Religion Continues to Abuse Women…

Why should or would a woman be loyal to, or follow, or support a religion that is biased against her and all women in general?

St. Bernard said, “It was easier for a man to bring the dead back to life than to live with a woman without endangering his soul.”  Since the beginning of time, the above is just one of the many discriminatory statements, toward women, written in religious text.

Does such benighted religious discrimination against women still exist? Indeed it does. Religiously sanctioned discrimination against women, and violence against women are still alive and thriving!

The biggest obstacle to the equality of women in our society is the bible, the Genesis story in particular.”– Elizabeth Cady Straton,  Suffragette (1895 A Womens Bible)

Below are examples of religious scripture, prejudice,  and  violence against women today:

The Bible tells us that women are forbidden to wear men’s clothing (Bible, Deuteronomy 22:5). We read in the South African newspapers in the year 2007 CE, that women who dare to wear pants in some parts of Durban are stripped to their underwear or naked, beaten, and their houses burnt. All this for just daring to wear pants (read the newspaper report of this incident).

During 2007 CE in Pakistan a fanatical fundamentalist gunman killed a female politician for violating the Islamic dress code (read the newspaper report of this incident).

During 2002 CE a fire broke out in a large girl’s school in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. The Religious police prevented girls who were improperly dressed, (according to the Islamic dress code), from leaving the burning school. The result was that 14 girls burned to death because they were improperly dressed according to the religious police, who actively prevented the fire brigade and police from helping these unfortunate girls. Shame! Unspeakable! Such monsters are no more than unspeakable instruments of a modern religion  gone awry (read the true report of this “incident”).

History of sex, marriage and celibacy in Traditional Religions:

  • 325 AD:  The Council of Nicaea decreed that no priest will be allowed to marry after ordination.
  • 385 AD:  Pope Siricius decreed that priests married before ordination must not make love with their wives afterwards.
  • 590-604 AD:  Pope Gregory “The Great” decreed that all sexual desire was sinful and only for producing children.
  • 1074 AD:  Pope Gregory VII decreed all priests must be celibate.

Examples of  hatred toward women written by Religious Figures:

  • St. Paul in the first letter to Timothy decrees:  “But I suffer a woman not to teach, nor to usurp authority over a man, but to be in silence.  For Adam was first formed then Eve.”
  • Tertullian:  “The judgment upon your sex even today; and with it inevitably endures your position at the bar of justice.  (Woman) you are the gateway to hell.”
  • St. Jerome, Epistle 107:  “For my part I say that mature girls should not bathe at all, because they ought to blush to see themselves naked.”
  • St. Gregory of Nazianzum:  “Woman – a foe to friendship, an inescapable punishment, a necessary evil.”  “Among save beasts, none is found so harmful as woman.”
  • St. Clement of Alexandria:  “Every woman should be filled with shame by the thought that she is a woman.”
  • The Gospel of Thomas 114: (Simon Peter) “Let Mary go forth from among us, for woman are not worthy of the life.”  (Jesus) “Behold, I shall lead her, that I may make her male, in order that she also may become a living spirit like you males.  For every woman who makes herself male shall enter into the kingdom of heaven.”
  • Tertullian:  “You destroyed so easily God’s image, man.  On account of your desert – that is death – even the son of god had to die.”
  • Boethius, a 6th century Christian:  “Woman is a temple built upon a sewer.”
  • Job 25:4:  “How then can man be justified with God?  Or how can he be clean that is born of a woman?”

At the Council of Macon in AD 585 the bishops voted that women had no souls.  At the Council of Trent (1545-1563) in Trento, Northern Italy, it took one day to decide than animals don’t have souls but 21 days to decide that woman actually do have souls. Woman-beating was a normal Christian man’s duty according to the Decretum of 1140, Fir Cherubino’s 15th century rules of marriage, and quotes from Bishop Epiphanus in the 4th century.  Anti-woman quotations appear in the Old Testament, Numbers 25, and in Deuteronomy 25:11.

