Religion’s Oppression of Women January 11, 2010

Religion’s Oppression of Women

You have to read this article. It’s by Nicholas Kristof in The New York Times.

No, really. Read it.

It’s all about how religion oppresses women. Sometimes, the Scripture says it directly. And sometimes, it’s the religiously-inspired culture.

Kristof also says that if religion is the problem, religion can be the solution, but that requires a fundamental shift in the mindset of the followers of several major faiths. That’s not likely to happen. I think ridding these cultures of the religious mindset in the first place would do far more good for them than re-shaping the superstitions that are already there.

We know that many religions, moderate and extreme, treat women as second-class citizens. At worst, it’s violence and oppression — women are victims of “honor killings” or forced to live a life without a real voice. At best, in some cases, it’s blatant sexism — women are in the minority in leadership positions.

I’ll be the first to admit that not all denominations of all faiths are like this. I’ve met several Christian women, for example, who are in no way treated as anything less than an equal.

But too many women are not on par with men, and they are in the majority.

Just check out a few of the problems causes by faith that Kristof highlights:

It is not that warlords in Congo cite Scripture to justify their mass rapes (although the last warlord I met there called himself a pastor and wore a button reading “rebels for Christ”). It’s not that brides are burned in India as part of a Hindu ritual. And there’s no verse in the Koran that instructs Afghan thugs to throw acid in the faces of girls who dare to go to school.

Yet these kinds of abuses — along with more banal injustices, like slapping a girlfriend or paying women less for their work — arise out of a social context in which women are, often, second-class citizens. That’s a context that religions have helped shape, and not pushed hard to change.

The New Testament quotes St. Paul (I Timothy 2) as saying that women “must be silent.” Deuteronomy declares that if a woman does not bleed on her wedding night, “the men of her town shall stone her to death.” An Orthodox Jewish prayer thanks God, “who hast not made me a woman.” The Koran stipulates that a woman shall inherit less than a man, and that a woman’s testimony counts for half a man’s.

Today, when religious institutions exclude women from their hierarchies and rituals, the inevitable implication is that females are inferior…

It sickens me to think about. But it makes me proud to be free of religion.

More liberal theists need to speak up. They need to publicly denounce others in their faith who hold these anti-women views.

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  • Greg

    Props to NY TImes for posting this op-ed, I’m sure this article will hang a little longer than the usual op-ed.

  • Siamang

    To Beer! The cause of, and the solution to, all life’s problems!

  • Alan E.

    Funny you should bring this up. Check out this bus banner ad in London http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/blogs/sfmoms/detail?entry_id=54997&tsp=1
    “Career women make bad mothers”

  • Andy

    The problem is that many of the hardcore supporters of Biblical gender roles insist that it is not oppression. They constantly refer to how there are two different roles, and although they are different they are equal. Never mind the fact that the woman must ALWAYS trust and follow the Man’s orders.

    Seperate but equal, where have I heard that before…

  • Orange

    You neglected to mention the parts where he acknowledged that religion has helped squelch its own mistakes as well. IE: Pentecostal churches in Uguanda empowering women. I’m not defending religion, just wanted to make sure it’s not jsut a half assed quote job.

  • noah

    Andy,

    great point, and it sounds a lot like the opposition to gay marriage.

  • Potco

    The other problem among some more liberal Christians is that women themselves do not view themselves as equals, or even want to be. They believe that in a relationship they should be subservient to the man. This is what disturbs me most about religion, how it can convince people that they need to sacrifice their free will and sense of self.

  • Lynne

    Thanks for this post. I always thought one of the most obnoxious things about Catholicism is the COMPLETE exclusion of women in positions of leadership and power.

    Andy brings up a great point, as I have actually heard people say, “But women get to be nuns!”

    Give me a break.

  • matilda

    Please read his book, Half the Sky! We in the US take for granted the rights we have as women and I feel sometimes we forget or are just completely unaware that things are unbelievably worse for females elsewhere. The truth is, women and girls have a terrible existence in so much of the world. I truly feel that womens’ rights are THE global human rights issue of our time, and that addressing womens’ rights in many underdeveloped countries could potentially make huge strides in addressing the issues underlying global terrorism. Really.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    Why don’t you head over to Common Sense Atheism and do a little consciousness-raising in this thread?
    16 Sexiest Female Atheists (with pics, of course)

    Look in vain for his thread on the 16 sexiest male atheists.

  • Richard Wade

    More liberal theists need to speak up. They need to publicly denounce others in their faith who hold these anti-women views.

    Liberal theists for the most part seem to leave their gonads, whether testicles or ovaries, safely locked up in a desk drawer at home whenever they go out in public. Their silence to their misogynist peers speaks volumes. You don’t have to actually run away to act as a coward. You only have to politely stand aside and let evil have its way unchallenged.

