Is there an atheist “movement”, and is it afflicted with toxic misogyny?

My answer to both questions above would be “no”. Although there are atheist conventions, groups, and websites (this isn’t one: I am a nonbeliever and write about it, but deal with many things other than godlessness), I don’t think of myself as part of an atheist “movement”, and I doubt that many readers do, too. And if there isn’t an atheist movement, then we don’t have to worry that it’s been “destroyed” by misogyny.

But if there is such a movement, has it been wrecked by “haters”: misogynists and harassers who have driven women, humanists, and all reasonable people away from atheism?

Salon has repeatedly dealt with both of these questions, bringing up the same tropes again and again to give an answer of “yes” to both questions. They’re particularly fixated on Sam Harris, but will take a shot at any prominent atheist if they can. This is also happening at some atheist blogs that I don’t need to name.

Now it’s surely true that many nonbelievers are sexists and misogynists. It has to be that way, because there’s no logical link between not believing in gods and seeing women as moral and social equals. A certain proportion of men will be sexists no matter who they are. I also happen to believe that the general increase in secularism and well being, documented in Pinker’s Better Angels of our Nature, will eventually displace religion, for we know that a higher societal well being produces less need for religion. In that way there is a connection between atheism and humanism, but it’s one based on historical inertia, not definitions.

Still, I’ve been to a fair number of atheist meetings, and know a lot of nonbelievers, and I don’t see them as raving misogynists, or that the incidence of sexism among them is higher than among the general populace. In fact, I’d say it was lower. That’s just my impression, but mine is at least as good as Alex Nichols, author of the piece under consideration (see below).

But the argument for the Death of Atheism by Sexism doesn’t proceed by statistics: it proceeds by anecdotes. All you have to do is find some nonbelievers who are jerks (and there are plenty), or take quotes out of context (who among us can’t be mischaracterized by that method?), and voilà: the Atheist Movement is riddled with toxic sexism.

That, at least, is the argument of Alex Nichols in his new Baffler piece “New Atheism’s idiot heirs.” The heyday of Good Atheism (supposedly the first decade of this century) has, says Nichols, been replaced by the Bad Guys (they’re all guys, of course): ThunderfOOt, James Damore, Stefan Molyneux (never heard of him—have most atheists?), and, god help us, Ben Shapiro, who isn’t an atheist at all but an orthodox Jew. That doesn’t matter, though, as Ben is guilty by association because atheists are said to use his tactics.  Nichols says this:

Ben Shapiro, formerly of Breitbart and now editor-in-chief of The Daily Wire, has made a project of adapting the pedantic rhetorical style of New Atheism to conservatism, an ideology that persists in constant tension with rational thought. His speeches and television appearances are a mainstay of “Feminist DESTROYED by Facts” YouTube, and they often accumulate millions of views. His orthodox Republican political positions are nearly identical to those of the nutjob theocrats New Atheists gleefully tore down during the Bush years—including that homosexuality is a choice, transgenderism is a mental illness, pornography should be illegal, and G-rated TV shows are corrupting our children. Even so, he frequently professes to love “science,” which is all his credulous fans require. Comically, given his religion-derived worldview, Shapiro’s current catchphrase is “facts don’t care about your feelings.”

Since Shapiro is said to use the rhetorical style of New Atheism (I don’t see any commonality of “style” among diverse atheists who write), and Shapiro and his followers are odious, then New Atheism must be odious too. QED. How lame can you get?

Nichols even recycles the tired old “Elevatorgate” anecdote, which is always mischaracterized as male overreaction to a woman’s reasonable complaint about being hit on. But it was far, far more complicated than that, as the protagonist proceeded to engage in public shaming of her critics and mockery of men. Nichols brings up GamerGate, too—something I haven’t closely followed, but its connection with atheism seems tenuous at best.

But never mind. Four or five jerks who identify themselves as atheists (and one conservative who’s an observant Jew but supposedly acts like an atheist) do not a movement make, or make that movement toxic.

A curious thing about Nichols’s argument is that he mocks atheists for touting their reliance on reason and logic, and yet uses reason and logic to try to prove his point:

The heirs to New Atheism may have a new target and a remodeled ethos, but their rhetorical crutches remain the same. They announce at every opportunity that they revere logic, evidence, and science, even if the opposite is plainly true. We saw this play out with James Damore. . .

Whatever you think of Damore or his arguments—and I happen to think that possible biological differences between male and female behaviors and preferences, and their effects career choices, is a subject that isn’t taboo—surely there’s nothing wrong with revering logic, evidence, and science, for that’s the only way to get at the truth.

Finally, Nichols resorts to mockery and name-calling, even using “neckbeards” and fedoras as the signature look of atheists (I thought those were associated more with hipsters than nonbelievers); and implies that atheists, by and large, became Republicans as New Atheism disintegrated:

IN THE HEYDAY OF THE INTERNET MESSAGE BOARD, let’s say in the 1990s, a certain species of idiot materialized. He was male, aggressively pedantic, self-professedly logical, committed to the hard sciences, prone to starting sentences with “actually,” and almost always devoted to the notion that his disbelief in God imbued him with intellectual superiority. This archetype’s golden years were the 2000s, a decade that saw George W. Bush’s politicized creationism and the use of web forums peak in unison. Once that decade ended, the internet tired of his antics and made him central to a series of in-jokes —“neckbeard” described his less-than-stellar grooming habits; and his hat of choice, the fedora, became the butt of innumerable jokes during Obama’s first term. No longer needed or tolerated, this misunderstood paragon of Enlightenment-core values began a journey that brought him to the worst possible destination: the Republican Party.

Yet the data show, as you probably know, that the percentage of Democrats who are atheists is nearly three times higher than Republicans (13% vs 5%), and religiosity is correspondingly lower among Democrats. But there are no data in Nichols’s argument, just vituperative.

Finally, Nichols raises the old trope that atheists should all be humanists, and to the extent that they aren’t, they’re toxic. In fact, he asserts, they’re no more humanist than are Republicans:

The only surprising thing about this marriage of convenience between the most irritating rhetorical style and the dumbest possible ideology is that it took so long to come about. Whatever merits anti-theism may have with regard to social issues, humanism was never the prime mover for New Atheism’s most devout adherents. They were after the burst of dopamine that comes from feeling smarter than other people, from exercising some pathetic simulacrum of masculine power, from seeing someone else feel bad and knowing they were responsible. Strangely enough, this is also the goal of modern right-wing politics. Just as conservatives discovered they could skip straight to the “angry liberal” portion of the argument by electing Donald Trump, the worst New Atheists discovered they didn’t need atheism at all. They could just be as insufferable alone, on Youtube, spitting nonsense into the vacuum. The Greeks, those purported inventors of Western logic, had a name for such a man divorced from the public good. They called him “idiot.”

This is nonsense. Where are the data here? I have none except for that cited above, but I suspect that you’d find a much larger proportion of atheists than believers holding “humanistic” values: equality for women, gays, and ethnic minorities, socialized medicine, a tax code fairer to the poor, and so on. In the absence of data, what we have here is a man doing a hit job on atheism based on anecdotes: he simply doesn’t like New Atheism and trots out the same Salon similes that have been put in the ring for years.

Well, I could write exactly the same article but going after believers rather than atheists, simply by singling out the machinations of religious people. (And I have the advantage here because in many religions sexism is an explicit part of the dogma. That’s not isn’t true of atheism, which has no dogma beyond “no evidence for gods”).

I won’t go on, but I will say that before this fellow Nichols calls us “idiots”, he should check the beam in his own eye.


  1. GBJames
    Posted October 18, 2017 at 11:19 am | Permalink


  2. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted October 18, 2017 at 11:28 am | Permalink

    R + R you said, right?


