, ship-like structure found in Turkey is 4,800 years old, which correlates perfectly with what the Bible tells us. My friend told me about this, and so I looked it up for myself only to find some hilarious quotes from Todd Wood, a Biologist who “pursues his work in the frame of Creationism.”
Dr. Wood is clearly aware of Carbon Dating, which estimates an item’s age by the deterioration of carbon 14, you know? We all took a basic Earth Science class in 8th grade, so this shouldn’t be news to Dr. Wood. However, he stated that “If you accept a young chronology for the Earth … then radiocarbon dating has to be reinterpreted, because the method often yields dates much older than 6,000 years”.
Basically, Dr. Wood is saying that we need to change the nature of Carbon Dating to fit his belief. Apparently, he wasn’t able to be simply blindsided like the team who discovered the ship. He realized that reality didn’t sync up with his bullshit and is now trying to alter facts to be able to rest comfortably. It simply baffles me that people hold these beliefs so strongly.
Here’s the National Geographic article, by the way:
Having learned of the Eridu Genesis, I find the search for Noah’s Ark to be especially hilarious. The writers of the Biblical Genesis lifted one (or possibly both?) creation myths from Sumerian myth along with the Flood myth.
The Eridu account predates the Biblical account and the Biblical account was likely added during the Babylonian Exile which would have exposed the writers of Genesis to the necessary source material.
That the Bible’s flood story is so dull in comparison and has Jehovah playing both villain and hero is another source of amusement for me.
At any rate, Noah’s ark will remain as unfound as Atrahasis’s, though no one is looking for Atrahasis’s boat.
It feels strange
You run into so many unbelievers on the tags who say things like “I’m an atheist, but I still secretly love Christian pop music” or “I miss going to church.” I don’t have a problem with those folks. Really, I don’t.
But they seem to talk about it a lot more than people on my spectrum of things.
I just want to say—especially to former Fundamentalist Evangelicals—you’re not alone if you hate 90% of Christian music and the idea of Church socials makes you want to curl up in a ball and tell everyone to fuck off.
You’re not alone if you’re not the slightest bit jealous of the sense of “belonging.” If you don’t “wish you could believe,” you’re not alone.
And as a post script, I hated (most) Christmas music before I deconverted and I do not listen to Christmas music in secret to surreptitiously enjoy the holiday while keeping my Cool Mx. Atheist reputation. Though that Tim Minchin song and Vince Guaraldi’s Charlie Brown tracks are quite nice and Carol of the Bells and O! Holy Night! are both quite excellent pieces of music.
I so admire people that have a religion. Especially now a days. It’s more often looked down upon in today’s world to be a christian. And as one I can honestly say I am proud and devoted. Though I will not shove it down your throat. I love talking about religion and the philosophy of life after…
Here’s my problem (and I’m sure I’m not alone here) with everything you just said:
1. You’re right in saying we don’t know what happens in the afterlife. We don’t know that the afterlife exists at all. And you’re right that we have this blank canvas on which we could draw anything we want, but YOU choose to draw a picture of heaven and hell, a picture of eternal salvation or endless suffering, a picture which comes from a 2,000 year old book which was written by man, not god. If you are so sure that you are a sinner and that you are unworthy of forgiveness, then where do you think you’re going to end up? It sounds like a pretty shitty afterlife if you ask me.
2. It’s safe to say that we both agree that this life exists. And the difference between you and I is that this life is my blank canvas. It is free of original sin and guilt for something I didn’t do. It’s free from self-pity of any kind related to religion. Unlike you, I will not waste this life (which we both know exists) living in fear of hell and eternal damnation. Just like your afterlife, I am free to draw anything I want on this blank canvas. And no, this does not mean I go around killing people because I have no morals. I just don’t need a book and an invisible man in the sky to tell me what is right and wrong. Hope this helped to answer your question as to why we believe in nothing in the afterlife.
Why the New Atheism is a boys’ club
Women are God-fearing and don’t challenge institutions. Men, on the other hand, are skeptical and rational, and go out of their way to publicly call bullshit on faith and religion – which is why today’s well-known secular thinkers, especially in the ranks of the New Atheism movement, are all male.
These statements should sound ridiculous because, of course, they are. From Madalyn Murray O’Hair, the founder of American Atheists, whose 1963 US supreme court lawsuit brought an end to prayer in public schools, to Sergeant Kathleen Johnson, who started an organisation for atheists in the United Statesmilitary, to Debbie Goddard, founder of African Americans for Humanism, countless women have worked as successful atheist activists. They’ve penned books, run organisations and advocated on behalf of religiously repressed citizens. But you might not guess that from the popular portrayal and perception of atheism in America, which overwhelmingly treats the contemporary class of non-God-fearing freethinkers (also known as secularists, skeptics and nonbelievers) as a contentious, showboating boys’ club.
