The Trapped Christian Woman May 31, 2011

The Trapped Christian Woman

Hey look! It’s a woman trapped by Christianity:

David Hayward explains:

Even though we might agree with the idea of a mutual submission, these selected words have been turned into words of servitude and slavery. They are being used to confine her, control her and keep her. Even the cross, which might be used as a metaphor of volitional suffering, has been turned into a tool requiring it. The bible laid before her which contains powerful words of liberation has become a text of bondage. There is food and drink as promised, but they are obviously kept beyond her reach. The only way she can enjoy them is if they are fed to her. Even her nakedness, her vulnerability, which should be beautiful and cherished, is used as a weapon against her. She must keep silence and not question her captors because it always results in chastisement.

Obviously, not all Christian men act like this. But the institution as a whole has no intention of treating women as equals. They’ll turn away female preachers. At times, the women don’t even speak, letting the man do it on their behalf. In fact, the ideal Christian woman — the Proverbs 31 woman — is supposed to be supportive of her husband’s whims (not the other way around), a homemaker, and a good cook. She “seeks her husband’s approval before making purchases.” She’s an embarrassment to feminists. (Though, as one Christian friend put it, you could say she “runs her own business.”)

You never hear about holy texts saying a woman should be assertive or have opinions of her own. (I’ve heard a number of Christian women say they had a hard time dating men in their church because they were so opinionated and self-confident.)

Of course, it’s not like other faiths are crying out for independent women, either. They want women to be submissive to their husbands, silent assenters to whatever the men want.

You have to wonder why so many women remain in the Christian church when it holds them down as much as it does.

***Edit***: Commenters are right to point out that it’s tough to “break free” when both of your hands are in shackles like the woman in the picture. However, while society is dominated by males in general, I do think religion makes things even worse for women.

It’s tough for anyone to leave his/her faith because it involves leaving a social network and support system — and women have it tougher than men. But there are many women who left their faith and came out stronger because of it. I hope we (as atheists) can help out those who don’t hold superstitious beliefs but still want the community support.

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  • I don’t wonder. I’ve always assumed, based on my personal experiences, that fear keeps these women in line.

    Actually, fear keeps plenty of people in line, all for the wrong reason.

  • Gabriel

    I think the main reason they stay in those belief systems is fear–of angry deities, husbands, neighbours and the unknown.

  • mouse

    Re: Other faiths

    You gotta give it up to the Wiccans and other new-agey types on that score. They have many faults with their woo but keeping women submissive because Dog told them to isn’t one of them.

  • Meredith

    “You have to wonder why so many women remain in the Christian church when it holds them down as much as it does.”

    Whoa, Hemant. Check your male privilege.

    This is obvious to me. The massively sexist society that we live in that perpetuates the wage gap and provides no support whatsoever to working mothers makes it pretty impossible for most women to survive without help from a man’s income.

    Let’s also not forget that it’s deemed totally inappropriate for a woman to do anything with her life but get married to a man and have babies. She’s otherwise seen as defective or a whore. Being too good at your career is also frowned upon. It’s the whole reason that scores of people purport to hate Hillary Clinton without knowing thing one about her policies or viewpoints.

    Then there’s the increasing difficulty of having access to reproductive services (yes, including birth control), meaning that lots of women are having babies they don’t want.

    Finally, any woman raised in the church is wholly unprepared to take on life independently. Many fundamentalist families feel it’s inappropriate for women to receive higher education. If they’re homeschooled, they might not get any education in anything but Bible verses and homemaking.

    Basically, Hemant, I find it really offensive that you show a picture of a woman with BOTH HANDS SHACKLED and wonder why she doesn’t just free herself. And you phrase this by using the word “holds them down.” Next time take a second to think about that.

  • Miko

    I’ll second everything Meredith said.

    To expand on that, the sociological factors that tend to keep women in the church are similar to those that lead to women in FGM-societies being the biggest advocates of FGM or to the women in Jane Austen novels being interested in nothing but finding a husband. Namely, an economy without a free market (and especially one that systematically discriminates against certain groups) can force the underclass to accede to unreasonable demands from the privileged elite. So, as long as:

    1) some women have disproportionate* difficulties in supporting themselves and
    2) attending a church is seen as a good strategy for those women to find someone else who is willing to support them (although often on very harsh terms),
    it’s no surprise that women tend to stay with the church despite the fact that it gives them a raw deal.