  • DemetriusOfPharos

    @Richard Wade
    Thats an incredibly eloquent way of saying “because they are cowards” but you are right; the liberal theists I’ve encountered are content to sit on the sidelines (so to speak, I don’t usually like sports metaphors), complain quietly only to their peers and yet still support their church or belief system to outsiders.

    @Reginald Selkirk
    Just to play devils advocate for a moment, it is a long held belief in the art world that the female form is by far the more attractive, more inviting form; while masculinity is seen as aggressive. Maybe, just maybe, the list was not made from sexist intentions and was more of an attempt to call attention to the fact that there are female atheists as well and they do not all fit the stereotype (most theists I meet expect female atheists to be the butch feminist type, not the hot girl next door). Of course, I’m male, so my opinion on sexism is a bit biased.

  • Jeff Dale

    @Richard Wade:

    Their silence to their misogynist peers speaks volumes.

    Great point, Richard. And we see the parallel in the Islamic world when some of the more fanatic of their number commit acts of terrorism. We do indeed need more moderate-to-liberal theists to challenge the fanatics. Problem is, we have this cultural attitude of deference toward religion. People bend over backwards to avoid saying anything critical about religion or attributing any evil to it, because we think people have the right to be secure in their own beliefs. The moderate-to-liberal need this deference because religions wouldn’t stand on their own merit against criticism from or comparison to other religions, let alone atheism. Anyway, that’s how it seems to me. All the more reason for atheists to keep building bridges with moderate-to-liberal theists, to tilt the balance for them away from clinging to religion and toward opposing evils committed in its name.

  • christopher

    what really disturbs me is to hear muslim/christian/hindu women defending their/this condition and hearing stats like 51% of men in India think it ok to beat their wife; only to be follow by, 54% of women think it ok to be beaten for leaving the house without telling their spouse or burning the diner. How can you turn these kinds of mind sets around?

  • jemand

    @Christopher. TV. Seriously. Recent research shows that when an Indian community gets television access, female acceptance of beatings for such things as burning dinner plummets. It also affects the opinions of young males. In a matter of a couple months, attitudes change commensurate with an additional two or three years education. Not to say education shouldn’t also be promoted, but, tv is much cheaper and immediate.

  • Jeff

    Not to defend organized religion’s influence on this issue but it is much bigger than organized religion. Religion has not caused persecution of women. We had it long before religion existed and it will probably exist in some form if and when religion ever ceases. The idea that women are inferior is deaply ingrained in our psyche due to our human evolutionary path. We evolved as a harem keeping species where the alpha male held all the power. This is where this comes from. That doesn’t mean we should perpetuate this idea just because it is natural but it does suggest that getting rid of religion will not change it. It us up to each of us as humans to determine the morality of systems given to us by evolution and either act to preserve them or consciously try to eradicate them.

  • I think the whole “because God said it was so” and “it’s been like this for generations” excuses that have lived with women needs to be seriously questioned. And the article brings that question to light.

  • Ophelia Benson & Jeremy Stangroom wrote about this last year in their book Does God Hate Women. I guess attention had to wait until a man had top billing.

  • muggle

    if religion is the problem, religion can be the solution

    Wouldn’t this be rather like the alcholic saying watered down drinks would solve their drinking problem?

    Ridiculous. Why must we cede everythihg to religion? Especially the problems caused by it.

    That’s rather like hiring your enemy to guard the palace in hopes it’ll reform them.

  • Twin-Skies

    @Jeff

    While treating women can be a cultural matter outside of religion, the problem is that when said culture begins to institutionalize its sexism, it often latches onto religion to ensure that the bias is not only unquestionable, but becomes some sort of moral imperative.

    At least that’s what I have observed.

  • Jeff said:

    Not to defend organized religion’s influence on this issue but it is much bigger than organized religion. Religion has not caused persecution of women. We had it long before religion existed and it will probably exist in some form if and when religion ever ceases.

    Very true. But religion, more specifically the Abrahamic religions, had an opportunity to end inequality and blew it.

    Just as the Ten Commandments conveniently left out declaring slavery an abomination, so did it forget to include an admonishment about gender equality.

    No mystery there, both slavery and repression of women had a cultural basis– one economic, the other perpetuation of a male dominated society.

    Religion is an extention of and provides justification for the continuity of female subjugation. Had it not been for religion and its influence women’s full equality with men would be centuries ahead of where we are today.

    So while religion can’t be blamed for it, religion can be blamed for turning a blind eye and allowing gender discrimination to perpetuate for millennia.

  • Jeff Dale

    It us up to each of us as humans to determine the morality of systems given to us by evolution and either act to preserve them or consciously try to eradicate them.

    Of course. But the reason for focusing on religion, however, is twofold: many religious traditions have encoded this primordial tendency to gender roles (thus giving it legitimacy beyond the natural tendencies we all evolved with), and these same religious traditions tend to resist social change (thus counteracting our modern enlightened efforts to counteract those primordial natural tendencies).

    In other words, regardless of whether religion caused this state of affairs originally, the reduction of religion’s influence now certainly would help to promote modern enlightened gender roles.

