I sicced you on this poll to identify the most vocal atheist of 2009: don’t be surprised, I won. Of course, the real problem there was that the winner was determined in an open online poll — if it had been a poll to determine the most vocal Christian of the year, I also would have smashed into it hard.
Now try something a little less biased: a poll to determine the most influential female atheist. My name is not on it, so I’m safe from messing this one up.
Ophelia Benson 7% (76 votes)
Greta Christina 21% (237 votes)
Annie Laurie Gaylor 6% (68 votes)
Tracie Harris & Jen Peeples 3% (29 votes)
Sikivu Hutchinson <1% (2 votes)
Susan Jacoby 2% (26 votes)
Lyz Liddell 1% (12 votes)
Heather MacDonald 1% (6 votes)
Amanda Marcotte 1% (10 votes)
Melissa McEwan <1% (3 votes)
Ashley Paramore 1% (8 votes)
“Surly” Amy Davis Roth 4% (51 votes)
Eugenie Scott 13% (145 votes)
Ariane Sherine 16% (184 votes)
Julia Sweeney 9% (99 votes)
Rebecca Watson 14% (160 votes)
Other (say who in comments) 2% (19 votes)
Oh, no! There’s an “other”! Don’t write my name in!
What’s really interesting here is how easy it is to make a long list of female atheists…and note that people in the comments are already mentioning all the women who were left out. Maybe this list ought to be shared around to various godless conference organizers as a little hint…
All right, people…you’re writing my name in. Stop it, or Jen is going to make me send her a photo of me. In a dress. While I could pull that off when I was 18, I don’t think it will work any more.
Mmm… the only name I recognize is Eugenie Scott.
Tracie Harris & Jen Peeple
Nevermind… I was blind. Yay Atheist Experience!
If I could see a panel with Greta Christina, Ophelia Benson, Melissa McEwan, and Julia Sweeney, I think I would die of the awesomeness.
Although others might have contributed more intellectually, I think it has to be Ariane Sherine for getting the Atheist Bus Campaign talked about (and imitated) all over the world.
Patricia Queen of Sluts, OM says
It’s hard to believe Annie Laurie Gaylor doesn’t rate much higher than 6%.
I wonder how many will write in Madalyn Murray-O’Hair, despite the fact that she’s been dead for 15 years…
I voted Eugenie Scott, I’m a big fan of hers.
I’m surprised that ZOMGItsCriss isn’t on the list. She is always engaging, and posits novel arguments that I have never heard elsewhere.
As well as being quite the hottie.
Take a look: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fmHN3JtyUXg&feature=channel
She would get my vote for “other”
Sometimes, the random quote is appropriate.
(I voted for Annie Laurie Gaylor, though I was tempted to write in Madalyn Murray O’Hair.)
'Tis Himself, OM says
Unfortunately I’ve heard of only a few of the women on the list. Perhaps I should get out more.
I haven’t voted yet, since I know very few of those people. I can’t decide if that means they’re just not vocal enough, or if it’s me (I think the latter).
Tabby Lavalamp says
I stopped being a fan when she went on an anti-feminist rant based on the worst stereotypes of feminists. Because, you know, feminism has never done anything for her…
Ken Cope says
“Looking forward, I see evidence of a conflict more severe than any yet fought by reformation or science; a conflict that will shake the foundations of religious belief, tear into fragments and scatter to the winds the old dogmas upon which all forms of Christianity are based. It will not be the conflict of man with man upon rites and systems; it will not be the conflict of science upon church theories regarding creation and eternity; it will not be the light of biology illuminating the hypothesis of the resurrection of the body; but it will be the rebellion of one half of the church against those theological dogmas upon which the very existence of the church is based. In no other country has the conflict between natural and revealed rights been as pronounced as in the United States; and in this country where the conflict first began, we shall see its full and final development. During the ages, no rebellion has been of like importance with that of Woman against the tyranny of Church and State; none has had its far reaching effects. We note its beginning, its progress will overthrow every existing form of these institutions; its end will be a regenerated world. The End.” –Matilda Joslyn Gage, in Woman, Church and State
I’ve voted for Ayaan Hirsi Ali, I’m surprised that her name was omitted from the list.
I’m ashamed to say I’d only heard of about three of the nominees. I see a long period of googling ahead of me to familiarise myself with these women.
Excuse me, PZ, your hubris is showing . . . “if it had been a poll to determine the most vocal Christian of the year, I also would have smashed into it hard.”
Ken Cope says
PZ, your hubris is showing
That’s not hubris, that’s a track record. Online polls are for breaking, er, pharyngulating.
