Too many preach misogyny and teach victimhood. Tolerance for religious toxicity ENDS NOW.
A sexually twisted white Atlanta churchgoer murdered Asian employees at spas targeted repeatedly by police for prostitution stings. The accused, claiming to have a sex addiction, frequented two of the places before his deadly attack. Racism may well have played a role, but largely overlooked is the Christian evangelical obsession with unauthorized sexual pleasure. It’s about the worst sin anyone can commit, and the one evangelicals struggle with the most.
The shooter was a Baptist, a notoriously misogynist and sexually repressed religious ‘brand’, and himself a member of a particular church so lacking in Christian compassion they’ve expelled him. Because nothing says ‘Christian’ like hating the sinner, right?
Which bothers them more? That he killed alleged prostitutes, or that he may have fornicated with some of them?
Women: Can’t live with ’em, but you can kill ‘em.
Especially if you can’t keep your dick out of them. After all, it’s our fault for tempting them with our faces and bodies. Men have been passing the buck to women since Adam blamed Eve.
Why do we tolerate these toxic human constructs? If we condemn what incels and men’s-righters spew in their frustrated forums, why do we fall silent and look the other way when some guy in a collar or a funny cap spews similar dehumanizing nonsense against women?
It’s not just certain Christian faiths. Many other religions could do with less tolerance from us unwashed, heathen, apostate and feminist masses.
Especially from us Jezebels, Rahabs, Liliths and Magdalenes.
If we’re serious about wanting to end patriarchy’s female abuse and victimization, we’ve got to woman up and call out the source: Patriarchy’s religions. And now we name names.
Growing up spiritual…and rational
I’ve written much about women’s empowerment, encouraging us to claim our power, take it back, not give it away in the first place. I encourage women to be more, stand up more, speak out more, no matter what they say about or to us. It’s hard; I know. Me too. I took an online assertiveness class last fall even though I’m no shrinking violet. I give away my power too, for a multiplicity of reasons.
Fortunately, I can’t blame childhood toxic religious indoctrination.
I might have suffered the horror of a repressed, misogynist Catholic upbringing but my future Pépé left the Church in nineteenth-century France after witnessing ‘things’ as an altarboy. You can guess.
Dad and his siblings grew up non-religious. When he married my mother, they agreed she could raise the children Lutheran but not to look down on or judge Dad for not going to church.
So, my mainstream religious upbringing was boring, in fine staid German Lutheran tradition, but it didn’t teach me to ‘know my proper place’ and prime me for abuse.
After the last four years of Trumpy hell and his fake Christian supporters, it’s time to cap tolerance for toxic faith-based constructs. Everyone has a right to their beliefs, but we needn’t tolerate those which denigrate and degrade our tribe and others’. The problem with bad ideas is they spread and mutate, like a killer virus.
Creative Commons 2.0 image by Mark Dixon on Wikimedia Commons
Politics and religion: Where anti-intellectualism meets and metastasizes
Unchallenged religious anti-intellectualism has allowed secular agenda-oriented groups to adopt, consciously or not, the Christian evangelical framework. QAnon’s complex crazy-sounding Satanism and pedophilia conspiracy theories borrow older evangelical hysterics about alleged networks of child-abusing Satanists in late 20th-century America.
The mental framework remains the same: Apocalyptic thinking, for predicting the ‘end times’ seeded by ‘drops’ (‘Q’s’ anonymous posts) for the faithful with clues. Secular believers can ‘connect the dots’ the way evangelicals have long combed the Bible looking for prophecies connected to current events. ‘Q’ is presumed to be closer to The Truth, like a religious leader, and followers must put their faith in him (it must be a him).
The human mind finds patterns anywhere, from clouds and sacred grilled cheese sandwiches to pizza pedophiles. Anti-intellectual religion trains human brains to ignore facts and the evidence, or lack thereof, of their own lying eyes. How hard is it, then, to train these primed gullibles to believe increasingly outrageous, unverifiable ‘data’?
Similarities to the Christian evangelical model have been observed by others in the current antiracism movement. Black intellectual John McWhorter finds a religious element in some corners of ‘Third Wave’ civil rights. It includes ‘original sin’ (white skin = white supremacy), a hazy futuristic ‘Judgment Day’ (‘Coming to terms about race’), ‘witch hunts’ against ‘heretics’, and excommunication thereof (‘Cancel culture’), including the medieval vicious mob and no court of appeal nor any forgiveness for sincere repentance. Not to mention religion’s most cherished requirement: Suspension of disbelief. Or as the Queen of Hearts said to Alice, “Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”
McWhorter lists ten impossible, or at least highly contradictory things one is required to believe in some quarters of antiracism. Not unlike a certain highly contradictory holy book.
