In the past I’ve expressed concern over the fact that most prominent atheists are male. Here in the US, there is a strong anti-secular sentiment. Roughly 15% of the overall population in the states is considered secular, which means they have no religious affiliation. Atheists are counted within this category, but not everyone who is secular is an atheist. Between 70% and 80% of the US population is some denomination of Christianity. This could range from Protestant to Baptist to Catholic and anything in between. The US has small statistical markers of Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus and a few other religions.
Many of the Christians I’ve come across honestly believe that without the unsubstantiated belief in a deity, a person is incapable of sustaining moral behavior. The truth is, morality cannot be simply dictated by an ancient text. This has been proven over and over by religious extremists who slaughter those who believe differently from the way they do. Whether the underlying reason for war is money, resources or any number of mundane things, religious conflict makes a perfect scapegoat to begin the bloodshed. Sometimes the religious beliefs are the sole basis for war. The Israelis and Palestinians have been shedding blood over the Holy City of Israel for generations, simply because the Israelis feel that they have a right to Palestinian land.
Years ago I wrote a paper depicting many of the issues concerning the ten commandments. I’ll summarize some of it here. In scripture, there are many contradictions concerning the fact that God orders his people never to commit these grievances. According to Exodus 20:13-16 “Thou shalt not kill. Thou shalt not commit adultery. Thou shalt not steal. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.” Yet, Exodus 32:27 says, “And he said unto them, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, Put every man his sword by his side, and go in and out from gate to gate throughout the camp, and slay every man his brother, and every man his companion, and every man his neighbour.” Hosea 1:2 “1:2 The beginning of the word of the LORD by Hosea. And the LORD said to Hosea, Go, take unto thee a wife of whoredoms and children of whoredoms: for the land hath committed great whoredom, departing from the LORD.” Ezekiel 39:10 “So that they shall take no wood out of the field, neither cut down any out of the forests; for they shall burn the weapons with fire: and they shall spoil those that spoiled them, and rob those that robbed them, saith the Lord GOD.” 1 Samuel 21:2 “And David said unto Ahimelech the priest, The king hath commanded me a business, and hath said unto me, Let no man know any thing of the business whereabout I send thee, and what I have commanded thee: and I have appointed my servants to such and such a place.” (But David was an enemy of King Saul, and was not on the king’s business. We know that God approved of this lie, since 1 Kings 15:5 says that God approved of everything David did, with the single exception of the matter of Uriah.)
Of course, as far as the ten commandments are concerned, I prefer George Carlin’s approach:
Now, back to the original point. Why is it that there aren’t very many female atheists to look up to? I think that Rebecca Vitsmun might have an answer for me:
(Video Credit: The Thinking Atheist)
From what I see here, the issue is fear. Fear of rejection. Fear of persecution. Fear of misunderstanding. Believe it or not, women have a lot more to lose from society than men do. If women are perceived as soulless, immoral and lost, the consequences could be devastating. Women are already at a disadvantage. They make less money in the work place, have a harder time finding jobs to begin with, and have to deal with employers constantly suspecting them of getting pregnant and “stealing” money from the company to take leave to have the child. If a woman already has children, being seen as immoral puts her at risk for losing the children she has. People can say, “You can’t lose your children just for being an atheist!” That’s true, but you can lose your children if you have too many anonymous calls to children’s services. If someone doesn’t like how you look, your religious affiliation (or lack there of), or anything else about you, they can anonymously call children’s services over and over again and you can eventually lose your children, even if they find nothing wrong. Apparently, just the calls are “just cause” to indicate a problem.
Rebecca had a lot to lose when she “came out” on national television. I know that there are a lot more hidden heroes out there who have the strength and initiative to inspire the rest of us. I look forward to hearing from those heroes. I know that the Beyond Belief Network would appreciate any help that people are willing to offer.