Christian and Feminist–Is it Even Possible?

I’ve been sitting here all day trying to think of something profound to write about. My blog is usually a pretty quite place where I write about everything that crosses my mind, so guest-blogging for Feministe is “hitting it big” for me. There were other subjects that I started to write about but something has been bugging me for awhile now and I think that means I need to write about it. The problem is, well, it’s sort of embarrassing for me.

You see, up until about two years ago, I was a member of a cult. I was born into a family where almost everyone was a member of this religious group that dictated almost every aspect of our lives. I’m not using this label casually. Cults kill. Sure, they may not wield any guns but when you’re working with true believers, you don’t need to get your hands dirty in order to control people’s lives. The one that I belonged to is responsible for many deaths and I would have been among that number had I remained a part of it. I was fortunate. I was removed from approved status with the organization because I am a serial fornicator.

Back in the crazy nineties, when I was a teenager, I had sex. When I became pregnant (a situation that could have been avoided if it had been possible for me to be honest with my parents about being sexually active), it became impossible for me to pretend I was still a virgin, so I had no choice but to go and confess my sins to the church authorities. Because I was young and showed sufficient penitence, I wasn’t kicked out of the religion completely. They imposed several restrictions/punishments but allowed me to remain a member while I proved to them that I was willing to be obedient to their direction.

A few years ago, I was diagnosed with incurable bone cancer and needed immediate treatment in order for the doctors to try to extend my life a bit. During the radiation therapy and subsequent surgeries, I was unable to care for my daily needs nor could I handle those of my elementary school-aged daughter, so someone had to be there to do it all for me. My life partner stepped in and became my full-time caretaker. Of course, this necessitated his move into my apartment.

Now, it’s not like we asked for this to happen. It wasn’t exactly my choice to have to ask someone to be there to pull up my pants when I went to the bathroom and I think common sense should tell people that when someone has a fifteen inch slit down their back, it’s going to be impossible to engage in anything the average person might consider to be sex. Even stretching out my arms in the normal motions needed to put on a shirt could have opened up the surgical wounds and exposed my spinal column. However, to the organization’s leaders, none of that was relevant. I was living with a man who was not married or related to me, ergo I was a fornicator deserving of ostracism from everyone who wished to remain a part of the religion.

Even after they made this announcement to the entire congregation, I still wanted to work towards bringing my life into alignment with the groups’ expectations and regain my former status as a member in good standing with the organization. However, that never happened. Instead, I became a feminist.

I began to see that I had been a victim of clergy abuse. Never again will I sit in front of a group of men and answer to anyone about the details of my sex life. You simply can’t convince me that these guys weren’t getting their jollies off while convincing people that they were only doing it because God commanded them to. Thankfully, I found feminism before my daughter reached an age where they could warp and abuse her too as they surely would have had I remained a part of the cult.

However, as empowering as my post-cult life has been, I still find myself yearning for some sort of connection with the divine. I know there are some folks who’ve had similar experiences and sworn off of religion altogether but maybe I’m a glutton for punishment. I’ve really wanted to believe that just because I had one truly horrific, quarter of a decade-long association with a group (whose name I am reluctant to use here due to the harassment that I’ve seen others subjected to online), that doesn’t mean that all organized religions are evil.

A couple of years ago, my life partner met a guy at work who was the pastor that had relocated to our city in order to build a local congregation of an association of churches that originated back in the seventies out on the west coast as part of the Jesus Movement. When my partner was invited to speak to the people at his work place about how the United Way has helped our family, the pastor came to him and asked if we’d mind if he put us on his church’s prayer list. Later on he invited us to visit his church and we eventually decided to do so.

Since then, we’ve visited several times, enough times for me to begin to feel like I was a part of the congregation. I never did agree with everything they taught but the great thing about them was that they didn’t require you to do so in order to be accepted as a part of the church. It was one of those “Come as you are” places where even the pastor wears jeans most Sundays.

