The UnbelieversNew Atheism and the Old Boys’ Club

This article appears in our 2011 Summer issue, Reverb. Subscribe today!

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 Supreme Court lawsuit brought an end to prayer in public schools, to Sergeant Kathleen Johnson, who started an organization for atheists in the United States military, to Debbie Goddard, founder of African Americans for Humanism, countless women have worked as successful atheist activists. They’ve penned books, run organizations, 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 everpresent need to anoint, brand, and categorize thought leaders) is that New Atheists take a vehemently zero-tolerance approach to faith, mysticism, and even agnosticism. Though the basics are the same—nonbelief in a god or gods—the new system also calls for pushing nonbelief on others, almost to the point of abject proselytization. In a sidebar titled “Faces of the New Atheism,” the article profiled a few other notable nonbelievers—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 afterward, 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 nonbelief, 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 popularize 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 nonbelievers throughout history, and advocates atheism on the grounds that these thinkers’ skepticism toward 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 nonreligious 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 recognized Hecht’s influence on the bestselling God Is Not Great, writing in the acknowledgments section: “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 e-mail 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 gender skew in the atheist movement. Though organizations like his have worked to recruit and retain female members—with mixed results—he’s aware that more men are recognized 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’ undersung 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 nonbelieving 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’s 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 antiestablishment subtext of identifying as atheist because they are more likely than men to be brought up to 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 postfeminist 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, criticized, and exposed by rational argument wherever its influence arises”—language that, in its aggression and moral surety, may buttress the idea that nonbelief goes hand in hand with bullheaded confrontation.

Amanada Knief, government relations manager for the Secular Coalition for America, which lobbies for atheist rights, believes that childhood socialization, 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 organization along with her, is usually the one invited to speaking engagements, despite her longer tenure as the organization’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 individualized, rather than contextualized 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 theorized 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 masculinized.

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 nonbelief to begin with. The ranks of atheists who don’t fit the popular profile are increasing, and with more attention paid to who isn’t a white male author with a fancy-pants book contract, the public face of nonbelief 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 published in Reverb Issue #51 | Summer 2011
by Victoria Bekiempis
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Victoria Bekiempas wrote about Miss Vera's Finishing School for Boys Who Want to be Girls in Bitch no. 50. She lives in New York City.

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44 Comments Have Been Posted


Fascinating article, very well written and informative. I just have one question: Christopher Hitchen's level of misogyny has been well documented for years, but you mentioned Stephen Fry in the same sentence. Do you have any more evidence of misogyny on his part other than that one rather silly theory? I have been following him for years and have had no evidence of misogyny thus far.

Stephen Fry

Apparently he said Kathy Burke was an example of how to be a woman without going all "mincey and weird".

I thought that these blog

I thought that these blog would not be so informative, but after reading the blog
I can say it was really informative.

My understanding is that

My understanding is that after a joke about why gay men have more sex than straight people was widely quoted completely out of context, Stephen Fry now declines all print interviews.

This landed on my male brain

Hitch and Misogyny

I think at least two of Christopher Hitchens' writings might serve to mitigate charges of misogyny a bit: His intense support for Ayaan Hersi Ali and her campaign against female genital mutilation and for women's rights in the Muslim world (see his introductory essay in her book Infidel); and his critique of George Orwell's attitude toward women in his short book Why Orwell Matters. Hitchens' intellectual writings as a whole are complex and require a nuanced analysis.

I don't think so.

Just because he supports one woman, or a few women, doesn't negate the absolutely vile comments he's made in the past about women. And if he's criticized Orwell's misogyny, then it's a case of the pot calling the kettle black. Screw "nuance."

Annie Laurie Gaylor rocks!

Annie Laurie Gaylor rocks! You should check out the podcast of her radio show "Freethought Radio" at

The Unbelievers

Thanks for a great and thought-provoking article. Why are more atheist men quoted and promoted than women? Is it sexism? Of course it is. The men themselves don't do this, I don't think. The atheist men I know are feminists themselves. It is the rampant sexism generally found everywhere. Women atheists want to speak up and many do, but also many others can't. What's at stake for them is greater, in many cases, than for men. Women make less money than men, have lower paying jobs to begin with. If they speak up and lose their jobs their loss is even harder, on them and the children they are no doubt supporting. I think you will find there are many older women atheists who feel more free to speak up, they may have less to lose if they are retired. Whereas men can be more forceful in more situations with not as many consequences. Younger or older, it makes men the focal point more often, and relegates women to the back again. So women must fight for atheism and well as fight against the ever present sexism. Both fights are hard, and sometimes frightening.

