Social Question

airowDee's avatar

Why are there so few atheist women out there?

Asked by airowDee (1788 points ) August 29th, 2009

It is common knowledge that any atheist organization has a very imbalance male to female ratio. Some of the most outspoken males are atheists. In my experience, women are not usually as interested in atheism, in fact, it can be argued that they tend to be more religious. Maybe women do not tend to feel strongly about being atheist, or maybe the religious or spiritual element is important to their personal identity, maybe women feel that atheism is related to immorality and being perceived as sexually promiscuous and not “lady like”.

Could the lack of interest in atheism be also related to the general lack of interest in politics, philosophy or science? Those are topics usually discussed by men, even on the internet, it is common to see men engage in abstract, philosophical or religious arguments, while women tend to engage in every day issues.

Why is that?

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58 Answers

augustlan's avatar

It may be that way ‘out there’, but that certainly isn’t the case ‘in here’. Fluther is full of women who are atheists, and love to discuss politics, philosophy and science!

Judi's avatar

I had a pastor once who said he thought that the Holy Spirit must be the female side of God. Women, for what ever reason seem to be drawn to spirituality more than men. It probably has something to do with our natural intuitive nature.

airowDee's avatar

@augustlan

I agree, but most women don’t talk about their atheism in public, not in the same way men do.

evelyns_pet_zebra's avatar

On the surface, women, by and large, do seem more likely to be religious. Not because of intelligence levels, but because belonging to a community grouping like a church is more important to women than it is to men. Women also seem more likely to express their personal beliefs than men, at least in general. I think it might have to do with women’s need to socialize, but being a man, I might be mistakenly using anecdotal evidence to prove a point. The women here will chastise me if this is so. ~

That said, my wife is an atheist, or more correctly, an Evelynist.

NaturalMineralWater's avatar

We definitely have a double portion of atheists here on fluther, but I have noticed the same thing. It is a mostly male “organization”. I believe you spelled out the reasons very well in your question.

Facade's avatar

We’re not as stubborn as men~

NaturalMineralWater's avatar

@Facade How does that matter in regards to the question?

airowDee's avatar

I am reminded that Well Behaved Women Rarely Make History.

I know alot of women have an emotional relationship with their religions or spirtuality, but I can say that has nothing to do with the existence of any religious God.

Being more emotional or spirtual shouldn’t be an excuse to ignore fact and science, thats my opinon.

jonsblond's avatar

@evelyns_pet_zebra I won’t chastise you. I agree with everything that you said.

Judi's avatar

@airowDee ; I know you are new here, but I should point out that fluther has a history of being respectful of other peoples views even if we disagree with them. Insulting someone for having faith is just plain rude. I will respect your right to disbelief and not try to proselytize you and I (and other people of faith) would appreciate the same respect.

Facade's avatar

@Judi you are so much more eloquent than I :)

rooeytoo's avatar

I am not sure if I am a complete and total atheist, actually I probably am not, but I am absolutely totally and unequivocally opposed to any kind of organized religion (except maybe evelynism). I don’t need a middle man to tell me right from wrong.

I am female 65 and I have no problem telling anyone my position.

airowDee's avatar

I am sorry , i do apologize if my comments offended anyone. :)

kevbo's avatar

Super interesting question. Not something I ever considered.

I’d go with @Judi‘s reasoning first and then sort of the female tendency to go along to
get along second. Plus, how
can you not when you’re more intimately connected to the circle of life. Plus, there’s all that goddess business that women seem to be so enamored with. ;-)

Politics and science are folly. Philosophy not so much. There’s no conventional knowledge or reasoning that holds a candle to wisdom or innate understanding. The crime is being dissuaded from that path (of innate understanding or wisdom), and the tragedy is reacting as if it doesn’t exist.

evelyns_pet_zebra's avatar

@rooeytoo if Evelynism is anything, it is definitely not organized.~

Sarcasm's avatar

@airowDee It is common knowledge that any atheist organization has a very imbalance male to female ratio.
links plz.

All of the (very few) women that I hang out with are Atheists, meanwhile a few of my guy friends are religious.

airowDee's avatar

@kevbo

I disagree entirely since I am a political science major, I have some of the most astounding political conversations with men, in my experience, men have more interesting, and knowledgable things to say about power, politics, and the issues that are intellectually stimluating.

