Why Ms. Magazine's Story on Atheist Women Misses the Mark
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I was so hopeful when I found Ms. Magazine's piece "Will 'New Atheism' Make Room for Women?" It's exciting enough when the media covers atheism (and is nice enough to put "New Atheism" in the silly quotes it deserves), but media coverage of female atheists is a rarity. Ms. Magazine has the potential to reach oodles of women who aren't familiar with us atheist activists. If we want more women to be involved with secularism and skepticism and more atheist men to realize how many great atheist women are out there, we need coverage like this.
Then I actually read it.
To say it was disappointing is an understatement. It seems like this was the extent of the research the writer put into the article:
- Google "female atheists"
- Read titles on first page of results
- Play up posts that sound negative, downplay posts that are positive
Reading the articles you link to? Interviewing people? Pfft, what journalist does that? Writing a spin piece that will generate controversy and make atheists look bad will generate a lot more hits! Of course, I'm blogging about it... so congrats, Monica Shores, I guess you succeeded.
Just to prove I'm not some butt-hurt atheist afraid to acknowledge valid criticisms, let's take this piece apart bit by bit, shall we?
If you’ve been following the rise of so-called “New Atheism” movement, you may have noticed that it sure looks a lot like old religion.
A warning sign after one sentence! The "atheism is a religion" trope is so overdone - if you really want to hear a rebuttal,
The individuals most commonly associated with contemporary atheism— Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Daniel Dennett and Victor Stenger—are all male, white and, well, kinda old (69, 61, 68 and 75). Sam Harris, another popular figure who bears mention, has the distinction of being in his early 40s.
There’s no official definition of New Atheism, but the general consensus is that while atheists were once content to not believe in God by themselves, “new” atheists are determined to proselytize so that others join their disbelief. They can’t abide by tolerance of religion, because religion is so insidious a force as to warrant constant criticism. Though they dare not hope for eradication of religion outright, they have expressed the wish that a belief in God become “ too embarrassing” for most people to admit.
Definite use of weasel words to put "New Atheism" in a negative light, but whatever, that's the least of this piece's problems. Let's move on.
Given the immense harm many organized religions inflict on women through outright violence and institutional oppression, it seems women may have more to gain than men from exiting their faith.
Yes, exactly! Wow, is Ms. Magazine going to argue that more women should be atheists? Is it going to talk about atheist women who have made those arguments? Is it going to highlight female atheists who deserve more attention from the media?
Yet no women are currently recognized as leaders or even mentioned as a force within the movement.
Um... what? No leaders in the movement? How about
Ayaan Hirsi Ali
, highly successful author and woman's right activist? Or
Lori Lipman Brown,
founding director of
Annie Laurie Gaylor
, co-founder and current co-president of the