Why Atheists Don’t Need Popes

Watch any crime drama series on television and, sooner or later, an episode will feature a woman in an enclosed space, such as an elevator,  being attacked. This scenario may or may not happen often in real life, but a woman propositioned in a hotel elevator at 4 a.m. has every right to feel uneasy. It doesn’t matter that the man’s approach is innocent, if clumsy and thoughtless, the fact that this is a staple of crime fiction makes any unease, even fear, perfectly understandable.

So when Rebecca Watson, of the blog SkepChick,  posted a video on YouTube explaining, quite calmly, why she felt uncomfortable about being propositioned in a strange city, in a hotel, in an elevator, of course she was fully supported by all the rational atheists that saw her video.

Or so you’d think.

Here’s the video (the relevant bit is about 4 minutes 30 seconds in):

Richard Dawkins, who ought to have known better, had this to say:

Dear Muslima

Stop whining, will you. Yes, yes, I know you had your genitals mutilated with a razor blade, and . . . yawn . . . don’t tell me yet again, I know you aren’t allowed to drive a car, and you can’t leave the house without a male relative, and your husband is allowed to beat you, and you’ll be stoned to death if you commit adultery. But stop whining, will you. Think of the suffering your poor American sisters have to put up with.

Only this week I heard of one, she calls herself Skep”chick”, and do you know what happened to her? A man in a hotel elevator invited her back to his room for coffee. I am not exaggerating. He really did. He invited her back to his room for coffee. Of course she said no, and of course he didn’t lay a finger on her, but even so . . .

And you, Muslima, think you have misogyny to complain about! For goodness sake grow up, or at least grow a thicker skin.


Later, he compared Rebecca’s experience with his own imaginary encounter with a man chewing gum. That’s right, the prospect of being raped is no more daunting than seeing someone chewing gum! (Rebecca didn’t mention rape by the way, but it shouldn’t take much thought to imagine the possibility of such an encounter escalating to assault.)
I often rail against religious leaders promoting, among other bigotries, misogyny, but to see one of the leading lights of “New Atheism” engage in it was as astonishing as it was disappointing. I can only hope Dawkins has misunderstood what Rebecca was saying, and jumped in with both feet. Hopefully an apology will ensue soon.
It’s a good thing atheism isn’t, as some theists insist, a religion. If it were I would be expected to conform to any dogma handed down to me. As it is I can strongly disagree with “Pope” Dawkins’ sermon. I probably won’t even be excommunicated!

6 responses to “Why Atheists Don’t Need Popes

  1. Pingback: Atheist, With No Artificial Additives | DaveD's Blog

  2. Pingback: In Defence of Dawkins | DaveD's Blog

  3. Pingback: Philosopher's Hazey News Episode 1: Excommunication and Defection | Philosopher's Haze

  4. 1) If I’ve left out “the most important parts of the story” then so have you. Did you even watch the video?
    2) Dawkins experienced what he called “mild sexual abuse” at school, and in The God Delusion differentiates between that and rape. Your conflation of the two on his behalf is dishonest. However, it’s because of his experience that I wrote that he should have known better. I haven’t said that Dawkins is privileged as I think it’s a stupid argument, so your mention of it here is a straw man.


  5. Eh, your clueless. And leaving out the most important parts of the story.

    And what is funny is that for all the accusations against Dawkins’ for being privileged and unable to possibly understand Rebecca Watson’s fear of the man in the elevator, he is the only one of the two to have actually experience Rape or Sexual abuse (he did as a child at school).


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