  3. Randy schenck
    Posted October 18, 2017 at 11:57 am | Permalink

    If this Nichols fellow is looking for idiots, he need look no further than the mirror. He has to be some kind of believer who is so confused he cannot even define atheist so he makes it up in his mind. If he wants to find lots of misogyny he should only need look in his own religions. Just look in his good book.

    • DiscoveredJoys
      Posted October 19, 2017 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

      It’s ‘NotMyTribe Blindness’ – if somebody isn’t a member of my tribe then they are a member of some other tribe, all of which look the same.

  4. scottoest
    Posted October 18, 2017 at 11:58 am | Permalink

    So, just to make sure I’m clear – the “heirs” to outspoken lack of belief are:

    – A dude with a YouTube channel.
    – A dude who wrote a controversial memo at a tech company, and whose beliefs I know nothing about.
    – A dude I’ve never heard of.
    – A dude who worked at Breitbart, and isn’t even an atheist, but talks about free expression and stuff sometimes.


  5. Posted October 18, 2017 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

    I am wondering whether “Nichols” is actually some kind of AI-driven bot. It has just the right mix one would expect of an algorithm, grabbing bits and pieces by looking things up in Wikipedia, following links to a depth of 2, and combining them using sentence templates chose for their bombastic attitude.

    • Ken Phelps
      Posted October 18, 2017 at 1:21 pm | Permalink

      Interesting thought. Kind of a more complex variant of the Deepak Chopra inanity generator.

    • Posted October 18, 2017 at 1:27 pm | Permalink

      If Nicholls is state of the art AI, the Singularity is further away than we feared.

      • Les Faby
        Posted October 18, 2017 at 2:19 pm | Permalink


  6. Posted October 18, 2017 at 12:09 pm | Permalink

    I’m a bit at a loss. I don’t understand what the *goal* of point this out is, on the part of people who think it is a problem. I agree it would be a problem, and I’ll grant that. But I get the impression that there’s something more than just “please clean up your act”. It often strikes me as being like those who criticize (sometimes correctly) medicine and bring in a pseudotreatment or the like. They are doing the former to *deflect* it seems from the criticism of the latter. I am not sure why exactly I get this impression, but …

    • Posted October 18, 2017 at 12:35 pm | Permalink

      It’s pure entryism. Fabricate a problem, sell yourself as the solution, then perpetuate the problem (or the impression thereof) to keep yourself in power.

      • Posted October 18, 2017 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

        Entryism is like a virus.

        Take over another organism and use its mechanisms to reproduce yourself.

        So much easier than having reproductive organs of your own.

  7. Posted October 18, 2017 at 12:10 pm | Permalink

    A ‘neckbeard’ and fedora sounds more like the paleontologist Jim Bakker than an atheist club member.
    I suspect Nichols is an atheist. He just fancies himself a socially adept atheist, rather than one of the socially inept atheists he criticizes.

    • Posted October 18, 2017 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

      Bakker wasn’t an atheist, he was a Dinosaur Heretic.

      I think they worship Raptor Jesus or something.

    • pdx1jtj
      Posted October 18, 2017 at 7:16 pm | Permalink

      Minor quibble:
      Robert T. Bakker, Ph.D. Harvard, is a Paleontologist.
      Jim Bakker, Ex-con and no relation, is a Televangelist

  8. Heather Hastie
    Posted October 18, 2017 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

    As a woman who is a former moderate theist and now an atheist, I can categorically state I have always experienced far more sexism from theists than atheists. It’s not even close. Yes, there are misogynistic atheists. But there are a lot less of them in the world of atheism than the world of theism.

    And my experience is borne out gy the facts. Studies show that there are lower levels of misogyny amongst atheists. There are also lower levels of homophobia, racism, sexism, anti-Semitism and several other factors. Even dogmatism! (Maybe that’s why atheists prefer cats!) Check out the work of Phil Zuckerman, who heads up the Secular Studies department at Pitzer University. There are links to his work if you do a search on his name on my site –

    • darrelle
      Posted October 18, 2017 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

      Good stuff Heather, thanks.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted October 18, 2017 at 2:09 pm | Permalink

      I think people are reacting to online crap lately. I find the whole thing rather puerile and not worthy of much attention. I think these facts are much more interesting.

    • GM
      Posted October 18, 2017 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

      How much of that is causal though, i.e. are atheists less “sexist” than believers because they are atheists, or is that statistical trend arising because the people who are likely to become atheists come from the social strata best socially conditioned not to display obvious sexism?

      Also, in my estimates sexism is something like 1/3 given and 2/3 taken, so there is the (in)variance of your perceptions over time that has to be accounted for here.

      • Heather Hastie
        Posted October 19, 2017 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

        I don’t think I agree. That makes assumptions about people from different social stratum I’m not sure are accurate.

        Also, perhaps the 1/3 – 2/3 thing is about sexism being so much a part of our society that people don’t even realize they’re doing it.

        For example, how many people think asking a woman’s father for his permission to marry his daughter is just a politeness. It’s not. It’s sexism. Those who can’t see why should think about why a woman doesn’t ask the same question of her future husband’s father or parents.

        • GBJames
          Posted October 19, 2017 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

          “asking a woman’s father for his permission to marry his daughter”

          This still happens? I always thought that was something from my grandfather’s generation or earlier. (Assuming we aren’t talking about societies where parents arrange marriages still.)

          • Heather Hastie
            Posted October 19, 2017 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

            It still happens. A lot.

          • infiniteimprobabilit
            Posted October 20, 2017 at 2:49 am | Permalink

            My thoughts exactly, GBJ. It never occurred to either my wife or I to do anything other than inform our respective parents of the impending fait accomplit.

            Though maybe the fact that we’d been living together for three years had something to do with that.


            • infiniteimprobabilit
              Posted October 20, 2017 at 2:51 am | Permalink

              my wife or me.

              I think I just discredited my grammar-nazi credentials.


  9. S.K.Graham
    Posted October 18, 2017 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

    Jerry, you understand that giving an credence to the possibility of biological differences accounting for statistical differences between men & women in participation or performance in various fields of human endeavor…

    …makes you a card carrying misogynist.

    Therefore you are prima facie example of the rampant misogyny in atheist/skeptical circles.

    • darrelle
      Posted October 18, 2017 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

      But he doesn’t wear fedoras or a beard (in recent years at least), so where does that leave us?

    • GM
      Posted October 18, 2017 at 3:42 pm | Permalink

      Let’s play the argument from extremes game, it is often illuminating

      Sexual dimorphism in humans is a biological fact.

      Now what are some of the most striking examples of sexual dimorphism in nature?

      Anglerfish immediately come to mind — they live in the depths of the see, are not very common, which has resulted in the curious adaptation in some species of males living as parasites attached to the females ensuring that successful reproduction will occur.

      In these species, if young males do not find a female to attach to, they die. They cannot hunt on their own, they’re much smaller than the females, and remain so once they attach to them, after which they basically become just a source of sperm and nothing more.

      Just as in humans, both sexes are absolutely necessary for reproduction, but if we go along the usual criteria by which “superiority” of one of the sexes is judged by in humans, there is no viable argument that the female anglerfish is not vastly functionally superior than the male. After all one if free living and autonomous, the other is one or two orders of magnitude smaller and a literal parasite that cannot feed itself as a free-living organism.

      The question then is if we have clear indisputable examples of one sex being “superior” than the other in nature, and if we also have clear indisputable sexual dimorphism in humans, then why is it absolutely impossible for biological differences in ability in certain areas to exist in humans? I am sure I will have to wait a very long time for a meaningful answer from the gender studies crowd.

