One thing I like about spring celebrations is the focus on new life. I have always liked stories where Father Sky rains down on Mother Earth, impregnating her, and causing her to give birth to new life. Such stories recognize the “female side” of nature, as well as how important she is for life, but sadly, somewhere within human development, the woman became demonized, especially within Abrahamic religions. It is about one of the few religions in modern history not to have Fertility Rituals.
One can find purification rituals recorded in most modern religious texts, but not fertility rituals and this is sad because the woman’s physiology is important for giving and sustaining life. The texts state that a menstruating woman is considered filthy, making her untouchable during her moon. Even after childbirth, a woman is unclean. When either menstruation or childbirth is finished, she must purify herself. Such statements such as these are not just in Hinduism, Shinto, and Buddhism, but also in the Torah, Bible, and Koran.
This is sad though, because most menstruating women are capable of giving birth and without it, she is less likely to conceive. It is not impossible, but it is less likely if the woman does not have menses and I think the attitudes towards women in Abrahamic religions contribute to eating disorders and other issues. However, no matter how much she is hurting, and as one of my mythology professors said, “You can’t keep a good Mother Earth down.”
Even Gaea gave birth to little monsters, just as Lilith did, and it gets quite violent. The rainfall from Uranus was symbolic of sperm, thus how everything grows, but not everything born is so great. Even Gaea had some wild children too, but that does not mean women are evil filthy creatures only meant to pop out babies or meant to be mistreated.
Somehow, along the way, men got the idea that women were not good for anything except worshipping some human created god, submissive to men, and giving birth. Unless they are purified “in the blood”, they were unclean, like other animals, and even evil/sinful. In the end, strict religious dogma and doctrine over how bad the woman is and the need to be dominated by the man, has lead to some serve abuses of women and young girls. From the very start, strict religious views lead to severe abuse and dehumanization of women.
In strict religious sects, women are not allowed to control their own bodies, much less decide if they will or will not conceive a child, or even decide if they are going to carry an unexpected pregnancy to term. As Kirby mentions in her article Religion Lies About Women:
And perish the thought that these religions – in their alleged equal valuing of women – should permit them actually to control their own bodies! Women exist for the purposes of reproduction! So let them reproduce! Let them reproduce, whether they wish it or not. Woe unto the woman who dares to engage in sex without being willing to conceive as a result! Woe unto the woman who uses contraception to control her fertility and manage the size of her family! And a hundred times woe unto the woman who actually dares to terminate a pregnancy she does not want! The question of abortion illustrates perfectly the role of women so far as the church is concerned. A woman’s reproductive organs are not her own, and she may not be permitted to decide what happens to them.
Why is it women are not allowed to control their own bodies? Why is it a man has to control their bodies even when the Bible says nothing about life starting at conception?
The Torah/Bible states that life begins at first breath (Genesis 2:7). God made man from dust and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life. The Hebrew word for this is nephesh, which means the human and other animals do not even have a soul before this. They were lifeless. Spong explained this word in his book “Why Christianity Must Change or Die”, as being “the very breath of God”, “the very source of all life” (p 105). This does not happen until after the child is born and takes their first breath, receiving, as the myth stated, “the breath of life”. One is not a living creature until after they are born, even by Biblical standards. Regardless, Christians and some Muslims want to be fruitful and populate the earth, insisting that the texts are against abortion, but there is no statement about such things.
Yes, Lilith’s punishment for refusing the missionary was to have thousands of her children die by God’s hand every day. Eve’s punishment was to bare children in pain, while he husband ruled over her (Genesis 3:16). If that is the only purpose for women, the human race will surely parish. I guess the way around that is to force her to call her husband “Lord and master”, while submitting to his will, as though he were a god.
Like the Christian in the video below, I have yet to find a statement in the Bible, where men are allowed to beat their wives for not submitting to their every will, even though some Christians do. However, the Koran does tell men they can whip their wives, as though they are slaves, for disobeying:
4:34 Men are in charge of women, because Allah hath made the one of them to excel the other, and because they spend of their property (for the support of women). So good women are the obedient, guarding in secret that which Allah hath guarded. As for those from whom ye fear rebellion, admonish them and banish them to beds apart, and scourge them. Then if they obey you, seek not a way against them. Lo! Allah is ever High, Exalted, Great.
To be fair, not all who are religious ascribe to such verses in the same manner. The speaker in the video is a Christian, but he points out the abuse that happens in some Christian homes, all because they believe God said to in the Bible. This man appears deeply disturbed and upset by the views of Evangelicals, especially those who have used some or many of the verses I have used in this series of articles. He is deeply pained by how some religious men twist verses to justify abusing and dominating women. Even if you do not believe, what he says is touching and focuses mostly on Ephesians 5:22, which I have already compared to slavery and greatly contribute to abuse.
