Religious discrimination against women

© G.M. Woerlee

 

Religious discrimination against women is alive and thriving! The texts of the Torah, Bible and Quran preach discrimination against women, degradation and subjugation of women, and even violence against women! In other words, the texts of these "holy books" systematically ensure a second-class status for one half of the world population - women! And all these things are forced upon us by a "loving God", and preached by the prophets of this very same "loving God".

Many people might say that religiously sanctified subjugation of women, discrimination against women, and violence against women are things of the past. They are wrong! These things are alive and well today, and are becoming ever more common with the current increasing worldwide tendency towards religious fundamentalism based upon literal interpretations of the Bible and the Quran. So let us examine how the texts of these loathsome books, and the evil religions derived from them, give rise to institutionalized and sanctified discrimination against women (this article is a supplement to the extensive chapter on "Holy Misogyny" in The Unholy Legacy of Abraham).

Jews, Christians, and Muslims all berate women for causing humanity to be driven out of paradise. As a result of the original sin of the first woman, people lost the gift of immortality, had to work hard to find food, and were no longer blessed with the ability to interact directly with God (Torah and Bible, Genesis, chapter 3). The fault of this first and original sin rests heavily upon the shoulders of womankind, justifying all manner of religion-justified nastiness directed against them. Indeed, many passages in the Torah and the Bible teach us that women are not only inferior, but also must obey men, because God tells us that men are their masters.

Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee. (Bible, Genesis 3:16)

And if anyone thinks this ruling was abrogated by Jesus or his disciples, then think again. For we read that the holy Saint Paul himself said:

Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything. (Bible, Ephesians 5:22-24)

And not to forget what Saint Peter also said about the necessity for women to submit to thier husbands:

Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives. Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight. For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful. They were submissive to their own husbands, like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her master. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear. (Bible, 1 Peter 3:1-6)

This passage has profound consequences when interpreted very literally. For example, this passage could be interpreted to mean that if you are a woman married to a psychopathic, violent husband, you must submit to him, obey his every whim, allow him to abuse and beat you regularly, at the same time as you try to change his ways by means of the example of your long-suffering obedience, purity, and piety. Your reward for all this will be eternal life in heaven - shame about your life on earth. However it's probably all part of God's inscrutable, and undoubtedly wonderful plan for women. This brings us to another fascinating example of wondrous discrimination against women in the Bible - the stoning of girls who are not virgins on their wedding night …

The girl's father will say to the elders, "I gave my daughter in marriage to this man, but he dislikes her. Now he has slandered her and said, 'I did not find your daughter to be a virgin.' But here is the proof of my daughter's virginity." Then her parents shall display the cloth before the elders of the town, and the elders shall take the man and punish him. They shall fine him a hundred shekels of silver [a] and give them to the girl's father, because this man has given an Israelite virgin a bad name. She shall continue to be his wife; he must not divorce her as long as he lives. If, however, the charge is true and no proof of the girl's virginity can be found, she shall be brought to the door of her father's house and there the men of her town shall stone her to death. She has done a disgraceful thing in Israel by being promiscuous while still in her father's house. You must purge the evil from among you. (Bible, Deuteronomy 22:16-21)

Oh…? And what about men who are not virgins on their wedding night? Why are only women stoned for not being virgins on their wedding night, and not men? Nowhere in the Bible does God talk of punishing men for not being virgins on their wedding night - God only tells us in these books that women must be punished. This is but one extreme example of the many, many instances of discrimination against women in the Bible.

And so it is that while women are considered as friendly little creatures, useful to have about the house for fun, sex, childbearing, cooking, and cleaning - they are also loathsome little creatures who try dragging men, (who are by implication holy and pure by nature), into the filthy pit of hell with them.

Many are the victims she has brought down; her slain are a mighty throng. Her house is a highway to the grave, leading down to the chambers of death. (Bible, Proverbs 7:26-27)

Women are considered by this verse as sinful, and many other verses in the Bible also tell us that women are also unclean, such as this example:

Man that is born of a woman is of few days and full of trouble. He cometh forth like a flower, and is cut down: he fleeth also as a shadow, and continueth not. And doth thou open thine eyes upon such an one, and bringest me into judgment with thee? Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? not one. (Bible, Job 14:1-4)

In other words, humans are doomed to die because they are born out of unclean women! Original sin, inherent sinfulness, and uncleanliness are all used as justification for the atrocities perpetrated upon women throughout history. All manner of Christian sects during the last 2000 years have found all manner of Bible verses justifying discrimination against women, violence against women, and even religiously sanctioned rape of captive women.