      • Neil
        Posted October 19, 2017 at 5:33 am | Permalink

        But we don’t have ‘clear indisputable examples of one sex being “superior” than the other in nature’.
        Your anglerfish example doesn’t show that, to call the female superior is to subjectivly decide which traits are superior.
        A male anglerfish is a far more superior male anglerfish than a female would be, it would also be inferior at being a female anglerfish.

        The most you can say is that males and females of the same species my have differing adaptions.

  10. darrelle
    Posted October 18, 2017 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

    Actually . . ., it’s Gnu Atheist.

    I guess I’m just out of touch. I’ve never heard the term “neckbeards” and I’ve never heard of, let alone noticed myself, any penchant for wearing fedoras among male atheists.

  11. Ken Kukec
    Posted October 18, 2017 at 12:28 pm | Permalink

    I believe the genus “hipster” bids fair to present tonsorially with a lip-beard (aka “soul patch”), rather than neckbeard.

    • ratabago
      Posted October 22, 2017 at 7:31 pm | Permalink

      The definitive field guide to Hipsters

      Neckbeards, especially if greying, are more characteristic of genus Unixguru. A threatened species, unfortunately. Their habitat is nearly completely overrun by Designerii dekchairrearrangus, resulting in huge ecological damage.

  12. mirandaga
    Posted October 18, 2017 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

    I have to disagree about movement bit. Social movements are defined as “organizational structures and strategies that may empower oppressed populations to mount effective challenges and resist the more powerful and advantaged elites.” By that definition “New Atheists” constitute a “movement,” and I’m not sure why anyone in that movement would be inclined to deny it. Is there some shameful difference between advocating to “empower oppressed populations” (in this case, atheists) and being part of a movement that advocates for it? If so, I don’t see it.

    As for “New Atheists” being misogynists, that seems to me utter nonsense. I can’t even imagine where it comes from.

    • Posted October 18, 2017 at 12:35 pm | Permalink

      I’m guessing Elevatorgate.

    • Posted October 18, 2017 at 12:45 pm | Permalink

      As for “New Atheists” being misogynists, that seems to me utter nonsense. I can’t even imagine where it comes from.

      Simple: if you criticize a woman, you’re a misogynist.

      • Michael Waterhouse
        Posted October 20, 2017 at 7:20 am | Permalink

        Not even, if you criticize feminism you are a misogynist.

    • Posted October 18, 2017 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

      As for “New Atheists” being misogynists, that seems to me utter nonsense. I can’t even imagine where it comes from.

      It comes from applying the same skepticism to unevidenced, unscientific and obviously claims bullshit claims on the Left as the Right when we should just ‘shut up and believe’.

      • Posted October 18, 2017 at 1:43 pm | Permalink

        Obviously bullshit claims, I mean.

        (Anyone else having problems with the edit button?)

    • Jeff Rankin
      Posted October 18, 2017 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

      OMG all this time I’ve been oppressed?!?

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted October 18, 2017 at 2:11 pm | Permalink

      I find it perplexing when it’s levelled at Sam Harris, who seems, to me, to be one of the most non-misogynistic people on earth.

      • Posted October 19, 2017 at 6:45 am | Permalink

        He (publicly, prominently) doesn’t toe the SJW line. ‘Nuff said!

      • Michael Waterhouse
        Posted October 20, 2017 at 7:21 am | Permalink

        Indeed, very indeed.

  13. Posted October 18, 2017 at 12:32 pm | Permalink

    skeptic blogger Rebecca Watson described in a YouTube video how a male fellow attendee of an atheist conference had followed her into an elevator at 4 a.m. in order to ask her on a date—behavior that, understandably, made her uncomfortable. The community erupted into what was later remembered as “Elevatorgate.” A forum was created to harass Watson….

    Pretty sure I can guess the forum, and it wasn’t created to ‘harass’ Watson — how does one even ‘harass’ a person on a private forum the person in question isn’t even a member of? — but rather to call out the hypocrisy and lies of the SJW entryists and their attempted coup.

    ‘ElevatorGate’ wasn’t even about an elevator. Watson was criticized for using her platform as a panel member at a conference to rip into another woman not even in attendance for things she’d written on her blog.

    And what’s this atheist heroine up to these days? The apex of her career was her snarky, lazily-prepared anti-EvoPsych presentation at Skepticon, and it’s been all downhill since. She blew her gig with Popular Mechanics, to write one article a week, by submitting but two badly written articles over the course of two months. Her Quiz-O-Tron event – a blatant rip-off of a British TV show – couldn’t even make it as a parasitic sideshow to other events. She was from the start a talentless hack and toxic personality, who’s now found her true calling spending her days in medical-marajuana-enhanced surfing and skateboarding.

    • chris moffatt
      Posted October 18, 2017 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

      Did “elevatorgate” actually happen? Nobody witnessed it and the “rapist” in question never came forward. And even if it did what does it have to do with atheism?

      • Jeff Rankin
        Posted October 18, 2017 at 1:58 pm | Permalink


        Seriously, I always thought it was weird, given the s**tstorm, that no-one came forward to say “Yeah I’m the guy and FFS I made an awkward pass but I’m not a monster”.

        At this point I assume the EG event was fabricated, or exaggerated based upon an actual occurrence.

        • josh
          Posted October 18, 2017 at 4:12 pm | Permalink

          Not to replay all the elevator stuff, and I don’t really see a reason for her to make up the whole incident, but one of the weirder turns that people forget was when Watson claimed she couldn’t identify the guy because she has a condition that prevents her from recognizing faces!

          • Jeff Rankin
            Posted October 18, 2017 at 4:25 pm | Permalink

            There’s an extent to which her schtick is based upon her status as a victim.

            • tomh
              Posted October 18, 2017 at 7:28 pm | Permalink

              Yeah, it’s always the victim’s fault, let’s not forget that.

              • Jeff Rankin
                Posted October 18, 2017 at 9:41 pm | Permalink

                What? Who said that?

          • Posted October 19, 2017 at 4:50 am | Permalink

            Watson claimed she couldn’t identify the guy because she has a condition that prevents her from recognizing faces!

            There is such a condition, and I have a mild version of it.

            • Posted October 19, 2017 at 6:47 am | Permalink

              Yes, (the late, great) Oliver Sacks had it too: Prosopagnosia.

            • josh
              Posted October 19, 2017 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

              Sorry if it wasn’t clear, I wasn’t claiming that no such condition exists. It’s just a weird twist for her to have this relatively rare condition and to suddenly bring it up in that particular situation.

              • tomh
                Posted October 19, 2017 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

                You don’t think it would be relevant in that particular situation?

            • Diana MacPherson
              Posted October 19, 2017 at 5:19 pm | Permalink

              We should hang out because I excel at recognizing people. I may forget the name but I know who they are, where I met them & what they said when I met them. I recognize actors as they change roles all the time, immediately!

              • Posted October 20, 2017 at 2:37 am | Permalink

                I certainly miss my late wife keeping me right when watch movies.

              • infiniteimprobabilit
                Posted October 20, 2017 at 3:35 am | Permalink

                Quite unlike me. I can never remember names, I know most people as ‘umm, err’. My wife, on the other hand, has a memory for names like a computer data bank. She remembers old acquaintances of mine from my past that I’ve only ever mentioned to her, she’s never met them, and I’ve long since forgotten them myself.


  14. Posted October 18, 2017 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

    Funny how so many ‘male feminist allies’ in A/S keep turning out to be the true creeps:

    – Richard Carrier
    – Jamie Kilstein
    – Hannibal13

    to name but a few.

    • Posted October 18, 2017 at 12:43 pm | Permalink

      – the dude who murdered his tertiary poly-girlfriend.

      • Phil Giordana FCD
        Posted October 18, 2017 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

        That’s RussianDeadpool.

