I have a 4 year old daughter and have a small battle on my hands to protect her from her mother's 'spirituality' and loose association with a church. I recently discovered that approximately only 25% of atheists are women.

Away from clichés about lonely middle aged women finding god, I've been pondering what are the other pitfalls that snare women in to the grips of organised religion or having independent spiritual faith?

Without wanting to brainwash my daughter myself, in what ways can I help her avoid others doing that to her? Or is there something maternally unavoidable about a women's increased tendency to be drawn to a god?

Intelligent people, please help to guide me along this difficult path.

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Comment by Heather Spoonheim on January 4, 2013 at 1:19pm

I think the biggest factor influencing that statistic is the social conditioning that discourages women, particularly young girls, from expressing their opinion.  There are likely plenty more women without faith than those who opening identify as Atheist but many likely avoid making such a 'bold' declaration of religious stance.

When a man speaks his mind as openly as I do, he is often called 'rather outspoken' - while I'm called 'opinionated' or just a 'stone-cold bitch'.  In my case, I'm rather proud of the latter - but few women are prepared to live with the consequences of being perceived in that way.

Part of this is also sexual.  While men are mostly turned on by visual stimuli (porn, strippers, short skirts), women are mostly turned on by feeling they are desired (romance novels, chick flicks, flowers).  I heard an interesting quote in Sons of Anarchy when a female character said to her current boyfriend, "Oh, men are the ones who need to be loved - women just need to be wanted."  Anyway, because of the need to be desirable or 'wanted', women are biologically motivated to keep their more polarizing opinions to themselves in a society that doesn't consider 'opinionated women' very feminine or desirable.

As far as your daughter goes, I guess the best bet is to encourage education, even outside of school with lots of trips to museums, access to scientific magazines, and that sort of thing - coupled with expressing a desire to hear her perspective on these things, whatever they might be.  In the end, even if she doesn't become a card-carrying, argumentative anti-theist, it doesn't mean that she believes all the nonsense.  She may need to play along with religion for many years in order to maintain her relationship with her mom.

Comment by Jerry Wright on January 4, 2013 at 4:47pm

I love Heather's comments.  The only thing I will add is that girls are not called "daddys little girl" for nothing.  If you're educated she will want to be educated.  If you  go to museums, she will want to follow.  If you are fun and interesting, she will want to be like you.  I've got fifty years of experience with daughters and grand-daughters.  They love their dads. When I ask them who they are most like or who they want to be like, they all say their dads. I know this is not true in every situation.  I can only talk about my family.

Comment by Ed on January 4, 2013 at 11:53pm

You must be certain that your daughter is exposed to and realizes the wonderful natural truths that surround us. Grab her hand and take her to the natural history museums, the art galleries, the planetariums, the Broadway plays, the camping trips, and the nature hikes where she will be provoked to think on her own. She will be just fine.  

Comment by Strega on January 5, 2013 at 12:01am

Get her to collect baby dinosaurs.  She will work all the rest out by herself, once she understands dinosaurs.

Comment by Logicallunatic on January 5, 2013 at 1:22am

I can see the causal link now between my dinosaur fascination as a kid and my current scientific mind.  : )

Comment by David Henson on January 5, 2013 at 1:50am

First of all, my condolences and my encouragement. Don't give up.

Women in the early Christian movement were most important. Yet Paul warned women of idleness. Young widows were prone to gossip etc.

Young women and men walk a maze. Just give the child a broad picture. She could take advantage of the Church, you know. Give her an open canvas where the good and the bad are not so much dependent upon your own and she has an objective perspective.

Try to show you your weaknesses as well as the weaknesses of the people on the path she is likely to cross.

Comment by Heather Spoonheim on January 5, 2013 at 2:02am

Of course the weakness of the theists on the path she is likely to cross is their inability to discern truth, or to distill it from others more learned, and their perpetual belief that truth can only be asserted unfounded and without shame.

Comment by Jason on January 5, 2013 at 1:19pm

25% of Atheists are women? Well Gavin, don’t put too much thought into percentages and statistics. Anybody can just make up a percentage/statistic . 28% of people know that.

Comment by Colleen on January 5, 2013 at 3:37pm

I wouldn't sweat the statistic too much.  The good news is that behavior is dynamic.  Looking at the trend, more and more women are coming out as atheists.  I think the best way is to teach your little girl the value of critical thinking.  Talk to her about science and the world around her just as much as you would a little boy.  Teach her that her thoughts and opinions matter just as much as her feelings.

My father was not perfect, but he took me fishing and to the science museum and he talked to me about the stars.  He treated me and my brother as equals.  He didn't force it on me, but he included me every step of the way.  I still did ballet and played with barbies and wore my hair in braids and bows, but on the weekends I was out exploring the world and learning new things and having fun.

Comment by MikeLong on January 5, 2013 at 7:00pm
I've often wondered about this and I have no ideas.

"Oh, men are the ones who need to be loved - women just need to be wanted."
Very insightful. Maybe someone should ask Kurt Sutter (who, I presume, wrote this line) for his opinion.


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