In the book of Deuteronomy in the enlightened Christian Bible, as well as in the old Jewish Torah, God gave Moses clear instructions as to when the followers of Judaism and Christianity could rape captive women after slaughtering their families …

When thou goest forth to war against thine enemies, and the LORD thy God hath delivered them into thine hands, and thou hast taken them captive, And seest among the captives a beautiful woman, and hast a desire unto her, that thou wouldest have her to thy wife; Then thou shalt bring her home to thine house, and she shall shave her head, and pare her nails; And she shall put the raiment of her captivity from off her, and shall remain in thine house, and bewail her father and her mother a full month: and after that thou shalt go in unto her, and be her husband, and she shall be thy wife. And it shall be, if thou have no delight in her, then thou shalt let her go whither she will; but thou shalt not sell her at all for money, thou shalt not make merchandise of her, because thou hast humbled her. (Bible, Deuteronomy 21:10-14)

As if this were not enough, the God of the Jews and the Christians also sanctions killing infants and ripping open pregnant women during wars.

Samaria shall bear her guilt; for she hath rebelled against her God: they shall fall by the sword; their infants shall be dashed in pieces, and their women with child shall be ripped up. (Bible, Hosea 13:16)

Horrible, horrible. And to think that these are the wishes of a "loving" and "merciful" God, meant to be applied to people who happen to be unbelievers! Men and children are just killed, but God has an even worse fate in store for pregnant women! Why does this "loving" God hate pregnant women so much, that He wants them ripped open? Religions with such instructions are truly evil religions! Islam is no better. Even though many followers of Islam vehemently deny it exists, religious discrimination against women in Islam is embedded in the very structure of Islam, and is even plainly stated in various verses in the Quran. For example, the Quran tells the blessed followers of Islam that women are inferior to men, and require punishment for even suspected disobedience ...

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. (Quran 4:34)

This verse in the Quran has done more than any other to justify discrimination against women in Islam, to justify their inferior position, as well as actually encouraging violence against women. Many followers of Islam say that such verses should not be interpreted literally. Personally I find this a very strange attitude. After all, many followers of Islam state that the Quran is a perfectly exact and literal transcription of the revelations of God to his last and best prophet Mohammed. So if these are the exact instructions of God, then they should be obeyed by the good followers of Islam. Accordingly, discrimination against women in Islam is ordained by God, and to deviate from divine laws requiring disobedient women to be beaten is to commit heresy. Mohammed himself knew as no other how to treat women in the way God ordained. He was a compassionate man who told his followers to treat their women "kindly".

Narrated Abdullah bin Zam'a: The Prophet said, "None of you should flog his wife as he flogs a slave and then have sexual intercourse with her in the last part of the day." (Sunnah of Bukhari 62:132)

Very practical advice, as I imagine the women concerned would not really be in the mood after a "jolly good flogging"! Furthermore, this passage provides more evidence of the truly divine inspiration of the last and best prophet of God! I am sure many generations of women have wept tears of joy and gratitude for this, among all the other clear proofs of "God's love" and "care" for women …

 

Hell is full of women

As if all this were not enough, both Christianity and Islam seem to exclude women from heaven. Just look at this passage in the book of Revelations in the New Testament of the Bible.

Then I looked, and there before me was the Lamb, standing on Mount Zion, and with him 144,000 who had his name and his Father's name written on their foreheads. And I heard a sound from heaven like the roar of rushing waters and like a loud peal of thunder. The sound I heard was like that of harpists playing their harps. And they sang a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and the elders. No one could learn the song except the 144,000 who had been redeemed from the earth. These are those who did not defile themselves with women, for they kept themselves pure. They follow the Lamb wherever he goes. They were purchased from among men and offered as firstfruits to God and the Lamb. No lie was found in their mouths; they are blameless. (Bible, Revelation 14:1-5)

So women are impure little creatures, who aside from defiling pure and holy men, by implication do not get to go to heaven. This was the opinion of the Christian saints. And this opinion was reinforced by Mohammed 600 years later.

Sunnah of Bukhari Volume 1, Book 2, Number 28), Narrated Ibn 'Abbas:
The Prophet said: "I was shown the Hell-fire and that the majority of its dwellers were women who were ungrateful." It was asked, "Do they disbelieve in Allah?" (or are they ungrateful to Allah?) He replied, "They are ungrateful to their husbands and are ungrateful for the favors and the good (charitable deeds) done to them. If you have always been good (benevolent) to one of them and then she sees something in you (not of her liking), she will say, "I have never received any good from you."

Here we have a bit more clarification. In the eyes of the prophets writing in these "holy books", women are ungrateful and impure creatures. No wonder that they deserve to go to hell, where they may be suitably and horribly tormented for all eternity after a life of discrimination by, and subjugation to religious men. This attitude is the baggage born by all Abrahamic religions. It was once summed up nicely in a chapter called "The Gospel of Humiliation" (page 69, chapter 18, in the book "Common Sense About Women", by Thomas Higginson in 1894).

"The silliest man who ever lived," wrote Fanny Fern once, "has always known enough, when he says his prayers, to thank God he was not born a woman." President _______ of ____ College is not a silly man at all, and he is devoting his life to the education of women; yet he seems to feel as vividly conscious of his superior position as even Fanny Fern could wish. If he had been born a Jew, he would have thanked God, in the appointed ritual, for not having made him a woman. If he had been a Mohammedan, he would have accepted the rule which forbids " a fool, a madman, or a woman " to summon the faithful to prayer. Being a Christian clergyman, with several hundred immortal souls, clothed in female bodies, under his charge, he thinks it his duty, at proper intervals, to notify his young ladies, that, though they may share with men the glory of being sophomores, they still are in a position, as regards the other sex, of hopeless subordination.

