Dear Innocent People Murdered in Witch Hunts

Thousands of women, accused of sorcery, tortured and executed in Indian witch hunts
July 27, 2014

The killers came for her on Saturday. Two of her sons tried to save her, but couldn’t and were beaten. Their punishment wouldn’t match Devi’s. Before the 14 villagers inflicted injuries so severe they would claim her life, they “forced her to consume human excreta,” police told the Hindustan Times.

The British should speak out against UK witch hunts by African Pentecostalists
September 10, 2014

During a deliverance session in Nigeria he slapped a girl whom he accused of being a witch. In Cameroon a nine year old girl collapsed and died after a pastor at a branch of Winners Chapel accused her of being possessed by numerous demons and started conducting a ritual exorcism.

Sam Harris is being witch-hunted
Richard Dawkins
September 15, 2014

Dear Muslima Innocent People Murdered in Witch Hunts
Richard Dawkins
July, 2011

Dear Muslima Innocent People Murdered in Witch Hunts

Stop whining, will you. Yes, yes, I know you had your genitals mutilated with a razor blade were driven from your home in the dead of night by murderers, and . . . yawn . . . don’t tell me yet again, I know you aren’t allowed to drive a car live, and you can’t leave the house without a male relative or you’ll be murdered, and your husband is allowed to beat you tried to murder you, and you’ll be stoned to death if you commit adultery are seen anywhere near your home again. But stop whining, will you. Think of the suffering your poor American sisters atheist polemicists have to put up with.

Only this week I heard of one, she calls herself Skep”chick” himself a “Horseman of the Apocalypse”, and do you know what happened to herhim? A man in a hotel elevator invited her back to his room for coffee People on the Internet took issue with something he said on stage. I am not exaggerating. He They really did. They even laughed at his word choice. Of course she said no, and of course he didn’t lay a finger on her, he was able to reply, and no one censored him or tried to murder him, but even so . . .

And you, Muslima innocent people who were murdered in witch hunts, think you have misogyny witch hunts to complain about! For goodness sake grow up, or at least grow a thicker skin.


Rebecca Watson

Rebecca is a writer, speaker, YouTube personality, and unrepentant science nerd. In addition to founding and continuing to run Skepchick, she hosts Quiz-o-Tron, a monthly science-themed quiz show and podcast that pits comedians against nerds. There is an asteroid named in her honor. Twitter @rebeccawatson Mastodon mstdn.social/@rebeccawatson Instagram @actuallyrebeccawatson TikTok @actuallyrebeccawatson YouTube @rebeccawatson BlueSky @rebeccawatson.bsky.social

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  1. Rebecca, you have been sitting on that for three or so years. I was a little surprised you didn’t use it when poor, poor Richard had his honey taken away at the airport — the horror! the horror! — but now I have to say that you saved it for the exact right moment.

    Hole. E. Shit. That’s awesome.

    All the accolades above are earned. There’s just not enough giddy in the world to refill the amount I’m feeling right now.

  2. Hey, remember that time Harris was accused of being in favor of racial profiling just because he said, “We should profile Muslims, or anyone who looks like he or she could conceivably be Muslim, and we should be honest about it.”?

    He said he was misunderstood then too.
    Maybe he just isn’t as good at this communication thing as he thinks he is.

    1. He’s just fine at communication; it’s critical thought and introspection where he trips over his own feet to faceplant in the muck.

  3. Good thing we have Dawkins to tell us that date rape is OBJECTIVELY not as bad as stranger rape at knifepoint, but being called out on the internet for something you said is EXACTLY AS BAD as being murdered.

    1. Not to mention that, correct me if I’m wrong, but Rebecca never compared #Elevatorgate to having your genitals mutilated with a razor or being beaten to death by your husband.

      Harris made the direct comparison between people taking exception to what you say online and witch hunts.

  4. You, Ms. Watson, have just won the internet. Well done.


    I laughed and laughed and laughed. I’m so sick of the white male privledge oozing from those a-holes. I am sick of these f@cks pushing us out of science. No wonder I have friends turning to new age bs.

    Thank you Rebecca for putting his white ass in the place it belongs.

    1. When asked why more men buy his books than women, Harris reportedly responded:

      “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 [sic] 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.”

      The phrase “estrogen vibe” was then widely mocked, especially by women who are critical of bad ideas and sound very angry.

      1. OK. Isn’t it possible that was just poorly worded and he might have explained himself? Guys get accused of behaving certain ways because of testosterone all the time. Maybe it is his testosterone that prompted him to say it.

          1. I did read them. I still don’t see what has upset everyone so much. I did not see any “foot inserting”.

          2. So you saw the part where Harris explains how Michelle Boorstein, the religious reporter for The Washington Post, was “stunningly uninformed” when she failed to agree with his assessment of how many Americans are fundamentalists? And when he went on to say that she intentionally misrepresented him out of spite, called her unprofessional, even while pointing out just how hard it was to stay professional himself given her refusal to kowtow, and then proceeded to show that she had not actually misrepresented his view at all by repeating what he had actually said?

