Is atheism experiencing growing pains with all this in house bickering and accusations of racism and sexism? We have certain individuals who have risen to the forefront of the atheist cause but not without their fair share of criticism. Particularly Mr. Sam Harris and Mr. Richard Dawkins, who have received plenty of backlash from those in the atheist community who find their attitudes & comments racist and sexist. The likes of Greta Christina (Alternet) and Adam Lee (Patheos) have lambasted Harris and Dawkins over their comments towards Muslims and woman in general. But is there arguments and objections well founded? Are they being hyper-sensitive or do they possess substance to their accusations?

What are some of the more important aspects to consider for the ongoing atheist movement in regard to presenting a united atheist front that does not get mired down in finger pointing and disagreement? Is our atheist community too fragmented to ever become a cohesive group? There is strength in numbers but we seem as a secular community to be disjointed, and at times, even at odds with one another. What picture does this project to those members of society who may be on the fence about religion? Or does it even matter?

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It may have to depend  upon the amount of religious brain conditioning the person had at school, also living in a religious area. This may help to keep the mind conditioned against heathens or the rest of the population It could also be said that the Atheist way would be more useful, if they had a heaven to go to with all the fun of party time and all the rest of it.

Harris- "I think it may have to do with my person slant as an author, being very critical of bad ideas. This can sound very angry to people..People just don’t like to have their ideas criticized. There’s something about that critical posture that is to some degree instrinsically male and more attractive to guys than to women,” he said. “The atheist variable just has this – it doesn’t obviously have this nurturing, coherence-building extra estrogen vibe that you would want by default if you wanted to attract as many women as men.”

Dawkins -

"Dear Muslima

Stop whining, will you. Yes, yes, I know you had your genitals mutilated with a razor blade, and… yawn… don’t tell me yet again, I know you aren’t allowed to drive a car, and you can’t leave the house without a male relative, and your husband is allowed to beat you, and you’ll be stoned to death if you commit adultery. But stop whining, will you. Think of the suffering your poor American sisters have to put up with."

http://freethoughtblogs.com/greta/2014/09/29/why-both-of-sam-harris...

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/sep/18/richard-dawkin...

Lee - "Remarks like these make him a liability at best, a punchline at worst. He may have convinced himself that he’s the Most Rational Man Alive, but if his goal is to persuade everyone else that atheism is a welcoming and attractive option, Richard Dawkins is doing a terrible job."

I don't see atheism as a united front for anything, but as an oasis of reason that theists can come to. TA also (obviously) is a place where atheists can come and blow off steam, just as other minorities can benefit from a their own gathering places of support.

I've learned to tolerate atheist militarism somewhat and not fight (much) in their battles. It's often too embarrassing, battling religious-style intolerance with atheist-style intolerance. So I work harder to get across a more positive and less angry POV of atheism, while encouraging healthy doses of skepticism on any topic, including science and atheism.

The most beneficial aspect of atheism (to me) is how it can serve as a rest stop for atheists and theists on roads traveled while seeking or building a better world. I think none of us can accurately define a workable world or universal utopia, but ultimately it's our journeys that matter more than our ends, especially when we all affect each other's journeys and future generations.

The one area that I would dearly like to see improvement upon is in the realm of politics and law. If we were able to unite and become the formidable force that our numbers alone would generate it would have a huge impact on policy making decisions and effective separation of church and state. We have good organizations such as the FFRF but they work with the support of just a small number of atheists. There are at least fifteen million atheists in the U.S. alone and many more agnostics. Those kind of numbers unified could carry serious clout. Just look at the extremely effective lobbying efforts of the NRA, whose membership roles are only around 5 million. We need a collective voice in Washington D.C and elsewhere that will keep the theocrats on notice that religion and politics should not be mixed together.

I agree.

Meanwhile, since the number of contributors to the effort remains small, I wonder if the best TA can do (and/or TA individuals) is recommend FFRF to potential contributors, aiding critical mass?

The closest interpretation to sexism I get from Dawkins' statement is that he used very
serious women's rights issues as part of a satirical attack for the sake of dismissing a
reasonable (and common complaint by) many women: males who don't respect social
boundaries and a (reasonable IMO) aversion to encountering unknown males in places where
they have no defense or escape if one of said males has ill intentions.

He may not have expressed a bias against women in general (i.e. sexism), but was pretty
dismissive/insensitive about social issues which are biased towards women. Certainly not
not a positive or inviting message for women who'd be part of an atheist community for
which he is a highly visible member. His explanation doesn't change any of the above.


but if his goal is to persuade everyone else that atheism is a welcoming and attractive option, Richard Dawkins is doing a terrible job


I agree with Lee's conclusion. I don't think much analysis is needed on a page that's full of Dawkin's quotations along the same line or links thereto.

males who don't respect social boundaries and a (reasonable IMO) aversion to encountering unknown males in places where they have no defense or escape if one of said males has ill intentions.

Because the alternative is to turn males into some kind of second class, where they can't follow a woman into an elevator (or alley way, or whatever confined space). Satirical attack or not, the complaint is far too common and definitely not reasonable.

I don't know but if I entered an elevator and someone engaged me about continuing a conversation in their motel room and I was a female and the invitee was a male stranger I would be suspicious. That is an instance where it is definitely wiser to be overly cautious and not naive and gullible. An invitation to converse at a barside table would of been more appropriate.

I would be suspicious

As you should be, regardless of the genders of the people involved.