Paul says in 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 , American Standard Version (some say it is a forgery, added later by the Patriarchal Church, but it survives and IS in the Bible):

34 let the women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but let them be in subjection, as also saith the law.

35 And if they would learn anything, let them ask their own husbands at home: for it is shameful for a woman to speak in the church.

What more about Islam?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taliban_treatment_of_women

Excerpt: “Afghan women were forced to wear the burqa at all times in public, because, according to one Taliban spokesman, “the face of a woman is a source of corruption” for men not related to them. In a systematic segregation sometimes referred to as gender apartheid, women were not allowed to work, they were not allowed to be educated after the age of eight, and until then were permitted only to study the Qur’an.

Women seeking an education were forced to attend underground schools, where they and their teachers risked execution if caught. They were not allowed to be treated by male doctors unless accompanied by a male chaperone, which led to illnesses remaining untreated. They faced public flogging and execution for violations of the Taliban’s laws”

 

Above is footage of a Woman executed in public on July 8, 2012. (Details of Public Execution) “The protection of women’s rights is critical around the world, but especially in Afghanistan, where such rights were ignored, attacked and eroded under Taliban rule,” the American embassy said in a statement on Sunday.  

The Taliban still control parts of Afghanistan, and have a safe haven in Pakistan. The Taliban changed their edict forbidding girls to be educated, but what remains shows the attitude and laws of radical Islam against women.

What about Mormonism?  Do Mormons discriminate against women?

Resolved Question (The Answer is yes, at Yahoo Answers).  http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=1006030805235

If not being allowed to be clergy and their jobs in the afterlife is being perpetually pregnant to populate their husbands planet and share him with other ‘wives’ is discrimination then the answer is yes.  Also: The Mormon position on women has changed little since the early 1800′s, when the official view was that “woman’s primary place is in the home, where she is to rear children and abide by the righteous counsel of her husband”

What about Judaism (Orthodox) and women?

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/belief/2009/jun/10/judaism-women-feminism-orthodox

There is however, a deep conflict between Judaism and feminism which stretches from the public (in synagogue) to the private. For example, in all Orthodox synagogues men pray separately from women and in many women are relegated to an upstairs gallery. Gender hierarchies are entrenched in Jewish thought: a blessing orthodox Jewish men are required to say everyday thanks a God “who has not made me a woman”.

So, once again, the chilling question, “Why should or would a woman be loyal to, or follow, or support a religion that is biased against her and all women in general?”  

How about alternatives to these biased religions?  Do a search on “Beyond all Religion”, and/or “Secular Humanism”, or just simply live a life of compassion, kindness and love.  No god needed.

About beyondallreligion

Samuel Butler, Author: BEYOND ALL RELIGION Most all religions are based upon a bedrock of lies. Christianity was invented by Emperor Constantine , for political purposes, based upon the myth of Mithra, a Persian savior god born on December 25 , son of a virgin. Mithra performed miracles and was later crucified. Pope Leo X (died 1521) called Christ a “Fable”. Later Pope Paul III expressed similar sentiments. Moses is based on the Sumerian life and legends of Sargon I, King of Akkad, “set in a basket of rushes and “cast into the river”. Egyptians kept exhausting hieroglyphic records. There is a complete absence of any record of Moses leading over 600,000 men, women and children away from Pharaoh’s army. Joseph Smith, founder of Mormonism, was convicted in a court of Law of being an “impostor”, today a fraud, con man, in 1826. He wrote the Book of Mormon soon after. Question: You decide: Does the text of the verses of the Qur’an correspond exactly to those revealed to Muhammad directly as the words of God, delivered to Muhammad through the angel Gabriel, as claimed? Sample or Buy New Book “Beyond All Religion”, 152 pgs, $9.95 at www.amazon.com (Kindle edition $3.49) or send mailing address and $9.95 to Sam Butler, SB 197, POB 25292, Miami, FL 33102."
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12 Responses to Religion Continues to Abuse Women…

  1. Ken Christiansen says:

    I have yet to find any religion that respects all humans as equal, regardless of their sex etc.
    Frankly, if there was a God he/she wouldn’t have made such a colossal mistake.