    I’m not saying that the gender-biased traditions don’t have non-religious cultural elements. I’m just saying that religion gives the defenders of such traditions their most powerful excuse to ignore modern secular teaching about the promotion of women’s equality.

  • Neon Genesis

    But you know that even if there were more liberal theists who were more vocal against this, some anti-theists somewhere would complain they weren’t doing it right or some other reason, a la Sam Harris vs Karen Armstrong

  • There’s an … interesting response from someone named Sere over on the comments for the article:

    There is an extraordinary delusion common to the western “progressive” elites, to wit: that anyone gives a flying *damn* about their views. Outside of your miniscule (considering world population) numbers and your media, absolutely no one cares what *you people* think about “women” or “religion.” You think Congolese child-rapists or true-believer Islamist women give a damn about what someone named Jimmy Carter says? if you do, you are savagely deluded.

    The ideas and cultural practices of the ancient religions have the deepest roots. It is not for you liberal whites to decide which of these deep practices you can abide. Indeed, if you want to change these utterly fundamental practices and beliefs, better learn how to use a gun. As an atheistic Jew, I have little good to say about Muslims or, for that matter, Congolese infant-rapists. But I am here to preach *reality.*

    You need to understand that your chatter and your canting will change nothing. There has been an overly long time of peace between the large powers. It cannot last. This period of decadence is characterized by the exhausted western elites’ desire to legislate lifestyles across the globe. I understand that you people have nothing better to do than imagine yourselves the proper legislators of the earth, but you must understand facts: there is no way to change these deep and powerful cultural practices unless you are willing *to kill* large groups of people. The true-believer Muslims, for example, would very cheerfully kill you for your views on women, homosexuality, free speech, etc.

    But your commitment to pacifism means you have nothing beyond chatter and cant to persuade these vigorous and determined peoples. Just as you saw China laugh at your pretensions to control the use of fossil fuels as a sacrifice to the offended Gaia, you will find very few Congolese baby-rapists and I dare say even fewer Muslims who will be interested in what the preposterously named “Elders” have to say. Sorry. Want change? you will need to change your views on bloodletting. These are the facts. Now continue your canting in the echo-chamber.

    I’m both wincing at and agreeing with much of what they said. Totally pragmatic. Talk is very, very cheap.

  • Jeff Dale

    That’s rather like hiring your enemy to guard the palace in hopes it’ll reform them.

    Or maybe it’s just an admission that we might get results faster if we enlist moderate-to-liberal religious people to reform their own congregations, rather than by lumping them in with the fundamentalists and trying to improve things without their help.

  • Jeff Dale

    I’m both wincing at and agreeing with much of what they said. Totally pragmatic. Talk is very, very cheap.

    I saw that comment and had the same reaction. But talk is better than silence, and enough people talking can make a difference.

  • Beth B.

    @MikeTheInfidel: I would put comments like the one you quote up against stories of actual positive change resulting largely from talk and education, as in this story.

    Educational efforts in this area of Ethiopia have decreased the occurrence of female genital mutilation in recent years, by changing the attitudes of local citizens. It hasn’t abolished the far too widespread practice and is a localized victory, but it gives hope for similar, nonviolent efforts.

  • Yes, I agree with everything you guys are saying and would like to add…oh shit, I gotta run. The husband is requiring his dinner now. BBL

  • Shannon

    For the record, I also hate the “sexiest atheist” shit that someone else brought up. I’m aware I’m in the minority on that though and don’t feel like going into a rant, just agreeing with whoever brought that up.

  • CybrgnX

    There is NO WAY the Abrahamic religions could have gotten female rights equal. The reason women are treated like schite is because according to their interpretation of their BuyBull, women are the SOURCE of all evil and misery. She listen to the snake, she ate the apple and CAUSED adam to eat of it. She brings us into this world of misery. This was told to me by at least 3 moderate xtian priests. And this is all from a complete miss understanding of the genesis myth. It is set into our culture and the only way to get it changed is to educate children and wait for the parents to die out. but this will be near impossible because religion perpetuates these ideas.

  • @ Beth B.: I read the article you linked to; thanks for sharing. FGM has always been a hot button for me because it’s needless, dangerous, and steeped in sexism, so that news is uplifting.

    I would say that silence in the face of misogyny as a part of religious ceremony is one of the biggest issues I have come across. I used to go to an Evangelical free church. While all of the people there were quite nice, the pastor often made comments about how the male was always head of the household and such…and no one ever said anything. Sure, a friend would mention it after the service, but we always just blew it off because no one takes that seriously, right? What we really needed to be doing was questioning such viewpoints, and loudly. We needed to educate people about how harmful beliefs that women and men must occupy separate and therefore inherently unequal spheres, just like blacks and whites before desegregation (like Andy mentioned).

