Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Coming Rise of Fematheism

I remember being quite shocked as a new atheist to find that there are more men who are atheists than women. This goes counter to several of my basic views, most primary among them being that I see religion as often being overtly misogynistic.

For a time, I even contemplated the possibility that religious women were living with a sort of cultural Stockholm syndrome, whereby women were religious hostages that had developed empathy for their captors.

I have since come to different conclusions.

My entire understanding of the situation was initially influenced by my own experiences, namely that I met far more women who were atheists than I met men who were. Outside of the example of my father being an atheist and my mother being Catholic, I knew not a single male who was an atheist until I went to college, while I knew a handful of female atheists.

Early on, I identified atheism with feminism. Religion is a patriarchal system, both theologically and socially. Religions tend to oppose abortion and insist on women being mothers ahead of having a career. Those on the political right tend to oppose atheism, while the political left is more likely to embrace secularism, and men tend to lean right while women tend to lean left.

So imagine my surprise when the more I dug into atheism, the more it seemed that atheist men outnumbered atheist women. It appeared as though women who clung to religion were self-loathing fools, and maybe they are.

However, I think what I am seeing is the tide shifting. I think the new generations of women who were raised in the 80s and 90s will ultimately become atheists at a higher rate than men, and I think this is tied to education.

Women did not used to go to college very often, but women now outnumber men in the higher education system. Atheism tends to be highest among the educated and affluent, and I predict there will be more female atheists than male atheists within my lifetime, as the women of the previous generations die off and all that’s left are the highly educated women of the generations leading up to, including, and following my own.

I just don’t think women are inherently more religious, nor does religion have anything special to offer women. Atheism itself is growing quickly, and there’s no reason for me to believe women will be turned off by atheism.

The “incident” involving a woman feeling threatened by a man asking her out in an elevator has little or nothing to do with atheism, but rather with men and women in general. It is absurd to think that women should or do feel uncomfortable about atheism because it is currently male dominated, and to any woman who does feel that atheism is particularly unfriendly to women, I would beg you to present to me any religion that is more fundamentally accepting of the notion of treating women as equals.

The fact is, there is nothing inherently masculine about atheism. To say that men are making atheism unfriendly for women is to almost suggest that women can’t handle being in a group composed predominantly of men. This, to me, is ludicrous.

Personally, I see the whole discussion of whether women feel uncomfortable at atheist functions as largely moot. For one, I see atheist gatherings as inherently missing the entire point of atheism, but that’s neither here nor there. Most importantly, I don’t think it would matter if some (or perhaps even most) male atheists were openly hostile towards women, because women are going to be drawn to atheism regardless.

I don’t think women can be kept out of anything. I believe (and hope) that all the old boys’ clubs disintegrate. I can understand how someone might feel that atheism is male dominated, especially if one puts stock in famous atheists (of which I know of far more who are male than female). However, you can mark my words: if atheism is, in fact, male dominated, it won’t be for much longer.


  1. What do you mean that atheist gatherings inherently miss the point of atheism?

  2. I grew up differently. Most females I grew up with were religious and most men were not. I saw the women particularly my grandmother using religion to control their men, pushing guilt upon them. They couldn't control their man but the man upstairs could.

  3. What do you mean that atheist gatherings inherently miss the point of atheism?

    It just seems odd to me. There's just a lot of things people do that confuse me, though, like buying a "self-help" book. If it was self-help, you wouldn't have needed the book; that's book-help. If I wanted to meet other people who have the same feelings about gods, I would have joined a religion. I also like fish, and I would argue my enjoyment of fish is a bigger part of my life than atheism, but I don't feel compelled to meet other fish-eaters at a fish lovers convention.

    Then again, I just don't like leaving my house when I don't have to.

    I saw the women particularly my grandmother using religion to control their men, pushing guilt upon them.

    See, that's their problem. Women can't control men using an ideology that places men as superior. If they're having problems with their men, they should just leave them and fuck someone else.

    1. "I would argue my enjoyment of fish is a bigger part of my life than atheism,"

      Weird. I can't find the link to your fish blog anywhere.

    2. If I were on a desert island, I would rather have a fishing rod than a computer with access to my blog.

  4. yes. It is better today. My parents and especially grandparents time a woman would have a scarlet letter on her forehead if she left her husband. It the whole property thing which is a biblical doctrine.
    Seems there are a lot of women in politics who are religious these days - ala bachman,palin, etc (even some local ones where I live). It really is disgusting. I hope you are right that the tide is turning. Education scares the shit out of religious people. That is why they love home schooling.

  5. TheIronRuler5/16/2012 6:01 PM

    I don't understand how women should be more inclined towards atheism than men. I agree that rates of atheism among the better educated are higher.

    Even though the majority of religions treat genders unequally I do no think that women should feel more obliged to leave religion than men. They are both taught from birth to believe what their religion tells them to believe, which is why I do not agree with your assertion that women should be more inclined to become atheists than men.

    1. Do you think a black person in the 19th century would be less inclined to support slavery?

    2. TheIronRuler5/18/2012 12:33 PM

      You have just compared the practice of slavery to women in religion. This is a very wrong comparison.

      Not only did Black men had their own slaves, but there existed plenty of other forms of slavery. I doubt a rich tribal lord with fifty slaves working his fields in the Congo would like to abolish slavery as his weak neighbors provide him with much needed cheap labor. The same thing goes for slave owners in Burma. You are looking at this matter from a very American perspective. Even today there is a form of slavery in Africa where one neighboring tribe forces its will on another.

    3. There is no more apt comparison for any person of either gender in a religion than that of slavery. Religion is slavery of the mind.

      As for racism and slavery: yeah. I should have added "in America."

    4. TheIronRuler5/18/2012 1:07 PM

      I do not understand why women are more inclined towards atheism than men in your world view. In most cases they appear to be oppressed and in some they truly are, but in their caged world view all is well.

    5. How much do you know about religions?

  6. ok so u hope that one day all the old boys clubs so to speak will disintegrate. fine. but would u still want there to be all/mostly womans clubs? if so then that is a huge double standard. also if woman want to become athiest just for the sake of equaling or outnumbering men, then ide say those r not justified reasons for becoming an athiest. if u are GENUINELY not convinced that god(s) exist then your athiesm is justified. if your just mad cause men are predomanint, then your joining for the wrong reasons

  7. also do not, do not try to make atheism a freakin competition to see wich gender can be domanint. this whole women will rule the world crap is what turns people off of femenism. they say they want equality for both sexes, then pull this dominance BS


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