The Bible and other sacred texts tell us that men have been organizing religious practice to enhance male dominance for at least five thousand years.
Male hegemony dictates that all are to worship one God who is to be seen as male. When males preside at a religious ceremony, women must go through male leadership to reach the Divine.
Language which promotes male hierarchy is seeded throughout all ritual such as, "king", "kingdom", "lord", and "master". Women's reproductive powers and rites of passage are rarely celebrated. In most instances, women serve in order that male power may be glorified as divine.
Recently some denominations have accepted women into the priesthood. However, few of these women, or the institutions which ordain them, have grasped the depth that worship, in a manner which fully includes women, changes preparation for ritual, content of ritual and subsequent behavior.
Religious Myths and Beliefs
In most religious lore women are objectified as suffering and passive. Nowhere is there a central religious myth that empowers women.
Kali, in India, the goddess of death and rebirth, is given the power to kill but not to joyously become impregnated with new life.
In Jewish, Christian and Islamic mythic systems, women's sexuality is suspect and in most modern religions women's powers of sexual attraction are demonized. Above all, women are not to celebrate their sexuality and their power to create new human life.
The exclusive maleness of the Divine is so pervasive and ingrained, no one has explored the possibility that when men look in the mirror, they believe they are viewing an image of God. Women look into a mirror to find out if they will meet the ideal of the sexually needy male. Most religions dictate that men view and while women are viewed.
Globally, we know of no religious myths which personify women as:
The religious texts upon which most of the worlds religions are based, are addressed to men. There is no major text which speaks to women. It is possible some women are oppressed by textual material because women's intuitive knowledge and/or experience of the Divine may suffice. Should this be found to be true then there are no checks and balances in place to help women stay in touch with both physical and divine reality.
Training for priesthood, ordination and lifetime appointments disempower all who are not so sanctified, thereby hindering even their expectation of having a direct experience of the Divine. Most religious leadership uses psychological coercion to enrich and empower their institutions at the expense of followers. A set of rules of behavior, say ten of them, are promulgated which are beyond normal human capacity to obey. When these rules are transgressed the human is labeled a "sinner" and socially unacceptable.
In most cases emotional discomfort is brought on by the human propensity for guilt. The promoters of these rules then offer the only avenue to ease, comfort and social acceptance by withholding or giving forgiveness for the sin.
Atonement may take the form of special rote prayers or a sacrifice which can then enrich the clergy. Transcendence and Immanence: As religions are presently ordered, the goal is to leave earth and go to heaven, nirvana or some other place which is more sacred than the ground we stand on, eat from and return to, (transcendence). This leaves The Great Mother Earth to be the dirty, dark, uncontrollable, a less desirable reality thus making Her ripe for exploitation. Those who experience the Divine in nature (immanence) are given denigrating labels such as, pagan, heathen or primitive. Some might see a balanced human as one who can experience the wonders of the mystical above as well as below.
When societies come to acknowledge the sacred quality of all of creation and women are included as equals in the religion of the people then the goals under the headings of "Family", "Health Care", "Education" and "Economy" will fall into place.
- There will be global recognition of both male and female qualities of the Divine.
- Divinity will be imbued with the power of creative, relational and unconditional, altruistic love as well as the dark side of birth, death and righteous anger that can be found in the ideal, mature female.
- This new archetype will become one of the most powerful change agents bringing into being a society in which there is compassionate equity for all its members.
- Groups formed for spiritual refreshment will be organized in circles of equals, be free of creedal statements and dead ritual.
- Faith and belief will emerge from personal religious experience.
- No member will be raised above another and no member will interfere with another member's direct relationship with the Divine.
- When feelings of guilt arise in individuals they will be helped to pardon themselves without material penalty or public ritual.
- Circles will be inclusive and congregations will love diversity in all people.
- The experiences of transcendence to mystical heights and immanence with Earth and Her creatures will be equally honored.
- There is that of the Divine in all creation. Women will be in touch with that of the Divine within themselves and will be helped by their religious community to find and follow their spiritual leadings regarding their reproductive lives.
- Women and men will come to understand their loving relationship to Mother Earth in such a way that the problem of overpopulation will diminish.
- The act of childbirth will be recognized as a sacred sexual act. No one will interfere with the comfort and wishes of a mother giving birth.
- Whether the pregnancy goes full term or is ended earlier, parents may request and receive appropriate celebratory or mourning ceremonies.
- The highest degree of respect will be held for the inherent relationship of a mother and her child. Therefore there will be no outside interference to separate them for financial, health, religious, educational or any other rationalizations.
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