    (*) This can be from either overt discrimination in the form of lower wages or refusal to hire, or from second-order effects related to the demanding role that many women are often forced to adopt with regard to children.

    (Though, as one Christian friend put it, you could say she “runs her own business.”)

    This is actually a really good point. George Orwell notes something similar in The Road to Wigan Pier, when he notes that all of the women are still busy even when a depression leads to most of the men being unemployed. (Unfortunately, with uncharacteristic thoughtlessness, Orwell immediately moves away from this point without giving it due consideration.) In a free market, a much greater portion of the population would probably find it in their interests to exist (to some extent) outside of the cash nexus and an idealized version of the conception of the “housewife” (where idealized means “without the husband part of the equation”) could serve as a model for how a large number of people (male and female) would choose to live their lives.

  • jose

    ^ Agree with Meredith, I thought it was strange that you post a pic of a woman trapped in some kind of dungeon and then you wonder how come she doesn’t just walk off… didn’t we just say she was trapped? What about the chains, Hemant.

  • Gabriel

    Totally agreeing with Meredith, too. “Why can’t you just save yourself?” Yeah, kind of hard to do when you have so much stacked against you.

  • Judith Bandsma

    You always hear that the man is the head of the family as Jesus is the head of the church.

    I’ve asked numerous times of people who really believe this (some to the extreme) that if the man is head of the family, why can’t he decide that the marriage partners would be equal. The answer? ‘because’ and cue crickets.

  • For me, turning my back on religion, and choosing not to be a mother, has meant:

    — not getting the financial gifts that my female relatives receive (births are celebrated with gifts of things and cash; a Master’s degree didn’t get me so much as a card from my family. A new job or a promotion? Yawn. A Baptism? Let me write you a nice check…)

    — snarky or confused comments about when I got married (“why get married when you don’t believe in God and aren’t having kids? There are no other reasons to get married!”). Only two family members came to my secular wedding.

    — sitting quietly at family gatherings while everyone prays with each other, celebrates births and baptisms and what not, etc., (yes, I could try not being silent, talking about my work, things I enjoy, etc., but that just makes everyone else go silent).

    Some of the exclusion is done as deliberate punishment. Some of it is done thoughtlessly – it never dawns on the person doing the excluding that that’s what they are doing.

    A woman has to be ready for that exclusion, whatever its motivation. And not everyone can hack it. That’s why many women stay in a church or a religion. I know many women who have continued to go through the motions of a church because they just could not handle that emotional or financial exclusion.

    I’m glad that I have had the emotional strength and financial stability to be able to be true to myself and not participate in a church or a religion. But I totally understand that there are women who don’t have those resources and feel that they have to stay.

  • JulietEcho

    Women often have a ton more to lose by walking away from a “faith community” than men. There are the potential losses of:

    a support structure that is “unconditionally” loving and there to meet emotional needs.

    meaningful activities (being involved in church events, teaching Sunday School, writing the church newsletter, teaching at VBS, even playing the piano or singing in the choir)

    mom-related help – in the form of anything from carpools, hand-me-downs, friends for your kids, babysitting swaps, etc.
    networking/connections – in small towns especially, a lot of business is done through churches. If you need to hire someone for a job and you know someone at your church needs work, that’s where you turn. If you need a porch on your house and your fellow Bible Study member is a carpenter, that’s who you turn to.

    I could add so much more… in short, women already have the short end of the stick in many ways, and churches can (while imprisoning them in horribly sexist roles) leave them in a position where they rely on the church for many of their practical and emotional needs.

  • Jalyth

    Some women are able to have power and control inside the institution of religion. That might be an attraction to stay. When in an oppressed group, I think people focus on the saving and love message that Christianity puts out. Times may be tough now, but the future is bright…you know that one.

    I think there are too many pieces of the puzzle to say definitively that THIS REASON is why women don’t leave their church. I left mine because of the way they treated women, and some percieved inconsistencies in the doctrine. It’s complicated.