Coming from a religion that raked in millions of dollars every year and sent missionaries to witness in impoverished countries across the globe but never saw fit to build so much as a single school or water pump in any of them (an injustice that always reminds me of an article that I read on The Onion last year), I loved the fact that their ministry work was focused on feeding and clothing the poor and homeless. Every three weeks they go out to the F.E.M.A. trailers where thousands of displaced New Orleanian victims of Hurricane Katrina are still living and feed anyone who wants to come and get a hot meal or two and then take some food back to their trailers for later. They also bought and renovated a house where they provide housing and employment to guys who are trying to reintegrate into society after stints in drug rehab centers and/or prison.

I thought I’d found a place that reflected most of my values. Though my partner and I have very different religious and political philosophies, I thought we’d finally found a place where we could go without either of us feeling totally offended and out of place. Just when I had become fairly comfortable and settled in, things took a turn.

One Sunday, the pastor was in the middle of a sermon about how we should not condemn others since the Bible doesn’t spell out absolutely everything we should believe. He goes into this spiel about how, during Bible times, some of the Jewish Christians used to criticize Gentile Christians who didn’t get circumcised or follow kosher dietary restrictions. Then he talked about how the Jews were wrong because they should have recognized that the Gentiles didn’t need to do any of these things and the Gentiles were wrong because they weren’t acknowledging the fact that the Jews were and are God’s chosen people. In fact, he added, as Gentiles we are commanded to pray for and support the state of Israel even today.

Okay, he didn’t exactly say that this means we’re supposed to be okay with everything that the Israeli government does but I know enough about Christian Zionism to get nervous when I hear this sort of talk. I made up my mind to give the guy the chance to explain exactly what he meant by what he said before I just wrote him off.

Not long after that, I was in a conversation with one of the guys at the church about whether Christians should carry guns and fight in wars. Though I didn’t know it, the guy I was talking to used to serve in the U.S. Navy. He didn’t see anything wrong with participating in wars. My view was that it would be immoral to do so for many reasons, the fact that innocent people are always killed being a very important factor for me. The pastor of the church overheard us talking and remarked that fighting in the military was a part of being obedient to our government so Christians needn’t worry about that.

I tried to reason with him by pointing out the fact that if all Christians took that view, one could very well wind up killing their Christian brethren fighting on the other side of the conflict. In answer he stated that it would make him feel less worried if he knew that the people he killed were Christians too because he’d know that they were “right with the Lord” and had gone to heaven. He’d be a little more sad if the people he killed were non-Christians since they’d have gone to hell because they weren’t “saved” (i.e. born again) before they died. This response left me truly gobsmacked.

At this point, I’m beginning to wonder if it isn’t the specific religious groups that are the problem. Perhaps it’s the actual religion itself. Or maybe it’s just religion itself. I don’t know. I used to be among those who take the Bible as infallible. However, it seems to me that no truly righteous God would really command people to do some of this stuff. So where does that leave me? Where does it leave anyone who thinks that following Jesus’ teachings might not be a bad way to go but just can’t find any justification for a lot of the actions and views that go along with Christianity?

Cross-posted at My Private Casbah


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167 comments for “Christian and Feminist–Is it Even Possible?

  1. SarahMC
    June 19, 2007 at 11:23 pm

    All religion is a cult. Free yourself from oppressive, illogical myths.
    I suppose some religious folks can be feminist. It depends on the denomination. But by the time you get to the point at which you truly embrace feminism, you might as well just face the facts and admit that belief in biblical myths is foolish.

  2. Tim P.
    June 19, 2007 at 11:31 pm

    I’m very sympathetic to your spirtual drift, having gone through a period of that myself. I know this sort of subject is difficult to think about, due to the profound implications entailed, but I feel it is folly to think that we, having explored a fraction of a percent of the universe, have all or any of the answers as to what the universe is or why we are here, if there is a ‘why’. To me, it’s more important to appreciate the life that we have, than to obsess about living it according to a certain, somewhat arbitrary doctrine. Nihilists take that a step further still, embracing the objective meaninglessness of existence. Either way, I would argue that it’s more important to remain true to your sincere feelings regarding liberty, than submit yourself to thousand-year-old religious creeds. I’ve found that if you look at Christianity and other man-made religions from an anthropological perspective, it gives you more insight into who ancient men and women were, as opposed to who ‘God’ is.

