Women's Role In Religions

Discussion in 'Comparative Studies' started by Silverbackman, Aug 24, 2005.

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What Control Should Men Have Over Women?

  1. None, Men have no moral authority over women, Absolute 50/50

    31 vote(s)
    79.5%
  2. Little, Men can be head of the house but cannot force women to do something

    6 vote(s)
    15.4%
  3. Moderate, Women must obey men but men cannot punish them if the disobey

    2 vote(s)
    5.1%
  4. Total, Men have abosolute moral authority and women must obey men or be punished

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  1. Silverbackman

    Silverbackman Prince Of Truth

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    Women's Role In Religions And Philosophy

    It seems in most major world religions state that women should obey men and men have the right to punish his woman if she disobeys.

    First there is Christianity. In the Bible even in the New Testament it says for wives to submit to their husbands and to be subject to him.

    Then there is Islam. We all know the controversy in Islam. One of the verses in the Quran even said that men have the right to beat their wives if they rebel or threaten the family order.

    Hinduism, a religion so open-minded to all beliefs and has less dogma, suggests in the Epic Lore that women should worship their husbands as a God and do exactly what they say even at cost of her own well-being.

    And so forth. Why do you think many of these major religions teach women to obey men and does it have any meaning in today's world?

    I think men should be leader of the family, but has no right to force his woman to do something she strongly disagrees or something that doesn't make sense. Men have the final decision, but must listen to what his woman has to say.
     
  2. dauer

    dauer New Member

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    Re: Women's Role In Religions And Philosophy

    I think most religions suggest the subjugation of women because they arose at a time when women were subservient to men. While these holy texts all have much to give us today, I don't feel that we can expect them to go very far beyond the societies that created them on many issues. This is one of them.

    Dauer
     
  3. Mason

    Mason Chin Up =)

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    Re: Women's Role In Religions And Philosophy

    I agree with this,.. so i voted 'Little' ^_^
     
  4. Awaiting_the_fifth

    Awaiting_the_fifth Where is my mind?

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    Re: Women's Role In Religions And Philosophy

    I see no reason whatsoever why men should rule women in any sense.

    In my opinion, men who think that they should have authority over women are mild megalomaniacs and women who agree with them are brainwashed by their men.
     
  5. ISFP

    ISFP New Member

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    it does depend... i grew up in a very paternalistic household where my father's authority was final. i came to understand this system as something of a comfort- i knew who to listen to and knew very well what would happen if i didn't. however, it was also sometimes frightening to live with him, afraid of how he could react or exercise his authority if crossed.

    but he was, ultimately, a good father. he loved his kids and adored his wife. he ran the household effectively and with affection. so based on these early experiences, i do feel more comfortable with paternal authority than some young women my age. i don't see that it has to be a negative thing, so long as 'authority' does not mean 'a right to harm others'.
     
  6. smkolins

    smkolins Bahá'í

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    I don't fully support any of the answers though I'm closest to the first. My version of the answer is that women and men are equal before God, and with respect to each other, each has rights and responsabilities to the other. Sometimes it may look like the man has authority and sometimes it may look like the woman has authority. In reality there is a mutuality.

    As it is said:
    "In proclaiming the oneness of mankind, (Bahá'u'lláh) taught that men and women are equal in the sight of God and that there is no distinction to be made between them. The only difference between them now is due to lack of education and training. If woman is given equal opportunity of education, distinction and estimate of inferiority will disappear. The world of humanity has two wings, as it were: One is the female; the other is the male. If one wing be defective, the strong perfect wing will not be capable of flight."
     
  7. iBrian

    iBrian Peace, Love and Unity Staff Member

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    smkolins, isn't it also true that women cannot sit on the highest seats of authority within Baha'i - ie, the Universal House of Justice - and thus follows the clearly patriarchal pattern being raised?

    As a general point, it's also worth underlining that religions are very much a product of their times - whilst they have generally tried to elevate the position of women and extoll their value, they are still effectively developed within a framework of clear gender roles and processes of authority within the societies within which they arose.