    I guess it took great resolve to leave, perhaps some bravery. I didn’t think about it at the time, exactly. I left pre-internet, or at least when it was still dial-up and there weren’t that many websites. IOW, fewer resources to help me out.

    I read the Bible, I skipped the anti-woman passages and explained away in my head the entirety of Paul’s message. I ignored what I didn’t like. I got to the point where I couldn’t anymore, but I can understand why others aren’t able to.

  • @Meredith (and others) — I’ve said repeatedly on this site that leaving a church isn’t as simple as not believing in a god. That’s the easy part. You have to find replacements for the social network, community support, etc.

    But I think not believing in the mythology is the first step to breaking free of those shackles.

    I’ve added an update to the post to clarify some of my thoughts.

  • sailor

    I think Meredith and following comments paint a way too gloomy picture of woman kind. I am sure parts of society are like that, and when I was a kid (a very long time ago) society in general pushed women into marriage (If you are not married by 21 you are “on the shelf”) But in the last 50 years there has been a huge shift in attitude with great work done by feminists. Most of the women I know are strong and independent and do not rely on a man. Many have not done the baby thing.
    Yes women are still discriminated against but there is also a lot of opportunity, and I am delighted to see many women grabbing and running with it.

  • Heather

    As a woman who grew up hearing those verses over and over and over again, I literally stopped breathing when I saw this drawing. It so perfectly captures the terror and vulnerability of being trapped in a world where you’re not fully human. I found the drawing to be beautiful and mesmerizing and profoundly disturbing all at once.

    In light of that, I felt incredibly angry over what I perceived to be the glib tone of the accompanying post. Instead of horror at the inhumanity and rage at the perpetrators and compassion for the girl* held in bondage, I heard a sarcastic criticism of the victim. I heard self-righteous mockery of the “stupid” people who “allow” themselves to be treated like that.

    I have spent the last seven years trying to claw my way out of that cell. It has cost me my relationship with my parents. It has cost me virtually every friend I had. It has cost me a place in my community. It has cost me five bouts of depression and a hospitalization to prevent a suicide attempt.

    I am no longer in that cell, but the flesh of my wrists is still mangled and bloodied from the shackles that dug into it for decades. I know that with care, those wounds will eventually heal, but I will always carry the scars of my imprisonment.

    Similarly, the voices that took hold in my mind when I was a child, the voices that insidiously crept through like climbing vines that slip into crevices and slowly strangle their host, the voices that whisper and scream and cackle that I’m worthless and filthy and sinful and deserving of being tortured in that cell, those voices are still with me. Sometimes they lay still and quiet for a while, but nevertheless, I keep discovering new places where they have been sucking the life from me. I keep trying to hack at their roots, but they are tough and sinewy. And sometimes I am the one who has to lay still and quiet because I am exhausted from fighting them. I have to simply let them wash over me in the hope that eventually they will again fall silent long enough for me to gather my strength for their next attack.

    That’s the thing that I find the most disheartening in my journey. The physical confines of the prison can be escaped. I have proven that. But I don’t yet know if I will ever be truly free of the prison embedded in my mind.

    * I intentionally used the word “girl” instead of “woman” because part of the power of the prison is that it keeps girls from ever becoming women. Girls are dependent. Girls are relatively helpless. Girls don’t fight back. Girls can be shushed and dismissed.

  • A better picture might be a woman in fine clothes in a plush house but with the doors locked so she can’t get out. She has taken the bribe to get some nice things but she has to “stay in her place” in the house. In large part, the woman’s movement is to convince women (and men) that there are other nice things (for women) outside “the house”… and that women can also have those other nice things and a “nice house” too if they want it.

  • After reading the comments, I’m sticking with my previous statement that fear is the main restraint.

    I’m sorry, but unless there is a gun to your head, those chains are self-imposed.

  • Paging Rachel Held Evans, you are needed in this thread.

    Seriously though, I’d love to hear her opinion on this comic.

  • jose

    @ChristopherTK, yes, the patriarchy is totally women’s fault. Jeez, why don’t they just overturn it and be done with it? It’s so simple.

