Does God despise women or does religion have it wrong?

Reading Infidel and discussing the treatment of women by the three main monotheistic religions has brought about a flurry of activity in my brain. The subjugation of women is something I haven’t really concerned myself with too much, mainly because I had bigger issues with organized religion that I needed to deal with. As painful as it’s been to embrace Christianity as a homosexual male, I can’t imagine the state of my faith if I were female.

Judaism, Islam, and Christianity all treat women as less than men – some more so than others, but all are guilty. The more fundamental interpretations of Islam treat women as little more than property – something to be traded about for social or political gain. The Old Testament images of Judaism show much of the same kind of disdain for the female sex. Modern Christianity often prevents women from serving as ministers or deacons in church, while teaching that man in the head of the household and women should keep their mouths shut.

I mentioned in an earlier post about the dress codes that my mother and sister were (and still are) required to follow by their Pentecostal faith. The hem of their skirts often end somewhere between the lower calf and ankle, their hair has never been cut, and they can’t wear makeup or jewelry. While most of these codes stem from specific verses in the Bible, their male counterparts don’t bear the same reproach as they do when out among the public.

Since I refuse to believe that women are somehow inferior to men, all of this has led me to two possible reasons for this atrocious treatment of females – either God has something against women or all of these faiths have it wrong.

Does God Despise Women?

If we are to take the Bible literally, then this is a valid question. God made man because He was lonely. Apparently that wasn’t enough for Adam, because he also became lonely and God decided to make woman so he’d have some companionship. Maybe God didn’t like the fact that Adam preferred woman to Him or that the woman had more control over Adam than He did. Whatever the situation, God cursed them both and I think we can agree that Eve got the raw end of that deal.

While some believe that Eve brought punishment upon all of womankind because of her enticement of Adam, this is just another example of removing male responsibility and blaming the female for a choice that he made. It reminds me of the way the Muslim women in Infidel were held accountable for the sexual advances of men, as if men are mindless, blathering fools who can’t control their urges.

There are countless verses in the Bible that point to and endorse male dominance of women. All of the modern-day bias against women by Christianity can be explained with scripture, and I’m sure the same is true of Islam and Judaism. If all of this scripture was inspired by God, then the mind boggles.

I can’t come to terms with this line of thinking, because why would God despise something that He created? Also, for all the verses that one could point to that discriminate against women, there are abundant stories of strong-willed and illustrious females who did great things for God.

Does Christianity, Judaism, And Islam Have It Wrong?

Considering that all of these religions were started centuries ago when males had control of everything, it seems plausible that none of those men would have wanted to relinquish any power they levied over the opposite sex. Perhaps they saw the benefit of ingraining those selfish needs into scripture, sealing their dominance for generations to come.

This makes much more sense to me. It seems very plausible that bias towards women could have crept into scripture that was overwhelmingly written and translated by men. Then again, maybe it all boils down to nothing more than a misinterpretation of scripture.

Any explanation that involves protecting the virtue of the woman or honoring her is nothing more than cockamamie. It’s time that men were responsible for their own actions and stopped blaming women for their lack of self-control, and it’s time that women were given the respect that they deserve and be allowed to participate in the work of their Creator.

I’m also tired of Eve being made out as a villain. Perhaps she should be applauded for her bravery and quest for knowledge. After all, if you believe the biblical account of creation, none of us would exist if it hadn’t been for her curiosity.

Author: Brian

Blogger. Bookworm. Michael Jackson fanatic. Lives in Kentucky with partner of 11 years and three fabulous felines.

29 thoughts on “Does God despise women or does religion have it wrong?”

  1. I’ve noticed this too and found it disturbing…especially when i was younger & first reding the Bible..We always assume that God was a man. I assume He is a man..but then again..only women have babies..so if God is a woman or sort of part woman and part man..i could see him being jealous of Eve..I think, myself, that God didn’t cre much for women. and even in the Bible, most of the main onews was considered whores, adultresses, and even Mary got with child when she was not married,..
    your post brought up some good points to ponder…

  2. @ Connetta – Genesis 1:27 says, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.” That leads me to believe that both males and females were created in God’s image. I don’t think God is either male or female.

