Assess the usefulness of feminist theories of religion. (33 marks)
Like Marxist’s, feminists believe that religion can be an instrument of alienation and oppression , the key difference between Marxist theories of religion and feminism is that feminist’s believe religion exists to serve patriarchy as opposed to capitalism.
The key feminist thinkers of religion are, Mary Daly, Simone de Beauvoir, Karen Armstrong, Jean Holme and Nawal El Sadawi. They all think that the church has and continues to support inequalities between men and women, this is due to the fact that the teachings benefit men more than women, the main concerns of feminists are religious organisations, place of worship, ...view middle of the document...
For example, the creation story states that Adam was created first then Eve was created out of Adams rib, men within the bible are mainly always put first. Again within the creation story, Eve was punished for Adams mistake of eating the forbidden fruit, all women are meant to be punished by god for this by menstruation and child birth however many would argue that Adam was just as easily punishable than Eve for eating the fruit. Within the bible, there are two main types of women, the Virgin Mary and Mary Magdalene, these two women give the ‘role models’ to women and say to women that these are the only two types of women in the world, either the prudish sober type or prostitutes, these two extremes remain the basis of today’s societies stereotypes.
Feminists argue that religious laws and customs discriminate against women, all around the world, religious women are more constricted than men, women are the property of their husband and in many religions, and only men are allowed to initiate a divorce. Religion legitimates women’s traditional domestic role that feminists are trying to break. The domestic and reproductive role of women is promoted within religion by the banning of abortion and contraception; this takes away the basic right of women controlling their fertility and this, feminists argue, is the work of men, however this is slowly changing, the pope is now supporting contraception. In Islam, men can have up to 4 wives but females can have only one husband, an even more extreme way of this discrimination of women is the fact that women can be stoned to death for adultery on a religious basis. It is also acceptable to kill a daughter who doesn’t obey their family in regards to arranged marriages, the family also does not go to prison when the murder is committed, in general in religion and society, sexual laws are different for men and women.
Jean Holm, a liberal feminist, suggests that women’s resistance to religion has been noted and there is a gradual improvement however, women are still subordinate to men. Within religion, women do most of the behind the scenes work where as men are the main positions within the church eg, priests and the pope however, the liberal feminists may be correct in the idea that women are slowly becoming equal to men within religion due to women being able to be adorned and now the introduction of female bishops in 2014. Even in the Buddhist faith, men and women are respected equally but monks (men) are better respected than nuns (women) as the nuns are subordinate to the monks, expressing the view that males and females are far from being equal in religion.
Simone de Beauvoir writes about women in religion and makes similar ideas to Marx, from a feminist perspective, instead of Marx’s idea of capitalism; de Beauvoir replaces it with patriarchy. “There must be a religion for women as there must be one for the common people and for exactly the same reasons.” This shows that for females, religion is a...