Sexism In New Atheism
Christopher Loring Knowles once described the New Atheism as an adolescent movement. He said it is a pose, not a philosophy; something reactionary. And after seeing how they behaved many seems to agree. Some prominent New Atheists such as Richard Dawkins are brilliant, but the way they acted put them on par with angry teenagers. Do note that Dawkins is a scientist and not philosopher so most of his understandings of religion are flawed. Nevertheless he is so convinced that he is right that he sees every theist as insane. And did you know that Christopher Hitchens once called Mother Theresa a fraud and fanatic?
Yup, they behaved like jerks and their people are quick to follow. As what I discussed in my previews article, we are seeing an army of wannabe atheists marching in social media to tell the world how brilliant they are, while trolling hapless theists. It did more harm than good, as not only that it reinforced the notion that atheists have no manners; it made them the mirror images of a religious fundamentalists. And as what I mentioned, their habit of rationalizing things, while endlessly accusing the other side made them overlook a major flaw in their movement.
Extremist Atheists accused religion as being oppressive to opposite genders, not knowing that they are as much of a threat to women themselves. And as you dig deeper into this article, you would discover even more how these modern atheists adopted the attitude of boys rather than men.
Alleged Sexism in Religion
The roles of religion in the oppression of either gender are debatable. For critics, certain religions favour men over women. They argued how few religions allow ordained women to manage churches and followers. It’s always the guys who presided in public expositions, while no one is yet to see a female archbishop or Pope. Others pointed out what’s mentioned in religious scriptures is the cause of sexism. Online atheists have amassed a large collection of so called Biblical passages that supports the oppression of women. And then there is Islam, whose opponents accused of making women inferior through the Burqa.
Nevertheless people argued that sexism in religion is more as mismanagement, backward culture, lack of understanding in religious traditions, misunderstanding of the scripture, and literal interpretation of the scripture. It is not religion itself but the practice. In some cases as in the Roman Catholic Church, the difference between male and female is the reason why women never became priests. Simply roles of men and women within the church are different. Do note that the highest honour for a human saint goes to a woman, namely the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Sexism in religions requires lengthy discussion to be proven. We have to consider several factors before we reach a valid conclusion. In fact it will be a separate hub in the future. But in the case of the New Atheists, the problems of sexism go to an even higher level.
The Elevatorgate Incident And The Muslima Letter
The many accusations of women’s oppression will look meek compared to what happened in New Atheism. Being a new movement (or as what others point out, a new religion), sexism in atheism is not widely mentioned. But when it happened, it happened.
In my past hub, I mentioned certain cases of sexism in the New Atheism movement. This article you are reading will dig even further on such cases. And let’s begin to the well-known leader of atheism known as Richard Dawkins.
Thanks to his infamous Muslima letter, he lost the love of the left and the respect of his fellow atheists. It all started one evening, in an incident known as the Elevatorgate.
Rebecca Watson, the founder of the website Skepchick shared in her vlog an experience she got at a conference. At 4 in a morning, she got an invitation from a man that followed her in the elevator, asking her for a coffee in his hotel room. The experience made her uncomfortable and she suggested in her vlog that people should not do the same.
Initially it went peacefully, until Watson received a number of alarming comments and emails. As what PZ Myers (a fellow atheist) said in his blog post, these are evidence of sexism in atheism. Then Richard Dawkins butted in with the comment of his own. He composed this Dear Muslima letter, which accused Watson of overreacting and comparing her experience to the women forced to don the Burqa. And below is the copy of his rants:
Stop whining, will you. Yes, yes, I know you had your genitals mutilated with a razor blade, and... yawn... don’t tell me yet again, I know you aren’t allowed to drive a car, and you can’t leave the house without a male relative, and your husband is allowed to beat you, and you’ll be stoned to death if you commit adultery. But stop whining, will you. Think of the suffering your poor American sisters have to put up with. Only this week I heard of one, she calls herself Skep”chick”, and do you know what happened to her? A man in a hotel elevator invited her back to his room for coffee. I am not exaggerating. He really did. He invited her back to his room for coffee. Of course she said no, and of course he didn’t lay a finger on her, but even so... And you, Muslima, think you have misogyny to complain about! For goodness sake grow up, or at least grow a thicker skin.
The backlash it caused divided the atheist community, with people taking sides. Dawkins did make an apology over the incident, three years after the incident. But that’s just one of the many sexism problems the movement is facing.
Hitchens was a good debater. He made his point well though it never made him a likeable person for some people. His views on women were also questionable. In his memoir, he made some of this remarks below:
beautiful, magically beautiful face, adorable (x2), cynical witches, bitches, fiesty, Hitch-proof, haggard, brave…
He also said that as what evolution dictated women are not funny by nature. Humour is the mating call of men and women have no use for it. And in the world where people are fighting to stop gender roles (as what they accused religion is promoting) here he is preaching that women are better off at home and men must do all the work.
Other New Atheists have allegations of their own. Michael Shermer was accused by Alison Smith of rape. VLoggers like Thunderf00t and the ever notorious TJ Kirk are known for their misogyny in their channels.
How Internet Atheists Behaved
Reddit is getting better these days, but before that it became the nesting grounds for the vilest people in the net. There are ladies there that got harassed after expressing their views on women’s rights. In fact the rape jokes, threats and other forms of harassments are what alienated women from the atheist movement. Rebecca Watson, Dawkin’ object of ridicule is no stranger to sexist harassments in her channel.
People pointed out that the large adolescent population in the net made it a hostile place for any meaningful discussion. There are even some that hinted that the internet atheists are simply emulating their leaders, sexism. Whatever the reason, the online harassment is not helping their movement. It could spell dark days ahead for the antireligion that claims to be rational.