Re: The Unbelievers

Men do "do" sexism, within and outside the atheist movement. They (or you) may not think that's what they're doing, but that's the nature of sexism and male privilege. That is how it persists. 

And you are correct, it is a wider cultural problem, however it is not as if the atheist movement is innocent of this yet it can't help but sometimes be influenced by the big bad outside world. Atheists come from society, therefore they bring with them the problems of society into their movement.

It's great that the athiest men you know are feminists, but that doesn't mean all athiest men are.

Also, it is not inevitable that women have children to support, no doubt.

Are you freakin' kidding me?

"The men themselves don't do this..." Ever been to There are LOTS of sexist male atheists out there. Open your eyes.

Older women atheists

I'm one, and I can tell you there are dangers in speaking out. I was 67 when I finally got it together that Christianity didn't add up, and that I was an atheist. In mentioning it to one of my children, I found that instead of a curious "oh, yeah?", I became ostracized by my own kid! It's been 3 years, and relations are only marginally better. My husband, an agnostic, is neither for or against it. My other kid isn't as troubled by it but steers the conversation in other directions.

It seems to me that the only atheists who speak out readily are those who have nothing personal to lose, or who have come to grips with the possibility of such a loss. Men may feel less threatened by ostracism, I don't know.

I might mention a couple of other older women who are atheists - Lorie Polansky, of the Atheist Station (unclear if this is still extant in Gallitzin PA), and Betty Brogaard, author of "The Homemade Atheist". Both are over 60, perhaps over 70 by now. Lorie's story is on-line; I bought Betty's book yesterday at a Barnes & Noble, and couldn't put it down! It's helpful to know there are other women atheists my age who are willing to share what they have run into and how they iive their lives.

Uh...we forgot.

A lot of it is just that we get overlooked. When atheist conferences are organized, the same people are invited over and over again, and until recently they were almost entirely male. PZ Myers, for one, has been asking the organizers regularly, "Why didn't you invite any women to speak?" The answer was always, "Uh.......we couldn't think of any."

That's starting to change though.

It's obvious that this is not

It's obvious that this is not a problem of the atheist community as such, but a problem of the bigger society. Everywhere women have less representation in positions of power, and usually make less than men (no news here really). I think it's a big problem that we should actively fight, and in a sense it affects me directly, by seeing my wife's academic career being impaired relatively to other male colleagues who produce work of less quality but by being male get to be prioritised by supervisor's and journal editor's. But I think that the problem is a bit deeper than that. You mention that most famous atheists are all white males, but you forget to mention something else, that they are all from english speaking countries, and/or usually from the same universities (oxbridge, stanford, yale, etc.). It's impressive how many papers in academia are rejected (I think that in this respect, the atheist community and academia come hand in hand) because the english needs to be revised, even though the reviewers clearly understood what was written in the paper (hell, it happened to me, and I bet my english doesn't stop you from understanding what I'm writing here!!!). I think generally, it's a matter of power. Why are PZ, Dawkins, Hitchens, etc. always being asked to speak in all the conferences? Because they are famous and socially influential. And this is why it will always be easier from them to make themselves heard, an opportunity they will gladly take every single time. Ask somebody who the best evolutionist of our century is, and most people will answer Dawkins, even though he has produced no original research in evolution that I can thin of (paraphrasing Maynard Smith, only philosophers got confused and surprised by Dawkins "Selfish Gene".Biologists thought it was a rather boring book). So, want to promote equality in the atheist community (for women, black people, non english speaking people, etc., etc.)? Convince Dawikings, Dennet, Harris, Pz, etc. to stop accepting invitations to speak at atheist communities. That would then force organizers to actually think would could be a good speaker. But of course, if this actually happened, I bet not that many people would be willing to spend the time an effort to organize an atheist meeting, but hey, I'm generally a cynic!

Dawkins did base his thesis

Dawkins did base his thesis in The Selfish Gene on Maynard Smith, W.D. Hamilton, Robert Trivers, et al., but he stresses this in the books. I think you greatly undervalue his contribution to the ways we think about evolution and the philosophical framework that he provides to the theories developed by the aforementioned individuals. Saying this as an evolutionary biologist, not all of us are thought that The Selfish Gene was a "rather boring book."

