Earlier today, I was on a radio show hosted by Jesse Lee Peterson, an ultra-right-wing black conservative minister who’s defended slavery and advocated an end to women’s suffrage. We talked about how I became an atheist, my book, and my petition to advance feminism and diversity in the atheist community. You’d better believe it was a lively hour! If you didn’t get the chance to listen live, you can hear an archived version through iTunes here:
or download the podcast from this link. My segment starts around 86 minutes in. My favorite thing is that the episode is titled “Atheist Guest Incites Callers”.
A few of the other high points:
• Privilege in action: “But religious people normally don’t bother atheists… they don’t try to force you to do anything.”
• Since I was invited on the show to talk about my petition, I had expected Peterson to bring it up as a way of arguing that atheists are more prejudiced than churchgoers. Surprisingly, he didn’t try that. Instead, he dismissed or denigrated all reports of sexual harassment in the atheist community, arguing that women must be making these stories up to control men. It seems his worldview is so deeply rooted in misogyny that he refuses to believe sexual harassment can ever be real or legitimate, even when it would be in his interest to do so. He asked, in all apparent seriousness, “Are you attacking the white male?” (Since I happen to be one, that would be silly of me, wouldn’t it?)
• “I’ve never met a feminist who didn’t hate men,” he said. I bet the denizens of the Slymepit would find a lot to talk about with this guy.
• Black atheists got the same treatment: “If they don’t believe in god, it’s impossible for them to tell the truth,” Peterson insisted, so therefore any stories they tell about being disowned by their families or shunned by their communities must also be lies. Again, I’m surprised he didn’t grant the truth of these accounts and then insist that it was deserved.
• And one more bit of friendly advice from Jesse Lee Peterson: “You’re making a horrible mistake by trying to get these feminist women into your group – they’re gonna mess up your organization like never before!” I didn’t say it at the time, but I’ll say it now to all the churches: if you’ve got any women who are too independent or too feminist, send them to us. The atheist community will gladly welcome them.
• The caller who argued that America was founded as a Christian nation, and as proof of this, demanded to know who discovered it. I answered that it was the Native Americans, which apparently baffled him – he kept insisting that it had to be Christopher Columbus, because it said so in a book!
• The other caller who said I was the “best-versed atheist [he'd] ever heard”. Thanks!
Apparently the people who wanted to talk to me were lighting up their telephone switchboard, so I may well be invited back some time in the future to take more calls. I’d be happy to do this again! It was immense fun, and a valuable opportunity to make the case for atheism to an audience that doesn’t usually get to hear anything like it. If you got to listen, how do you think I did?