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A Woman's Place
August 26, 2012 12:21 PM   Subscribe

"A Woman’s Place? The Dearth of Women in the Secular Movement" by Susan Jacoby
posted by brundlefly (121 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite

 
Possibly related to the over abundance of assholism in the secular and atheist "movements". I blame Dawkins and Hitchins for a lot of it.

Plus, lets face it, if your pretty secure in not wanting to believe in god or whatever there's no reason to have anything to do with those organizations - so they become the domain of the shrill and the preachy with something to prove.
posted by Artw at 12:30 PM on August 26, 2012 [38 favorites]


Christopher Hitchens is not the Holy Ghost

He will be, once he unifies himself with the Force and returns to erudite us, Qui-Gon Jinn style.
posted by Chekhovian at 12:31 PM on August 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


I am at once impressed by Jacoby's efforts and depressed at her experiences.

It's just appalling that secular men aren't taking the "all people are equal" track. But, nonetheless, there's a lot of people in the secular movement who have a touch of the MRA about them.

This is making me think unhappily of the elevator thread:
"The guy in the elevator was not accused of being a rapist; I got the impression from Rebecca that she wasn't even really worried about serious threat to her safety, but was annoyed that she was being pestered by an insensitive cad. It was "slightly bad," as you put it, and she responded at an appropriate level to the problem. She basically said to the atheist community, 'hey, guys, don't be an insensitive cad,' a suggestion I find remarkably uncontroversial — it's a slightly good suggestion in response to a slightly bad problem. It's darned good advice, even.

Here's exactly what she said... That really should be sufficient to explain to everyone exactly what was 'slightly bad' about this situation.

The response has been to belittle her reasonable suggestion, belittle her, accuse her of hysteria, defend the rudeness of the fellow with the proposition, and mostly act as if utterly obtuse to both the unpleasantness of the elevator faux pas and to disrespect the rational concerns of women. Women aren't so much afraid that unruly mobs of atheist men will rape them at meetings, but that they'll be dolts who trivialize legitimate and common concerns of women…and this incident has definitely shown that to be the case. We aren't just going to see Rebecca Watson diminished as an asset to atheism, but all the other women who seek common cause with atheism will watch how we treat our own and find this community significantly less attractive.

This isn't slightly bad. It's very bad. Atheist men are alienating the people we want to work with us on the very same problems, the oppression of women under religious regimes, that you cited in your comment."
STOP REPLICATING THE SAME FUCKING SEXISM YOU'RE PROTESTING, SECULAR MEN. IT IS NOT THE JOB OF THE WOMEN INVOLVED TO PUT UP WITH THIS SHIT.
posted by jaduncan at 12:35 PM on August 26, 2012 [26 favorites]


I blame Dawkins and Hitchins for a lot of it.

Why? What speficially have they done or said to be a cause of the "assholiness" in the atheist/secular movements?
posted by Foci for Analysis at 12:40 PM on August 26, 2012


(I guess I'm lucky I don't have the gender to be described as shrill; both this and the recent Romney birther joke have just made me just absolutely seethe at the casual prejudice).
posted by jaduncan at 12:40 PM on August 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


Why? What speficially have they done or said to be a cause of the "assholiness" in the atheist/secular movements?

Seriously, for an example look at the elevator thread.
posted by jaduncan at 12:44 PM on August 26, 2012 [4 favorites]


I'll raise my hand as an atheist woman who has become disenchanted with the secular movement and have disengaged with it over the past few years. I remember at one point feeling annoyed at a fellow atheist calling Dawkins "a bit of a dick" and now I think I would probably agree with him. The turning point was probably the elevator incident for me -- Dawkins' reaction to that was classically sexist. There were other moments of uncomfortableness as well -- feeling uncomfortable as a woman at a rationalist's meeting in NYC, Hitchens' attitude towards Muslims, a creeping sense that as a non-white woman, I was not really welcome in this boys' club.
posted by peacheater at 12:45 PM on August 26, 2012 [13 favorites]


If you REALLY want to feel bad check out /r/atheism.

/mourns the passing of Douglas Adams, prominent non-prick atheist.
posted by Artw at 12:56 PM on August 26, 2012 [7 favorites]


Artw: "if your pretty secure in not wanting to believe in god or whatever there's no reason to have anything to do with those organizations"

You may not have noticed that religion is the driving force for the most antisocial and fucked up aspects of American politics. It's not about what I want to believe, but securing my right not to be shit on by the ones who do chose to believe.
posted by idiopath at 12:56 PM on August 26, 2012 [7 favorites]


Although this thread probably doesn't need to revolve around the "elevator incident", Matt Dillahunty recently made some good comments about it, including calling out Dawkins' reaction.
posted by teraflop at 12:57 PM on August 26, 2012




You may not have noticed that religion is the driving force for the most antisocial and fucked up aspects of American politics. It's not about what I want to believe, but securing my right not to be shit on by the ones who do chose to believe.

Mirroring that seems a perfectly terrible way to counter it.
posted by Artw at 1:02 PM on August 26, 2012


Artw: "Mirroring that seems a perfectly terrible way to counter it."

Hence the desire for less assholery in the movement.
posted by brundlefly at 1:04 PM on August 26, 2012


Madylyn Murray O'Hair was America's most famous atheist for a goodly chunk of the C20th.
posted by yoink at 1:13 PM on August 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


How I Unwittingly Infiltrated the Boy’s Club & Why It’s Time for a New Wave of Atheism

It's like the perfect petri dish of social awkwardness and sexist attitudes, growing moldy creepster spores. Yuck.
posted by Forktine at 1:14 PM on August 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Thanks brundlefly, but I was aiming at something a bit different. When I say "getting shit on", I don't mean unkind words, I mean government policies. And this is why we need the secularist movement: not because I am afraid I may be secretly theist, but because we need public pressure against the destructive aspects of theism.

And my criticism of mainstream atheist activism is not that they are too aggressive or too offensive, but they are offensive and aggressive against some of their most natural allies. If the secularist movement played its cards right it could have both sped the adoption of equal rights for women and homosexuals (and transexuals, bisexuals, and other religiously stigmatized groups as well), and benefited from the concomitant support that would have come from taking those risks.

Instead it mostly seems to position itself as an alternative straight white boys club that just happens not to go to church.
posted by idiopath at 1:15 PM on August 26, 2012 [10 favorites]


I think part of the problem is that rejection of religion -- something that pretty much universally supports the Patriarchy, overtly or covertly* -- does not mean rejecting the Patriarchy. Atheists are disadvantaged on the religious axis of privilege, but, as seen with many other axes, lack of privilege in on area often blinds the disadvantaged to other oppression rather than making them more sensitive. So white men in atheist circles are still playing the game as white men, with all the baggage that suggests, including fear of loss of the privilege.

Additionally, atheist (as especially skeptic) men tend to fetishize rationality, as if it were a characteristic that could be easily defined and recognized (one of the hallmarks of irrationality is, after all, conviction that ne's beliefs are rational and, indeed, obvious). Since, at least in the West, rationality is seen as a "male" trait, it's easy for the skeptic to lump a bunch of "female" traits as opposed to rationality.

Then, as in so many "nerd sexism" conversations, when the (male) atheist community, which feels under attack (not entirely wrongly) from society at large, gets called on sexist (or racist or homophobic or...) behavior, the instinct is to circle the wagons rather than say (rationally) -- "um, you may have a point; let's look at the evidence."

*Yes, religion is a big field, and one can always find exceptions, but religions that survive for any length of time are religions which have allied themselves with (at least local) power, which, in our sad world, generally means the Patriarchy.
posted by GenjiandProust at 1:16 PM on August 26, 2012 [39 favorites]


If the secularist movement played its cards right it could have both sped the adoption of equal rights for women and homosexuals (and transexuals, bisexuals, and other religiously stigmatized groups as well), and benefited from the concomitant support that would have come from taking those risks.

I sometimes think that the UK is lucky to also have Stephen Fry as a very public atheist and LGBT rights backer; he's gay, atheist and pro-civil rights whilst being more in the spirit of Adams (as touched on above) than Dawkins.
posted by jaduncan at 1:22 PM on August 26, 2012 [17 favorites]


idiopath: "Thanks brundlefly, but I was aiming at something a bit different. When I say "getting shit on", I don't mean unkind words, I mean government policies. And this is why we need the secularist movement: not because I am afraid I may be secretly theist, but because we need public pressure against the destructive aspects of theism."

I think we agree completely. Perhaps I should have been more specific than "assholery." The racism and misogyny I see in the current secular movement does mirror what you find in religious groups, and I think that's a problem.
posted by brundlefly at 1:23 PM on August 26, 2012


This is a well-written and thoughtful essay, thanks for bringing it to my attention.

atheist (as especially skeptic) men tend to fetishize rationality

I agree with this wholeheartedly, and I think a lot of men are socialized or are simply fucked up enough to believe that women are incapable of being rational.
posted by maxwelton at 1:25 PM on August 26, 2012 [11 favorites]


I can't really see that any coherent moral position can be derived from atheism. That's not too say that atheists cannot be moral (I certainly hope they can, being one myself). But I don't think that atheism contains or implies any moral conclusions (other than the negative ones--that it cannot be a sin to offend God and so forth). There really is no reason to suppose that any two atheists will necessarily agree on moral, ethical or political principles. Heck, there have been plenty of atheists in the history of the world who have supported state sanctioned religious observance on the grounds that the hoi polloi needs some convenient lies to keep it in check.
posted by yoink at 1:27 PM on August 26, 2012 [7 favorites]


It's almost like if you have three problems, and you get rid of one of them, the other two problems don't magically disappear.
posted by Pope Guilty at 1:27 PM on August 26, 2012 [13 favorites]




Why? What speficially have they done or said to be a cause of the "assholiness" in the atheist/secular movements?