  • Roxane

    Well, a lot of women DO leave. For every woman who suffers a great deal and displays amazing strength of character in deciding to leave her church, there is probably one like me who just quits going to church and finds her support networks elsewhere with no drama whatsoever. If I am an ipso facto victim simply because of my gender, then the word “victim” doesn’t mean very much any more.

  • interesting discussion. the title of the piece i drew is “trapped”. however, on my post i indicate that she will escape. i don’t know how she gets out of the shackles. in a way, there is some collusion. but for Sophia (her name) it is only temporary until she figures a way out of this intact. but the shackles, though physical in the drawing, are really the manifestation of all the messages she grew up with that surround her in her cell. it is a horrible and impossible situation that many find themselves in, including men in the church. but many do find a way out.

  • Dark Jaguar

    It is a good question to ask, why any self respecting woman would stick to the church. Bringing up the “social network” is one thing, but that’s not enough of an explanation. There are a number of women who stick with the church even when the majority of their lives outside the church are very much outside the church, where they don’t bring up their faith much to either friends or family. They could survive the “severing” from the church network very easily.

    There’s another factor though, which I remember rather strongly from my own time in the church. Some women truly LOVE their restrictions. This isn’t wholly a problem with women mind you. Plenty of men also celebrate their own complete surrender to the church or god. However in this case it’s an extra surrender. To these women, it is a sign of personal “courage”, of “strength”, to be able to willingly surrender one’s will to another. This is the sort of corruption of a virtue that is normal in church. Further, one other thing I noticed. Those women who most promote the attitude of “surrender” and “subservience” tend to be granted the most prestige and authority in the social group. In other words, it’s hard to feel like you’re being oppressed if you don’t even WANT to do anything else but what you are allowed. I’m suggesting that the majority of women in this position are simply entirely unaware of their own oppression, convinced it was a choice they made because they simply aren’t wanting to do anything else. Those who step out of line, who occasionally do want something else, even if it’s (in their view) for the good of the faith, quickly learn just how little power they actually have.

    So yeah, just saying “they are powerless to leave” doesn’t do enough to explain those who truly seem to love those restrictions.

  • @jose – Yes, it is simple & yes, it is a choice.

    Very few can reasonably make a case for being unable to walk away from any given situation. The world is too big for anyone to feel trapped, with no hope of improving their own life.

  • Heather

    @ChristopherTK – In an existential sense, I agree that people have choices, but your response demonstrates a lack of understanding and empathy for the effectual choices that people have.

    The vast majority of people don’t come to faith as adults. They’re bred into it. Children learn to comply with the dictates of religion because that’s what they have to do to survive in their homes. Many girls (and boys) who grow up in fundamentalist Christian churches don’t know that there is a bigger world out there. They don’t know that any other type of life is possible. They are kept isolated from the world, sometimes physically but always psychologically. They are carefully taught not only what is “right” but also how to filter out any information that contradicts the “correct” information that they’ve received at home and at church. It’s an insidious form of mind control that leaves you unable to even imagine anything else.

    Leaving a fundamentalist church isn’t just walking away from a given situation. It means facing the fact that virtually everyone you know and certainly everyone you have ever looked up to has been lying to you for decades. It’s like Neo in the movie The Matrix. You wake up one day and realize that everything you thought you knew about life and the world is wrong, but it felt so real that you don’t know what to believe or what to think or how to find out the truth because nothing seems trustworthy. There’s nothing to go on except this feeling in your gut that something is horribly wrong, but to find out what it is, you have to dismantle your entire worldview, your epistemology, your very life.

  • @Heather – I don’t mean to sound cold and I’m sorry you had to struggle the way that you have but your actions, as difficult as they have been, prove my point.

    Many women and men, have had to make the choice to walk away from unhealthy relationships with lovers, friends, and family. Though painful and frightening, choosing to stay in bad situations is far worse.

    Regarding those that fail to “see” the bigger world available to them; well, you can’t force someone to wake up but we are intelligent beings and I think everyone needs to be held accountable for themselves. A person in need, that seeks help, can often be helped. But those refusing to try, usually cannot be.

  • Erp

    Most women in developed countries have a choice but women in many countries/classes run terrible risks if they try to get away. Think Afghanistan or Saudi Arabia. Think countries where poverty traps both sexes but women more than men.

