Generally speaking, criticizing cultural practices that arise from religious belief can be considered inappropriate, so it’s possible that some readers may feel offended by this post. My intentions are not to offend but to offer some fuel for thought.
Most people of faith address their god as though God has a gender? I’ve read numerous reasons from clergy and other commentators, but the most logical reason—humans have predominately lived in patriarchal cultures for centuries. The definition of patriarchy is:
- A system of society or government in which the father or eldest male is head of the family and descent is traced through the male line.
- A system of society or government in which men hold the power and women are largely excluded from it.
A few years back, a Harris Poll showed one percent thought god was female. Had this survey been taken several thousand years ago, the results would have most likely been dramatically different. Believers tend to address and/or identify their god as male. “Father.”
“Greek philosophy, adopted by Christians, held women to be inferior to men. Roman law gave women a low status in society, and became the basis for the Church’s laws.”
1 Corinthians 11:7 claims that men are the image and glory of God; and women are the glory of man. 1 Corinthians 11:3 states that man is the head of the woman. Aristotle wrote:
“Also, as regards male and female, the former is superior, the latter is inferior, the male is ruler, the female is subject” (Politics Bk. 1, Ch. 4)
Belief in god has an enormous importance in the lives of many people, globally. All monotheistic patriarchal religions worship a male-identified god gendered as masculine which puts men in highly favorable positions of having God identified with them. Headship and dominance becomes justified. Masculine values become the standard for ‘normal’.
Do we go into cultural default, and never question some of our traditions and their consequences? Do traditions and beliefs trump critical thinking? Are we too trusting and/or prefer to not challenge status quo, even at the cost of human rights and dignity? Examples:
I am > reminded of scripture stating men were not created for women, but women for men.
I am > reminded of scriptures that command women to submit and obey men.
I am > reminded of numerous scriptures that denigrate and promote violence against women.
I am > reminded of the global rape culture.
I am > reminded that throughout the world, women have no voice in the public arena.
I am > reminded of the millions of child brides.
I am > reminded of the 140 million females living with the consequences of FGM.
I am > reminded that every minute a pregnant woman dies unnecessarily.
I am > reminded of the historically high poverty rate among women and children.
I am > reminded of the demeaning words invoked to justify man’s inhumanity to women.
I am > reminded of the proliferation of unregulated, sexual violence in hardcore pornography.
I am > reminded of human trafficking affecting millions of girls and women, globally.
I am > reminded of the epidemic of femicide.
I am > reminded that there still exists a contempt for women.
Over the course of the last decade or so, there have been Christian denominations who have taken steps towards women’s equality, yet believe in and endorse one of the most misogynistic books ever published. The ‘Holy’ Bible. It’s disconcerting how beliefs and traditions are justified when the word ‘holy’ and/or ‘god’ is applied.
“A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner.”
1 Timothy 2:13, 14
The fall of the human race is depicted as the fault of a woman. Christians are in serious denial if they don’t think this plays a role in how some men (and women) view and treat women. The text makes it clear that women are expected to be submissive to men because of ‘sin’.
We’ve been taught that the books of 1 Timothy and 2 Timothy were written by the Apostle Paul. Evidence shows there were other authors writing in the name of Paul, Peter, Matthew, Mark, Luke, etc. Bart Ehrman, the James A. Gray Distinguished Professor of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and the New York Times bestselling author, states:
The problem, of course, is that Paul never said any such thing. And why does it matter? Because the passage is still used by church leaders today to oppress and silence women. Why are there no women priests in the Catholic Church? Why are women not allowed to preach in conservative evangelical churches?
Why are there churches today that do not allow women even to speak? In no small measure it is because Paul allegedly taught that women had to be silent, submissive and pregnant. Except that the person who taught this was not Paul, but someone lying about his identity so that his readers would think he was Paul. Source
“I often wondered, when I was a child, why the set of three contained Father, Son and Holy Ghost and not Father, Son and Mother. That seemed like the logical arrangement to me, but I did not grasp then, as I do now, that this doctrine was invented by an exclusively male and misogynist church hierarchy that sought to deny the female gender any role in creation or in the divine.”
Christianity claims to be a religion that is ‘pro-family’ yet disparages the very gender that gives birth to the whole species and makes the existence of family possible.
“It is tragic, but understandable, why so many men throughout history have supported these sexist and patriarchal belief systems. More incredible is how many women have willingly taken part in their own subjugation by joining and participating in religions that have done their utmost to deny them the full equality and equal rights which they deserve.”
“The reality is that sincere religious beliefs and legitimate interpretations of scripture can, and very often do, cause immense evil and harm. And when a more enlightened future age arrives to tote up the harms done by religion, I am certain that the systematic oppression and denial of basic rights to one-half of the human race will rank near the top.”
Margaret Daphne Hampson, a British theologian and former Christian, earned a doctorate in modern history at Oxford, and a doctorate in theology at Harvard. She states:
“I began to see that the very raison d’etre of the Christian myth was to support men as superior over women, that it served to legitimize how men see themselves in the world.
It is a brilliant, subtle, elaborate, male cultural projection, calculated to legitimize a patriarchal world and to enable men to find their way within it. We need to see it for what it is.
The circumstances of that past age are propelled into the present, influencing people, not least, at a subconscious level.”
I agree. It should come as no surprise that Christianity, as well as all the other patriarchal religions of the world, have failed in uniting humanity. They tend to divide us.
I’ve predominantly focused on Christianity because that’s the religion I grew up with. There are many caring Christians, without a doubt, but few know the contents of their Bible and the history of its formation. Nor do many if not most realize that the Bible is not based on original manuscripts, because there are no original manuscripts. Distinguished scholars know that the copies of copies copies that do represent the Bible contain numerous alterations (embellishments and omissions). Critical thinking skills and empathy are essential for human emancipation, and necessary for the well being and survival of our species.