On the heels of the Elevator Guy incident and as part of a longer article worth reading called "Why I am no longer a skeptic", Stephen Bond writes:
A recent shocking example occured in the aftermath of the so-called elevator guy controversy. At a skeptic conference in Dublin, prominent skeptic Rebecca Watson (aka "Skepchick") was propositioned by some creep in an elevator at 4am. She politely refused and later video-blogged about the incident, saying that, guys, elevator come-ons are not such a good idea. Fair enough, one might think. But predictably for the skeptic community, her words incited the fury of a number of sexists, including Prof. Richard Dawkins, who couldn't resist dragging in one of his other prejudices from left-field. It's worth quoting his words in full:
Dear Muslima
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.
This comment was not made by some low-rent Youtube troll, or by a declared BNP member, or even by a malicious impostor; as was later confirmed by PZ Myers, these are the words of Richard Dawkins himself. That's the Richard Dawkins, author of Unweaving the Rainbow and The Blind Watchmaker, professor emeritus for the public understanding of science at Oxford university, the skeptic's ultimate skeptic. And his words are hate speech, plain and simple.
Whether it's that or Hitchens, a man who'd pick an argument with a lamppost if he was sure he'd win it, showing up on the Daily Show drunk off his ass, this sort of thing is not the exception to the rule. Not even a little.
posted by mhoye at 1:32 PM on August 26, 2012 [15 favorites]


atheist (as especially skeptic) men tend to fetishize rationality

Which they define carefully to exclude things like "being obviously upset when people do upsetting things"; rational people eschew all displays of emotion. (I say this as an atheist who tends to eschew displays of emotion. I do not consider this a positive trait in myself.)

This means that anything you really care about is very hard to be "rational" about, because you're often unable to dispassionately argue about it, so you can be easily dismissed.
posted by jeather at 1:33 PM on August 26, 2012 [18 favorites]


jaduncan, thank you for that. As soon as I saw Jacoby's words "The question is why," I immediately thought, "Because of the kind of crap Rebecca Watson went through with the whole elevator incident."

Also, what maxwelton said. A lot of this attitude comes from the intersection of high-school nerd-rage and the fetishization of the skeptical self as a superior, scientific being. As a female atheist, I've perceived it for a while now. As much as I like the skeptic movement's blogs, podcasts, etc., this is why I haven't exactly moved towards the local meetups.

Dawkins is well-meaning in his way, and I don't think he has hideous issues with women as such, but on social issues, he often treats his own thoughts as the baseline of rationality. This is how you get his dismissiveness towards Watson -- a woman who has done a lot for the skeptical movement, and for what? -- along with other problematic white-guy statements of his.

(As an aside, I feel guilty about how much I hated Madalyn Murray O'Hair. She was an awful woman, but she did what needed to be done, and she didn't deserve the end she had.)
posted by Countess Elena at 1:38 PM on August 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


All I can say about most of the current atheists/skeptics that I come across on the Internet these days, is that a little goes a long way.
posted by benito.strauss at 1:40 PM on August 26, 2012


It's funny (interesting) - of the five atheist friends I have, three are women, two are men. One of the men is gay. I don't think any of them considers themselves a part of the secularist movement. Too bad for the secularist movement!

I wouldn't think of any of these friends as having much in common with Dawkins et al.; what I hear from them is they did/could not believe in God from a very early age. It seems to be as much of an inner FEELING (oh, that squishy, girly word) or conviction with them as it is with other people feel that there is a God. The belief in God FEELS irrational and unnatural to them. I don't think that would win them any points with the Dawkinists, not that they would care.

Glad to know that Fry is in the atheist camp, or any camp for which I have any affinity. I would trust him to speak out about what he really believed, not that he doesn't have clay feet like everyone else.
posted by Currer Belfry at 1:55 PM on August 26, 2012


Possibly related to the over abundance of assholism in the secular and atheist "movements".

That's only related if you assume women can't be assholes.
posted by spaltavian at 2:01 PM on August 26, 2012


That's only related if you assume women can't be assholes.

Well, dealing with the specific issue, it seems a lot less likely that women would set up an environment that is hostile to women.

I will agree that somehow stating that no woman can be an asshole would be wrong. At the point when they are at a position of at least roughly equal power within the skeptic community it might even be useful to discuss the issues that are caused by the assholish behaviours that have arisen. Right now, it's to misunderstand the issue.
posted by jaduncan at 2:08 PM on August 26, 2012 [6 favorites]


The problem with the socalled atheist movement is that's libertarianism for the 21st century, something for a particular kind of person (intelligent but not quite as aware of Dunner Kruger as he needs to be) to believe in and feel superior about. It's not really a demanding ideology, it's something a nice white boy can feel oppressed about but doesn't really require him to think about his own position.

It's no wonder it's been professional contrarian Hitchens (to annoy his brother) and obnoxious media scientist Dawkins (seriously, in every one of his books he has to put the knife into at least one colleague) have become the poster children for the movement.

So it's no wonder sexism (and I'm sure racism, transphobia and all other good stuff) is rampant within it.

(I'm an atheist myself, but I have no desire to be part of this particular atheist movement, prefering the company of the original freethinkers, old skool socialists.)
posted by MartinWisse at 2:17 PM on August 26, 2012 [7 favorites]


There really is no reason to suppose that any two atheists will necessarily agree on moral, ethical or political principles.

Same goes for any religion of course. The word of god is infinitely flexible (two Rabbis, three doctrinal positions can be made for any religion). Let's not even talk about socialism. It is possible to have atheism as a fundament for your moral theories, but getting them coherent and getting anybody else to agree with them is something no religion has ever managed either.

You may not have noticed that religion is the driving force for the most antisocial and fucked up aspects of American politics. It's not about what I want to believe, but securing my right not to be shit on by the ones who do chose to believe.

The current atheist/skeptical movement is the worst way to go about solving these problems though. It's largely rightwing and not actually all that interested in fighting the battles where (a particular kind of Christian) religion really is driving the political agenda: abortion and reproductive rights. Important as e.g. the evolution debate is, the former is far more important. Yet you don't see many professional atheists on the picket lines at abortion clinics shielding patients from the anti-choice movement's abuse.
posted by MartinWisse at 2:28 PM on August 26, 2012 [7 favorites]


Yeah, I remember the elevator thread and being surprised by Dawkins' reasoning and just how ignorant he came across. Disappointing to say the least. Both Dawkins and Hitchens can/could be polemic but I think it's unfair to blame them for how certain groups with the secular/atheist movement behave, especially towards women and minorities. Also, I would suggest that secular/atheist men acting like assholes as a problem that varies from country to country (kinda obvious but discussions tend to be so focused on the US and some online communities).

I too wish we had more people like Stephen Fry who can illuminate with reason and humor, and make the secular/atheist movements more accepting and inclusive. It's going to happen, just takes time and is a struggle that goes hand-in-hand with fighting for gender equality.

(Thanks for the links, by the way.)
posted by Foci for Analysis at 2:32 PM on August 26, 2012


Then there's the question of how someone rises to the top of a particular movement and how much depends on being on The Media's Rolodex for access to publicity - because most of them have "designated atheists" and "designated feminists" as two totally separate categories.
posted by oneswellfoop at 2:45 PM on August 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Interesting parallel: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/getreligion/2006/06/where-did-all-the-men-go-again/
posted by bookman117 at 3:11 PM on August 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


(I'm an atheist myself, but I have no desire to be part of this particular atheist movement, prefering the company of the original freethinkers, old skool socialists.)

I wouldn't be surprised in the least to find the "original freethinkers and old skool socialists" to be worse. Feet of clay, and all that. We often have the benefit of seeing only a fraction of the person, and as we would have liked them to have existed.

I'm not sure how one signs up to be a part of the atheist movement. As far as I can tell, publicly declaring atheism makes one part of the movement. Part of the problem is that there is a drive to see the atheism as a monolithic entity, even among atheists. Hence, the "atheist movement". While it makes for a tidier world view, it does everyone a disservice to create organization and unity where it doesn't exist. Jacoby addresses this a bit in the article.

Well, dealing with the specific issue, it seems a lot less likely that women would set up an environment that is hostile to women.

It's possible, of course. But perhaps the most visible female atheist (O'Hair) was widely regarded as a huge asshole. She seemed to give back at least as much as she got, sometimes when she didn't get. Jacoby notes this, too.

It seems to me that the likes of Dawkins and Hitchens suffer from a lack of humility, above all. Flaws in most instances, to be sure, but the kind of characteristic that makes such people effective to a large extent.
posted by 2N2222 at 3:12 PM on August 26, 2012


And yet those of us who actually follow this stuff are currently sick to death of the endless fucking earache we're getting from the Atheism+ mob, including the very female Rebecca Watson, Ophelia Benson, Greta Christina, Stephanie Zvan, Surly Amy, Zinnia Jones, Cristina Rad, Siviku Hutchinson, Natalie Reed, Jen McCreight...