    90% of why I left christianity and religion as a whole is the misogyny that is so often a part of it. Whether it’s a more gentle sort of sexism that comes from “celebrating” women’s and men’s “separate but equal” roles in life or the blatant, violent misogyny that occurs in when a woman is stoned to death for not having a hymen thick enough to bleed, we need to fight it.

    Thanks for posting, Hemant.

  • @CybrgnX–you make a good point. The creation myth is often misinterpreted, especially since there are obviously two of them in the opening chapters of Genesis. Interesting that the “Eve fucked us all and now women must be punished for all eternity” one is the one people tend to go by…

  • lilybird

    @CybrgnX–

    Good points. Moreover, it’s not only the myth of Eve that prevents Abrahamic faiths from pursuing gender equality, but also the fact that Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are all gigantic patriarchies. You have the biggest King Daddy at the top, with no place for a female deity (except perhaps in a reduced and impotent form, like that of the Virgin Mary).

    In other words, they are systems designed around and built upon the superiority of the male figure.

    In the words of Susan B. Anthony, “To no form of religion is woman indebted for one impulse of freedom.”

  • Aj

    Religions being authoritarian and relying on tradition are resistant to change, and the more popular ones rely on scripture from cruel and backwards times. Religions use false promises, coercive techniques, and childhood indoctrination to maintain thoroughly unfair societies. Religions will not reform from within.

  • Demonhype

    @Jeff:

    I don’t think anyone is necessarily saying that religion is responsible for starting misogynistic attitudes–only for consecrating them in such a way that makes it easy to continue and difficult to stop.

    @DemetriusOfPharos:

    I am probably in the minority as an artist, but I find the male form to be far more aesthetic, as did the Greeks–and possibly the Romans, though I may be mistaken on that. I could be accused of being sexually motivated–and have been accused–but do you really think all those hetero male artists painting their girly cheesecake are motivated solely by completely platonic and asexual aesthetics? I doubt it! Even leaving out my sexual preferences, I find the masculine form to be the most amazingly aesthetic, as I appreciate the shape and subtle curves of the male form far more than the hourglass-showiness of the female form. Despite my feminism, as an artist I find that the male trumps the female in every way in an aesthetic sense. (That includes vocally).

    But this isn’t a question of aesthetics–it’s a question of being a sex object. As a woman, I commonly feel that the world is judging me on my appearance more than my personal characteristics, and that men do not receive the same level of judgement. I feel that as a woman, my value as a human is very much tied into how “screw-able” I am, while male value is tied up in their brains or talents or money, etc. (there’s always a way to make up for an ugly face or fat ass if you’re a guy), and that no matter how smart or successful I am, if I can’t achieve the very unrealistic standards of female “sexyness”, none of it means anything. It can be very difficult to combat this feeling because it is perpetuated everywhere, whether deliberately explicit or unintentionally implicit, and this insidious psychology can be very debilitating to the female sense-of-self.

    And on top of that, as a woman I am often made to feel as if I am not supposed to look at males sexually–only in terms of a wedding ring, a nice little cottage, a white picket fence and 2.5 children, that sort of thing. When I mentioned years ago that in Disney’s Mulan, her commanding officer was some fine stuff in front of some co-workers, all their heads turned to me in horror and one tentatively said “um…you do know he’s just a drawing, don’t you dear?” Yet guys commonly drool over Jessica Rabbit’s inherent sexiness and no one bats an eye over the fact that she’s “not real”.

    What I’m saying is that if there was a corresponding “sexiest male atheists” category–populated by actually sexy male atheists and not the sort of gross pig the hetero male community wants to believe is sexy to women–it would go far in combating this sort of prejudicial attitude on both sides. Girls are sexual beings in more ways than one, you know, and we luv us some (male) cheesecake too. 😉

  • Neon Genesis

    Religions being authoritarian and relying on tradition are resistant to change, and the more popular ones rely on scripture from cruel and backwards times. Religions use false promises, coercive techniques, and childhood indoctrination to maintain thoroughly unfair societies. Religions will not reform from within.

    But religions have reformed its views in the past. There used to be Christians who believed slavery was sanctioned by God but in modern times virtually all Christians believe slavery is immoral and even our first black president is a moderate Christian. The sexist views in the NT are later additions written by scribes and not the actual teachings of the early church. The most sexist verses in the NT are in the infamous Pastoral epistles which all secular scholars universally agree are forgeries. Although the Pastoral epistles claim to be written by Paul, they actually weren’t and were written by later scribes long after Paul had already died. In the early church described in Paul’s authentic letters, Phoebe is a woman who is a deacon in Paul’s church and Paul even commands the men to submit to Phoebe’s will. In Romans chapter 16, Junia is listed as a female apostle who has the same authority as the male leaders in Paul’s church. Interestingly, later manuscripts try to censor Junia’s gender by changing her to being a man even though Junia is a woman’s name and there is no record of Junia being used as a man’s name in the ancient world. In the authentic letters of Paul, husbands and wives were submit to one another equally as partners. There was no male or female nor Jew or Greek for all were equal under Christ.