  2. Michael says:

    In response to the quote by Elizabeth Cady Stanton, I offer Pope John Paul II’s encyclical ‘Mulieris Dignitatem – On the Dignity of Women’ in which he goes into great depth to elaborate on the importance of women as created by God including several references to Genesis.

    Re: 1 Corinthians 14:34-35

    This silence is not an absolute restriction, since women can lawfully pray and prophesy in the liturgical assembly (11:5) and are encouraged to teach in other circumstances (Titus 2:3-4). Paul is prohibiting women from instructing the congregation in the official capacity of a pastor or homilist. Paul is not denying the equality dignity of men and women in Christ (Galatians 3:28). Women perform an invaluable service when they teach the faith in other contexts by their words and Christian example.

  3. Judith says:

    Study the ways of the Native American matriarchal societies where women enjoyed absolute equality, even choosing who to share their bodies with, at times like a hand shake to seal a transaction….

    In Mormonism, a woman must stand beside the veil of Heaven waiting for her husband to bring her forth into Heaven..

    In Mormonism, the men are given the priesthood which is the right and ability to use Creator energy for blessings and healings… Women are not told that they have natural healing abilities that often are far more powerful than this “priesthood”… Again, Native Americans know that women are the most powerful healers…

  4. Susan says:

    @Michael; Women are equal to men in the Catholic Church? Let’s trade places for the next two thousand years so that you can personally experience this so-called equality and see how you like it.

  5. Robyn says:

    Religion is the creation of men, and is used as a tool by men to assure men’s place in all things. Women, in men’s opinions, were best used to provide cooking, cleaning, sexual, and day care services. This the men enshrined in religious laws…written, of course, by men. For men.

    What God would revile and denigrate 50% of their “creations?”

    God didn’t write the rules these people lived by. Men did. For themselves. Why else would it be encouraged in some faiths that men may have multiple wives, each getting younger and younger, while their first wives aged? This was not a rule of God’s, no, it was the desire of men to continue enjoying sex – variety, young flesh, and beauty. This was not the desire of God… he made one man and one woman, not one man and a harem. Harems are a male’s construct of heaven, which they enshrined in religious law.

    Shamefully, several faiths have clung to satisfying their males’ base lust.

    Worse, they blame females for the males’ inability to control their lust. “Oh, she must be covered! She incites me to rape her by showing her hair.” Do they not know how base and brutish they are with these beliefs?

    In those countries, women can’t go anywhere without a male. This is to protect women from the males. It should be the other way around, men can’t go anywhere without a woman. The woman will keep the man from raping other women. There won’t be groups of men lounging on corners. There will be women and men on corners.

    Any culture or religion that divides men from women is wrong-headed, base, and deals primarily with men’s lust for sex and domination over others. It is time these barbaric lusts be civilized, and men and women brought together again, as they were always meant to be. 50% 50% Equals.