In fact, Jocelyn Anderson, a survivor of Christian Domestic Abuse and author of Woman Submit! Christians and Domestic Violence, devoted a page of her website to his video and stated:
The false doctrine of female subordination to male authority lies at the very root of domestic abuse and domestic violence among professing Christians. The premise is despotic and abusive in and of itself. Domestic Violence among Christians will never be eradicated until gender equality for Christian women is acknowledged and practically implemented.
In my opinion, such things even apply to when a woman wishes to conceive children. To force her to have child after child, despite health risks, is a form of abuse. Barry Lynn, of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, remarked in his article titled Religion responsible for curse of gender discrimination,
In America, without the religious right, there would be no serious effort to prevent use of abortion and even contraception. With those activists, choice turns into a bargaining chip for bullies and the cowards they often negotiate with.
There is nothing glorifying the woman in any of this and when she does have a child or her monthly, she must purify herself afterward in some religious sects. Such teachings are not just found in the Koran, Bible, and Torah, but also in American Indian and Eastern Practices.
Herb Silverman, of the Secular Coalition for America, even points out some of these religious texts in the Abrahamic traditions concerning women and their cleanliness after their “moon”, as some American Indians call it:
According to the Jewish tradition, a woman is unclean for one week after giving birth to a male and two weeks after giving birth to a female (Leviticus 12). A male is unclean for a day if he touches any menstruating woman.
In the Christian tradition, women were made for the sake of man (1 Corinthians 11:9). Furthermore, they should keep silent and have no authority over man (1 Timothy 2:12)), and the head of every woman is a man (1 Corinthians 11:3).Passages in the Koran say or imply that women must obey men, that a man can beat a woman if she causes him trouble, and that women must be covered in public and never go out alone.
Many religious traditions justify such practices because women are physically different from men. Claims that women are “separate but equal” invariably lead more to separation than equality—whether in race, sex, or religion.
Nothing glorifies the woman in Abrahamic texts and Hindu texts are not necessarily better, except, Aseem Shukla, of the Hindu American Foundation, blames society. He recalls visiting his favourite cousin in India, after a few years of not seeing her. They were both thrilled to see each other, but when he tried to hug her, she refused his hug, stating that she was on her monthly and therefore unclean. In her mind, if he hugged her, he too would be unclean. This shocked him and he could not believe his cousin actually believed that.
In India, when a Hindu woman is menstruating, in many traditional households, she is considered to be unclean or impure. She is not allowed to enter the kitchen, the temple or any prayer room, and is often not allowed to shower and is secluded to one room to minimize interaction with others. It is only at the end of her cycle when she has completed her ritusnana, or bath, is she considered “cleansed.” It saddens me to think that in a predominantly Hindu society, where on one hand, women are exalted through the reverence of goddesses, on the other, they are ostracized simply due to their gender.
Despite what is written in the Srutis, parts of India still struggle with upholding this virtuous sense of gender equality. And while some verses in the Smriti scriptures – not divine, but “remembered” wisdom passed down from generation to generation – exalt women as the moral pillar of the home, other portions are a bit contradictory and unfortunately do reflect the existing patriarchal society.
During the Vedic times, it was common for both men and women to wear the sacred thread that symbolized their priestly title. But over time, this sacred thread became the rightful property of man alone as the idea of a woman in menses conducting pujas or ceremonies tainted the purity of holy rituals. The logic behind this was quite legitimate as it had to do with cleanliness and sanitation issues; however, with the technology and tools we have today, it should no longer be a concern nor is there place for such reasoning.
Shukla is right or at least partly right. Modern technology, tools, and even modern medicine does change things, especially in concerns of cleanliness. The other thing is, as I stated before, if a woman did not have her monthly cycle, there would be no children. At the same time, woman can stop their monthly cycle, now days, with some forms of birth control and in cases of illness; it can stop on its own or puberty start later than the average.
However, just because the cycle stops or starts later than the average, does not mean the woman is necessarily infertile. Ovulation generally comes before one has her period, so there is that window of being able to conceive before she even knows she can. The reverse is appears true when a woman is nearing menopause, in which she does not know if she finished her childbearing years. Therefore, a young girl with anorexia might not start until she is fifteen or sixteen, especially if she is treated for the disorder, but that does not mean it is impossible for her to conceive. A woman near menopause can have a menopause baby. Thus, if she appears not to have a “lunar cycle”, it is not 100% that she will not conceive, but it is less likely.
Forced pregnancy and distain for the woman’s body is not the only form of abuse found in some religious teachings. Sadly, there are some places where the Old Testament condones having sex with young women and girls. This is mainly in cases of war, but Numbers 31:17-18, states:
17 Now therefore, kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman who has known a man immediately.
18 But keep alive for yourselves all the young girls who have not known a man intimately.
This is supposed to be a tribal cultural thing, but incest and child molestation still occur in Christian homes. They do not use this verse or others like it to condone such acts, but they do seem to condone incest when they force the young girl to have her father’s child, instead of having an abortion. They do not care if she dies in the process due physical immaturity or health issues. They also do not care if she gives birth to a deformed “monster” that does not look human and may die moments or days after birth due to some genetic defect caused by inbreeding.
