One thing I've noticed (as well as other people) is something glaringly obvious: there are exactly zero women in this picture. None. For a movement that regularly gets noticed for leaning a little on the "white male" side, artwork like this doesn't help our cause. Left to right, the figures are John Cleese, Penn Jillette, Bill Nye, Stephen Hawking, (above) Frederick Nietzsche, (below) George Carlin, Carl Sagan, Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins, Charles Darwin, Neil DeGrasse Tyson, Adam Savage, Michio Kaku.
This picture is making the rounds under the title "The Heroes of Atheism." Of course, what raises my eyebrow is not only the fact that the work is populated entirely by male figures, but by many male figures who never self-identified as atheists in the first place.
Neil DeGrasse Tyson has self-identified as Agnostic. We can argue all day long if he is a "technical atheist" or a "dictionary atheist" or whatever other kind of atheist all day long, but Dr. Tyson has made it abundantly clear that he has chosen not to be a part of the atheist movement and is instead focusing his time and resources to promote science. Essentially, even if you can make the argument that Dr. Tyson is an atheist, it is wrong to co-opt him into the atheist movement as a "hero" against his will.
Another dubious addition is Charles Darwin, who was a Christian when he wrote On the Origin of Species and died as a self-identified Agnostic. Again, even if you could make the argument that Darwin was actually an atheist by today's standards, his work is championed by a number of theist scientists. It puzzles me because we often love to remind creationists that other theists accept evolution, and that evolution is not strictly "atheist" in any sense, yet we're all too eager to claim him as our own when we need to pad a list.
I've read the artist who created this explained the lack of female presence due to the fact that there weren't any females he considered to be influential. That's fine I guess. We're all free to make the art reflect ourselves, but I hold that the fact that he couldn't think of any female atheist heroes to include in the first place is a problem in of itself. Because there are women who deserve to be on that list and in that painting every bit as much as, if not more than, John Cleese (John Cleese, really? I mean, I know he's an atheist but to put him in the same painting with Dawkins and then claim you couldn't think of any women? Seriously?). Hell, there are women who deserve to be on a painting even more than Richard Fucking Dawkins. Who? I'm glad you asked...
1. Madalyn Murray Fucking O'Hair
Let's take a look at the accomplishments of Richard Dawkins as it relates to Atheism:
- Wrote "The God Delusion"
- Gave a bunch of speeches
- Debated theists
- Started the Richard Dawkins Foundation
- Ended state-sponsored school prayer in the United States
- Founded American Atheists
- Did all of this in the fucking 1960's when being an atheist had much graver social consequences than it does today
2. Ayaan Hirsi Fucking Ali
She's done at least as much as most of the men up there, and her focus is on Atheism and the harm Islam does to society (which is a hell of a lot more harm than Christianity does to society in general). She braved far more immediate danger to her life and well-being for her beliefs than all of the men in that painting combined.
I plan on adding more, but I have to go. But I think I've made my point. Admittedly, I'm not as well-versed as I should be on the roles women have had in atheism, but the fact that even I could at least come up with two women that deserve to be on that painting off the top of my fucking head really says something. If anyone ever needs to come up with a "great atheists" lists and literally can't think of a single woman to put on there, there's a problem. There's a problem if you can't even think of the god-damned queen and mother of the modern American atheist movement.