        • Travis
          Posted October 19, 2017 at 12:28 am | Permalink

          I read comments recently by others who followed him and his youtube allies like steve shives and they claimed to be threatened and harassed by RDP, and when shives and others were told of this behavior they just dismissed it and (you guessed it) blocked the victim.

  15. Mark Sturtevant
    Posted October 18, 2017 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

    I don’t go to atheist or skeptic conferences, but if I did I would go around wearing a T-shirt with the dictionary definition of atheist. Just to indicate where I stand on things.

    • Posted October 18, 2017 at 12:43 pm | Permalink

      You’d probably make someone cry.

      • Michael Waterhouse
        Posted October 20, 2017 at 7:27 am | Permalink

        Like Harriet Hall did.

    • Posted October 18, 2017 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

      Never understood the point of wearing an atheist t-shirt at an atheist convention. Is it to announce that you are an atheist? Kind of redundant. To promote atheism? Preaching to the converted.

      I regularly attend meetings for fans of a British TV show. Hardly anybody wears anything related to the show. What would be the point? To show that we like the show? We wear stuff that shows what else we are into.

      • BJ
        Posted October 18, 2017 at 5:28 pm | Permalink

        What show? I would attend meetings for fans of The Thick of It, Flying Circus, or Yes, Minister.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted October 18, 2017 at 2:13 pm | Permalink

      You need to make that into a meme.

  16. Craw
    Posted October 18, 2017 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

    Atheists are more likely to have examined their prejudices than theists. Not a hard and fast rule, but I think there’s a clear tendency that way.

    • Posted October 18, 2017 at 1:55 pm | Permalink

      The difference between atheists and theists is that if we do have any prejudices we can’t fall back on ‘Well, that’s just my belief’ as an excuse.

      I look forward to Salon turning it’s misogyny detectors towards Islam. Shouldn’t have to calibrate it to the sensitivity needed to detect gravitational waves.

  17. Historian
    Posted October 18, 2017 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

    What I don’t understand is why there is such hostility on part of the Left to New Atheists. Is it that their criticism of religion in general implicitly or explicitly attacks Islam? Is it their fear that the chances of the Left making an alliance with religious liberals are reduced by the New Atheists? Are many on the Left closet theists? Are they just plain ignorant of what New Atheism Is? Do they think most atheists are socially regressive? Perhaps it is because these folks are purists, who will condemn a group (New Atheists) as a whole because a few of its members do not meet their high standards. Whatever the reason may be, these attacks by the Left on New Atheists is a terrible political tactic because they risk losing political allies, which they need desperately in a country that has not treated them well in recent years. Purists are dangerous because they are uncompromising ideologues and need to be called out no matter where they are found on the political spectrum.

    • revelator60
      Posted October 18, 2017 at 1:18 pm | Permalink

      Good question! One should also note that Baffler is devoted to attacking anything less leftist than itself—its most vicious articles are usually reserved for liberals.
      Once upon a time the far Left was antagonistic toward religion, back when Marxism was more prevalent. With the failure of Marxism, the far Left has been searching for a replacement. All it seems to have found so far is a hatred of capitalism (which admittedly has many problems). My guess is that the far Left now views religion—especially the religions practiced in countries opposed to the US—as opposed to American capitalism. Also, many far Lefties live cocooned lives in college campuses and university towns that are less affected by religious conservatism, so they develop a patronizing “little people” affection to religion.

    • Posted October 18, 2017 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

      Islam is certainly part of it. You didn’t see the kind of hate directed towards Dawkins now when he was calling out creationists in the US.

    • Posted October 18, 2017 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

      I think it boils down to three things, all of them stupid.

      1. Hitchens was an atheist and he supported the Iraq war, therefore he and anyone who agrees with anything he said needs to be screamed at.

      2. Dawkins likes Darwin who said only the strongest will prevail. (There’s something about the way he talks too, I think, which sets them off. He keeps saying things they don’t like and they don’t know how to intimidate or shame him into silence.)

      3. Sam Harris is an Islamophobe.

      And as the entire New Atheist movement only consists of these three white men and their sycophantic white male followers, a blanket condemnation is to be imposed.

      • Posted October 19, 2017 at 6:52 am | Permalink

        This is pretty close to the mark, I think.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted October 18, 2017 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

      Sometimes I think it’s just simple jealousy and wanting to be treated as a thought leader without putting a lot of thought into things.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted October 18, 2017 at 11:55 pm | Permalink



    • biz
      Posted October 18, 2017 at 9:36 pm | Permalink

      It’s Islam.

    • biz
      Posted October 18, 2017 at 9:42 pm | Permalink

      Also the regressive left knows that the instinctive skepticism that Atheists apply to supernatural religious claims could easily be turned on the Left’s supernatural claims.

    • Pali
      Posted October 19, 2017 at 3:58 pm | Permalink

      I suspect it has to do with the left’s general embrace of multiculturalism – which in and of itself I don’t see as a bad thing at all, but far too many mistakenly equate tolerance of various cultures with respect for those cultures and their attendant beliefs.

      When it comes to religion, this means that the left tends to embrace a big-tent approach where all religions are welcome – again, not in and of itself a bad thing, but it is again taken too far to the point where every religion has to be equally respected and viewed as having equivalent legitimacy, and they adopt a live and let live approach… and atheists tend not to play along there. We tend to be pretty willing to say “no, that belief is nonsense”, in a way that the left just isn’t accustomed to doing.

      So to these leftists, atheists are often seen as intolerant – and to multiculturalists, intolerance of other cultures (and religions fit under that umbrella) is the cardinal sin.

  18. Posted October 18, 2017 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

    The atheist movement was afflicted by feminism… killing the movement.

    • Travis
      Posted October 19, 2017 at 12:31 am | Permalink

      Vicky, are you who I think you are? I see your comments on videos by Noelplum and others…
      Your avatar always stands out to me :p

  19. Posted October 18, 2017 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

    The atheist movement was afflicted by feminism… killing the movement.

  20. TJR
    Posted October 18, 2017 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

    Nichols’ article in summary:

    “It’s all the fault of low-status men”

    Slightly longer version:

    “It’s all the fault of those horrid low-status men over there”

  21. Helen Pluckrose
    Posted October 18, 2017 at 1:12 pm | Permalink

    These arguments have always annoyed me. I started writing and tweeting as one of those ‘new atheists'(tho I have focused on gender issues and politics more for the last year or so.)I have never found sexism to be an issue at all. 75% of the people who followed me, promoted my work and sought me out to ask my opinion on issues because they respected it have always been men. I know Sam Harris got into a row for saying that arguing about religion didn’t appeal to women as much but I find this to be true.

    I don’t think there is an ‘atheist movement’ and if there were, it wouldn’t be the ‘New Atheists’. It would be the Atheism+ lot. There are many broadly liberal, humanist, rationalist atheists, though, who think that what we claim to know and how we claim to know it matters and are concerned about human rights abuses in the name of religion and we connect with each other. One could possibly stretch to considering them a community, I suppose, but not a movement. Whatever it is, it has always been very welcoming to me and to other women. I don’t hear sexism. My gender simply hasn’t been relevant to conversations about whether God exists, whether faith is a good way to establish this and whether religion is good for society.

    A few men I’d had good conversations with messaged me to ask me out in the early days and so I started mentioning my husband, mostly out of consideration for them. They were perfectly polite and had I been single, I would probably have said ‘yes’ a few times. As they had very little idea what I looked like and knew me through my writing and tweets, it would be unfair to accuse them of objectifying me and not valuing me as a person because their interest turned romantic.

    I’ve met a few individuals who were sexist but they don’t get much respect among the liberal, rationalist atheists who form my online like-minded atheist community.