    Many secular scholars also believe the sexist verses in 1 Cor 14 where it says women are not to speak in church are also forgeries added in later as they do not appear in the earliest manuscripts of 1 Corinthians and they contradict Paul’s views on women in the rest of the letter, such as that women in 1 Corinthians were prophets. In the gospels, women were the primary financial backers of Jesus’ ministry. It was women who were reported to first discover the empty tomb and begin evangelizing the gospel. In one passage of the gospel of John, Jesus has a theological discussion with a Samaritan woman. Christianity certainly has many out-dated teachings but this idea that early Christianity was primarily anti-woman is not an idea supported by the majority of secular biblical scholarship. An interesting book I would recommend reading would be The First Paul by Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan.

  • AxeGrrl

    Given the subject, I thought I’d repost an old comment made here by a poster named Brett (who taught at an Islamic school in London, Ontario):

    The first, and later least surprising thing, I noticed was the ratio to girls v. boys. Boys were significantly outnumbered. Most of my female students had brothers in public school, and were proud that their fathers worked so hard to pay their tuition as opposed to their brothers’. This was not-so-subtly the most sexist and possibly the most offensive thing about it. These men were making sure their daughters were good Muslim wives (in fact, I had a grade 11 student who had been married since she was 15), while their sons could go out and get all Westernized.

    It probably has a great deal to do with the misogynistic elements of the faith. There’s less need to keep the men ignorant of options, because they’re more likely to opt into this system which gives them so much power.

    And it was an island of ignorance. I got into trouble twice. Once for mentioning birth control in geography class when we were talking about population trends in developed nations (and I was careful to point out the Islam forbade birth control) and the other time for bringing a few magazines for collages (GQ, Rolling Stone and Esquire, while not exactly prudish, hardly pornography).

    The idea was to shelter these girls as much as was possible in a country with cable television.

    Incidentally, the boys and girls weren’t allowed to play together. Not basketball, dogeball, or anything. Even when they were in the gymnasium together. That may have been the most bizarre part of it.

    Oh, and I forgot. I taught English, History, Geography, ESL, Computer Science, and once or twice covered French.

    My grade 8 girls never did their homework for any subject.

    don’t make them think

  • Ron in Houston

    One of the things on my personal radar:

    FLDS – The American Taliban

  • @DemonHype:

    I appreciate both a good male and a good female form. I’m a straight male, myself, and I’m confident enough in my manhood to admit when I think a guy is attractive. The female form is beautiful, and I am certainly more attracted to it sexually (though the women in the link we’re talking about are hiding what I like most! I am fond of ample posteriors, and cannot mislead.)

    I think I could fit the top 10 sexiest male atheists list! I’m a very handsome guy. 😉

    Joking aside, I do agree with what you stated. There is a kind of double standard applied to male / female roles in even enlightened atheist circles. Even I couldn’t help but stare at those pictures, but fortunately for me, I do not really consider sexual attractiveness my major ‘turn-on’ when it comes to girls. I think intelligence is sexier than a perfect ‘rack’ and hourglass curves.

    Not that I would deny myself a sexy woman who is also intelligent. Intelligent and sexy? That would be awesome.

  • Toni

    Religion is simply being used as an excuse for behaviors that would be, or should be, suppressed or outlawed in a civilized society. Behaviors change only when the root cause is identified and exposed for what it is–culturally-approved brutality.

  • Aj

    Neon Genesis,

    There used to be Christians who believed slavery was sanctioned by God but in modern times virtually all Christians believe slavery is immoral and even our first black president is a moderate Christian.

    That religious opinion changes does not mean that it reforms from within. For instance, even Christian movements against slavery in England were outsiders, considered radical and revolutionary to the religious establishment of the time.

    The sexist views in the NT are later additions written by scribes and not the actual teachings of the early church.

    I don’t give a shit about early Christianity, it’s not relevant. The OT was still relevant at the time, and it’s still relevant now, because it’s still published and believed in as the word of god.

  • Neon Genesis

    That religious opinion changes does not mean that it reforms from within. For instance, even Christian movements against slavery in England were outsiders, considered radical and revolutionary to the religious establishment of the time.

    But Martin Luther King Jr was a Christian who was influenced by Ghandi, a religious man, who was in turn influenced by the teachings of Jesus.

    I don’t give a shit about early Christianity, it’s not relevant. The OT was still relevant at the time, and it’s still relevant now, because it’s still published and believed in as the word of god.

    How is it not relevant? Christians don’t base their moral views on women from the OT. They base their views on women on the teachings of Paul. Go up to any fundamentalist and ask them why they think women should be submissive to men and nine times out of ten, they’ll quote Paul. I can tell you from personal experience that when I was a Christian, my views on women were based primarily on the Pastoral epistles and the OT was irrelevant. You’re also holding the NT to double standards. If the OT has sexist commandments in it, then that’s relevant to you, but if the NT has pro-woman verses in it, that’s not relevant to you? Either what the scriptures actually say matter and so if the OT matters the NT should matter too, but if the NT doesn’t matter, how can you say the OT does when Christians don’t even follow the OT?

