Religion has long institutionalized the subservience of women. Today’s woman fights for tangible equity as a way of claiming equality, but will never fully succeed until the root of the problem, religion, either alters its interpretation, or is no longer considered a reputable source of societal authority. Because religion structures the family, hence society, the elimination of sexism must proceed concurrently with the eradication of archaic attitudes within the churches, and servile innuendoes within the home.
The Book of Genesis, when taken literally, reads as if man was created in God’s image, and woman in the shadow of man. Ever since Eve took the initiative to sample the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, woman has borne the blame for societal ills in every generation, and man has become a fop to his own sexist propaganda. What is most amazing is that, with some exception, woman accepted this. Even woman does not fully appreciate the role of woman. Religion strives to advise and manipulate the soul.
Most human beings yearn for enlightenment of the soul, the essence of who and what we are, making it easy for structured religion to mandate social behavior. This is an area where women, as well as angels, fear to tread. Demanding equality in religion need not be taken as challenging God.
The bible, a handbook for Christian living, overflows with sexist beliefs and sexist writings. St. Paul made no apology for putting women down, believing the inferiority of biblical woman to be the natural order of things. His basic lack of respect for women permeates his entire epistles, as the following quote from I Corinthians, 14:34,35, denotes: “Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak. … And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.”
It is impossible for God to be prejudiced or sexist, but it must be remembered that the bible was written by men who were the products of both the times and their environment; and under the questionable supervision of divine guidance. Biblical writing has been slanted to presume that even God looks down upon woman, and consequently woman looks down upon herself. Christ dined with sinners, entertained prostitutes, and celebrated equality of life with both women and men. His disciples, after his death, elected to take his celibacy and change it into a preferred lifestyle.
The Immaculate Conception seems based on the theory that no man could produce the Son of God, but a woman could.Yet religion deemed woman as second class citizen, and man accepted this theology to further his ingrained supremacy. Tradition dies hard, and organized religions throughout the world have fostered sexism for centuries. Possibly, it is due to the innate need within most people to worship a Creator, that allowed women to tolerate the blatant disregard for equal status within the churches.
While some women have overcome this obstacle and struggled to become rabbis and ordained ministers, the world will not see female priests or a woman Pope in the near future. Societies were not always male-oriented; neither were their Gods, masculine. Five thousand years ago, in ancient Babylon, our ancestors paid homage to the Queen of Heaven, and there lingers today, in myths and legends, a yearning for the Mother Goddess, never to be destroyed so long as woman and man is born of woman. It was natural for the pagans in Northern Europe to worship the Mother Goddess, Great Mother, or Queen of Heaven, because she represented creation, food gathering, agriculture, and the summer months. They also worshiped the Horned Stag, who represented the hunt, the killing of food, and the winter months. These two deities, Goddess and God, were both worshiped, depending upon the seasons.
Even the onset of Christianity served only to sublimate these cults. It was to the good of Christianity to tolerate the pagans, because pagans greatly out-numbered Christians. Pagan feast days became Christian holidays. The birth of Christ, not accurately known, was celebrated on December twenty-fifth, falling four days after the winter solstice—chosen precisely to bring sun-worshipers into the folds of Christianity. After the Church had robbed the pagans of their traditions and rites, “She” began actively persecuting them, causing them to go “underground”, performing their rites in forests and groves. Their Horned Stag became the “devil”, and their Great Mother, the prototype for Christ’s Virgin Mother-minus her sexuality.
Only in witchcraft does paganism live on. All that remained of the Mother Goddess down through history was three symbols: the wicked witch, the Virgin Mary, and the folk concept of “Mother Nature”. Women seemed doomed to be witch, epitome of evil, or virgin, devoid of sexuality. When woman did what was needed to further the human race, she was damned in the misguided minds of men, who felt guilty for loving “whores”(lost virginity). The concept of the “wicked witch” acted as the scapegoat for man’s basic awe of woman; female entities capable of altering the minds, emotions, and bodies of unprotected men. Even knowing they had the physical strength to overpower women, men feared that women, in the form of witches, could “magically” destroy their masculinity, a seemingly fragile commodity.
The Christian Church surpassed all others in its ferocious attack on witches.Thousands of presumed witches, mostly healers, midwives, and herbalists, were killed by hanging and burning, long before the famous Salem witch hunts; another example of men boasting superiority in the name of God. People have been religious since early humans first greeted the sun, observed the phenomenon of fire, and participated in the birth of a child. It is against the nature of humanity not to revere a being greater than itself, a being interested in all its triumphs and failures. And this is a good, except that women are not equal participants in what should be a joint celebration of the soul.
When religions throughout the world insist that man is “lower than the angels”, and woman lower than man, this ingrained position affects all areas of society, fomenting in the home, and spilling into the workplace. Man willingly abides by these statutes, because they supposedly come from a higher authority, but mostly because it suits his basic needs. Man would follow his natural inclination to dominate, because Nature dictates the survival of the fittest, which has somehow translated to mean the strongest. Woman’s muscular structure has always been physically weaker than that of the male, and all the health clubs in the world will never change this fact.
Women waste valuable time trying to compete physically with men. Delilah was not stronger than Samson, yet she destroyed him. If religion was not an integral part of society, the sexist beliefs it promotes would not have significant impact on equality between the sexes. Every society is a direct link to its past. The interpretation of texts written 2000 years ago must be re-examined to fit the needs of women and men today. The posture of religion must change, as well as the attitudes of women, not only the executive woman, not only the female presidents of corporations, but every woman, the nurturer of future generations.
Until the past two decades, men were raised mostly by women, indicating that women may have been inadvertently showing their male children the path to dominance and sexism, without being cognizant of it. If women can combat sexist terminology and habitude in the two most revered places, the church and the home, little more needs to be done to promote a society of women and men working together, in the name of God, to better humanity.
The elimination of any problem begins at its source. If this generation is taught that logically, God, lacking race or gender, is God, total equality can be established in the work place, the home and the churches. Religion, cradling the soul of “mankind”, must acknowledge woman, not as the rib of Adam, but as his right hand. Then, as equals, women and men will truly “inherit the earth”.
“The mother in her office holds the key Of the soul; and she it is who stamps the Coin Of character.” — Anonymous