I certainly agree that I wouldn't think of him as the "best evolutionist of the century;" it is a rather silly question and I think that wanting to ask such a question is the wrong way to go about things (I think you'd agree with me there). But I certainly think he is a very important philosopher of evolution and proponent of evolution.

Sorry about the bit of off-topic discussion, I just wanted to point out that not all biologists agree with your assessment of Dawkins. Dawkins was very influential on my development as a scientist (I am still in graduate school and thus am in the younger generation of scientists).

I agree with you that organizers of atheist events need to put much more effort into including non-white speakers, though I don't think having the individuals you mentioned stop speaking is the right way to do this.

I did not intend to imply

I did not intend to imply that Dawkins has done nothing for the public dissemination of evolution, that would have been silly. But he has not contributed significantly to the advancement of knowledge of evolution. Don't get me wrong, I think Dawkins is a great writer, and a good popularizer of evolution, but I'm yet to find a peer reviewed paper by Dawkins (I'm not saying he has none, I don't know that, but I'm an evolutionary biologist as well, and I'm past graduate school, and never has any of Dawkins publications given me anything I did not find in earlier publications by other authors, sorry)!

But the point with me mentioning that was just to emphasize how popular perception of the most influential figures in a given field will often be greatly at odds with the reality. This, in it's turn will influence how often these people will be asked for their opinion and how often other relevant contributors will not be asked for their opinion. And I doubt that anyone attending an atheist meeting doesn't already know about the work of PZ, Hitchens, Dawkins etc. So I don't see the point of inviting them over unless for social/professional motives by the organizers, and this is why, I believe the champions of atheism, or any other influential academic issue, will always be mostly white males from english speaking countries (or at leats until the socio-political landscape of the western world drastically changes). And I'm not saying for these people to stop talking altogether, just to step aside and give an opportunity for other people to speak at relevant fora. But PZ agrees, he has said so in the past, that the solution to attract more women is for men to shut up and listen. I just think this should be expanded beyond a gender issue.

Relevant is a text someone linked for in PZ's blog: It's not just about gender (or race in the case of the text), it's a case about general social discrimination and influence.

Thank you for this article. I

Thank you for this article. I love it. This is something I've noticed, and I'm glad that it's gotten some attention.

I had no clue these women

I had no clue these women even existed as I searched for material to read. Thank you for writing this article.

A Trite Dismissal of Atheism

<p>On the whole, a well-written and intelligent piece about something that we in the atheist community need to confront seriously and relentlessly. However, just as I don't start conversations about feminist communities by calling feminists "manhaters," "humorless," or "frigid," you'd be well-advised to avoid trite dismissals like the following:</p>
<p style="padding-left: 30px;">What differentiates this movement from more old-school atheism (besides the mainstream media’s everpresent need to anoint, brand, and categorize thought leaders) is that <strong>New Atheists take a vehemently zero-tolerance approach to faith, mysticism, and even agnosticism. Though the basics are the same—nonbelief in a god or gods—the new system also calls for pushing nonbelief on others, almost to the point of abject proselytization.</strong></p>
<p>It's bad enough to get this from Dinesh D'Souza or other flunkies of the Religious Right; it's many degrees of magnitude worse to get it from a feminist magazine that I respect and consider to generally be one of the White Hats. It's one thing to say that atheists need to take a look at sexism within the movement; we do. It's another entirely to tell us to shut up. Merely by expressing our ideas—or even merely standing up to show that we exist—atheists are constantly characterized as intolerant, equated with fundamentalists, and dismissed as bigots. Surely these tactics should be familiar to feminists, and should not be embraced by them in order to get credibility with mainstream believers.</p>
<p>The difference between the so-called "New Atheists" (or "Gnu Atheists") is not the intolerance and fanaticism that you ascribe above; it's more a refusal to remain discreetly silent while religion dominates the public square. I hate the term "New Atheists," as it's little more than a packaging designed by trend journalists, but nevertheless, it's there. What makes the "New Atheists" stand out—whether you're talking about Dawkins or <a title="Greta Christina's Weblog, a must-read." href="" target="_blank">Greta Christina</a>—is not a relentless intolerance for anyone who believes in god, but an insistence that belief in the supernatural should not be the default setting for public conversation, and that believers should be required to support moral and material claims based on religion in the same way they would any other. It says a great deal about our society that to make even this modest demand is seen as intolerance.</p>
<p>It's a shame that a piece on such an important issue should be marred by the condescending dismissals that every atheist has faced <em>ad infinitum, ad nauseum</em>, because it gives those who want it a very easy and convenient reason to ignore everything that follows.</p>