An invitation to converse at a barside table would of been more appropriate.

Some would say it was actually a (loosely) coded offer for sex. Even if this is the case, the guy did nothing wrong and any attempt to suggest he did (particularly on the grounds on statistics) is just silly, at least as far as the arguments I've heard so far.

The "social issue" was a man in an elevator inviting a woman to have coffee in a hotel room.

Or you could put it the way a large number of ladies have spelled it out, including some from our atheist community: statistically speaking they are much more likely to be assaulted or raped by someone politely asking them to come with them to their house, hotel room or some other place where they are alone with a recently met male than on the street. The women in question had just got done giving speech which included men and social boundaries... then a guy who had just attended it decides now is a good time to invite her to be alone with him (who she'd never met) in a hotel room where nobody can see them.

You don't think Dawkins was expressing sexism but you agree with those who attack him falsely for it.

I said I agreed with the conclusion that he was not a good voice for attracting women, being as you describe his statements, "rude by some standards". Sarcastically using horrible mistreatment of women examples as an excuse to ignore what a large body of women (including vocal atheist women) have to say is indeed not likely to appeal to women: go figure.

but you agree with those who attack him falsely for it. You didn't think it through any more than Lee did.

Also note all-or-nothing fallacy in your response while accusing me with "didn't think it through": I stated that "I agree with Lee's conclusion" underneath the quote "but if his goal is to persuade everyone else that atheism is a welcoming and attractive option, Richard Dawkins is doing a terrible job"; it is possible to agree with some statements made by others without agreeing with everything they say, hence "those" should be "at least one statement made by someone ..."

statistically speaking they are much more likely to be assaulted or raped by someone politely asking them to come with them to their house, hotel room or some other place where they are alone with a recently met male than on the street.

And? Statistics are irrelevant when you are talking about individuals. Unless you are a bigot and prone to stereotyping?

The women in question had just got done giving speech which included men and social boundaries

No, she just got done socialising in a bar. We're talking about 4am here... no conference has speeches that late that I'm aware of.

then a guy who had just attended it decides now is a good time to invite her to be alone with him (who she'd never met) in a hotel room where nobody can see them.

How else should he of asked her? The poor guy did nothing wrong.

I said I agreed with the conclusion that he was not a good voice for attracting women, being as you describe his statements, "rude by some standards"

To my knowledge, Dawkins doesn't care about attracting women... he cares about accurate scientific communication, particularly around evolution. Sometimes he talks about other things. Why is that such a big issue for you?

not likely to appeal to women

How well it appeals to anyone is irrelevant. Not appealing to women is not sexism.

And? Statistics are irrelevant when you are talking about individuals.

I was not talking about assumptions to make about an individual based on statistics and you ought to have realized that from reading what I said. I was speaking about whether it is a good idea for ANY male to invite a women who doesn't know him to his private quarters, given said reality and the shear amount of women who have expressed the same and asked that it stop. Knowing this and avoiding scenarios which fall into statistical danger and asking men to respect boundaries under said circumstances is not concluding anything about an individual based on statistics for said women, either.

No, she just got done socialising in a bar. We're talking about 4am here... no conference has speeches that late that I'm aware of.


Sorry, my definitions of "just got done giving [a] speech" doesn't have to mean N minutes ago. Some hours is fine. Not a giant leap. Its still a lady who included male social boundaries as a topic of discussion having said boundaries ignored within hours. One might argue that he didn't know better... I would argue that that is a problem in and of itself.

There have been plenty of women who have spoken on the topic publicly, and I hear it regularly from left (and right) wing lady friends. (Along with other topics of social boundaries, such as men they don't know hitting on them or making comments about their body parts and what they'd like to do with them).

Was this guy who was inviting her to his room living in a cave? Has he successfully failed to hear speaking and failed to read writings from every women that has discussed this topic? Or has he just ignored them all? Or is it that women talking about this are actually really rare, and some dudes such as myself have just happened to run into tons of articles, speeches and have personal female friends and family who talk about this, to the point where we know of vastly more women who hold to the above ideas than who don't?


How else should he of asked her? The poor guy did nothing wrong.

He should NOT have asked her. That's the point. Asking a lady, alone on an elevator, who has just expressed her desire to go to sleep, to come visit you in your hotel room is wrong. It was made worse by the fact that said woman had given a speech on the same topic recently. Unless the weird scenario I posted at the bottom of the above paragraph is true, it's not likely that the attention toward a women given by a guy who does thing kind of thing is of the intellectual variety.


Not appealing to women is not sexism.

Indeed not.


To my knowledge, Dawkins doesn't care about attracting women... he cares about accurate scientific communication, particularly around evolution. Sometimes he talks about other things. Why is that such a big issue for you?

It's not a big issue. He's allowed to talk about non-science issues, and others are allowed to provide fair (and unfair) criticism. I analyzed a rude statement he made, concluding agreement with a statement an article author made stating that Dawkins wasn't helping to attract, and maybe even repelling some potential female atheists, or existing female atheists, from involving themselves with organized atheism.

Interestingly enough, this got me responses which included things like: "Unless you are a bigot and prone to stereotyping?" in addition to "You didn't think it through any more than Lee did" from somebody who spent half the writing addressing things I never even stated ... and a lot of reaffirmations that things I said did not make Dawkins "sexist" or he did not engage in "sexism", without me ever needing to state that I thought he was. Big issue indeed.

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