Sam Harris is just factually wrong. Globally, there is no gender split in atheism. Globally, women and men are religious, not religious, and convinced atheists at about the same rate. In fact, globally, women are slightly more likely to be atheists than men (although that difference is small, probably too small to be significant).
In case you haven’t already heard this: Sam Harris recently gave an interview to the Washington Post. When asked why the vast majority of atheists — and many of those who buy his books — are male, he said this:
“I think it may have to do with my person slant as an author, being very critical of bad ideas. This can sound very angry to people..People just don’t like to have their ideas criticized. There’s something about that critical posture that is to some degree instrinsically male and more attractive to guys than to women,” he said. “The atheist variable just has this – it doesn’t obviously have this nurturing, coherence-building extra estrogen vibe that you would want by default if you wanted to attract as many women as men.”
There are a lot of possible responses to this. The first one that springs to my mind, and to many people’s minds, is, “Fuck you, you sexist, patronizing asshole. You think women don’t take a critical posture? Come talk to some women in the atheist movement, and we will give you an earful of our critical posture.” The second response that springs to my mind, and to many people’s minds, is, “Do you think that maybe — just maybe — the fact that not that many women read your books might have something to do with the fact that you say horrible sexist bullshit like this, and we’re sick of it, and we don’t want to hear it, or anything else from you, ever again?” And the third response, from me in particular, is, “Do you seriously not know that the person who literally wrote the book on angry atheism — Why Are You Atheists So Angry? 99 Things That Piss Off the Godless — is me, a woman? Have you seen the cover art for that book? Would you really not describe the woman standing on the soapbox labeled ‘REASON’ with her fist in the air as, quite literally, a critical posture?”
But it’s also very, very important to say this, since it’s something that even a lot of feminist atheists don’t know: The gender split in atheism is not universal. It seems to be an American phenomenon. It may exist in some other countries as well — but globally, women and men are religious, not religious, and convinced atheists at about the same rate. According to the WIN-Gallup International “Global Index of Religiosity and Atheism 2012,” August 6, 2012 (PDF, Table 8, page 20 of 25), when asked, “Irrespective of whether you attend a place of worship or not, would you say you are a religious person, not a religious person or a convinced atheist?”, 60% of men and 57% of women said “A religious person.” 23% of men and 23% of women said, “Not a religious person.” 12% of men and 14% of women said “A convinced atheist.” (“Don’t know/no response” got 5% from men and 6% from women.) [Read more...]