Sexism is everywhere

I won't pretend that religious establishments of all stripes don't continue to perpetuate a legacy of patriarchy, but I think this article shows very well that patriarchy is not exclusive to religion. It's too easy and too ignorant to blame religion for sexism. Religions of all sorts are sexist, but so is everything else.

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Gnu atheists are scientists but where are the female scientists?

I was also annoyed with that paragraph. My understanding of New (gnu) atheism is this:

It is finally scientists who are becoming media darlings instead of entertainers.

The problem however is still media! (and our own relationship with media) Media has quite entrenched values and these values are greatly influenced by sexiness. Look at movies, TV shows, News anchors, etc.
-Young males = sexy
-Young females = sexy
-Older males = wise and sexy
-Older females = bitter and ugly
Until atheist women stand up as feminists and fight harder to break the media stronghold on sexism this imbalance will continue.

But atheist women tend to not be 'feminists', why? Because most atheist female scientists were raised without sexual prejudice, and have advanced in the world without suffering sexual prejudice, and therefore a great many atheist female scientists feel that feminism is no longer necessary, because they, as individuals, were able to rise above the sexism fray. But once women start speaking out in the movement, they get harassment and slap-downs. As an 'older' atheist feminist, I watch with interest as young intelligent but naive ladies come to grip with this fact, and who through the years begin to realise that feminism is still very necessary.

It is one thing to accede to 'male' positions, to be able to discuss with males about 'male topics', as if 'male topics' were 'common topics' and 'female topics' were 'just' female. This is were feminism is necessary, it's not about becoming "equal to men" it's about the ability to participate in setting our own agenda, independently from the 'male' perspective and allowances. It's about creating a new perspective on life and politics, where female input is just as important male input. This is where feminism in Western societies has its largest challenge. Feminism is not about females getting male rights, it's about modifying society and its values, removing patriarchal power, and replacing it with a more pluralist vision, including not only women but all other living beings on the planet.

Christiphor Hitchens is an

Christiphor Hitchens is an American citizen, so not technically 'British'

So which is it?

"[L]et’s ask why we gender the philosophy of nonbelief to begin with."

"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?"

So in a nutshell, the argument is "why should we even care about gendering the atheist movement? Because my gender's not adequately represented." Great way to shift the blame away from middle-of-the-road academics who write books discussing "Doubt" and onto attention-whores who write books entitled "Why Religion Poisons Everything." I WONDER which one will get the juicy interview???

The long and short of it is that this article has nothing to do with atheism, the atheist movement, or academic discussions therein. It has everything to do with dredging up tired old 2nd wave feminist ideologies (reason vs. emotion? SERIOUSLY??) to try and blame a small group of unscrupulous men for being successful and excuse women who aren't willing to sell out to the media frenzy to be similarly successful. If all academic atheists want is to be popular, they should take a lesson from Hitchens (or Anne Coulter, for that matter) and start saying horribly offensive things. The spotlight will most certainly find them.

The marketing machine at work...

I was very interested to read this article. As a 37-year-old female atheist, I've often looked at the bookshelves in my local bookstore and wondered, "Why is the section on atheism comprised almost solely of male writers?" Then it hit me: it comes down to language and marketing, pure and simple. Both Hitchins and Dawkins use bold, attention-grabbing, and purposefully provocative titles, such as "God is Not Great," and "The God Delusion." So of course these titles are going to receive more mainstream media attention, as opposed to Hecht's "Doubt: A History" and Jacoby's "Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism." I mean, do you see the difference in language there? It seems almost glaringly obvious to me. Hitchins' and Dawkins' titles are very forward and to the point (very male), whereas Hecht's and Jacoby's titles use wishy-washy, bland, and--dare I say it?--soft, feminine language. I have seen the title, "Doubt" in stores before, but didn't immediately pick up on the fact that it was a book on atheism because of its soft-serve title. If there is ever going to be any attention given to female atheist writers, then they are going to have to use bolder language to serve up their treatises, plain and simple. It's almost as if they are afraid to alienate people by putting the words 'God' or 'Atheism' into their titles. Instead, we have the more neutral 'doubt,' and 'secularism' and 'freethinker.' Not exactly words to stir up a firestorm of debate, which is what marketers want in such books. I would love to see an out spoken atheist female writer receive the kind of attention that both Hitchins and Dawkins have, but I've yet to see such a person manifest. So I stand here patiently waiting...

