Good news!

The reason we get so much resistance within the atheist community is that atheism is changing.

More and more, the strongest atheist voices are talking about nonbelief less as an end in itself, but as part of a larger conversation about social justice. It could hardly be any other way: atheism is growing not only in numbers, but in diversity. When Dawkins, Harris and Hitchens were at their most prominent, a frequent (and credible) criticism was that the faces of atheism were all white, male and affluent. To make the same claim now is to deliberately ignore some of the most vital atheist and skeptic voices that have emerged in the last 10 years.

Read the whole thing — I’m happy to see that several of the “most vital atheist and skeptic voices” are right here at Freethoughtblogs.


  1. chigau (違う) says

    From the article:

    But in 2014, Hitchens is dead, and using Dawkins or Harris to make a case for or against atheism is about as relevant as writing about how Nirvana and Public Enemy are going to change pop music forever.

    And then there are the comments…

  2. raven says

    I’m happy to see that several of the “most vital atheist and skeptic voices” are right here at Freethoughtblogs.


    1. The public forum or square or town meeting today is…the internet. It’s a pervasive fact of just about everyone’s life.

    FTBs is a the leading No Religion site. When it went down a few days recently due to a DDOS attack, it became obvious. OMICthulhu, now who is going to push the fundie xian Orcs back!!!

    There really isn’t any others. I looked at Patheos and it had a fraction of the traffic and content of FTB’s.

    2. The fundie xians.Tea Party are led by weird, angry, old white men. In the long term that is a problem for them. The vast majority of Americans aren’t…angry, weird, old, white, and male. And old men are well on their way to being…dead men from simple biology.

    A robust mass movement needs to incorporate and appeal to the majority, who are female and increasingly nonwhite. The USA is on trend to go majority nonwhite in 2043.

  3. says

    For someone who’s often felt dispirited, that article is a heart-warmer.

    (As for comments, the Print View does a good job of trimming the superfluous chaff from the page.)

  4. dickspringer says

    Not all “weird, angry, old white men ” are Tea Party leaders. I am angry, weird, old, white, and male and an atheist leaning toward the left end of the political spectrum. There is certainly a lot to be angry about and I cannot change my other attributes. I have never liked white bread and am glad that the complexion of the country is changing to represent more of the world than just northern Europe.

  5. carlie says

    I want to go yell every sentence of that entire piece at everyone I see. It’s really fantastic.

    for anybody who says, well , talking about female issues or talking about issues that impact black people, oh, that’s taking away from skepticism, I go, well that’s really easy for you to say. This is my life. I can’t divorce the issues. You can choose to not care about them or whatever, but don’t tell me I’m diminishing skepticism because I’m talking about the reality of what my life is.”

  6. Alex says


    Erm, I don’t think anyone claims that all, or even a significant fraction of old angry white men are tea party leaders. What was your point again?

  7. says

    The four horsemen are dead. Long live the herd!

    The increase in diversity isn’t happening quietly or easily, and it’s often brought out the ugliest sides of people who base their entire identities on being rational and humane.

    Except that on diversity issues they are not rational or humane. They are only rational and human on particular things. These “ugly sides” are often quite irrational and inhumane.

    But such a narrow focus also means that atheist and skeptic groups have a history of looking at these issues in isolation, without considering how race, gender, or class play into them. That isolation has been one of the great limiting factors in the growth of movement atheism. Too many activists and groups trapped themselves in rhetorical Möbius strips, where their conferences and literature were dominated either by debunking the same pseudoscience over and over again, or fighting cases of church-state intrusion that were more relevant as abstract principles.

    This. Ignoring the structural reasons why people become atheists and skeptics is unhealthy to growing a movement. One of the reasons that skepticism is so useful is that it drills into the structural reasons for why an irrational person believes what they do and why they want to force it on everyone else, or why it’s dangerous for society even when they don’t want to force other people. So why would it not be useful to drill into and accommodate the reasons why people become atheists and skeptics?

    If Dawkins, Hitchens and Harris brought a single essential insight to modern atheism, it was the idea that atheists could and should be unapologetic about their disbelief.

    And in a nice bit of moral symmetry we get to be unapologetic about wanting to include diversity and social justice. It’s hard to be unapologetic about X and insist that others should not be unapologetic about Y.

    What made me ultimately accept my atheism as an identity is that about the same time I began to fall away from Christianity, I began to be concerned about social justice. Atheism appealed not only as a logical conclusion, but as a more humane and just way of living. To make ethical decisions without the revelations from a deity means that the responsibility for those decisions ends with you, and no one else. Even more importantly, when you accept that there is no world beyond this one, you have to turn your eyes away from the sky and look at the people around you.

    My journey as well.

  8. says

    As the author, it’s really gratifying to wake up first thing in the morning and find my piece linked here on Pharyngula. It was a really intense piece to write, and in the end, the frustrating thing was that even though I went 800 words over my original target, it still feels like I just scratched the surface. Partly that’s a good thing, because there’s a lot more diversity growing in atheism than I could hope to cover. I’m not one to be overly optimistic, but even though much of the abuse hurled at the Skepchicks, or Greta, or Ophelia makes me despair for humanity as a whole, I think it’s far too late to go back to the time when atheism was dominated entirely by a handful of aristocratic white guys. It’s becoming increasingly obvious to more people that you can’t just compartmentalize your atheism and refuse to see racism, sexism, and homophobia. Not if you expect it to mean anything, that is.

  9. says

    It was really satisfying to do, partly inspired by reading one too many Salon articles attacking atheism because of something Hitchens said five years ago. I’m glad you liked it.

  10. says

    Yeah, really good read. Thank you, Chris Hall.

    And then there are the comments…

    Pitchguest showed up to warn me that if I was going to be belligerent, I should expect people to be belligerent back.

    So helpful! I can tell he really cares about me.

  11. says

    And the Slymepitters were so sure that progressive atheism, of the A+-ish (not necessarily by name) sort, would die off and they would be the “winners”.

  12. says

    SallyStrange @11:

    Pitchguest showed up

    I greet this news with the same joy as I would the statement “Bubonic plague broke out”. Except that I can’t really get mad at Yersinia pestis, it doesn’t know any better.

  13. says

    Ah Pitchguest. What an amusingly group-think oriented person (amusing to me anyway). He has no idea how much he lets social relationships determine his opinions and behavior instead of actual information and arguments. That’s some school-yard level politics right there.

  14. mikeyb says

    The truth is atheist women have been here all along all through history if anyone bothers to look. The same patriarchal structures in all societies have also been in effect in atheist/skeptical groups, so it’s predictable that they have had less opportunities for their viewpoints to be expressed to a wider audience. Of course, any woman will say – Duh. One would expect that atheism would have more natural appeal with women anyway since the patriarchal institutional structures of religion have to put it mildly been disproportionately discriminatory towards women. You find patriarchal structures in almost all religions even relatively peaceful and less dogmatic ones like Buddhism and Jainism. Similar things could be said about minority and gay voices, since religion seems to foster ideologies favorable to the dominant ethnic groups as well.

  15. P. Zimmerle says

    The first two people I think of when I think atheist are often Hemant Mehta and Rebecca Watson, and not necessarily in that order.

    Hirsi Ali, Edamaruku, Simon Singh, Heina, Greta Christina, Eugenie Scott…

    I wish these people had the same level of media presence that is enjoyed by people like the excellent Tim Minchin or Daniel Dennett or the rather less excellent Richard Dawkins and Bill Maher. It ain’t fair.