There are a huge number of female voices in the atheist/skeptic movement right now, and some of them are loud and ridiculous, and doing the feminist cause no bloody good at all. Thankfully we also have sane ones like Paula Kirby, Harriet Hall and Miranda Celeste Hale to oppose these precious, entitled, over-reacting pseudo -feminists.
posted by Decani at 3:15 PM on August 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure why anyone expects or requires atheism to propose a moral framework. All it is is a rejection of the need for a "god" and the associated religious institutions to provide that framework. I am an atheist, and I derive my morality from what I've studied in other religions (I really do think the Golden Rule is pretty good, for example, and the fact that most cultures seem to have a common underlying "Don't fuck with other people's shit and don't kill anyone" seems to be a nice point to build off of) and what comes out of philosophy, which is often pretty tightly integrated with religion. Using a bit of logic and reason it can be surprisingly easy to find the things everyone can pretty much agree upon, and figure out what is harmful to people (like preventing women from getting an education) and what is helpful to people (like charity). I suppose that doesn't make things rigid enough to enforce the "us vs them" mentality that so many fundamentalists of any religion prefer, but, well, I don't really need that.

I think people who expect atheism to provide morality are the same ones who insist that "It's just another religion." It's not. If you're a dick and you're Richard Dawkins, maybe it is. But most atheists just fail to need a church service every Sunday to get us through life and we're just kind of quietly okay with that. It is not a replacement for what other people have, it is an absence of it.

On Facebook I list my religious views as "pleasantly atheist." This is explicitly to differentiate me from the Dawkins types. I don't feel a need to convert others to my point of view, and I appreciate it if no one else tries to do it to me. The only time I feel a need to be part of any "movement" is when people in our (US) government insist that I'd be unfit to hold office or that I'm somehow responsible for the downfall of society. Sorry, I'm too busy with volunteer work and advocating socialist political positions to ruin our country.
posted by olinerd at 3:20 PM on August 26, 2012 [7 favorites]


If the secularist movement played its cards right it could have both sped the adoption of equal rights for women and homosexuals (and transexuals, bisexuals, and other religiously stigmatized groups as well), and benefited from the concomitant support that would have come from taking those risks.

Also it would be the right thing to do.
posted by jaduncan at 3:26 PM on August 26, 2012 [4 favorites]


doing the feminist cause no bloody good at all

Maybe, but a quick trip through the rationalia forums doesn't demonstrate a strong grasp of keeping the moral high ground.
posted by fatbird at 3:29 PM on August 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


Every vocal atheist I know is either or both (a) a hard-core nerd or (b) a hard-core right-winger. Nerd spaces are wide open to women but few women find them inviting, whether the topic is baseball statistics or the (non-existence) of God. And the right-wingers are going to piss off any woman who isn't a right-winger, and some who are, too -- man, atheistic right-wing thinking can be cold.
posted by MattD at 3:35 PM on August 26, 2012


Well, Decani, I sure am glad that you, as a woman with years of experience in the feminist movement, have the expertise and perspective to set them straight on that point.
posted by Countess Elena at 3:36 PM on August 26, 2012 [20 favorites]


Yeah, how dare those atheist women bore and annoy us by complaining about how the movement tends to be for straight white cis men, and only them. Listen to the good women who call the evil feminist atheists "feminazis" and "femistasis", they understand that atheism doesn't need feminism because it's already so rational.
posted by jeather at 3:47 PM on August 26, 2012 [16 favorites]


And link. That's Paula Kirby.
posted by jeather at 3:48 PM on August 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


Sigh, Decani.

Sigh.

I - buh. Your whole thing is too tiresome to really address, but just... notice how you're not actually addressing anything on its merits? Your sole complaint is not that those persons are wrong, it's that they're too loud. You don't take issue with any evidence or arguments made in the linked article, you just whine about those whiny feminists.

You look at everything that happens to women and others in the mainstream secular movement and you go "meh! They should just learn to deal with it!" Why in the world would any of us want to join your club, when it's obvious that the club is actively hostile to our equal membership? (And no, it doesn't work to be consistently hostile and then claim that really you aren't.)

Anyway, I liked the article bookman linked to, especially because it made that point that the denominations doing the best job retaining men are the old, hard-line conservative ones: traditional Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodox, Orthodox Judaism, etc. You can see the author's blindspot in that he explains this by lamenting how religious men of past centuries knew that they were "locked in battle with evil," and that now modern liberal Christianity is about "having a relationship with a man that loves you unconditionally."

He doesn't even seem to consider as a possibly relevant piece of data the fact that those conservative branches are always the most patriarchal. Being a literal Patriarch in the Eastern Orthodox church is a position of power and privilege. Of course men find it easier to stay in that framework, it actively rewards them.

All fairly academic for me anyway. I can't see myself really becoming some sort of an active member of a secular movement or anything. Although I did have fun at an atheist boardgames night recently!
posted by kavasa at 3:50 PM on August 26, 2012 [15 favorites]


A friend of mine who writes (and gets invited to speak) about atheism gets an astonishing amount of shit when she has the temerity to write about sexism in the atheist/skeptic communities. The resistance to even considering that there might be sexism there is funny in a bang-head-on-desk kind of way.
posted by rtha at 3:51 PM on August 26, 2012 [7 favorites]




oppose these precious, entitled, over-reacting pseudo -feminists.

You missed uppity! How could you miss uppity?
posted by jaduncan at 4:11 PM on August 26, 2012 [17 favorites]


Women aren't so much afraid that unruly mobs of atheist men will rape them at meetings, but that they'll be dolts who trivialize legitimate and common concerns of women…and this incident has definitely shown that to be the case.

In my experience, the "secular movement" tends to feature lots of dudes whose main intellectual M.O. is to trivialize, generally.

A lot of smart, feminist women are pretty sensitive to this particular angle of the "if all you have is a hammer..." theory, and have no desire to put ourselves in that path.

I've heard enough dudes bloviating about "hurf durf Angry Sky God" type stuff to think it likely that said dudes will Hurf Durf about anything they don't understand or like.
posted by Sara C. at 4:20 PM on August 26, 2012 [15 favorites]


Thankfully we also have sane ones like [..]

So the women you disagree with are insane. Nice.
posted by ryanrs at 4:29 PM on August 26, 2012 [19 favorites]


I have been inspired to buy something from Surly Amy.
posted by bq at 4:31 PM on August 26, 2012


original freethinkers, old skool socialists

Not sure who you mean by "old skool socialists" but I'm going to go out on a limb and say that I'm pretty sure they weren't the "original freethinkers."
posted by yoink at 4:53 PM on August 26, 2012


Much as a pile on Decani might seem cathartic, it's also a derail and probably should be put to bed.

Since there is ample evidence that the atheist/skeptic community is not friendly to women, what is the solution? Defining a new movement that combines atheism with progressive politics would be nice. It will "split the vote," but, honestly, I am not sure there is a vote here to be split. Anyone have a clearer answer?
posted by GenjiandProust at 4:59 PM on August 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


I found it telling that the very first comment in response to Jacoby's article was from a guy spouting a whole bunch of ev-psych crap "we've evolved to be patriarchal!" - don't blame us guys, blame Nature! How is "Men evolved to rule over women" different from "God ordained men to rule over women," exactly?

It's the same shit, different label, and an unfortunate number of atheist guys who wouldn't dream of saying that women are lesser beings because some deity or holy book said so buy into that ev-psych doctrine of female weakness and inferiority hook, line and sinker.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 5:00 PM on August 26, 2012 [22 favorites]


GenjiandProust: "Since there is ample evidence that the atheist/skeptic community is not friendly to women, what is the solution? Defining a new movement that combines atheism with progressive politics would be nice. It will "split the vote," but, honestly, I am not sure there is a vote here to be split. Anyone have a clearer answer?"

In the US, the atheist movement needs to extricate itself from the clammy embrace of the libertarians. As far as I can tell, that's where most of the racism, sexism, homophobia, etc. is coming from.

It's to a large extent a particularly American problem, Dawkins notwithstanding. In Europe, for instance, people who are vocal atheists generally tend to align themselves with the left, and the European left, while in no way perfect, tends to at least be more conscious of these types of problems. On the other hand, in the US, libertarians in particular promote a certain hard-core "rationalism" where everything's explainable by genetics, and so, racism, sexism, and homophobia flourishes.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 5:04 PM on August 26, 2012 [10 favorites]


Decani's post and the ensuing replies aren't so much a derail, but rather the exact issue described in the FPP.
posted by ryanrs at 5:04 PM on August 26, 2012 [4 favorites]


GenjiandProust - see Atheism Plus.
posted by rtha at 5:06 PM on August 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


How is "Men evolved to rule over women" different from "God ordained men to rule over women," exactly?

That's pretty easy. One is a (crappy) scientific postulate that is open to scientific testing; the other is an article of faith that one must either accept or not, but which does not admit of empirical refutation.

Defining a new movement that combines atheism with progressive politics would be nice. It will "split the vote," but, honestly, I am not sure there is a vote here to be split. Anyone have a clearer answer?"