Laci Green @ http://www.youtube.com/user/gogreen18 deserves a mention, & probably appeals to the younger folk. One of my daughters is a fan of Laci.
Whore of All the Earth says
I think Jen deserves a huge round of applause for organizing and conducting the poll.
Abigail is not on the list!! You can’t get much more vocal than her :)
#4 is right. It has to be Ariane Sherine. Imagine the world without the Atheist Bus Campaign? Okaaaay, it has to be the world with everything otherwise religiously similar to ours, except without the Atheist Bus Campaign.
Can you do that?
Case closed. Vote for her.
Pierce R. Butler says
Patricia Queen of Sluts, OM says
Too bad they don’t have a Most Vocal Christian Debating Team of the year award. No body makes sweet baby jebus cry more than we do. *evil smirk*
I can’t believe that Ruth Hurmence Green, author of The Born Again Skeptic’s Guide To The Bible is not mentioned at all…I heard an interview from a movie about athiests from her that was absolutely fabulous…she’s not around any more, but she was one of the earliest critics of the angry, nasty god who is at the heart of the “Christian” bible…
Why is Abby Smith (ERV) not on the list? She is not only a vocal atheist but she’s demystifying the research environment and its my feeling that she’s influencing people outside of the scientific community. She behaves like a real person instead of a science snob. I like her more than any of the others on that list.
I was very tempted to vote for Emma Goldman or Lucy Parsons, yet 2009 is a bit off from their days. So I had to vote Eugenie Scott. She has done some very important work trying to combat the creaotard/IDiots among us. For that, she has my undying respect and love. For being not only fun to listen to, but a serious no nonsense defender of science, EUGENIE SCOTT FTW!!!
No Gods, No Masters
Michelle B says
Here’s a Google list of her writings:
Given her writing, shouldn’t Karen Armstrong be listed?
That was hard. I complicated it by voting not for the person I thought most well-known, but the one whose writings have influenced me the most this year.
That brought it down between Ophelia Benson and Greta Christina, and then I still couldn’t decide. I saw Greta had more votes, so voted for Ophelia, because she evidently needs more shout out. Besides, I have 3 of her books. All excellent.
But yes. I want them on the same panel. One of the things I love about both Benson and Christina is that they specifically address the fuzzy-smuzzy spiritual middle, and do it very well indeed. They know the feel-good lingo, the emotional appeals, the sly misdirections of the smug, so-called liberals and moderates. Reading Ophelia Benson rip into Karen Armstrong makes me crave buttered popcorn.
Tulse #28 wrote:
Only if we want to vote for someone whose influence has been negative She’s one of the worst of the “faitheists,” because she doesn’t even bother with prefacing with “I’m an atheist but …” before she slams into atheism.
No, she’s deeply, deeply spiritual, and loves God even better because it’s a symbol that points to transcendence. She thinks the real problem isn’t people of faith who misunderstand God (though that’s bad enough); no, it’s the atheists who just don’t realize how incredibly beautiful faith is, and how we need it to be fully human and compassionate. No vote from me.
I ended up casting my lot with Benson as well, since I see her on WEIT all the time. (I still say that Sastra should get a blog.)
I voted for the wonderful Eugenie Scott, who is also the only one on the list who I am familiar with.
“Given her writing, shouldn’t Karen Armstrong be listed?” !?! LOL!
As Sastra said, it’s hard to define “influential”. If you want to talk sheer visibility, it has to be Ariane Sherine. If it’s making atheism accessible and funny and feel-good, it’s Julia Sweeney. If it’s making you think and think hard about how your views color all aspects of life, it’s Melissa McEwan. If it’s making you think about philosophy of atheism, it’s Greta Christina. If it’s influence in thinking critically, it’s Ophelia Benson. And etc. and so forth. Influence is such a broad category.
Yep. She threw people like me under the bus to appeal to the doodz. A dick move, motivated by ignorance I think. I was going to write in ERV, but I guess she’s not vocal enough? Yeah, I think I’ll still write her in.
Sounds like I need to read Benson though.
I voted for all of them (kidding) but Jen deserves a position on that list for compiling the poll and doing the hard work to promote female atheists to try to correct the PERCEIVED gender bias towards male atheists.
I am pleased to say that I am familiar with the work of 75% of the women on that poll ( just a reflection of my own reading habits) and now I am keen to pursue reading the work of the others. I am certain others will follow suit.
I am disturbed that PZ has tagged this post under “pointless polls”. This poll is most definitely not pointless. Any post that highlights the work of female atheists and encourages others to read up on them, follow their blogs and join in the discussions etc is to be highly recommended. Well done Jen!