  6. Joseph Langston says:

    Karl Marx never made the argument that religion was, as a patriarchal force, oppressive for women, though technically it could be said that women would be included in his assessment that religion enacted a certain type of oppression for all of the proletariat. That religion was oppressive of women specifically was the basic critique, of course, lodged by feminism, a movement which began en proper during the mid-19th century with the activities and writings of figures such as Sara and Angelina Grimke, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Matilda Joslin Gage. While their focus was not necessarily always on religion, it certainly was close to the top of their priority list, and for good reason. And while the particular criticism that religion was instrumental in the maintenance of the socioeconomic status quo was at points made explicit by these feminists (though not in the sense of Marx’s articulation), and while certain, more contemporary affinities have been drawn between both Marxist and feminist theory, as they are both underscored by notions of liberation and socioeconomic change, both bodies of ideology can also be, and have been, aptly criticized for neglecting what civil rights’ activists of the 1960s were well aware of through lived experience and practice. For Marx, religion was something to be discarded because it was a primary obstacle to the change that would institute genuine and ideal social, political, and economic equality between all peoples. Without religion, social organization could be based upon relations of property ownership and divisions of labor which would not alienate the human spirit from itself. Feminists wanted to discard religion as well, but for them religion was the body that carried the disease of patriarchy, both a symptom and a sickness tied to women’s subordination and inferiority to men. A world without religion for them would have been a return to conditions resembling primitive social organization and societies, before the advent of patriarchy co-opted religion to serve man’s interests of dominance and the maintenance thereof. In their minds, as long as religion, and its traditional ideas, continued to exist in a historical form, women would never be free of second-class standing, men’s control, and a lack of rights that prevented them from being on par with men. History has yet to vindicate Marx concerning religion, and, for feminists, the idea of feminine liberation via the dissolution of religious authority and scope has yet to be fully tested. Nevertheless, both Marxism and feminism, while to an extent accurate about the “sinister” role of religion, have a common theoretical and philosophical weakness.

    Despite the accuracy and necessity of a variety of critiques which have been directed towards religion, the feminist focus on religion as the vehicle and source of women’s oppression has led to a critical oversight , downplaying the role that religion plays in providing women with the necessary knowledge, personal skills, organizational resources, social infrastructure, and cultural ideology to affect and overturn not just oppression dealt squarely in terms of religion but injustice and inequality deriving from other areas as well. And while I would be remiss in failing to mention that the notion of religion as empowerment for women is acknowledged by many feminist writers, they largely do not advocate for women’s participation in religion as means to reduce patriarchy and women’s oppression, opting instead to reject religion wholesale, as if religion and patriarchy are inseparable and mutually inherent. This is, I believe, an egregious oversight, especially in light of the plausible possibility that the goal of achieving equality for women in various domains could be hastened by an acceptance of the former strategy.

    Christianity today (or, more accurately, the activism of Christian women) has been responsible for the launching of religious groups and organizations whose goals incorporate feminist perspectives, women’s reproductive rights and equal recognition, and socioeconomic reform not just for women but for associated oppressed populations, particularly the poor. This coalition should not be strange, considering that women and their children compose a large majority of the world’s impoverished, and the fact that patriarchy is also seen to persist largely due to structural conditions wherein women are economically dependent upon men. Brubaker’s (in Kirk-Duggan and Torjesen, eds., 2010) focus in specific is upon Catholic women’s activism and organizing, in light of papal teachings which tend to deny women moral agency. Such groups organized by women (and men) allow them a collective voice which they turn upon the leadership and power structures of the Catholic Church, urging the redress of sexism, patriarchy, violence against women, and socioeconomic structures which induce women’s subordination, dependence, and lack of self-determination. Specifically, Brubaker pinpoints groups such as the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (RCRC), which advocates for women’s sexual reproduction rights, policies which provide for contraceptives, and offers faith-based sexuality education, and Catholics for a Free Choice (CFFC), which has lobbied for abortion rights and reproductive health, aided in founding several reproductive rights organizations in Latin America, published its own journal, Conscience, which “deconstructs patriarchal oppression of women and offers a vital understanding of healthy sexuality and just human relationships (Brubaker, p. 97, in Kirk-Duggan and Torjesen, eds., 2010).”

