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.