I guess what I never really understand, as an atheist, is why you would have an "atheist" organization in any case. I mean, if you want to fight for progressive causes do you really want to say to progressive believers "sorry, we just don't want your sort here"? There are Christian (and Jewish and Muslim etc.) socialists, anti-racists etc. etc. If that's what we're fighting for, surely the bigger the tent the better, no?

To me it always comes down to this: if the purpose of the organization is something other than "propagating atheism" then it doesn't seem relevant whether or not members are atheists. If the purpose of the organization is "propagating atheism" then it's not likely to be a very enjoyable organization to belong to (just how many times can you get together to pat each other on the back for being right about something that everyone else is wrong about? And doesn't that begin to sound suspiciously religion-like?).
posted by yoink at 5:12 PM on August 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


Slightly off topic, but mhoye, that Stephen Bond essay is killer - thanks for linking it here.
posted by en forme de poire at 5:14 PM on August 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


I guess what I never really understand, as an atheist, is why you would have an "atheist" organization in any case.

Did you grow up deep in a red state, surrounded by ardent theists, and did you feel all alone because you were different, you were the non-believer, the other? I did. And at that time there weren't "shrill" Dawkinses and "strident" Hitchenes out there making it clear to me that I was not alone.
posted by Chekhovian at 5:18 PM on August 26, 2012 [6 favorites]


There's always some asshole in these threads that says that "If only those nasty atheists weren't so nasty, then they would succeed. They're really the ones to blame for atheists being the least trusted group in the nation, for no politicians admitting to being an atheist etc etc". And what really rankles me is that the asshole in question usually claims to be an atheist.
posted by Chekhovian at 5:21 PM on August 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


yoink: "How is "Men evolved to rule over women" different from "God ordained men to rule over women," exactly?

That's pretty easy. One is a (crappy) scientific postulate that is open to scientific testing; the other is an article of faith that one must either accept or not, but which does not admit of empirical refutation.
"

Actually, a common criticism of evolutionary psychology is exactly that so many of their claims are untestable. Think about it, how do you test for something like this? It's what Stephen Jay Gould liked to called "just-so stories", charming little explanations that seem obvious, but that actually make a bunch of assumptions that can't be tested.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 5:23 PM on August 26, 2012 [13 favorites]


Chekhovian: "There's always some asshole in these threads that says that "If only those nasty atheists weren't so nasty, then they would succeed. They're really the ones to blame for atheists being the least trusted group in the nation, for no politicians admitting to being an atheist etc etc". And what really rankles me is that the asshole in question usually claims to be an atheist."

That asshole has been me at times. I am an atheist. I've never said that atheists are to blame for being the least trusted group in the nation, but I do think people like Dawkins and Hitchens may well do more damage than good. I'm not sure how this disqualifies me from being an atheist. Is it because I actually think it would be good to convince more people to become atheists, instead of alienating them? If so, I'm guilty.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 5:25 PM on August 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Actually, a common criticism of evolutionary psychology is exactly that so many of their claims are untestable.

Not everything that claims to be science, is. It's kind of like "even the Devil can quote Scripture," but secular.
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:28 PM on August 26, 2012 [4 favorites]


Did you grow up deep in a red state, surrounded by ardent theists, and did you feel all alone because you were different, you were the non-believer, the other? I did. And at that time there weren't "shrill" Dawkinses and "strident" Hitchenes out there making it clear to me that I was not alone.

No, fair enough. I grew up with academic parents, one of whom was a declared atheist and the other a wishy-washy Anglican who pretty much lost her faith as she grew older. So being an atheist was never a struggle for me. Nonetheless, you'd have to live locked in a cupboard without internet access these days to actually be unaware that there are many people out there who share your lack of belief.

I can imagine that in the first heady/distressing days of questioning one's belief it might be wonderful to meet with others of a like turn of mind to talk these things over. But I can't imagine wanting to meet week after week, well into adulthood, with a bunch of people to talk about atheism. What, after all, is there do say other than "yup, still don't see any evidence for the existence of any gods. You?"

There's always some asshole in these threads that says that "If only those nasty atheists weren't so nasty, then they would succeed. They're really the ones to blame for atheists being the least trusted group in the nation, for no politicians admitting to being an atheist etc etc". And what really rankles me is that the asshole in question usually claims to be an atheist.

I can't tell if this is aimed at me (I haven't said anything like what you describe, but then no one else seems to have done so, either). In any case, in case you are under the mistaken impression that this is the point I'm trying to convey--I don't believe any such thing. By and large I rather like the Dawkins polemical line. I think there's nothing wrong with seeking to ecrasez l'infame from time to time. My comment is about joining groups to affirm your lack of belief in deities (might as well join a group to affirm your lack of belief in fairies and goblins while you're at it). Polemical attacks against religion (which has, as an institutional force, often been a source of great wrong and oppression)? Bring 'em on.
posted by yoink at 5:30 PM on August 26, 2012


en forme de poire, you're right about that Stephen Bond essay. I was particularly moved by this observation:

Proselytising skeptics certainly offer [most people] no incentive to change their minds. Skeptics ask society's castaways to leave a reality in which they are good and valued people, and enter one in which they are pieces of warm garbage. Little wonder that so few take up the offer.

This intersectionality is a real issue, and one I struggle with every time I advocate atheism -- which is why I don't do it as a blanket thing, but only one to one in personal arguments. Look at the thread about Michael Williams, a ways down -- his life was saved by the intervention of a Christian minister, not an atheist. The fact that Joshua bar Joseph was not a divine being does not change the fact that a reverend was the one who was there in his community to help him and people who need the help that he needs. I don't have a solution for this, at least not one that wouldn't take a massive generational shift.
posted by Countess Elena at 5:32 PM on August 26, 2012


Actually, a common criticism of evolutionary psychology is exactly that so many of their claims are untestable.

Sure--but you're leaning a little too hard on a technical use of the word "testable" here. It remains an empirical claim about the world which is therefore open to "testing" by scientific argument. If that argument takes the form: "this claim cannot be formulated in such a way that it can be empirically tested, therefore it is worthless" then that's fine too. It is a claim that science can deal with and decide whether or not to give any credence to.
posted by yoink at 5:33 PM on August 26, 2012


I do think people like Dawkins and Hitchens may well do more damage than good

So the alternative is just never talk about Atheism in the public sphere at all?

Is it because I actually think it would be good to convince more people to become atheists, instead of alienating them?

This is the usual seduction vs confrontation issue, and clearly advances need to occur simultaneously along both fronts. Different approaches work better for different people. And some people need some Dawkins style confrontation. Sometimes that plants a "mustard seed" of doubt in the hearts of believers. Sometimes it makes them more unyielding. But the "strident and shrill" crowd gets attention.
posted by Chekhovian at 5:39 PM on August 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Countess Elena: "This intersectionality is a real issue, and one I struggle with every time I advocate atheism -- which is why I don't do it as a blanket thing, but only one to one in personal arguments. Look at the thread about Michael Williams, a ways down -- his life was saved by the intervention of a Christian minister, not an atheist. The fact that Joshua bar Joseph was not a divine being does not change the fact that a reverend was the one who was there in his community to help him and people who need the help that he needs. I don't have a solution for this, at least not one that wouldn't take a massive generational shift."

I agree with you, this is a huge challenge to atheists. I don't have a solution either, although I'm pretty sure that "not being an asshole" in general would help.

Come to think of it, the stuff the Atheism+ people are talking about, isn't that just Humanism? I've toyed with the idea of calling myself a Humanist instead of an atheist, because it seems to better encompass my views beyond just not believing in god.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 5:41 PM on August 26, 2012


Chekhovian: "I do think people like Dawkins and Hitchens may well do more damage than good

So the alternative is just never talk about Atheism in the public sphere at all?
"

No, and I never said it was. This is a false dichotomy. As you yourself acknowledge just three lines further down, it's possible to advocate for atheism without being (that) confrontational.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 5:42 PM on August 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


But I can't imagine wanting to meet week after week, well into adulthood, with a bunch of people to talk about atheism.

The point of those meetings is to get media attention and organize political action. That's why Dawkins et al had that big shindig in DC a while back.
posted by Chekhovian at 5:43 PM on August 26, 2012


As you yourself acknowledge just three lines further down, it's possible to advocate for atheism without being (that) confrontational.

I never thought it was impossible, I just think its ineffective. At least I never really hear about the quiet non-confrontational advocates.
posted by Chekhovian at 5:46 PM on August 26, 2012


Sure--but you're leaning a little too hard on a technical use of the word "testable" here. It remains an empirical claim about the world which is therefore open to "testing" by scientific argument. If that argument takes the form: "this claim cannot be formulated in such a way that it can be empirically tested, therefore it is worthless" then that's fine too. It is a claim that science can deal with and decide whether or not to give any credence to.
Erm. This is just as true of any religious claim?

--

As far as atheist organizations and what have you, I'm not... I'm not super sure. I mean I guess that at least in the US, there's a sort of mainstream narrative about how ethics are the exclusive purview of religion and you want to push back against that notion; you want to raise visibility to the point where an atheist would be at least as viable a Presidential candidate as is a mormon, that kind of thing.

