Salon just woke up and rubbed its eyes and realized it had forgotten to publish an article asking why all the New Atheists are men, so a mere five years late it has now done so.
“New Atheism” is old news. Enter “New, New Atheism”: the next generation, with its more spiritual brand of non-belief, and its ambition to build an atheist church. It is an important moment for the faithless. Will it include women?
Wait wait wait. New, New already? No I don’t think so. We’re really not through with the Old New yet. Also – the atheists I know are not “more spiritual,” nor do they want to build an atheist church. Mostly. Maybe Chris Stedman and James Croft do, a little, sort of, in a way. But mostly, no.
Several years ago, there was discussion of a “woman problem” within the Atheist movement. New high priests of non-faith announced themselves—Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, Peter Singer, A.C. Grayling, Daniel Dennett, etc.—and they were men. And they were angry. Their best-selling works were important and essential. These authors helped reinvigorate the secular cause; they cast off the fog of political correctness to unapologetically lay siege to piety. But before long, these New Atheists were depicted as an old boys’ club—a clique of (white) men, bound by a particularly unyielding brand of disbelief.
Where were the women?
Why, they were right there: stolidly leading people away from the fold. They were irreverent bloggers and institution founders. And scholars. Around the time that the Dawkins–Hitchens–Harris tripartite published its big wave of Atheist critique, historian Jennifer Michael Hecht published “Doubt” and journalist Susan Jacoby published “Freethinkers“—both critically acclaimed. And yet, these women, and many others, failed to emerge as public figures, household names.
It’s complicated. It’s so, so, so complicated. It’s the most complicated thing there is. It’s more complicated than genetics, or the human brain, or quantum physics, or building a bridge.
I kid. It’s not. It’s just laziness and habit and more laziness. And it’s not really true about the not emerging. I mean come on, nobody’s going to be a household name here – household names are people like Justin Bieber, not Richard Dawkins, let alone all the other atheists. But some of those people – those women – are…not household names, but maybe tiny niche names. Hecht and Jacoby certainly are.