The Women of ‘New Atheism’ Are All Around Us

For whatever reason, Salon loves to take digs at the New Atheist authors and the atheist movement in general.

The latest salvo is Katie Engelhart‘s piece asking, “Where are the women of New Atheism?

It’s not a bad question — we know that one of the problems in our movement is that it’s predominantly men who are involved and who get most of the publicity. There are individuals (men and women) and groups working to change that and we shouldn’t stop discussing how to make things better.

But that’s not really where Engelhart’s piece goes.

First, she tries (and fails) to coin a term to bring together some of the things atheists are doing in certain parts of the world:

“New Atheism” is old news. Enter “New, New Atheism”: the next generation, with its more spiritual brand of non-belief, and its ambition to build an atheist church. It is an important moment for the faithless. Will it include women?

Ugh. This is just lazy reporting. The “atheist church” idea isn’t what the next iteration of atheism will be; it’s just one way to build the type of communities some atheists want to have. Most atheists, I think it’s safe to say, are perfectly happy without them.

Then, Engelhart laments the fact that, even though there are many women making important contributions to the freethought movement, they’re just not as famous as the men. (Ayaan Hirsi Ali is notably absent from the entire article.)

“… these women… failed to emerge as public figures, household names.”

I don’t doubt that for a moment. There are female atheists well known in atheist circles, but not many who are known outside of them. The questions that need to be asked are: Who’s responsible for that? And what can we do to change that?

We never really get a solid response from Engelhart to the first question — she just throws a lot of possibilities in the air — maybe because there isn’t just one clear answer. Is it the movement’s fault for not elevating women to higher status (whatever that means), or is it society’s fault for not more strongly embracing (or even rejecting) outspoken atheist women?

There’s barely an attempt to answer the second question.

Here’s a question I wish she would have answered: At what point does a prominent female atheist become prominent “enough”? Her article names (or links to) bestselling women authors, popular women bloggers, and organizations headed up by women… but she basically dismisses them because they aren’t well-known enough. So when will she be satisfied?

I’m not asking that to be a jerk, but because I think we need to know what standard she’s using. Madalyn Murray O’Hair had name recognition (though she wasn’t well-liked) but she isn’t mentioned by name anywhere in the piece. Jennifer Michael Hecht and Susan Jacoby both wrote popular history books discussing famous freethinkers, and have been interviewed a number of times in the mainstream media, but… but what? Still not enough?

Are we looking for number of weeks spent on a bestsellers list? Amount of money given to atheist women in a book deal? Number of hits to their websites? Number of female speakers at a particular conference? A 50/50 split in our demographics? An equal number of women (as men) leading atheist organizations?

Maybe she just wishes a woman would be automatically linked to “atheism” in everybody’s mind. (Which, again, we’ve had with O’Hair.)

Whatever the answer is, I can offer one suggestion to Katie Engelhart that would actually help the cause she’s fighting for: Write articles about female atheists. There’s no shortage of atheist women who are doing fascinating things, have interesting ideas, and make for compelling stories. We’d all benefit from that. (In fact, it’s something I’m working on right now.) Need help? Start here.

(It probably doesn’t help anyone that Salon has published three separate articles about the late Christopher Hitchens just in the past few weeks…)

The “New Atheism” idea is, and has always been, an invention of the media. Same with calling the bestselling male authors “the Four Horsemen.” It’s not like atheists everywhere gathered together one day and decided, “Okay, we’ll embrace four atheist men and then stop.”

But if a media construct helped these men rise to prominence, there’s no reason the media — and Engelhart — can’t help women do the same.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the chair of Foundation Beyond Belief and a high school math teacher in the suburbs of Chicago. He began writing the Friendly Atheist blog in 2006. His latest book is called The Young Atheist's Survival Guide.

  • GodlessPoutine

    Yeah… I’ve noticed that Slate has some kind of thing against the New Atheists as well. They don’t seem to be expressly religious or anything. They just seem to be “too cool” for the New Atheists or something.

    • katiehippie

      Hipsters everywhere! ;)

    • http://www.bricewgilbert.blogspot.com Brice Gilbert

      Maybe comments like this are why. Did you even read the article? Did the author say that organized atheism is wrong or useless? No. They commented on a trend that could very well become a problem and ruin the movement.

    • SeekerLancer

      All the cool kids are agnostics because taking a yes or no position on things is hard.

      • C.L. Honeycutt

        Perfect analogy. They’re the kids in class who intentionally say stupid shit when asked a question because they’re afraid of being wrong.

  • Tel

    *waves*

  • tsara

    The subheading of her article says “The most prominent faithless are white men.” Guess what?
    The most prominent philosophers are white men.
    The most prominent church leaders are white men.
    The most prominent politicians are white men.
    The most prominent businesspeople are white men.
    The most prominent people in 99% of categories are white men.
    Gah.