In November 2006, Wired magazine identified Richard Dawkins, Daniel C Dennett and Sam Harris as a “band of intellectual brothers”, whose bestselling books on atheism, published between 2004 and 2006, heralded an era of 21st-century nonbelief. The media quickly dubbed this “the New Atheism”. What differentiates this movement from more old-school atheism (besides the mainstream media’s ever-present need to anoint, brand and categorise thought leaders) is that New Atheists take a vehemently zero-tolerance approach to faith, mysticism and even agnosticism. Though the basics are the same – non-belief in a god or gods – the new system also calls for pushing non-belief on others, almost to the point of abject proselytisation.
In a sidebar titled “Faces of the New Atheism”, the article profiled a few other notable non-believers – Greg Graffin of the band Bad Religion, illusionists Penn and Teller and writer Warren Allen Smith, with short tidbits illustrating how their atheism plays out in their lives and work. (Penn Jillette’s cars, for instance, feature license plates reading “ATHEIST” and “GODLESS”.) Shortly afterwards, CNN followed up with “The Rise of the ‘New Atheists’”, a web story on the subject, which added to the clubhouse British journalist Christopher Hitchens, whose then-upcoming book was 2007’s God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything; and Victor J Stenger, an author and physicist, joined the bunch with the 2007 publication of his book God: The Failed Hypothesis: How Science Shows That God Does Not Exist.
Attention kept increasing – and arguably, still holds steady – for these men, who’ve collectively become the Michael Moores of non-belief, garnering notice as much for pissing people off as for convincing others of the rightness of their stance. Socially approved public antagonists, they’ve debated religious firebrands like Dinesh D’Souza on national TV, as the mainstream media (never one to quash the ratings-grabbing potential of a fiery-tongued polemic) goads them on.
So, is new-style atheism the sausage party that media coverage would suggest? Without getting into an impossible intellectual debate – the kind dealing with pinpointing exactly who was the first to come up with or popularise a particular idea – suffice it to say no, not hardly. Consider: in 2003, the intellectual historian and poet Jennifer Michael Hecht published Doubt: A History: The Great Doubters and Their Legacy of Innovation from Socrates and Jesus to Thomas Jefferson and Emily Dickinson. The book traces famous non-believers throughout history, and advocates atheism on the grounds that these thinkers’ skepticism towards religious institutions fostered innovation in philosophy, literature and science. It garnered rave reviews from the Los Angeles Times, which called it “marvelous”, and Skeptic magazine, which described it as a “stunning chronicle of unbelievers”. In 2004, journalist Susan Jacoby published the extensively praised work Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism, a book that drew on the history of United States – in particular, the significant role secular thinkers have played in reform movements – to make the case that staunchly non-religious thought should be the main driver of public policy.
Yet, though Hecht’s and Jacoby’s books both came out shortly before Wired bestowed its “New Atheist” designation on the likes of Dawkins and Harris (whose The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason was published the same year as Jacoby’s Freethinkers), neither woman is invoked in the mainstream media’s anointing of atheist thought leaders. Is it that “rationality” – the bedrock of New Atheist doctrine – is historically gendered male, while women are considered more emotional? Is it that their books are too conciliatory toward religion, too well-balanced, too, you know, womanly?
Nope. Both women are accomplished, strong-voiced scholars, and are no more afraid than their male colleagues to call out religion’s injustices in a public forum – that is to say, not afraid at all. And as for those whose knee-jerk response to the abundance of critical acclaim accorded male writers over female ones is the classic “Maybe their books just weren’t as good/original/ambitious”: nope again. Indeed, Hitchens recognised Hecht’s influence on the bestselling God Is Not Great, writing in the acknowledgments:
“Jennifer Michael Hecht put me immensely in her debt when she sent me a copy of her extraordinary Doubt: A History.”
Nevertheless, a statement on Stenger’s website identifies Harris’s book as the bellwether of contemporary atheist thought. On a page promoting his own book, The New Atheism: Taking a Stand for Science and Reason, Stenger writes that The End of Faith “marked the first of a series of bestsellers that took a harder line against religion than has been the custom among secularists.” In an email interview, Stenger acknowledged that female atheists do exist – name-checking Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Wendy Kaminer, Rebecca Goldstein and Michelle Goldberg, as well as Jacoby – but the “New Athiests” referred to in his book’s promotional materials include none of these women.
