God(s) and the null hypothesis

God(s) and the Null Hypothesis
By Dr. Kristi Winters

 ‘So why don’t you believe in god?’

‘Because I accept the null hypothesis,’ is the reply I would like to give, but that might sound like a non sequitur. Yet the null hypothesis is the perfect starting point to investigate the existence of pretty much anything. It assumes that there is no relationship between x and y. An alternative hypothesis would posit that a relationship between x and y exists. Evidence is reviewed and we determine whether it is sufficient to allow us to reject the null hypothesis and accept the alternative.

Why is the null hypothesis so important? It keeps us intellectually honest.

Human beings are amazing, we really are. We have the innate ability to make observations of the world and connect different events together in ways that provide powerful insights and knowledge and can transform human life. In the 1906 Typhoid Mary case, George Soper used science and deduction to reveal the existence of asymptomatic disease carriers, a concept that hadn’t – until that moment in time – existed. In August of 2013, over 100 years later, a study was published that explains the mystery of how people can carry dangerous pathogens but not fall ill from the disease (Huffington Post 2013).

But humans are unreliable amateur scientists because of our natural biases. We have a tendency to think that correlation implies causation (Jaffe 2010) and that particular error produces no end of superstitious beliefs: never stepping on the foul line of a baseball field is an example of a sports superstition (Reuter 2011).

Humans think they intuitively understand probability, but sadly most people don’t realize how at it bad they really are. New York’s stop and frisk policy relies on the idea that associations between race and crime that are found at the geographic level will also be found at the individual level. In other words they assume because areas of higher crime rates also have higher minority populations that by stopping more minorities in those high crime areas they are more likely to find potential criminals. That is what is known as an ecological fallacy.

The resulting evidence even proves it is a fallacy: 2012 stop and frisk statistics show that whites possessed guns and contraband at far higher rates than either blacks or Latinos. The ratio of stops to gun possession was for 1:48 for whites 1:71 for Latinos and 1:93 for African Americans. For contraband whites topped the list at a rate of 1 in 43 stops compared with 1 in 57 for Latinos and 1 in every 61 stops for blacks (TV-Novosti 2013). Yet many people refuse to accept that this ‘logical’ application of aggregate level associations will not be found when you stop individuals, even when the evidence shows it doesn’t appear. Our emotional attachment to our fallacies can cloud our minds even when the empirical evidence is beyond dispute.

This is why people ought to evaluate the existence of gods using the null hypothesis. I mentioned that the null hypothesis is most often used to evaluate causal relationships between phenomena. It can easily be applied to the existence of supernatural beings such as gods. I will provide a null (HO) and alternative hypothesis (HA):

HO: Gods do not exist.

HA: Gods exist.

Simple enough, right? But the atheist’s job is not done there because a theist might want to take up the challenge. The issue, then, is what is to be considered evidence of a god or gods? Two things are important here. The first depends on the definition of ‘god’ the theist gives. I’m not going to engage with the various definitions of god here, I must leave that to the theists rather than attempt to speak for them. I want to focus on the second, what constitutes evidence of existence, and offer some thoughts.

One definition of evidence is ‘the available body of facts or information indicating whether a belief or proposition is true or valid.’ (Oxford Dictionaries 2013, p. 2) In science all evidence must be observable. Inferences in isolation are not evidence in science. Consider this: science posited the idea of the Higgs-Boson particle in 1964, but that was not sufficient evidence of its existence. That was not confirmed until March of 2013 and it was based on observation. All claims about the universe requiring something supernatural to start it can be thrown out unless are accompanied by observable physical evidence of the supernatural starting the natural universe.

Another criterion is that any claim must apply equally to all those who make it. Theists might point to a holy book as evidence for their god. The problem is that there are many gods written about in many books. If the theists want to introduce a book as evidence of existence then ALL books about gods must also count as evidence of their existence. Science doesn’t allow for special pleading (Curtis, n.d.), so either all human works about gods are in and they are all equally valid, or they are all out.

I would also note that the natural world cannot be evidence of the supernatural. There is no valid reason to accept natural events as evidence of anything other than natural processes because the supernatural, by definition, is not natural. It is as non-natural as one can get. Therefore, pointing to the existence of the human eye is not evidence of the existence of supernatural gods.

