Dr. Darrel Ray: Religion’s Impact on The Rise of The Incels

The latest Humanist Society talk covered an important issue that raises many topics that are difficult to talk about. And are therefore rarely discussed. The rise of a group of angry and frustrated young men who call themselves “Incels”.

Humanist Society President Judy Flattery started by relating the talk to these Affirmations of Humanism:

  • We believe in an open and pluralistic society and that democracy is the best guarantee of protecting human rights from authoritarian elites and repressive majorities.
  • We are concerned with securing justice and fairness in society and with eliminating discrimination and intolerance.
  • We affirm humanism as a realistic alternative to theologies of despair and ideologies of violence…

Judy noted that the Incels crisis seems to correlate with a rise of women’s rights in the US.

She went on to introduce Darrel Ray. He is the founder and the president of the “Recovering from Religion” foundation. He has been a psychologist for over 40 years.

He is the author of four books, including:

  • The God Virus
  • Sex and God

He has a Masters in Religion as well as a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology and Anthropology. And a Doctorate in Psychology.

Darrel Ray began his talk recounting a horrific event right here at home.

The rampage of UCSB student Elliot Rodger against his fellow students. He attacked people by stabbing, shooting and ramming with his car. He left six people dead and 14 wounded. He was found dead afterwards in his car, killed by a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

He sent out a manifesto explaining his actions. He said he felt loneliness, rejection and a lack of fulfillment. Girls gave sex to others, but not to him. At age 22 he was still a virgin and had never even kissed a girl.

He wrote that he is the perfect guy, yet these girls throw themselves at these obnoxious guys.

Ray wanted us to try to understand what is behind all of this. He started by asking how culture impacts our behavior.

Our culture has seen a rapid change in patterns of mating and relating to each other. This has affected men and women. For the sake of this discussion, he left out other genders.

In any species, a male animal without the right mating ritual won’t find a mate. For a songbird, this means singing the right song. This is somewhat inherited. But they have to learn the right songs for their territory.

Adolescent birds spend a lot of time learning the right songs to get a mate. They learn from their father and from other male role models.

The mother’s reaction to the father’s song is also important. A certain fluffing of the feathers.

Humans have almost no genetic programming for mating. They watch the world around and also the local environment. Rituals and beauty standards vary widely across cultures.

Steatopygia gives some women in Africa large butts. Historically, this was very attractive to men in those areas. But tastes have changed, perhaps due to contact with the outside world.

Some cultures favor women with large breasts. But in Japan small breasts are favored.

Mating signals are different in different cultures. Ray said, “You are not unattractive. You are just in the wrong country!”

How to interact with other humans takes a lot of skill. This level of interaction has been disrupted. There are new ways of finding a date. Swiping left or right! This leads to problems.

Notably, unrealistic expectations. 70% of people in online dating sites are men. They are only interested in 20% of the women they see, based on looks. This makes them delusional about their odds of success.

Dating online causes a lot of rejection. If you swipe right on a hot Ukrainian woman you may find your bank account drained!

Movies, porn and magazines set fashion standards. The beauty industry changes every 5-10 years or faster. There has been a decline in makeup.

He has suits he hasn’t worn in 20 years. He used to wear suits or tuxedos at weddings or on cruises. That is no longer expected.

Elliot Rodger had a high level of not understanding how to relate to women. He was very confused. He didn’t know how to deal with that energy.

Humans have more to learn than birds. It takes face to face contact. Smells, touch, tone of voice. Phone or other screen time is not enough.

Ray has a friend in Germany for his work. He had never been there before and had some surprising observations upon arrival. He ate in a different restaurant each night. People were talking to each other. No one was looking at their phones.

What about Incels? It is an online subculture that self-identifies as being unable to get a romantic or sexual partner, despite desiring one. Ray went down this rabbit hole of study a year ago and hasn’t gotten out.

In addition to unrealistic expectations, they use language and behavior that don’t match the world today. It may have been OK 70-100 years ago.

Here is a sobering statistic covering all of human history:

40% of males have reproduced

80% of females have reproduced

After the talk Ray clarified this for me and I have included his clarification in what follows.

Let’s begin at birth. More male babies die than female. This death rate continues through adolescence. Boys die more often than girls from hunting accidents and other reasons related to their role in most societies. Once a boy gets to the age of reproduction, he must find a mate. The process of mate finding is often dangerous in and of itself, or the process of gaining access to mates is dangerous.

