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Friday, March 25, 2016

Guest Article : Why Does God Hate Women? Written by Wolfgang Goethe,Adjunct Professor of World Religions,Miami Dade College (Updated)

Two weeks back,I posted a photograph relating to 'Schindler's List' and the Second World War,subsequently after which I noticed a comment from the adjunct professor of World Religions at MDC on the post! I had gone through the profile before and it seemed very logical to request an article at that point.I am so glad I received this today and am really,really grateful to Professor Goethe for handing this to me.
The article is wonderful,intellectually enriched and rebellious enough to knock on the mind's doors and windows to let in some light.
This article provides enough insight through its contents and the easy detailings,the intelligent style makes it worth a read : universally!

Why Does God Hate Women?

At the start of every semester, begin my World Religions course by asking students questions like, “What is religion”? , and “What are your expectations for this class”? Lately, I’ve added another question, “Does God hate women”? Students don’t expect a question like this on the first day of class, judging from the puzzled look on my students’ faces. But it is a legitimate question, one that sometimes is not addressed, especially when considering the role women play in organized religion.
     There are several ways to teach an introductory course on world religions. One very interesting way of teaching this subject is by taking a close look at the religious texts of each religion. At the end of the semester I don’t even have to answer whether or not “God hates women.” Judging from the sacred texts, the answer seems obvious. It’s a YES response. Of course, there are several problems with this answer. “God” is too vague a term to define. And most world religion scriptures are replete with poetry, begging for a myriad of interpretations. But since my course is just a survey of the world’s religions, and not in-depth study, on the surface, it looks like the sacred texts of the various religions demean and objectify women.
     I begin the quest to answer the question at hand by searching some writings of Hinduism, the religion considered the oldest of the world’s organized religions. For the most part Hindu literature has maintained conflicting views about women. A woman is protected daughter, strong matriarch, worshiped wife and rejected widow. And even though there are several goddesses worshiped in Hinduism, which would merit more respect for women, it’s not always the case, and the negative statements against women tend to outweigh the positive ones. 
   One particular text, The Code of Manu, states that:
     “In childhood a female must be subject to the father; in youth, to her husband; when the lord (husband) is dead, to her sons. A woman must never be independent. She must not seek to separate from the father, husband or sons.” (Manu 5.148-149)
     A woman must respect, obey and worship her husband, even if he is unfaithful:
     “Him to whom her father may give her, or her brother with the father’s permission, she shall obey as long as she lives. Though destitute of virtue, or seeking pleasure elsewhere , or devoid of good qualities, a husband must be constantly worshipped as a god by a faithful wife.” (Manu 5.151-154)

   
 After her husband’s death, a woman of whatever age may not marry:
     “She must never mention the name of another man after her husband has died. Until death let her be patient, self-controlled, and chaste and strive to fulfill that most excellent duty which is prescribed for wives who have one husband only”. (Manu 5.157-158)
     All this from a text which is considered by many Indians as the most complete expression of sacred law.  Yet the previous was not always so. In Vedic times (1500 BCE) women lived primitive but fairly free lives; except for property rights, there was little inequality between the sexes. Girls were welcome, received an education, and had a say in the selection of their husbands whom they married after completing their education. Then, around 500 BCE, the lives of Hindu women changed for the worse. Education, which was the only certain way to achieve any improvement in the standard of their lives, was almost non-existent until the nineteenth century.  




     In the history of Buddhism, the role of women has been a tension between seductress or domestic servant. Buddhist monks often perceived women as bestial purveyors of sexuality which was a hindrance to spiritual welfare. Women were seen as defective and spiritually handicapped. It’s been said that only reluctantly did the Buddha allow women in his inner circle. In Buddhism, the domestic function is seen as preventing women from active involvement in the religion. On the other hand, women who join monastic orders are accused of the disintegration of society. Even in monastic orders women were inferior to monks regardless of their seniority, experience and knowledge. That inferiority concerned women’s ability to achieve enlightenment. Women were women because of error in previous lives, and in order for them to achieve enlightenment they would have to be reborn males. (The Heart Sutra)
     In the religion of Jainism, the Mahavira, the supposed founder of this tradition, renounced not only sexual pleasures, but also women in general. He is said to have declared that “women are the greatest temptation in the world.”
     Still another religion from India is Sikhism.
It is considered the world’s fifth largest religion. This religion represents the mystical aspect of Indian religions. It is a religion of strong social responsibility. Of all the religions I cover in my course, this is the only one I cannot find anything negative to say...ever.  It is probably the only one of the major world religions where women are truly equal with men. Interestingly enough, whenever I take my students to a Sikhism gurdwara (temple), it is usually the women who give us a tour of the place. The men are busy cooking in the kitchen, preparing the communal meal. In Sikhism women are even allowed to lead the congregation in worship. Their holy scripture is called the Adi Granth (first book). It is a collection of hundreds of hymns written by the most venerated gurus of the religion. One of the most beautiful passages about women, which I have ever read from a sacred scripture is a hymn titled bhand jamiai bhand nimiai, Rag Asa:
     “Of a woman are we conceived, of a woman we are born, to a woman we are betrothed and married. It is a woman who is friend and partner for life. It is a woman who keeps the race going. Another companion is sought when the life partner dies. Through a woman are established social ties. Why should we consider woman curse and condemned when from women are born leaders and rulers.”