Rare events, those that are highly improbable, are not supernatural events either. There are merely highly unlikely. Clearly a highly improbable event cannot be a miracle because we can and do we can estimate the probability of their occurrence. I’ll quote comedian Tim Minchin (2009) who joked about the idea that giving birth identical quadruplet girls – a 1 in 64 million chance event – was a miracle: ‘Things that have a ‘1 in 64 million chance of happening’ happen all the time. To presume that your 1-in-64-million-chance thing is ‘a miracle’ is to significantly underestimate the total number of things that there are.’

After establishing a fair and reasonable basis for what constitutes legitimate evidence of gods what one is left with is a lack of any evidence. Without sufficient evidence to the contrary, we must hold to the null hypothesis: gods do not exist. This is not an emotional decision. I’m not denying or rejecting anything. I’m merely observing the fact that there is no evidence of gods that allow me to accept the alternative hypothesis.

It is what science does every day. And it seems to me if gods really did exist, providing evidence of their existence wouldn’t be so hard.

Online Sources

Curtis, Gary. No date. ‘Special pleading at the Fallacy Files.’ Available online at:  http://www.fallacyfiles.org/specplea.html

Huffington Post. 2013. 'Typhoid Mary' Mystery May Have Been Solved At Last, Scientists Say.’ Available online at:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/08/17/typhoid-mary-mystery-solved_n_3762822.html

Jaffe, Adi. 2010. ‘Correlation, causation, and association – What does it all mean???’ Available online at:  http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/all-about-addiction/201003/correlation-causation-and-association-what-does-it-all-mean

Minchin, Tim. Uploaded 2009. ‘Tim Minchin on Religion.’ Available online at:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uZ_9dEPBHQQ

Oxford Dictionaries. 2013. ‘Evidence.’ Available online at:  http://oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/evidence

Reuter, Joel. (2011) ‘MLB Power Rankings: The 50 Strangest Superstitions and Rituals in Baseball.’ Available online at:  http://bleacherreport.com/articles/677898-mlb-power-rankings-the-50-strangest-superstitionsrituals-in-baseball-history

TV-Novosti. 2013. ‘NYC stop-and-frisk data: Whites more likely to carry weapons and drugs.’ http://rt.com/usa/stop-frisk-whites-drugs-weapons-667/

This article was edited on 05 September 2013.

Member Article: Reactions to Revelations

On August 8th, 2013, PZ Meyers did several important things.


First, he listened, without judgment, when someone told him they'd been assaulted. He didn't question her about her actions prior to the assault, or her motivations for confiding in him. Second, he confided in a mutual acquaintance that he needed confirmation that the source of this story was trustworthy. Third, he considered how to react to this information. Up until this point I don't think anyone will disagree with his choices. This is all Survivor 101.


Here are some of the items that he probably considered while deciding on a course of action:

  • The assault is not recent.
  • The perpetrator is very well known.
  • The person who had been assaulted told organizers at the event about the assault and they did nothing about it.
  • This person fears retaliation from fans of the perpetrator and even the perpetrator himself (reasonably so given the community's response to similar allegations).


It also sounds like he considered the possible damage of a false accusation (highly unlikely given what we know about reporting cases of sexual assault) and decided that the damage done by a potentially false public accusation (I'm not implying that this or this or this were false accusations, but that the damage done to the alleged perpetrator is minimal) would be less than the damage done by keeping a true one private (behavior self-reported by rapists indicates that most attacks are perpetrated by serial rapists). Finally, he posted this blog.

Among the many reactions to that blog (and others like it) that I've seen, I'm most perplexed (and angered, and saddened, and frustrated) by the refrain that "these are issues for the courts to decide, and there are protocols in place that address these issues". The idea that the only time someone should be held responsible for something they have done wrong is when we send them to jail for it is laughable. It's so clearly fallacious and so utterly departs from reality and human nature that I wonder at the rationality of anyone repeating it.


Of course, criminal laws are very important to human society, and in the U.S., incarceration is also very important. But the reality is that there are many ways people can mistreat one another which we will never have criminal statutes for.

For example:

I drive an automobile owned by the state I work for. Use of this vehicle is a privilege, but it is also crucial for my job. I am required by my employer to operate it in the safest manner I possibly can.