Those are the goals I would think of for atheist/humanist/secular organizations. Not so much conversion of the faithful - that seems like an exercise in futility, to me - but promotion of other-than-faithful points of view. Adding a different kind of chair to the interfaith table sort of thing.
posted by kavasa at 6:31 PM on August 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Also the introductory story from the most recent TAL is relevant to "problems with religion," agh.
posted by kavasa at 6:52 PM on August 26, 2012


Love this essay! I think she's right on about restoring important women secular leaders in history -- I loved loved the quote from Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Very happy she gave the shout-out to the Freedom From Religion Foundation -- they've been doing great things for decades about (many forms of organized) religion's war on women. (I still have my copy of Sexism and Rape in the Bible from the early 1980s.)

I agree with above posters that the convergence of secularism/atheism and libertarianism/right wing ness is a major problem re encouraging women to participate. Women disproportionately care about "social" issues such as education and health care, as well as women's and reproductive rights. Getting a direct or indirect vibe that these issues are considered "soft" or even irrational would cause many secular women with leadership qualities to run in the other direction.

Personally, I think secularism is an important issue for organizing, particularly around church and state issues. This would include trying to ensure that government and public entities are secular, and beyond the Western world, supporting secular intellectuals and leaders trying to organize for civil liberties in explicitly religious states.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 6:56 PM on August 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


jaduncan: "I sometimes think that the UK is lucky to also have Stephen Fry as a very public atheist and LGBT rights backer; he's gay, atheist and pro-civil rights whilst being more in the spirit of Adams (as touched on above) than Dawkins."

You're just lucky to have Stephen Fry. Period.
posted by deborah at 7:01 PM on August 26, 2012 [9 favorites]


(Reading this and watching cable TV -- they're running the true crime docudrama about Madalyn Murray O'Hair and her family.)
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 7:04 PM on August 26, 2012


Part of the reason that there's fewer women in the secular movement is that a smaller percentage of women are nonbelievers than men. This is not because women are less devoted to rationality, but because women are typically more risk-averse than men, and being nonreligious requires taking a chance that you might be putting your afterlife at risk. (In other words, when women are presented with Pascal's Wager, they are more likely to take the believer's side of the bet than men.) This elegant explanation for gender differences in religiosity was uncovered in the article, Risk and religion: An explanation of gender differences in religiosity.

Then, once you start with fewer women, some men in the secular community create a vicious cycle, where the displeasure at the low percentage of women in the community leads them to do stupid and sexist things that drive away even more women.
posted by jonp72 at 7:05 PM on August 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Come to think of it, the stuff the Atheism+ people are talking about, isn't that just Humanism?

Greta Christina makes the case for a difference between atheism plus and humanism.
posted by audi alteram partem at 7:06 PM on August 26, 2012 [4 favorites]


The thing is, for some people in the atheism movement is much like the sort of "geek pride" phenomenon you see on the Internet and elsewhere - a place where people who grew up being made miserable for being a certain way can feel like they aren't alone, feel comfortable and - here's an important bit - like they can relax. There are plenty of people who

[grew] up deep in a red state, surrounded by ardent theists, and did you feel all alone because you were different, you were the non-believer, the other? I did. And at that time there weren't "shrill" Dawkinses and "strident" Hitchenes out there making it clear to me that I was not alone

or something like that, and who basically want that to be what the atheist/humanist/skeptic movement is about - removing the very specific stigma from atheism, or at least removing the crushing sense of loneliness and isolation that a lot of atheists have to deal with. But now the tent is getting larger - there are people who have been hurt by other sorts of stigmas, some far more brutal or systematic, and who would like to see the movement used as a broader vehicle against a wider range of social problems and irrational prejudices - after all, what's a rationalist/humanist movement all about if not being rational and humane - or at the very least, made into a place where they too can feel comfortable and at home.

But for either of those things to happen, the first group is going to be made to feel uncomfortable, at least for a while. Because they're going to have to change in order to make that happen, or at least step aside and let others have their space as well. And a lot of them have the mentality that this is their safe zone, damn it, and nothing uncomfortable should be allowed to intrude into it.

Since there is ample evidence that the atheist/skeptic community is not friendly to women, what is the solution? Defining a new movement that combines atheism with progressive politics would be nice. It will "split the vote," but, honestly, I am not sure there is a vote here to be split. Anyone have a clearer answer?

As someone who tends to hang around techie parts of the Net a lot, this reminds me a lot of the transhumanism/techno-progressive split. On the one hand, there's a early group with a very narrow focus. Then as the movement grows, you see more diversity, more people pointing out that, you know, if the point of a social movement is to improve our society in this way, shouldn't we be paying attention to these other problems over here...? At which point all the (in the case of transhumanism, also very whitebread, heteronormative, and libertarian) old-school folks start protesting about mission creep and such.

On one level, this relates to a wider question, among (ostensibly or truly) progressive movements - including traditional labor, women's and minority rights groups - about the trade-off between a narrow focus on their specific "constituencies" and their needs or interacting with other forms of oppression. Seems to interact quite clearly with the idea of kyriarchy, and the way being kicked down the stairs by society in one way makes you pay attention to your own wounds and maybe not notice who else you yourself thumped on the way down.

All in all - I think that what we're seeing is less a civil war/movement tearing itself to pieces than a natural phase of growing pains, which in turn is a concomitant of the very success of the movement thus far. I don't think that a situation in which that movement comprises a whole number of distinct groups, all interacting (and, to some degree, competing and debating with each other) is necessarily worse than everyone being under one tent.
posted by AdamCSnider at 7:07 PM on August 26, 2012 [8 favorites]


I can't get past the fact I'm just not a joiner. I would rather iron bedsheets than attend a meeting to talk about skepticism, even though I think that ironing is one of the most wastefully pointless activities humanity's ever devised.
posted by gingerest at 7:32 PM on August 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


years ago i was interviewed by a Spanish language newspaper because, to the journalist, i was the first "out" ATEISTA --not, secularist, not humanist, not agnostic, but out atheist-- bloguera he had come across the web. he was baffled that there i was, a woman, claiming the mantle of atheism. "aren't you afraid of harassment? aren't you afraid of being ostracized?"

as also one of the first high-profile feminist blogueras, i knew all too well of harassment and DDoS attacks. i told him, one of the reasons i became a Drupal web developer was exactly because of the security issues and hacking i had to deal with after writing about women's rights and atheism. but i was more curious about the nature of his question: why would i choose to "not belong" by acknowledging my atheism? to that, i replied: but i've never belonged anywhere. why worry now?

i find all these atheist brouhahas interesting if only because from where am sitting, US Atheism looks like another manifestation of white privilege. just as i've had to deal all my life with the asshole who has remarked how "articulate" i am in spite of being Puerto Rican; so i've had to reckon with many an asshole who thinks atheism is a white wo/man's burden. and when it comes to my people, being an atheist is like that moment in "Big Fat Greek Wedding" when the guy tells the mom he doesn't eat meat and she, stunned and trying to process that impossible piece of information, says "ok, i'll make lamb". no matter how many times i tell my mom, she insists in thinking atheism means "praying at home, not in a church".

the last year and a half has been one crisis after the other for my personal and blogging lives. am barely in the rebuilding phase. but ateistas like me are out there. in my case, i tweet quite a lot about religion & atheism. that am not part of any organization? well, i've found that doing my own thing is easier and less vexing when am not dealing with un/conscious discrimination. so i tend to stay as far away from organizations & movements that i perceive as heavily representative of white US patriarchy.

that, unfortunately, describes the US atheist movement; notwithstanding the ground-breaking activism of Madalyn Murray O'Hair. which is sad because it was the grisly discovery of her remains in 2001 that sealed the deal for my coming out of the atheist closet.

to me, it was more important than ever that "on-the-fence" ateistas encountered one of our own. the OHair deaths were a terrible tragedy but many more of us are still breathing, procreating, forming, living life fully. i may never have the impact she had, but the thanks & hugs of the many people i've engaged throughout the years in atheism discussions are exactly the reward that makes me happy :) that and the ATHEISMAS cookies & cupcakes.

yes, i started celebrating ATHEISMAS publicly last year (we've always done it here at home). i look forward to more atheismas shenanigans this year.

so... Mi nombre es Liza Sabater y soy ateista :)
posted by liza at 7:33 PM on August 26, 2012 [19 favorites]


Aside: NYT discovers contemporary atheism.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 7:46 PM on August 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


In college I did research on early political party formation in Europe and the Americas (North and South). This wasn't the focus of my research (the focus ended up being re-formation of political parties in West Germany after WWII and whether it resembled, or didn't, the original phenomenon of party formation), but I was somewhat shocked to see, over and over, as countries became democracies and political parties formed, it was the LEFT or progressive side that didn't want to give women the vote, for two reasons: 1) Women, being naturally religions and easily influenced by authority figures, would vote in overwhelming numbers for conservative clerical/religious parties; and 2) Women, having uteri, were not so bright (and easily influenced) and would vote against their self-interests by voting for conservatives. Over and over and over again, the reason given by progressives to deny women the vote was the fear that women would vote their (conservative) religion. Never mind self-determination, they were Just. Too. Religious. It was somewhat shocking to me at the time because, well, I'd always thought conservative parties were the force against expanding rights to women and minorities; it just hadn't occurred to me that progressives could fight against it just as hard.