I am not saying this to bash women, women are better at other topics. I am also sure that many many women here are capable of talking about various kind of topics. I am merely speaking from my personal experience. It is not my intention to offend anyone.

peyton_farquhar's avatar

<<Atheist woman in the house.

kevbo's avatar

@airowDee, I spend a disproportionate amount of time dwelling on and discussing politics (as my history of posts will attest). I will spend probably hundreds more hours this year dwelling on politics, but I still think it is folly.

What isn’t IMHO is our innate connection or oneness with the universe and our creation of that universe from our moment to moment choice between fear and love. It’s tragic (though understandable) that athiests miss this understanding, and that we are led to believe that reason alone can bridge the gap or make up the difference. Or that reason is the only faculty worth developing.

I should be so “smart” to heed my own advice.

airowDee's avatar

@airowDee

Anything related to human affair is “folly”. If you are saying that “all we need is love”, or am promoting the idea of “one love”. I agree entirely.

Some will argue that Richard Dawkins and his cold hearted logic is too harsh. I can understand that viewpoint certainly. And i think people like him do more good than evil. But i found his logical arguments quite satisfiying.

It takes both yin and yang to make this world the way it is. I don’t have a problem with that.

Here is a quote I like to share with everyone ”“There may be fairies at the bottom of the garden. There is no evidence for it, but you can’t prove that there aren’t any, so shouldn’t we be agnostic with respect to fairies?”

Richard Dawkins

kevbo's avatar

Well, “one love” approaches what I mean, but it’s bigger than that as well. I’m generalizing, but Athiests are choosing between a God that is owned by a major religion or no God at all without considering that the packaging is obscuring something obvious, simple and affirming.

It’s like not realizing you can drink water because someone (everyone) has told you that your beverage choices are Coke, Pepsi, or the lesser sodas and consequently (and rightly so!) you think soda is bullshit ergo drinking must be, too.

Instead, let’s chew ice and celebrate our advances in icemaking and
chewing.

p_rog3's avatar

because women are generally less logical and reasonable than men.

girlofscience's avatar

I am the most outspoken atheist I know, and I’m a woman.

Of course, one person is never a large enough sample size for anything.

But here you have it.

RareDenver's avatar

@Judi I see nothing wrong in insulting peoples faith, we insult peoples other beliefs all the time, what makes their religion any different?

eponymoushipster's avatar

if they’re atheist, what are they going to yell in bed?

“OH..MY..NOTHING!” ?

PandoraBoxx's avatar

Perhaps the idea that your body is engineered to have a new life grow inside it provides receptivity to a different relationship with spirituality.

AstroChuck's avatar

Because men are so much more intelligent than women.

Oh, shit. What did I just say?

PandoraBoxx's avatar

That’s okay, AC, we know.

syz's avatar

<==== female atheist

ubersiren's avatar

I would venture to say that where there’s a male atheist, there’s an agnostic woman. Maybe we’re more inclined to keep our minds open to possibilities rather than come to an absolute about something. Just a guess. I have absolutely no proof or science of this.

gailcalled's avatar

<======Another female atheist here.

gailcalled's avatar

Milo here: <===== I am the deity in our house, I should add.

deni's avatar

here’s one!

cwilbur's avatar

“It is common knowledge”? Is this anything like “society thinks”?

It sure ain’t common knowledge around here.

Sarcasm's avatar

@cwilbur Those are phrases to get used to when dealing with Dee. Also, don’t write long posts, because she won’t read them.

gailcalled's avatar

@Sarcasm: Is not reading something the new way of becoming informed about common knowledge and society writ large?

Sampson's avatar

Well my girlfriend’s an atheist… So there’s another one.

Supacase's avatar

Because we are content to just quietly be what we are? Organized “you are wrong, we are right” groups are what turned me off from religion in the first place – why would I want to join another one just because it spouts off the opposite point of view? I don’t need to announce my belief, or lack of one, in order for it to be real and meaningful to me.

airowDee's avatar

Maybe there are more atheist women than we think, perhaps the question could be like why aren’t there so many women who feel strongly about atheism like alot of men are?