If I get drunk and hit a pedestrian in that vehicle, I will probably go to jail. But what if I just don't take care of the vehicle? If I drive it and notice the brakes are bad, but I don't do anything about it? Say I'm driving this vehicle without getting the brakes fixed even though I know they're not working right and I hit a pedestrian. I'm probably not going to jail. But I'm sure as hell losing my job, any friends who I told about the brakes, and probably any future job requiring the operation of a vehicle. Let's say, for the sake of argument, in both these scenarios, the pedestrians suffer identical severely broken legs. It doesn't matter if I hit them while drunk or while neglecting to repair my brakes, they both would bear the scars of this incident for the rest of their lives.

Yet we consider drunk driving to be a more serious crime than neglecting crucial vehicle maintenance.

Why? After all, I can reasonably assert that both described scenarios involve equally wrong actions, since both involved a conscious choice to act in a way that resulted in harm to another person where the alternative would not have caused me any harm and would have had the added benefit of resulting in no harm to another person.

We, as a society, have clearly determined that drunk driving is wrong and we can reliably determine whether I was drunk at the time of the incident. Without knowing anything but that I was intoxicated and operating the vehicle that struck the pedestrian, my guilt is obvious. Similarly, we as a society have clearly determined that sexual assault on a stranger, with the threat of violence, is wrong. In cases of violent stranger assault, it's clear to completely uninvolved parties that the attacker harmed someone. Courts are good (sort of, not really) at dealing with these situations.


The brakes are a different issue. If you didn't know me before the accident, there's no way to determine for sure that I knew the brakes weren't working unless I admit it, which I won't now that somebody is hurt. Additionally, under other circumstances I might have a reason for not having fixed them. I may have been genuinely unaware that the brakes were failing. Or, I knew but I may not have had access to enough funds for the repair. I may have even been on my way to work to earn the money, or to a friend's house to plead for a loan. Or, I may have been on my way to get them fixed when it happened and it was just unfortunate and unexpected that they failed at that moment. It may be impossible for a criminal investigation to determine why I was driving with bad breaks. But, people who knew me before it happened, the people who I joked with about "no brakes! no brakes!" know how exactly how awful I am. Context matters here. We don't write laws that say “You will go to jail for hitting a pedestrian if you knew your brakes were bad and you had the means to fix them but you didn't do it right away.” Law is lousy at dealing with context: it's hard to prove I was able to fix the breaks and should have because I knew they were bad but that I chose not to.

Assault and harassment are like reckless driving in important ways: these are choices made by perpetrators, their victims are in no way responsible for what happened to them, there are kinds that our laws handle well, and there are kinds that laws handle poorly. (Sexual assault and harassment are also very different from reckless driving in important ways: sexual assault and harassment are committed against a particular target not the community at large, victims of sexual assault and harassment are overwhelmingly female-identified persons or minors, people hit by cars are not, and perpetrators of sexual assault are overwhelmingly cis-gender man while stats on reckless driving show a greater corrolation with age than gender. When we cannot write laws to punish people whose behavior harms others the only solution is for a community to decide to protect itself from people who behave in harmful ways. There could be almost no cost to non-rapists in performing the communal, social maintenance required to prevent rape. There should be no argument against fixing this problem in the secular community.


So what can we do? Let's look at ways we as a group regulate negative behaviors.


Maybe you've taken a friend's car keys when you knew they were in no condition to drive. Maybe you've yelled at cars for speeding through crosswalks or past schools. Maybe you've honked when somebody changed lanes without signaling. Maybe you've grounded your kids for speeding or texting while driving. Maybe your interference or calling attention to a bad driver saved somebody a lot of pain and suffering.


Maybe, if we quit pretending that stopping sexual harassment and assault are solely the domain of human resource departments and law enforcement we can actually make our community safer.


