Questionable Motives

April 19, 2011

Why are the Abrahamic religions blots on the dignity of humankind?

Because they they are misogynistic. Paula Kirby from the Washington Post explains why, from which I have extracted  the following but I know you’ll head on over to read the whole piece for yourself:

“Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.”

Here, in Ephesians 5, attributed to St Paul, we have in a nutshell the church’s attitude to the respective positions of man and woman. The man’s role is to be the head, the woman’s to submit to him. The meaning is crystal clear, unmistakable; and yet, despite the fundamentalists who firmly believe such Iron Age prejudices still apply today, there are many liberal Christians who have the decency to cringe at the primitiveness of such instructions and who therefore bend over backwards to pretend they’re not as bad as they quite patently are. “Ah yes,” they say, “but Paul goes on to say that husbands must love their wives. And not just love them, but love them as they love themselves. So clearly this is a reciprocal arrangement, equal in value, imposing constraints of equal weight on both man and wife. All is well with the world and we can continue to pretend that Christianity is the friend of women.” But no. All is not well with the world, and only the deluded or the disingenuous could claim to see equality where there is only subservience.

It is interesting to note the context in which this infamous passage occurs: immediately following the commandment to women to submit to their husbands we find the commandment to children to obey their parents, and to slaves to obey their owners. No amount of instruction to the husbands, parents and owners in question not to ruthlessly exploit their positions of power can alter the fact that women are classed with children and slaves when it comes to their social standing, freedom and self-determination and, like them, are called on to embrace their inferior status with cheerfulness and enthusiasm. In this same sequence of instructions slave-owners are exhorted not to threaten their slaves. Does this make slavery acceptable? Of course not. Only religion could attempt to present such a loathsome idea as though it were not a blot on the dignity of humankind, and the requirement for women always to submit to their menfolk is no less repugnant.

So isn’t this always the case even without these religious influences?

Show me a non-religious society that feels so threatened by the thought of female sexuality that it will slice off the clitoris of a young girl to ensure she can never experience sexual pleasure. Show me a non-religious society that feels the need to cloak women from head to toe and force them to experience the outside world through a slit of a few square inches. All three Abrahamic religions share the myth of Adam and Eve, the myth that it was through woman that evil was let loose in the world. They share the heritage of Leviticus, which declared a menstruating woman unclean, to be set aside, untouched, a revulsion that remains even today among some orthodox Jews, who will refuse to shake a woman’s hand for fear she may be menstruating. What kind of lunacy is this? It is the lunacy of a Bronze Age mindset fossilized by the reactionary forces of religion.

But of course the lunacies derived from religious beliefs neither begins nor ends here; it’s a fount for lunacy that keeps on giving.

Religion is one lie after another: the lie of original sin, the lie of eternal life, the lie of hell, the lie of answered prayer, the lie that life can have no meaning without religion, the lie that religion is the source of morality, the lie of creationism, the lie of a spy-in-the-sky who hears your every word and reads your every thought. And to this list we must add the lie that it views men and women as equal. It has got away for so long with the kind of lunatic word-games that allow death-by-torture to be presented as an act of love, and eternal torment in the flames of hell to be seen as a necessary act of justice, that we should perhaps not be surprised that it has also managed to dupe its followers into seeing the systematic suppression and silencing of women as an act of liberation and equality. Nevertheless, it is a lie, like all the others: a cynical and wicked lie. It is time women everywhere woke up to it.

That would be a good start.

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12 Comments »

  1. “No amount of instruction to the husbands, parents and owners in question not to ruthlessly exploit their positions of power can alter the fact that women are classed with children and slaves when it comes to their social standing, freedom and self-determination and, like them, are called on to embrace their inferior status with cheerfulness and enthusiasm” (tildeb)

    That logic is almost laughable – it’s seems to want to make a point with clearly avoiding the facts they already pointed out ‘Paul goes on to say that husbands must love their wives’. What is this intentionally blind logic?

    It’s like me saying how starving someone is yet they have a cupboard full of food.

    Comment by SocietyVs — April 19, 2011 @ 11:28 am | Reply

    • But the point in the article is made that Paul’s reciprocal arrangement argument is clearly not true in either principle or practice. It is not a reciprocal arrangement whatsoever but a power arrangement that suits only men and privileges them based on their gonads. Kirby shows exactly this unfair and misogynistic approach throughout all of Abrahamic scripture. Not a single man, for example, is held to equal account and contempt as women are for being a whore, either by god or any other man in a position of authority. I fail to see how that undeniable conclusion is laughable.

      Comment by tildeb — April 19, 2011 @ 11:59 am | Reply

  2. “Nevertheless, it is a lie, like all the others: a cynical and wicked lie. It is time women everywhere woke up to it” (tildeb)

    I am on board with most of this…equality & women’s rights…in society and within the religions they adhere to. It’s a ‘mans world’ in many ways and religion, like overall society, has pushed women to the edges.

    However, in some ways women are a lot more passive than men – must be a basic chemiical thing – and they do not assert themselves as much as they should in many arenas. However, if women started doing that (in mass quantities) is this what men would still prefer from the opposite sex? Or would this change the dynamic so much it hurts relationships?

    Regardless, men need to stand up for women – if they say they ‘love em’.

    Comment by SocietyVs — April 19, 2011 @ 11:32 am | Reply

    • Consider the language we use to describe the same action undertaken by a man and then by a woman: whereas a man may be ‘forceful’ and woman is ‘pushy’; where a man may be ‘strong’ and woman is ‘stubborn’, and the list is endless. This is misogyny in action.

