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The Truth About That NatGeo Article On Atheism

March 5, 2018

The Truth About That NatGeo Article On Atheism


Atheist Alliance International is running an ongoing Atheist Census project, in order to gather a range of information about atheists worldwide. One of the more noticeable trends from the census results, has related to the reported gender imbalance. The output of the considerations around this gender imbalance was the Atheist Alliance International Gender Balance Report, of which I happened to be one of the co-authors.

This report was compiled after contacting around 100 activists, parliamentarians, academics, scientists and journalists. None of the contributors contacted identify as male, which is the gender identity selected by 73% of respondents to the Atheist Census.

We were delighted with the level of engagement that was observed throughout the project. Insightful contributions were received from women on every continent. There was also considerable interest in the final published report, not least from National Geographic who interviewed the President of Atheist Alliance International about the conclusions. Unfortunately, the resulting article published by National Geographic contained less analysis of the core issues and more gratuitous and inaccurate insults aimed at Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris.


Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris
Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris


In particular, Gabe Bullard from National Geographic stated the following:

“Some of the humanist movement’s most visible figures aren’t known for their respect toward women. Prominent atheists Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins have awful reputations for misogyny … The leaders of Atheist Alliance International, Dawkins Foundation, and Center for Inquiry who I talked to were all well aware of the demographic shortcomings, and they’re working on it: All of the leaders I spoke to were women.”

I have since reviewed every single response that was received from all six continents, as part of the Atheist Alliance International Gender Balance Report. I would like to make it clear that throughout all of the responses received from across the globe while compiling this report, neither Richard Dawkins nor Sam Harris were ever mentioned. Many varied and nuanced reasons were offered for the gender imbalance within atheist organisations worldwide, but neither Richard Dawkins nor Sam Harris were among them. Many characteristics of the atheist community were criticised, but neither Richard Dawkins nor Sam Harris were ever mentioned as part of this criticism. Many excellent suggestions for change were made, which gave rise to specific recommendations made within the Atheist Alliance International Gender Balance Report, but none of the suggested changes were aimed at either Richard Dawkins or Sam Harris.

Sam Harris has already addressed these issues directly on his blog. It is noticeable from his response that the inaccurate accusations in the National Geographic article are simply a re-hash of earlier erroneous reports. Such spurious and prejudiced accounts have also been addressed before by Michael NugentJerry Coyne and others.

It seems that NatGeo and Gabe Bullard are happy throw around allegations of misogyny at prominent atheists but those allegations are simply not supported by the report referred to in the article.

John Hamill

National Committee, Atheist Ireland

Secretary, Atheist Alliance International