Maybe we can all make sure our friends get home safe and go to bed alone after they've had a wild night out. Maybe we all should yell back when someone gets cat-called. Maybe we should tell each other to respect other people's personal space. Maybe we'll resolve to stop referring to losing badly in sports and video games as “getting raped”. Maybe we tell our kids that sex isn't a prize you get from (or give to) someone. Maybe we tell them sex is something we do with happy, coherent, consenting partners or we do it alone (because there's nothing wrong with that). Maybe, you've seen a friend buy somebody a drink, and then another, and another. Maybe your friend helped that person stagger home. Maybe it happens more than once. Maybe it was consensual, no harm done. Maybe it wasn't. Maybe all you had to do was make sure that someone got into a cab with your friend's phone number instead of with your friend. Maybe you haven't interfered before because it didn't seem like a big deal. Maybe, for somebody, it was.


Before you decide to condemn PZ Meyers for his actions, I would urge you to consider all the times our community has failed the people who are actually being harassed, who are actually being assaulted, who are actually being hurt, who are truly afraid because we're no better at shutting these predators down than any other community and we really ought to be. We should be rational: hundreds of studies have shown the frequency of sexual harassment and assault are astoundingly high, and yet nearly all claims are met initially with disbelief. We know we're just like everybody else in most ways, so it stands to reason that there are atheists who have been sexually assaulted or harassed, that there are atheists who commit sexual assault or who sexually harass members of our community. Given what we know about the pervasiveness off assault and harassment, our first response should never be, “Are you sure that's what happened?”


If we're going to be rational, if we're going to be skeptics our first response should be, “How can I make sure this doesn't happen again?”

A Preview of FtBCon, Happening this Weekend (Updated)

We are thrilled to see this new conference format focused on those in the atheist and secular communities and are interested in social justice.  As the secular movement grows so too should the ways in which we can participate in the secular community.  FTBConscience adds a unique and innovative approach to making connections, discussing topics, and making conferences more accessible.

Find Secular Woman at FtBConscience!

Secular Woman members will be represented in full force at FTBConscience, an online  conference held by Freethoughtblogs.com beginning this weekend. All times are CST. View the full schedule here.
  • Kim Rippere, president of Secular Woman, will participate in a panel titled “Atheism is Not Enough.” The description sums it up well: “As proven by the deep rifts that exist within movement atheism, a common acknowledgement that there is no god is often not enough ground on which to build a coherent, lasting community. Social justice movements often encounter tipping points where they either take into account the natural allies that are other movements, or they fail. This panel will discuss how movement atheism should not be the end-point of a journey into social justice, but the beginning.” Rippere and fellow SW board member Monette Richards will also present “The Right Way to be Wrong,” on how to react when called out for hurting others, Saturday at 8 a.m.

  • Amy Davis Roth of Skepchick.org and Surly-Ramics will be co-hosting a panel with Glendon Mellow called “Atheism, Science, and Art” on Saturday at 2 p.m. Artists within the secular, scientific and skeptical communities online discuss using their art to popularize their preferred field. Panelists include Anne Sauer, Emily Finke, and Julius Csotonyi.

  • Trinity Aodh, Secular Woman’s advisor on queer inclusion, language, and membership strategies, will participate in the panel “Myths and Facts About Trans People,” in which five trans women will discuss both the obvious and subtle flaws in common understandings of what being trans is like. 

  • Vyckie Garrison, founder of the organization No Longer Quivering,  will be presenting on Saturday from 12-2 p.m. as part of a panel discussing “Evangelical Atheism,” joined by Jamila Bey and Russell Glasser. “I'm planning to share several effective tips on how to talk to a fundamentalist,” she says.

  • Ex-Muslim writer and Skepchick Heina Dadabhoy will join the the "Atheist Representation in Pop Culture" panel, which discusses how atheists are portrayed in the public sphere, and how we can improve our image. She will be joined by Skepchick.org founder Rebecca Watson, “Friendly Atheist” Hemant Mehta, activist JT Eberhard, writer and speaker Ashley Miller, and Xavier Trapp of Black Nonbelievers of Atlanta. Ian Cromwell will moderate.

  • Rebecca Hensler, founder of Grief Beyond Belief, will moderate a panel including Greta Christina, Nicome Taylor, and Hank Fox titled “Atheism and Grief,” a discussion of how atheists can help each other during times of tragedy. 

  • Secular Woman board member Nicole Harris will participate in the “Reproductive Rights” and “What’s the Harm? Religion, Pseudoscience, and Mental Health” panels. 