    • advancedatheist

      White men even dominate fields which have no barriers to entry, like sabermetrics. Plenty of blacks and Latinos love baseball. Why don’t they want to study the game mathematically?

      Perhaps the differential IQ’s between groups have something to do with it.

      • Itsrealfunnythat

        Please explain what you mean by Differential IQ’s.

        • Artor

          He means that women are dumb, because he says so.

          • Itsrealfunnythat

            I was afraid of that…

        • UWIR

          The limit as h goes to zero of [IQ(x+h)-IQ(x)]/h.

          • Itsrealfunnythat

            Is there a point to this?

            • 3lemenope

              It’s the algebraic form of a simple differential.

              • Itsrealfunnythat

                yes, magnificent. I guess if one person isn’t able to handle this specific piece of information they must be an idiot, or maybe youre a self righteous prick?

                • 3lemenope

                  You asked a question. I attempted to provide a helpful answer. No need to be nasty.

                • Itsrealfunnythat

                  My question was “is there a point” not “what is this”. Learn to read.

                • 3lemenope

                  The point was a pun. The only way to not get “the point” is to not know that the equation he spoofed was the differential formula. Since you indicated you didn’t recognize “the point” I provided the identity of the formula.

                • Itsrealfunnythat

                  My point is why would you want to side with someone that says white men are on top because they are obviously superior. Why would you continue a moronic line of thought that says if i don’t get the formula clearly Im an inferior human specimen.

                • 3lemenope

                  My point is why would you want to side with someone that says white men are on top because they are obviously superior.

                  Where did I do that?

                  Why would you continue a moronic line of thought that says if i don’t get the formula clearly Im an inferior human specimen.

                  Where did I do that?

                  —————

                  You are reading just humongous amounts of stuff into these posts that just isn’t there.

                • Itsrealfunnythat

                  No, youre just seeing the post far away from the original comment, so you missed the context of the discussion.

                • 3lemenope

                  I read the whole thread from top-to-bottom. There is no context problem here. You are attributing to my words things they do not say, and attributing actions to me I did not take.

                • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

                  I appreciated it. I thought that might have been what it was (a differential equation) but calculus was a long time ago and I never took Differential Equations as its own class; calculus II is as far as I got in math.

                • 3lemenope

                  Not a differential equation. Those are nasty and advanced. The expression {lim[h->0][f(x+h)-f(x)]/h} is the algebraic expression of the concept of the differential itself, the infinitesimal; many people run into it in Trig or Pre-calc and then if they don’t go into a math field promptly and harmlessly forget it.

                • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

                  Gotcha. As I myself clearly forgot it!

                • Itsrealfunnythat

                  Ahem, I asked UWIR to clarify his statement about differing IQ’s, during which point none of these other comments had been made. His immediate response was to send me that equation, as if testing me. What other reason could he have for posting an equation in a post about women of atheism? I became upset with you, thinking you were him and justifying that post. When I realized it was you I tried to explain. Not all posts are made in order.

                • 3lemenope

                  Advancedatheist made the statement about differing IQs, nor UWIR. UWIR, in his response to your question, was making a joke, and not at your expense, about the differing meanings of ‘differential’, since an actual answer was already provided by Artor. The thread might make a bit more sense after you keep track of who said what.

      • tsara

        “Why don’t they want to study the game mathematically?”
        Because it takes math training, inclination to pursue math, and perception of mathematical capability to do so.

        “Perhaps the differential IQ’s between groups have something to do with it.”
        The evidence does not support the assertion that IQ differences are primarily genetically determined, nor that IQ is the optimal measure for intellectual capability.

        • duke_of_omnium

          Exactly. It’s either naive or mendacious to say that sabermetrics, which depends heavily on classical statistical analysis, has no [ethnic] barriers to entry. The ability and opportunity to study stat is great barrier. (the fact that college-level statistics is a dull, dull course is true but irrelevant).

          • UWIR

            With any field, it’s mendacious to say that there are no barriers to dominating it. Even if you can think a field that almost anyone can enter, the idea that there is a field where everyone can be at the top is logically absurd. If we had a national “sit in a chair” competition, most black people would lose because they have to actually work for a living, and can’t sit around doing nothing all day.

      • http://www.devidreams.com/ Devi Taylor

        You fail to account for the social context that makes it possible for white males to dominate in these areas. It’s much easier to win at Blackjack if the house is on your side. In a world with true equality where everyone started on equal footing and given equal access to resources, those lists would be a lot more varied in gender and ethnicity. It has little, if anything, to do with IQ.

        And your attempt at racism…not subtle nor appreciated.