    It is also worth underlinging the fact that many of us live in extremely priviliged societies where we live in such relative luxury to the rest of the world - we are simply not faced with the challenges of survival that older cutures faced, and it would be disingenious really to overlook those challenges, and insist any social approaches to dealing with them should be backwards compatible with our own priviliged sense of morality.

    2c. :)
     
  8. arthra

    arthra Baha'i

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    I think the question posed in the original post was what should be the role of women in religions and in the Baha'i Faith there are no priests or ministers, no professional clergy.

    Silver has also raised this issue before in a way concerning the equality of men and women.

    In the Baha'i Writings this principle is explained:

    "The world of humanity is possessed of two wings: the male and the female. So long as these two wings are not equivalent in strength, the bird will not fly. Until womankind reaches the same degree as man, until she enjoys the same arena of activity, extraordinary attainment for humanity will not be realized; humanity cannot wing its way to heights of real attainment. When the two wings . . . become equivalent in strength, enjoying the same prerogatives, the flight of man will be exceedingly lofty and extraordinary."

    Women serve with men on our Local Spiritual Assemblies throughout the world in some ten thousand localities around the planet from Ecuador to Tanzania and it is our Local Spiritaul Assemblies that actual administer our Faith on the local level planning our meetings of worship and conducting the day to day tasks or affairs of our Faith on that level.

    The only exceptions are countries like Iran where our Faith is outlawed and cannot meet.

    Regarding Brian's concern-

    Brian wrote:

    smkolins, isn't it also true that women cannot sit on the highest seats of authority within Baha'i - ie, the Universal House of Justice - and thus follows the clearly patriarchal pattern being raised?

    My comment:

    While the Universal House of Justice is a body elected every five years by the Baha'i world community and consists of men it does not follow that this "follows the clearly patriarchal pattern being raised"?

    The House deliberates on matters that are not specifically mentioned in our Writings and accepted Interpretations.

    It is not the result of male chauvenism or a patriarchal pattern and let me explain why...

    The composition of the House is determined by the Kitab-i-Aqdas and the Interpretation of Abdul-Baha and not due to chauvenistic or a hold over of patriarchal attitudes.

    In a practical sense after the death of Abdul-Baha in 1922 Bahiyyih Khannum known as the Greatest Holy Leaf a daughter of Baha'u'llah was the authority in our Faith before Shoghi Effendi the Guardian was able to fully take on the responsibilities.

    There were Baha'i women appointed by the Guardian as Hands of the Cause of God and had the task of protecting and teaching the Faith before the Universal House of Justice was elected in 1963.

    One can also review decisions of the Universal House of Justice since it's establishment in 1963 and see that there are no areas where male chauvenism or patriarchal attitudes are reflected.

    - Art
    :)
     
  9. iBrian

    iBrian Peace, Love and Unity Staff Member

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    Arthra, you're evading the issue - if it is acceptable that other religions be considered patriarchal because they do not allow women the highest positions of spiritual authority, then Baha'i is clearly following that pattern.

    You seem to understate the role of the Universal House of Justice as well - from what has already been stated here, the members of the Universal House of Justice are the supreme interpreters of spiritual authority within the Baha'i faith - in which case, the specific exclusion of women is certainly a sign of patriachal thinking, regardless of contrary justifications to the actual practical fact.

    Judaism, Christianity, and Islam all have *very* important women in all aspects of their faith - excepting that in terms of overall spiritual authority, which is an area which is almost certainly going to be described as a patriarchal system by any outside observer.

    None of which implies that a patriarchal system is inherently wrong or misogynist - but it would be disingenious to claim that a patriarchal system is not, simply because women are otherwise well regarded away from the decisions of supreme spiritual authority within any faith.
     
  10. arthra

    arthra Baha'i

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    I'm going to respond here to Brian but I feel this thread may be a little side tracked from it's original direction and so do not mean this to be promoting my Faith here.