Most cultures have a rite of passage. In places like the Amazon or Indonesia, these have been quite dangerous.

Thus far in our journey, many more boys and men have died and not passed along their genes than women. Once a man has achieved mating age, he has the problem of competing with other men, especially other more powerful, alpha men who are often older with more social status. In most societies, top males get access to more mates. This may sound unreasonable for today’s societies, and it may be for some, but in the past, that is how the world worked.

It still is how the world works in many ways. Whether married or not, top males attract females just as we see in chimps and gorillas. Human females are attracted and turned on by higher status males (groupies) and less interested in lower status males. When you put all of this together, it creates opportunities for women to reproduce much more than men.

The greatest danger for women is childbirth. The greatest danger for men is living as a male until one can reproduce. Keep in mind that the society you see around you today is very safe compared to 100, 1000, or 10,000 years ago. Yet, still today, men are much more likely to die in work accidents, murder, car accidents, and other causes, than women.

Incels call dominant males who get females “chads” and they are the focus of Incel anger, along with the females who reject them. A lot of males are not going to reproduce and it is difficult to face this reality.

Females used to be forced to marry males they didn’t like. It shows up in literature. Romeo and Juliet, for example. Patriarchal cultures assured that dominant males got mates. In Islam it is allowed to have four wives.

Among dominant Mormons, Joseph Smith had perhaps 40 wives and Brigham Young had 56. Cult leaders in general have access to many female cult followers, while limiting access of male followers to females.

As recently as 1979, his wife needed his permission to get a credit card. In the 1960s women needed their husband’s permission to get birth control.

Historically, women couldn’t marry outside their ethnic group. Being single or not having children was not acceptable. As a teen, Ray delivered newspapers in the neighborhood. One of his customers was a woman who had no children and he liked her. Ray’s mother said she was “selfish” as if she was evil.

But Ray is glad to be a child of the 1950s. He would not want to have to deal with the world of today.

Incels have patriarchal notions that drive away females of the current era. They get these notions straight from the Bible.

He talked of the “19 Kids and Counting” TV series. This is tied in with home schooling and the purity movement. You can’t have lustful thoughts or masturbate.

Traditionally, the church forced people to marry to have sex. They tended to guarantee that males in the church would get a mate. At the expense of females being forced to marry males they didn’t like.

There has been a decline of such religious practices. Honor and Obey are rare now in vows.

But religion is just one form of ideology. Now there are the Proud Boys, the Oath Keepers and the Christian Nationalists.

Purity Culture appears to be secular, but it follows traditional religious rules. It teaches that masturbation weakens men and reduces their attractiveness to women. What are these young men doing with that energy? It could go in bad directions.

Ideologies affect biological choices. Catholics used to be forbidden to marry Protestants.

White Supremacists and Christian Nationalists are ideologies related to Incels. It might be hard for them to find females who will accept their ideologies.

In the past, gay people would marry someone of the opposite sex to fit in culturally. Priests and nuns are forced to be celibate. What could be less natural?

Ray said it is a myth that humans are monogamous. He said we are actually a “multi mate species”.

Nick Adams (born Nicholas Adamopoulos; September 5, 1984) is an Australian-born American conservative political commentator and author. He is a leader in Alpha Male culture. Trump has praised him. His philosophy on household division of labor:

She cooks, I eat.

She cleans. I go to Hooters.

66% of college graduates now are women. About 54% of medical students now are women. Ray shared this graphic, showing the trends.

Most women want a male partner. This hurts women, too.

Ray was born in 1950. Most of his cohort married at age 18. He was a bit late, marrying at age 20. You needed to marry someone of the same denomination, not just the same religion. You had to get married to get sex. Though he admitted they had sex before marriage!

These changes are not superficial. There is a new power dynamic. If males want to mate, they need to learn a new song.

The Trump path leads to Incels. Boys are not thriving in our culture. Yes, women are still under represented in boardrooms. But overall they have much independence.

Black women have caught up to white women. But Black men are falling behind.

Ray’s daughter finished a doctor of pharmacology degree in 2001. 60% of her class was female. It is now 80%. What are the males doing?

Mental health shows a big male-female difference. Males age 25 are 4-6 times more likely to die by suicide than females that age.

In 1990 59% of males had close friends. In 2021 this had dropped to 27%.

In 1990 3% of males said they had no friends at all.