    BTW the woman in Proverbs was also a businesswoman making fine cloth for sale. This allowed her husband to sit at the gates of the city chatting with his cronies. She of course had no such opportunity.

  • LightShinesintheDarkness

    Actually, other than the clearly truncated and out-of-context scripture reference (Ephesians 5:22) from the ridiculous sketch, the rest of that chapter of scripture continues on to describe God’s charge to husbands to love their wives and imputes equal responsibility for them to do this as for the woman to “submit”. Submitting in this context is actually more like deferring out of respect than “submitting” like a slave or like an over-powered contender from an “arm bar” in an MMA match.

    So let’s be accurate if we are going to attempt to use scripture to back up our notions:

    Ephesians 5:22 (NKJV)actually reads: “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.

    “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her,” Eph 5:25

    “So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church.” Eph 5:28-29

  • Um… Hemant?

    I found the image disturbing on many levels, and as a survivor of DV (The Jackass was an Evangelical type, used religion to “justify” the abuse), I just… Can you put a trigger warning on that post?

  • HFM

    @Dark Jaguar: I don’t think it’s a matter of loving one’s restrictions – rather, it’s fear of losing what little privilege one has.

    During the slave era, there was a distinction between “house” and “field” slaves. The house slaves, as I understand it, would side with the masters over the field slaves. To save their relative privilege, they would fight for the system that oppressed them, even taking up arms against field slave revolts.

    Similarly, a “good God-fearing woman” can enjoy relatively high status within her church. This status is contingent; if the men turn on her, she loses it. She will do her best to prove she’s a good woman – and she’s first in line to shame the bad women, those nasty feminist sluts who don’t obey the men.

    It’s destructive, but it’s also human nature.

    Of course, a church-going woman in the modern West has a choice. She could leave. Nobody will send the slave dogs to drag her back against her will. But I think some commenters are underestimating how hard that could be.

    Imagine that poor woman, contemplating whether to give the finger to everything she knows and start again. She may or may not have the education to do more than manage a home and incubate babies. Even if she does have useful skills, she may not realize it, lacking strong female role models. She probably doesn’t have the time, money, or support to fix any of the above. And she’s got the voice of everyone she loves and respects telling her she’s bad, wrong, and deserves what she’ll get.

    I respect anyone who can do that. As a born-and-raised atheist woman (with a born-and-raised atheist father), I can’t even fully wrap my head around it. Hopefully the Internet and other communications tools reduce the isolation such a person would feel, but even then, I have a hard time blaming the ones who decide the fight isn’t worth it.

  • Jalyth

    Heather, it sounds like your journey away from fundamentalism is more recent than mine. This picture does not affect me the way it would have 15/20 years ago. My mind is free, and yours can be, too.

  • Mr Z

    “It’s tough for anyone to leave his/her faith because it involves leaving a social network and support system — and women have it tougher than men. But there are many women who left their faith and came out stronger because of it. I hope we (as atheists) can help out those who don’t hold superstitious beliefs but still want the community support.”

    You can help them. Help those like Hirsi Ali and show the world that they will be supported when they break free. Openly expect to both see women break away and to support them in that. Stop the quibbling about sensitivity to women’s feelings at meetings and start talking not about how to get more women into atheist groups, but how to get more women out of religion.

    If no one is there to help them when they decide to break free, they will not make the decision or may not even be aware they have the decision to make.

    You see, here we atheists of all descriptions have a common goal: stop the harm that religion does. You don’t have to be feminist or sexist, just atheist or anti-religious. Here is a goal we can all get behind. I’m betting if women leave religion the men will follow. Yes, that’s sexists but hey, life is like that.

  • Erp

    Plenty of atheist or anti-religious people also put chains on women (e.g., as pressure on them to have sex even when they don’t want to [or at least not with individual pressuring]) so I don’t think the goal should be atheism or anti-religious but rather being pro a system that helps individuals recognize chains and be freer (some chains can only be alleviated, we can’t ignore physical facts though it is necessary to recognize what are facts and what are wishful thinking or fearful imagination).

    Given a choice between an atheist objectivist or a very liberal christian, I suspect I have more fellow feeling with the latter.