  • Aj

    Neon Genesis,

    But Martin Luther King Jr was a Christian who was influenced by Ghandi, a religious man, who was in turn influenced by the teachings of Jesus.

    I’m sure Martin Luther King Jr, as a leader of a community of black churches, had a long and hard battle to reform them into thinking civil rights for its members was a good thing.

    How is it not relevant? Christians don’t base their moral views on women from the OT. They base their views on women on the teachings of Paul. Go up to any fundamentalist and ask them why they think women should be submissive to men and nine times out of ten, they’ll quote Paul.

    I agree, this illustrates that they don’t give a shit what the early Christians believed either.

    You’re also holding the NT to double standards. If the OT has sexist commandments in it, then that’s relevant to you, but if the NT has pro-woman verses in it, that’s not relevant to you? Either what the scriptures actually say matter and so if the OT matters the NT should matter too, but if the NT doesn’t matter, how can you say the OT does when Christians don’t even follow the OT?

    Pretty sure I didn’t say the NT wasn’t relevant. So fuck off, I’ve had enough of your bullshit.

  • Neon Genesis

    You said that early Christianity wasn’t relevant. Only your straw man version of Christianity matters. The writings of Paul are the earliest writings we have about early Christianity, so what exactly were you talking about when you said early Christianity wasn’t irrelevant then?

  • What I’m saying is that if there was a corresponding “sexiest male atheists” category–populated by actually sexy male atheists and not the sort of gross pig the hetero male community wants to believe is sexy to women–it would go far in combating this sort of prejudicial attitude on both sides.

    DemonHype, this is what is known as an opportunity.

    I look forward to seeing your list.

  • Aj

    Neon Genesis,

    The vast majority of its history, and for the vast majority of its believers, Christianity has taken a very different view than early Christianity. Early Christianity was fractured, and much of the traditions and scriptures weren’t accepted and many were vehemently opposed. Even if Paul didn’t right these books, they’re fucking canon, believed to be inspired by God for a very long time, and still are, which might actually have a fucking affect on the views of Christians.

    Don’t talk about straw man versions of Christians as you parade mythical utopia versions of early Christianity, and sugar coated illusions of contemporary Christianity. It’s pathetic, what do early Christian beliefs have to do with the long tradition of Christianity and sexism? Fuck all.

  • Neon Genesis

    I’m not parading anything. This is the view of the majority of secular scholars. The biblical literalistic view is also a recent modern view created by fundamentalists as a response to the Enlightenment. It matters because you’re arguing religion has always been this way and will never change but in reality it hasn’t always been this way and religion changes all the time. Even in the issue of sexism, Christianity today is different from Christianity in the 19th century. 100 years ago you never would have never seen fundamentalists voting for Sarah Palin but now virtually all evangelical Christians support the women’s right to vote and have secular leadership roles. Most evangelical churches continue to ban women from serving in leadership roles in the family and in church but even some evangelical churches are now starting to have women pastors. If the pastoral epistles had never been included in the biblical canon, we would be dealing with an entirely different Christianity today than we are now, so your argument Christianity can never change from within and that early Christianity has nothing to do with today holds no water.

  • Aj

    Neon Genesis,

    The biblical literalistic view is also a recent modern view created by fundamentalists as a response to the Enlightenment.

    That doesn’t matter, literal interpretation of the Bible was common before the Enlightenment.

    It matters because you’re arguing religion has always been this way and will never change but in reality it hasn’t always been this way and religion changes all the time.

    You’re making this out to be a new phenomenon when in fact literalism was a response to change, to keep old beliefs. It’s like saying Creationism didn’t exist before Darwin. Highly dishonest.

    100 years ago you never would have never seen fundamentalists voting for Sarah Palin but now virtually all evangelical Christians support the women’s right to vote and have secular leadership roles.

    I didn’t say religions didn’t change, and if you want an example of religion not reforming from within you couldn’t have picked a better example than feminism. Religions have conformed, lagging behind society, to feminist movements with a strong secular voice.

    If the pastoral epistles had never been included in the biblical canon, we would be dealing with an entirely different Christianity today than we are now, so your argument Christianity can never change from within and that early Christianity has nothing to do with today holds no water.

    a) After I corrected you, you misrepresent me in the same way. Fuck you. Don’t be fucking retarded. I never wrote that, and I’ve said as much, but you don’t fucking read. I’ve lost count of the times you have done this.

    b) I concede that if I had a fucking time machine, I could change religion by assassination of apostles or burning of scripture.

  • muggle

    Girls are sexual beings in more ways than one, you know, and we luv us some (male) cheesecake too.