    Brian wrote:

    Arthra, you're evading the issue - if it is acceptable that other religions be considered patriarchal because they do not allow women the highest positions of spiritual authority, then Baha'i is clearly following that pattern.

    Comment:

    Brian... You can call me "Art".

    Patriarchal authority is not what the Baha'i Faith is about, so I'd appreciate your openness to that... We stress consultation of all members in a family and in our religious communities. So we are not "following that pattern".

    Brian:

    You seem to understate the role of the Universal House of Justice as well - from what has already been stated here, the members of the Universal House of Justice are the supreme interpreters of spiritual authority within the Baha'i faith - in which case, the specific exclusion of women is certainly a sign of patriachal thinking, regardless of contrary justifications to the actual practical fact.

    Comment:

    Sorry Brian.. If did some independent research on the subject you'd know that the Supreme Interpreters of the Baha'i Writings were Abdul-Baha and Shoghi Effendi. The Universal House of Justice always deffers to their Authority and cannot make it's own interpretations. It's role and I'll repeat this is to deliberate on issues not covered in our Writings and it can also revise it's own decisions. The basis as I pointed out in my last post for the composition of the House is not "patriarchal thinking" but the highest authority in our Faith which is the Kitab-i-Aqdas revealed by Baha'u'llah and as interpreted by Abdul-Baha and Shoghi Effendi.

    I think if you studied our Faith a little you'd would grasp this essential point.

    Also the members of the House of Justice wield no authority themselves as individuals outside their role as members. The same is true of all members of Baha'i Institutions everywhere. They do not have any individual authority over anyone.

    Brian:

    Judaism, Christianity, and Islam all have *very* important women in all aspects of their faith - excepting that in terms of overall spiritual authority, which is an area which is almost certainly going to be described as a patriarchal system by any outside observer.

    Comment:

    Well Brian the issue of the place of women in religion is one area where there's a departure from our sister religions. You perhaps should more modestly have written "this outside observer" than speak for all.

    Brian:

    None of which implies that a patriarchal system is inherently wrong or misogynist - but it would be disingenious to claim that a patriarchal system is not, simply because women are otherwise well regarded away from the decisions of supreme spiritual authority within any faith.

    Comment:

    It's not only the role of women in religion from our view that's an issue but the issue of authority wielded through priests or other such authorities.

    - Art
     
  11. taijasi

    taijasi Gnōthi seauton

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    Maybe, in earlier days - long since past ... we could say that women played a part in history which best served spiritually through the taking on of a heavy karma of suffering. In other words, we may learn something by looking at the experience that womankind has undergone at the hands of religion and politics. But this will only find its highest meaning if we can see how this has been accepted by the Soul as part of a higher service rendered for Humanity.

    Today, the wheel is reversing, and already the Soul of woman has taken on a different karma as she works to resolve the negativity and encrustations of countless ages of imbalance. The broom of the Father will surely sweep the floor with the same care and attention for the coming of the Mother, as Christ swept clean the obstructions of His day in honor of the One who sent Him. And what a surprise to find that we are not expecting another virgin, nor a god of wrath & envy ... but the same God of Love Whom Christ preached, yet Who the world has only managed to cast in a masculine light - and heavily genderized at that.

    Lest God walk again among Humanity and be as unrecognized as before, it might not surprise us to witness Christ in male form, yet how ready are we to consider a following that is equally numbered female as male. And if we witness a great change (as has already been initiated through Co-Masonry) among such organizations as the Masons, such that the Scottish & York Rite holdouts finally acknowledge women applicants, would this surprise?

    There is a tradition that honors women as the Messengers of the Race, and sees them as such from Ages long before Hypatia, though she stands clear in recent memory as one of the great Martyrs of the Teaching. Since then there have been many Women Messengers, as well as men. But not until the Catholic Church has acknowledged women for its clergy, and elected its first female Pope ... shall the days of Christ's new Mission be upon us.

