misogyny in atheism

I’m not exactly an atheist, but I identify strongly with atheists. More so than with any other group proclaiming a theology. I’m also a feminist, as anyone who has been playing along at home should realize by now. I was really disturbed to read these today about the misogyny among atheist activists. The short of it: though feminist activists and atheist activists have common goals–e.g., that government stop making laws to promote one religion over the rest of us–atheists activists, much like mainstream politicians might treat abortion rights and similar as “women’s issues” and therefore not worthy of their attention, completely failing to appreciate that often the reason why some of these issues are still issues is because some politician is trying to promote a theological agenda in government. Let alone the completely dehumanizing and belittling attitude behind telling someone *pat pat* good little activist, but I’m sorry, that’s a girl thing.

Of course, atheists have nothing on theists of any stripe when it comes to misogyny. Feminists wouldn’t be fighting some of the battles we fight if theists would learn to keep their sky faeries off of real people’s bodies.

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About emmawolf

I'm a freelance writer living in Baltimore with my husband, son, and two cats. I'm working on editing my first novel. I love reading, traveling, and the cello.
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15 Responses to misogyny in atheism

  1. mandaray says:

    I still don’t understand how anyone can look at religion (particularly Christianity) and not see an IMMEDIATE link between it and the misogynistic attitudes of our country/world today. Atheism and feminism should go hand in hand, skipping off into the sunset whilst farting rose petals…not fight or denounce or ignore one another. We need BOTH. We need to have discussions about women’s rights that don’t include religion. We need laws that don’t include religion. We need to fucking TALK to one another instead of just dismissing each other. I have been *horrified* to see some of the things happening inside the atheist movement lately…especially their responses to criticism from feminist members. I thought we were better than this. A lot better. I thought once you decided you were an atheist, you had made the Smart Choice and were going to go on and do Smart Things, not act like all the rest of the Bible-thumping idiots only minus the Bible. It’s getting to the point where I’m ashamed/scared to come out as an atheist all over again.

    • emmawolf says:

      *nods* Today is only my first day seeing it, but I’m pretty horrified. And I think the only reason why Christianity seems particularly bad is because we’re in America (I’m making that assumption about you). Judaism looks pretty bad if you’re in Israel (some segregated buses [even though it’s illegal] but they have good maternity leave, so maybe it’s a trade off), etc. But yeah, I don’t get it either.

      • mandaray says:

        I am American, so your assumption is correct. 🙂 I am constantly amazed at the majority of people who don’t seem interested in challenging Christianity here in the States, even though it clearly oversteps its bounds frequently and gleefully. If you want to be a practicing Christian, I honestly have no problem with that. I think anything that brings your life meaning and your soul peace is wonderful. But when you try to impose those same values and viewpoints on me, against my will? When you make and support laws that hinder my choices and needs and the pursuit of *my* happiness? Nope.

        • mandaray says:

          Similarly, I’m glad that people are calling out the misogyny and double-standards that have apparently taken root in the atheist movement. While it still horrifies me that anyone calling themselves an atheist would even entertain such thoughts, I’m happy that there are those willing to speak up and discuss the issue. Sadly so many try to silence them with hatred and vitriol…which seems strikingly similar to what some religions have done to non-believes in the past.

          It’s becoming a case of “I thought we were different, but it turns out we have the same problems/failings as everyone else.” It makes me very, very sad.

  2. Raunak says:

    why is atheism being clubbed with social activism? Can’t people who believe in a God and practice a particular religion, play a role in making a better society! Every belief has extremists, and so does atheism (yes, I consider it a belief). Society will be served better when the centrist elements of these beliefs combine. Discriminating on the lines of religious beliefs is weakening the social movement.

    • emmawolf says:

      “Can’t people who believe in a God and practice a particular religion, play a role in making a better society!”

      Because I want to give everyone the benefit of the doubt, I think this is part of the problem. For example: I think the anti-choice or the anti-marriage equality people are trying to make society better in their view (by trying to make society reflect their religion). The problem is that I think people need to understand that better means better for all (secular argument for abortion rights and marriage equality) and (most importantly) that American society (I cannot speak for places that do not have the same freedom of religion that we have) is not better if it is based on the religion (religions freedom argument for abortion rights and marriage equality).

      “Discriminating on the lines of religious beliefs is weakening the social movement.”

      Yep. Or gender.

  3. Ryan says:

    It’s just another reminder that atheism does not come with its own set of values and political beliefs. Individuals have their own motivations and goals. Unsurprisingly, attempts to define the secular “movement” as liberal have been challenged by conservative and libertarian atheists as well as liberals who are afraid of splintering the group or wary of attempts to tell other atheists what to believe and desire. Theists have similar conflicts within their religions for the same reasons, but additionally tend to believe that some deity is on their side.

    Unfortunately, a movement without a set of values is fairly weak. Simply eliminating religion’s overt presence in government would not eliminate its actual power (voters will still vote according to their desires and beliefs and the politicians whom they elect will behave accordingly), so we would continue to see attempts to forbid abortion, gay marriage, etc. Moreover, consistency would demand that atheists be able to justify all of their own desires and beliefs. Given how many secularists (including atheists) still appeal to ideas like natural rights and intrinsic value in order to make a case for their favored policies, it is clear that the secular movement cannot even meet the standards that it demands from others. In my opinion, the group is too immature and perhaps devoted to a cause that is better pursued in existing movements, such as feminism. We should adjust our expectations of it accordingly.