Is Eugenie Scott an atheist? I’ve never heard her describe her own beliefs; she usually makes a point of refusing to discuss them.
Being an anti-creationist and being an atheist are not the same thing, and the NCSE does a lot of outreach to religious groups and individuals.
Too late! I saw this poll yesterday and I’m proud to say I wrote you in. Consider yourself an honorary woman, at least for the purposes of this poll.
You OWN online polls. You have to win. It’s the law.
The whole point of pharengulating polls is that internet polls are pointless. Just because this poll is about important influential atheist women doesn’t mean that it is any more of a valid indicator of that women’s importance in the community. It’s more to give kudos to those that are on the list (or should have been) as well as to highlight their work.
Ophelia Benson is down to 6% of the vote. Apparently, not enough of you read Butterflies & Wheels. http://www.butterfliesandwheels.com/ (She’s the editor of the newsletter.)
It’s worthwhile for rationalists to sign up for it – plenty of interesting links.
Tumara Baap says
There are many eloquent female atheists. But the ability to stoke existing atheists may not necessarily align with a gift for illuminating the minds of non-believers. The latter is infinitely more difficult.
From a strategic vantage, freethinkers are underplaying their illustrious heritage in bringing about just about every aspect of modernity. Our mark on history, ethics and modern government is to be reckoned with. Atheists have every reason to showcase their moral superiority. Most Americans today uphold values on women and child rights, and equality and fairness that were consistently championed by atheists for generations and considered too outlandish by the lay public. Freethinkers soldiered on. For their efforts they were heckled, insulted, had their kids beaten up at school, and so forth. It’s a riveting account of fortitude that even die-hard atheists are not fully versed on. Susan Jacoby and Jeniffer Michael Hecht are not just female fountainheads of secular ethics and narrative. They are some of the most invaluable atheists… period!
Unfortunately I voted with the little head.
“She’s so HIGGGGGGGHHHH above me, she’s so lovely;
She’s so HIIIIIIIIIIIIIIGGGGGGGHHHHH above me, like Cleopatra, or Joan of Arc, or ARIANE.”
@deep # 39
I beg to differ. I don’t think internet polls are pointless. But hey, I may be missing the point ;-)
ps I also voted for Benson.
Meh, as feminist I can only look down on such a poll, like it matters whether you’re female or male on such matters.
Cath the Canberra Cook says
Oh no, here we go. As a feminist I can only look down on anon’s comment, since he (I assume the troll is a he) is too stupid to understand that it’s about public perceptions, where being female is a major disadvantage.
I don’t think it’s supposed to matter. There was a poll that came out recently that had no women on it, so this is a parallel poll listing several prominent women atheists. And just judging by the comments here it’s doing its job, which is to highlight authors/activists that a lot of people would like to know about but hadn’t been exposed to yet.
Dang, that’s a tough one – but how can I vote fairly if I’m not familiar with the work of the others? Rebecca, Julia, Ophelia are all awesome. I think I’ll vote for Ophelia for getting stuck into that acme of unscientific, “Unscientific America”. I no longer visit the Kwok-McCarthy blog; one thing which really annoyed me is that so soon after making the grandiose claim “we know what’s wrong and we know how to fix it, but that’s our secret”, Kirschenbaum writes out ill-informed scare pieces like that “Oh no! Cancer is on the rise in my hometown!” piece which shows up Kirschenbaum’s lack of understanding of very basic statistics. As with the “Unsci. Am.” debacle, commenters pointed out the fallacies and were duly ignored.
Russell Blackford says
It would also be nice if these lists were not so US-centric. It seems that it’s okay to have a token person from the UK, such as Ariane Sherine, but the general idea is evidently that “influential” means “influential in the US”.
I’m sure there are female atheists in India, for example, with bigger audiences and more impact than most of these people. Sumitra Padmanabhan, for a start.
Closer to (my) home, Catherine Deveny is a very outspoken atheist who has best-selling books, her own mainstream radio program, a column in a mainstream newspaper, and continual mainstream media presence in many other forums here in Australia. She should be ranked above almost any of these people. But because she’s not well-known in America she evidently doesn’t exist.
After a while, this sort of thing becomes annoying.
Pete Moulton says
I had to write in Margaret Downey because, well, you know…
Ariane is more than a token!
She launched the first atheist bus, and followed up with the Atheist’s Guide to Christmas. She’s funny and charming and totally deserved my vote.
and she had people dancing the thriller dance in London during oneforall
Another vote for Ariane Sherine here. Mainly because (as a Brit) I haven’t really heard too much of the others. Apart from Eugnie Scott. And the Atheist Experience crew…!