  • Writer and activist Miri Mogilevsky will be hosting three panels: “Promoting Social Justice in Small Atheist Groups”; “Reproductive Rights”; and “Meet the Pathfinders”; and moderating three more: “Sex and Skepticism”; “Supporting Freethinkers with Mental Illness”; and “What’s the Harm? Religion, Pseudoscience, and Mental Health” (along with fellow SW member Ania Bula). She is also speaking at “God is Love? Relationships in a Godless World.”

  • Social justice blogger Ania Bula will participate in “Of Spoons and Skepticism: Dealing with Chronic Pain” at 11:00 a.m. on Saturday, along with Chana, Emily Harte, Mitchell Greenbaum, and Emily Finke. She says, “We will be talking about what it is like to deal with chronic pain and why the atheist community and skeptics should care about those of us with chronic pain.” She will also be a part of the 4:00 p.m. panel “God is Love? Relationships in a Godless World,” joined by Anti-Intellect, Beth Presswood, Jamila Bey, James Croft, and Miri M., which discusses how our godlessness affects our romantic relationships. 

  • Michelle Huey is a part of the Pathfinder's Project, which has a panel on Sunday; the program consists of a yearlong international service and research trip sponsored by Foundation Beyond Belief. 

  • Jadehawk will be a part of a panel titled “Immigrants’ Rights and Social Justice.” The panel will discuss experiences of immigrants; asylum abuses; how detention and deportation are harmful; and what activists can do to stand in solidarity with immigrants.

  • Brianne Bilyeu will facilitate the “Atheist Music” panel, and she’ll be leading the “Reproductive Rights” panel and participating in “Video Games, Religion and Morality.”

Quiverfull Mega-Moms Matter the Mostest

by Vyckie Garrison

Originally posted at http://www.patheos.com/blogs/nolongerquivering/2013/06/quiverfull-mega-moms-matter-the-mostest/

Last month I was invited to participate in a panel discussion on Women Leaving Religion at the Center For Inquiry’s Women in Secularism conference in Washington, DC.

Lately, I’ve been doing more speaking than writing in my efforts to promote No Longer Quivering and raise awareness of the issue of spiritual abuse. In my talks, I always mention that one of the main reasons I started blogging was an attempt to explain, to myself and to anyone who cared to read about my experiences, WHY the high-demand Quiverfull lifestyle is so appealing and WHY any modern woman, with nearly unlimited career options available, would choose a life of wholehearted devotion to God marked by prolific motherhood, submission, self-abnegation, and martyrdom.

People watch Michelle Duggar with her 19 cookie-cutter kids whose names all begin with “J,” and they naturally want to know: WHY would any woman want to live that way?

Why so many kids? Why no birth control? Why home birth, and why adopt sibling groups? Why “blanket training,” Growing Kids God’s Way, and ¼-inch plumbing supply line? Why home school? Why “dare to shelter” – meaning: no television, contemporary music, Internet, sleepovers, youth group, or college for girls? Why courtship? Why bake bread from scratch and sew your own matching mother/daughter/daughter/daughter/daughter/baby outfits? Why organic gardening, extreme-couponing and cottage business? Why not give yourself a bit of a break, lady?

And make no mistake about it: Quiverfull is a women’s movement. Sure the men are given lip-service as “spiritual leaders” and “heads of the home,” but as many women have discovered, there is power in submission and for the most part, it is the wives who seek out the teachings of capital “p” Patriarchy and push the Quiverfull ideal on their less-than-servant-leader-quality husbands.

As many of the bloggers in NLQ’s Spiritual Abuse Survivor Blogs Network have discovered, writing can be an incredibly effective means of processing our experiences and figuring out what exactly we were doing and why.

Sharing my story and receiving feedback from readers was tremendously helpful in understanding a number of factors which contributed to me embracing the fundamentalist worldview of Christian patriarchy: Quiverfull is about Vision and Conviction, it is a way to feel Superior (never mind that, as a living martyr, I felt terribly humble – LOL), submission to God is one way to avoid the overwhelming responsibility of Choice, while submitting to a spiritual leader (pastor or husband) provides a fairly Twisted mechanism for controlling that which is out of control, the ever-increasing hardships of the Quiverfull life prove commitment and faith, and of course, “Biblical Family Values” is all about Money.