    Sociologist of religion Alan Wolfe (2003) provides another example of religion as empowerment in the form of Aglow International Fellowship, a Pentacostally-inspired parachurch movement which attempts to target its audience in middle-aged women. Addressing the question of how women should best array themselves, this group teaches that the improvement of women’s physical appearance serves to demonstrate the transformative power of Jesus Christ in their lives. Because they are made new and given new worth through Christ, their love for Christ is evinced through the array of their outer selves to the world. In this way, their own sense of worth is built by their faith, which is important because, as Wolfe points out, many of the women drawn to Aglow, having suffered previously from low self-steem, self-hatred, codependency, and various other problems, are able to make use of such teachings as a form of therapy and personal recovery. Wolfe goes on to describe how modern religious frameworks, such as that found in Aglow, are used to aid Christians in spiritual struggles. In this sense, then, using a religious framework to aid one’s self in a spiritual struggle can result in self-improvement which is interpreted as a means to glorify God. While Aglow, with its mission and teachings, may not necessarily represent a challenge to patriarchy per se, this group offers a means to empower women by boosting their confidence and giving them the sense of self they need in order to take control of their lives.

    In the Latin American case of religion as oppression and empowerment, Walker (1999) elaborates on the fact that Christian missions in the Southern countries were part and parcel with colonialism. “Religious authority,” she says, “has often been allied with social, political, and economic power (p. 16)”. This is an insight consonant with Peter Berger’s examination of the intersection of human rights, social justice, and religion. Berger posits that any given religion’s position on social justice and human rights cannot be considered solely in the context of scripture or traditional teachings, but rather the religious authority structure’s relationship to secular authorities and the secular forces and conditions of economics and politics must also be considered to illumine social class and interests (Berger, 1996). While this establishes a scenario in which imported Christianity, in a very Marxist sense, serves and reflects the interests of those in power, in addition to an imposition of cultural violence, Walker goes on to cite the important role of Christianity in affecting social change, particularly with respect to women and the poor. Both Berger and Walker note the aspect of machismo, which Walker refers to as a “male attitude of domination”, with Berger noting that, within a global upsurge of Evangelicalism, there has been an accompanying “violent rejection” of machismo on the part of women in Latin American Evangelicalism, the geographical breed of which has taken a life of its own independent of United States Evangelical church bodies and authorities. This has, according to Walker, resulted in a different structure of organization for Christian church communities there, with a more participatory and a less hierarchical tone to religious life. In this case as well, then, we find that the source of oppression is co-opted into a source of emancipation and empowerment (Walker, 1999).

    Lastly, Reuther (in Sharma, ed., 1994) identifies what is known as “women-church”. She describes it as a feminist Christian setting where feminist experience can be incorporated into worship, study, reflection, and action. Because feminist efforts to transform traditional churches and their patriarchal worship are frustrated by slow or absent progress, the feminists in these churches turn to women-church in order to either experience the setting as a complete alternative to patriarchal church or to use women-church as a parallel community, which they hope to engage as a resource for implementing the desired transformations and reforms in patriarchal and established church traditions. In sum, then, these relatively few examples of groups, organizations, and movements demonstrate that legitimation can be lent to resistant or rebellious ideologies by the same source that legitimates what these ideologies are constructed to fight against. In this sense, then, women make use of their very own standing within religion to challenge the inequalities and injustices that religion may either provide, sustain, or fail to challenge. We also see that, far from compelling women to cast themselves as downgraded, sinful, or wretched, religious ideologies and groups can be and are used to improve women’s self-esteem. If religion has power or can provide power, then that power can be used by women to instigate social change, to reject patriarchy and its attendant attitudes. In a grand irony, one of the very sources of their historical oppression provides them with the organizational, cultural, and psychological means to overturn that same oppression.