     I must confess, this is beautiful. Perhaps the only writing that compares to this may be Proverbs chapter 31, the Old Testament chapter in praise of the virtuous woman. (Some feminists would disagree, since here the woman does nothing but work from sunrise to sunset). However, as wonderful as the previous hymn from the Adi Granth is, another hymn seems to be in contradiction. Hymn Sri Rag Ki Var says:
     “Perversity of the soul is like a woman of low caste. Lack of compassion like a butcher woman; the desire to find fault with others is like a scavenger woman. The sin of wrath is like an utter outcast.”
     It seems here that everything that is wrong with the world is compared to the female. Contrasting views about women? Possibly.




     The traditions of Taoism and Confucianism do not speak of a creator god that intervenes in the affairs of humans. These religions speak of an ultimate reality called the Tao. The Tao is the ultimate power on which everything in the world depends for its existence. It is the mysterious power that makes the world and nature function the way it does. Even though there is no concept of god, both religions have their established scriptures. Taoism is said to predate Confucianism, and its main text is the Tao Te Ching (The Way of Power). In this scripture the word ‘mother’ appears at least seven times, while the word ‘father’ does not appear at all. Chapter 6 of the Tao Te Ching is dedicated to the Mystic Female, the universal feminine energy. There is no similar chapter for the male counterpart. 
     Sometime around 1000 BCE, the Chinese came up with the idea of the Yin/Yang typology in an effort to describe how the world operates. Everything in the world has its opposites. Originally Yin/Yang had no gender connotation. That came later. The male principle, Yang does not win over the female Yin. Instead, both principles complement each other. Of these two, it is the Yin that should be cultivated the most since the Yin is the one that gives birth, and this is a divine power that men do not possess.
     Confucianism differs from this. Neo-Confucianism gave little or no credence to the concept that women were individuals. Each stage of a woman’s life represented a link in an unbroken chain of dependence. First, on the father, then the husband, and when the woman is old, she is dependent on her son. (Somewhat similar to Hinduism). Women were obliged to accept four Confucian criteria for virtuous female conduct: 1) a woman has to know her proper place in the home. 2) a woman must not speak, until she is spoken to. 3) a woman has to be pretty. 4) a woman must be able to fulfill traditional female tasks, such as taking care of the family, cooking, and sewing.
     The most important scripture in Confucianism is the Analects of Confucius, a series of conversation between Confucius and his disciples. For the purposes of our discussion, one statement form the book stands out: 
     The Master said, “Girls (women) and inferior men are hard to get along with. If you get familiar with them, they lose their humility; if you are distant, they resent it.” (Analects 17:23)

     Leaving the Asian religions, let’s see if the great monotheistic religions fare much better in their treatment of women. Starting with the Old Testament, I would say  ‘no.’ In the book of Exodus it was not a problem for a father to sell his daughter into slavery (Exodus 21:7). Of course, never a son. Menstruation is a sin (Leviticus 15:29, 30), otherwise the female wouldn’t have to offer a sin offering. Coitus, yes coitus, was a sin since both the male and the female were ‘unclean’ after the act (Leviticus 15:18). The uncleanliness Leviticus frequently mentions was enough to merit being ‘cut’ from the congregation, which in some contexts could mean banished or even exterminated. When a woman gave birth to a son, she was unclean seven days. When she gave birth to a daughter, she was unclean 14 days, and her purification period was twice as long (Leviticus 12:1-8). 

     In the Apocryphal literature of the Old Testament, the book of Sirach contains many verses that deal with women. Some are very positive, “Happy is the man that lives with a sensible wife.” (Sirach 25:8) Other verses are not, “Any iniquity is small compared to a woman’s iniquity.” (Sirach 25:19)  The one verse that takes vilification prize is, “From a woman sin had its beginning, and because of her we all die.” (Sirach 25:24)  After the book of Psalms, the book of Sirach was the favorite Old Testament book for most of the Church Fathers of the early Christian centuries. The Sirach verse from chapter 25 is alluding to the sin of Adam and Eve. Was this just disobedience, and at whose instigation? We are told that Adam was ordered not to eat from the ‘tree of knowledge of good and evil’ (Genesis 2:17). He was told this before the appearance of Eve and when confronted with his disobedience, Adam blamed Eve (Genesis 2:22-23). If Eve was created like Adam in the image of God, they were equals and equally good. If the sin was disobedience, he, Adam was the guilty one, or at most they were both guilty. And yet women are the ones who are made to suffer for a three thousand year old myth. 


