National Geographic’s ‘atheism is a religion’ article slammed
Prominent US biologist and atheist Jerry Coyne has had it up to here with National Geographic, which, since it’s acquisition by the Murdoch empire:
Has been turning into a religously-infused tabloid rather than the educational nature/anthropology magazine that I loved of yore.
Bullard’s journalist ethics, and efforts, are reprehensible. It’s truly sad.
And he said:
In several posts I’ve documented its [NG’s] increasing tendency to coddle religion, and it’s only going to get worse since the magazine was taken over by Rupert Murdoch.
Now the magazine has hit its lowest point yet … While starting off as a decent bit of reportage about the rise of non-belief and secularism, it suddenly descends into slander and clickbait, highlighting the ‘privilege’ of non-belief, the dominance of atheism by white males, and accusations that the ‘leaders’ of atheism (whom they name) are misogynists.
The NG article says:
Religion has a place for women, people of color, and the poor. By its nature, secularism is open to all, but it’s not always as welcoming.
Some of the humanist movement’s most visible figures aren’t known for their respect toward women.
Prominent atheists Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins have awful reputations for misogyny, as does the late Christopher Hitchens. Bill Maher, the comedian and outspoken atheist, is no (nonexistent) angel, either.
Coyne sent the NG article to “Grania”, one of the active members of Atheist Ireland who pointed out, among other things, that:
It is completely skewed to claim that because there are only a small group of people who have become global household names in atheism (at least on the Internet) this is therefore representative of atheism as a whole.
If you look at atheist and humanist groups around the world (who have nothing at all to do with Dawkins et al), they have plenty of women both as leaders as well as members. Although there is often a gender imbalance, it would be tendentious, and probably dishonest, to claim that this was all about sexism.
Instead of complaining that there aren’t enough women in atheism, they could try promoting the existing women in atheism. Increased visibility of the thousands that are already there would probably attract more women.
These women include Jane Donnelly of Atheist Ireland, Shappi Khorsandi of British Humanists, Jen Peebles of Atheist Community of Austin, Sarah Haider (co-founder of the Ex-Muslims of North America), and Inna Shevchenko, anti-religious activist and head of FEMEN.
I do think that non-belief spreads when people are no longer so destitute, oppressed, or laden with feelings that society doesn’t care about them that they turn to God for succor. That was Marx’s thesis, and I agree with him. Religion will largely disappear when societies learn to take better care of their members – something instantiated in the nations of northern Europe. This is noted in the National Geographic piece.
But the oppression, despair, and destitution that keep minorities religious is not the fault of atheists, and we should not see atheist ‘privilege’ as something that we need to expiate or be ashamed of. Indeed, some religions gain power from trying to keep the disenfranchised satisfied with a substandard life, promising that the next one will be better (cf. Mother Teresa).
I believe that to rid the world of religion, we need to raise the water level to float everyone’s boat: create the kind of ‘successful societies’ (à la Greg Paul) that eliminate the need for religion. This is where atheism and humanism make common cause. But the religiosity of the oppressed, and of minorities, can in no way be pinned on the non-religious, or on their supposed failure to welcome minorities.
Labeling atheism a religion is a well-known tactic among brain-dead fundamentalists like Ken Ham, of Answers in Genesis. After he tweeted the garbage above earlier this year, Friendly Atheist Hermant Mehta thoroughly slapped him down:
It’s incredible how many mistakes Creationist Ken Ham can make in one tweet. But I guess he’s a pro considering how many mistakes there are in the Creation Museum …
Atheism isn’t a religion. There’s no deity or dogma involved.
We don’t worship nature. We appreciate nature. It’s a product of evolution and it’s really damn beautiful. But no atheist is kneeling at the base of a tree.
We’re not intolerant of Christianity. We disagree with the claims of Christianity and we don’t want the government promoting any religion.
And we’re not shaking our fists at God because … um … we don’t believe God exists. That’s kind of the whole point.
So whenever you’re pointing out the bad grammar in his tweet, go ahead and try correcting him on everything else, too.