      • Michael W Busch

        Why don’t they want to study the game mathematically?

        Simple answer: Systematic economic and social inequalities mean that there are artificial barriers to entry. ( Yes, it is immensely humbling to straight cis-gendered able-bodied white men to recognize how much we owe to accidents of environment and genetics – I personally am still learning the full implications of that lesson. )

        And there are no differences in innate intelligence across the population and IQ is a measure of skill at the set of tasks measured on IQ tests and of nothing else.

      • C.L. Honeycutt

        Those I.Q. scores are the result of barriers erected by whites. This has been explained to you.

      • Matt

        lol “advanced”

  • GodlessPoutine

    Actually… what better way to stir up a little controversy and get lots of hits than to publish articles like this?

    • Artor

      How about writing a well-informed and well-written article that has people linking to it and praising it for insight and accuracy? I think that would be much, much better.

    • Hat Stealer

      Exactly. This article was not a genuine attempt at reporting. This article was an attempt to cram as many controversial buzzwords like “atheism” and “woman” into a single, ill-conceived word-salad, the purpose of which was to generate as many views as possible.

  • Carla

    I think she also forgets that a lot of atheists aren’t really a “movement” or even a “coherent group.” Lots of us read Friendly Atheist, then go about our day with hardly a second thought for religion, etc. I’m sure there’s some media sexism playing into the problem as well. But, if people stopped trying to classify atheists as a giant group of people like religious denominations, these problems would get a lot smaller.

  • Matthew Baker

    maybe they found out that articles about Right wingers saying foolish things aren’t getting the hits they use to. Right wingers saying foolish things has become so common we as Americans are becoming immune to it. When they find the same thing happening to the atheist articles they will move on to their next target.

  • jferris

    I didn’t realize that unless I am published, repeatedly interviewed in popular press, or that my name immediately comes to mind when discussing a subject, that my thoughts are not of value, or that my actions do not contribute. I wonder how Ms. Engelhart feels about the fact I’ve never heard of her? Where does that put her in the category of important female journalists? I wonder if she works with Joe Klein?

    • UWIR

      How did you get that from the article?

    • rg57

      I’ve heard of neither one of you. And I’m OK if you haven’t heard of me. I’m not published, interviewed, or notable in a subject area either. And I accept that I am not an expert in most everything I talk about, including atheism. That’s just reality.

      The article isn’t about being of value, or contributing. It’s about being widely known, which necessarily means being widely known among theists. Thus, it’s about being competent at defending one’s particular atheism against attack on such typical grounds as evolution, the cosmos, induction, justice, trust, etc. And it’s about being competent at quickly finding the flaws in the arguments theists present on their own behalf. Access to television (the respectable kind) often requires more than simply having an opinion. The religious get around this by creating nonsense degrees that they can award each other, and meaningless jobs they can fill. I like to think we’re above that. That means doing it the hard way.

      One of my favourite female atheists is Dr. Francesca Stavrakopoulou. A year or two ago, she had a miniseries on BBC in which she skewered Old Testament history using the available physical evidence recovered from those times, and she’s been involved in other series as well.

      • Cat Burns

        I will look Dr. Francesca Stavrakopoulou up! Thank you, that miniseries sounds fascinating

  • advancedatheist

    Madalyn Murray O’Hair had name recognition (though she wasn’t well-liked)

    And from hindsight she seems overrated. Few Americans in the 1960′s and 1970′s wanted to become public atheists, so in a field with sparse competitors, a mediocre figure like O’Hair could rise to prominence almost by default.

    In today’s world, when atheists in hick towns like Tulsa can start podcasts and attract international followings, I don’t think someone like O’Hair would have gotten very far compared with more attractive competitors.

    • Michael Harrison

      I heartily disagree. She was willing to put herself on the line. Even now, that’s a trait that can help people move out of the background.

  • Anna

    “… these women… failed to emerge as public figures, household names.”

    How many atheist men are household names? In general, atheists are only well-known within atheist circles. The only public figures I can think of who would be identifiable by people who don’t keep up with the movement would be Dawkins, Hitchens, and maybe Harris. The other name with widespread recognition would be O’Hair.

    • C.L. Honeycutt

      Well, there are theist circles in which they are virtually household names. For instance, Keyra obsesses over a couple of them, which by its own logic means that it secretly believes in their messages.

  • LaRae Meadows

    It may not be that we took a vote and decided not to embrace women as leaders in our community but it is the case.

  • fnostro

    Does Greta Christina not count?

    • Jansen Waddell

      I was about to coment the same thing.