    You made a good point about Mary’s unwed pregnancy. I hadn’t really thought about it in that light.

    @ MBMQ – Thankfully, there are more qualified people to fill that role. I can type for days, but forget public speaking!

  3. Great thoughts and words!

    In general, much of organized religion is more political than truly spiritual.
    What I often remind people is, taking the Bible (or similar books) truly literally pose some really big problems:

    1) The books of the Bible were passed down by mouth for hundreds of years before ever being put into print. Have you ever played the game telephone? If you can’t get it right at the end of the line of 10 people, how do you think the stories are completely true and literal, when they were passed down verbally for generations?

    2) The Bible has also been translated and re-translated many, many times, and much has really lost some of its translation.

    3) There were many books of the Bible that were discarded in modern versions; there were books written by women that were simply discarded.

    It is definitely true that the patriarchal tint to the Bible (and other sacred religious books) was put in there for human political power needs and wants. For a very long time, it helped to establish and keep a patriarchal society; however, with things changing so much over the past 40 years, the Word has not been able to keep control as it used to. Plus, some of the other, older, more literal scriptures have been circulated, and Jesus Christ himself supposedly preached that there EVERYONE was equal in the eyes of the Lord.

    I look at the Bible as a bunch of fables that are there to help us learn the guidelines in life — definitely nothing to be taken literally in many ways. I’ve taught my children that, too. And that anyone could think that God is either a man or a woman is pretty hubris — I would think that God is a total encompassment of both — sort of like the ying yang whole, know what I mean? And that our genders are parts of the whole.

    As for the whole creationism thing, yet another way to forge power for men! However, when looking at things scientifically, many things have been proven that are completely against the Adam and Eve fable, and could actually teint things the other way, if we all thought about it: 1) ALL human embryos begin as FEMALE, and then change to male later on. If it were true that men had been “first,” wouldn’t that be the way the babies would develop, too? 2) There’s the whole story as to why men have one less rib than a woman (because Adam gave up one to make Eve). Yet, in science, typically when a specimen has “one less” of something, it is a copy or version of an original.

    Things That Make You Go Hmmm….. :)

    Also, why is it that according to many of the major traditional religions, nothing written today can be God-inspired? I found the “Conversations with God” series of three books very enlightening, and I felt in my core that much of this stuff is really how the universe is, vs. the blather that’s been developed politically and socially in the Bible. Give them a try — they’re by Neale Walsch, and supposedly God-inspired. Brilliant! (From Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Complete-Conversations-God-Boxed-Set/dp/0399153292/ref=pd_bbs_sr_2/105-5036554-0746012?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1191882470&sr=8-2)

    I think my comment is even longer than your blog, now!

  4. By the way, this post was terribly difficult to write. I had all of these associated thoughts in my head, but I had a hard time getting them down without sounding sacreligious or disjointed. I’m still not sure I succeeded.

    It just hit me so hard yesterday when I suddenly realized how cruel and unfair all major religions are to women.

  5. @ unitedinsolitude – Great points! I especially liked the fact about all embryos starting out as female.

    You raised an important question about modern faiths claiming there are no current God-inspired writings. One of the things that I like most about the UCC is that they believe God is still speaking. After all, why would He have stopped?

  6. Fabulous insights and questions, Brian.

    A couple quick thoughts:

    1. If we want to know what God really thinks of women, consider Jesus. He treated us as equals and then some. In the 1970s there was a slogan popular in certain circles that went like this: Jesus was a feminist.

    2. Scholar and feminist Mary Daly said that when God is male, male is God. I think she hit the nail on the head. When we think of God in exclusively male terms, then this naturally elevates masculinity to the detriment of femininity. One of the marvelous things about Jesus is that (although male) he not only valued women but also revealed the divine hidden in feminine behaviors and values; on a regular basis Jesus defied social norms to demonstrate qualities typically associated with women. It is fair to say that Jesus was androgynous, which I find enormously powerful in thinking about what God is like.