      Are men and women different? Absolutely. Does that translate into reliable characteristics we can differentiate on the basis of gender? Absolutely not. Just because the average height of men is taller than women in no way allows us to conclude that men ARE taller. This is difficulty many people have understanding what averages mean and so it is not uncommon to be faced by mistaken thinking all the time that tries to use averages to back up specifics. For example, 100 children run a hundred meters. This group is made up of 50 boys and 50 girls of the same age. We list the times in descending order and discover that 26 boys appeared in top 50 and 24 girls. From this we make a mistake to deduce that boys are faster than girls. Of those 26 boys, 21 were beaten by girls with faster times. Only 5 boys were faster than these 50 girls. To extrapolate from the average for the specific ‘fact’ that boys are faster than girls is not true for 90% of these boys. Yet we hear over and over how girls are better at this and boys are better at that from all kinds of results similar to the one I point out in areas like math and hand-eye coordination, strength, speed, dexterity, stamina, yada yada yada. The fact of the matter is each individual possesses certain comparative abilities and gender is not a reliable indicator even if averages are used correctly. Merit, however, is. And for that to be effective and fair, we have to put aside our gender biases and use the same measurement for merit regardless of the gender. All of us need to stand up for each other and allow all of us to be the individuals we really are.

      Comment by tildeb — April 19, 2011 @ 12:19 pm | Reply

  3. My comment on women is from basic observation over the past 36 years…and being with the same women for 11 of that and working in women dominated environments for 6 of that – I have a fairly good grasp on women’s behaviors and attitudes. Again, what I am saying is not ‘tried, tested, and true’ but there is something to it.

    I want equality for women as much as the next man or woman…but how many women do you actually know willing to fight this battle and define what it ‘means’ to them? Does it mean they have to act like us? Does it mean chivalry is dead? Does it mean the roles within the household need to change? And if they do, can women live with some of that? Movement to total equality is the ‘ideal’, but I find women are confused on what this means in totality concerning their role in overall life.

    I know, sounds misognistic, it’s not…it really is honest questioning.

    Comment by SocietyVs — April 19, 2011 @ 1:53 pm | Reply

    • The point being raised is how the Abrahamic religions have helped to promote and maintain a misogynistic attitude. That attitude is that gender matters. When you suggest that women have behaviours and attitudes, are you not falling into this very trap… that gender matters in some way establishing behaviours and attitudes?

      Equality doesn’t mean the same. In the same way you will treat each of children differently based on a host of factors, you will do so on the basis of equality of respect for each. I think this is the battle we wage in our own heads whether or not we empower gender alone to be a meaningful factor… whether that is in roles and rights, treatment and respect. The argument is that religion helps to promote this gender-based thinking and it is harmful.

      Comment by tildeb — April 19, 2011 @ 4:46 pm | Reply

  4. “Not a single man, for example, is held to equal account and contempt as women are for being a whore, either by god or any other man in a position of authority. I fail to see how that undeniable conclusion is laughable” (tildeb)

    It’s selective in nature (problem A). What was laughable was the point from Ephesians about Paul’s treatment of women – the author seemed to want to ‘ignore’ passages (as I already pointed out).

    As for all of scripture and misogyny – agreed it happens quite often in scripture. Again I am not sure why this is a problem in the 21st century understanding of scripture – care to explain?

    As for selectivity, men are put in much worse positions than women throughout scripture (ie: as in violent encounters). Magadelene never had her head cut-off, but John did. Leviticus’ passage on homosexuality has the men being killed, no punishment for women. I could go on if I need to.

    Comment by SocietyVs — April 19, 2011 @ 1:57 pm | Reply

    • I don’t think she ignored them at all. I think she addressed John’s claim and the interpretation many people have that scripture respects women as much as men head on and showed it to be wrong both in principle and practice! When you introduce 21st century understanding of scripture, I think you assume that ‘understanding’ is somehow common. That’s highly dubious and the modern interpretation is mitigated tremendously by secular law that imposes legal equality.

      And let’s not forget the central thesis Kirby is working on: that the Abrahamic religions undermine equality of respect for the individual by promoting gender-based beliefs. That men die is not the issue. That they enjoy a privileged position in power over women because of the fact of their gender is.

      Comment by tildeb — April 19, 2011 @ 4:53 pm | Reply

  5. That they enjoy a privileged position in power over women because of the fact of their gender is(tildeb)

    I agree with much of what you say about the Abrahamic religions. I think it important to realize though, both women and men in these religions/societies have positions of power. In other words not ALL men control ALL women. If we truly want to have equality then it is important to realize its not about gender power its just about power, well, at least from a societal view.

    Comment by Titfortat — April 20, 2011 @ 4:12 pm | Reply

  6. “When you introduce 21st century understanding of scripture, I think you assume that ‘understanding’ is somehow common” (tildeb)

    Agreed, but I sure wish it was (maybe thats why I write a blog?).

    I do agree that scripture can be interpreted to lead to misogyny – thats a fact – and many churches reveal this with their hiring practices and how they teach women to ‘be’. I think in some regards the idea men and women are different is also a fact – but I do think churches en masse are doing more to hurt the rights of women than to defend them.

    Comment by SocietyVs — April 21, 2011 @ 12:56 pm | Reply

  7. Gender roles are indeed an interesting observation within religious scripture, again it is more evidence that god did not provide the inspiration for the ‘good’ books of the world. The texts are written to bias common male beliefs, fears and desires. Anyone would think they were written by men and not god(s)!?!

    Comment by misunderstoodranter — April 21, 2011 @ 2:58 pm | Reply

  8. These were old laws from long ago…that is not what is taught today – the bible is to be used for salvation history…PERIOD!

    Comment by 4amzgkids — April 21, 2011 @ 3:53 pm | Reply


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