I do think that the capacity to have another life growing inside you can influence the way one thinks of spirtuality, life and the universe.

I don’t think women are anymore stubborn than men are. I don’t think men in general are always more logical , after all, if men are so logical and reasonable, we wouldn’t have so many wars, provety, and sufferings in this world.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

this is an interesting pattern that you’re noticing…as with anything else, women aren’t as comfortable (not all but we’re talking patterns here) expressing contrary opinions…and this is not anything inherent…this isn’t because they’re interested in religion or lack thereof of philosophy or science…they are…but in our society a smart, outspoken woman is the devil’s meow…not many want to deal with the backlash…personally, I am generally agnostic/atheist and I don’t identify with a gender but you’d probably put me into the woman category..and I have plenty of ‘man’ interests..

nikipedia's avatar

Can you provide a source for this? I can’t find a single research study supporting this claim.

Also, you said:

Could the lack of interest in atheism be also related to the general lack of interest in politics, philosophy or science? Those are topics usually discussed by men, even on the internet, it is common to see men engage in abstract, philosophical or religious arguments, while women tend to engage in every day issues.

and:

men have more interesting, and knowledgable things to say about power, politics, and the issues that are intellectually stimluating.

Were you intentionally being insulting or what? I also see no evidence for either of these incredibly offensive statements. I am a woman, an atheist, and a scientist. And I will destroy you or anyone else, male or female, who tries to take me on in an argument about politics, philosophy, religion, or science.

If you seriously believe these things about women, then it sounds like you might be struggling with your abilities for abstract reasoning and might be suffering from a confirmation bias.

Fernspider's avatar

@nikipedia – I agree.

It is seldom that I find comments/questions offensive as I would consider myself pretty objective the majority of the time. However, I don’t know if it is the way this generalisation is put or whether it is a misrepresented tone I am perceiving, but I don’t like the absolute conclusion airowdee has drawn.

Critter38's avatar

There is a lot of evidence that women are less likely to be atheists. The question remains as to why this might be the case.

2001 survey

Of those who identified as having no religion in another poll, 41% were female

http://www.gc.cuny.edu/faculty/research_briefs/aris/images/aris21.jpg
http://www.gc.cuny.edu/faculty/research_briefs/aris/images/aris33.jpg

results from a 1991 gallup poll
Belief system -Creationist view – Theistic evolution – Naturalistic Evolution
Men———————-39%—————- 45%—————————11.5%
Women—————53%——————36%——————————6.6%

available here http://www.religioustolerance.org/ev_publi.htm

Also, here form the current Gallop (click on demographics, then gender)

http://religions.pewforum.org/comparisons#

More specifically in relation to “why” women are more religious than men, this site links to several papers with references therein by Stark.

http://www.gnxp.com/blog/2008/08/male-vs-female-religiosity-difference.php

The conclusion these sociologists come up with is that “Women are more religious than men to the extent that being irreligious constitutes risk-taking behavior.”

Interesting….and I always thought that this was the reason…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?gl=GB&hl=en-GB&v=SjxY9rZwNGU

RareDenver's avatar

@Critter38 haha I love those sketches, does this make me a bad person?

Sarcasm's avatar

@Critter38 Thanks for showing those. especially the last one

airowDee's avatar

@Critter38

Thanks for doing the research for me. lol.

Critter38's avatar

No worries ;)

wundayatta's avatar

A large portion of religious organizations is about community. Women seem to be more social, on average, compared to me. Church means more to them because it is a way to get together.

Men are more often loners. They may believe they don’t need community. It is easier to see religion as being useless if you don’t like the people, or you think it is a waste of time being with them.

My grandfather was the treasurer for his church. That would make him seem very religious, right? Well, according to my father, my grandfather only belonged to that church because my grandmother liked it.

Anyway, that’s my take.

RareDenver's avatar

@daloon it is easier to see religion as being useless when you actually take the time to really think about it

airowDee's avatar

Interesting fact that might be related to this topic.

A broad new survey of Wikipedia users found that only 13% of the online encyclopedia’s contributors are women.