    3. The minister who influenced me most in high school insisted that Eve was the first theologian: she dared question God.

    For what it’s worth: I have the same question for you, Brian, that Moonbeam McQueen has. As for the public speaking thing, I said I’d never preach. And guess what? It’s my favorite responsibility. You certainly demonstrate inclinations that might suggest a call. (That’s why I was hoping you’d be free to chat with Honey after church yesterday.)

  7. When God created woman,
    He gave her not two breasts but three.
    When the middle one got in the way
    God performed a surgery.
    Woman stood before God,
    With middle breast in hand.
    Said “What do we do,
    With the useless boob?”
    And god created man.

    (Bad Jokes, by Woody Harrelson…it’s a great song on the Prarie Home Companion CD.)

    Teehee. I second all your thoughts but I’m not feeling deep enough to comment with any particular intelligence. :)

  8. Brian,

    In answer to the question you pose in the title of the post, many religions (and religious people) have it wrong, no question.
    But, as Karen correctly points out, Jesus has it right: “If we want to know what God really thinks of women, consider Jesus. He treated us as equals and then some.” And again, Karen is spot on accurate when she points out that “one of the marvelous things about Jesus is that (although male) he not only valued women but also revealed the divine hidden in feminine behaviors and values; on a regular basis Jesus defied social norms to demonstrate qualities typically associated with women.”

    Some faith traditions (not all, thank God) may treat women as less than men, but God doesn’t see it that way. You are right in pointing out that human beings, BOTH male and female, were created in God’s image. (the all caps isn’t me raising my voice, I just can’t figure out out to do bold or underline on this thing :)’

    In reference to the story in Genesis where woman is made from Adam’s rib: it has been noted that “God did not create the woman from the man’s head that she should dominate him, or from his feet that he should rule over her, but from his side, near his heart, that they should walk together in love as equals.”

    I do respectfully disagree with you that God made man because God was lonely, or that God cursed them because “Maybe God didn’t like the fact that Adam preferred woman to Him or that the woman had more control over Adam” than God did. They were punished because they disobeyed God and sought to put themselves (both guilty) in the place of God. (But that’s another discussion)

    The point I want to make is this: if you look at the “curses” or punishment (Genesis 3), you’ll notice that part of what would change for the woman is that “her desire would be for her husband, but he would rule over her.”

    She would desire for the relationship to be the way it used to be–equality, mutuality–but he would insist in being in charge of things; the king of the castle, and “Head”. This male dominating mentality is sinful, and the result of sin–It was not part of God’s original plan or ideal.

    In the New Testament we see Jesus esteeming women in positive ways that broke cultural norms (and would still shock people or start a riot in many places in the Middle East today). Women were the last ones at the cross, when all but one of the male disciples and abandoned Jesus; the women were the first at the tomb and the first to see the resurrected Jesus and announce to others that Jesus was alive.

    In Paul’s writings he points out that in Christ there is “no Jew or Gentile, no male or female, no slave or free-man”–all are equal in the Kingdom of God. These man-made distinctions that were used to separate people from God and establish a “pecking order” of importance among the religious people–these “dividing walls”, were obliterated by Jesus–everyone could have full and equal access to God’s grace, and enjoy a relationship with God without shame or guilt–the way it used to be for Adam and Eve before they sinned.

    One final thought. Again the Apostle Paul, when giving instructions to husbands and wives, said “submit to each other out of reverence for God.” (Ephesians 5:21
    Many Bible-thumpers point out that the Bible says, “wives, submit to your husbands”, but they fail to point out that husbands are also supposed to submit to their wives. Paul said it this way, “out of love, serve each other.”
    Husbands and wives are to be equals and God is to be the Head of the Home.

    I think when we properly understand the Bible and what Jesus was all about, there is an equality and freedom in following The Way of Jesus that restores the original relationship that Adam and Eve enjoyed with each other and with God.