    • Cat Burns

      See my list above of who counts, as a woman I think my opinion counts

      • fnostro

        No argument here, but why are you telling me…go contact Miss Engelhart and give her a piece of your mind, along with Mr. Dodd’s list… :)

        • Cat Burns

          You mentioned one woman and I did tell Ian, he is a friend so I told him to say me LOL

          I will make the list longer and post it on her blog when I fill in more names :) Thanks for the suggestion!

  • Jansen Waddell

    Tracie Harris is a BADASS and an atheist. And hey, would ya look at that? She’s a woman!

    If only Salon would have done their research…

    • Cat Burns

      All the godless bitches are awesome! I made a list of kick ass women left off. I think it was someone promoting their friends for the most part.

  • Ian Dodd

    Greta Christina, Ophelia Benson, Rebecca Hale, Susan Jacoby, Edwina Rogers, Jennifer Michael Hecht, Jennifer Ouellette, Wendy Kaminer, Karen Stollznow, Robyn McCarthy, Rebecca Watson, . . . Shall I go on?

    • Cat Burns

      Ian you forgot me ;) I say that jokingly :)

      • Ian Dodd

        Cat Burns, Cara Santa Maria, Sharon Hill, Debbie Allen. . .I can keep it up, if you want me to.

        • Cat Burns

          I really was kidding about me, Ian :)

    • 3lemenope

      That was my first reaction, too, but then I got to thinking, how many of them could your average John or Jane Q. Public name and how many of those (if there are any at all to work with) are properly associated by the public with pro-atheist activism? The article is not about how there are no women in the movement, but rather that they are not nearly as prominent as male members. On that score, I’d say it’s nearly unarguably true that male atheists are more prominent in the public eye than female ones despite there being plenty of the latter in existence.

    • WallofSleep

      For some reason, Julia Sweeny was the first name that popped into my head.

      • AxeGrrl

        Ditto :)

        Whenever the subject of a ‘spokesperson’ for atheism comes up, Julia Sweeney ALWAYS pops into my head first :)

        Intelligent, articulate and outspoken in the most pitch-perfect way, imo :)

    • Michael W Busch

      I’d continue with Annie Laurie Gaylor, and her mother Anne Nicol Gaylor. The public may not know their names, but a fair fraction knows their work (since they founded the FFRF).

      Edit: And why downvote Ian’s list of impressive people?

      • C.L. Honeycutt

        I’ll go out on a limb and opine that it’s because there’s an uppity chick on the list what doesn’t like being cornered and can’t shut up about it rather than politely ask people to not do that to her.

        • Michael W Busch

          Who are you referring to?

          You could have used the name or ‘nym you meant, rather than starting in with sexist terms like “uppity chick”.

          • C.L. Honeycutt

            I meant one of the women on Ian’s list itself. My choice of language was directed at insulting their motivations for the downvote, which I believe to be based in sexist antipathy for that woman.

            • C.L. Honeycutt

              Oh noes, downvotes for mocking sexists with ironic language. How DARE I?

              • islandbrewer

                You are obviously No True Atheist (TM), because you are disparaging the anonymous brave True Atheist downvoter who is bravely fighting an evil feminist (or possibly the No True Feminist (TM)) who has not dropped her “rad” feminism for more palatable “chill girl” feminism.

    • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

      Nono, those aren’t atheist women. Those are feminist women. You can’t be prominent in and important to multiple social movements at the same time, silly person. You have to be pigeonholed into one of them, and it’s easier to dismiss feminists as hysterical and shrill, so guess where they get put …

      [/snark, for the sarcasm challenged]

      • UWIR

        “and it’s easier to dismiss feminists as hysterical and shrill”
        Of course, people like Libby Anne, who insult, libel, and ban people who disagree with them while claiming to represent feminism, don’t help.

        • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

          1) I have never seen Libby Anne insult or libel anyone. Nor has she banned people merely for disagreeing, or you would be gone too. She bans people for derailing threads and insulting people instead of arguing ideas, and even then she warns before banning. Her ban-hammer is more like a ban-gavel; it’s one of the blogs that is least modded of any I read.

          2) Libby Anne is a feminist. She doesn’t claim to represent the whole movement of feminism, but if she did, she’d be doing a damned good job of it. She is, after all, advancing the radical notion that women are people too.

          3) What do you think a “good” feminist does, if not push buttons and make people uncomfortable? Asking people nicely to pretty please with a cherry on top treat us better doesn’t have a great track record.

          • UWIR

            1. Libby Anne called me “really offensive” and claimed that I said that “pointing out that black crime is over reported because it is over prosecuted and not necessarily because blacks are more likely commit crime is ‘libel against whites’ “, even though I never said that. So she lied. She did, in fact ban me, and didn’t even have the decency to explicitly state that she did so. While my banning was hardly a surprise, there was nothing that was anything close to an explicit warning.

