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Why Are Religions Misogynist?

Besides the obvious/superficial answer “religions were invented by premodern men”, take a look at this conversation over at Jason Rosenhouse’s blog that explains it a bit better:

P.Z. Myers:

Whenever I hear that tripe about the beneficial effects of religion on human cultural evolution, it’s useful to note that the world’s dominant faiths all hardcode directly into their core beliefs the idea that women are unclean, inferior, weak, and responsible for the failings of mankind…that even their omnipotent, all-loving god regards women as lesser creatures not fit to be intermediaries with him, and that their cosmic fate is to be subservient slaves to men, just as men are to be subservient slaves to capital-H Him.

David Sloan Wilson can argue all he wants that religion helped promote group survival in our evolutionary history, or that his group selectionist models somehow explain its origins, but it doesn’t matter. Here and now, everywhere, those with eyes to see can see for themselves that religion has for thousands of years perpetuated the oppression of half our species. Half of the great minds our peoples have produced have lived and died unknown and forgotten, their educations neglected, their lives spent doing laundry and other menial tasks for men — their merits unrecognized and buried under lies promulgated by religion, in cultures soaked in the destructive myths of faith which codify misogyny and give it a godly blessing.

Isn’t that reason enough to tear down the cathedrals — that with this one far-reaching, difficult change to our cultures, we double human potential?

David Sloan Wilson:

Myers the ideologue thinks that he can demonstrate the harmful effects of religion on human welfare with a single word — WOMEN. Here’s how a scientist would set about studying women in relation to men. The first step would be to ask what evolutionary theory predicts about male-female relationships and how the predictions are borne out in nonhuman species. That inquiry would show that sexual conflict is common in the animal world and that the kind of sexual equality that has become a virtue in contemporary western society evolves by genetic evolution only under special circumstances. Among the great apes, gibbons are monogamous, bonobos form female coalitions that resist domination by males, and males boss females around in all of the other species (and most other primate species). None of this variation can be explained by religion.

The second step would be to see if variation in male-female relations within the human species can be explained by the same evolutionary dynamics that explain cross-species variation. For example, it is likely that in both cases, the ability of males to control resources needed by females will result in sexual inequality. This is one reason why agricultural societies are more patriarchal than hunter-gatherer societies — regardless of their religions.

To measure the effect of a given religion on sexual inequality, that religion should be compared to the other cultural forms (religious and otherwise) that existed at the same time and place, such as early Christianity vs. Roman pagan society, early Islam vs. the many Arabic cultures of the region, or Christianity vs. scientific views about sexual equality in Britain during the Victorian era. I won’t try to second-guess the result of such an inquiry, but I do know this — it isn’t self-evident.

So why are religions misogynist? Because religions are a product of evolution, and evolution is “misogynist”.

As far as evolution is concerned — at least, what would be the most successful reproductive strategy based on the design and function of the sexes — women are valuable and men are expendable. Something that is valuable has to be kept safe and hidden away, lest you lose it. Something that is expendable is free to go out and get killed. This is built into our biology to make sure the species maximizes reproductive success.

That’s why I put “misogynist” in scare quotes.

If a man and a woman were both trapped in a building on fire, and the firefighters could only save one person before the building collapsed, who is the instinctual person most people would save? The woman. This makes sense from an evolutionary framework. If there were some apocalypse that reduced us to the stone age, the society with 100 women and 1 man (i.e. the society that kept women repressed and men maximally expendable) will outbreed the society that has 1 woman and 100 men. That’s why polygyny is the most common form of relationships in human history. That’s why we “slut shame”: Slut shaming — where men can sleep with as many women as they want while women are shamed for doing the same — assumes polygyny, since that’s the only arrangement where a man can sleep with a lot of women while women only sleep with one or very few men.

Thus, any religion that doesn’t reflect this evolutionary instincts to “value” women (that is a tricky word since I’m talking about reproductive value and not humanistic value, i.e. feminism) would not have the same reproductive success as a religion that did “value” women.

On the other hand, in societies that don’t care about reproductive success they will tend towards equality between the sexes. This has empirical verification; the most feminist societies generally also have the lowest rates of childbirth. The most religious societies/communities have the highest (cue the Duggars). That’s because it is in men’s benefit to make sure that women have very little reproductive rights; anti-abortion sentiment is a hard-wired male desire to have as many kids by as many different women as possible. This strategy maximizes the reproductive success of the species… “mother nature” — evolution — is actually a man.

Yet, ironically, evolution still wins in a sense; the individual men in those societies who reflect the sexist nature of nature (i.e. religion) will have the most “reproductive” success. Which might be one reason for the paradox that women are more religious than men.

Basically, the misogyny of religion is proof that religions are a product of evolution. Not a hand-me-down from some god (at least no god other than a truly alien god).

 
3 Comments

Posted by on June 19, 2012 in Evolution

 

"Christians Will Only Accept Evolution As Long As It’s Not A Threat To Their Christianity"

There's something troubling to me about this statement, though I can't quite put my finger on it.
 
I admire the ends (getting more people to accept mainstream science) but there's something that seems a bit… I don't know… -“immoral”? – about the means. I have a habit of looking at things from a more methodological (or maybe even “mathematical”) approach: So what happens if we substitute “evolution” for some other sociological impasse? Like “homosexuality” or “women having the right to vote” or “abolition of slavery” or whatever. Does the statement still hold? Was it true that the abolition of slavery only succeeded among Christians because its abolition wasn't a threat to their Christianity?
 