  • Blacksheep

    As a Christian, I have had a very different life experience than the one portrayed here, albeit from a male perspective. From early on, starting in junior high, I was acutely aware of the difference in the way men treated women based on their faith. Guys who identified as Christian and to whom their faith was important (as opposed to cultural Christians) treated women with 10 times more respect and equality. As a man, I know what other men say, think, and feel about women privately, and to this day the worst things I’ve heard come from people who are not Christians. I have also observed countless Christian homes in which the women are empowered and have more freedom and a better quality of life than their husbands who essentially go to work …. And that’s about it.
    When it comes to cheating, affairs, etc. I have also observed that for the most part, men who are faithful Christians don’t do it.

    I have also observed that many women who broke free from oppression, people like Rosa Parks, cite their faith as the inspiration and the thing that gave them the power to break free.

    I guess there are bad guys out there who are actually Christians and treat woman like crap – but I haven’t met them.

    I do know that my pagan barbarian ancestors treated women with far more respect and freedom after they became Christians, despite their love of goddesses.

  • Blacksheep

    Actually, other than the clearly truncated and out-of-context scripture reference (Ephesians 5:22) from the ridiculous sketch,

    Light, you must not know that this is a classic Friendly Atheist mode of communication!

  • mirele


    It’s all well and good to quote scripture, but the fact of the matter is that Eph. 5:22 has been emphasized over the centuries and the remainder of that chapter, not so much. We see this play out, tiresomely, over and over again in some cases of abuse, where the wife is (physically and/or emotionally) battered to the tune of the husband telling her that she has to submit, because scripture tells her to. We also have seen where this plays out in law, where husbands were given the legal charge over their wives, who were considered not separate under the law in the US until around 1900 (and in some cases much later).

    You can babble scripture all you want, but the fact of the matter is that history is crammed full of examples of women being told by men to sit down, shut up, work at home, don’t interfere and all this because “god” said this in a holy book. No Thanks.

  • Blacksheep

    technical question:

    Anyone know why a post that I submitted via an ipad shows up on the FA site on my ipad – but not on the site when I view it on a computer?


  • ACN

    Actually, let me give you a little more rope to hang yourself with LightShinesintheDarkness:

    22 Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. 23 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. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

    25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing[a] her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— 30 for we are members of his body. 31 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”[b] 32 This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. 33 However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.

    Quoting the entire passage doesn’t change the fact that this is sexist hogwash, and not particularly subtle sexist hogwash at that. The text of ephesians is trying to set up a hierarchy where god is at the top, men are next, and women are below both of them. Note how women have duties to submit to both men and god, while men are made explicitly the head of the husband-wife relationship. Note that while the woman’s only responsibility is to submit, the men have no responsibility to submit to the desire of the women, but have a weird one-sided paternal responsibility to nourish them and be accountable for their salvation verses 25-26. If this isn’t a hierarchical relationship, nothing is. From Genesis through the NT, one thing is abundantly clear to me, your bible was written and copied by men, to create a religion that institutionalized the superiority of men.

    Nonsense like this is why I call myself an anti-theist instead of just an atheist. Even if all of this garbage were true, it would still be horrific and I would still recoil from it. I am exceedingly thankful that it is all nonsense.

  • ACN

    I do know that my pagan barbarian ancestors treated women with far more respect and freedom after they became Christians, despite their love of goddesses.

    If our argument was “ancient pagans treated women better than christians” then you might have a point. It isn’t. The point here is that regardless of whether or not christianity was a step forward for the treatment of women at its inception, its core texts are still filled with garbage that thinks that it is justified in assigning sex/gender roles by divine fiat.

  • Blacksheep

    If our argument was “ancient pagans treated women better than christians” then you might have a point. It isn’t. The point here is that regardless of whether or not christianity was a step forward for the treatment of women at its inception, its core texts are still filled with garbage that thinks that it is justified in assigning sex/gender roles by divine fiat.

    You’re being way too pedantic about the pagan part, but my basic point was simple: I have observed throughout my life for the most part women being treated with more respect and freedom from Christian men than from non-Christian men.