            2. Libby Anne claims to be a representative of feminism. And no, insulting people and then banning them for pointing out that insulting people is rude, is not being a good representative of feminism. Truthspew wrote

            And another little secret. People think Black and Latino people commit more crimes. Not true – most of the MAJOR crimes are committed by, you guessed it, WHITE people. We’re the biggest criminal class out there when it comes to murder.

            This got 6 upvotes an no downvotes. My post pointing out that this was a lie got two upvotes and two downvotes. When disgustingly racist lies such as Truthspew’s get upvoted, and the truth gets downvoted, on a blog that is advertised as representing feminism, that harms the feminism “brand”. People judge people on who they hang out with, and Libby Anne hangs out with lying racist assholes, calls it “offensive” when people point out that those posters are lying, and then bans them if they say that calling them “offensive” is rude. That’s what kind of “feminist” Libby Anne is.

            3. Your phrasing implies a rather childish attitude. Grown ups don’t take pride in pushing buttons for the sake of pushing buttons. It’s one thing to do something despite it making people uncomfortable, but quite another thing to do something because it makes people uncomfortable. And the latter is the only interpretation that makes sense in this context. Your comment makes sense only if it is understood as saying that merely claiming to represent feminism excuses any rudeness. Responding to a comment that someone claiming to represent feminism is acting rudely with “Well, acting rudely is what feminists do” really doesn’t help your cause.

            Also, since I can’t post a response in that thread, I posted this comment regarding your “Affirmative Action gives some people bonuses, legacy policies give some people bonuses, therefore legacy policies are affirmative action” bullshit:

            “affirmative action” refers to something quite specific. It is not a general term for any advantage that accrues to one demographic more than another.

            You responded with this:

            Affirmative action means giving one group of people bonuses when being considered for a position or opening or slot for school.

            Your response, other than apparently saying that the term “Affirmative Action” applies only to schools (which is false), is an exact denial of my statement. The rest of your post consists of statements that rely on that statement, rather than support it. So I made a statement, and you posted a response that did nothing to argue against that statement other than simply declaring that the statement is wrong. That is not an argument, and pointing out that it is not an argument is not, as you claimed, “rude”. If you have a problem with feminists having a bad reputation, you really ought to either change your username, or else stop accusing people of being “rude” when they point out that you aren’t engaging in valid argument.

            • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

              You will note that you didn’t define affirmative action. I stated my definition and then built arguments on it, like ya do. Of course I made an exact denial of your statement- you’re wrong. Affirmative action applies in only two contexts- schools and hiring/promotion (position or opening in the original quote) decisions. That’s it. While I spoke about it in school context, being more familiar with it, it works pretty much the same way in work situations. So why don’t you take this opportunity to tell me what your definition is? We learned first thing in debate class in high school that if you are going to argue with a definition, you have to provide a counter-definition. Otherwise your argument just falls apart. I will note that “you are wrong” with no supporting statements is barely an argument, but I’m doing you the courtesy of calling it that. You know, avoiding throwing your own rudeness back in your face.

              As for Libby Anne, I’m not going to argue about her. She moderates her own blog some, you were being offensive, and she banned you. I think, given the horrifically racist things you were dressing up in pretty prose, she was right to do so, but even were she wrong, it’s still her blog and she can ban whoever she wants to. You might want to think about why someone who has banned less than 5 people in the past several months picked you to ban …

              • UWIR

                Of course I made an exact denial of your statement- you’re wrong.

                Fine, but don’t make an exact denial, and then claim that you’re presenting an argument. You’re simply presented an absurd definition with no basis. And then you whined about me pointing that out.

                We learned first thing in debate class in high school that if you are going to argue with a definition, you have to provide a counter-definition. Otherwise your argument just falls apart.

                Nonsense. One can observe that an opposing definition is wrong without presenting one’s own definition. Given your rudeness, I don’t see much point in trying to present an actual definition, anyway.

                I will note that “you are wrong” with no supporting statements is barely an argument, but I’m doing you the courtesy of calling it that. You know, avoiding throwing your own rudeness back in your face.

                But, you see, I haven’t claimed to have presented an argument that your definition is wrong. It is self-evident that it is wrong. It is an absurd claim completely at odds with reality made by someone who has no respect for my views and has given every indication that she will not honestly consider what I have to say, so the “you haven’t presented an argument” retort is rather feeble. And you have yet to present an example of my rudeness (and no, making completely objective criticisms of you doesn’t count).

                As for Libby Anne, I’m not going to argue about her. She moderates her own blog some, you were being offensive, and she banned you. I think, given the horrifically racist things you were dressing up in pretty prose

                If you’re going to claim that I was “offensive” and “racist”, then you had better have some arguments to back that up. Insulting someone just because you disagree with them shows that, for all your intimations to be following some sort of debating code, you’re just being a closeminded jerk.