  3. June 19, 2007 at 11:32 pm

    You are asking some very difficult questions, and I have not resolved them myself. I am wondering where there is room in Christianity for GLBT people like me. I grew up being taught the infallible nature of the Bible as well, and actually READING it made quite a difference. I would say not to give up on religion or God, but to accept that you will not find perfection or abslolute truth in any organazation staffed and run by humans. Good luck :)

  4. Sally
    June 19, 2007 at 11:37 pm

    Well, I’m an agnostic Jew, so what do I know, but have you looked into Quakerism? Quakers are generally politically progressive, and they’re with you on killing people.

    Then he talked about how the Jews were wrong because they should have recognized that the Gentiles didn’t need to do any of these things and the Gentiles were wrong because they weren’t acknowledging the fact that the Jews were and are God’s chosen people. In fact, he added, as Gentiles we are commanded to pray for and support the state of Israel even today.

    Oh dear. I think this guy is making up his own commandments!

  5. June 19, 2007 at 11:38 pm

    There are good, strong radical feminists who write Christian theologies and try to put Christianity into practice. One of the first steps is to recognize how infected Christianity, including parts of the New Testament, is with patriarchy. Still the teaching and practice of Jesus seems to affirm the full humanity of women, whom he accepted into his movement as partners and equals. It might be anachronistic to call this feminism, but it seems to anticipate some key insights of later feminist theory and practice. The egalitarian impulses of Christianity have often been obscured as it has been coopted by others.

    I highly recommend the writings of Elizabeth Johnson who is a sister in a Roman Catholic religious order. Her classic “She Who Is” is well worth a read as is “Truly our sister,” a take on Mary of Nazareth as companion in struggle and model of feminist sisterhood. It is also worth reading post-Christian feminists like Mary Daly who have decided that it is necessary to move beyond Christianity.

    Parallel movements exist within other religious traditions. Sisterhood should transcend religious difference and promote struggle for women’s dignity, agency, and equality wherever real women are found.

  6. Tim P.
    June 19, 2007 at 11:43 pm

    Why am I in moderation limbo? :(

  7. libber
    June 19, 2007 at 11:46 pm

    I suppose some religious folks can be feminist

    What? Maybe Buddhists can, certainly not Christians. In fact, people who seek to justify discriminatory practices often appeal to the Bible.

    Anyway, thank you Bint for sharing your story! I think this issue is extremely important.

  8. etango
    June 19, 2007 at 11:50 pm

    Here’s the thing:
    Religion isn’t a cult, it’s a tool. People who use it as a cult, where they can only think what the leaders say and what the text describes are destined for tragedy. Priest are not your overlords, they’re your guides. The Bible is like getting the notes of the smartest kid in your class.
    I was raised with a loving Sunday school-teaching mom and an atheist brother; what I’ve learned is that everyone finds their own way in their own time. Woe betide those who’d force their way on others.

    And give your current guy what forgiveness he deserves. You don’t know what got him to the philosophical place he’s at, anymore than he can know the fear you have for religious extremist ideas.
    Forgiving people is the funnest part of Christianity! I forgave SarahMC *just now* for insulting my beliefs, and it was awesome.

  9. Tim
    June 19, 2007 at 11:50 pm

    I had a pretty positive experience with Methodism growing up, but I’m starting to realize that this may have just been because of the particular pastor. Maybe look into something like Unitarian Universalism? In my experience, members of UU congregations tend to run quite a gamut in terms of ideas about the divine, but come together on things like commitment to nonviolence and other progressive issues. Might be worth a shot.

  10. car
    June 19, 2007 at 11:55 pm

    Oh, I ache for you. I grew up as a Southern Baptist (and still am active in the church, which is another story altogether) although I finally became an atheist a couple of years ago. I still haven’t told any of my family about it. Not nearly as bad as what you went through, but still on the sliding scale of fundamentalist whackoism, we were pretty far over on the edge. It’s a long, hard road to break off some of those mindsets, and it hurts every time a little bit sloughs off.
    If you want to read the experiences of others going through something kind of similar, try Dan Barker’s book “Losing Faith in Faith”. It’s a bit old now, but very good. He was a pastor and Christian songwriter for several decades before leaving the church, and the book is a mix of explanation of what happened to him as well as good arguments against some of the stupidity found in religion.

