Friday, December 08, 2006

Anti-Religious Crusaders, e.g. Dawkins, Sam Harris (and BTA): Overlooking the Female Perspective?

Wouldn't it be ironic if enlightened scientists, who ardently argue for atheism because religion sets the world back to the Dark Ages, had in their writings and arguments demonstrated a glaring blind spot in overlooking the differences between religious men and *women*?

I have been thinking about this point lately, as Dawkins and Harris in particular have been making wonderful inroads in the quest for a world based on scientific principles of evidence, inquiry, rational thought, and ultimately, enlightenment.

Dawkins has a powerful new book, called The God Delusion, a compendium of intelligent and truthful answers to the most common and fallacious arguments of religious believers, and outright fundamentalists. Some of the arguments are as follows:

1. There too many religious wars and acts of violence to justify religion's existence;
2. Hypocritical religious fundamentalist preachers are influencing the laws of this country and others, and are often caught in secret acts demonstrating the hypocrisy (think Ted haggard, the gay priest who lobbied for an anti-gay marriage law);

I oftentimes feel the need to point out the hypocrisy one sees all the time in the orthodox jewish world, especially the chareidi world. There you see venerated rabbis, aka "gedolim" willing to defend pedophiles, just as the catholic church did for decades. Those days are hopefully coming to an end soon.

So, here's my thought (and it has some very interesting implications): All of the atheist*** spokesmen are just that- men. There's nothing inherently wrong with this, so long as the perspective of 50% of the world's religious folks, i.e., women are taken into account.

But they really aren't. I would argue that most of the arguments levelled against religion apply much more so to men than to women.

Men waged them. Some would say religion was essentially an excuse to reinforce tribal similarities and to tap into ancient animal instincts tending towards xenophobia. Irrespective of this, women didnt wage wars.

Other kinds of Violence:
Again, women weren't inquisitioners. They weren't sanhedrin members pouring hot lead down a criminal's throat (or a shabbos violator's). And yes, there are now some female suicide bombers, but this is quite recent and still quite rare.

Child Molestation and other sex crimes:
Again, men are the ones you hear about. I don't know of any female religious Jew who molested a child in school. Any counterexamples out there?

Financial Improprieties and Crimes:
We've all heard about the financial scams, tax and mortgage frauds perpetrated by religious Jews. Has anyone heard of a woman getting arrested for these things? If so, we're talking about the exception, not the rule.

Now, I can already hear some of you commenting that "of course women didn't do all these things, it's because men had all the power." But that isn't really true, now is it? We have women congressmen and senators, do we ever hear about them sexually harrassing their pages? Likewise, given the power, does anyone assume women would become very violent? Corrupt perhaps- I'll concede that.

What all this leads to are really 2 points:

1. It is quite clear that religion is manmade because it so clearly caters to men's inherent violent nature, and the tendencies of men to act in sexually deviant or immoral ways when exposed to constant repression.

2. It would make sense to investigate independently whether perhaps the world would be still be ok if the women were religious. Obviously, this is untestable, and of course women play a huge role in religious indoctrination of their kids. Still, without the male influence, it's arguable that religion wouldn't be so bad at all.

However, without men, I doubt we'd even recognize Orthodox Judaism even in the slightest.

***For the sake of brevity, there are many semantic arguments for the definition of "atheist" from strong to weak, to "really an agnostic" and so on. Let's just use atheist to designate a person who doesn't believe in a god (especially of the Daddy in the Sky variety).


Blogger yingerman said...

Its really not the same.
Men ruled from the dawn of time, irrelevent of religion.
If as you say, we lived in a maleless or even 1 gender world, there would be no religion?
I highly doubt it.
Granted the facets would be different, but only due the nonexsistance of an other gender.

Females have their set of rules and males have theirs. I always felt that if one was uncomfortable with G-d set roles, then the self-confidence or lack thereof, spills over to other, non religious, acpects of life too.

12/08/2006 12:20 PM  
Blogger seaslipper said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

12/08/2006 1:46 PM  
Blogger happywithhislot said...

re wars
ever hear of the falklands?

india and pakistan both had women prime ministers.

israel had gold meir.

12/09/2006 5:59 PM  
Blogger blueenclave said...

OJ as it is currently constituted is mainly to control the behavior of men. However that doesn't mean that women don't have the religious sense.

12/09/2006 10:34 PM  
Blogger blueenclave said...

In fact Neo-Paganism is appealing to many women because it is decentralized and women are treated equally.

12/09/2006 10:35 PM  
Blogger Shoshana said...

It's an interesting point. I always wonder why there are no female skeptic blogs out there - someone the other day was asking me about them, and I honestly couldn't think of any intelligent female skeptic blogs out there to offer. I don't think this is because women don't think, but they certainly don't seem to blog about their questions.

12/17/2006 10:53 AM  
Blogger BTA said...

Shoshana, agreed. I've posted on this before in a different aspect. When one sees BT's, men and women are different as well. Typically, the men are zealots in a short amount of time, adopting the nuttiest premises of OJ without much questioning. The women are more cautious, but I notice that a lot of the women who become BT's are more normal than the men.

This is because men and women are getting different things out of it. But it's much more due to the fact that women are "exempted" from so many of the constant reminders of the silliness of OJ, e.g., tefillin, davening 3x/day, studying the arcane talmud (which requires more suspension of disbelief per page than the torah), constant shiurim on abstract religious ideas intended to lead to internalization of OJ philosophy. And of course, Rabbis are a bigger part of the picture for men than women.