Tom Flynn, editor of the secular humanist journal Free Inquiry and executive director of the Council for Secular Humanism, agrees that there’s a strong genderskew in the atheist movement. Though organisations like his have worked to recruit and retain female members – with mixed results – he’s aware that more men are recognised as atheist leaders. That said, he won’t necessarily concede that there’s sexist intent behind that recognition, saying:
“The numbers [of atheist authors] are so small, it’s largely coincidence that these authors who are all men emerge as superstars.”
Felicity, however, doesn’t fully explain female atheists’ under-sung presence. Writing on the dearth of visible women in New Atheism in a November 2010 blog post at Ms, Monica Shores found that a “quick [internet] search for female atheists will pull up such depressing fare as ‘Dating Atheist Single Women’ and ‘Top 10 Sexiest Female Atheists’ … the loudest complaints about the absence of atheist women [seem] to come from atheist males who want non-believing girlfriends.” Though atheist thinkers and bloggers like Ophelia Benson and Jen McCreight summarily stepped up to counter Shores with lists of prominent female atheists – science writer Natalie Angier, author and blogger Greta Christina, comedians Kathy Griffin and Julia Sweeney – the ensuing pileup of names only brought the issues identified by Shores’ post into sharper relief. If all these smart, clearly respected women are in the mix of loud-and-proud atheists, why does the face of New Atheism still look like that of a curmudgeonly, sixtysomething white guy?
In interviews, atheist leaders of all genders floated the theory that women might be less comfortable with the staunchly anti-establishment subtext of identifying as atheist, because they are more likely than men to be brought up to think that social standing, as well as serving their families, is of utmost importance. It’s embedded in so many female upbringings to collaborate with peers, to think of others before they think of themselves, to be openminded and listen to everyone fairly. Male upbringings, say these atheist leaders – even in our contemporary, supposedly post-feminist time – allow more leeway to indulge one’s individualism, be it in solo tinkering with cars, guitars and chemistry sets, or simply in the pursuit of brooding teen rebellion.
According to the 2006 CNN piece that helped coin the “New Atheist” designation, “What the New Atheists share is a belief that religion should not simply be tolerated, but should be countered, criticised and exposed by rational argument wherever its influence arises” – language that, in its aggression and moral surety, may buttress the idea that non-belief goes hand in hand with bullheaded confrontation. Amanda Knief, government relations manager for the Secular Coalition for America, which lobbies for atheist rights, believes that childhood socialisation, in concert with factors such as family income and access to education, is a big part of what keeps many female skeptics from making atheism a more central, vocal part of their lives. She and others also point out – Wired articles and CNN reports aside – that atheism is still not considered mainstream in the United States. A national study conducted by the University of Minnesota and published in the American Sociological Review, for instance, found that atheists are the “least trusted” group in America.
But other female atheists are blunt in their assessment of why the face of atheism doesn’t necessarily reflect the gender makeup of its adherents. Annie Laurie Gaylor, who founded the Freedom From Religion Foundation with her mother, Anne Nicol Gaylor, in 1978, sums it up succinctly: “One word – sexism.” Gaylor’s husband, Dan Barker, who helms the organisation along with her, is usually the one invited to speaking engagements, despite her longer tenure as the organisation’s leader and her numerous books on atheism. Doubt author Hecht, too, identifies basic chauvinism in the persistent lower profile of female atheists, stating that in her own experience, the work of female atheists tends to be individualised, rather than contextualised as part of a watershed scholarly movement. “Nobody talked about [Doubt] as a ‘phenomenon’,” she notes. “They just talked about the book.” Finally, when well-known atheists also happen to be just as well known for their misogynist statements – like Hitchens, as well as fellow skeptic Stephen Fry, who once theorised that women “don’t really like sex” – it just adds to atheism’s existing public-relations problem.
Representation matters, and when various media reports combined to create the “New Atheist” meme without mentioning the contributions of the women involved in the movement, the result was that the meme itself became masculinised. And because contemporary atheism has become so synonymous with this initially identified group, women atheists may well continue to be overlooked by the mainstream (or will, as some female skeptics have, reject inclusion on principle). It’s a state of affairs very much in line with the history of women in other fields in which battling continued institutional neglect – as opposed to intrinsic hostility – is an ongoing theme.
So, let’s reframe. For every mention of Hitchens, counter with a mention of Hecht. For every theory that male atheists are purer or more confrontational, let’s ask why we gender the philosophy of non-belief to begin with. The ranks of atheists who don’t fit the popular profile are increasing, and with more attention paid to whoisn’t a white male author with a fancy-pants book contract, the public face of non-belief may begin to look as diverse as atheism’s adherents actually are.
And if the work of women like Hecht, Jacoby, McCreight and Gaylor indicates anything, it’s that there’s a need for atheist voices from all genders and sexes to – very rationally – make themselves heard.
