Using material from item A and elsewhere, assess the relationship between gender and religion (33marks) Many feminists view religion as a patriarchal institution that reflects and perpetuates this inequality. There is much evidence of this female subordination in religion; They are male dominated and in Orthodox Catholicism and Judaism women are forbidden to become priests. Also Christianity teaches that men made in ‘the image and glory of God’ and women made ‘for the glory of man. This is supported by the Old Testament which states ‘...for the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church.’ There are many female characters in the biblical texts and some are portrayed as acting charitably or bravely, however the
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Gross detects signs of a post-patriarchal Buddhism developing in the West, which does not differentiate roles for male and female members. Paganism, from which many New Age religions emanate, remains the most female-friendly approach to religion with a strong feminist element tin contemporary neo-paganism, where God is a mixture of male and female, and strong female leadership is common. Badawi has noted that aspects of Islam are positive for women such as having the option to keep their own family name when they marry.
Karen Armstrong argues that early religions often placed women at the centre of religion. For example, earth mother goddesses, fertility cults and female priesthoods were found throughout the Middle East until about 6,000 years ago. Although from about 4,000 years ago, the rise of monotheistic religions saw the establishment of a single, all powerful male God. Also El Saadawi argues that that religion is not the direct cause of women’s subordination. Rather it is the result of patriarchal forms of society coming into existence in the last few thousand years. However, once in existence, patriarchy began to influence and re-shape religion.
Feminist Linda Woodhead also criticises feminist explanations that simply equate religion with patriarchy and oppression. She argues that there are religious forms of feminism, where women use religion to gain greater freedom and respect. Woodhead argues that the hijab