Re Katha Pollitt’s “Atheists Show Their Sexist Side” [Oct. 13]: the key to this important and insightful essay is found in her notation that “Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris talk as if their obnoxious fanboys were all that stood between the values of the Enlightenment and the barbarous darkness of feminist fascism.” Yes, precisely. Enlightenment values lifted only elite and upper-middle-class young males into the lofty realm of education that previously had been reserved for boys going into Christian priestly and clerical orders. Thus began a more secular education of elite males. But peasant and slave males and all females were not included in Enlightenment values, which kept the principle of hierarchy (divine order). Secular law as well as religious law and dogma declared that neither slaves nor females were fully human. One hopes feminism will destroy the ladder and/or pyramid of hierarchy, whether divinely or secularly ordered.
Patricia Lingenfelter Highby
Professor of religious studies, retired
* * *
I am not surprised that Katha Pollitt has found Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris to harbor sexist opinions. Tolerance is not these men’s long suit. I think you would find much more empathic feminism from progressive religious spokesmen like Rabbi Michael Lerner, Episcopal priest and ex-Dominican Matthew Fox, evangelical Jim Wallis and Franciscan Richard Rohr. These men’s compassionate view of God goes with the more nuanced faith they hold than that of Dawkins’s and Harris’s fundamentalist straw men.
* * *
Cut Richard Dawkins some slack, Katha. Remember, God created man in His own image. If Dawkins is narrow-minded, misogynist and condescending, it’s only because he was “born that way,” as the great contemporary philosopher Lady Gaga might say. Though there is some crossover, most men were Created, and most women have evolved. The subtleties, insights and profundities conferred upon you through eons of gradual refinement (i.e., evolution) simply are not in Dawkins’s tool bag.
kansas city, mo.