  • anti_supernaturalist

    Let Inanna be your guide

    For a brief time in written history in Sumeria — the dominant god was female. She is Inanna, Queen of Heaven and Earth.

    Her personal development, her death, her resurrection, and ascent to supreme power find their poet in Diane Wolkstein and their Sumerologist in Noah Kramer.

    Inanna, Queen of Heaven and Earth: Her Stories and Hymns from Sumer ISBN-10: 9780060908546

    the anti_supernaturalist

  • ACN

    Yeah, I was too vigorous at something that looks to have been good natured.

    I still stand by the substance of my reply. That your personal anecdotes, granted to be true by charity, do not magically take away the sexism of your core texts.

  • I have questions for Christian men: as a man how does it feel to put women in this kind of position? Do you think that it is right and appropriate that women should be socially trapped within a system perpetuated by a faith? When you see someone who is shackled or otherwise limited by their faith don’t you want to free them or help them to free themselves?

  • I didn’t read all the comments, so forgive me if this has already been brought up, I was just a little overwhelmed by the idea of reading 41 of them and still getting out the door in an hour.
    Anyway, I feel it’s important to point out that not all Christian sects are against female preachers, as demonstrated by my mother. She has worked in at least two or three different churches. One of them for over 25 years, and she was adored there.
    I realize that it’s still a pretty major problem in a lot of churches and it’s just plain absurd, but I just wanted to point that out.

  • Dark Jaguar


    I can see where you are coming from having been non-religious your entire life. At times I am stunned I was ever a part of religion myself, but then I remember. I force myself to remember how I felt and my reasoning (as it was) when I was religious.

    It’s too easy to say “they do it out of fear” or “they do it out of social pressure”. There is an element of this, to be sure, but from my own memory it always seemed like my own choice, a thing I was proud of, and I actually felt a sense of pride and dignity at submitting my will to another, in that I’m beating back “pride” and “overcoming my own weaknesses”. Again, it’s an issue of twisting human virtues into corrupt versions that support the belief.

    Women are being oppressed by religion, that’s a fact no matter how much those like Blacksheep try to white wash it into something more palatable (sorry for the mixed metaphor). However, some attention should be paid to the fact that a lot of women don’t even see their own chains, just as most Christians in general don’t see their own chains. There are doubtless a large number who recognize their oppression, but those are the ones that have already started waking up, started doubting the faith, but are too mired to easily escape (it’s not nearly as easy as some libertarian types here suggest, the world is small and shrinking every day). Then there are those who don’t doubt a thing, who’s faith is completely certain.

    The analogy to “house slaves” is apt I think. I may use that. It doesn’t change that some fail to even realize their own oppression. This is something that’s clear as crystal to a former faith head, but I can understand just how hard it is to believe for someone who never fell into it to begin with. All I can say is that if I had realized just how oppressive and destructive to human dignity the whole enterprise was going into it, I never would have gone into it to start with. This quality I’m talking about is probably a prerequisite to getting deeply involved in faith.

    Think of Plato’s allegory of the cave. I thought that applied to everyone OUTSIDE my faith when I was in it, that’s how pathetic it was, and just how hard it can be to convince so many to leave. The matter of feeling “trapped” is important, but reasonably handled if we do provide a support network so people feel like they can get out without losing everything. The bigger issue to me is helping them realize they are trapped to begin with. That’s a problem that has no immediate answer.

    For the record, I’m a firm believer in “immunization against ideas”. I left due to serious inquiry into science and reading the bible itself. It was slow, but the end result speaks for itself. I believe that had I simply been aware of my cognitive biases as a kid and been trained to think skeptically, I never would have gotten sucked into faith.

  • @Dark Jaguar:

    I really like your comment. You sound wise. Somebody I could hang with. I agree with much of what you said. I would go even further to say that those who choose to remain within the faith system ought to abide by what you wrote. Thanks!
    david (nakedpastor)

  • Dark Jaguar


    Coming from you, that is very high praise indeed. I’ve been reading some of your stuff for a while now, and I can say that a little pick me up like that really does a lot for me today. Thanks, though in all honesty, it’s nothing more than pure observation of what went on around me. I didn’t need any particular insight for that, nor am I particularly good at it. If I were really wise, I’d find out some way to turn that sort of observation into some positive action, do some shackle breaking of my own. For now, I just hope adding the “former member” perspective to conversations helps the real idea makers come up with more apt ideas.