One finds almost exactly McWhorter’s same list in critical gender theory feminism, beginning with penile ‘original sin’.
The bad ideas in traditionalist religions spawned a new bad idea — QAnon — and infected two good ideas — antiracism and feminism. Now some activists sound every bit as bigoted as the racial and gender bigots they claim to fight. Not exactly conducive to encouraging allyship.
Is it any surprise, then, that Americans of all faiths, secular or not, find it increasingly difficult to differentiate between fantasy and reality, especially when the fantasy serves their own interests?
Gender and politics
Religion’s greatest crime against women has been to lay down the foundations of ‘patriarchy’ by enshrining men’s rights, wants, and needs as primary, with women to serve as the implementers based on their lordly commands — a useful mentality extended to other slaves too. The Agricultural Revolution birthed income inequality, social hierarchy and slavery, but religion ensured its unquestioned acceptance and dominance because ‘God(s) decreed it, we believe it, and heretics will be dealt with accordingly and painfully lest they cause the slaves to question their leaders too much. Especially our wives.’
How and why women came to be so dominated by men is a matter of debate but our brains are primed for it and we may never resolve the question, Were we this submissive 12,000 years ago or did we de/evolve that way because of the new hierarchies?
Here we are, twelve centuries later, raised in spiritual and religious belief systems still designed by men, for men, to suit men.
Unquestioned religious constructs and an overcompensating modern desire to honor freedom of belief after a history of horrible cruelties inflicted on those who didn’t share official opinion preserves a dangerous ability to conflate and mistake belief for reality.
We need to demand more adherence to reality than religious constructs in our political candidates.
Sixty years ago it was considered ‘anti-Catholic’ to question whether presidential candidate John F. Kennedy’s primary loyalty would be to his country or his Pope. I want to know a wannabe’s religion, if any. Is s/he a member of a progressive, liberal-minded faith (a ‘heretic’ even) or do they adhere to a more traditionalist brand?
Does the Christian or Jewish candidate still hew to archaic Biblical beliefs about a woman’s place ‘in the home’? How seriously do they take rape, domestic violence and sexual assault, and, given the level of rabid anti-intellectualism among ‘Christian’ Republicans, do they actually understand female physiology, and do they agree she has agency over whatever that thing is she’s living in?
Does the Muslim candidate respect women’s equality, both within their family and without? Some women from ‘progressive’ Muslim families claim women’s equality often stops at their front door. Muslim candidates get extra scrutiny from me because of the religion’s traditional hostility to women’s rights, however uncharacteristically female-positive The Prophet was (and he was) for his time.
What does the Mormon candidate think about women’s rights? About child marriage? Is s/he willing to go after their fundamentalist brethren in their cult-y compounds and rescue illegal brides from child rapists?
Speaking of child rapists, the Pope and the Catholic Church’s influence have waned mightily, but I demand to know: Does the Catholic candidate support a woman’s right to choose abortion? Are they against domestic violence, and are they willing to support stronger laws against abusers? How much are they willing to fight child abuse, particularly their own you-know-whos?
And what do any of them think about gay rights? Homophobia, juiced by ancient holy texts from old men living in deserts, is closely linked to misogyny. Ergo, a homophobic candidate will likely fear women and equality.
Leash your dogma
It’s no wonder the world is drowning in secular conspiracy theories and fantasy-based belief systems, considering their enshrined, sacred roots in traditional religions.
Who are we to preach science to a QAnon cultist that flu vaccines don’t increase your risk of getting COVID-19, if we believe a religious founder made water flow from his hands or another turned water into wine? How can we argue there’s no ‘plandemic’ when we believe a dying child is somehow ‘God’s plan’?
The ‘plandemic’ virologist has been thoroughly discredited by responsible adults, but too many, and especially many Americans, lack critical thinking skills and don’t understand the importance of checking one’s sources, comparing them for factualism and bias.
The age-old problem for women is unquestioned, unchallenged male-created religious belief systems, attributed to deities no one can see but others are entirely certain are there, teaching women to be and remain submissive to authority and to keep their pretty little mouths shut when that (male) authority abuses their body or mind.