    Hartman and Marmon (2004), rejecting the use of an oppression-empowerment dichotomy by Jewish feminists, examine how Jewish women themselves actually live out, practice, and experience niddah, the Jewish system of ritual purity, by looking at the rules prescribed under this system and how women interpret such rules or make attributions about them. These authors’ ultimate conclusion is that there is a great deal of variety and many factors which contribute to how such rules are experienced and practiced in the lives of individual women. Some did indeed experience niddah as a burden, difficult, an embarrassment, or as oppression. Others, however, saw it as an opportunity to demonstrate commitment to halakha, a broader set of prescriptive rules for Jewish living. Still others saw niddah as providing a certain regard for women’s special needs; women did not need to rebuff their husband’s sexual advances, given the legitimate period of sexual separation prescribed under niddah. This also made sex more special for some women, and it gave them the power to determine when sex would occur, as couples cannot engage in post-menstrual sexual intercourse until the women attend mikveh (ritual immersion), which they can do whenever they desire to do so, or not. In this sense, then, what can seem, prima facie, to be oppressive may actually be experienced as empowering, liberating, and fulfilling.

    Gallagher and Smith (1999), focusing not on religious elites but on Evangelical “people in the pew”, examined respondents’ views on religious ideas and family practices, such as childcare, domestic division of labor, and other household decision making. The conclusion from this study is that these married couples, in terms of their religious ideologies, valued a symbolic traditionalism. For example, men were still viewed as being the final decision makers and the highest authority in the families. In practice, husbands and wives tend to cooperate and negotiate as much as possible, and most decision making was, in all reality, highly egalitarian. In return for this symbolic boon, men were seen to incur greater responsibility for family safety and welfare, as well as more difficult work and sacrifice for the family. For their symbolic deference, women could be seen to derive a higher return of emotional support and intimacy from husbands, economic and physical security, and respect. The end result of this symbolic traditionalism and pragmatic egalitarianism is that men’s accountability to their families is increased. This study demonstrates quite the opposite of what might otherwise be expected in evangelical household gender relations.

    Beaman (2001), studying the diversity of religious identities amongst Mormon women, found that gender roles in the family tended to result in a view of teamwork, that is, they were complimentary in that fathers were “head” of the house while women were the “heart” of the house. Similar to Gallagher and Smith’s findings, male headship of the family was the formally expressed view but, in practice, household and family decisions tended to be reached by consensus between husband and wife. This was analogous to another finding that, despite official Mormon Church teachings, women worked outside the home if necessary, though some respondents pointed out that the economic necessity of dual-earner households caused guilt for some, in light of the importance of adhering to church teachings. The study also found varying interpretations of male Mormon leadership roles, some of which could be construed as feminist in nature. For example, while the mantle of priesthood, a formal divine designation of leadership, was only available to men, certain respondents interpreted this as men needing the priesthood; one respondent noted her belief that men needed the priesthood because men were spiritually weaker than women. In the final analysis, then, respondents found themselves negotiating the space between church teachings, their own beliefs and instincts of how things should be, and the current social expectations and economic conditions of their society.

    These three studies taken together form an excellent example of the notion that there is usually distance between church teachings and real world practices, which is not necessarily to suggest hypocrisy, but rather that the way in which individuals experience in their lives religious teachings and rules is not uniform, and does not readily lend itself to clean, all-encompassing distinctions of oppressive or non-oppressive. What is anathema to one is perhaps bliss to another, and this possibility can be seen within the lives of these studies’ various respondents as they negotiate their identities within the modern context and experience religious practices as being oppressive, simply burdensome or annoying, or as welcome boons. Without closer examination and a grounded approach that seeks to situate reality in the experience and words of participants, we are not able to see that the way in which people both practice their faith and the way they experience its demands and requirements may not necessarily fulfill a patriarchal or oppressive framework in the monolithic, unilateral sense.