Anti-feminist atheist dust-ups always put me forcibly in mind of this, and frequently the anti-feminist atheists, when pressed, use the same arguments: Women aren't rational enough, and they're just too religious to be trusted.

Never mind that, in the end, women tend in the aggregate to vote with progressive parties more often than men do. They have boobs: that makes them irrational, and irrationality makes them religious. Therefore these boob-people cannot be allies of secularists and secularists should not bother engaging with them, because they are irrational objects, not rational people Like Us.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:48 PM on August 26, 2012 [10 favorites]


Women aren't rational enough, and they're just too religious to be trusted.

And on the other side of the cesspool, you have the argument that women cannot take places of authority in many religions because they aren't religious enough, too full of sin, etc....

How nicely we are placed (in the old sense of the word).
posted by Alnedra at 7:59 PM on August 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


By and large I rather like the Dawkins polemical line. I think there's nothing wrong with seeking to ecrasez l'infame from time to time. My comment is about joining groups to affirm your lack of belief in deities (might as well join a group to affirm your lack of belief in fairies and goblins while you're at it). Polemical attacks against religion (which has, as an institutional force, often been a source of great wrong and oppression)? Bring 'em on.

yoink, considering that it was apparently a mild surprise to you that not everyone grows up in a secular household and culture, and considering that you apparently have difficulty imagining the value of congenial discussion, you may well have trouble distinguishing between ecrasez l'infame and épater le bourgeois. Which is pretty much an illustration of the point here.
posted by dogrose at 8:05 PM on August 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


" And on the other side of the cesspool..."

Oh yes. It helped me understand why suffragettes were starving themselves and chaining themselves to things: they had no natural allies because men on both sides of the political spectrum were uninterested in women's participation in the body politic.

But it is particularly depressing to see self-proclaimed champions of rationality who are fighting against what they see as outmoded and repressive religious morality adopting the same damn excuses from 100 and 200 years ago to justify their casual, ingrained, irrational mysogyny.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:27 PM on August 26, 2012 [11 favorites]


but I was somewhat shocked to see, over and over, as countries became democracies and political parties formed, it was the LEFT or progressive side that didn't want to give women the vote, for two reasons: 1) Women, being naturally religions and easily influenced by authority figures, would vote in overwhelming numbers for conservative clerical/religious parties; and 2) Women, having uteri, were not so bright (and easily influenced) and would vote against their self-interests by voting for conservatives

I was recently reading the excellent The Rise of American Democracy: From Jefferson to Lincoln and noticed the same phenomenon. During the first wave of post-Revolutionary War democratization (mostly at the state level, where relics of authoritarian colonial governments were swept aside in many states, New York and Connecticut especially) the same thing went on: newly enfranchised lower-class white males immediately voted to disenfranchise free African-Americans and women, and were enthusiastically supported by progressive, democratizing political parties.

There's also a class element - during the run-up to Prohibition, you saw many lower-class women enthusiastically supporting Prohibition because it would cut into abuses - violence, the wastage of family savings by the man of the houses on liquor and gambling - which the higher-class progressive elites didn't understand or care about. The latter saw this as a clear-cut case of religious lunacy and assault on civil liberties, but the issue was more complex than that. And this in turn helped reinforce the disinterest among progressives in women's rights: "look at how those silly housewives are abusing the power they already have!"

But then we've seen this before, haven't we? Early Christianity was arguably much more friendly to women than Greco-Roman paganism during the first two centuries or so, but as soon as you start seeing large-scale conversion among the male elite, that element of the new faith rapidly withers. Gender/racial/sexual norms tend to make the jump from one religious/cultural structure to the next with ease precisely because they make the transition far easier psychologically - you just have to change the way you think about a single thing (God, in this case), you can leave all the other elements of the old order intact and unexamined.
posted by AdamCSnider at 8:44 PM on August 26, 2012 [4 favorites]


Erm. This is just as true of any religious claim?

No, not at all. That, in fact, is precisely the problem with religious claims. There is no conceivable "test"--no matter how broadly you define the term--for the claim "you should do X because God wants you to do X." Unless you can call God forth and ask him point blank, then we either accept this as dogma or we reject it. But we cannot determine that the claim is false and that fact cannot itself be held against the claim to argue that it is poorly formed; because no religious claim is necessarily subject to being proven either true or false.
posted by yoink at 9:46 PM on August 26, 2012


Eyebrows McGee: do you have any resources that talk more about the phenomena you mentioned? I hadn't heard this before and would like to know more.

The discussion about rationality vs emotions reminds me of discussions in social justice spheres around emotional justice.
posted by divabat at 10:21 PM on August 26, 2012


I wouldn't be surprised in the least to find the "original freethinkers and old skool socialists" to be worse.

Oh sure, there's a long and shameful history of sexism and racism in the socialist movement, but on the other hand there's as long and much more proud a history of inclusiveness as well. It depends on which parts of the movements you look at. Socialism was always explicitely an universalist movement, open to workers of all creeds, races and genders, though in reality actually existing socialist movements often fell short of course.
posted by MartinWisse at 10:34 PM on August 26, 2012


MetaFilter: high-school nerd-rage and the fetishization of the skeptical self as a superior, scientific being
posted by straight at 12:45 AM on August 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Part of the reason that there's fewer women in the secular movement is that a smaller percentage of women are nonbelievers than men. This is not because women are less devoted to rationality, but because women are typically more risk-averse than men, and being nonreligious requires taking a chance that you might be putting your afterlife at risk.

This sounds like you're saying men choose atheism because of rational reasons but women fail to accept atheism because of their risk-averse temperament.

Perhaps you'd like me to explain what it is about your male temperament that causes you think that way?
posted by straight at 12:53 AM on August 27, 2012 [4 favorites]


Eyebrows McGee: do you have any resources that talk more about the phenomena you mentioned? I hadn't heard this before and would like to know more.

The book Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition by Daniel Okrent discusses the prohibition aspects of this a great deal. It's also a very interesting book.
posted by jeather at 4:42 AM on August 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


I wish I had a citation, but I've seen some historians argue that Prohibition was somewhat successful in domesticating alcohol consumption, making it more common in poorer families for men to drink at home with family and friends instead of only out at the bars away from their families, which even carried over somewhat after Prohibition was repealed.
posted by straight at 5:45 AM on August 27, 2012


But then we've seen this before, haven't we? Early Christianity was arguably much more friendly to women than Greco-Roman paganism during the first two centuries or so, but as soon as you start seeing large-scale conversion among the male elite, that element of the new faith rapidly withers. Gender/racial/sexual norms tend to make the jump from one religious/cultural structure to the next with ease precisely because they make the transition far easier psychologically - you just have to change the way you think about a single thing (God, in this case), you can leave all the other elements of the old order intact and unexamined.

Well, as I say up above, pretty much every successful religion has achieved success by making accommodation with power, which means the Patriarchy. A religion which is too invested in subverting the social order does not thrive; those that do thrive usually do so by aligning themselves with the "standard social structure." Christianity, which was rather liberating for women and slaves, stressing as it did the universality of humans, became an apologist for the subjugation of both, although, looking at Roman history, I wonder how much of the loss of status of women was the decline of the cosmopolitan world of late Antiquity (and it's impact on all aspects of society, including religion) rather than religious discourse itself. Women, after all, had a power role in the various Byzantine religious disputes....
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:13 AM on August 27, 2012


> "... women are typically more risk-averse than men ... This elegant explanation for gender differences ..."

... was so elegant it only made me throw up a little bit.

There are more female atheists than male atheists in a number of countries (such as India, Brazil, and Thailand) and many more where the differences are minute. The U.S. is actually rather an outlier for having such a huge disparity between numbers of male and female atheists -- only Romania, Guatemala, Poland, Ethiopa, and Chile have a greater disparity.
posted by kyrademon at 6:38 AM on August 27, 2012 [6 favorites]


As a quick comparison --

Ratio of male to female atheists in India:
0.89 to 1

Ratio of male to female atheists in Britain:
1.25 to 1

Ratio of male to female atheists in the U.S.:
5 to 1

I don't think "women just tend to be more risk-averse" is an adequate explanation here.
posted by kyrademon at 6:43 AM on August 27, 2012 [15 favorites]


This is not because women are less devoted to rationality, but because women are typically more risk-averse than men, and being nonreligious requires taking a chance that you might be putting your afterlife at risk. (In other words, when women are presented with Pascal's Wager, they are more likely to take the believer's side of the bet than men.)

Except Pascal's Wager is an explicitly Christian concept, and most other world religions are not centered around an afterlife as the reason for participating in them. For that matter, there are plenty of Christians for whom fear of hell is not their reason for participating in religion.
posted by hydropsyche at 6:58 AM on August 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


"Eyebrows McGee: do you have any resources that talk more about the phenomena you mentioned?"

I will look and see if I can find my thesis so I can look at the bibliography, but to be honest I'm not sure where in the house it would be. It was 15 years and 5 moves ago, so don't get too hopeful. They all had titles like "Political Party Formation in the Low Countries 1814 - 1912" and were quite dry. There must be books specifically on women's inclusion and exclusion in early expansion of the "universal" vote (to, you know, not-nobles) in various countries, but that wasn't my topic so I don't know what they'd be. I was just studying the formation of parties and they all had something to say about women, usually nothing too nice. Always condescending.