    I think people who say there is sexism in the ‘new atheist movement/community’ are confusing ‘women’ with ‘intersectional feminism.’ These are not the same thing. A lack of respect for irrational, illiberal gender ideology does not denote a lack of respect of women. I have been told so often that ‘atheism’ is sexist and racist only to find out that it means sceptics don’t rate postmodern approaches to human rights and equality issues very highly that I made a graphic that reads:

    “There is no direct link between atheism & criticism of SocJus movements.
    There is a correlation because both result from a skeptical attitude towards divisive ideologies which claim absolute certainty and moral superiority but spurn evidence and logical reasoning as a way to get there.”

    I just post this now.

    • BJ
      Posted October 18, 2017 at 3:13 pm | Permalink

      Excellent post. I’ve never heard of you before (except in seeing your comments on this site), but I’ll certainly be looking up your work now that I know of it.

      “I think people who say there is sexism in the ‘new atheist movement/community’ are confusing ‘women’ with ‘intersectional feminism.’ These are not the same thing. A lack of respect for irrational, illiberal gender ideology does not denote a lack of respect of women. I have been told so often that ‘atheism’ is sexist and racist only to find out that it means sceptics don’t rate postmodern approaches to human rights and equality issues very highly that I made a graphic that reads:

      ‘There is no direct link between atheism & criticism of SocJus movements.
      There is a correlation because both result from a skeptical attitude towards divisive ideologies which claim absolute certainty and moral superiority but spurn evidence and logical reasoning as a way to get there.'”

      I think this is exactly where all of this BS from the last few years about the supposed toxicity of atheists originates. Well-stated.

      • Travis
        Posted October 19, 2017 at 12:35 am | Permalink

        Just earlier today I read comments by someone who in one thread was saying that feminism shouldn’t be controversial because it just means empowering women… and in another thread admit they were an intersectional feminist… I mean, how much more motte-and-bailey can you get?

    • Posted October 18, 2017 at 3:47 pm | Permalink

      And Sam Harris didn’t even say that, he said, “I don’t know, maybe” that. But it was enough.

  22. Karaktur
    Posted October 18, 2017 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

    “The cure for poverty has a name: it’s called ‘the empowerment of women’. Now, name me a religion that stands, or has ever stood for that.”
    Christopher Hitchens – an atheist.

    • Jeff Rankin
      Posted October 18, 2017 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

      Yeah, but he supported the Iraq war, so all his other positions are null and void.

      • Kevin
        Posted October 18, 2017 at 3:44 pm | Permalink

        I disagreed with Hitchens over the Iraq war, but I don’t see how that affects his other positions.

        • Jeff Rankin
          Posted October 18, 2017 at 4:20 pm | Permalink

          I was being 😉

          • Kevin
            Posted October 22, 2017 at 4:37 pm | Permalink

            Happens to me too. Sometimes I’m 😉 all day.

    • phil
      Posted October 19, 2017 at 12:48 am | Permalink

      IIRC he said that in a debate with Tony Blair, while he (Hitch) was suffering from the treatment for his cancer (he had no hair). Still, Blair was looking sicker than him before the end.

      I think his support for the action in Iraq was motivated by a desire to see Saddam Hussein dealt with, because he felt the dictator was such an unmitigated evil, and a product of Western interference.

      Hitch was also vehemently against Hillary Clinton, although if he were alive today I don’t believe that he would argue Trump was a better alternative.

      The quote is important. I think that fact demonstrates that religion has a serious and clearly identified negative effect on society.

  23. Posted October 18, 2017 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

    I’ve never been especially sexist, but which ever measure of this tendency I have, it was greater before I became an atheist and was kind of spiritual. (I recently found an old supposedly humorous website I put up years ago, and was surprised that I had made a few jokes which I wouldn’t think of making today — a touch sexist or cynical, though definitely not misogynistic.)

    Engaging with the atheist community has improved my ethics in this regard. (I must admit though that my awareness of the issue was raised partly in relation to some disgraceful behavior by a few atheists online, who I suspect have moved on to become Trump voting trolls.)

    So thank you, atheist community, for raising my awareness and improving my behavior.

    (And idiots like Alex Nichols would be better off supporting the secular Muslims who Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris, and Jerry Coyne and all the other ‘privileged white males’ have been supporting for a decade or more.)

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted October 18, 2017 at 2:17 pm | Permalink

      Sometimes I think a few loudmouths online make people think everyone is just like them.

  24. josh
    Posted October 18, 2017 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

    I don’t follow Steven Molyneux, and it sounds like I would probably disagree with him on a whole host of issues, but it’s hard to imagine anyone with a more annoying writing style than Nichols. How does stuff like this get published?

  25. Posted October 18, 2017 at 2:07 pm | Permalink

    Not got a huge amount of sympathy for Ophelia Benson since the Nugent Affair but the viciousness the FtB, Orbit and Atheism+ crowd reserve for women who step out of line gives the lie to the idea that misogyny is a problem on our side of the ‘rift’.

    See also Jamelia Bey, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, and the female blogger of colour who’s name I can’t remember who they chased from FtB with flaming pitchforks (these maybe something I imagined) a few weeks back.

    • Posted October 18, 2017 at 2:39 pm | Permalink

      Anjuli Pandavar, for the heresy of opining that non-whites can be racist, too.

    • Harrison
      Posted October 19, 2017 at 3:57 am | Permalink

      Ayaan Hirsi Ali was never an FTB blogger, but Maryam Namazie was.

      But yes, FTB’s apparent animus toward women, and especially women of color, seems very counter to their mission statement.

      Note that of the three men ever booted from FTB, only one was kicked out because of ideological differences: Phil Mason, AKA Thunderfoot.

      Avicenna Last was removed due to serial plagiarism, and FTB defended his behavior right up until the point where it became publicly indefensible. PZ Myers even took a rare trip outside his own bubble to gripe at Hemant Mehta for running a story about it.

      And of course Richard Carrier is now engaged in a massive lawsuit against FTB for their termination of him over allegations of sexual misconduct. Now he’s a declared enemy everyone at FTB now says they always knew he was a creep and a perv. But mere days before the excrement hit the fan PZ and company would go to any lengths to defend and excuse his seemingly creepy behavior.

      That is tribalism in its starkest form.

  26. Bruce Gorton
    Posted October 18, 2017 at 2:15 pm | Permalink

    Atheism is considerably less sexist than any of the major religious movements.

    Nobody ever argued that they didn’t have to cover their female employees’ contraception on the grounds that to do so would violate their atheistic beliefs in evolution.

    And there are no laws on the books of any country allowing exceptions and exemptions to laws against discrimination based on the one engaging in its atheistic beliefs.

    The atheist movement has had its share of scandals, but nothing on the level of the Catholic, Anglican or Evangelical churches.

    There are “Catholic feminists” who will decry Richard Dawkins’ tweets, yet still remain Catholic after the church exploited Ireland’s sexist attitudes in order to gain free slave labour for its laundries, and the current Pope Smiley Frank won’t even talk about female priests. That is a feminism of such depth that it is in fact nonexistent.

    With regards to Islam, there is no atheist Rotherham scandal. And for Judaism, no atheist has ever held up a plane’s departure because he didn’t want to sit next to a woman.

    According to Pew’s exit polls, amongst voters a majority of the non-religious voted for Hillary Clinton, while a majority of white Christians voted for the man who “grabs them by the pussy.”

    If one was to do an apples to apples comparison between the atheist movement and any of the Abrahamic religions here is what you’d find:

    Christians: The most sexist argue that women should not be allowed the vote.

    Muslims: The most sexist argue that women should not be allowed to drive.

    Jews: The most sexist will spit on 8-year-olds for being “immodest”.

    Atheists: The most sexist get shitty on the Internet.

    And yes you will find opposition to those factions within each group – yet it is atheists who are constantly proclaimed to have a sexism problem.