                You might want to think about why someone who has banned less than 5 people in the past several months picked you to ban ..

                She said quite explicitly why she banned me. It was because I called her on her incivility. She called me “offensive” while adamantly refusing to provide any basis for the charge, and she flat-out lied about my posts. The fact that she not only did all that, but banned me for criticizing her for it, reflects poorly on her, not me.

                We now have two data points that people who present themselves as representing feminism (Libby Anne and you) think that it is acceptable to make personal attacks against people who disagree with them, without presenting any basis for the accusations. If you’re going to have a username that makes reference to feminism, while calling someone a “racist” simply for having views you don’t like, it’s rather hypocritical for you to complain about people dismissing feminists.

                I guess you don’t like people who advance the radical idea that non-Leftists are people, too.

      • C.L. Honeycutt

        Snark should not make me this sad to read. It has forsaken me. :(

  • WallofSleep

    C’mon now. We’ve got S.E. Cupp, what more could Engelhart want?
    *ugh*

    • GodlessPoutine

      Spot on.

    • Jansen Waddell

      Oh god, I forgot about her.

      FUCK :

  • Keyra

    There hardly any black, Latino or women New atheists, nearly as much as white men (mostly consisting of rebellious and/or confused late teenagers, young adults, & middle-aged men; all who pretend to know science, use the same tired arguments & faulty comparisons from the God Delusion & other atheist literature). Probably because most people know it’s nonsense, to constantly bitch & moan about what they don’t even believe in, continually talk about the very God they revile

    • Michael W Busch

      There hardly any black, Latino or women New atheists,

      Bullshit. Those atheists exist (and so do Asian atheists, Native American atheists, genderqueer atheists, and any other categories you might wish to make). The problem is the systematic racism and sexism of society, which tends to try and erase anyone who isn’t a white male.

      Fortunately, there are groups combating this tendency. You might start with the authors who contribute to this blog. And for another example: I spent a good part of last weekend listening to a very diverse group of very intelligent atheists. And those talks have been archived and posted, so you could go view them: http://ftbcon.org/

      use the same tired arguments & faulty comparisons from the God Delusion & other atheist literature

      Your bare assertion does not make the arguments in the God Delusion and other atheist literature wrong (even though Dawkins has said a number of very wrong things).

      Probably because most people know it’s nonsense, to constantly bitch & moan about what they don’t even believe in, continually talk about the very God they revile

      Now you are trolling. At the minimum, you have seen what gets covered by Hemant and the others on this blog. Relatively little is complaining about things atheists don’t believe in or talking about a god – far more is talking about things like what religious groups have been doing, or making life better for atheists, or educating the public. You can see the same pattern in the FtBCon link (only 1 out of 36 sessions was specifically taking down a religious belief). And see also http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2013/07/22/why-atheists-obsess-over-religious-beliefs/ .

      Edit: And stop it with the casual sexism and racism.

      • allein

        Now you are trolling.

        Keyra is always trolling. She (I assume; the name sounds female) won’t respond to you.

        • Michael W Busch

          There are two styles of dealing with such trolls. One is to ignore them. The other is to make sure that their wrong statements are challenged every time they make them, until they stop. I tend towards the latter, because it is important to not let wrong ideas pass unchallenged.

          • C.L. Honeycutt

            The thing is, it won’t stop. It isn’t reading responses, so it can’t be dissuaded. It’s intentionally not reading, because it is a desperate coward. Challenge it, definitely, for the benefit of the silent majority of readers. Also report it, because its only purpose in coming here is to make a mess and laugh.

            • MD

              Reply for the sake of blog readers.

    • MD

      Ummm… I know plenty if Hispanic/Latino atheists, I’m one if them. I’m just waiting for Carmelita Spatz to verbally tear you a new one.

    • Thomas J. Lawson

      Two reasons why they’re invisible: 1) white men are privileged enough to say what they want; and 2) white men are popularized for it.

      See my other post. Women and minorities are ignored, no one hears from them, they remain in the shadows, thus allowing people like you to pretend they do not exist.

    • http://abb3w.livejournal.com/ abb3w

      Your assertion might be more credible if you could give precise criteria, assess nuances of position from those criteria, and provide numbers based from reliable sociological samples rather one based from your own personal acquaintance.

      Of course, if you go to the trouble of trying to find numbers to back the assertion, you’re likely to encounter additional information that undermine your current assessment. It might be more accurate to say that the modern movement to irreligion in the US remains disproportionately male and non-Hispanic white… with the qualifier that due to generational cohort effects, this is decreasingly true over time.