Legion are the tales of women escaping abusive religious systems, who then speak out about what happened and why. We need to critically and publicly dissect the toxic fact-free religious beliefs training them — and us — to be patriarchal tools from birth.
It’s time to put toxic masculinist religion back in its place. Religion belongs at home and in their holy places, and it needs to respect human rights. Enforced if required.
Questions for challenging religious women today
Does your religious organization allow female leaders? Are there female elders?
How supportive are your members for women escaping domestic abuse? Do they blame the woman rather than the childishly impulsive man? Are victims told to go back and tolerate it for some damn reason? God says no divorce, this is God’s test for you, you need to submit to your husband and be a better wife and mother?
What’s your response for the male abuser in your religious body? Does anyone have a hard discussion or several about the importance of applying the Golden Rule to one’s partner? What if the accused is your clergyman?
Does your religion insist on sexual purity for women but wink and look the other way for men? Do they fetishize female virginity? Was your husband a virgin when he married you?
Does your religion mandate the mutilation of female genitals to prevent future enjoyment of sex and/or to keep a girl ‘pure’ until her wedding day?
Is your religious tribe unnaturally preoccupied with women’s bodies and dictate what she must wear with special micromanagement for a woman’s most ‘problematic’ body parts?
Are women’s presence or behavior curtailed because it might give men unholy thoughts or ‘ideas’? Is there a tacit ‘understanding’ men are little boys who can’t control their thoughts and actions?
Have they sanctified old men’s lust for teenage or pre-teenage brides?
Do they have ugly words for women who act sexually like men?
Women must stop tolerating toxic, patriarchal masculinity masquerading as some god’s word. Even Buddhism is less misogyny-free than advertised. If the women within can’t or won’t do anything to stop it, it’s our job as heretics, apostates, and freethinkers to publicly condemn women who defend religiously sanctioned misogyny and unequal treatment and to pressure not just religious leaders, but also the faithful themselves.
Pressuring Catholic followers to do something about their priests hobbled the Church’s influence. The Believers always hold the real power: To diminish the flock by leaving and even worse, taking their money with them.
Lawyers are expensive, you know.
And a leader without followers is just some asshole shouting into the wind.
Time to call the believers to account
I believe, still, in religion, spirituality and ‘faith’. We all have faith in something. You know where I have a LOT of faith? Quantum physics. I don’t understand that shit. I trust the physicists who say they can’t prove what they theorize, but everyone agrees the math supports it.
And you know what, Pastor, Rabbi, or Imam, if you want to waggle your finger at me and laugh like a banshee because I naively believe physics leaders on their bugshit crazy theories like quantum entanglement — I don’t blame you. Quantum entanglement is some seriously fucked up shit.
Look, I understand why saviours born of virgins and burning bushes and talking snakes are more appealing. Frankly, they make more sense than this.
A call to action for more female-friendly religions
Facts must come first. We shall know them by their verifiable evidence. Here’s what we need to make religion safe for women again:
‘My god’ or ‘my holy book says so’ can no longer be an acceptable reason for religious bigotry against women. If we can all agree holy books were wrong about the acceptability of human slavery, we can agree they’re wrong about women’s rights, too.
Abuses against women and children in religious compounds and groups must be taken seriously by authorities. No looking the other way for fear of being called a religious bigot. Freedom of religion does NOT include physical, mental, emotional, or sexual abuse of adults or children.
End tax breaks for religious organizations. Or, they MUST adhere to secular equality laws for tax breaks.
A return to and healthy respect for secularism and logical thinking overall. Various gods’ opinions are irrelevant.
DON’T VOTE FOR PATRIARCHY. Every woman, regardless of color, who voted for Donald Trump or other candidates with previously established sexual misconduct allegations against them or anti-women policy support needs to be challenged, and now. Intolerance for misogynist politicians starts with their female lapdogs.
The hell with the ‘offense’ to the faithful. If we can call out Donald Trump and Congressional misogynists, we can call out the toxic culprits in Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Islam, Shintoism, Hinduism and Sikkhism, not to mention weirdo cults like NXIVM.
There’s nothing wrong with religion, religious belief, or even in believing six impossible things before breakfast.
But religion should make the world a better place — for everybody. If others have to suffer, it’s useless.
This first appeared on Medium in April 2021