    Brian, thanks for letting me weigh in on this topic. I, too, find it deplorable how women are often mistreated and abused, and far too often in the name of religion. I hope I’ve not been too long-winded or “preachy” but I, like you, get riled up at some the sickening ways some people are treated in God’s name, and yet those actions and religious constrictions are so far from the heart of God and the real message of Jesus.

    Thanks agains for letting me share my two-cents (okay, maybe three-cents) worth. I apologize if I took for than my fair share of space on your blog.

    JimT

  9. @ pinkmini – Thanks for your comment.

    @ Karen – I love the idea of Eve being the first theologian, and also the image you presented of Jesus. I never considered him to be a macho-macho-man, which is one of the things that I find appealing about him.

    Would it be fair to call Jesus a “rebel”? It certainly seems like he defied all the social and religious standards of his day.

    I wish I could have spent more time talking with Roof on Sunday, but maybe he can visit our church again soon. Or… you can point him here and we can have online discussions. ;)

    @ Caroline – Loves it! Thanks for interjecting a bit of humor into the discussion.

    @ Jim – There appears to be a disconnect between religion and Jesus, even Christianity and Jesus. It seems that we get so caught up in the dos and don’ts found in the Old Testament and most of the New Testament, that we forget about that amazing guy in the four Gospels.

    While writing this article, I remembered hearing or reading somewhere that God had created man because He was lonely and wanted companionship. I couldn’t remember the source, but googled it and found several websites confirming it. None of them provided a sound scriptural basis, but many of those who accepted it as fact seemed particularly blessed by the idea that God wanted to be friends with them. I also found it comforting and as good an explanation as any.

    I did some more research this morning and stumbled across some sermon notes that basically say God created us for fellowship with Him and has some scripture references.

    http://www.carm.org/sermons/1Cor_1-9.htm

    Some feel that God created man for the sole purpose of worshiping Him. I’d love it if you would share some more of your thoughts on the reason for our creation, as I find it incredibly interesting.

    Ironically, I don’t remember ever hearing Ephesians 5:21 in a sermon. Maybe it’s often conveniently omitted?

    Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts and don’t ever feel the need to apologize for it. I love these interactions and discussions with my online friends!

  10. The “bad jokes” song is my favorite part of that movie Caroline! Love it.

    Like you, I don’t feel deep enough to comment either. Although I go to church every week, by the time I teach SS, then grapple with my kids during the service, I don’t really feel like I’ve even been there. Sad but true. I’m going on a retreat next month, maybe I will gain some insight there.

  11. Alyson,

    I think my parents probably felt the same way when they were trying to raise us in a church. After battling with us about getting up in the morning, dragging us to Sunday School, and then monitoring us during the entire sermon…I bet they were beat! But they did instill some value in us, so that’s good, too. And the lady behind our pew always slipped us candy.

  12. Thanks, maybe I’m doing something right. Mine seem to do better during the sermon if we don’t sit near my mother and sister. Maybe a change of pews is in order.

  13. This is a very deep, thought provoking entry… and you know I never really -thought- about it like this. However, I’m not religious, I don’t believe that Jesus was the son of God, or that there was ever an immaculate conception or that there was ever Adam and Eve… it’s a sweet story, but for me it’s not religion, it’s stories. I think that the middle east has far more problems on their hands then how they treat their women, its the moral foundation entirely that they raise their little terrorist children on. Nother story, nother day.

    However, I’ll admit it, there does seem to be a trend in how women are portrayed over time. I wonder how the working mom and wife who doesn’t stand in her husbands shadow will be portrayed when we are all long gone…

    Nice entry, blogroll’d!

  14. very interesting, and thought provoking.
    I really like what Karen & Jim T added.

    I think the treatment of women can be very demeaning, and I don’t think that is what God had in mind when He created Eve.
    Also, I don’t believe that God despises women.

