A new dawn

Jen’s post about the need for a new wave of atheism is everywhere, and rightly so.

I’ve become used to being called a cunt or having people threaten to contact my employers because a feminist can’t be a good scientist. Rebecca Watson is still receiving constant rape and death threats a year after she said “Guys, don’t do that.” And mentioning her name is a Beetlejuice-like trigger for a new torrent of hate mail.

Groups of people are obsessively devoted to slandering Freethought Blogs as a whole because many of us have feminist leanings. They photoshop things to try to humiliate us, they gain unauthorized access to our private email listserv. And anyone associated with us feminists are fair game. People have tried to destroy Surly Amy’s business, and Justin Vacula has publicly posted her home address with a photo. One blogger who describes their blog as “rejecting the watson/myers doctrine” ridiculed skeptical teen activist (and feminist ally) Rhys Morgan for flunking his exams because he had severe physical and mental illnesses.

Deep rifts, in short. Gnu atheism turns out to have a misogynist faction.

I don’t want good causes like secularism and skepticism to die because they’re infested with people who see issues of equality as mission drift. I want Deep Rifts. I want to be able to truthfully say that I feel safe in this movement. I want the misogynists, racists, homophobes, transphobes, and downright trolls out of the movement for the same reason I wouldn’t invite them over for dinner or to play Mario Kart: because they’re not good people. We throw up billboards claiming we’re Good Without God, but how are we proving that as a movement? Litter clean-ups and blood drives can only say so much when you’re simultaneously threatening your fellow activists with rape and death.

It’s time for a new wave of atheism, just like there were different waves of feminism. I’d argue that it’s already happened before. The “first wave” of atheism were the traditional philosophers, freethinkers, and academics. Then came the second wave of “New Atheists” like Dawkins and Hitchens, whose trademark was their unabashed public criticism of religion. Now it’s time for a third wave – a wave that isn’t just a bunch of “middle-class, white, cisgender, heterosexual, able-bodied men” patting themselves on the back for debunking homeopathy for the 983258th time or thinking up yet another great zinger to use against Young Earth Creationists.

I don’t mind if they pat themselves on the back, really, as long as they don’t bash me in the head while they’re at it. They can be pleased with themselves, but they can’t use me (by which I mean women in general) as a tool to do that. “Part of my extreme greatness is that I’m not a stupid feeble bitchy cunt of a woman.” That’s got to go.

But the reason I’m not throwing my hands up in the air and screaming “I quit” is because we’re already winning. It’s an uphill battle, for sure – in case you’ve forgotten, scroll up and reread this post. But change is coming. Some national organizations accepted anti-harassment policies with no fuss at all. A lot of local or student groups are fabulous when it comes to issues of diversity and social justice. A number of prominent male leaders have begun speaking out against this surge of hate directed at women. I’m working with others to hopefully start an atheist/skeptical organization specifically focused on issues of equality. And although the response from the haters is getting louder and viler, they’re now vastly outnumbered by supportive comments (which wasn’t always true). This surge of hate is nothing more than the last gasp of a faction that has reached its end.

And the comments on Jen’s post were overwhelmingly favorable – much to her surprise.

There is reason for optimism.


  1. carlie says

    The comment section is what’s amazing me. Maybe all the MRA jerks are off at their own conference or something this weekend and not noticing the internet, but the amount of pushback so far is pretty light. It seems to have really “struck a nerve” in a good way, in that so many people are saying that the post grabs everything they’ve been feeling and wanting about atheism and brings it into the open.

  2. soul_biscuit, attorney at LOL says

    The comment section is what’s amazing me.

    It’s quite encouraging. Jen seems to affect the misogyny wing like blood in a shark pool, but there’s been hardly a peep.

  3. Emptyell says

    I was struck by the volume of delurkers coming out to add their support and express their relief that they may actually be able to feel safe and comfortable in the atheist community.

    Thanks for all you’ve done as well Ophelia. It’s altogether very encouraging.

  4. says

    carlie – ha! No, the jerks are not all off at their weekend getaway cabins. Michael Kingsford Gray, for instance, is Still Active:

    August 19, 2012 at 12:08 am
    Maybe if Rhys had chosen to study instead of joining a toxic cult.
    The Church of Saint Beccy.
    HE chose to go down this path, despite multiple warnings against such an action.
    HE must take his medicine.
    Being “only” 17 is no excuse for not taking one’s lumps for poor decision-making!
    Anyone who says that it does excuse him, is living in cloud-cuckoo-land.