    (Commentary: Given as this is off-the-cuff, I for one will be paying close attention to see if it rings true.)

    The simple fact of the matter is that most religious thinkers are not quite open-minded enough to welcome the Wisdom Aspect in her feminine form into the inner sanctum of their hearts ... while in their ignorance it is completely overlooked that only thanks to Divine Woman (spiritually as well as through her manifestations) does there exist such a Holy of Holies to begin with. This may sound Gnostic and Manichean, but such ideas were part & parcel of Christ's teaching, and any other presentation would have been anathema to his followers! How strange that even a few hundred years after his teaching the Church had already made this the reverse.

    I wrote it, so I'll stand by it.

    Peace,
    protokletos
     
  12. lunamoth

    lunamoth Episcopalian

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    Hi Art,

    But with all due respect, I believe that you are understating the role of the Universal House of Justice. For example, from Abdul' Baha:

    And from the Guardian Shoghi Effendi, who succeeded Abdu'l Baha as the Center of the Covenant:

    peace,
    lunamoth
     
  13. arthra

    arthra Baha'i

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    I would really hope that this thread can deal with the issues of women in religion and not be side tracked into details about our Baha'i administration. There's probably a place for this some where but i think we've been side tracked.

    I'll quote though from where the Universal House of Justrice derives it's authority from it's Constitution:

    "The provenance, the authority, the duties, the sphere of action of the Universal House of Justice all derive from the revealed Word of Baha'u'llah which, together with the interpretations and expositions of the Centre of the Covenant and the Guardian of the Cause - who, after `Abdu'l-Baha, is the sole authority in the interpretation of Baha'i Scripture - constitute the binding terms of reference of the Universal House of Justice and are its bedrock foundation."

    So this is how Baha'is see the Universal House of Justice not as a patriarchal system.

    I'm going closing here with a complilation on women from the Baha'i Writings and those interested can peruse them:

    http://bahai-library.com/compilations/women/

    - Art :)
     
  14. iBrian

    iBrian Peace, Love and Unity Staff Member

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    Arthra, the evidence is simple - Baha'i is a religion that has the highest positions of authority reserved only for men. That makes it something of a patriarchal religion.

    You can argue about the UHJ fulfilling the will of Baha'u'llah, but if the system set up is patriarchal, then that is what it is.

    Any patriarchal religion can draw on a list of venerated list of women contributors - but that does not mean they are egalitarian or offer actual practical equality.

    EDIT: Here's a selection of definitions for "patriarchal":
     
  15. path_of_one

    path_of_one Embracing the Mystery

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    I'm with dauer. The major world religions and their sacred texts arose in a time of early state-level societies, in which issues of gender inequality were at their height.

    Gender, first off, is a cultural construction of some biological distinctions. Some societies have third or even fourth genders. If you look at the hormone levels and even the genetics/anatomy, there are always people in every society that are not clearly men or women, and so I find a problem first off with a dichtomous gender structure to start with.

    Secondly, I do not think souls necessarily have gender, so why should our anatomy impact our rights and spiritual authority? I believe we perceive masculine and feminine characteristics through cultural lenses, assigning gender to generally neutral entities/activities. The moon is generally perceived as feminine, but in reality it's a rock in space. The sky is often perceived as masculine, but in reality it's a bunch of gasses. We obviously have more of a basis to define some categories in living organisms based on gender/sex, but what should this have to do with spirituality or authority?

    And what of the many "primitive" religions- the animistic religions that pre-dated the world religions and were so widespread? Many of these give equal standing to men and women in spiritual matters and women generally had great amount of authority over themselves and their households.

    Personally, I think it's just bizarre that we have any issues whatsoever with gender and spiritual authority. It always struck me, from the time I was a small child, as being counterproductive and a waste of women's spiritual (and other) gifts. As a woman, I feel strongly that I answer to God, not to the men in my community, household, or whatever. And who better to answer to? Who better to guide my actions? What better authority exists?
     