  15. Brian, earlier you wrote:

    “While writing this article, I remembered hearing or reading somewhere that God had created man because He was lonely and wanted companionship…
    many of those who accepted it as fact seemed particularly blessed by the idea that God wanted to be friends with them…
    I did some more research this morning and stumbled across some sermon notes that basically say God created us for fellowship with Him…
    Some feel that God created man for the sole purpose of worshiping Him. I’d love it if you would share some more of your thoughts on the reason for our creation, as I find it incredibly interesting.”

    Brian, I agree completely that God created humans for fellowship and relationship, but I think the motive for desiring relationship was something other than lonliness. I believe God desires a relationship and friendship with us, but not because He is lonely. I guess it was the idea of God being “lonely” that I was responding to. To me, for God to be lonely implies that something was lacking from His existence or that there was some sort of deficiency.

    I also don’t believe people were created just to worship God and serve Him– He already had the angels for that.

    The Westminster catechism taught that “The chief end of man(kind) is to know God and enjoy Him forever.” Relationship just for relationships sake.

    There is a whole other line of thougt that human beings were created to resolve the Angelic Conflict. There are a couple of verses of scripture that talk about a revolt in heaven, where Satan (who was a “head angel” like Michael, The Archangel) led a third of the angels in an attempted coup.

    “The great dragon was hurled down–that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.” Revelation 12:9

    “His tail swept a third of the stars out of the sky and flung them to the earth…” Revelation 12:4

    “For if God did not spare the angels who sinned, but cast them down to hell and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved for judgment…”
    2 Peter 2:4

    you can google “angelic conflict” and get more info than you care to study expounding on all of this. Many people consider It elaborate speculation, reading A LOT into the above references, but it is a popular theory in some christian circles as to why God created human beings.

    I try to keep things simple: I do believe in God. I believe that God created the universe and me. I believe God wants me to know Him and have a relationship with Him (but not because He’s lonely).

    “You are worthy, O Lord our God, to receive glory and honor and power.
    For you created everything, and it is for your PLEASURE that they exist and were created.” Revelation 4:11 (NLT)

    Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them OVERSEE (rule over) the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” Genesis 1:26-27

    I find all this stuff incredibly interesting, too, although a lot of folks think I have fecal matter for brains and consider it all like fairy tales. If I’m right about there being a God then hopefully one day He (or she?) will straighten out all of our thinking :)’

    JimT

  16. As a woman who is usually considered the most cynical and dark person in any given group of Christians, it’s pretty damn great to see someone else thinking it through on our behalf. It’s hard to be heard in religious circles, if you’re automatically viewed as an irrational being.

    I’m Christian, but I consider it 100% faith, 0% religion. I’m relieved to see I’m not alone.

  17. God created humans, man created religion to control women. From what I’ve read, men were initially afraid of women because they would bleed every month and not die. Women were also the first ones to use herbs for cooking and healing out of necessity. Men were jealous of the control this gave women over people so the first thing they did to curb it was to label such women witches and kill them. I think in modern times, women are the enablers of their own subjugation. It is the woman who shapes a child’s ethics and morals. If all women refused to accept the second class position, it would end in one generation. What would the fearful religious misogynists do – kill every woman? I think until people learn to move forward as one without trampling on anyone we will never grow and mature as a species, in fact, we will author our own extinction. What a pity it is all done in the name of religion which is a cover for fear.

  18. For jimthomp87 in reference to the “curses in Genesis 3: If you noticed that God cursed the body of Eve and not Adam, to me that shows that GOD was really angry with Eve so his curse upon her was worse than the curse upon Adam. You also failed to add in your text that in the bible when the angels told the two ladies to go and tell all of Jesus’s rise from the dead, no one believed them until they saw Jesus with their own eyes. It clearly states in the bible that these women were riduculed by the men and they were called names like liars because no one believed until they saw Jesus for themselves. I bet not a one of those men apologized to those women for not believing them when they said that Jesus had risen…

  19. What do you think of the term “belief” (or faith?) Is it “cerebral thinking”, or is it the state of conviction without question?
    And is it possible to have “belief” without question?
    And is it necessary?
    If so, why?

