Religion, Sexism and Criticism

What do we do when we encounter something obviously wrong with a particular faith (or even our own!)?

Tia has some observations of the religious roots of female oppression:

I’ve read three articles today on the oppression of women by patriarchal religions. It’s not news to me, of course, but the intensity of these outraged lists of the sins of human against human on the basis of genital differences forces me to face the fury and the fear that always lurk within.

I think we need to seriously re-evaluate some of the truth claims that are being made.  Biblical literalists take every word of the Bible as fact.  If we can state part of a particular holy book is incorrect and immoral:

Here are some examples of what in my view are blatantly evil and incredibly destructive religious precepts:

    “Blessed art thou, O Lord our God, King of the universe, who hast not made me a woman”
    (Sephath Emeth, p. 10).
    “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife”
    (Ephesians 5: 22-23).
    “Men are superior to women on account of the qualities with which God hath gifted the one above the other”
    (Koran 4:37).

Where does this leave us?  I think for one it leaves us with the clear conviction that none of these religions or their holy books are completely correct.  In other words, this brings their authority into question (which is problematic for those who base their arguments on appeals to authority).  If a book advocates the inherent superiority of one sex in nature or practice, that book is wrong on at least that one count.

However these beliefs also open the religions up to criticism.

Tia is right on in her description of such overt sexism as “oppressive crap”:

but because we’re so politically correct, we also wouldn’t challenge any religion that continues to promulgate this oppressive crap.

I think we need to.  I think that when people use their religion as a basis for their political beliefs and actions, we need to call out inconsistencies in their beliefs.  However these beliefs are also likely feeding into a troubling socialization that ingrains an unhealthy view of power and authority into our psyche.

Religion is not immune from criticism, or from change.  And the best place to start spring cleaning is at home.  A good place to start is with so called “doctrine” that goes against the core precepts of human ethics, like equality.

What do you believe?

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12 Responses

  1. It is a good time to have discussions about what is redeemable in Christianity. One of the most important sermons that I ever heard was also by one of the first women pastors that I ever heard preach. The sermon’s title was “What I do when I read scripture that I hate.” She was also the first preacher who didn’t preach that I had to accept everything that I had always been taught.

    The sexism, homophobia and xenophobic violence inherent within some of our religious texts must be repudiated as something that we no longer can tolerate as people of faith.

  2. Pastor Of Disaster, that sounds like a sermon I’d like to hear.

    I hope more people can come to our realization on this. Repudiating the unethical aspects of our faiths is an affirmation of everything that is worthwhile about them.

  3. Dear fitness/pastor,
    I wish not to be the defender of such a controversial theme. I am a mere commenter, and I am only providing insight into what we must also consider.
    Pastorofdesaster, I think that you have a good point. Christianity teaches respect, admirations, and love toward women especially in the household / family setting. However, I feel that you are appealing to an unqualified authority when you spoke of the female pastor (see 1 cor 15:33-35). The bible establishes men as the head of the household, and women as the body thereof. Men have been placed in a patriotically authoritative position –by the choice of God.

    I think that it is true that oppression and hate for women is “crappie” and should not occur.

  4. John,

    I have indeed read 1 Corinthians 15:33-35. I do know your arguement because I used to be of your cultural persuasion. Through prayer, intense study of scripture and the leading of the Holy Spirit I simply do not agree with that cultural worldview any longer. I do sinerely appreciate the dialogue though. Have a Happy Easter!

  5. At the end of the day, I will always feel that the idea of men being superior to women is wrong. I base my opinion on this simple fact: women give birth, men cannot.
    Perhaps man’s lack of menstrual cramps makes him physically superior, but can he create and incubate life within his own body? No. Can a woman? Yes. So, what do you think? Do we worship deities for their ability to exist? Or for their ability to create life?
    Again, in the end, we may as well admit to being equal–because, all things being equal, in the end, we’re all just fertilizer.

  6. Pastorofdisaster,
    I don’t understand. You prayed and the holy spirit tought you something contrary to the word of God? Well, that could be possible only God knows.
    Happy easter!

  7. Men have been placed in a patriotically authoritative position –by the choice of God.

    Why would God need to discriminate? I question the why behind this? A belief like this is so obviously the product of a patriarchal society.

    It does interest me that your experiences and faith have led you to such a different conclusion from that of the Pastorofdisaster.

    Sally Jane, right on! In many religions, fertility was the target (and source) of worship. I also like the in the end argument, because it easily translates into an “essence” argument. From a religious vantage point, in the end we are all souls before God. However, this would then be our true nature. As just souls, how could we be anything but equal?

    One more point, is that John’s position on women being inferior to men leads directly to the oppression and hate of women. So to endorse the seed but curse the tree is ineffective, to say the least.

    Great discussion, thanks!

  8. Sally, you have some powerful points there, and being a man makes me so very aware of my limitations, every year that passes. Are you also aware, Sally, of the power a woman wields over a man emotionally? How only a look or a smile from her can make even an old man do and say the craziest things?

    She has the power to carry and bring life forth, yes. As for creating it, perhaps in a cooperative way with the sperm of a man. Her superiority, I believe, is in her emotional capacity. Pain is a relative issue. I’ve known pain, physically and mentally. When a man watches his lady struggling to give birth, he wishes he could take that pain from her, and believe me, for a man, there is no pain like being helpless to do that.

    As for feeling superior… when I hold my lady in my arms and she melts with my kisses, I really don’t care if I’m superior or not.

  9. Rocky, a man wields the very same power over a woman emotionally. I don’t think we’ll get anywhere by saying one sex is inferior or superior to the other.

    Men and women can both, through such a very wide range of life experiences, know pain on the most extreme level. Personally I think the idea of a gender gap in emotional capacity is a question of perception more than reality. Its one half of the fallacious “women are more emotional, men are more rational” argument.

    With regard to Sally’s post, I was pointing out her point on the religious implications of fertility are an important contribution to a discussion of religion and gender.
    Bringing up some religious history with regard to the worship of fertility as a counter point to the more paternalistic traditions is interesting and worthwhile.

  10. […] nothing to help his argument.  It just reinforces the idea that some mainstream religions have misogynist […]

  11. God created Adam (man) in the place of Lucifer (satan) just for God {because you can see GOD created every animal and birds with its pairs that is male and female but when when GOD created man He created only one, as this time God was creating for Himself }. But God created Eve (woman) for Adam (man); so man is superior above woman and it has been created by God. “Nobody can shut the door which God opens and nobody can open the door which God closes”

    Its the God’s choice and who has the authority over God. Man’s words flatter and may be misguided but God is perfect in every action and His Law.

  12. Noha, you flunked Biology, didn’t you? Ever heard of asexual reproduction?

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