    Despite the movement’s crises of identity and influence, however, I would not say that it is at all characterized by misogyny. If one gives the bullies disproportionate attention, one’s opinion of the movement will consequently be skewed.

    • emmawolf says:

      “Simply eliminating religion’s overt presence in government would not eliminate its actual power (voters will still vote according to their desires and beliefs and the politicians whom they elect will behave accordingly), so we would continue to see attempts to forbid abortion, gay marriage, etc.”

      Yes, sadly. But I can hope that a court system would be able to strike down laws that are rooted in religion and fail the Lemon test.

      “Moreover, consistency would demand that atheists be able to justify all of their own desires and beliefs.”

      Assuming people are consistent. Behold the power of cognitive dissonance. But I don’t think natural rights are necessarily incompatible with atheism.

      Really, I know nothing about the atheist movement. Your blog is probably the closest thing to atheism that I pay attention to. (When I said I identify with atheists, I meant I identify with not believing in a god. I’m like a non-practicing atheist.)

      • Ryan says:

        But I don’t think natural rights are necessarily incompatible with atheism.

        I have a bad habit of conflating atheism with consistent and logical naturalism. I guess that’s just wishful thinking.

        So, you are correct: a belief in natural rights is not incompatible with atheism. Similarly, atheists can believe in souls, ghosts, reincarnation, invisible unicorns, and much more.

        However, the secular movement wishes to divorce government from religion because religious justifications are illogical, unsupported, or unfalsifiable–not simply because they are religious. It’s not like the secular movement would accept Christian arguments if we all decided to treat Christianity like a secular organization instead of a religion. If the secular movement were consistent, it would have to apply the same standard to all justifications, including those based on natural rights. It should be able to prove that natural rights exist or that it is more probable than the competing claim that (1) governments determine what our rights are and (2) a “natural right” is simply a right that one believes all people deserve to have. If it cannot, then it is simply offering us another religious belief to which we must adhere.

        (When I said I identify with atheists, I meant I identify with not believing in a god. I’m like a non-practicing atheist.)

        In other words: you’re an atheist~

        • emmawolf says:

          I don’t know enough about atheism as a movement to comment. I just see how the idea of natural rights can exist without the concept of a god. Though it may have been rooted in certain religions, I don’t think it’s dependent on them. Like how an atheist can still go through AA. You have to accept a higher power, but that doesn’t mean you have to accept a god.

          “In other words: you’re an atheist~”

          Except for the whole believing in god thing….sure. I was not raised in a religious household at all, so I only saw religion as social clubs. The social club I belong to is that of an atheist even though I don’t agree with all the rules. As for my own personal spiritual beliefs, they are my own personal spiritual beliefs and coincide with what I know of a particular religion, but I’m too lazy to join that religion. That’s what I mean. When pressed, I’ll tell you I’m an atheist rather than get into a discussion about god(s) and the meaning of life because its none of anyone’s business but my own.

          • Ryan says:

            Sorry, I misunderstood your comment about identifying with not believing in a god. However, it is interesting that you would avoid a discussion about gods and the meaning of life because it’s only your business. Does that mean that you never talk about anything else that is your business or is there actually some other reason that you avoid talking about spiritual beliefs?

            As for the matter of natural rights, I did acknowledge that one can believe in them without believing in a deity. The point was that it is no more acceptable in the affairs of a secular government than explicitly religious beliefs are.

            And as for AA, I don’t follow your point. Why must an atheist who goes through AA accept a higher power?

            • emmawolf says:

              Well, I was really unclear.

              No and possibly. I think it’s also that, no offense, I don’t like talking about it with strangers on the internet. I also don’t want to talk about my sex life with you, but that doesn’t mean I’ll never talk about it ever.

              “The point was that it is no more acceptable in the affairs of a secular government than explicitly religious beliefs are.” I disagree, but I’m having a hard time articulating why. I think we can say there are certain rights that everyone has that are universal without saying that they came from (a) god(s).

              Acceptance of a higher power is one of the AA steps.

          • Ryan says:

            No offense taken. I just like to understand why people do what they do and found it unusual that you would be open about politics and other areas of your life, but not spiritual beliefs. I will not apply pressure.

            I think we can say there are certain rights that everyone has that are universal without saying that they came from (a) god(s).

            You can say that, but you must be able to back it up–at least if you intend to use it to justify acting in ways that affect other people. If “God wills it” is an unsatisfactory justification for banning abortion because we have no compelling reasons to believe that God exists, wills it, and deserves our attention, then “The mother has a natural right to end her pregnancy” is equally unsatisfactory. It does not, after all, offer a compelling reason to believe that natural rights exist and that this particular right is one of them.

            I oppose all illogical and unsupported justifications for policies, religious or otherwise, that affect other people. I will regard the secular movement as short-sighted until it can be similarly critical of itself. In this case, of course, I am still willing to grant that there are rights that we all ought to have.

  4. Heather says:

    Wow. I have yet to experience this in my (close) atheist circles, and had no idea this was happening. Thank you for bringing it to my attention. It’s unfortunate (and sometimes very ugly) that people play the “My issues are more important than your issues” game–this has been a complaint of mine for a long time.

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