            While it’s nice that he thought inside his head that he might have offended any lesbians in the audience with his sex appeal joke (might I add here, UUGGHH) he went on in point #4 to say

            “I believe that a less “angry,” more “nurturing” style of discourse might attract more women to the cause of atheism.”

            THAT’S ALMOST VERBATIM WHAT HE THINKS HE’S REFUTING! And then he went on to say that he doesn’t even think about how to change that perception. Which isn’t even the real issue so I guess he doesn’t need to think about changing it.

            He then went on to say that the audience a GWU got what he was saying, so why don’t the rest of you dolts?

            Is that the one you read? ‘Cause that’s the one I read.

          3. OK, don’t use that “tone of voice” (tone of typing?) with me. I asked some questions out of genuine curiosity in an attempt to understand, and now you are getting angry and aggressive (or so it appears). I don’t like it. I assume that if I continued the conversation any longer, I would start receiving personal insults, being called an idiot and such, which I do not want to receive. This is why I am so u-involved in the atheist/skeptic movement, and no one can seem to be civil.
            I suppose if I am not “with it”, I am not welcome.

          4. OK, don’t use that “tone of voice” (tone of typing?) with me.

            Do you think you’re his mother or something?

          5. “OK, don’t use that “tone of voice” (tone of typing?) with me.”

            I always made one prayer to God, a very short one. Here it is: “O Lord, make our enemies quite ridiculous!” God granted it.

        1. It’s wrong no matter which way it’s applied. Men do not behave certain ways “because of testosterone.” It’s doubly-wrong when a community that is actively hostile to women pretends that it is something inherent in women that keeps them away. I don’t believe that a “more nurturing tone” will attract more women to atheism, as Sam Harris claims in his follow-up piece. I became an open atheist partly because of abrasive, witty, hilarious women like Rebecca Watson and Greta Christina.

          1. You may be onto something, since an abrasive tone normally drives me away, which might be why I am out of the loop as abrasiveness is apparently a virtue embraced by many, and if you haven’t noticed, I am a guy.

          2. Oh and let me add that in making his response, Sam Harris makes the same mistake that many folk make when bashing Dawkins, his response is far, far too long.

            I don’t mind folk bashing Dawkins, in fact I am all for it. But what I want to see is someone land a solid punch, not flailing about failing to connect. Rebecca lands a solid punch on his glass jaw.

            What Harris should have written is a short piece that began and ended with an apology. If he felt the need to put anything in between it should have been to say that interviews are a high pressure situation, he tried to be cute and it came out obnoxious and sexist.

            Yes, Harris might be right about the journalist being a sexist creep herself out to trap him as he claims. Its not like being obnoxious is a male-only preserve, nor is being a journalist with an agenda. Just look through these comments and you will find proof of the first. The job of the interviewee is to stay on message, the job of the interviewer is to get them to say something interesting. She managed to provoke him to say something idiotic and she published it. She beat him at the game fair and square. It is really rather pathetic for him to complain about the rules of the game after a loss.

          3. Ohh, the comments are getting muddled… My last reply got attached to this node instead of the one below.

            As for abrasive, there is abrasive and funny and there is abrasive and nasty. Fox News is abrasive but I never watch it because they are always being nasty and hateful.

        2. It is poorly worded. What Harris apparently meant to say was that more men read his books than women because they pander to the type of personality defects that are more common amongst men.

          So now he is in the position of trying to explain that when he made idiotic sexist statement X, what he really meant was equally idiotic sexist statement Y.

  5. Im a man and very much enjoy Rebecca on TSGU but Harris’ s explanation rang true to me. I would like it if someone would care to clarify a different viewpoint tho…12yrs of marriage has taught me that my assumed understanding of women is often incorrect…

  6. I love that you used the picture of Dawkins playing the electric clarinet from his “Just for hits” video. Truly one of his finest moments.

  7. Apply cold water to the burn, Richard. Even if it was from your own stove.

    He laid out the template for so many comparisons. “Dear Billy, stop whining, will you? Yes yes, I know your parents beat you half to death, but there are children who are called “Christian” or “Muslim”!”

    What’s going through his head? He kinda-sorta apologized for Dear Muslima, then took hardly any time at all to make it worse.

  8. delurking…

    Thank #sweet nothing# for Skepchick.
    You’re showing me daily that there is hope for the “movements” I considered myself a part of, even as I almost despair over the incredible contempt and pettiness of some of its supposed leaders. Until these people are left behind I’m quite content just reading Skepchick’s and other ragesite’s posts, you know who *wink* *wink*


    [all weird phrasing and wrong terminology down to me seldomly posting in english]

  9. *turn on sarcasm*

    Wait, I’m not sure I see how “People pointing out that your language is degrading” is not identical to “People torturing and killing you for a fictitious crime”

    *turn off sarcasm*

    What an insane comparison…

  10. Dawkins has become the Ann Coulter of the Atheist movement. He only exists to troll and to catch the incompetent or unwary in clumsy arguments.

