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.

Views: 1944

Comment by Kairan Nierde on January 5, 2013 at 11:24pm

The first thing to understand is that gender is a social construct.  Girls and boys are socialized differently and so they learn to think about and interact with the world in gendered ways.  Some examples:  Women learn from girlhood to defer to authority.  Independence and self-reliance are traits prized in boys while girls learn to value interdependence.  Starting at the end of elementary school, girls receive tremendous pressure to funnel their energies into appearing pleasing and adopting stereotypically feminine behavior above all else.  Girls are not encouraged to develop their intellect or become physically active.  There are other exmples as well, but by this point, I am sure you can see how it is very easy to mold a girl into a passive, intellectually disengaged woman.  This is the best type of person to line your pews with!  Of course, there are the realities of being an adult female in a patriarchal society, regardless of socialization, but I do not wish to start a thread on gender inequality, which tends to be controversial among atheists. 


In my personal experience, there were several things that my parents did which set me down the path of free-thinking.  My parents are both Christian and did not intend for me to become an atheist.  Here is what they did:

  1. Mom taught me to treat everyone equally and to value all human life.  One of the most important things a girl can learn is that she is just as good as the boys.  My parents were by no means feminists.  The key concept they taught me is human equality.  Gender equality, in particular, has to be reinforced over and over to balance out the ubiquitous influence of popular culture and bronze-aged values.  Your daughter has to believe in her self worth--she needs confidence in her mind and her ability to discern the truth.
  2. Dad taught me to question the answers.  Critical thinking skills are the bedrock, but the foundation which lies above that is pursuit of the truth, no matter the external pressures.  Healthy skepticism, determination, and a love of knowledge will lead a curious mind past the pitfalls of common 'wisdom.'
  3. Mom taught me empathy.  Caring about the plight of others led me to reject the damnation of heathens and unbaptised babies in my early childhood.  This was my first step away from faith.
Comment by mick herman on January 6, 2013 at 7:16am

http://secularist10.hubpages.com/hub/Women-and-Atheism I found this page to be informative and several ideas might hold water even if we can't confirm any of them, many women seem to put less value into critical thinking than men but i don't think this can solely explain a gap this large.

Comment by Barbara on January 6, 2013 at 10:36am

I'm an old granny so I'm out of touch with today's youth culture.  When I was a girl, though,  if you said you were an atheist the fellas assumed you were easy.  Keeping my mouth shut saved me from some very uncomfortable and possibly dangerous situations.

Comment by Gavin Martin on January 6, 2013 at 1:45pm
Kairan, you have provided an excellent answer. Most other replies stated that I should just be a good father and did not attempt to help me to understand the potential problem. providing solutions rather than critical thinking or analytical debate of the problem is a patriarchal method that suppresses women all the time. 'Don't worry your pretty little head about it, do this without justification'. Now everyone was well meaning, but I would have thought that the good father advice was unnecessary and goes without saying. I guess i'm being ungrateful, but I really want to get too the crux of the matter.

I have strong feminist beliefs myself and get frustrated with gender stereotyping stifling my daughter's perception of what she can and can't do. This is the true battle. If I teach her to always ask herself why, then I will have given her as best of a chance as possible in life, as I believe Kairan's parents have done for her. I think I was raised differently to my sister and we are a prime example of gender stereotyping choosing our different outlooks on life. Not that I have a negative opinion about her.

as for the survey, and the statistic it was from an Atheist census that I got from a Dawkins link this week. I'll post the link tomorrow and have another review of the responses then.

And as for 'atheist girls are easy' I just read, another feminist issue is brought in to view. That shouldn't effect an anonymous census. I did have a little chuckle though old timer.
Comment by Melvinotis on January 6, 2013 at 2:01pm

Your situation is not anything about the national statistics, otherwise you would also have 1.87 children, instead of just the one.

Teach her science, and the rest will sort itself out. You won't need to start a war with her mother or her mother's family.  

Comment by Ben wright on January 6, 2013 at 5:44pm
apparently some studies have been done about the effects of dopamean on faith and beliefs, they were quite interesting. People that were given dopamean were more susceptible to wish thinking. This coupled with women have (on average) more dopamean than men could explain some of the phenomenon. Google for more specific info.
Comment by Lewal on January 6, 2013 at 9:03pm

I just wrote an entire essay on this and I am absolutely stricken comatose at the thought of answering that question.

Comment by Tom Sarbeck on January 6, 2013 at 11:56pm

Gavin, a few weeks ago I viewed a C-SPAN presentation of a convention of state supreme court justices. The narrator announced that of the fifty state supreme courts, the chief justices of more than half were women.

Show videos like that to your daughter and stay out of her way.

Comment by Kairan Nierde on January 7, 2013 at 12:42am

Hrm, I do believe my reputation as a religious, "good girl" may have shielded me from more agressive flirtation in high school.  I never really thought it served to protect me but that could be a sign of progress.  People did think differently in the past about the sexual availability of women.  Class, religion, race, ethnicity all play into how people evaluate a woman's status.  My grandmother was a divorcee in the 50s.  She had trouble with male colleages (Christian) assuming she was promiscuous (ironically, her husband's infidelity ended their marriage).  I could imagine certain people associating atheism with immorality--the 'fallen' woman.  ::rolls eyes::

Gavin, it sounds like you are aware of the challenges facing your family and ready to combat them.  It's really impressive how conscientious so many atheist parents are about raising their children.  If only everyone cared so much!  I am really optimistic that your daughter will be well prepared to flourish despite it all. 

Comment by luvtheheaven on January 7, 2013 at 3:10am

The atheist census site says here in the United States it's closer to 1/3rd of us who are women. I think some of the other factors are:

women are more emotional on average and believing is more of an emotional thing, I suppose. A lot of people when asked why they believe will honestly answer, on shows like The Atheist Experience and stuff, that it's simply because they want it to be true, or it feels good to know God loves you or even just the social community and the fear of losing that.

women are pressured to be good parents more than men to some degree, and are taken as the responsible parties for their children's religious exposure and upbringing. If you don't take your kid to church and Sunday School or CCD or whatever you're a bad mother. Also in Judiaism it's the mother being Jewish that makes a kid Jewish, not the father. :P

People with Asperger's Syndrome are much more likely to be male and they also are more likely than the average person to be an atheist, from what I remember hearing on the Reasonable Doubts podcast or reading somewhere. It makes sense to me. Men are more likely to be hyper-rationtional and/or emotionally-challenged and therefore more likely to not be swayed by the typical religious/God arguments.

Just some thoughts.


You need to be a member of Think Atheist to add comments!

Join Think Atheist

© 2018   Created by Rebel.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service