Final Synthesis Paper – Religion
The study of human religions proves the assumption that the majority of religious systems and beliefs were colored with patriarchal attitudes and prejudices. Scholars currently pay more attention to a female side of religion. Religious misconceptions and intentional or unintentional misinterpretation of religious texts have initially positioned a woman as submissive to men. However, as major world religions have been studied in depth, the understanding of the women’s religious roles has been changing too. Thesis statement: in each of the world’s major religions, there is evidence of patriarchal oppression of women.
At the same time, there are also texts and practices that, when interpreted from a feminist perspective, offer liberating and life-giving options for women. Even practices that may seem quite traditional are sometimes embraced by women from a feminist perspective. To prove this idea, we will use the examples of the three major world religions: Christianity, Hinduism, and Wicca. The study of the major religious texts and religious foundations suggests that women were not as meaningless as religious leaders tried to present them.
Although religion traditionally positioned a woman as submissive to a man, her role in all major religions was far greater. The problem is in that we are not good connoisseurs of the history and philosophy of religion, and we use to take religious knowledge for granted, without looking deeper into what religion is saying. Christianity and Hinduism are not exceptions. Fisher relates to Vedas as the brightest examples of patriarchal oppression of Hindu women. In her view, the religious texts created by Brahmins provided women with a social position lower than that of men.
The Laws of Manu, which Fisher discusses in detail, stated that a woman had to depend on a man. Simultaneously, Scovill objectively evaluates the religious reasons and consequences of numerous abortions of female fetuses, which have been characteristic of Hindu religious community. Such negative attitudes towards women confirmed the societal preference for male children promoted by Hinduism. However, Hindus did not precisely follow their religious postulates. When discussed from a female perspective, the philosophy of Hinduism reveals several major contradictions.
First, “Vedic literature indicates that women were not merely a silent partner in the rituals, but played a crucial role in them” (Scovill, n. d. ). Second, since the early years of Hinduism, women have been the leaders of the home religious rituals, which have become especially important during the years of Aryan invasion. Third, “Hindus narrate stories about the gods and goddesses, sing songs about them, and dance their stories in many performances”. As a result, a new vision of Hinduism is being created in which women embrace more religious functions, than we have believed earlier.
Furthermore, the deep research of Christianity offers a new image of Christian women. Fisher speaks about the early years of Christianity, which have been marked with the growing role of women as missionaries. As in case with Hinduism, women were offering their homes to be used for praying and worshipping Christian God. Surprisingly or not, but Christianity has initially provided women with a respectful social position, and treated female home as a sacred social territory. In Greco-Roman religion, women were financially and socially independent from men; as a result, they had more opportunities to find their place in religion.
Greco-Roman women were able to sponsor religious meetings, and were free to use their leadership qualities in numerous religious domains. Only with time, religious leaders gradually distanced women from sacred procedures, and have distorted the image of Christian worshipping as a female-oppressive social structure. In this continuous line of patriarchal religious attitudes, Wicca stands separately. In fact, Wicca is a system of religious beliefs which is rooted in early Masonic and magick practices and which emphasizes the equal social positions of women and men.
Wicca keeps to the principles of sexual polarity. It denies the conventional patriarchal features of other world religions, and displays extreme enthusiasm towards the promotion of female principles in religion. Wicca is different from Christianity and Hinduism in that it does not conceal its sincere support of female religious component. Christianity and Hinduism require that we look for refutations and contradictions to prove the female meaningfulness within these religious concepts.
On the contrary, Wicca is open with its adherents: although it requires religious clergy to be presented by males, it does not stifle or strangle a woman as Christians or Hindus do. However, how did it happen that we no longer understand women’s significance in religion? Why is it that we do not understand, how many roles women practically embrace within each religious domain? The problem is in that mass institutionalization of the major world’s religions has distanced women from the leading positions in church.
Fisher calls this process “subsequent subordination of women” , which took place in all religious domains without any exception. The discussed institutionalization has strengthened the role of secular cultural norms in religion; as a result, a woman has lost its social dominance in Christianity, Hinduism, and even Wicca. However, even in the light of the constant social pressures, women did not refuse from participating in religious rituals. Moreover, the history of religion presents us with the numerous examples of the female prominence in religion.
Fisher speaks about women- martyrs, saints, and ascetics. Religious institutionalization has not scared women, but on the contrary, proved their courage and power in the face of religious and social challenges. The changing religious standards did not provide women with an opportunity for religious self-realization; but they constantly proved their ability to find their place in highly patriarchal Christian religious community. Women martyrs were dying for faith to reach heaven; women-ascetics devoted their lives to prayer and worshipping to God.
Furthermore, women were constantly seeking means to re-interpret the major religious provisions, and to expand them beyond the traditionally patriarchal social approaches. Women mystics were later beatified by Christian church. The history and philosophy of religion opens new facets of women’s roles in praying and worshipping Gods. In many aspects, Hinduism, Christianity, and Wicca have gone similar historical paths, from the rise of female religious leadership, to women’s subsequent subordination, and back to the growing importance of women within various religious frameworks.
Under the constant social pressures, religions have acquired new feminist features and have recognized the need to promote women and men with equal religious roles. The religious practices which were traditionally patriarchal, have also changed their social emphases, to provide women with more opportunities for expressing their religious beliefs. What we currently observe in religion has been briefly and successfully described by Zsuszanna Budapest as “a cleansing of the self from the filth and negativity of the patriarchal world”.
Conclusion It seems that the major world religions have experienced the same mistakes, the same faults, and have finally come to similar conclusions: religion is no longer able to ignore the growing role of women, who prove their loyalty and self-sacrifice to church institutions. Church is evidently losing its traditional image of a predominantly patriarchal domain. As women become more involved with studying and re-interpreting religious texts and practices, religion in general becomes more feminist and more feminine.
We become more aware of women-leaders in early religious years. We understand the implications of the subsequent subordination of women in the middle age religion. We also see the roots of female desire to expand the boundaries of their religious participation. Ultimately, despite the patriarchal oppression of women, religion has been re-interpreted from a new feminist perspective, to offer new liberating and life-giving options for women. BIBLIOGRAPHY Budapest, S. “Self-Blessing ritual.
” In Woman Spirit Rising: A Feminist Reader in Religion, J. Plaskow & C. Christ (eds). San Francisco: Harper Collins, 1992. Fisher, M. Women in Religion. New Jersey: Pearson Longman, 2007. Narayanan, V. “Hinduism. ” In Her Voice, Her Faith, A. Sharma & K. Young (eds), pp. 11- 57. Colorado: WestView Press, 2003. Scovill, N. B. (n. d. ). “The Liberation of women in religious sources. ” Accessed May 30, 2008. Available from http://www. religiousconsultation. org/liberation. htm#Hinduism.Sample Essay of AssignmentExpert.com