Seriously, you’re going to have to explain that one a bit better.
I’ve not only heard of them, I follow most of them and read/buy their blogs/books/articles/shows, so this is going to be a difficult choice. My inclination is always to vote for whoever makes me laugh the hardest, so it may end up being Sweeney. She’s also probably the one I’ve turned the most people on to (I’m surrounded by reluctant Catholics on the brink).
Thank you! I’d certainly make an effort to attend more godless conferences if their organizers took that hint.
Does any feminist actually start a statement with “As a feminist” or is my troll-ometer just getting touchy? Sounds a bit like, “As an atheist I would have to [insert horrible thing here] because [insert vaguely troubling insight in to psychological state here].” Anyway I ended up voting for Sherine because to me the bus campaign is pretty much as visible as visible gets :P
Great. Now you’ve done it. I tried to take this poll seriously, but noooooooo you just had to go and put that up next to the penis fencing, didn’t you?
I’m a bit ashamed to admit that I don’t know who most of them are. Sweeney being the one I know best. But, I’ll look into it.
Btw, a dress picture should be hilarious.
You can do it, PZ! You’ll just have to shave first.
Riman Butterbur says
I expect the most influential may be one nobody has heard of, because she’s been too busy exerting her influence to get in the limelight.
I vote for Janine, She Wolf Of Pharyngula !!!
Wink, wink, nudge, nudge.
John Frum says
For all that don’t recognize Rebecca Watson you need to listen to the Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe.
Do it now. You won’t be sorry.
I’m not sure which is more intriguing: How Jen makes Little Pee Zed do it, or (assuming she succeeds) What Little Pee Zed then looks like. On the other hand, I’m not entirely certain I want to see pictures of either the convincing or the result…
I wonder if PZ will dare to tackle this poll:
came across this through twitter. apparently the top contenders are using their followers to win it.
@JerryM. I think Stephen Fry should win that one.
pale beige blob says
I concur with Michelle B,
Check out her articles,well worth the time.
PZ goes all in to get the vote
I also voted for two others that I like but only because it is possible to vote for more than one in that poll.
Tom S. Fox says
I voted for Eugenie Scott because that’s the only one I know.
It was between Ophelia and Ariane. ‘Does God Hate Women?’ is outstanding.
Ophelia Benson says
And even with all that mentioning, there are still Katha Pollitt and Polly Toynbee and Wendy Kaminer and Joan Smith – all great columnists and all energetic atheists.
I vote for SC, OM, that one will make fire under your butts, if you let her become influential..:-)
And I second Russell Blackford’s notion that even american atheists on american blogs could at least attempt to see beyong their horizon and recognize non-american atheists as also valuable and worth noticing.
I know, it’s an american disease, but resistance to organized religion is a global movement, so american atheists should wake up to that fact. PZ has done so a long time ago.
Sven DiMilo says
Fuck you, Quidam.
I will never be able to un-see that (@#67).
Isn’t that comedian who was Jimmy Kimmel’s girfriend an atheist? Can’t remember her name but I would remember it if I heard it, unlike all but two of the names on this list (E.Scott and Sweeney).
I vote for Lisa Simpson of “The Simpsons”.
Pluck them out, pluck them out!
Why the Devil isn’t Ayaan Hirsi Ali on here? Or is it that, if she’s on a poll like this, the poll’s pointless?
Quagmire, you are referring to Sara Silverman, who I’ve heard is broken up with Kimmel. She is culturally Jewish, and brigs that into her humor frequently, but I’m almost sure she is also atheist. She pretty much rips into all religions, her culture’s religion included.
Winnipeg in January? I know you think Morris is cold, but the only big city colder than Winnipeg is Karhide in Le Guin’s Left Hand of Darkness. BRRRRRR
My vote is for Jodie Foster.
Carrie Poppy says
Julia Sweeney! My professional idol.
Hemant has a poll that PZ is on…
Ehm, yeah :
Sell the Vatican
I’ve been under the impression that there are, in general, fewer women atheists than men. I don’t know why. I’m the only atheist in my family, period the end of it, let alone looking at the gender aspect. But, I’ve found a lot lately since going looking on the web, and I’m very relieved (being a woman myself). I did not know that there were so many prominent women atheists. Great post. I’m busy looking them all up!
Natalie Angier, Dava Sobel, Elizabeth Kolbert. Because you scientists already understand it, but somebody needs to explain it to the rest of us.