Unable to use language fearlessly...

She was unable to get past the fact that this article was published in a mag called Bitch. She also prefers to use the adjective 'traditional' instead of sexist. In general she was dismissive of this problem in the atheist community. Women should just speak up more!

Why is she even there?

Kirby replies to the question posted on Ask the Atheist ("Why is the atheist movement made up of only white dudes?") with the comment that atheism isn't her greatest passion, that there are several other things she is more interested in. Then WHY is she even on an atheist panel??? It also irritated me the way she subtlly undermined the value of the question because the asker uses the phrase 'white dudes' and refers to 'Bitch' magazine's article. It's almost as if she couldn't take the question seriously because it used the terms 'dude' and 'bitch.' But I suppose if we can't be bothered to acknowledge the existence of sexism in the atheist movement, we can't be bothered to acknowledge the intellectual snobbery in it, either.

Women in Secularism Conference

FYI Center for Inquiry (the umbrella organization for The Council for Secular Humanism) will be hosting the first ever Women in Secularism conference next year in Washington, DC from May 18-20. It was just recently announced and more details to come:

some kind of irony here?

i may have missed Jennifer Michael Hecht entirely if it wasn't for “Jennifer Michael Hecht put me immensely in her debt when she sent me a copy of her extraordinary Doubt: A History.”

Hear, hear!

This is exactly what my friend (another female atheist) and I have been discussing for a while now. My faces of atheism are women like Ayan Hirsi Ali, Julia Sweeny, Ann Druyan - to name a few. I'm going right out (meaning peruse the internet) to get Hecht and Jacoby's book. We're out there - it's kind of a pity that the public faces of atheist are four white men - I don't really need more of them to represent my interests.

Responsible research

Hi, I just came across this error in the beginning. It's not a good look and causes concern in at least this reader.

"These statements should sound ridiculous because, of course, they are. From Madalyn Murray O’Hair, the founder of American Atheists, whose 1963 Supreme Court lawsuit brought an end to prayer in public schools, to Sergeant Kathleen Johnson, who started an organization for atheists in the United States military, to Debbie Goddard, founder of African Americans for Humanism, countless women have worked as successful atheist activists."

Debbie just assumed the Executive Director role of AAH last year (2010). She's not the founder. AAH has been around for over 20 years, and was always run by Norm Allen. It was basically founded by Paul Kurtz (the founder of the parent organization "The Center for Inquiry").

Thank you for this very well

Thank you for this very well written and informative article -

It has been a real eye opener on a topic which I can admit I am not well informed on!

Thanks for taking the time to discuss this

Thanks for taking the time to discuss this, I feel strongly about it and love learning more on this topic. If possible, as you gain expertise, would you mind updating your blog with more information? It is extremely helpful for me

About your primary email

About your primary email address: Your first validated email address (also known as primary email)
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getting published

Male or female it's difficult to get published. I've written four books on the subject (more or less), one of which was reviewed very favorably by Warren Allen Smith, but have yet to grasp a publisher. Nonetheless, they're all available from Amazon. Take a look at

Who believes that there isn't a God anyway?

I was born and raised in Ukraine when it was part of the Soviet Union. I have experienced first hand how a nation that denied the Biblical God and murderer so many good people imposed a curse on itself. The nations of Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, and others that were part of the Soviet block still cannot get their governments stable and focus on life threatening issues like poverty, orphans without shelter, and drug abuse.

I've seen enough of what people can to do to further their ideological belief in no God. It sickens me to this day. Ask my fellow immigrants what they experienced during the atheistic Soviet rule.

I would rather be a slave to God of the Bible rather than an honored citizen of a God denying nation.

Not many people would say

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elephant in room

History repeats, opressed whites still see no connection to opressed blacks

If you don't feel like

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