    “Misquoting Jesus” is also a must-read if the infallibility of the Bible is one of your sticking points. For me, that book helped to remove some of the mental power it all had over me. Seeing how the precepts of the Bible are really built on sand helped to release some of the grip it all had on my mind.
    I wish you so much luck in working through this, and hope you find whatever stopping point along the road that you’re comfortable with. I haven’t experienced them firsthand, but if you want some supportive spirituality, I have a few friends who swear by Unitarian Universalism.

  11. BabyPop
    June 19, 2007 at 11:58 pm

    Catholic feminist here. Not as much of an oxymoron as you might think!

  12. Zoe
    June 20, 2007 at 12:03 am

    Havee you tried Unitarianism? I’m one myself, and the reason I love it is because it is a denomination that focuses on creating a space within yourself for your definition of the divine/God/Holy Spirit/community spirit etc.

    I’m not trying to convert you (not that kind of denomination!) but it’s helped me feel a sense of community.

  13. in2mi
    June 20, 2007 at 12:03 am

    Bint, I’m sorry that you had such a negative experience in both your childhood religious upbringing and your most recent church community.

    The bottom line is, I think, that Christians are human, and as humans we have the potential to get it right and get it wrong. No one is perfect in his or her theology; I think the key is finding a community that is open enough to allow for a certain level of doubt and mystery as well as certainty in their faith. That is not an easy balance, but there are Christian communities that have that.

    A friend of mine likened her experience with “church” as a marriage – there are somethings about it that you absolutely adore and sustain you, and there are other things that drive you nuts and make you question and doubt. The key is holding on to that which sustains you even through the difficult times. As someone who is both a feminist and a Christian, this advice has been what helped me make sense of why I hold fast to my faith even when it makes no “sense” to me or doesn’t perfectly align with my politics.

    I’m sure the comments on this thread will be all over the place, and many will follow the bent that SarahMC started with that “belief in biblical myths is foolish”, but I wanted to add the perspective someone who is earnestly trying to live out her faith and her politics, even when the two don’t always align.

  14. Hector B.
    June 20, 2007 at 12:05 am

    Although at their root, the big three middle eastern religions are all stunningly sexist, Christianity comes in enough flavors that you should be able to find a compatible brand. A couple of years ago, my aunt got disgusted with the church she belonged to. After shopping around a bit, my aunt settled on an Episcopalian church. She narrowed her search by going online and reading pastors’ sermons. Then she went to church service in person, then chatted with the ministers.

  15. libber
    June 20, 2007 at 12:09 am

    have you looked into Quakerism? Quakers are generally politically progressive, and they’re with you on killing people

    I don’t know much about Quakerism but aren’t they, for the most part, classic liberals rather than progressive? (I don’t think classic liberalism and feminism would be a good match either)

  16. Luna
    June 20, 2007 at 12:15 am

    I am a Christian feminist. I don’t think there’s any paradox there.

    The way I see it, Jesus (whether he was a historical figure or not, it’s irrelevant) asked us to do two things: love thy neighbour and love thy god. I don’t see how either of those rules stops me from suggesting that women deserve equal treatment under the law, and as much respect as men.

    I don’t believe in literal treatment of the bible. They’re stories. There’re lessons there. One can learn from them whether or not one believes in God. It’s a commonsense thing.

  17. June 20, 2007 at 12:43 am

    Hey Bint! I’m so excited you’re guest blogging here!

    I’ve never been a religious person, although my family did belong to a Reform Jewish synagogue when I was a kid. I remember pretty clearly when I decided that I didn’t believe in god (and of course, announced it my religious/Hebrew school teacher!). I would say that I’m generally wary of spiritual and religious beliefs – partly because I just don’t get it, but also because they seem to cause so much harm to so many people. In the past few years, I’ve begun craving some kind of Jewish community, because I feel so alienated from the mainstream Jewish community. I’m not a Zionist and am on the left, and the Jewish community in Canada is heading to the right, and does it’s best to shut down any debate about what’s going on in Israel and the Occupied Territories. The last time I was at the synagogue I grew up in, I had to leave because I was so upset by the things the rabbi was saying. In the past, this has also been a source of some significant family conflict, although we’ve all learned to just not go there. Still, being the family outsider is tough and painful.