    I second that emotion and likewise can’t wait to see your list. Please don’t include Hitchens, PZ or Dawkins. Or John Lennon. Seriously. Not exactly beefcake.

    May I nominate Steven Pinker? That dude is seriously hot! Neil deGrasse Tyson definitely does fall into the beefcake category but I think someone said he’s agnostic? Are we sticking strictly with Athiests? Because I want him on my list for sure.

  • Neon Genesis

    You’re making this out to be a new phenomenon when in fact literalism was a response to change, to keep old beliefs. It’s like saying Creationism didn’t exist before Darwin. Highly dishonest.

    Here’s the quote from the biblical scholar Bart D Ehrman in the faq of the paperback edition of Misquoting Jesus.

    Actually, the view that the Bible is inerrant is a completely modern idea-it is not the traditional “Christian” view since time immemorial. Many Christians, especially in my part of the world, the American South, don’t realize this, but simply asume that belief in the Bible has always been the central tenet of the Christian faith. But that’s not true. In fact, the views of inerrancy held by evangelical and fundamentalisdt Christians today were developed less than a century ago, in a set of conflicts in Christian circles in the United States.

    If you doubt my accuracy, you can go read the book for yourself.

  • Beth B. said:

    @MikeTheInfidel: I would put comments like the one you quote up against stories of actual positive change resulting largely from talk and education, as in this story.

    Educational efforts in this area of Ethiopia have decreased the occurrence of female genital mutilation in recent years, by changing the attitudes of local citizens. It hasn’t abolished the far too widespread practice and is a localized victory, but it gives hope for similar, nonviolent efforts.

    That’s a great story – thanks for the link! But I think that the original commenter wasn’t talking about these people; Sere was specifically speaking to this idea of a cabal of church leaders calling themselves “The Elders” and talking about how naughty those misogynistic fundamentalists were while doing their best to keep their hands clean. It’s a silly, sanctimonious exercise in self-importance, as far as I can see. The folks in the link you posted, on the other hand, are actually doing something, and I applaud them for it.

  • Aj

    Neon Genesis,

    Last time I checked inerrancy didn’t mean literalism. Also, since time immemorial Christian theologians and philosophers have traditionally taken the stories in the Bible literally, as if their authors meant that they really fucking happened. Thank you, and good night.

  • Neon Genesis

    No, they didn’t. St Augustine believed the Genesis creation myth was an allegory because he thought it was absurd that God created light before creating the sun and St. Augustine believed that if science contradicted scripture, Christians should side with science. One of Galileo was also a Christian and one of his famous sayings was that the bible teaches men how to get to heaven, not how the heavens go. Origen, a prominent early church father, also believed the entire bible was an allegory and believed in universal reconciliation. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Origen

  • monkeymind

    Mike the Infidel:

    Sere was specifically speaking to this idea of a cabal of church leaders calling themselves “The Elders”

    Actually Desmond Tutu is the only “church leader” in the group, as far as I can see. The list includes some folks with really awesome achievements.

    http://www.theelders.org/elders

  • Also, since time immemorial Christian theologians and philosophers have traditionally taken the stories in the Bible literally, as if their authors meant that they really fucking happened.

    Aj, you can stick your fingers in your ears and shout “LA LA LA” all you want, but it won’t make this any more true. Biblical literalism is a relatively modern tradition.

  • Aj

    Neon Genesis,

    No, they didn’t. St Augustine believed the Genesis creation myth was an allegory because he thought it was absurd that God created light before creating the sun and St. Augustine believed that if science contradicted scripture, Christians should side with science. One of Galileo was also a Christian and one of his famous sayings was that the bible teaches men how to get to heaven, not how the heavens go. Origen, a prominent early church father, also believed the entire bible was an allegory and believed in universal reconciliation. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Origen

    Augustine didn’t believe the Genesis creation myth was an allegory. He is referring to one passage about light. He believed in the Genesis account literally for the most part. Yet he did have problems believing in six literal days of creation. He believed God created different kinds of species, and Earth, pretty much how they are in one instant. He believed in Adam and Eve, he was a young Earth Creationist. His beliefs have much more in common with a fundamentalist than a liberal Christian today.

    I don’t think you should be parading him as a representative of Christianity at any period because this was to satisfy his belief that the Bible is inerrant, which is a completely modern idea according to you:

    For I confess to your Charity that I have learned to yield this respect and honour only to the canonical books of Scripture: of these alone do I most firmly believe that the authors were completely free from error. And if in these writings I am perplexed by anything which appears to me opposed to truth, I do not hesitate to suppose that either the manuscript is faulty, or the translator has not caught the meaning of what was said, or I myself have failed to understand it.

    Augustine, 405, Letter to Jerome

    How did the other Christians treat Galileo and Bruno? Yeah, that’s right. Origen, was his philosophy widely accepted? No, denounced actually.

  • Neon Genesis

    His beliefs have much more in common with a fundamentalist than a liberal Christian today.

    Wouldn’t he be more of an old earth creationist than a young earth creationist?