    One cannot help but think in these cases that the issue that is at the heart of this critique of the atheist movement, such as it can be said to exist, has nothing to do with any sort of support for women’s rights.

    Particularly considering how many of those woke to feminism gentlemen are awfully keen on calling women who disagree with them cunts. Funny how Steve Shives is such a friend of Kevin Logan.

    When Ophelia Benson left FTB she was subject to the exact same sort of harassment, often of a sexual nature, that supposedly defined the Slymepit, except this came from the people who often complained about that slymepit.

    All for reading Facebook posts by people whose views on trans individuals were not those approved by FTB’s fanbase. Benson did not come out of that as a firm supporter of trans activism.

    This was not the first example of such harassment, Jamila Bey dared state that she was a conservative at CPAC, and has not posted at FTB again. Yeah we need more women’s voices, more women of colour, but only so long as they agree with us, right?

    If you only support a woman’s right to speak the lines you’ve written for her, you do not support her as a woman, you support her as your puppet.

    And what the issue appears to be, is that atheists as a whole will not be anyone’s puppet. Sure that means that some will be jerks, but also at the forefront of every social justice cause you find… atheists.

    We were part of the civil rights movement because we would not be the puppets of racists, we fought for gay rights when those nice liberal Christians “didn’t want to get political”, we’ve been fighting for women’s rights from almost the beginning of feminism.

    In terms of history, atheists as a whole have been ahead of the curve because we will not simply accept the things that the religious do. The “cost” is that we will not accept what leftwing authoritarians demand, often on little more basis than because they say so, and thus we will never entirely be their “good allies”.

    But the sort of allies they have proven to be, are not the type one loses sleep over shedding.

    • Posted October 18, 2017 at 2:34 pm | Permalink

      The puppet analogy is good. We don’t like having our strings pulled and we don’t blame something else for pulling out strings: neither supernatural beings nor ‘patriarchy’. If one of us f**ks up we don’t flagellate ourselves in public, vowing to cleanse ourselves of evil and toxicity. We own our shit.

    • Richard Sanderson
      Posted October 18, 2017 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

      Steve Shives (and Kristi Winters) are close friends with Dan Arel.

      Arel is, of course, a racist bigot who endorses physically assaulting women, and yet Shives and Winters demand people don’t associate or share platforms with people they deem “problematic”.

      • Ken Phelps
        Posted October 18, 2017 at 5:45 pm | Permalink

        “Steve Shives…close friends with Dan Arel.”

        Wow, color me not-at-all surprised.
        So if two neutron stars spiral together to form tons of gold, what do you suppose that particular melding of the minds yields?

        • BJ
          Posted October 18, 2017 at 5:52 pm | Permalink

          Tons of turd? Whatever it is, it stinks.

      • BJ
        Posted October 18, 2017 at 5:46 pm | Permalink

        Kristi Winters is one of the saddest examples I’ve seen of intellectual dishonesty and a person whose belief in their intelligence far outweighs the reality.

        Steve Shives is just one of the saddest people I’ve ever seen, period. I’ve never seen someone so obsequious and so full of impotent rage.

        • Travis
          Posted October 19, 2017 at 12:41 am | Permalink

          Are you familiar with Noelplum99 on youtube? This “thicko fireman” is about one of the most reasonable and charitable people I have ever listened to, and he had some spats with Kristi Winters. Not only that, eh showed just how disgusting and deceitful academics can be (not just academics just pointing out that being smart or well-educated doesn’t mean someone is at all honest or even competent).

          It truly is entertaining. When most of this happened 1.5 years ago I remember going to her videos to see how she responded to criticism… she would just copy paste the same thing over and over without even reading what people were saying. She has this ego which makes her unable to receive criticism. Also, she tried to “peer review” noelplum99’s video on ‘rape culture’ by having a chat with people who immediately strawmanned his video and were nowhere near experts on the topic. Truly laughable behavior from an ‘academic’. I’ve gotten many hours of laughter out of this.

          • BJ
            Posted October 19, 2017 at 7:56 am | Permalink

            Yes, I’ve seen Mr. Plum’s videos on Kristi Winters and found them very enjoyable. Noel just seems like such a nice, honest guy. Kristi is exactly as you described, as are her actions.

  27. Barney
    Posted October 18, 2017 at 2:36 pm | Permalink

    A poll I remember from a few years ago, which asked American religious/non-religious groupings about issues, rather than just which party they vote for, is this:

    (It also asked people what Jesus’s positions would be; not sure how useful that is, though it seems to tend towards “Jesus was rather like me, but a bit more liberal” – even for the non-religious)

    Taking issues that don’t have specific church campaigns on them, we still find the “agnostic or atheist” group is more liberal/humanistic (in my view of the questions) than Protestants or Catholics, eg on death penalty (actually the Catholic hierarchy opposes that, but most American Catholics ignore that and support the death penalty), stricter gun laws, higher taxes on the rich, universal healthcare and reducing carbon emissions.

    So I don’t think there’s any validity is saying ‘new’ atheism is tending Republican in the USA. Not compared to religious groups, anyway.

  28. GM
    Posted October 18, 2017 at 3:26 pm | Permalink

    implies that atheists, by and large, became Republicans as New Atheism disintegrated

    May I point out that one cannot really be an atheist and also be a Democrat or a Republican.

    Yes, the word “atheist” explicitly refers to deities, but this is because the concept of secular religion has never been very popular

    But the spirit of what we mean as “atheist” very much includes a rejection of secular religions too.

    And the two parties as they exist in the US are very much examples of secular religions even if all of that is just a veneer behind which the purely economical interests behind them are hidden. The fact remains that large numbers of people sincerely believe in the dogmas of these cults. And dogmas they are, just as those of classical religions, and fervently and unquestionably believed they are too, again, just as in classical religions.

    The word “atheism” is meaningless if it does not also involve the rejection of such behaviors.

    Thus you can be an atheist and vote for a political party that espouses unquestionable dogmas if you think it being in power will lead to more desirable, but you cannot call yourself an atheist if you are also identifying with that party.

    P.S. You don’t really see this sort of thing in other countries. In the US there are tens of millions of people who call themselves “Democrat” or “Republican”, as in “I am a Democrat”, and are even officially registered as such. In the saner parts of the world nobody does that — people will vote for party X but they will not call themselves “X-ans”. It’s probably a natural consequence of the two-party system, but it’s still a striking phenomenon.

    • tomh
      Posted October 18, 2017 at 7:35 pm | Permalink

      “May I point out that one cannot really be an atheist and also be a Democrat or a Republican.”

      This makes less sense than most things I’ve read here.

      • GM
        Posted October 18, 2017 at 7:51 pm | Permalink

        Only if you stopped reading after that sentence

        • tomh
          Posted October 18, 2017 at 7:57 pm | Permalink

          Calling political parties “secular religions” doesn’t make it sensible.

          • Posted October 18, 2017 at 8:26 pm | Permalink

            Quite. If we extend the word ‘religion’ to include beliefs that aren’t supernatural the word loses all meaning.

            Likewise the idea that only Americans identify themselves with political parties. There are plenty of self-identified Tories in the UK, and Labour supporters, Liberals, Greens, etc.

            • GM
              Posted October 18, 2017 at 10:56 pm | Permalink

              “Secular religion” (note: “secular religion”, not “religion”) is a very well established term, nothing controversial about it.

              And the negative consequences of secular religions rival those of theistic ones, so I see no reason not to treat them equally, exactly the opposite.

          • GM
            Posted October 18, 2017 at 10:54 pm | Permalink

            I did not call all parties secular religions, just their particular manifestations in the USA. I think I was quite clear about that, it’s not my fault your reading comprehension is poor.