    • JET

      Hit and run. *check*

  • Cat Burns

    Where are the women? They are getting shit done! These women do, or have done more then blog, Madalyn Murray O’Hair, Margaret Downey, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Annie Laurie Gaylor, Ellen Johnson, Maryam Namazie, EllenBeth Wachs, Bobbie Kirkhart, Elisabeth Cornwell, Amanda Knief, Sarah Morehead, Katherine Stewart, Chris Rodda, Debbie Allen, Kathleen Duncan Johnson, Mandisa Thomas, Ayanna Watson, Jessica Alquist, Amanda Brown, Edwina Rogers, Rebecca Hale, Debbie Goddard, Rebecca Hensler, Annie Gaylor, Victoria Gugenheim, Judy Saint, Shelly Segal, Cara Santa Maria, Sharon Hill, Julia Sweeny, Traci Harris, Beth Presswood, Jen Peeples, Jamila Bey, Ann Zindler, Teresa McBain, Helen Kagin, Tanya Smith, Rose Schwartz, Seráh Blain – there are so many on local levels that are not recognized but work their asses off and not in it for personal gain – Richard Dawkins focused on outreach, it’s hard not to be known when you are spearheading a movement. Susan Jacoby, is brilliant and I admire her, her focus was education and not outreach.

    I’ll keep adding to the list, it is very long

  • Thomas J. Lawson

    You know how women atheists get popular? By being promoted by news channels, newspapers, and magazines that people actually watch and read. (Even Salon is guilty. Three recent articles about atheism and nothing about Madelyn Murray-O’hair?) But who does CNN, MSNBC, FOX News, New York Times, TIME magazine, etc. give the plum interview spots to? Not women. At least not between 2000 and 2011.

    It’s interesting to wonder if Ellen Johnson would have been on FOX News as many times as David Silverman if she hadn’t left American Atheists. I don’t think magazines and news channels are capable of popularizing women atheists voluntarily. The only reason Madelyn Murray-O’hair got so much TV time in the 70′s is because she was pretty much the only one out there. Phil Donahue had to have her on because there was no one else, and the people didn’t notice because patriarchy has made it quite easy to disregard what women say. Murray-O’hair was simply labelled “hysterical” and her legacy ignored.

    But along come a few men who say the exact same thing and you’d think women nonbelievers like Ernestine Rose, Elizabeth Cady-Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, Josephine K. Henry, Harriet M. Closz, Queen Silver, Vashti McCollum, Murray O’hair, Anne Nicol Gaylor, and Annie Laurie Gaylor had never existed.

    This is over, though. Even articles like this are helpful. Somewhat.

  • Thalfon

    It sounds like she’s looking for people as famous as Hitchens or Dawkins, but frankly, it’s not just women that have failed to get that kind of renown, it’s pretty much anyone. About the only person who became that well known since the four horsemen is probably Silverman, and even then he’s not as well known as Dawkins and company outside of atheist communities.

    I do agree, of course, that there is a disparagement between the numbers of men and women that appear in atheist communities, but I think it would be very difficult at this point for anyone to become quite as well-known a name as Dawkins outside of atheist communities regardless of gender.

    • RichardSRussell

      And when you say “Silverman”, which one do you mean, Herb or Dave?

    • UWIR

      Did you mean “discrepancy” rather than “disparagement”?

      • TCC

        My suspicion is that the intended word was “disparity.”

  • DougI

    Apparently she attended the Joel Klein School of Journalism.

  • http://camelswithhammers.com/ Dan Fincke Camels With Hammers

    Whatever else she was that may incline many of us to ignore her, Ayn Rand was a comparable famously atheist firebrand to O’Hair.

    • Cat Burns

      I prefer to ignore Ayn Rand :)

    • http://an-expatriate-in-cambridge.blogspot.com The Expatriate

      Also not a new atheist. She died decades before that movement existed.

    • C.L. Honeycutt

      Well, she was a firebrand who was comparably famous to O’Hair. But her average cultist now doesn’t seem to be aware of her opinion of religion and how it differs from theirs. Hell, in the last election, it was a minor scandal that Ryan believed the economic and social theories of – gasp! – an atheist! It was like a total surprise to people.

  • RichardSRussell

    I hope you won’t think me rude for cross-posting the same comment I left at the Salon article:

    = = = = = =

    American Atheists — founded by Madalyn Murray O’Hair, carried on by Ellen Johnson

    Freedom From Religion Foundation — founded by Anne Gaylor, carried on by her dotter Annie Laurie Gaylor

    Anti-Discrimination Support Network — founded by Margaret Downey

    Atheist Alliance (originally “Inc.”, then “International”, now “of America”) — originally founded by (among others) Bobbie Kirkhart, Cleo Kocol, Mynga Futrell, and Marie Alena Castle. Castle, Kirkhart, and Downey subsequently served as presidents.