I've read a couple of news articles over the past couple of months that seem to point towards this conclusion. Like Living the Good Lie: Should therapists help God-fearing gay people stay in the closet? That article basically describes the journey that one therapist took where he concluded that therapists in general should counsel their patients to hide their homosexuality if it conflicts too much with the life of faith that they live. Is this wrong? I don't know. It may not be the totality of the problem, but does the issue with homosexual marriage have something to do with it threatening one's Christianity?
 
This article also seems to shed light on the idea that the acceptance of homosexuality is only a threat to conservative churches and not liberal ones. Again, liberal Christians are sort of wishy-washy and trying to get a full graps of their beliefs is like trying to get a full grasp of a wet noodle; they have no solid Christianity so they can accomodate any number of beliefs into their paradigm. But conservative churches are more structured and rigid. A more well defined belief system might not be able to assimilate a new belief without doing serious damage to its internal structure.
 
James McGrath does fine work showing Christians that the Theory of Evolution (ToE) not only is the correct interpretation of our biological inheritance, but that it also doesn't negatively impact Christianity. The same thing applies to the BioLogos website. There is also a somewhat recent article in the Huffington Post: Christian Faith Requires Accepting Evolution. This deals with the same subject but from a different angle: namely that it's a threat to one's Christianity if they don't accept the ToE.
 
I guess my problem is where do you draw the line? You have to stop somewhere if your primary goal is to remain a Christian because there are simply so many facts out there that are inherently uncomfortable for or incompatible with Christianity. In C. S. Lewis' “The Screwtape Letters” one of the demons intimates that getting a Christian to unbiasedly look into the historicity of their religion will lead them away from the faith (this is the method a demon is supposed to use on the more intellectual Christians). Is unbiased inquiry demonic? Maybe it is; an unbiased look into the historicity of Christianity and the historical Jesus is one of the reasons why Luke of Common Sense Atheism lost his faith (also my reason too).
 
There are other examples as well. A while back “Quixie” posted his experience with lay Christians getting a bit of mainstream biblical scholarship in one of their services. He posts that a lot of these Christians were uncomfortable with the scholarship that their pastor presented to them. Was it a threat to their Christianity? I assume that the members of this church are still Christians. Whether they accepted the findings of mainstream Christian scholarship after that incident is something I cannot answer. Maybe they promptly forgot about it as soon as they left church that day.
 
As far as I'm concerned, I think the ToE is a threat to Christianity. The implications of the ToE are fundamentally incompatible with the implications of Christianity. If you accept the ToE, then invariably you're faced with the Darwinian Problem of Evil. There's no way a “god of love” would create a world where for one living thing to live, another living thing has to die; and most of the time die painfully. And this monstrous scenario has been repeated countless times for millions to billions of years before humans came around. 3 million years ago, some cute fluffy bunny got mauled to death by a pack of jackals: There was no other audience that had the intellect to appreciate or denounce the situation other than god – the situation's creator in a theistic evolutionary framework. A god in that situation cannot be called anything other than a monster.
 
Another implication of the ToE: Humans are not special, nor are we specially created. If we are the image of a god, then so are chimps to a 2% lesser degree. This would mean that Jesus had 98% chimp DNA; did Jesus' sacrifice also remove 98% of the sin of chimps?  Furthermore, Christianity implicates that human beings are the most important beings in the universe; second only to the creator of the universe himself. This idea might make sense when the “entire universe” was just the Roman empire, but we've since then realized that the world and the universe are much larger than the world the first Christians envisioned. The ToE makes the god of Christianity too small and insignificant in comparison to the history of life on Earth.
 
Overall, I think every single implication of the ToE is antithetical to the implications of the Christian worldview.
 
I think I now know what troubles me with the statement in the title of this post. In syllogistic format, it seems to follow this logic:
 
P1: Christianity is true
P2: XYZ idea/phenomenon/scientific fact does not conflict with Christianity if looked at from a certain angle
C: Therefore, XYZ idea/phenomenon/scientific fact is true
 
They have to start with the premise that Christianity is true first and then go from there. This is the same exact methodology that Creationists follow:
 
P1: Christianity is true
P2: XYZ idea/phenomenon/scientific fact conflicts with Christianity if looked at from a certain angle
C: Therefore, XYZ idea/phenomenon/scientific fact is false
 
But instead of the Creationists looking to exclude certain facts because they conflict with Christianity, the more liberal Christians look for facts that they can include as long as it doesn't conflict with Christianity. In essense, both types of Christians are doing the same exact thing. They start from the premise that Christianity is true. But instead of excluding uncomfortable facts, they are including uncomfortable facts.
 
Who knows though. Maybe that is a good thing. The more facts that one accepts, the less likely they are to hold on to beliefs just because they feel good even though these beliefs are contrary to all known facts. But this is a bit like giving someone a fish instead of teaching them how to fish. These Christians (the liberal ones or the Creationists) still don't know how to think so that they can have a higher chance of arriving at correct beliefs. So I think the better thing to do would be to start teaching these Christians how to make their beliefs pay rent (haha this is like the third or fourth time I've linked to that post), and try to get them to view all of their biases critically. When one does that, then the question of the ToE's validity will answer itself without having to kowtow to sacred cows.
 
3 Comments

Posted by on August 25, 2011 in apologetics, economics/sociology, Evolution

 
 
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