            • Kevin
              Posted October 18, 2017 at 11:08 pm | Permalink

              Secular religion is meaningless in itself. An Atheist can favour any political view he wants: politics may be tribal in thinking, but its not a religion. Neither is it necessarily dogmatic. Self-identifying does not imply religion. Your argument reminds me of creationists insisting that Atheism is a religion.

              • GM
                Posted October 19, 2017 at 12:03 am | Permalink

                And while they are wrong regarding atheism in general, they are in fact correct with respect to a number of self-identified atheists

              • Kevin
                Posted October 19, 2017 at 12:21 am | Permalink

                “And while they are wrong regarding atheism in general, they are in fact correct with respect to a number of self-identified atheists”

                This statement implies that there exist religious atheists. Can you give me an example of one?

            • tomh
              Posted October 19, 2017 at 12:11 am | Permalink

              “I did not call all parties secular religions, just their particular manifestations in the USA.”

              You make less and less sense with each comment. Who said anything about all parties? You make claims about American political parties, so that’s what I’m responding to.

  29. Richard Sanderson
    Posted October 18, 2017 at 3:42 pm | Permalink

    Interestingly, if the “atheist” movement has a problem with creepers, they have mostly being of the regressive left variety. Carrier, Myers, Canuck, Kriss, Arel, ** ********, et al.

    The “atheism” movement, as it is, became toxic when the regressive/SJW entryists moved in.

  30. Kevin
    Posted October 18, 2017 at 4:31 pm | Permalink

    I followed up some of the arguments put forward by Thunderf00t against what he called ‘radical feminism’: one case in point was that he questioned statements in the Wiki entry on sexual dimorphism which claimed that women develop less upper body strength because of extra social pressure on males when young to exercise more, this having a link in the bibliography to an article which was based on a feminist standpoint and not a scientific one. He then went on to quote a scientific study that claimed that hand grip strength is on average greater in untrained males than in trained female athletes and quoted peer review for the argument.

    His point here seems to be that some feminist standpoints derives from socio-political argumentation, and may not have an observable scientific basis.
    To disagree with certain feminists on certain feminist arguments does not imply misogyny. A male may share concerns over feminist issues, but he is not obliged to share every view put forward by every self-defined feminist. Disagreement does not imply misogyny either, nor does it imply anti-feminism.

    • Travis
      Posted October 19, 2017 at 12:46 am | Permalink

      I don’t really like thunderf00t but his critics (Moriarty, Winters..) force a view onto his position. From what I recall, he never said “sexual dimorphism is THE explanation for discrepancies in X”

      What he did was point out that it can (and we should expect it to) lead to SOME difference in a field, X, and that if you only look at a discrepancy and presume sexism you certainly aren’t being at all scientific about this. Now, perhaps Thunderf00t was unclear (he tends to make sweeping statements and never reevaluate his positions publicly) but I think his critics largely want to avoid the burden of proof themselves, especially Moriarty who’s job is “to get more girls in physics” at university. Shinobi Yaka has some good critiques of his stance on youtube.

  31. Posted October 18, 2017 at 5:16 pm | Permalink

    For reasons demonstrated by Nichols, atheists and skeptics typically reject the idea of a movement, for they dislike being unfairly lumped together with whoever a critic sees fit (which is used often). But just because critics are fond of association fallacies does not mean there is no association at all. Rather, the association with atheism does not imply other shared characteristics that have nothing to do with nonbelief. It’s simply the narrative in disguise that nonbelief makes one immoral, wanting to sin, etc. We should reject this narrative, and bad reasoning rather than deny there is a movement.

    Because there is a social movement around atheism and skepticism. For one, it has things like the “out campaign”, opinion leaders, shared goals (e.g. combat religious influence on politics and a science, normalize nonbelief), social gatherings etc. For another, there is also a need to refer to “the thing”. Think of this: chart out the internet and see it as a giant graph, with each person being a node. The ties between people can be explicit, as followers, bookmarks, friends and subscribers, kind of extended cognition. Or implicit, by knowing “the regulars” at a site, following habits of visiting certain sites often, knowing authors, talking points etc. Now send a query through this graph, something like “Do you know who Richard Dawkins is?“ and a corner of this graph will light up. Ask about Elevatorgate, Matt Dillahunty, Accommodationism etc. and a significant part will also light up, while the vast rest of the graph stays dark. Clearly, there is a “corner“ that is familiar with a vast number of topics, controversies, names and so on, and in this, embedded, is also activism. In addition, consistent advocacy on the internet might be considered activism, too.

    Atheism and skepticism can also be understood as the first large scale anti-fandom. Atheists and skeptics are a movement that love-hates religion, conspiracy and pseudoscience. Like fans, they are invested in it, but derive their interest out of debunking and opposing it. In my pet theory, this is also part of the reason why the Intersectionality movement (aka Critical Race Theory) has such a difficult time here and why Anti-SJWs were a natural reaction to it, and why the movement is divided there (there are numerous other reasons, I detailled some here at #5)

    It greatly annoys me how Elevatogate keeps coming back as this utterly false, distorted version. I never put a debunked piece together in one central place, but I will do that soon. It‘s the twentythird time where I thought this will never be relevant again, so no need to write it, until some kerfuffle warms it up yet again. I once drew immense entertainment out of the fact that so-called skeptics and critical thinkers are such poor in fact checking.

  32. yazikus
    Posted October 18, 2017 at 5:31 pm | Permalink

    I’m feeling contrarian. Of course there is an ‘atheist movement’. All you have to do to see this is run into someone else who moves in/cares about these circles. We know who the players are, we know what hot debates are afoot, hell, we all know what Elevatorgate means (as we can see from the comments on this post). Information binds us. Some are more involved and go to cons, etc.

    That said,declaring movements dead and then naming their alleged disease strikes me as very Trumpian. I’m more of a ‘if you love the thing, fix the thing’ kind of person.

    Stefan Molyneux (never heard of him—have most atheists?

    Would that we could all enjoy such ignorant bliss! I think he’s buddies with Boghossian, if that adds context.

    • Posted October 18, 2017 at 5:42 pm | Permalink

      see my take above yours, I agree. But it‘s a stretch to consider the people the author names as representative of the movement.

      That‘s more like typical Intersectional Propaganda, as usual. They always project whoever they like the least at a given time and throw it together.

      It‘s bleak, because people like Nichols always seem to get away with it.

  33. Mark Joseph
    Posted October 18, 2017 at 7:26 pm | Permalink

    Dear Mr. Nichols:

    Please find for me, in writing of recognized atheist leaders, the equivalent, or worse, of the following well-known pronouncements from recognized religious leaders:

    A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. (I Timothy 2.11-14)

    And do you not know that you are (each) an Eve? The sentence of God on this sex of yours lives in this age: the guilt must of necessity live too. You are the devil’s gateway: you are the unsealer of that (forbidden) tree: you are the first deserter of the divine law: you are she who persuaded him whom the devil was not valiant enough to attack. You destroyed so easily God’s image, man. On account of your desert—that is, death—even the Son of God had to die. (Tertullian, On the Apparel of Women, Book 1, Chapter 1)

    Men have authority over women for Allah has made the one superior to the other, and because they spend their wealth to maintain them. Good women are obedient. They guard their unseen parts because Allah has guarded them. As for those from whom you fear disobedience, admonish them, send them to their beds apart and beat them. Then if they obey you, take no further action against them. Allah is high, supreme. (Koran 4.34)

    Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s. (Exodus 20.17)

    A girl, a young woman, or even an old woman should not do anything independently, even in her own house. In childhood a woman should be under her father’s control, in youth under her husband’s, and when her husband is dead, under her sons. She should not have independence. (Manusmriti)

    It would be a trivial exercise to extend this list to any arbitrarily chosen length; I have not even started on, for example, Jewish prayers or Sharia law.