    Atheist Alliance (“new”) International — first president, Tanya Smith

    Camp Quest — co-founded by Helen Kagin

    Greta Christina! — say no more!

    Anyone who thinks that women haven’t been involved — root, trunk, and branch — with organized atheism in America must be on the outside looking in thru a murky window. Quite the contrary, women have long been the go-getters, the organizers, the movers and shakers, the inspirations, the good examples. Those of us on the inside used to occasionally puzzle over where all the MEN were.

    • http://an-expatriate-in-cambridge.blogspot.com The Expatriate

      You seem to miss the point of the article. The point is not there are no female “new” atheists-it’s that they are not prominent. (Madelyn Murray O’Hare was not a new atheist, having died before that movement even existed.)

  • 3lemenope

    There’s a helluva lot of snarking at the article that isn’t actually responsive to the article’s claims on this here comment thread.

    The article is not claiming there are no female “new” atheists. Nor is it claiming that they don’t matter. It’s claiming that they are not as prominent in the public eye as their male counterparts.

    Guess what. The article’s right.

    Listing prominent female atheist bloggers and declaring they matter is almost comically missing the point. (Hecht and Jacoby are both prominently mentioned in the article.) Nobody outside the atheist blogosphere (and fellow travelers) knows who these women are! And that is the fault of many things, including being in a generally patriarchal society and having a really lazy media, which does not change in any sense the bare fact that if you polled Americans to name famous atheists you wouldn’t get nearly as many female names back as male, and the two you might are both part of a prior generation far back enough to both be dead.

  • http://www.bricewgilbert.blogspot.com Brice Gilbert

    Dismissing them because they aren’t well known enough? Well yeah isn’t that the point of the article? It’s about New Atheism. The atheism that sprung up around 05. The Four Horseman etc. There is a problem when those four men are the public face of atheism to a lot of people. Especially when female authors had released similar books at the same time. I think forming the article around this Atheist Church is strange as it’s one church, but I don’t think that negates the entire article. If you replace church with organization I think it still works. Getting so defensive about this article is strange to me. She explicitly references all the reasons why this could be and how we can solve it. From sexism, from men being pushed forward, to the blame being put on the media. All of these issues can be solved by the movement, and this

    • 3lemenope

      Hey, I’m not the only one. Seriously, the reaction here to this article has been pretty bizarre.

    • Cat Burns

      The article is bias, and focuses on the negative without offering any real solutions. It down plays the data and says it’s men’s fault. Dawkins has brought a lot of women into the movement, he very accomplished and has done a kick ass job, each of the horsemen were prominent names before promoting the movement. Julia Sweeney had a name before hand, she decides to take a back seat from the public sphere and do work behind the scene. Some of the women mentioned except for Jacoby claim it is because of sexism why they are not more popular, they try and have people fired. It’s not positive and instead of looking at how to bring more women in a focusing on solutions instead of claiming we are being held back. We are not, there is a huge shortage of PEOPLE being active. It doesn’t take much except hard work to move ahead in this movement. Women and men both, it just takes real work.

  • JET

    Because we’re busy fighting shit like fundies trying to say that they, not we, have the right to govern our bodies? I think that the bigger issue for women is not atheism per se, but what fundamentalist religion is trying to force on us. The most *famous* women are fighting for autonomy which does not necessarily have to be related to atheism.

  • Deborah Mitchell

    For what it’s worth, I’ve been blogging about raising kids without religion since 2003 at blogspot and wordpress. That’s my thing, I guess. I’ve written articles, too. There are a lot of us on the fringe. We’ve been here a long time, and we’re doing our part.

  • SeekerLancer

    Gender issues, either real or perceived, are something that all of society has to deal with. Religion or lack there of shouldn’t matter.

  • https://sites.google.com/site/ferulebezelssite/ Ferule Bezel

    It didn’t help when the FTB/Skepchick/A+ crowd started trying to hijack
    atheist groups for their own interest group politics and when called on
    it saying that atheists conferences aren’t safe for women.

  • Brandr Rasmussen

    Yeah, it’s time for all non-believers to oust those privileged, sexist, racist and obnoxious New Atheists. Like the hated Madalyn Murray O’Hair, these old farts and their younger disciples’ angry tirades via the media are probably driving more people toward religion rather than away from it. We need fresh new brands of Freethinking that engage the world and its issues, not stuffing complicated matters into neat, little boxes with misapplied labels. And we should be working with religious moderates, not pissing them off. Leave the atheist fundies to battle the religious fundies. The rest of us can keep a cool head and get on with the show, without resorting to caricatures and pretenses at being scientific when they’re more like hot-tempered schoolyard bullies.


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