No Respect

April 13th was the birthday of Madalyn Murray O’Hair. She was probably the first true, New Atheist and paved the way for people like Sam Harris, PZ Myers, Richard Dawkins, and Jerry Coyne. In fact, the only truly sigificant difference between O’Hair and Harris/Myers/Dawkins/Coyne is that O’Hair didn’t have the internet. So she had to resort to writing books, making TV and radio appearances, and setting up American Atheists (with all its publications). Other than that, the arguments, the hateful attitude, the goals, were pretty much the same. In many ways, Dawkins et al. really are Madalyn Murray O’Hair in a cheap tuxedo.

Which raises an interesting question. Why do the modern day atheist leaders ignore their founder? On April 13, did Jerry Coyne blog about her? Nope. He was posting about squirrels. Did Sam Harris tweet about her? Nope. He was tweeting about meditation. Did Richard Dawkins tweet about her? Nope. He was tweeting about Mein Kampf. Surely PZ Myers wrote about her? Nope. He was blogging that most Men’s Rights Advocates are atheists.

Squirrels, meditation, whether one should read Mein Kampf, and MRAs, all deemed more important than paying respect to the first New Atheist. How symbolic.

But you know, the atheist movement does have a serious woman problem. Not only are its leaders all rich, white men, but many female atheists have complained vigorously of sexual harassment in the atheist community. So you would think, for PR purposes alone, the Gnu leaders would at least pay lip service to the pioneering O’Hair. In fact, one has to wonder if O’Hair would still have been so thoroughly ignored if she…..had been a man.

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18 Responses to No Respect

  1. Mark Plus says:

    Madalyn became the public face of atheism in the 1960’s and 1970’s because no one else wanted the job, not because she earned the position based on her qualifications. In the absence of competition, a mediocre but extroverted, opinionated woman willing to take risks could step into into void and become the country’s go-to authority figure for atheism.

    By contrast, thanks to the internet, today we have so many public atheists that even ones in hick towns like Tulsa (where I grew up) can go online with blogs, podcasts and video uploads and attract followings. With all this competition, Madalyn would probably fall somewhere between the second and their ranks in organized atheist activism. I’ve tried reading some of her books, and I just found them underwhelming compared with the wealth of atheist propaganda we have now.

    BTW, her christian convert son, William Murray, writes in his “Mommie Dearest” book about Madalyn that she wanted to create a swinging sexual utopia. Yet elsewhere William writes that his two relatives who lived with Madalyn through the time of their murder by a disgruntled employee, his brother Jon and his daughter (Jon’s niece) Robin, apparently lived like sexually abstinent christians or something. William hints that Jon died a 40 year old virgin.

    I guess Madalyn’s sexual utopia didn’t exist under her roof, in other words, despite the christian propaganda that men become atheists because it somehow makes it easier to indulge in promiscuity.

    As for the dominance of white men in atheism, so what? White men do that in all intellectually challenging areas even when no barriers exist for others to enter them. Plenty of nonwhite guys like baseball, for example, but as Steve Sailer points out, white men dominate sabermetrics because white men more than other groups like applying mathematical reasoning to try to understand the world.

  2. eveysolara says:

    In fact, one has to wonder if O’Hair would still have been so thoroughly ignored if she…..had been a man.

    no

  3. BenYachov says:

    O’Hair wasn’t exactly a laudable person. I read her Son’s book. She tried at one time to defect to the USSR but they wouldn’t take her since she had no job skills and no prospect to contribute to their society. Also it seems she didn’t know jack about Science. Dawkins can at least boast of some skill in being an evolution popularizer but O’Hair didn’t seem to have any advanced education.

    I guess she is an embarrassment to them?

  4. stcordova says:

    > Why do the modern day atheist leaders ignore their founder?

    They’re narcissists, they only respect themselves. If they perpetuate that as a tradition, the next generation of GNU will only honor themselves and forget Dawkins and Harris.

    I don’t recall any level of reverence for prior atheists like John Stuart Mill or Bertrand Russell. I’ve memorialized Bertrand Russell more than most GNUs!

  5. Mark Plus says:

    >But you know, the atheist movement does have a serious woman problem. Not only are its leaders all rich, white men, but many female atheists have complained vigorously of sexual harassment in the atheist community.

    Uh, hello? This shows the nonsense of christian propaganda about atheists’ swinging sex lives. You want to put us in a double bind. If the pickup attempts work, you can call the atheist women sluts. If they don’t work and the women complain about sexual harassment, then you can call the atheist men creepers and pervs. How about just acknowledging that this shows normal human mating behavior, regardless of atheism?

    BTW, I can’t blame guys for trying to live out a fantasy promoted by Hollywood. How many movies about you watched where the hero meets an attractive woman he has never seen before at a hotel, and he efficiently seduces her? This happens in just about every James Bond movie.

  6. Mark Plus says:

    @stcordova:

    Perhaps they ignore Madalyn because she sucked at promoting atheism. Seriously, have you tried to slog through some of her books?

    For years Free Inquiry magazine has published articles about notable freethinkers of the past, including relatively obscure ones like Chapman Cohen. Years ago I read one of Cohen’s books,(“Essays in Freethinking,” as I recall) and he wrote far, far better about nonbelief than Madalyn. The interest in the history of atheism shows that today’s atheists want to acknowledge their predecessors when the predecessors have merit. This doesn’t support your claim that the current batch wants to hog all the credit for themselves. For example, several recent books have drawn attention to the atheist propaganda written by the Baron d’Holbach in 18th Century France. (Thomas Jefferson, of all people, apparently had several editions of d’Holbach’s works in his personal library.)