  20. Brian got it half right. Yes, religions are male concoctions created to meet their needs. But Brian need not worry about getting on with the “creator’s” work. Brian has no clue what that is because there is no God. That whole concept was also made up by the same folks who concocted the religions.

  21. Face it, there are certainly differences between the male and female species. No one thing in this world is equal, not even the finest fabrication of a certain product. If there is one to lead, then the other must follow.

    If God has ordained us male as leaders (shown throughout the history that we all know), accept it and that females should be the majority followers. Argue this point as much as you want but that’s a fact that will never change. No matter how capable a female is, there will always be a man that is far superior (whether mentally – argue this as much as you want, MOST of the great inventions are done by men even education these days has “equality” endorsed; or physically).

    If God is almighty and created “equality” or perhaps more inclined towards the female species, then these biased interpretations wouldn’t have gone published. Then history would have women in control instead of man.

    And Ask yourself, would you rather die or to be led by a women? I would choose the former as I find non then the male as the rightful ones.

    1. Men were leaders because of the overwhelming opposition against women by men, due mostly because the majority of the people in charge were men, viscous cycle. Men gets to stay in charge, creating what is essentially a “Boy’s only club” in leadership.
      Men were leaders because they were the people who claimed that “God ordained them”
      What we see as “great” was a perception largely set by the achievements of men, while the achievements of women were often times neglected and even degraded. So every time you see something as “great”, its mostly because men thought it was so, and that is how YOUR perception of “great” is formed.
      I can’t argue that there are fundamental differences between men and women but saying that no single woman can ever best a man is pushing it too far. I’m sure that somewhere, out there, there’s at least a single female that would do a better job at leading someone than you. Leadership isn’t simply something that men can do and women can’t, it’s based on a set of qualities that, to be honest, any one can obtain.

  22. God gave his commandment. “Do NOT pertake of the Forbidden fruit”. That was his LAW. Eve trusted a reptile over God’s command. She sinned against God, and did not trust God. She took away God’s unrevealed plan for the future. She took it upon herself. She did not control HER curiousity first, then secondly, passed that curiousity on to Adam. That was her second mistake. How do we know she didn’t intice Adam sexually? Its been the way of the EVIL woman ever since. NO, I do not feel sorry for, or have mercy on Eve. She did WRONG. Plain and simple.

  23. If God never told Eve not to eat of the fruit (Which he told Adam before he created Eve) then how can God hold Eve accountable for eating the fruit? it seems to me like a trap

  24. The simplest explanation is that its all hooey. Easter Bunny, Santa Claus, Manti Teo’s girlfriend, and God.

    Why go through all the tortured mental gymnastics? Those in power developed or adopted rituals to meet their own ends. Complete male control over sex relations being one of those ends.

  25. I am not a defender or an opponent of religion. And I admit I have not read every single one of the comments (since this post was first written several years ago, I’m not sure how many of the original commenters are still around, anyway). Do not mistake me for a fundamentalist, for I assure you I am not. However, I will address one flaw in the main argument presented in the column.

    Adam was not exempt from Eve’s sin. God didn’t hold Eve accountable for not eating the fruit. He held Adam accountable for instructing Even not to eat of the tree. Therefore, Adam was held responsible for what Eve did, and Adam was the one who had to account for what happened. It’s the same basic principle that has followed marriages ever since–in the end, the man is ultimately responsible for what happens in the house. Over the years, many men–the majority of men, probably–have been lazy, and have attempted to pass the blame for their failures on to the woman, much like Adam did when he was questioned by God. This problem does not reflect badly on God, or the system of marriage he designed–it’s simply the work of men who are failing to live up to the image of God. Modern day women (the type who want all the privileges that come with being a man, yet none of the responsibilities that go along with it) may bristle when they hear this, but it’s the truth. If you don’t like the truth, that’s your problem. Don’t blame it on God.

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