But it wasn’t until I heard philosophy professor and novelist, Rebecca Goldstein speak at the Women in Secularism conference that I finally understood the essential reason behind all of the above-mentioned peripheral reasons WHY the Quiverfull worldview and lifestyle is attracting a growing number of evangelical Christian women.

In explaining why smart, sensible people are so often caught up in the tangle of religious deception and delusion which increasingly characterizes contemporary systems of belief, Goldstein mentioned several well-known concepts such as Nietzsche’s ”Will to Power” and William James’ “Will to Believe.” But then Goldstein described an even stronger urge in the human psyche … and that is our inherent desire to MATTER.

Greta Christina summarized Goldstein’s “Will to Matter” with the headline, “People want to matter more than they want to live.” We want our existence to matter, and according to Goldstein, “who matters” is a function of “what matters.” In our society which principally values economic and technological advancement, it’s easy to feel like even our most hard-won academic, professional, and personal achievements hardly make any impression at all upon the pale blue dot which we humans inhabit.

We know instinctively that the corporate world does not really care about us individually, and to be honest, being cogs in the machine – regardless of how accomplished and efficient we might be – doesn’t matter all that much to us either.

Greta Christina makes a good point when she writes:

One of the main things people get from religion is the feeling that they matter. After all, what could make you feel more important than believing that the creator of the entire universe cares passionately about you: that he wants more than almost anything for you to do right and be with him after you die, and is even waging a war for your soul?

True … but for those of us who have BTDT, that feeling of being loved unconditionally by Almighty God – even being in a close personal relationship with Jesus – is honestly too abstract and intangible to really satisfy that deep and tenacious need to mean something to somebody in the here and now.

What ultimately matters to people are other people. We want to matter to people.

And so … it’s tempting to go back to the old paths … to reclaim our “Christian heritage” with its traditional family values. At least in the “Man’s World” of biblical patriarchy, it’s easy to know what counts, what makes us “matter” as women: our worth lies in serving, nurturing, reproduction, care-giving, hospitality … tending to our families is what matters, and to the extent that we do it well, our domesticity ensures that we, ourselves, actually do matter.

But there’s more to it than that. Because we are not stupid. We recognize that, like corporate America, like organized religion, “the patriarchy” is just one more impersonal system which only gains power and control to the degree that it succeeds in subsuming our particular talent, strength, and energy to serve the collective … organizations thrive only by weakening individuals.

It’s a sad but true irony that the more an institution matters to people, the less people matter to the institution. This is why people tend to resist (or at least we like to think we’re resisting) whatever modern behemoth we can clearly see is manipulating the majority of the people: nobody likes Walmart, Hollywood, mass-media, and big banks, … we all hate politics, … and everyone knows there are serious problems with mainstream Christianity.

Thus we have counter-culture.

The reason Quiverfull is gaining ground is because it puts a female individual in the position of mattering – of mattering A LOT – to a collective.

If you really want someone to care about you more than anyone – all you need to do is give birth to them. Being a mother guarantees that you will matter – for good or for evil – your child’s life will be intimately wrapped up in yours, even despite the best efforts of a brilliant therapist later in life. (I say this only half-jokingly. We all love our mothers, BUT …)

But of course Quiverfull moms will be loved and appreciated … the promise is that the children of a Proverbs 31 mother will rise up and call her “blessed.” That’s because Quiverfull mothers are the very best mothers, as evidenced by all the hard work and self-sacrifice they’re putting into raising up “mighty warriors for God.”

Talk about standing the Status Quo on its head!! Women are used to mattering the least – but Quiverfull offers us a chance to matter the mostest.

Quiverfull moms of many matter exponentially more … for all Eternity.

Think for just a minute about the Duggar family. Who is the star of “19 and Counting”? Obviously, Michelle. Who matters most to each of her 19 children? Michelle. Sure it can be argued that with the use of ATI’s “buddy system” Michelle is delegating her mothering responsibilities to her older daughters, thus creating the potential for her younger children to care more for their siblings than they do for her, but our own experience as children and as mothers tells us that, while she may delegate the responsibility, she can never dilute her position of “Mother” in the hearts and minds of her children. A mother does not even have to raise her children to be central in their lives. By birthing and mothering 19 children, Michelle Duggar has become a de facto institution: She rules the Duggar world.