    I don’t think you should be parading him as a representative of Christianity at any period because this was to satisfy his belief that the Bible is inerrant, which is a completely modern idea according to you:

    If he’s close to anyone at all, I would say he’s closer to someone like NT Wright who’s an evangelical but not a strict fundamentalist than he would be to say, Ray Comfort.

  • Aj

    Wouldn’t he be more of an old earth creationist than a young earth creationist?

    He believed the Earth was less than 10,000 years old, and that all life was created roughly as is in a short period of time. That’s the definition of Young Earth Creationist.

    If he’s close to anyone at all, I would say he’s closer to someone like NT Wright who’s an evangelical but not a strict fundamentalist than he would be to say, Ray Comfort.

    N.T. Wright believes in Adam and Eve although not the account in the Bible, he specifically said it matters to him that there was a “primal couple” and they did fall. He does believe that parts of the Old Testament are historical “David to Solomon” though.

    Postmodernists like N.T. Wright because he sometimes says he doesn’t care whether what he believes is actually true. That is, he isn’t interested in asking the question of whether his beliefs are true or not.

    N.T. Wright does not believe in a literal place called hell. He believes it’s when humans reject God, and calls it “colluding with your progression of dehumanization”, “sober and sad”, “shrinking of human life”.

    Politically he doesn’t seem to like homosexuals. He says the equivalent to “God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve”. Also he likes to refer to the authority of Paul on the subject.

    N.T. Wright believes that inerrancy “just came with the turf” in the “Middle Ages, and early church”. He won’t use the word to describe his views though, although he will say:

    …I really think that if it’s in this book, I need to be doing serious business with it. If I say that I believe X but that the Bible says Y which is different, then chances are I’m making a mistake somewhere, but that doesn’t prejudge all issues of interpretation, you know. There are many, many issues where I say I am committed to believing this text whenever I figure out what on earth it’s supposed to mean, which at the moment I don’t think I know. So that, for me, is often an open question.

    I know what the people who say inerrancy are trying to say, and broadly I want to affirm something like what they’re trying to affirm…”

    Augustine was a creationist, N.T. Wright believes in evolution. Augustine believed in the Biblical account of Adam and Eve, like fundamentalists, although did not believe in six literal days, like N.T. Wright. Augustine, like fundamentalists, believed in a literal place called hell with hell-fire. All of them don’t like the gays, and all believe in some form of inerrancy. Not even other fundamentalists are like Ray Comfort, there’s only one Ray Comfort.

    I didn’t realize N.T. Wright was such a prick, although given the Christians who promote him I did expect quite a bit of nonsense and stupidity and I wasn’t disappointed.

  • Neon Genesis

    My point of NT Wright was that St Augustine reminds me of the evangelical Christians who believe the original manuscripts may have been infallible but accept that the manuscripts used in our English bibles are corrupted as opposed to inerrant believers who insist that all the manuscripts are uncorrupted. At the same time, they would argue that the corruption in the manuscripts are not as a big of a deal as secular scholars argue. It’s that whole infallibility vs inerrancy thing.

  • Aj

    Neon Genesis,

    My point of NT Wright was that St Augustine reminds me of the evangelical Christians who believe the original manuscripts may have been infallible but accept that the manuscripts used in our English bibles are corrupted as opposed to inerrant believers who insist that all the manuscripts are uncorrupted. At the same time, they would argue that the corruption in the manuscripts are not as a big of a deal as secular scholars argue. It’s that whole infallibility vs inerrancy thing.

    I wouldn’t have gotten that from the words you used. I agree that Augustine and N.T. Wright don’t consider translations inerrant. Some fundamentalists consider the King James Bible inerrant, but I don’t believe it’s an essential part of fundamentalism or mentioned in The Fundamentals.

  • Vanessa

    For me the bible is a compilation of stories that strive to give you a moral guidance, written by ‘men’ and not by God. I would never consider a woman inferior than a man, and those demeaning passages should be eliminited from the bible for our future generations. Women can move mountains for their children or for what they want in life, and they can be smarter than men. Besides, without a woman, a man wouldn’t exist

  • Demonhype

    Damn, I’ve been off it lately. Too busy with school and the job hunt to get back to comments I’ve made.

    Well, this one won’t likely be seen, but I think I’m going to need to try my hand at this sexiest male atheist list!

    Not sure if it should be limited only to famous atheists though.

    But Neil DeGrasse Tyson….RRRWOWRR!

  • dartigen

    Some of the reason who nobody has tried to change it is learned helplessness. Women have been oppressed for so long that they have come to accept opression as their lot in life.
    It isn’t, but they have decided that putting up and shutting up is easier and less risky than fighting back. That’s carried down too far. Sure, the feminism wave in the 60s has helped in developed countries (mostly – people are trying to swing it back the other way) but there’s been no such change in the developing countries. Once women in those countries realise that they have other options in life, I think you’ll see the change happening.