Women BT's typically are women that have realized that the "Sex and the City" lifestyle isn't the key to happiness, fulfillment, and certainly not marriage. They want to "settle down" and lo and behold, here is a lifestyle that doesn't just accept a girl settling down, but calls her an ayshes chayil and exalts her for being a mother and wife. Plus, the women aren't constantly confronted with rabbinic apologetics. They are almost mandated to pick and choose the best parts of yiddishkeit. Keeping kosher and shabbos, raising kinderlach, etc...

I'm sure the rabbis realized that women talking to their husbands about the gemara they learned that day would lead to abandonment of the religion in short order. Especially with all the outrageous things the rabbis said about women that simply can't be explained away (they're dumber than men, easily lead to sexual temptation, were given a "mitzva" for hair covering that has only the slightest basis in scripture and are made to believe it's a huge torah decree), they are allowed to be married off at the age of 3 years old according to the talmud, they can't divorce under any circumstances (rabbis could have made loopholes if they wanted to, just like eruvin and the like). The list goes on an on.

My wife totally agrees with this. Even after I've told her so much, it still bothers her less, unless you get a parsha like last week, or if she sees how tenuous the chanuka myth is even though it's so much closer in time than the "events" of the Torah.

I'm glad she was able to come around and see my perspective or it could have been a disaster. Still, she believes in god and other things that I do not, which is her right and not nearly so much of a problem as other guys have when they wake up.

12/17/2006 1:53 PM  
Blogger BTA said...

"I will admit that the domination of Judaism by men is very disconcerting."

I'd say we have to break it out into different eras. Nowadays, thanks the *elevation* of the generations, women are considered much closer to the equals of men. We have gotten somewhere in spite of fundamentalist religion. Thus, OJ is able to better spin.

But just look at the torah and tanach! They're just *filled* with massacres, rapes, polygamy, and slavery, often sexual slavery of women.

12/17/2006 2:01 PM  
Blogger Shoshana said...

Interesting analysis, thank you for your answer. I've often said that I don't think I would have become frum had I been male - just the whole minyan thing is a very difficult mitzvah to take on and I can't imagine doing it, nor feeling guilty for not fulfilling it.

I think it's interesting that you feel that women would leave their faith behind if they had more knowledge of Torah. Do you, in general, feel that more knowledge leads to more skepticism? The more and more I am hearing, the more I have been resenting the apologist nonsense that is spouted about Judaism not being a misogynistic culture. I am bothered even by things in Torah, such as the section where men are allowed to anull the vows of their wives and daughters, however, no such stipulation (or even mention) is in place for the other way around, not to mention just the fact that it insinuates that women can not be trusted to make their own decision without them being redacted whether they like it or not. And that's just straight Torah (of course, it's something that is rarely discussed and that Artscroll conveniently fails to comment on). Ok, could go on even longer about tznius and hair covering but I'll stop there.

12/20/2006 9:59 AM  
Blogger seaslipper said...

There is a women's skeptic blog:

12/20/2006 3:43 PM  
Blogger seaslipper said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

12/20/2006 3:51 PM  
Blogger seaslipper said...

"I'd say we have to break it out into different eras. Nowadays, thanks the *elevation* of the generations, women are considered much closer to the equals of men. We have gotten somewhere in spite of fundamentalist religion. Thus, OJ is able to better spin."

There are views, see Rav Kuk, that in some ways the world gets better with each generation. Thus, there is some decline of the generations and some ascent - all at the same time. He might cite the elimination of slavery and animal sacrifices as examples, I forget. Rav Eliyahu Henkin, the great gaon of the mid-century, mentions the elimination of capital punishment as a benefit of the destruction of the temple and an improvement in humankind.

As for all the nastiness in Tanach that you mention, I have lost lots of sleep over the years from that. David Hartman would say, that's how the world was back then. None of it is to condone the brutality. Genocide is tricker of course, because of the divinely sanctioned wars. Some commentators will say that the Caananites would have been allowed to stay if they converted to the sheva mitzvos. Also, they were offered the chance to leave without violence. Still, certainly, the Jews were imposing terms upon people who were living the way they wanted to live. But it isn't your standard genocide. It's more complex. Still, I don't sleep well when I think about it.

12/20/2006 3:53 PM  
Blogger BTA said...

"There is a women's skeptic blog:"

It's good but she doesn't keep it up. Last post was in June. I do think the time is ripe for ex-BT women to stop just browsing and do their own blogs.

12/21/2006 4:28 PM  
Blogger onionsoupmix said...

The saddest thing is how many women are very happy to relinquish all authority and power to their men. I have met so many frum women who would cut off their own arms and legs before they went to another female for a psak din.

It is amazing how these women buy into noshim daatan kalos, isha ksheira osah ratzon baalah and all the other crap.

By the way, I am a female skeptic blogger, but sadly on LJ not here :

1/08/2007 1:05 AM  
Blogger seaslipper said...

<<"There is a women's skeptic blog:"

It's good but she doesn't keep it up. Last post was in June. I do think the time is ripe for ex-BT women to stop just browsing and do their own blogs.>>

I'd like to see blogs from all kinds of people. These blogs are fresh air. Strangely, for me, even the religiously skeptical or anti-religious ones have increased my faith in religious life. That isn't because the agnostic, etc authors write poorly or don't make sense. Quite often, it's the opposite. Rather, it's because the emotional honesty and breadth of ideas invigorate my mind.

1/11/2007 1:09 PM  

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