  18. pigeon
    June 20, 2007 at 1:20 am

    I’m not religious myself– I guess you could categorize me as agnostic and I have a spiritual practice, for lack of a better term, but there are no imposed principles or rules to that outside of my own self-determined ethical beliefs and values– but I do know a lot of religious feminists, and I don’t think it has to be an oxymoron. Most of them find themselves in the religious left somewhere, and I know at least a handful who are Christian or Jewish. I don’t know a ton about the religious left, most of what I know comes from my girlfriend (Little Light) who’s a religious scholar and avid supporter of religious left movements in general, but from what I can tell, there are a lot of Christian denominations, or least churches, whose values are very much in line with feminism.

    Maybe I should just tell Little Light to come comment here, since she knows a lot more than I do.

    That said, thank you for sharing your experiences here. As someone who’s struggled a lot to find any kind of spirituality or spiritual pratice that really felt right to me, I like hearing about other people’s experiences doing the same. I spent a lot of time around religious folks when I was in high school (I went to two religious high schools, the first Quaker, the second Catholic) and it always seemed to me that the people who’d really struggled with their faith were the ones whose faiths I respected the most.

  19. Kath
    June 20, 2007 at 1:21 am

    Atheists and agnostics need to form a better community. We can meet every week and talk about how we don’t believe!

  20. sunflwrmoonbeam
    June 20, 2007 at 1:24 am

    I’m a feminist, and very religious. Granted, I’m a Celtic Pagan, so my religion has no dogma, no oppression, and no dictates on behavior (beyond be a good host). Religion doesn’t have to be terrible.

  21. CMarie
    June 20, 2007 at 1:32 am

    I don’t usually comment, but this really hits home for me. I was raised Lutheran, though I don’t identify as such anymore. I find myself constantly questioning my spiritual beliefs in light of my social and political beliefs, and in some ways, it has helped to strengthen and refine my faith. In others, it has weakened my faith – it’s still there, it’s just different from what it was when I was growing up. I think generally that’s a good thing.

    I really like this website, it’s a good resource for progressive Christians.

  22. June 20, 2007 at 1:38 am

    I’d certainly second the recommendation of looking into the Quakers (or the Society of Friends) if you feel you have to remain within the Christian theology. Certainly if I was in a situation where it was socially and politically incumbent upon me to be a Christian of one brand or another, I’d be heading for Quakerism.

    Fortunately, here in Australia, being non-Christian isn’t such a hot button issue as it is in the US (mainly because most people don’t bother to ask questions regarding religious faith in the majority of social contexts). I’m pagan pantheist, and have been for years. My own theological system is rather convoluted, but it centres around the notion that all gods are equally likely to exist – there is no “One True Way”. (If anyone is interested in finding out about my theological/religious beliefs, I’d ask that they ask me via email – I don’t know that it’s really the subject for this sort of forum. The LJ email works.)

    Personal spirituality and its expression through religious faith is something that is a journey everyone takes, some with more conscious thought about the direction they’re heading in than others. I would suspect that it is possible to maintain a belief in the teachings of Christ and also be feminist – the actual *teachings* of Christ (as opposed to the miracles attributed to him, and the things others have said about what he did, etc) are fairly gender-neutral.

  23. ianovich
    June 20, 2007 at 1:58 am

    I’m an atheist and a feminist. While I don’t think atheism is required to be a feminist, I can guarantee you won’t find yourself in this sort of situation.

  24. Tricia
    June 20, 2007 at 2:01 am

    All religion is a cult. Free yourself from oppressive, illogical myths.

    I’m really going to have to disagree on this one. Most (if not all religions) have value. It’s just that they are often molded into the views of the believer. Most religions teach tolerance and love, and many have always taught equality between the sexes.

    I am both a Quaker and a feminist. And I would maintain that it is my beliefs as a Quaker that often inform and guide my feminism. I definitely don’t think I could be a Quaker without being a feminist. Indeed, some of the earliest lauded feminists were Quakers as well (i.e. Susan B. Anthony and Lucretia Mott).

    Really though, what disturbs me the most nowadays, is the treatment that people of faith are receiving at the hands of many liberals, including feminists. Calling all religions illogical or oppressive just marginalizes populations and certainly doesn’t help us work together or understand our common ground. If anything, such comments just further isolate those of faith who DO want to do good in the world.