It was more notable, as I recall, in Europe and South America where there were often specifically "Christian" parties -- like the Christian Democrats or Christian Socialists or whatever. (In the U.S., neither party was explicitly clerical or anti-clerical, or establishment or deestablishment, since the First Amendment already sorted that.) There'd be a left-wing party that was the party of "the people," but they were generally terrified that letting women vote would cause women to vote for their Christian-named or clericalist opponents. So there would be lots of party platforms and letters that were like, "Because we want to expand the vote to as many people as possible, we can't let women vote, because if we let women vote, they'll vote for the other guys, who don't want to expand the vote. So in order to expand the vote we must not expand the vote." WHUT.

The other thing that was interesting was that when women did get the vote, they typically didn't vote the way the male parties predicted they would, and they voted on different issues. Like in some German-speaking countries, as I recall, women became adamant about getting the vote when the clerical and anti-clerical parties were busy destroying education for children because of fights over whether schools should be church-run. The women were not so interested in who ran them as in that they continued to exist and, you know, teach kids to read. But this was hard for male party leaders to grok because they were so invested in the fight over the extent of privileged, establishment-church clerical power within government. Because they were all predicting women's actions through the lenses of their own fears and concerns, not by actually, you know, asking women what they thought.

Anyway I think I've gone a bit derailly here. It's just these mysogynistic-atheist attitudes towards women are such an incredible echo of the complaints of 19th-century anti-clericalists that it's a bit mind-boggling these so-called "rationalists" are stuck in 1850, alienating allies, and generally being jerks to half of humanity, because they can't get their minds around the idea that women are people too. I mean, talk about atavism.

(Regarding the disparity between male and female non-believers in the U.S.: Might it be that women are disproportionately affected by poverty, especially women with children, and that the lack of social safety net and its difficulty in accommodating families and mothers of young children (because of its emphasis on "get a job!" and lack of child care support) makes it a fully "rational" choice for women, especially young ones, to belong to a church where there is a support network that can at least partially make up for the lack of social services? I really don't know, but it's one of the explanations sociologists give for why religion is typically more widespread in poor communities in the U.S.: It's a totally rational move when your church is your safety net. Frankly even David Hume hints at it 400 years ago.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:05 AM on August 27, 2012 [10 favorites]


yoink, considering that it was apparently a mild surprise to you that not everyone grows up in a secular household and culture, and considering that you apparently have difficulty imagining the value of congenial discussion, you may well have trouble distinguishing between ecrasez l'infame and épater le bourgeois. Which is pretty much an illustration of the point here.

Ignoring the bizarre and utterly unprovoked shittiness of this comment, dogrose, I'd be interested to know what distinction you, in particular, are trying to draw between ecrasez l'infame and épater le bourgeois. I fail to see how my comment could lead you to think that I'm confusing the two.
posted by yoink at 9:25 AM on August 27, 2012


Ratio of male to female atheists in India:
0.89 to 1

Ratio of male to female atheists in Britain:
1.25 to 1

Ratio of male to female atheists in the U.S.:
5 to 1


Wow. Yeah, suspect there's just MORE atheists elsewhere, and without that in America it's left to the angry show-the-world nerdboy converts.
posted by Artw at 9:30 AM on August 27, 2012


As far as atheist organizations and what have you, I'm not... I'm not super sure. I mean I guess that at least in the US, there's a sort of mainstream narrative about how ethics are the exclusive purview of religion and you want to push back against that notion; you want to raise visibility to the point where an atheist would be at least as viable a Presidential candidate as is a mormon, that kind of thing.

Again, the problem, for me, is that atheism is a purely "negative" position. It's simply the state of being unpersuaded of the evidence for the existence of a god. That doesn't then lead to any moral or political conclusions that I can see. Ayn Rand was an atheist and so was Karl Marx. I just don't see that what the common interests are that would lead atheists as such to join together unless it were specifically to argue against religious belief. The current brouhaha seems like pretty good evidence, indeed, that this is the case; just because people are atheists doesn't mean they share any understanding of feminism, for example.

As for atheist politicians being acceptable--I guess that that's something that atheists have more personal stake in than non-atheists, to be sure. But it doesn't seem to me that it's a specifically atheist issue. That is, it's not as if we sit back and say "well, if Catholics want to be considered electable rather than minions of the Pope, they'd better get together and change everyone's mind on that issue!" People who believe in tolerance of competing religious and anti-religious beliefs do so, and agitate for those positions, regardless of their own beliefs. So while I do think it would certainly be good for America to be a place where a politician could openly declare their atheism and the response would be "so what," I don't see that an organization that tries to promote that end need be an "atheist organization."
posted by yoink at 9:39 AM on August 27, 2012


yoink: It's simply the state of being unpersuaded of the evidence for the existence of a god. That doesn't then lead to any moral or political conclusions that I can see.

If we just reverse the spin on your framing, then it's the state of being convinced that there is no evidence for the existence of god. And it does lead to certain moral and political conclusions: lack of belief in an afterlife or any supernatural arbiter means that we have to effect any change we desire.

In as much as we want to continue living, and we want to continue living after death, an atheist realizes the only way to do that is the way it's always been done in nature: by producing successful progeny. That should lead directly to a great concern for taking care of our natural and political environment.

I'm not arguing that many religions don't similarly lead to generally decent morality, but so does atheism. At the end of the day, morality is mostly about humans being decent to humans (and, as a result of that or spillover compassion, the environment), and atheism leads as inescapably to that as anything else.
posted by gilrain at 9:58 AM on August 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


It's simply the state of being unpersuaded of the evidence for the existence of a god. That doesn't then lead to any moral or political conclusions that I can see.

Definitely it leads to not wanting what we tend to get by default otherwise...

So while I do think it would certainly be good for America to be a place where a politician could openly declare their atheism and the response would be "so what," I don't see that an organization that tries to promote that end need be an "atheist organization."

Are you entirely blind to the general perception of atheists in america? Here's the first thing that comes up in Google: "Study says religious people distrust atheists as much as rapists".
posted by Chekhovian at 11:26 AM on August 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Does a National Society of Atheists as Jerks actually help that?
posted by Artw at 11:34 AM on August 27, 2012


a National Society of Atheists as Jerks

Should we just turn the other cheek and let the other side define us?
posted by Chekhovian at 11:39 AM on August 27, 2012


If we just reverse the spin on your framing, then it's the state of being convinced that there is no evidence for the existence of god.

No, not at all. What could possibly "convince" me of the nonexistence of evidence I have yet to see? You're buying into what is almost entirely a canard: the notion that "atheist" means someone who denies even the abstract possibility of the existence of God.

And it does lead to certain moral and political conclusions: lack of belief in an afterlife or any supernatural arbiter means that we have to effect any change we desire

"Lack of belief" is not a "moral or political conclusion." And I don't see any practical difference between an atheist's understanding of what "changes" they have to effect in the world and the vast majority of believer's understanding of the same. Sure, you could be a believer who thinks that God will do everything to look after you and consequently you will simply cease to act, but that's not a necessary consequence of belief. Far more common are those who think "God helps those who help themselves" and get on with their lives in much the same way as atheists do.

In as much as we want to continue living, and we want to continue living after death, an atheist realizes the only way to do that is the way it's always been done in nature: by producing successful progeny. That should lead directly to a great concern for taking care of our natural and political environment.

Nonsense. I'm an atheist who has no desire whatsoever to have children. You're simply taking a whole slew of moral assumptions that in no way derive from atheism (e.g., the inherent moral value of continued human life on this planet; the extension of my moral identity into the moral identity of my children etc.) and then imputing them arbitrarily to atheism. You can be a solipsistic atheist (Ayn Rand, again) who thinks "fuck them, I've got mine" with respect to future generations every bit as much as you can be a dedicated environmentalist Christian who believes that the world is God's literal gift to humanity and that we consequently have a religious duty to tend to it. Atheism per se is entirely neutral on these questions.

At the end of the day, morality is mostly about humans being decent to humans (and, as a result of that or spillover compassion, the environment), and atheism leads as inescapably to that as anything else.

And, again, no. Neither religion nor atheism lead "inescapably" to any moral position whatsoever. There have been death-and-destruction fixated religions just as there have been "turn the other cheek" religions. There have been saintly (heh) atheists and nihilistic arsehole atheists. All these positions and every possible gradient between them can be adopted without a hint of logical dissonance.

Atheism is an "is" statement about the nature of universe: you cannot derive moral conclusions ("should" statements) from statements of fact ("is" statements).
posted by yoink at 11:50 AM on August 27, 2012


Are you entirely blind to the general perception of atheists in america?

I'm really struggling to see how you arrive at the assumption underlying that question from the passage you quote. Do you really think that the statement that "it would certainly be good for America to be a place where a politician could openly declare their atheism and the response would be "so what,"" somehow implies that this IS, in fact, the condition that prevails in America?

When people say "it would be good to live in a world without oppression" do you think that they are saying that we do, in fact, live in such a world? Perhaps you simply misread what I wrote?