• This article was originally published as “The Unbelievers: New Atheism and the Old Boys’ Club” in Bitch Magazine (no 51, Summer 2011) and is crossposted by kind permission of the editor
I already know what the next 2 books I’ll be reading are. I know of many female non-theists; however I admit that my bookshelf and nook are missing their work. I still encounter shock when I tell people I’m and atheist. Sometimes it’s because I’m black, but the idea of atheism being a well-educated white male club does exist. I’ve blogged about Madalyn Murray O’Hair a lot. She was tough and what some considered to be abrasive. Not the idea of the “typical” woman. However she was right. Everything she stood for in her fight to get prayer out of school and religion out of our lives makes her one of the few people I consider a hero. Yet if pushed to name who I considered the top 10 female atheists, I would only be able to come up with 5, without having to do some research; research that I’ll be doing in the very near future.
There is something about women rejecting the protector/father image of a creator that does not sit well with Christians. Those of us who own our atheism, are often eyed with suspicion, as if they’re waiting for us to confess that we’re lesbians, or feminist, because lesbianism and feminism can be the only explanation for women rejecting God. Atheism isn’t about age, sex, or race. It’s simply about those of us with the intellectual mettle to acknowledge that the religions of the world do tremendous amounts of harm, and soundly reject them. It’s really wonderful to know there is no typical atheist. I most definitely am not typical! ~ Kim
This is the truth Uncut - William Hay (What Scientists Really Think About the Quran)
Following the release of a video clip of an interview he participated in in the 1980’s, William Hay has often been cited as a scientist who has allegedly attested to the miraculous nature of the information within the Quran.
This video is an uncut interview with Prof Hay nearly 30 years later asking him to explain this experience in detail, and his thoughts on the matter.
This is an excellent piece of debunking from The Rationalizer which Muslim miracle seekers should see.
Atheism doesn’t mean “I don’t believe in God”
It means “I don’t believe in A god.”
And you can thank anti-Christian atheists for that misconception.
Good job, assholes.
What the hell are you talking about? Is there anyone seriously saying “Oh, you’re an atheist. You just don’t believe in Jehovah. How do you feel about Hera?”?
What you’re saying here is, at best, a distinction without meaning.
P.S. You can thank Christians for the common western assumption that everyone who talks about a singular “god” is talking about Jehovah.
What are we doing in the war against Christmas this year? I haven’t been following our newsletters very well since the fit hit the shan at work a few months ago.
Valuing Women = Ignoring Them?
This is the introduction to an article written by Greta Christina. Please follow the link at the end to read the entire article.
Don’t you love it when religious believers go on and on about how they value and respect and treasure women… while totally ignoring the things women are actually saying?
And by “love,” I mean of course, “get totally infuriated by, but in a way that’s kind of entertaining.”
In my recent post, Why I Probably Won’t Do Porn Again: Sexism and Being a Woman on the Internet, I explained why I probably won’t be doing any porn again — even though I found it richly satisfying and hugely fun back in the days when I used to do it, and think I would tremendously enjoy doing it again now. In response, I got this comment from Aussie Xian:
I would like to applaud, you, Greta, for the conclusions you have made about porn, and how de-liberating it is; and in fact DOES NOT aid the women’s movement to achieve its aims. I would argue it only provides money to the burgeoning Adult industry, and devalues women to be only objects for self gratification and for lust expression by males. I believe women should be more than mere images for self-centred fantasy by males who wish to escape reality.
(That’s the emoticon for “facepalm” a friend of mine made up. Use it. Spread it. It’s really useful.)
My Gawd! It’s a Miracle!
This is the introduction to an article written by Norm Allen for Black Skeptics on Freethought Blogs. Please follow the link at the end to read the entire article.
On October 29, 2011, the Associated Press ran a heartwarming story about an adorable dog that cheated death. (“Stray dog awaits adoption after surving gas chamber,” The Buffalo News, p. A7.)
On October 3rd, a new operator of a gas chamber run by the Animal Control Department in Florence, Alabama, placed the dog into the chamber with other animals. Carbon monoxide was fed into the chamber. The lucky dog was the only survivor.
Surely a genuine miracle of a religious nature must have occurred. After all, there is no other possible explanation as to how the dog could have survived. Indeed, workers at the animal shelter named the dog Daniel, after the biblical hero that made it out of the lion’s den.
Not so fast.
I am furious. This is a teacher who graduated from the same teaching credential program as me. Once I say my piece, I will be removing her from my friend’s list.
I do not associate with people who believe that it is ok to use their position of power to brainwash children into thinking that they need to and can “accept Jesus” into their hearts.
This disgusts me. She works at a public school. FUCK THAT SHIT.
(P.S. I am Tiffany.)