    Sometimes women of religion have been politically involved in maintaining or defending traditional gender roles and family arrangements, in the name of a moral agenda wherein such roles and structures are seen as being mandated by God, and therefore not to be tampered with, even by women who may experience them as subordinating (Brubaker, in Kirk-Duggan and Torjesen, 2010). This was particularly the case for 1972 Equal Rights Act, as equal rights for both men and women could be injurious to women’s divinely ordained roles as mothers, and the famous Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision on abortion, for obvious reasons yet again linked to the imposition of child birth on women as punishment for original sin. Brubaker notes that a majority of religious conservatives are women, and that Pat Robertson’s Christian Coalition was, throughout the 1990s, composed of a majority of middle class, educated women. Such information serves as a corrective to the idea that men, and thus patriarchy, are the primary obstacles to women’s equal rights and liberation, though an argument surely could be (and has been; see Hartman and Marmon, 2004, p. 405, on false consciousness and patriarchal collaboration) mounted that such conservative women are merely victims of the patriarchal ideology manufactured and perpetuated by Christianity and its patriarchal structures and institutions. Brubaker further points out that, because the traditional family model and its attendant roles are seen as being given by God, any lifestyle choice or deviation from this model, such as abortion or homosexuality, is seen as a threat to the family and gender structure this model manifests (in Kirk-Duggan and Torjesen, eds., 2010); the efforts of conservative Christian women to preserve this model, while certainly not in line with the religion-as-empowerment thesis proposed in this paper, do concretely demonstrate a point implicit in this thesis: the same power of religion to maintain and reify patriarchy can be used to undo patriarchy, depending on who is exercising such power. In this case, women have made use of their standing in religion to protect and affirm a religious worldview that provides both structure and meaning to their existence.

    The above efforts of conservative Christian women also bring about a very interesting opportunity to examine what an embrace of religion may do for women in positive terms. Lynn Davidman, in her book Tradition in a Rootless World (1991), examines two Jewish communities in New York and sketches a theoretical framework in which the Jewish “seekers” that she studies find what they need in Orthodox Judaism. Whether it is a sense of belonging and community or a sense of identity and history, the women at her two communities turn to tradition in order to root themselves in a modern world where changes on the societal and global levels, as well as personal life experiences unique to modernity, have left them without a necessarily complete indication of where and how they fit into this world. Such is not everyone’s response to the conditions and environment of modernity, but, for these women, Orthodox Judaism offers a means to carve out a place of their own that fits with their Jewish heritage and that serves to provide them with scripts and resources in order that they may come to know how to be a woman, a wife, a mother, or a member of “a family” in a modern secular society.

    Throughout the course of her thesis, Davidman makes explicit the idea that modernity has been the harbinger of gender role ambiguity due to the attendant and increasing panoply of competing role identities; modernity has provided competing goals and directives that did not match with the women’s own needs and goals. Given that the women in both communities had life experiences which did not leave them fulfilled, or rather left them in disarray, Orthodox Judaism provided for them what they either did not find in or were deprived of by the outside world. For them, turning to this tradition was a way to create or obtain a meaningful sense of place and self. The irony of this is that modern society is thought to provide the conditions necessary for women to be free of religion (or, modern society at least provides the grounds to exert a greater challenge to patriarchy as it is found in organized religion; the feminist oversight is ignoring the fact that this has also meant using religion to do so). But, per Davidman, the modern secularized milieu has undercut certain components of communal existence and personal identity, and these are the very things that Orthodox Judaism is able to provide for Davidman’s respondents, who all possessed some form of Jewish heritage prior to the seeking out of their respective communities. A feminist critique might refer to this as false consciousness and patriarchal collaboration (above; cf. Hartman and Marmon, 2004), but the functional aspect of membership in these communities for the women cannot be denied.