The November survey, which had some 175,000 valid responses, was conducted in multiple languages by the Wikimedia Foundation, the nonprofit that operates the site, and United Nations University’s tech-research program MERIT. They presented the initial findings last week at Wikimania, an annual conference held this year in Buenos Aires. A comprehensive report is scheduled for November.

http://blogs.wsj.com/digits/2009/08/31/only-13-of-wikipedia-contributors-are-women-study-says/

dee1313's avatar

Alright, I would like to point out that when people say that women do this and men do that, those a generalizations, and there are always exceptions to the rule.

I also want to say that anecdotes are not helping this discussion in any way. Both myself and my husband are atheists. He’s more outgoing, and I am more shy, but you start talking about religion and I’m the outspoken one. In no way does that have anything to do with representation of women in atheist organizations.

I haven’t extensively studied biology, but I’d say there are generally higher levels of estrogen in women, and higher levels of testosterone in men. Women tend to be more openly emotional, and men generally aren’t. Women tend to do well in the arts, and men in the sciences. Men and women often think differently, and approach issues in different ways.

So why might there be fewer women in atheist organizations than men? I don’t understand why atheists should feel the need to join an organization. Should we gather together in our disbelief? I’ve never liked the term ‘atheist’ because it implies that I am part of something. I’m not. Its the definition of my views. Merriam-Webster says its the belief that no deity exists. That means someone could both claim to be an atheist and still believe in ghosts. That’s why I usually follow up by saying that I don’t believe in anything supernatural, or anything remotely related (soul mates, “its meant to be” stuff).

Just because you’re an atheist doesn’t mean you have to be part of an organization. I haven’t thoroughly looked, but the few Facebook groups I found had a we’re-better-than-theists feel that was not cool with me. My husband simply doesn’t give a shit. I don’t really feel a need to talk to other atheists about their beliefs. I’d rather encourage religious people to question their own. I don’t go up to people and ask them to question it, but if it comes up in conversation, I’ll ask them to think about it. Most don’t, and yet question me on how I could not believe in God, which is why many don’t know I’m an atheist until after they get to know me.

I probably wouldn’t be so outspoken about religion if it weren’t so dangerous. It encourages believers to be closed-minded (though I will acknowledge that it is closed-minded of myself to say that nothing supernatural exists) and it is actually easier to do ‘bad’ things through it, because the big guy that really counts will forgive you. Hell, you can even kill for him.

There’s also the thing with God taking over America. The phrase “under God” wasn’t added to the Pledge of Allegiance until the 1950s. The people who control America believe in him. In the words of Bill Maher, “It worries me that people are running my country, who think, who believe in a talking snake.”

Though if you guys have links, I wouldn’t mind looking into joining an organization.

Go watch Religulous.

mattbrowne's avatar

I think atheist women are just less vocal. Most of the Christian-bashing on Fluther seems to be done by men.

wundayatta's avatar

Another generalization: women are generally considered better peacemakers than men. Also less aggressive. Generally smaller and less physically strong. They are less used to beating people up and more used to living by their wits.

There is variation in this behavior, of course, and the amount of variation is probably pretty big.

nzigler's avatar

I think (speaking in generalities) women in many cultures are encouraged to more freely express their spirituality. Of course, I’m asserting that encouraging spirituality in many cases means encouraging it through ‘religion’.

Furthermore, I think agree that the important intersections between community and religion and many culture’s prevailing roles for women in their communities adds to this effect (if it’s real) or perception (if it’s exaggerated).

wetwolf's avatar

If there were more male atheists then does that mean that the athiests are having sex with the believers? I am not sure who should feel more offended: the altruistic christian girl on the recieving end or the disbelieving man on the giving end? Does the climax force some kind of compromise or resolution?

EmpressPixie's avatar

@wetwolf: How you choose to raise children is an important discussion to have in that situation, but many couples get along just fine with different belief systems. Many atheists recognize that it is the right choice for them, but feel no need to look down on or try and convert religious people. In other words, a Christian girl and an atheist man can have a healthy, fulfilling sexual relationship without a problem.

deliasdancemom's avatar

As an atheist woman I debate avidly on line and in person if someone would like to debate me, however I don’t get involved with community activites simply because I don’t have the time. Most events are centered around going to a bar and having discussions in my city (not interested)

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