I do believe that no more need be said on the matter of religious discrimination against women. Those wishing to read the even darker side of this discrimation should read the chapter called "Holy Misogyny" in The Unholy Legacy of Abraham. The philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche once nicely summed up many nineteenth century men's attitude to women in a pithy few sentences.

"Give me, woman, thy little truth!" said I. And thus spake the old woman: "Thou goest to women? Do not forget thy whip!" -
(chapter XVIII, Old and Young Women, in "Thus Spake Zarathustra")

 

Modern examples of religious violence against women

Does such benighted religious discrimination against women still exist? Indeed it does. Religiously sanctioned discrimination against women, and violence against women are still alive and thriving! Here are few examples.

The Bible tells us that women are forbidden to wear men's clothing (Bible, Deuteronomy 22:5). We read in the South African newspapers in the year 2007 CE, that women who dare to wear pants in some parts of Durban are stripped to their underwear or naked, beaten, and their houses burnt. All this for just daring to wear pants (read the newspaper report of this incident).

During 2007 CE in Pakistan a fanatical fundamentalist gunman killed a female politician for violating the Islamic dress code (read the newspaper report of this incident).

During 2002 CE a fire broke out in a large girl's school in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. The Religious police prevented girls who were improperly dressed, (according to the Islamic dress code), from leaving the burning school. The result was that 14 girls burned to death because they were improperly dressed according to the religious police, who actively prevented the fire brigade and police from helping these unfortunate girls. Shame! Unspeakable! Such monsters are no more than unspeakable instruments of a truly evil religion (read the true report of this "incident").

During July 2010, an Iranian widow, Mrs Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, was found guilty of adultery while her husband was still alive, and sentenced to death by stoning. She had previously been flogged with 99 lashes for "illicit" sex with two other men after death of her husband (read the sad story here). Why were the men not flogged as well as her? After all, they were also just as guilty of "illicit" sex. Secondly, as regards the sentence of stoning - why was the man who committed adultery with her also not sentenced to death or imprisonment? He was just as guilty of committing adultery. These sentencing practices have nothing whatsoever to do with justice as meted out by the Quran, the fundamental holy book of all followers of Islam, and the fundament of Islamic relgious law. The Quran contains only two passages dealing with the punishment of fornication and adultery.
The woman and the man guilty of adultery or fornication,- flog each of them with a hundred stripes: Let not compassion move you in their case, in a matter prescribed by Allah, if ye believe in Allah and the Last Day: and let a party of the Believers witness their punishment. (Quran 24:2)
If any of your women are guilty of lewdness, Take the evidence of four (Reliable) witnesses from amongst you against them; and if they testify, confine them to houses until death do claim them, or Allah ordain for them some (other) way. (Quran 4:15)
The punishment for adultery in Surah 4:15 is very vague, and opens the possibility for other punishments ordained by Allah. This passage means that stoning and other punishments ordained by Allah through his prophet Mohammed could be applied. Moreover this punishment would only be inflicted upon the woman. Is this the justification for only flogging and stoning the woman and not the man? But the Surahs in the Quran were not revealed in the order they appear in the Quran. Surahs in the Quran are generally placed in the order of the longest first and the shortest last, regardless of when they were revealed. Now Surah 24 was revealed to Mohammed at a later date than Surah 4 (see tables of the order of revelation of the Surahs here, and here), and the punishment of 100 stripes is very specific and clear. Moreover, due to the wonder of the principle of "abrogation" in the Quran, revelations in later Surahs negate, or abrogate those in earler Surahs. So because Surah 24 was revealed to Mohammed at a later date than Surah 4, the statements regarding punishments for adultery and "illicit" sex negate those in the earlier Surah 4 (read about the principle of "abrogation" in the Quran here). There, according to the Quran, the two men with whom she had "illicit" sex, as well as the man with whom she committed adultery, should have been flogged along with this woman for these "crimes". But only the woman was flogged, and not the two men with whom she had "illicit" sex, nor the man with whom she committed adultery. Strange and curious. Why was the man not sentenced to be stoned along with the woman? He was just as guilty as she. But only Mrs Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani was imprisoned, flogged, and sentenced to be stoned to death. This is predjudical misogynous justice going against all principles of the Quran! Does this mean the Quran is not the prime source of knowledge and basis for Iranian religious justice? In any case, this is yet another manifestation of discrimination against women.

I could go on and on. The list of examples of how religion profoundly influences our lives, and encourages discrimination against women is unending... And to think, such thought systems deprives the world of half its intellectual talent, as well as condemning half the world to a position of genetically determined inferiority.... Truly depressing.

 


This page last modified 10 May 2008


 

 

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