    Should you be unable to provide appropriate atheist equivalents to these teachings, I will be happy to accept, in a spirit of fair play, acts equivalent to, for example, cutting off the noses or throwing acid in the faces of girls going to school, or atheist men refusing to sit next to women on airplanes lest they be contaminated.


    Mark Joseph

  34. Hunt
    Posted October 18, 2017 at 9:38 pm | Permalink

    I think the OP is correct in that (or “how it’s correct is, is…”) this is a case of anecdote skewing perception. You take the normal spread of jerks in the population and then look at atheists, you won’t see much difference.

    PZ Myers (one of implied bloggers) has said he expects more of atheists than dictionary atheism, but never explains why that should be the case. There is a vague, hand-waiving argument about having no Godly moral overlord, but if anything, that should imply atheists are more morally corrupt than believers. It’s odd that PZ and ilk actually seem to be pushing the idea, intentionally or not, that without God, we revert to evil. Perhaps they subconsciously believe this!? Or are paranoid that this may be the case.

    I also think there is a certain amount of entryism, though I know this sounds like a typical rightwing complaint (the libruls are taking over!) They use SJW purity tests to shame and gain power; they expect absolute conformance to SJW ideals. They espouse third wave feminist ideas like patriarchy, rape culture, privilege, mansplaining, manspreading, and a host of other questionable or patently absurd things. If you question ANY OF IT, you are “outgroup”.

    I’ll tell you what’s destroying the atheist “movement” (if it exists). THAT is.

    • Harrison
      Posted October 19, 2017 at 4:20 am | Permalink

      Myers’ “dictionary atheist” argument at first glance seems like a simple misunderstanding on his part. That’s how I first viewed it. After trying to explain it to him and seeing his enraged reaction and deliberate obtuseness I no longer believe he’s arguing it in good faith.

      Myers believes or pretends to believe that someone saying “my morality does not come from my atheism, but from other things” is actually saying “atheists should have no morality; we should be free to be monsters.”

      • Posted October 20, 2017 at 9:53 pm | Permalink

        It seems to me too, that Myers wants to fill the God-shaped hole with Critical Race Theory (CRT, what he calls intersectionality). He was never able to express that clearly, and instead treats CRT as some kind of default democrat, progressive, left wing ideology. He’s not alone in this: the intersectionality movement is practically invisible, and only becomes known when it meets critics (like with a cult, conversion is quiet or rapid). This causes the infamous inflammations, and eventually scar tissue, in atheism-skepticism known as Deep Rifts.

  35. Posted October 19, 2017 at 2:24 am | Permalink

    I have no idea to what degree the impression of misogyny results from cherry-picking the worst people, but if there are “atheist conventions, groups, and websites” then I’d say there is a movement.

  36. Posted October 19, 2017 at 4:38 am | Permalink

    Research chemist with a YouTube channel.

    “James Damore”

    “Stefan Molyneux”
    Global warming denier. I only know who he is because potholer54 did a video debunking his denialism.

    “Ben Shapiro”
    Who? (In my defence, I’m not American. Evidence: “defence”)

    I think they made the same mistake as Ken Ham. Atheism isn’t an organized movement. It’s just a bunch of people who happen to not believe in any gods.

  37. Posted October 19, 2017 at 5:10 am | Permalink

    In as much as movement is change yes there is, inevitable evidence that challenge the notion of deity in light of an abundance of clear and present evidence that prove the nature of creation, and explain the current reality expressed in a frame of reference that is shared and doesn’t require divine intervention or dark magic to conjure sense from a cauldron, or coach reason out of prophet’s and priests.

  38. Graham Martin-Royle
    Posted October 19, 2017 at 5:38 am | Permalink

    Just a quick comment about the “atheist” community & how it’s been destroyed by sexism. Just about everyone that makes these type of comments makes the same mistake, taking the North American experience as indicative of the entire world and forgetting that there are a whole heap of people out there that not only don’t live in NA but who also don’t communicate in English.

  39. Kyuss
    Posted October 19, 2017 at 5:52 am | Permalink

    Big surprise! The pope of the Control Left idiots, PZ Myers, thinks that the essay is brilliant!

    Who’d have guessed?

  40. J. Quinton
    Posted October 19, 2017 at 7:22 am | Permalink

    I think the larger problem with the so-called sexism in the ephemeral atheist “movement” is that people aren’t thinking numerically, so they arrive at a distorted picture of the problem due to the availability heuristic.

    It’s basically the problem of the Chinese robbers: There are 1 billion Chinese. If 1% of the population of Chinese are criminals, it’s probably not that hard to find millions of examples of Chinese people who are criminal if you want to make Chinese people look bad.

    But 1% is still only 1%. The same thing is probably true for atheism vis a vis sexism. If a small percentage of men period are sexists — with atheism being a male-leaning demographic (one of those sex differences that occur across the world is that women are more religious than men) — it’s not hard to find examples of sexism among atheists. If you want to make atheists look bad.

    For example, if 10% of men period are sexists (just using 10% as an easy number to calculate with) and you have some event that’s 50/50 men/women, then 5 of those men are sexists and they have to distribute their sexism among 50 women. On the other hand, if you have some event that’s 90/10 men/women, now there are 9 men who are sexists and those 9 men are spreading their sexism among 10 women.

    Tangentially, the same phenomenon is probably happening in Silicon Valley. And this is why the humanities — feminists especially — should be using STEM tools more than ever.

  41. Posted October 19, 2017 at 8:04 am | Permalink

    “IN THE HEYDAY OF THE INTERNET MESSAGE BOARD, let’s say in the 1990s, a certain species of idiot materialized.”

    And in the second decade of the 21st century, a certain species of idiot journalist materialized. Threatened by the decline of traditional print journalism and the uncertainty of the new digital environment, the profession increasingly relied upon hyperbolic and specious opinion pieces in a desperate attempt to stay afloat.

  42. Posted October 20, 2017 at 9:28 am | Permalink

    Opinion pieces seem to qualify as news of late. Why I do not know. When people espouse an opinion of atheists (baby eaters, whatever) I ask them is they know any atheists personally. I ask them “how they know”. I ask them how many instances of this behavior have they confirmed. I expect you can see the effect these questions have.

    Too many “good Christians” have been proselytized from pulpits about the Theory of Evolution, the Big Bang Theory, and atheists but clerics or Christian Spin Doctors (aka apologists) who know nothing about any of those topics other than they are bad because they contradict the little scripture they know. You can find videos posted in defense of their faith by these fumbling mal-educated folks without looking very hard.

    Modern journalism seems to be narrative driven and one of the narratives is support for the dominant religious culture. For example, the dominant religious culture believes that Jesus was a real person when there is no evidence of this other than in the Bible, which is loaded with many other made-up characters, which leads one to want outside corroboration for anything inside of those books. So book reviews run positive anything a book comes out on the historical Jesus (even though the conclusion regarding what he was really like is different in each book) while books addressing the fictional nature of the character don’t get serious reviews. It does not pay to discourage paying customers beliefs.

    And, like Trump, these “idiots” (back at ‘cha) make unsupported wild claims, taking very little of their time to do, and we scurry around for weeks developing counter arguments, collecting evidence, etc. e.g. Trump’s recent comments about presidential phone calls to parents of deceased soldiers (as if he would know one way or another). In these people’s minds, a *stirred *pot never boils, and they just keep stirring the pot and we keep responding. maybe we are idiots.

    On Wed, Oct 18, 2017 at 11:15 AM, Why Evolution Is True wrote:

    > whyevolutionistrue posted: “My answer to both questions aboe would be > “no”. Although there are atheist conventions, groups, and websites (this > isn’t one: I am a nonbeliever and write about it, but deal with many things > other than godlessness), I don’t think of myself as part of an a” >

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