Ideally, Michelle’s 19 J-babies would matter as much to her as she does to them. But in reality, we already know that the institution only flourishes at the expense of the individuals to whom it (she) matters.

Imagine being a J-child to whom Michelle is the most important person in the world. Now imagine that there are 18 more J-children who love her just as much as you do, and suppose that your loving devotion is dampened just the tiniest bit by your desire for independence and autonomy … you wanna have your own life, but if you pursue your dreams and your aspirations, you necessarily detract from the monolith which Michelle has become.

You see the problem, I’m sure.

Kids who have been raised in this very situation are coming of age, and they’re feeling like maybe they are mere cogs in the wheels of the “biblical family” institutions which we’ve established.  Now they want to know, “Do WE matter?”

Unless Quiverfull mega-moms can demonstrate that the answer is unequivocally, “YES!” – we’re all in for a rude awakening.

Bottom line: Of course, we all want to matter, and there is nothing wrong with that – but breeding quivers full of children in order to mega-matter will backfire on narcissistic moms. The only legitimate reason to have children is because THEY matter – and not in some theoretical, “Lo, Children are a Blessing” some-day-up-in-Heaven kind of way. No, they want to matter TO US – to their own moms.

Our kids need to matter the mostest to US – right here, right now.


Comprehensive Sex Education Can Prevent Sexual Asssault

Third article for Secular Woman's Sexual Assault Awareness Month series

by Laurel Reed, follow her on twitter

As we enter into Sexual Assault Awareness Month, it is painfully clear that the youth of America are more unaware than ever. And we adults can directly blame ourselves for their ignorance. Sex education classes in the United States (where they’re available) are woefully inadequate. Only 18 states require sex education to be medically accurate. And, thanks to the overbearing presence of religion, most sex educators’ hands are tied when it comes to updating or presenting new material. We all remember the “Don’t Say Gay” bills that circulated through various mid-western state legislatures. If students and teachers can’t even say the word “gay”, how are they supposed to educate themselves and other people about different sexual identities?

Open dialogue about different sexual and gender identities is just the beginning of what American students are missing. According to a Guttmacher report, “half of students in grades 7-12 report needing more information about what to do in the event of rape or sexual assault”. So not only are students not educated on how to respond to a rape, they are also not told what rape is, what sexual assault is, and what consent is. This horrifying reality came to light during the recent Steubenville rape trial when one bystander stated, “I didn’t know it was rape- it wasn’t violent”. 

I believe that sex education should be about so much more than basic human anatomy or when and where is the best time to lose one’s virginity. As we see all around us, human sexuality is complex and always evolving. Due to lackluster education or bashful parents at home, or both, American teenagers are forced to make sense of their sexuality by themselves. This nation is so polarized by the issues of abortion, contraception, and condoms that we have forgotten that sex education should be about more than those topics. Parents are so busy thinking that their child would never assault or rape someone that they don’t bother to tell them that rape is wrong and that it is important to always get consent.

Unfortunately, for some teenagers, it doesn’t matter what they learn in a sex education class – they may have already been sexually assaulted. It’s important to these teenagers’ recovery that their assault is addressed and validated – either in a class at school, or by their parents or guardians. A person who has been sexually assaulted may combat many other resulting issues for a long time after the incident, such as sleep disorders, self-harm, depression, and flashbacks. It is vitally important to the health and well-being of our teenagers and us that we not only improve our current sex education classes, but also improve our response to sexual assault victims. We must always remind them that assault is not their fault, let them know that there are resources available to them, and that we are supportive of them.

During Sexual Assault Awareness Month, each of us should strive to remember that just because our teenagers’ sexuality or our own sexuality might make us uncomfortable, doesn’t mean we should hide information from our youth or teach them that their sexuality is something to be ashamed of. I believe one of the most integral solutions to every problem is open and honest communication. What better forum to encourage such communication than in a comprehensive, inclusive, and nonjudgmental sex education class?

I Hide Inside

Second article for Secular Woman's Sexual Assault Awareness Month series

by Shanna Wells, follow her on twitter

A follow up to her first article on Street Harassment.

