From Here & Back Again
By Jim Coufal
(Cazenovia, NY – Jan. 2012) Now don’t get your bloomers in a twist. I won’t be saying that women are a curiosity, and I certainly won’t advance any idea that women are somehow less than men. Heck, in ways they’re better. But I do have a curiosity that raises a question I think worth asking of women.
Why do you continue to support religion, which in most cases seeks to hold you back and to make (keep) you a second-class citizen? If this seems extreme, let me illustrate not with guile, but with fact.
There may have been earlier exposes but, for context, I’ll start with two powerful American abolitionist and suffrage voices. Matilda Joslyn Gage, in her masterful, well-researched “Women, Church and State” (1893) said, “the very foundation of that religion (Christianity) being the subordination of women in every relation of life,” and clearly and directly shows how this applied in categories such as canon law, witchcraft, wives, polygamy, teaching, work and others.
Her friend and compatriot, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, said, “The bible teaches that women brought sin and death into the world, that she precipitated the fall of the race, that she was arraigned before the judgment seat of Heaven, tried, condemned and sentenced.
“Marriage for her was to be a condition of bondage, maternity a period of suffering and anguish, and in silence and subjugation, she was to play the role of a dependent on man’s bounty for all her material wants, and for all the information she might desire … Here is the Bible position of woman briefly summed up.”
To simplify further, woman brought original sin to the world and must suffer for it.
How does this play out, and what about other religions and women? I will list a minimum of examples, but there are more in each case.
To start with the basic, “Of the woman came the beginning of sin, and through her we all die” (Eccles. 25:22).” This immediately put man in a position of superiority, which should not be unsurprising, since it was written by men.
It also meant, according to a loving god, that women must suffer.
“Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow though shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee” (Genesis 3:16).
When it finally came, the church opposed the use of anesthesia to reduce the pain of suffering of childbirth; it was the wont of woman to suffer, said the old white men.
Since man had to suffer the introduction of sin by woman and women were made from man (ribs and all that), he was superior to her.
“Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husband in everything” (Ephesians 5:22-24).
Notice it says “everything,” and over many years this meant even rape, beatings, treatment as chattel, etc., and still does in many religions.
You might expect women to speak out against injustice but what else are they told?
“Let the women learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over man, but to be in silence. For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but woman being deceived was in the transgression” (I Tim. 2:11-14.)
Generations of women are to suffer because of the perceived sin of one woman, and they are to stay silent about it. And who is to say, except that it was written by old men, that Adam might not have taken the first bite of the apple? A question for all, but especially for men, is what would our world look like if it was written so that women were superior and how would you like it?
The bible also deals with the value of women.
In one case, where a homeowner has a male guest whom a crowd wishes to rape, the homeowner says, “Behold, here is my daughter, and his concubine; them I will bring out now, and humble ye them, and do with them what seemeth good unto you; but unto this man do not vile a thing” (Judges 19: 24-25).
In other cases, pregnant women who do not believe, and their children, are to be ripped up (Hosea 13:6), a price is put on virgins – female virgins, (Deut. 22: 28-29), men are able to divorce women with greater ease than vice-versa (various), and stoning of adulterous women is approved (and sometimes men too).
Women are ranked first in one category. The bible justifies burning witches and since witches were mostly identified as women, far more women than men were burned during the inquisition. This also illustrates how often the state and church (religion) worked together to keep all in place, but especially women.
Religion-state cooperation still takes place in the world. Just a brief look will be made of other religions.
Regarding Islam, Americans are outraged that suicide bombers are given 72 virgins in heaven. This is seen as outlandish, especially since suicide is forbidden in Islam. But as Jihadists, fighting infidels, such bombers are not seen as committing suicide.
In any case, the reward of 72 virgins is not mentioned in the Koran, but it is found in the Hadith, or traditions of Islam. We also have witnessed how women who have been raped are the ones punished, even by being stoned to death.
One author puts it that in Islam, “sex is seen entirely from the male point of view, woman’s sexuality is admitted but seen as something to be feared, repressed, and a work of the devil,” thus things like the burquah and long robes.
Islam even requires two female witnesses to be the equal of one male witness.
In Hinduism, there was the custom of “sati,” where at her husband’s death the wife laid herself on his funeral pyre for self-immolation, to join him as companion and servant. The woman was seen as having no intrinsic value without her husband and no justification to live without him.
The British largely ended this custom, but apparently it is still practiced in remote areas of India.
Gage describes a four-hour sermon of a Christian minister in the late nineteenth century, and she concludes his arguments that women were subordinate to men were based on the same arguments from the past, “that woman was created inferior to man, for man and was the first to sin.”
So I repeat my question to women, not out of any mean spirit but out of true interest: “Why do you continue to support religion, which in most cases seeks to hold you back and to make [keep] you a second-class citizen?”
Jim Coufal of Cazenovia is a part-time philosopher and full-time observer of global trends. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.