    That’s from that ElevatorGATE post taunting Rhys for failing his exams. They warned him, you see, and he wouldn’t listen, so it’s perfectly all right that they taunt him!


  5. Tony •King of the Hellmouth• says


    And the comments on Jen’s post were overwhelmingly favorable – much to her surprise.

    I hate that that’s something to be surprised over (I too was surprised). Perhaps social justice will get to the point that it will be surprising when MRAs and anti-feminists come forth, rather than being expected.

  6. Sally Strange says

    I think the reason there’s so little pushback in the comments on Jen’s post is that it’s just so damned GOOD, there’s pretty much no way to argue with it without revealing yourself as a devoted, enthusiastic, unabashed bigot.

  7. Midnight Rambler says

    there’s pretty much no way to argue with it without revealing yourself as a devoted, enthusiastic, unabashed bigot.

    That’s never stopped them before.

  8. carlie says

    There’s an elevatorgate blog???

    Of course there is.

    I think there’s room for many catchy phrases!

  9. myriadwords says

    Emptyell, that’s certainly part of why I finally delurked today. Reading Jen’s posts and seeing the overwhelming support has been wonderful – these issues are why I’ve been following the atheist/skeptic community in the first place. I’m personally invested in the places where atheism and skepticism intersect with social issues, and the vitriol is discouraging.

    It’s not enough to just address bad science or religious claims. I appreciate and value bloggers like Jen and Ophelia who go beyond, and I’m looking forward to seeing where things go from here.

  10. Stacy says

    Though I like Pteryxx’s “A+” logo idea, perhaps we should just take it as axiomatic that we’re the atheist movement, and the MRAs/sexists are the outliers who need to “go their own way”–straight into oblivion.

  11. callistacat says

    I noticed this tweet to Jennifer: “@TheOtherAtheist: Oh,so your post was not about atheism at all.Just pretence to inject your fembot angle.”

    Can someone please please explain to me why sexism/misogyny is called out when done by Christians, Muslims, Mormons, etc. but it’s suddenly controversial and evil to talk about when it’s outside religion? Why am I applauded when I say Christianity is sexist but called a fembot/femistasi/feminazi oppressor when the same behavior is displayed by the nonreligious?

  12. Sally Strange says

    Expecting support from Straight White Atheist Dude (SWAD*) is divisive, callistacat. Not everybody wants to support equality for women or people of color or transgender, gay, and lesbian people, and we wouldn’t want to aienate them.

    Expecting support from women and minorities for issues that SWADs affect directly is solidarity! Because those issues are universal!

    Hey, why are there so many SWADs around here?

    *Not to be confused with a SNAG, or Sensitive New Age Guy.

  13. Rieux says


    Gnu atheism turns out to have a misogynist faction.

    Do you think it’s just gnus? I’m not convinced about that; there’s some overlap with folks who want to keep skepticism pure from lowly atheism, isn’t there? And, for example, Stangroom isn’t exactly gnu….

    And Stacy:

    [P]erhaps we should just take it as axiomatic that we’re the atheist movement, and the MRAs/sexists are the outliers who need to “go their own way”–straight into oblivion.

    Oh, absolutely. This is (as Jen put it) a wave, not a splinter—a reformation, not a schism.

  14. Sally Strange says

    Michael Kingsford Grey

    Michael Kingsford Gray, straight up lying:

    Says the person who cheered, & encouraged with glee, his Saint Rebecca when he heard that she was relentlessly & systematically abusing and hazing a (purposely chosen as female) volunteer solely for her narcissistic pathological amusement!
    Fucking Hypocrite.
    I don’t know how you can live with yourself after that shameful display of true misogyny.

    I hadn’t seen that particular fabrication in a while. Does anyone have a link to when RW talked about it? I distinctly recall watching video of her explaining the prank. This shit would be hilarious if they weren’t so sincere.

  15. callistacat says

    @Sally Strange
    But my experience is that SWAD’s will totally agree with you when the people who are putting down women’s rights, GLBQT rights or are espousing racist views are Christians or Islamists or Mormons or Scientologists. I mean, just try it. Point out sexism by the Christian Right or Mormons to those people who despise Skepchicks or other female atheist/feminist bloggers and they will agree it’s horrible. (And will ask why on Earth would any woman belong to these religions when they treat them like second-class citizens).

    When I used to post to the Richard Dawkins forum I had a quote at the end of each post that said “I had explained that a woman’s asking for equality in the church would be comparable to a black person’s demanding equality in the Ku Klux Klan,” and everyone thought it was an awesome quote. (They didn’t know I was quoting a radical feminist theologian and philosopher Mary Daly. 😉


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