Quickies

Skepchick Quickies 12.8

Amanda

Amanda is a science grad student in Boston whose favorite pastimes are having friendly debates and running amok.

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37 Comments

  1. I’m afraid I can’t take Stephen Prothero’s little piece on female atheists and skeptics seriously. At the end there’s a list of female atheists and skeptics. That list is *woefully* inadequate and has several glaring omissions.

    Even worse I just noticed he’s from Boston University, how much more clueless can you get?

    Mike.

  2. I love Julia Sweeney. She’s warm and funny and humble. Dawkins is good at “preaching to the choir” and communicating with the polite agnostic who’s troubled by the litigious religiosity in the U.S., but I wouldn’t want to share him with most non-atheists.

    Julia Sweeney, on the other hand, makes people comfortable with trying on what is often a terrifying thought – accepting that they don’t really believe, and may not have for a long time. It’s a “we” voice, not an authoritarian voice.

  3. It makes me laugh that the first comment on the Uranus article is of the “It Might be Dark Matter” ilk.

    When dealing with mysteries of the religious nature, the default fallback position seems to be, “Well God is Mysterious.” When dealing with mysteries of the astrophysical nature, the default fallback seems to be, “It Might be Dark Matter.”

    Or is it just me.

  4. A friend of mine told me a few years ago that he thought that real social change only occurs through a combination of radicals and moderates. Radicals grab the attention and get people thinking about the topic, even if in hostility. Moderates continue the conversation in a more congenial tone and make people realize that there are lots of “us” out there and that they are almost certainly friends with a few.

    He used the example of his own experience, the gay rights movement. In the 80s, Act Up and other “radical” organizations put gay rights on the cultural radar. Then moderates (and moderate media representations in film and TV) broadened the debate. And when you look at polls today of how young heterosexual people feel about homosexuality, it’s amazing to see how much progress there’s been in only two decades.

    The debate that led to that change started because radicals had the guts to say they were mad as hell and weren’t going to take it anymore. In the process, they seemed to alienate people to their own cause. But they succeeded in making people aware of the issue. If moderates hadn’t taken up the banner, the cause would have died, but they did, and so it expanded.

    In the meantime, there were heated arguments between the two. For instance, radicals publicly despised the film Philadelphia because of its sanitized and stereotypical representations, but in hindsight, even though their complaints were completely correct, it seems like casting Tom Hanks as a likable and sympathetic gay man and Denzel Washington as the macho straight guy who comes to respect him was itself pretty radical, and probably did a lot to get middle America thinking differently.

    So I assume if you’re still reading this you’re getting where I’m going with it. Dawkins, Hitch, et al. do indeed piss people off. They may indeed be alienating some. But they’ve also been incredibly successful on getting atheism into the public discourse, where more moderate folk can feel more comfortable coming out and politely stating their case. To suggest that one approach is right and the other is wrong is a false choice. Both are necessary and productive in their own ways.

  5. If you have to wait for your “prey” to decompose and the nutrients to seep into the ground, you’re not a carnivorous predator.

    Next they’ll claim I’m not a vegetarian just because I fertilize my garden with dead mice.

  6. I flew into an unsightly feminist rage when I read Professor Prothero’s article over at Friendly Atheist, might as well regurgitate my vitriol here:

    Perhaps Professor Prothero can explain to me the neurological mechanisms that tie my ownership of a vagina to a sweet, conciliatory, and diplomatic personality. Are my ovaries somehow responsible for a desire to foster coexistence rather than seeking to expose religion as a ridiculously illogical delusion? Has my womb secretly served not only as an incubator for my children, but also for an ideology that encourages superstition to be given the same respect as solid, rational thought?

    What crap.

    Is the desire to insure that women remain a minority in this movement? Make sure we all understand that we’re expected to conform to a preconceived mold of lady-like behavior. That we’re being invited to the party as hostesses, expected to smile and make all the guests comfortable. Make sure we understand that assertive behavior will relegate us to the same nasty rubbish bins that religion maintains for us. Attempt to use us as a white noise to drown out the voices you disapprove of, to soften the “arguments of angry men”, and to raise up the movement like a disobedient child.

    Dawkins and Hitchens have never made me feel uncomfortable as a member of the Atheist community. With this article, however, Professor Prothero certainly has.

    Kudos to those individuals, regardless of their gender, who seek to foster understanding while furthering the legitimacy of our community. You’re needed.

    Kudos also to those individuals, regardless of their gender, who seek to elevate science over bullshit by publicly denouncing it as such. We’re needed too.

    Every single combatant and peace maker plays a valuable role in our community and we’ll get a lot farther, a lot faster, if we stop apologizing for one another.

  7. @weofui COTW I couldn’t have put it better myself. Just because I was born XX does not mean I like all things sparkly, unicorns, and happiness.

    @wet_bread That is a great observation and one that actually is a basic theoretical underpinning of social movement studies. However, the relationship between the radical and the moderate remains problematic and can actually cause “the cause” to become undermined and supportless. (Sorry social movement nerd)

  8. @marilove:

    I don’t intend to put words in her mouth, but I think there’s a real gray area there.

    Moderates can give credence to the radicals but supporting some of their positions. This can be good, such as in the LGBT movement. Some can be bad, as in the religious evangelical movement.

    So, while moderates for “good” causes can dilute the “good” cause, moderates for “bad” causes can give volume and assumed validity to the “bad” cause.

  9. Thank you Weofui, that was what I thought when I read it too. Here is my rant from my facebook blog, not quite as articulate but I’ll share it anyway.

    Ugh. This article irritated me. Not only was it inaccurate in stating that so-called new atheists think religious people are stupid and need to be converted (that’s not it at all, religious people aren’t necessarily stupid, just misinformed). And wouldn’t you want to know the truth? Are we supposed to just ignore people’s suffering due to religion so as not to offend them?

    But the main thrust of the article is that the current popular figures of the ‘atheistic movement’ (if there is in fact one) are grumpy old men who no-one likes. So some nice friendly women who argue “from the heart” instead of a position of reason would be better.

    WTF! So women don’t argue using you know, facts? We are merely emotional creatures and tell heart-warming tales about our kiddies to get our point across. Thanks for that assumption.

    Maybe we should get a Jenny McCarthy-like figure to go on Oprah and cry about how the other kids won’t play with her kids because they’re devil spawn and then people will like us. Because that’s what’s important isn’t it? Not being right, but being liked.

  10. @weofui: Yes, yes, and yes.

    “Kinder, gentler atheists”? Fine, of either gender. That’s neither an uncommon nor an unwarranted criticism, in my opinion.

    But what Prothero is asking for here is a mommy for the atheist movement, and frankly, fuck that noise.

  11. Sorry, Mr. Prothero, but no movement has ever been successful by blindly accepting the insults heaped on it by it’s critics. The “angry atheist” is a media invention, abetted by the hardcore theists, not a description of any real phenomenon. We will make no progress wasting our time fighting such Chimeras.

    Oh… and ditto to everybody calling him out for being a sexist asshole.

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