In any case, no, I am entirely aware that Americans are coo-coo bananas when it comes to atheists and atheism. My argument is about what the best way to address that problem is. I'm not convinced either than National Organizations of Atheists primarily exist for that purpose nor that they are particularly well designed to achieve that purpose.
posted by yoink at 11:56 AM on August 27, 2012


yoink: Nonsense. I'm an atheist who has no desire whatsoever to have children.

Me too! I meant producing successful progeny as a species, not every one of us personally. I assume your morality isn't practiced solely for the benefit of yourself or those alive right now, right? If not, then surely you're practicing it for the sake of future generations? That's what I meant.
posted by gilrain at 12:04 PM on August 27, 2012


My argument is about what the best way to address that problem is. I'm not convinced either than National Organizations of Atheists primarily exist for that purpose nor that they are particularly well designed to achieve that purpose.

Alright. And this is a tough question, I agree. My preference is that we at least have something, rather than nothing. Most of the sentiment in these threads seems to prefer nothing at all...because thats worked so well.

So if you want to complain, fine, but suggest some possible improvements.
posted by Chekhovian at 12:07 PM on August 27, 2012


You know, yoink, for someone who said upthread that he can't see the value in getting together with other like-minded folks to talk about stuff, you sure seem to be into talking about this stuff.
posted by rtha at 12:11 PM on August 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


I feel like I should explain why my first comment in this thread was rather angry.

Watching "a single study found a possible correlation between religious belief and risk aversion and another possible correlation between risk aversion and gender in the particular population examined which could have any of several possible explanations if it's even accurate" somehow transmute into "women are more easily frightened and are therefore afraid of going to hell if they become atheists" seemed to me to exemplify exactly the kind of thing being complained about.
posted by kyrademon at 12:17 PM on August 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


You know, yoink, for someone who said upthread that he can't see the value in getting together with other like-minded folks to talk about stuff, you sure seem to be into talking about this stuff.

What I like about Metafilter is that I get to talk to people who hold quite a wide range of opinions, backgrounds, competencies about quite a wide range of material--you'll notice that in this thread I'm enjoying talking to the people who disagree with me. What I don't see the value of is joining a group who all agree about something when the sole purpose of the group is based on that one thing we agree on.

You might have noticed that one of my consistent themes in Metafilter political discussions is that we're all together too much of an echochamber and far too smugly (and rudely) dismissive of contradictory viewpoints. I think our discussions on those issues would be much more productive if they included a wider range of points of view.

Now, you may say "well, atheists disagree about all sorts of things"--which, obviously, I agree with. But then if they're going to have an argument about--oh, let's say, how to tackle the National Debt--then there's nothing interesting about them being atheists per se in relationship to that discussion.

I enjoy arguing about religion with believers (I really hate the fact that so many people seem to think that this is inherently "impolite"--and opinion quite prevalent on Metafilter, alas). I can't imagine the point of having that discussion with a bunch of atheists though. "Hey, you're right. No, you're right. Notgosh darnit, we ALL right! Aren't we great!"

Me too! I meant producing successful progeny as a species, not every one of us personally. I assume your morality isn't practiced solely for the benefit of yourself or those alive right now, right? If not, then surely you're practicing it for the sake of future generations?

Me personally? Sure, I see moral value in working for the wellbeing of future generations. But that is in no way derived from my atheism, nor can I see any logical path from atheism to such a moral conclusion. Let's say I was an atheist solipsist: "there is no moral code other than to fight to make my brief existence as painless as possible. The pains and pleasures of as yet unborn generations are of no concern to me." Try to find some "logical" reason why my being an atheist makes that moral position untenable. (Please note that I am not suggesting that such solipsism is itself a logical derivation from atheism. It is not. There is simply NO moral position, whatsoever, that can be derived from a postulate about the nonexistence of a god or gods. You cannot derive an "ought" from an "is."

Funnily enough (and this has always struck me as an odd blindspot in most theological argument) this is also true of theism. The existence of God--even a moralistic God who issues moral commands--can in no way serve as a logical basis for why I should obey those commands. This, of course, is why God's commands are always backed up by the threat of violence--an implicit recognition that they have no moral weight, qua commands, at all. God cannot make killing my father moral simply by commanding me to do so, nor can he make it immoral simply by commanding me not to do so. He might frighten me into obeying either command, but doing something because someone forces you on pain of physical suffering is clearly not a moral act by anyone's definition of the word. The existence of non existence of God is irrelevant to our moral positions.
posted by yoink at 12:33 PM on August 27, 2012


Gah: "existence of nonexistence of God" is obviously meant to read "existence OR nonexistence of God." Oh God, why do you afflict me with this plague of typos and the absence of an edit window?
posted by yoink at 12:37 PM on August 27, 2012


yoink: Me personally? Sure, I see moral value in working for the wellbeing of future generations. But that is in no way derived from my atheism, nor can I see any logical path from atheism to such a moral conclusion.

Here is a sample thought process. If the only answer to "what is the purpose of life" is only the evolutionary perspective of "to perpetuate life", then what remains to ask is, "as an intelligent species, how can we best perpetuate life?" Morality is in how you answer that question.

That is obviously very simplistic, but it's just an example. I suspect you'll argue that it is not really derived from atheism, but I argue that it is. The answer a religious person will give you to the question "what is the purpose of life" is something like "to glorify god", in the case of Christianity for example. Again, those two starting probably lead to broadly similar morality, but atheism can be that starting point.

An example of something I consider to be moral which I derived only from my atheism is space exploration. That's because, even if we succeed in caring for this planet better than even the greatest optimist would predict, we will eventually need to inhabit other planets or go extinct trying (along with all known life, at this point). The loss of the perpetuation of life is antithetical to life, and I am life, and therefore I should (broadly; obviously it's a more complicated topic than this) support space exploration.

That's me, though. I'm sure some atheists derive no moral conclusions as a result of their atheism.
posted by gilrain at 12:52 PM on August 27, 2012


What I don't see the value of is joining a group who all agree about something when the sole purpose of the group is based on that one thing we agree on.

That's not the sole purpose of any of the groups I'm aware of. I mean, yeah, there's the "let's get together with people who like the same thing I like!" aspect to it, which in that respect makes it no different from a comics convention or an lgbt conference. A lot of these meetings take place in - let's see, in the last year, Greta's been invited to speak in Ohio, Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska (? not sure about that), Indiana, Missouri, and other places that are hardly hotbeds of liberalism as we know it on the coasts. She talks at a lot of colleges, invited by their various atheist/secular humanist groups. You don't see the value in that?

At the bigger conferences, from what I've heard and read, a whole lot of disagreeing about about stuff happens.

You don't want to go to these. That's fine. No one's going to make you. But your lack of familiarity with what actually happens at them makes your point a lot weaker.
posted by rtha at 12:59 PM on August 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


I can't imagine the point of having that discussion with a bunch of atheists though. "Hey, you're right. No, you're right. Notgosh darnit, we ALL right! Aren't we great!"

Basically all of the atheist discussions that I've ever seen on this site end up as circular firing squads.
posted by Chekhovian at 1:10 PM on August 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


considering that it was apparently a mild surprise to you that not everyone grows up in a secular household and culture, and considering that you apparently have difficulty imagining the value of congenial discussion, you may well have trouble distinguishing between ecrasez l'infame and épater le bourgeois.
dogrose

I just wanted to say that this is why I love MetaFilter. I am way too dumb to ever think up a comeback that (after looking these phrases up) contrasts Voltaire with "a rallying cry for the French Decadent poets of the late 19th century."

I guess I'll stick to my funny cat pictures...
posted by Sangermaine at 1:13 PM on August 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


A “derailment”? No, feminism is a derailment from a much more important topic – atheism. Whining about trolls saying sexist things? Oh, that’s really important.

Do you know what you are? You’re a cunt.
That’s right, you’re a CUNT.


A comment on a friend's blog. My friend is Greta, one of the "entitled, over-reacting pseudo -feminists" Decani mentioned upthread. She gets this kind of thing a lot when she writes about feminism and atheism. But she's just over-reacting, so whatever.
posted by rtha at 4:08 PM on August 27, 2012 [8 favorites]


Nonetheless, you'd have to live locked in a cupboard without internet access these days to actually be unaware that there are many people out there who share your lack of belief.

Not true. Apart from the fact that plenty of people *don't* have reliable internet access, even in developed nations (look into Jessamyn's work on the digital divide), Facebook is turning the internet into a walled garden. If you have net access but not the searching and filtering skills needed to sift through the tons of crap online, it's easier to stick to getting your news and views from what your friends and family post online. The internet certainly makes it easier to find out about atheism, but it's a long way from being sufficient.

What I don't see the value of is joining a group who all agree about something when the sole purpose of the group is based on that one thing we agree on.

I attended an atheist conference, and it was nothing like the echo-chamber you're imagining. There were plenty of heated arguments over tactics and priorities, discussion about whether there was too much focus on specific religions like Christianity and Islam, was the focus on Islam racist or fair-play, and discussion both from the speakers and on the Twitter backchannel when one of the comedy acts made some sexist jokes that fell flat.

I wouldn't want to attend something like that every week, but once a year? Sure, it's fun. I got to debate interesting topics, hear other people's experiences and generally talk freely without having someone lob in a comment that was woefully ignorant about atheism or question my morality. And the food was good too.
posted by harriet vane at 10:39 PM on August 27, 2012 [4 favorites]


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