    Rebecca shows the right way to argue with Dawkins: short and funny. Unfortunately there are rather a lot of overly long denunciations, particularly on Freethought blogs where the authors really can’t get the fact that all they are doing is feeding the troll’s ego.

    Of course it is probably a little harder for folk who started off thinking Dawkins was a hero to ignore him and he is deliberately pushing a very hot button here. But anyone who writes more than a few paragraphs on Dawkins has let him win.

    Dana Hunter has yet another piece, this time titled ‘I am done with Dawkins’. Umm, no you are not. He is obviously going to get you again and again.

    1. But anyone who writes more than a few paragraphs on Dawkins has let him win.

      You’re a fucking idiot. Please plague some other entity with your worse-than-useless advice.

      1. You know, one of the problems with these threads is precisely the fact that they are full of people like you preening themselves by dumping on anyone who does not follow the herd mentality you are trying to enforce.

        Congratulations, this is exactly the type of behavior that Dawkins is trying to provoke: Random insults of people who are on your side but don’t agree with your personal approach. I am not an idiot. In fact if you bother to Google you will find that communications is something I know rather a lot about.

        As it happens I was not giving advice, I was pointing out the nature of the problem. Dawkins didn’t invent these tactics and nor did Ann Coulter. Back in the day they were the tactics used by the Holocaust revisionists.

        Dawkins may be old and turning a bit senile. But he is still a Regis professor and he does know how to make an argument sound convincing – even an argument that is total rubbish.

        The advice I would give here would depend on whether you are from the US or the UK.

        For a UK audience I would say that Shermer is accused of being the Jimmy Saville of the atheist movement. Which makes James Randi the Michael Grade.

        For a US audience, Shermer is Jerry Sandusky, Randi is Joe Paterno studiously looking the other way and Dawkins is Rush Limbaugh saying that everything was the victim’s fault.

        1. What about people who write more than a few paragraphs about people who write more than a few paragraphs on Dawkins? Who is winning then?

          1. Yes, I was aware of that. But whether I am brief or not depends whether I am looking to get a message across or trying to work out what the message should be.

            The fact that Shermer is still in his job or the board resigned en-mass is a clear sign that the message was not getting through.

            I really think that the ‘Jimmy Saville’ messaging is exactly the right one to light a fire under certain people. Right now I am not so interested in converting them to feminism, I want them to take action that is necessary for the well-being of the movement and I want them to do it now.

            But I am not the person to deliver it and neither is Rebecca. But she is a lot closer than I am to the people who are. If you want Shermer out then you need to have the folk who are on the Skeptics Society board to realize that they are possibly covering up a Jimmy Saville scale situation and they have to take action before the dam bursts.

            That at any rate is as much strategy as I care to discuss in public. If people want to take up the matter further, I am not difficult to find on the Web.

  11. That photo is killing me. I’m laughing alone with Jaffa Cakes.

    Exquisite timing and beautifully played, Rebecca.

  12. Rebecca,

    I love the post, and the hoisting of one on his own petard (or whatever).

    But what do you have against the “guilty” people killed in witch hunts? I mean, they don’t really deserve to die for practicing witchcraft, and they can’t even really practice witchcraft because it doesn’t work. So, I think your title offensively excludes some people who need to be reminded of the importance of the plight of Dawkins/Harris and the insignificance of their own murders. Just something to think about.

  13. Brilliant!

    Dawkins has been consistently tone-deaf on his use of “witch hunting” to describe widespread criticism. It’s a real shame watching others jump into the crevasse with these two.

  14. Utterly fantastic take-down.

    Dawkins is clearly more interested in being a “thought leader” than intellectual honesty. He should have realized years ago that the right thing to do was just say “Hey, this feminism thing is more complicated than I thought. I’m going to shut up about it until I’ve learned enough to say something useful.”

  15. Would be nice if this brilliant post leads to some self-awareness on Dawkins’ part. He really needs to think about his privileges and how they have thwarted his ability to empathize with folks who don’t look like him.

    Basically, his “Dear Muslima” letter was a big shut-the-hell-up to Western women. It was a full display of his tone deafness.

    1. It also ignored the simple fact that, while yes, women in Muslim countries (and really probably in all theocracies) have it worse, that doesn’t excuse hitting on a woman right after she said she doesn’t feel comfortable being hit on. Not assuming you’re at a singles mixer takes no effort, really. (Unlike rearranging an entire society to more equitable gender relations, which requires a great deal of care.)

      The bad thing is, Harris and Dawkins are intelligent men, and supposedly open-minded (but not so open your brain falls out), so you’d think they’d have learned the first couple times.

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