      Every day male Jews around the world recite the following prayer, a prayer that even appears in children’s elementary schoolbooks in Israel:
      “Blessed you are Hashem (the Name), King of the Universe, for not having made me a Gentile.”
      “Blessed you are Hashem, King of the Universe, for not having made me a slave.”

      “Blessed you are Hashem, King of the Universe, for not having made me a woman.”



The (in)famous Last Supper Controversy 
(Ref. 'The Vinci Code' written by Dan Brown)


     The New Testament literature of Christianity did not improve on the Old Testament although many Christians see it that way. In the New Testament we find statements like, “There is no male or female; for all of you are one in Jesus Christ.” (Galatians 3:28) But verses like this one are rare. And ironically, the same author of Galatians is the same author of 1 Corinthians, the apostle Paul. One sample from 1 Corinthians reads as follows, Man is the image of God and reflection of God; but woman is the reflection of man. Indeed man was not made from woman, but woman from man.” (1 Corinthians 11:7-8)
     1 Peter 3:7 says, “Husbands, in the same way, show consideration for your wives in your life together, paying honor to the woman as the weaker sex, sin they too are also heirs of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing may hinder your prayers.”
     In Christianity, especially Protestantism, women have made rapid progress toward equality in education and employment, especially in North America and Europe. However, they remain markedly under-represented in national legislatures and government which are the most promising avenues to correct inequalities and thwart the efforts of fundamentalists whose goal is to return women to their previous subjugation in the name of Christianity.
   I conclude with Islam. Before Islam, some but not all segments of Arabian society were matriarchal, and children, sometimes fathered by different men, lived with their mother. Polygamy and concubinage were universal and divorce was relatively easy for either sex to obtain. Women were able to own and run their own property. Veiling, which preceded the Prophet, was relatively common among tribal and urban women, but rare among their village and nomadic sisters. Islam had a major impact on the lives of women. From now on, they were regarded as equals of men but only in their spirituality and their ability to obtain eternal life.In all other matters, men were superior and their testimony was worth twice as much. But starting in about the sixteenth century, Islamic culture stagnated and their women lagged further and further behind their sisters in Western and some Asian cultures.

     There are no statements in Islamic scriptures that say women may not have equality in education, employment, religion and political rights, but this has clearly not been practiced. Crimes of honor are remnants of tribal society but continue to be perpetrated against women and are not condemned by religious leaders.
     The Qur’an does say that men and women have equal rights, but men have an edge over them. (Qur’an 2:228)  “Men have authority over women because God has made the one superior to the other, and because they spend their wealth to maintain them. Good women are obedient. As for those from whom you fear disobedience, admonish them and send them to their beds apart and beat them.” (Qur’an 4:34)
     More about this can be said from the Hadiths, the traditions of Muhammad, but I think the reader gets the overall picture. 
     Religion doesn’t necessarily originate ideas about female subordination and male authority, but it does justify them. I conclude with a quote from Ophelia Benson and Jeremy Strangroom’s book, “Does God Hate Women?”  
     The rigid God may be secretly kind and sympathetic in the victim’s heart, and let us hope it is, but in terms of the rules and laws and expectations, that God holds women in contempt. And that God, unfortunately, is the one who puts ‘his’ imprimatur on all those tyrannical laws. That is the God who makes cruelty holy and sacred and pious. That is the God who looks on approvingly when young girls are married off and raped, when women are whipped for showing a little hair, when men throw stones  at a crying teenage girl until she is dead. That God is the product of history but taken to the eternal, which is a bad combination. That is the God who hates women. That God has to go.”
     I agree. I totally agree.

Wolfgang Goethe
Miami Dade College
Miami, Florida

     


                                                                                                                                            
       
    


   


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4 comments:

  1. HI, I am Indian and a female. I am also a Sikh. I feel that this post gives a lot of information about different religion. It also addresses the importance women have in everybody lives. I agree with you. Do you have a sister? Do you treat equally?

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    Replies
    1. I am an Indian female too,Kanpreet. This article is written by the adjunct professor of world religions at MDC,Prof.Wolfgang Goethe.I do not actually have my own sister but I do have a cousin sister I am very close to and yes,we do treat equally;at least nearly equally. We do have varying opinions on politics and socio-economic issues but nearly coincident views on feminism.

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  2. Hello, I really like your writing about the question, "Does God Hate Women?" I like how you include many religions instead of revolving around one. I enjoyed learning more about the religions and the way they treat and write about women, since you could see the religion flaws instead of reading cherry pick writings. I hope you continue to write more, I find this subject very intriguing.

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    Replies
    1. The article has been written by adjunct professor of World Religions at MDC,Prof.William Goethe.
      Glad that you found this intriguing. New articles on this topic is sure to come up.

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