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Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Why there aren't more women in the atheist community

Dusty of YouTube's "CultOfDusty" channel inspired me to write this post.  He was talking about how women shy away from the atheist community because the men who dominate the community with numbers (at least online) repel the women with inappropriate comments and misogyny.  I am not denying that at least anecdotally, Dusty is right; I have witnessed in atheist groups women appearing one day, then disappearing from the group by the next meeting because of overzealous flirtation and--let's face it--objectification.

However, I know several strong atheist women, and I don't think they are fewer in number than male atheists because male atheists are repelling them; if they have come to the conclusion that the claims of theists are false, they will be atheists whether they join the community or not.

I think there are simply fewer female atheists than male atheists, and I think that the statistics will change over time as women close the gap between genders in education and equality.  It is statistically true that the higher level of education a person achieves, the less likely that person is to be religious. It is relatively recent in human history that the expectation of women to go to college and pursue a career has become mainstream. I remember sitcoms where gender roles were challenged.  "All in the Family" had a scene that comes to mind where someone poses a question to Archie Bunker about why a doctor couldn't operate on a certain patient when the doctor wasn't the patient's father.  The answer, of course, was that the doctor was his mother--but it wasn't that common in the 70s, or even in the 80s.

It's becoming a lot more common for women to achieve higher levels of education, and that's wonderful.  I am also seeing a lot more young atheist women emerge on the scene...but we need to hear more of these voices, telling their stories and encouraging more women to come out.  We have a lot of prominent male names in atheism...but are we forgetting that Madelyn Murray O'Hair had a strong voice for atheism and separation of state and church?

You know what's great about the atheist community?  You don't have to be a leader to be inspiring (though several capable leaders have been women in atheist groups).  You just have to tell your story.  People want to hear it and read about it, because they often feel alone (less so these days, with the Internet; it was awfully lonely before the mid-1990s)--like everyone around them believes in what they can't accept as true, because their reason won't let them.  So tell your story.  Give other people courage to shed the bonds of faith and embrace reason.  Let them know your morals come from empathy, not from some Bronze Age, patriarchal, misogynistic, sexually repressed religion with a set of outdated rules that everyone except the most extreme zealots cherry-picks.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

This female atheist has been so for over 50 years. After questioning my Sunday School Teachers with logic and not accepting their response of, "You have to accept it - it's faith", I was done. Oh, and the fact that the church told my parents I was no longer welcome there.

Then I joined a Unitarian Society semester on comparative religions - what an eye opener. I realized that my commitment to atheism was even more resolute.

Oh, that and the fact I am an intelligent educated woman may have something to do with it, as Greg Posited in the Blog.

To see how abysmally women are regarded in almost any organized religion was the final deal killer for me.

--Love,
Imzadi

Anonymous said...

This female atheist has been so for over 50 years. After questioning my Sunday School Teachers with logic and not accepting their response of, "You have to accept it - it's faith", I was done. Oh, and the fact that the church told my parents I was no longer welcome there.

Then I joined a Unitarian Society semester on comparative religions - what an eye opener. I realized that my commitment to atheism was even more resolute.

Oh, that and the fact I am an intelligent educated woman may have something to do with it, as Greg Posited in the Blog.

To see how abysmally women are regarded in almost any organized religion was the final deal killer for me.