  16. arthra

    arthra Baha'i

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    Sorry, Brian, I must still object to your characterizing the Baha'i Faith as a "patriarchal system".

    Male dominated religions of the past I think relegated women to a very servial role and that is not what we Baha'is are about.

    Here is the Baha'i view as expressed by `Abdu'l-Bahá:

    "The world in the past has been ruled by force, and man has dominated over woman by reason of his more forceful and aggressive qualities both of body and mind. But the balance is already shifting; force is losing its dominance, and mental alertness, intuition, and the spiritual qualities of love and service, in which woman is strong, are gaining ascendancy. Hence the new age will be an age less masculine and more permeated with the feminine ideals, or, to speak more exactly, will be an age in which the masculine and feminine elements of civilization will be more evenly balanced."

    "Bahá'u'lláh and the New Era", p. 141

    We're actually interested in dismantling some of the social structures that maintain patriarchal society such as the removal of authority from individuals and the decentralization of power.

    Formerly many religions had male priesthoods that dominated society. Baha'u'llah has abrogated priesthood.

    The role of the man as head of the family is another feature that Baha'i teachings deal with:

    "The purpose, in brief, is this: that if woman be fully educated and granted her rights, she will attain the capacity for wonderful accomplishments and prove herself the equal of man. She is the coadjutor of man, his complement and helpmeet. Both are human; both are endowed with potentialities of intelligence and embody the virtues of humanity. In all human powers and functions they are partners and coequals."

    "Promulgation of Universal Peace", pp. 135-7. 

    So to simply characterize the Baha'i Faith as a patriarchal system is inaccurate I think and doesn't do the subject justice by a any means!

    - Art



    :)
     
  17. Silverbackman

    Silverbackman Prince Of Truth

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    I disagree with the Baha'i view that there should be no distinction between men and women. First of all that is impossible, because men are men and women are women, but to try to destroy femininity and masculinity is a very dishonorable deed, what would life be without femininity and masculinity?

    IMHO men and women are equal spiritually under the eyes of God. But God (whether you call Him nature, Brahma, Yahweh, or whatever) did create men and women different from each other. In other words men and women are equal but different. Men are designed for different roles than women, and vice versa but most roles overlap you can say. If God created women and men to have no distinction, then he would have only created one gender ;). God doesn't care what gender you are, but he did intend for men and women to be different IMHO.
     
  18. iBrian

    iBrian Peace, Love and Unity Staff Member

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    A patriarchal system is simply one where highest authority is reserved only for the men.

    Unless I am mistaken, the Universal House of Justice is the highest spiritual and administrative authority for the Baha'i movement on earth - and if these positions are reserved only for men, then the Baha'i movement is indeed patriachal.

    Many Muslims, Christians, and Jews, tell of how important women are in their societies, and how they have often been commanded to treat them as equal - but where these Faith's have systems that resolve final authority only to men, then they are properly classed as patriarchal.

    A council of men as the highest authority is patriarchal under any conceivable definition.

    Here is a link you may find helpful (sorry it didn't work before): Definitions of patriarchal on the Web
     
  19. Awaiting_the_fifth

    Awaiting_the_fifth Where is my mind?

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    Arthra,

    I know that your religion gives equality to men and women, but can you not see that the administration of your religion is biased towards men?

    A good analogy would be a company which employs both men and women at middle management and below but refuses to allow women to work as company directors. Such a company would undoubtably be sued(sp) for sexual discrimination, and rightly so.
     
  20. 9Harmony

    9Harmony goin' with the flow...

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    Hi Silver, :)

    I don't think the Baha'i view is that there should be no distinction between men and women. My understanding is that men and women are different, but equally important. We have different strengths which compliment each other.

    I like the analogy of the bird, men and women are the two wings of a bird, and not until both are fully developed, will the bird truly be able to fly. (the bird being humanity)

    So i really don't think you disagree with the Baha'i understanding.

    Have a great day!
     

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