At the same time, in Deuteronomy 22:28-30, it states that a man who rapes a virgin, must marry her, if caught, as well as pay her father fifty shekels of silver. The girl is forced marry and stay with her rapist for life. Now days, especially in Evangelical Fundamentalist groups, the girl is forced to give birth to her rapist’s child, if it so happens that a pregnancy occurs from the rape. Who is being punished in all of this? The man is not that is for sure.
Now imagine how confused a young girl, sexually molested by her father, is by all of this, especially when taught that the Bible is the literal and inerrant word of God. What is she to do, especially when forced to stay silent and does not have any authority as a woman or a child (1 Tim 2:11-15, 1 Cor 14:34). The mental torture of the Bible concerning both women and children can be overwhelming, especially when taken literally and as the inerrant word of God. Given what she might have learned about the Bible by that age, she might feel her status is nothing more than that of a concubine.
After such abuse, that is physical, mental, emotional, and sexual, she is neither a woman nor a child, yet Evangelical Fundamentalist teachings add to the mental abuse. Her childhood, even if she does not conceive, is stolen from her forever. She will never retrieve it, especially when the adults, who are suppose to protect her, turn the other cheek and call it all “God’s will”. What remains of her dignity after those two statuses are taken from her and no one, not even those in the Church, comes to her aide? The girl, with the status of concubine, is more dominated than that of women and children, with even less control over her body. This is what girls learn about the Bible in strict religious settings and if no one helps the young girl being abused, what is left for her to think when taught the Bible is the literal inerrant word of God? Any status she did have, was taken the moment incest occurred, especially if it continued more than once. She has nothing, which is a recipe for an eating disorder and seeing herself within the literal text of a book written by man, loaded with primal tribal thinking.
God forbid she conceives her father’s child, because the Evangelicals will force her to carry that child, even at the risk of her own life, piling on more abuse, instead of getting her out of the situation. Some girls do get lucky, especially if they develop an eating disorder before they begin to mature, but the abuse from both the Church and the father are still present. The girl is stuck between several confusing teachings of the Bible, along with everything the adults of the Church insist she do. Honour/obey thy father and mother is only the beginning of the teachings for children. Christian adults often quote Ephesians 6:1-3, but often forget the verse that follows and then call it a sin when the child does show anger. Maybe the eating disorder is a blessing in disguise, especially if it gets her the help she longs for, if death, which she may also long for, does not come first.
Islam is not much better when it comes to girls. They can face similar horrors, all because of what a literal view of the Koran states and no one will help them either nor will anyone listen.
Our former president Jimmy Carter had this to say recently:
“The discrimination against women on a global basis is very often attributable to the declaration by religious leaders in Christianity, Islam and other religions that women are inferior in the eyes of God.
Even Kathryn Joyce stated in her blog on Alternet, in February 2009 about Biblical Battered Wife Syndrome,
Escaping an abusive marriage is no easy task for many evangelical women, many of whom have pastors that say physical abuse is no reason for divorce.
Joyce continued and quoted Jocelyn Andersen, who asked, “How many beatings would have to take place in order to qualify as regularly?” Andersen gave an indictment concerning church teachings of wifely submission and male headship, which convince women that leaving their husbands is not an option; the teachings have laid the ground for a domestic violence epidemic within the church. Joyce also stated further down that Barbara Roberts said that Biblical believing women need Biblical bases to leave their abusive husbands.
I can give them one as a former lay minister, turned apostate, and no longer a Believer. 1 Corinthians 6:19 says, “Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?” Yes, it is referring to sexual immorality and we are talking about marriage. If your husband is suppose to you love you, as Christ loved the Church (Ephesians 5:25), “because no one ever hated their own flesh” (5:29) and your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, yet your husband is abusing you, then what is wrong with that picture? Is that truly sexual morality? Is your God so unloving that His spirit, which is suppose to reside in you, is perpetually crucified in you that you bare the same marks as “Paul”, otherwise known as Stigmata (Galatians 6:17)? If so, then why the hell did your Christ have to be brutally crucified, especially if he really did love the world (John 3:16)? Are you literally supposed to be the living embodiment of Christ crucified? Whatever happened to that lovely chapter in 1 Corinthians 13? Think about it.
I say whatever we believe or not, it is time to stop the violence towards women. If one wants to be Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu, atheist, or Humanist, that is fine, but we cannot use archaic tribal texts or anything else to abuse others of any sex of any species. Instead, I think we should uplift each other as human beings.
Whether it takes going back to seeing the earth as our mother, celebrating life, cherishing the living, or anything that dignifies the woman and treats her as a human being, something needs to change. However, it seems to me women were in a much better position when there was a Matriarchal system. Whatever happened to that, I do not know. It seemed to disappear when the men took over and created a Patriarch. The whole woman should be glorified in her own right, as well as able to be the goddess of her own body, giving life when she chooses, and treated with human dignity.
The answer may or may not be in the final part of this series, but hopefully it shows that people of all walks of life wish to end the Patriarch.