It’s summer in Philadelphia. The sky scraper in which I work is just three blocks from Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell. Behind the Hall is a shaded green space, an enviable place to be on my lunch hour. But to get there I must pass a construction site. As a large woman, I’m not sure which comments are worse from the all-male crew: being told I’m a hideous excuse of a woman, or being told how my body will be used for the man’s pleasure. I dissociate, seeing myself through their eyes. Just steps from where the Declaration of Independence was signed, I am a prisoner – in my office, in my body, in my gender.

I Hide Inside

The drills and jackhammers

Sting my blossom ears.

Next door, men are erecting

Another giant penis to themselves.

It juts skyward, dry humping the Universe.


I hide inside.


At noon, workmen dominate

The passive sidewalk.

They practice the manly art

Of visual molestation, connoisseurs,

Testing for body, bouquet and breasts.


I hide inside.


My buttocks and teeth clenched,

I pass, watching myself pass,

Watching them watching me pass.

I suck in my stomach, tensing for the blow.


It makes me look thinner, too.

The Strong Atheist Women who Led History

Sixth article in Secular Woman's Women's History Month Series


by Rachel Johnson, find her on twitter and listen to her podcast, The Pink Atheist

Women have played a vital role in the historic forward movement of the Atheism. The impression is often given in society that atheists have always been men, and they have led the charge, but the reality when uncovered is something completely different. It was women who pushed back religion first. It was not only feminism which the women were pushing; it was clear cut atheist women who stepped forward. There are many names, but some are vital for us all to know. The atheist community should take pride in the fact that when it comes to women, we were first in leading the way to a better future, not just for women, but for our world as well.

Madalyn Marie O’Hair was the founder of American Atheists. She is best known for her lawsuit in 1963, which removed bible reading from schools. She was president of American Atheists for 23 years, and after she was de facto president for the 9 years her son served as president. American Atheists has grown to one of the largest American groups, and has gone on to challenge many infringements of religion and state separation laws.

Elizabeth Cady Stanton was a staunch feminist and was a leader in the formation of the women’s suffrage movement. She also wrote the woman’s bible, criticizing the way women were portrayed in the bible. She later became the president of the women’s suffrage movement, but, after the controversy of her book, she was distanced from the broader movement. She played a big role in moving women’s rights forward.

Susan B Anthony was another stirring and fire powered atheist who was a part of the women’s suffrage movement. She spent her life working toward the cause of ending women being second class citizens. She was such an anti-religious woman that she was even removed from speaking, and was also removed from power in the women’s suffrage movement. She fought for women to keep the money they earned and have rights to their children. She also was part of the movement to give women voting rights.

While this is just a small sample of the women who have given their time and devoted their lives to the cause of women’s rights and atheism, there are many more. In fact there are a shocking number of women out there who have lived their lives working towards equality. They faced ridicule by women of their time, as well as men. They were treated as outcasts, and removed from their places of power because of their atheism. These women lived in a time when women were nothing but property and housewives. They were ahead of their time, and that is likely because they were atheists, and willing to see the world from an honest vantage point. There are also women who are more current and have started organizations like Anne Nicole Gaylor who was co-founder of Freedom from Religion Foundation.

Anne Nicole Gaylor, along with Annie Laurie Gaylor, worked to found Freedom from Religion Foundation – which is now one of the prominent groups who guard civil liberties. They often engage in stopping infringements on civil rights by the religious who try and put religion into schools. They have become well known and have been a vital part of many court cases. Thanks to them and the lawyers working for them they have kept many religious groups from using schools to promote religious ideas and doctrine.

Many women have taken prominent roles in most of the atheist groups. More and more women are becoming atheists every day. We are a vital part of the atheist movement. We should all become more familiar with the women in history who have led to this moment, the ones who were not only ahead of their time, but eloquent and intelligent. Even before Christianity spread through the world, there was one woman who challenged religion. She paid the price with her life. Hypatia was well known for challenging the patriarchal society of her time, and the religious establishment. She was brutally murdered by Christians for her refusal to be silenced, and her writings were burned.

Women with such strength and honor speak of the reality of womanhood. We are not weak, but are strong by nature. We do not need the protection of men, but the protection from men who try to dismiss our intellect and devalue us. We do not need to be kept in our place, but take our rightful place alongside of the men as leaders, and strong intelligent voices who can bring change to the world.