Female atheists and secular humanists can be considered a minority of a minority—atheists representing a small proportion of the U.S. population and women comprising a small proportion of that number—but they have been reaching higher levels of involvement and leadership in secularist organizations in recent years. At the Women in Secularism conference meeting in Washington in late September, attended by RW, several speakers confirmed that women are more involved in organized atheist and secular humanist activism and communities even while there are still divisions over the role of feminism in the wider movement. This event was the fourth such conference, with its origin in 2010 over the concern that more strident voices of new atheists, who were viewed as demeaning women (and even having a role in cases of alleged sexual harassment at atheist events), were drowning out women’s issues. The clash between the more science-oriented new atheists and activist and social justice-oriented secularists was evident at the conference. Organizer Debbie Goddard told RW in an interview that the recent merger of the Center for Inquiry, the sponsor of the Women in Secularism conferences, and the new atheist-oriented Richard Dawkins Foundation has been a source of dissension among women in the movement, likely causing the recent gathering’s registration to hit a low of 80 participants. Past conferences put more stress on social activism, and several of the earlier activist and feminist leaders did not attend the event, Goddard added.
But other speakers reported on the new openness of women to atheism as the movement tries to draw on the swelling numbers of non-affiliated Americans. Melanie Brewster of Columbia University presented a paper on why men are more likely to be atheists than women. Prominent new atheist leaders such as Sam Harris have made controversial statements that the cerebral nature of atheism attracts men more than women, who are more “nurturing.” Brewster argued that whatever the reasons for the gap between male and female secularists (and religiosity), the differences are narrowing, especially in Western nations. She added that women may be experiencing a “time-lag” in secularization and only today are showing the drop off in religiosity. Another study she cited showed that women feel excluded from the atheist movement and need to see greater representation of atheist women in the media.
While politicians associated with the religious right have opposed resettlement of refugees from the civil war in Syria, evangelical congregations and relief organizations have increasingly engaged in such efforts. The Atlantic Monthly (September 11) reports that Republican nominee Donald Trump and more than 30 state governors have opposed President Obama’s resettlement program of taking in […]
The growing use of the hallucinogenic plant substance Ayahuasca in the West is coming in for criticism for commercializing an indigenous practice, as well as posing adverse affects for the uninitiated. While the widespread use of Ayahuasca is fairly recent, the controversy goes back a century to the clash between indigenous practitioners who use a […]
Hassidic schools in Quebec are attempting to preserve their Jewish heritage while facing restrictions from education authorities, with homeschooling often left as the only legally acceptable option for lack of certified teachers, writes Jessica Nadeau in the daily newspaper Le Devoir (September 30). Since September the Satmar and Viznitz Hassidic communities, imitating a similar move […]
Religion annually contributes nearly $1.2 trillion of socio-economic value to the U.S. economy, according to a new study by Brian Grim and Melissa Grim in the Interdisciplinary Journal of Research on Religion (12:3). This figure is equivalent to being the world’s fifteenth largest national economy, putting it ahead of about 180 other countries. The study […]
Since the 1990s, Christian LGBT groups have appeared in Eastern European, post-communist countries, but they have to live in a difficult social and religious environment, although changes in Western churches on those issues inspire some of them to seek constructive dialogue with their own churches, writes theologian and sociologist Michael Brinkschröder (Munich) in Religion & […]
New restrictions against “extremist” religions in Russia are causing considerable struggle among missionaries and other groups involved in preaching and disseminating religious materials, reports the Washington Post (September 20). The recent law, passed by President Vladimir Putin, prohibits proselytizing among all religious groups except in officially registered buildings and sites. The restrictions extend to private […]
Russia is expanding its influence throughout the former Soviet territories and Europe by also advancing Russian Orthodoxy in these areas, reports the New York Times (September 13). From its critical stance on Western liberalism to its stress on conservative family values, President Vladimir Putin has mobilized Russian Orthodoxy to expand Russia’s reach and influence and […]
Although the growth in Korean churches and megachurches has slowed and in some cases shows signs of decline, churches that innovate in such ways as stressing expository preaching and intercessory prayer while downplaying the church’s corporate nature are showing signs of growth, according to research by the Center on Religion and Civic Culture at the […]
A religious struggle for legitimacy along with geopolitical rivalry with Saudi-promoted Salafism as a target may be underway in the Muslim world, as evidenced by a conference of 200 Sunni scholars in Grozny, Chechnya, on August 27–29, according to reports by Abbas Kadhim (Johns Hopkins University) in the Huffington Post (September 9) and James M. […]