. dualistic paradigms .

"Many choose to alter, modify or abandon religion, since it is difficult to advocate something which condemns our existence." - Mary Ann Sorrentino, "My Church Threw Me Out"

There is a vastness of oppression that traditional Western religions (Christianity, Judaism and Muslim) bestow upon women. I was raised in a United Methodist family, but, at an early age, realized the contradictions, the lack of a female presence, and the general air of misogyny throughout the Bible and church services. Confirmation classes were enough to confirm my belief that the Protestant religion was nothing of value to me, and would not affirm my life but scar it. Despite familial resistance--like my mother calling me a Satan worshipper merely because I no longer was a Christian—I refused to associate with Christianity at the age of 14. I was nevertheless thirsty for "soul food" and searched everywhere for an appropriate belief system where I could worship with others who felt the same. I sought out others who believed that the earth was sacred, womanhood was sacred, and the female way of knowing and experiencing was sacred. I ventured into traditional Native American beliefs, Eastern "religions", such as Jainism, Zoastroism, Buddhism, Taoism, Spiritualism, Theosophy and Wicca.

The atrocities that the Catholic religion continues to heap on its women practitioners today are obvious and ridiculous. I feel for Mary Ann Sorrentino, who was excommunicated by the Catholic Church for her job as executive director of a Planned Parenthood office. But why are all these women trying to vie for power in a structure that is so inherently male, that has so much history of oppression of all peoples, that continues to oppress? Why would they want to be remotely associated with the Catholic Church? One can answer: tradition. So, it is in their tradition that men are able to rise up in a hierarchy while women cannot, that men can take certain sacraments that women can't. That, a few hundred years ago, men sat around a table discussing whether women had souls or not!

The roots of misogyny and dualistic thought in Christianity pre-dates to the Hebrew language. Unlike the English language, there is no neuter pronoun. In other words, the English language has an "it"; the Hebrew language does not. The Hebrew language can only address things as "he" or "she" - therefore, the Hebrews could only address the concept of God as "he" or "she." There are a few texts, found in the last 50 years in the Dead Sea Scrolls (see Elaine Pagels and the new Apocrypha) wherein God was female or addressed herself as "she." But those documents were lost, burned, destroyed or hidden deep in the caverns of the Vatican. That was heretical stuff. Heretical, only, because if people had been armed with that knowledge, men would no longer be able to wield religion as a stick. Likewise, Rosemary Ruether believed "the oppression of women stemmed from the dualistic thinking - placing, for example, the soul in opposition to the body, and spirit in opposition to nature - that has come to be a central aspect of Christian thought. This dualism…resulted in a hierarchical structure wherein men are placed above nature and believe that it is their right to dominate it." May I add men in opposition to women? The unwritten rule that men are good and innocent - like Adam - and women are evil and conniving - like Eve? Binary thinking? It is little wonder so many men are computer programmers, and how Christianity upholds traditional male thinking and paradigms.

I agree with Mary Daly, the feminist writer, who, "…left Christianity behind, positing that it was beyond hope of feminist reform. Unlike feminist theologians who work to separate what they see as Christianity’s original, egalitarian message from subsequent patriarchal interpretations, Daly felt that such a task was impossible and unnecessary; to be a truly radical feminist, she asserted, one must part with Christianity altogether."

The structure and very foundation of traditional Western religions subvert the feminine and reinforce masculine ways and beliefs. What could a woman possibly gain from participation in it? It is like these Western religions are commercial farms—there is no vitality, no nutrients left in the soil, yet farmers are still trying to draw something wholesome. Throw out the whole batch and begin anew, where roots haven’t festered or grown dry and brittle, where half of the population still normalizes their own oppression.

04.2000

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