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Dialogue with Claire Klingenberg: President, European Council of Skeptic Organizations


Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): Atheist Republic (News)

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): n.d.

Claire has a background in law and psychology, and is currently working on her degree in Religious Studies. She has been involved in the skeptic movement since 2013 as co-organizer of the Czech Paranormal Challenge. Since then, she has consulted on various projects, where woo & belief meets science. Claire has spoken at multiple science&skepticism conferences and events. She also organized the European Skeptics Congress 2017, and both years of the Czech March for Science.

Her current activities include chairing the European Council of Skeptical Organisations, running the “Don’t Be Fooled” project (which provides free critical thinking seminars to interested high schools), contributing to the Czech Religious Studies journal Dingir, as well as to their online news in religion website. In her free time, Claire visits various religious movements to understand better what draws people to certain beliefs.

Claire lives in Prague, Czech Republic, with her partner, and dog.

Scott Douglas Jacobsen: When it comes to the demographic or sociological analysis movement more broadly or the New Atheist movement for narrowly, I notice one trend. Others notice this trend as well.

That being the greater number of white men compared to most other demographics in the atheist and New Atheist movements. What seems like the source of the disproportionate amount of white men and men in general in the atheist and New Atheist movements?

Claire Klingenberg: I think it stems from history. Men were, white men were, prevalent in the sciences, in high positions, in professor jobs, in everything. This is continuing that. There are more women getting engaged in these issues.

It is going to take some time to change. Having time to do activism that advocates for the change of the bigger picture, and does not precisely deal with the here and now, is a luxury. Both the atheist and skeptic movement do deal with the here and now, but in a much broader sense, which makes them a luxury item. Unfortunately, as we see the demographics in the US, people of color are not always in the socioeconomic position to be able to afford this kind of luxury.

So, we have to work on making our movement more accessible to various different socioeconomic demographics.

Jacobsen: Other than SES or socio-economic status. What other variables seem to play into this split in the community, where far more men than women?

Klingenberg: Seeing your own people in the movement. Historically, the skeptic movement was created by the demographic of older white men. I can imagine some people do not feel welcome when they do not see some of their own within that group.

Fortunately, within the Czech Republic, one of the founders was a woman. She opened the door for us. I can understand why some cannot feel like they can bond with someone seemingly wholly different or that they will not be understood by anyone.

Jacobsen: I like the last note as well. It notes the logical implication. If you did the vice versa, you would find other communities heavily dominated by women or the African-American community in America.

If you look at much of the Christian community represented by comedic people like Steve Harvey and others, you find largely a base of African-Americans. Also, within the atheist movement, you have Thomas Paine, Voltaire, and more modern New Atheists such as Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Christopher Hitchens… These are white men.

It is having the SES to have a theme to get out of the community and think about these things. But it seems like a dual-based problem, “I am in community. I am comfortable with this.”

So, it is an unfortunate fact. Human beings are tribal and connect with each other on base measures of “identity,” if I can use that term, of skin tone.

Klingenberg: The skin tone does define the circumstances in which you live and which influence you. Because of that, you may feel “How can these people understand what I am going through?”, and especially the feeling “How can these people have the same goals as I do?” This logic or thinking could be another barrier.

Jacobsen: In some commentary that some may give, I notice an underlying tone. That tone being, “People of particular groups should belong in a certain category, should act in such a way.”

The common trope is the white guy breakdancing [Laughing]. It doesn’t look good. Similar thing in a more serious context, an African-American woman must be religious, must be Baptist, and heavily involved in the community.

That is a stereotype that gets played en masse. If someone doesn’t behave as expected based on their ethnic heritage, or their national status as well, they may be coerced or pegged into behaving in one way.

Neil deGrasse Tyson talked about his deep passion for astrophysics and astronomy. Even though he had that, he felt pushed with the undertone of coercion to sports activities. “I am in sprinting, and running, and other things,” rather than astrophysics and astronomy. 

He notes that he was lucky. He met Carl Sagan. That continued to stoke the fire. That passion pushed through the attempts at coercion away from what he really a) had the ability to do and b) the passion to pursue, which was astrophysics. 

It can even be good will and good intentions that exacerbate societal splits along belief lines and eventual outcome lines.

Klingenberg: Last month, I was at a talk by Anna Grodzka. She is a Polish trans woman. She founded a supporting organization for trans people in Poland. She had this beautiful quote, “We live in a world haunted by stereotypes, which do not reflect reality but impose upon us.” 

I think that it is a beautiful way to summarize all of this. People have these stereotypes in their head, which many times do not come close to even reflecting reality. However, we are forced to live and fight with them on a daily basis.

Jacobsen: Thank you for the opportunity and your time, Claire.


In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at


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