For years I’ve been an enthusiastic cheerleader for the atheist movement, and I still am. I think it’s important for humanity to move beyond this childish and destructive crutch of superstition.
But at the same time I find myself constantly dismayed at the difficulty of moving atheism beyond the same old cliques, of making it a human movement rather than a well-off white guys’ movement. And why we can’t find room for good atheists like Melissa McEwan, who left her patriarchal church.
More than a decade later, I found movement atheism online. I was never one to evangelize my lack of god-belief, nor broadcast hatred of religion or its adherents, so that part of the movement was not a draw. But I did fancy the possibility of community around something that has been an axis of marginalization for me in some parts of my life.
I found the same inequality, manifesting in different ways.
There were precious few visible atheist leaders: The most prominent male atheists were very enamored with one another, and not particularly inclined to offer the same support to women, via recommended links and highlighted quotes and inclusion in digital salons about Important Ideas. They wondered aloud where all the female atheists are, and women would pipe up—"Here! Here we are! We’re right here!"—only to then go back to the status quo, with explicit or implicit messaging that women just weren’t working as hard as they are, just aren’t as smart as they are, or else they’d be leaders, too.
There was the exclusion from conferences, the sexist posts, the sexual harassment, the appropriation of religious and irreligious women’s lived experiences to Score Points and the obdurate not listening to those women when they protested.
In fact, female atheists’ protests were greeted much the same way with which my protests had been met in my patriarchal church. Silencing. Demeaning. Threats.
Read the whole thing. But I have to say that the closing paragraph is a real punch in the gut.
I would say I felt exactly as welcome in movement atheism as I did at my Missouri Synod Lutheran Church, but that would be a lie. No one at St. Peter’s ever called me a stupid cunt because I disagreed with them.
We will fail if we can’t change this.
What can I do better?