  • Haley

    I think the difference between men coming out and women coming out is that women are married off earlier, encouraged to pop out kids, and not have a life outside the church. By the time the seeds of skepticism grow in your mind, your whole life is tied around one idea, your family, job, friends, your whole worldview. women, especially in more traditional churches, don’t have outside lives or beliefs, this is either discouraged or disallowed. Submission and dependence are seen as signs of trust and love, and necessary for healthy relationships. Even though I go to a private, liberal leaning college and come from a more liberal religious family I notice this attitude consistently, but maybe that is more a function of living in Texas…When telling my friend about how I was raised to never be financially dependent on a man(though that’s about as feminist as my parents get) ,my friend responded “you will have a very depressing marriage”. This is the friend that is, like me, devoting 4 years to intensive study at a rigorous institution (trying to avoid specific names of places and institutions because I believe in not revealing personal info on the internet). so even a woman who I respect deeply sees the happiness and fulfillment of my life as being dependent on a submissive attitude, a sort of dependency on the church. And any deviation of this dependency is cast as a danger to future happiness. Because GOD FORBID someone stay in a relationship out of a desire to stay in a relationship, even though they are not dependent on the relationship for survival. (dating a few too many ‘im the man, therefore the leader, do as I say’ men may have made me bitter in this regard, but ive discovered the joys of dating atheist men, or maybe just this man… ?)

    anyway…even in my own, rather liberal religiously by comparison (they’re Methodist… if that means anything to you, you probably were also Methodist. My mom was divorced before she met my dad, and despite having a kid had a rather wild 20s), the emphasis was always on how my future marriage somehow was both a given and a reflection of them. It was always assumed I’d be married with kids (despite me stating multiple times my hesitations towards the institution), that’d I’d be hetero (yeah, they got that right… they don’t know how much I know they got that right… but thats another part of the problem), and that it would be a religious service thatd theyd have full say in. All of these things are automatically assumed. And I think that’s what happens with women in religion, there are so many assumptions made about what they will become, that they (ok, we) never really make other possibilities for ourselves. Even though there is a spectrum of how suppressing these assumptions are, they are always there to some degree.

    I know that these assumptions, and the sexism in general, is not CAUSED by religion, that it is a sad fact of our current society, and that it cannot be wholly attributed to religion, but there is a different sort of feeling when the sexism is passed off as divinely mandated. When god thinks you’re less than, its harder to ignore. Christianity encourages men to be leaders, and women to be sidekicks. And tells us women that, from birth, we were set apart to be “helpmeets” to men. It is much harder to leave with this sidekick attitude. And much harder to leave when you’ve been told your worth is in the serving church in the name of “god”.

    Also, it seems more scandalous for a woman to come out as not Christian than it is for a man. I know this is a sweeping generalization, but it might have something to do with the whole “Madonna/whore complex”, wont give too much thought to this, because it is all anecdotal evidence, but I’ve noticed it in my life.

    I feel like this is a poorly written comment, but I don’t have internet in my apartment(im at my campus writing this), so I don’t have much time to fully flesh this out before I head home (yay poor college life). Anyway, for me, I started discovering my atheism about 9 months ago (during my freshman year in college), and it was one of the hardest processes for me, and I lost a lot of friends, and a lot of the mental support groups I had built for myself. A lot of my religious male friends don’t look at me the same way anymore (I don’t think I am respected by some of them anymore because I am no longer a ‘sister in christl’ ), and my female religious friends see me as fallen. I know that one of my closest male friends went through this process a few years before me, but he didn’t seem to lose as much, but again, anecdotal.

    Anyway, Ive been “out” about 3 months, and even still its hard to break free of some of the mental restrainst I had internalized. I don’t know what the exact difference between genders in coming out atheist, but I do believe that had I not been so independently oriented from birth, I would not have had the strength to admit to myself I no longer found my worldview to be true.

    Alas, the student center is closing, time to head home. Love this blog, found it immensely helpful these past 9 months. Peace.

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