    And I think enough time has passed since the end of Madalyn’s life for us to get some perspective on her contributions to atheism. She didn’t do a good enough job at it for her writings to become part of the atheist canon.

  7. Kevin says:

    I may just have OCD, but it gets harder and harder for me to take seriously any atheist who refuses to capitalize Christian, God, Bible, etc. Why engage with someone who is petty enough to intentionally violate grammatical rules in order to show disrespect?

  8. Ilíon says:

    Exactly, Kevin.

  9. Mark:

    “Uh, hello? This shows the nonsense of christian propaganda about atheists’ swinging sex lives. You want to put us in a double bind. If the pickup attempts work, you can call the atheist women sluts. If they don’t work and the women complain about sexual harassment, then you can call the atheist men creepers and pervs. How about just acknowledging that this shows normal human mating behavior, regardless of atheism?”

    First of all, who is this “you” you’re talking about? I don’t think I’ve ever seen Michael slut-shame anybody on this blog. Secondly, there’s a difference between trying to pick somebody up, and sexually harassing them. Thirdly, I don’t believe that sexual harassment is “normal human mating behaviour”.

    “BTW, I can’t blame guys for trying to live out a fantasy promoted by Hollywood. How many movies about you watched where the hero meets an attractive woman he has never seen before at a hotel, and he efficiently seduces her? This happens in just about every James Bond movie.”

    Of course, you’d have thought that a group which prides itself on its commitment to reason and evidence and on not being a flock of gullible sheep like those religionists would be able to tell the difference between reality and a James Bond movie.

  10. The Deuce says:

    The real issue is, each generation of angry atheists is too embarrassing in hindsight for successive generations to want to be publicly associated with them. That and they tend to be self-absorbed.

  11. Billy Squibs says:

    Kevin,

    I totally agree. After reading Mark’s first comment I thought it might just have been a mistake. His second comment showed a tedious trend.

    I do have some sympathy for the like of Coyne, Dawkins et al. and I think this post is guilty of being uncharitable. They probably think that O’Hair was rude, uncultured and damaging to their cause. (And it doesn’t matter for now if we think that these men are the same in their own way). I suppose we Christians* wont be commemorating the passing of Fred Phelps any time soon either. God rest his wicked soul.

    Every side has it’s cranks.

    *Mark, please note that words like “God” and “Christian” are a proper nouns. The same can be said of “Mark” but not for words like “displaying”, “petty” and “behaviour”.

  12. Ilíon says:

    B.S.:I do have some sympathy for the like of Coyne, Dawkins et al. and I think this post is guilty of being uncharitable. They probably think that O’Hair was rude, uncultured and damaging to their cause. …

    Translation: “They probably think that O’Hair was [a pleb, a no-account on account of her low social standing, and thus embarrassing to be associated with]”

  13. Martin Tuelay says:

    @Kevin LOL! I made a post on an Atheist blog yesterday scolding a fellow Atheist for doing the same thing!

    @The Original Mr X nice to see you sticking with the only thing you can do: twist words so you can slam others and feel more righteous. God love ya!

    Personally, the last book I read before leaving the church was the Bible (cover to cover for the second time). In 1987, I had no idea that Atheists had “books” and “a movement”.

  14. Mark Plus says:

    The organic, unplanned implosion of god belief in a big swath of the world shows that it never depended on the theoretical resolution of the god question in the first place. So in the long run the contributions of atheist propagandists like Madalyn O’Hair will have played only a minor role compared to the reduced existential anxiety caused by the much better living conditions of modernity.

    I have to wonder if the growing visibility of atheists in the U.S. gives christians the creeps because we look like an invasion of time travelers from a “Jesus who?” era in the future. Perhaps this accounts for the popularity of christian end times beliefs in this country: They’ve imagined a rapture because they can see that christians have already started to “disappear” through apostasy.

  15. Crude says:

    The organic, unplanned implosion of god belief in a big swath of the world shows that it never depended on the theoretical resolution of the god question in the first place.

    Organic and unplanned? Are you on crack? The 20th century was filled to the brim with overt attempts to wipe out belief in God for ideological purposes. Of course, we’re talking about history here – the Cult of Gnu pretends to be knowledgeable about science. Not so much about history. 😉

    I have to wonder if the growing visibility of atheists in the U.S. gives christians the creeps because we look like an invasion of time travelers from a “Jesus who?” era in the future.

    Oh lawdy lawdy, spare us from the existence of folks who don’ know Christ! Oh wait, it’s nothing new.

    And no one is getting ‘the creeps’ because of ‘growing visibility’. We’re just well aware of the sort of crazy state-cult atheists of the past have developed due to their religious zeal, and would rather not have a repeat, thank you. At least this time around it’s a bit more comic, what with the atheist churches (followed by the atheist schisms) and, now with Harris, full blown New Ageisms.

    If any of this upsets you, don’t worry. I’m sure Harris has some crystals to sell you that’ll clear that right up. The Cult of Gnu leaderships always has some snake oil to sell their faithful rubes. 😉

  16. Kevin says:

    It is written “Christians”. Christians. Not “christians”. In the name of all that is just and holy…

    Help me out, Martin. 😉

  17. TFBW says:

    Forget it Kevin: Grammatically Incorrect as a Matter of Principle is a Gnu thing. You may abbreviate it GIMP, and enjoy spotting the GIMP-atheists in lieu of trying to correct them.

  18. Kevin says:

    Hahaha, I hope I don’t ever forget that. Thanks TFBW!

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