    It is true that religion does not inevitably or inherently mean power. But often, this is the case, especially insofar as religion has the ability to define reality, to legitimate into existence the consciousness’s binding perception of the way things are, why we are here, what we should do, and what is to be valued. We must recall that, to be one with power, someone else must be less powerful, or powerless; that is, there must be someone or something to hold power over. For some, religion has provided to the means to obtain this power, but it bears repeating that this particular power is arbitrary, in the sense that it may be used to oppress or to empower, to enslave or to liberate. Of course, where there is power, the exercise of power is never arbitrary, as we have seen. It was the “old story” of religion as vehicle of patriarchal power that drew the fire of the original mid to late 19th century feminists, and, on the one hand, this is understandable in the sense that the evidence for religion as empowerment for women is nowhere more on display than in today’s times. But even these feminists might have taken note, for example, of the moral role that 19th century Evangelical reform cast women into, as the primary educators in the character development of their children and as moral exemplars and watchdogs for husband and home (cf. Turner, 1985, pgs. 128-131). Suffice it to say that, despite their retention of ideologies which cast doubt on the notion of religion being more overall harmful than beneficial to women, today’s feminists who remain highly critical of religion tend to at least acknowledge the fact that religion itself has been used positively in liberation efforts for women.

    Here we have now seen that religion, perhaps more today than ever before in our history, has the potential to serve, through groups, ideologies, and frameworks, as a greater source for women’s emancipation, liberation, and mobility than as an origin of their oppression, subjugation, and second-class standing.

  7. Joseph Langston says:

    Sources/References for above:

    Beamon, Lori. (2001). Molly Mormons, Mormon feminists and moderates: Religious diversity and the Latter Day Saints Church. Sociology of Religion, 62(1), 65-86.

    Berger, Peter. (1996). The desecularization of the world: A global overview. The National Interest, 46.

    Brubaker, Pamela K. (2010). Women and Christianity. In C. Kirk-Duggan & K. J. Torjesen (Eds.) Denver: ABC-CLIO.

    Cardman, Francine. (1999). Women and Christian Origins. In R.S. Kraemer & M.R. D’Angelo. (Eds.) Oxford: Oxford University Press.

    Davidman, Lynn. (1991). Tradition in a Rootless World: Women Turn to Orthodox Judaism. Oxford: University of Berkeley Press.

    Gage, Matilda J. (1893). Woman, Church, and State. 2nd edition by Voice of India [1997].

    Gallagher, Sally K., and Smith, Christian. (1999). Symbolic traditionalism and pragmatic egalitarianism: Contemporary evangelicals, families, and gender. Gender and Society, 13(2), 211-233.

    Hartmon, Tova, and Marmon, Naomi. (2004). Lived regulations, systemic attributions: Menstrual separation and ritual immersion in the experience of orthodox Jewish women. Gender and Society, 18(3), 389-408.

    Lerner, Gerda. (1987). The Creation of Patriarchy. Oxford University Press.

    Ranft, Patricia (2000). Women and Spiritual Equality in Christian Tradition. New York: St. Martin’s Press.

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    Wolfe, Alan. (2003). The Transformation of American Religion: How We Actually Live Our Faith. New York: Free Press.

  8. Alex says:

    As long as women have no say in the making of the rules of their religion and no accepted role in the hierarchy, they’ll always be second class or an easy target for victimisation, obvious or more subtle.

  9. Religion in it’s ideologies and practices IS discrimination – against all non believes, other believers and even against women within the religious societies.

    It is not a question of how far a women feels the discrimination (i.e. because he did not know or want other life scenarios or options) – it is a question in general.

    Discrimination and intolerance is the base and basic principle behind all of the “great” world religions – without: a world religion is not to make…

    True, you will find in any of these religions parties or parts who interpret the ideology in a more or less women “friendly” way, but this is still just a part of the truth and usually the much smaller one…

  10. I appreciate all your time and value in discussing these very controversial and dysfunctional matters that humanity, primarily the history of men who needed agreement to dominate, women are just a part of the encompassing wrath of humanity for greed, sex, power and money. I am sure there are women who can sit at the belittling thrown that has slayed women as less. I wonder if gender is really a core issue to the ongoing betrayal, whether be of religion, politics, corporate greed and/or good old fashion control!! Perhaps, its all the same?

  11. I never would have imagined I would have to be familiar with this, but thank goodness for the internet

  12. Chet says:

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