In 2021 this had risen to 15%.

Ray sees a lack of male role models as a big problem. There are almost no male elementary school teachers. Men feel it is just too dangerous.

Personal note: I was a high school teacher in the early 1980s and I was aware then to be very careful. I made sure my classroom door was open if I was talking to a female student alone.

He talked of a girl who did not even know that men could be doctors. She had only ever seen female doctors.

China faces a special problem, due to their one child policy for decades. Many female infants were killed, creating a shortage of female mates for males. There are now 23 million more males than females in China. India has a similar problem, due to selectively killing female fetuses.

Unattached males are more violent. This is a threat to security of society.

The divorce system is not designed to keep fathers in a child’s life.

These changes are not an individual moral problem. They are rooted in social change. Many of the changes are good. More empowerment and education of women. But males need a new road map. We know the problems, but don’t know a lot of solutions.

Ray offered nine suggestions:

  1. Send boys to school a year later
  2. Have more male teachers in elementary school
  3. Have more male role models in general
  4. Let boys be human. Don’t send them to the principal’s office for normal rough housing.
  5. Many schools have eliminated recess time. This needs to come back.
  6. Stop forcing boys into a patriarchal model.
  7. Consider gender liberation. It is OK to be outside the box. This also helps trans kids.
  8. Challenge religious notions.
  9. If you have an adult male living free in your home, you are enabling him. At least charge him rent.

Ray ended by noting that weapons magnify the Incel problem. Violent Incels are rare. But weapons make those rare cases dangerous. He noted that there are 2.5 million unique visitors to the Incel web site each month.

He then took questions and I asked the first one: Would it help if men could legally pay for sex?

He said this would definitely help. He said we treat sex workers badly. Traditionally, China had a class of such workers who were valued and respected.

I also asked about his figure that 60% of males historically did not reproduce. How much of that is due to death vs other reasons?

He said he got this from Sam Harris and we don’t know the cause. Just the statistics from genetics.

Ray noted that lower class males are always at a disadvantage. He gave the example of truck drivers in Pakistan who are considered low class. But there are brothels just for them.

King Herod in the Bible had 14 wives. Jesus did not condemn him for that. Solomon had many wives. If one male has many wives, it means other males have no wives.

Judy Fontana asked if it is a zero sum game of women being more successful and men being less successful.

Ray answered that it seems to be zero sum in the current world. But it does not have to be. He asked how many marriages do you know where the male is shorter? Almost never.

Females choose males who are taller, make more money and are older. Those are filters for mating. And the filters are getting stronger all the time.

“We have dug this hole as a society.” He reiterated how dangerous it is for a male to work as a teacher, given the risk of abuse allegations.

Bill Cook asked about women in professions putting children in child care at an early age.

Ray noted that in civilized countries like Sweden parents can get up to two years of parental leave. Good child care works OK. But you still need a mother.

Judy Fontana noted that less well off women are also forced to go back to work early.

For more information about Darrel Ray’s Recovering from Religion: https://www.recoveringfromreligion.org/

For more information about upcoming events with the Humanist Society of Santa Barbara or to become a member, please go to https://www.sbhumanists.org/


Written by sbrobert

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  1. I stopped reading when I read “alpha men.”

    Yeah, incel culture is disgusting but the author sounds like one with that language.

    Also more boys are born because of the higher mortality rate associated with being male.

    I know too many guys who fit the bill of “will never reproduce” but would not say nearly half of them are vile like I associate with incels.

    The incel thing is an entitlement and jealousy issue coupled with a perceived relation between men and women that hasn’t existed for hundreds if not thousands of years.

    It’s harsh but a lot of larger men, those with habits that include video games daily, and those who are socially awkward are never going to mate.

  2. I apologize that I do not have a citation, but I read a study several years ago that said about 85% of males did not procreate up till a couple of hundred years ago. The exact number of centuries escapes me.
    But, if his 60% is accurate, and mine is too, then there has not been a “rise” of incels but a decrease.
    I doubt seriously that male humans in the past did not want to have sex but probably wanted it as much as I do or any other male, in our present day.
    If you are one of these present day incels (like Elliot Rodger was) stop looking at the female of the species as somewhere to deposit semen. And look at them as humans with emotions, feeling, fears, dreams. Think of spending your life with them and being able to enjoy their company without having sex.
    Even if you could have sex for an hour a day, that still is a very small percentage of life.

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