  25. June 20, 2007 at 2:11 am

    I tend to think that most major world religions are poppycock. That’s not to say that they don’t preach anything of value — far from it; compassion, kindness, love, forgiveness, empathy, all those things are very wortwhile and valuable lessons and tenets. However, I think the institutionalisation of those values within a hierarchal religious system has all but destroyed them, serving the letter of the law whilst ignoring the spirit, if you will.

    That, and I have a personal beef with the Catholic Church. Not with most Catholics, mind (though a few of them do come to mind), but the institution itself and the way it conducts itself via its high-ups makes me want to burn it to the ground and piss on the ashes.

  26. June 20, 2007 at 2:12 am

    As BabyPop says, not all Catholics are anti-feminist. Unlike Bill Donohue and most of the commentators in the media think, it’s perfectly OK for Catholics to disagree with the Pope (as Benedict XVI often did during the reigns of John XXIII and Paul VI, and as Donohue himself does on issues like war and immigration). Even on matters of dogma, the idea that the Pope is infallible is a relatively recent one, and it is not universally accepted.

    But I think that it’s a mistake to seek a religion that you can accept. Instead, seek a congregation. My father is a lifelong Episcopalian and still considers himself Episcopalian, but found that the congregation he was most comfortable and fulfilled in was that of a Presbyterian minister who embraced Liberation Theology. Among the congregants at that church are two Catholic nuns, who still consider themselves Catholic. In fact, one still wears the penguin suit.

    The point is that your contact with the spiritual comes not through abstract doctrine, but through contact with a congregation. I’m sure that you can find one that doesn’t wallow in misogyny and religious bigotry.

  27. Wogglebug
    June 20, 2007 at 2:18 am

    Seconding Tricia on this. Cults have a number of identifying characteristics: they almost always have a single living head, demand that believers donate lots of or all their money to the cause, isolate believers from family and general society, threaten terrible punishments if anyone leaves the cult, and often form large clusters on cult-owned land where the believers are kept too busy to think straight. Opus Dei is a cult. The broader Roman Catholic Church is not.

    I am a follower of the Baha’i faith, and a feminist. These beliefs are in perfect harmony: the Baha’i faith teaches that all God’s children have equal potential and value, and that as long as women are oppressed, humanity will be as handicapped as a bird trying to fly using only one wing. We’re also pacifists; if we’re drafted into the military, we’re supposed to serve willingly but ask to be assigned a noncombatant position.

    You can find a connection to the divine without being abused. Baha’is and Quakers both have no clergy at all. My Congregationalist relatives listen to a minister’s sermon on Sundays, but I’ve gone to church with them and never heard anything as boneheadedly destructive as you describe–nothing coercive at all. Many feminists who’ve been turned off by organized religion turn to neopaganism as a framework for their spiritual beliefs and practice. Seek and you shall find.

  28. libber
    June 20, 2007 at 2:21 am

    I’m a feminist, and very religious. Granted, I’m a Celtic Pagan, so my religion has no dogma, no oppression, and no dictates on behavior (beyond be a good host). Religion doesn’t have to be terrible

    Well, maybe not, and I don’t know Celtic Paganism, but Christian values seem to clash with feminist values. Anti-choicers tend to appeal to the bible when they make life difficult for abortionists (e.g., by killing them).

  29. June 20, 2007 at 2:43 am

    Anglican (Episcopalian if I lived in the US, which I don’t) feminist here. We definitely exist. Two of the clergy at my parish are female, and I’d consider both to be feminists. Granted, organised religion in general has a lousy track record when it comes to the subjugation of women (and my own denomination is no exception), but it’s entirely possible to be a practising member of a religion and not a crazy, homophobic, misogynist bigot.

  30. June 20, 2007 at 2:57 am

    I have always found that regardless of my religious and/or spiritual beliefs (or the lack thereof) that the power dynamics inherent in hierarchical, misogynist, racist, etc. religious beliefs tend to cloud over any spiritual meaning or fulfillment. I have also come out of a cult based in Christianity, and it’s fucking hard to come to terms with one’s own religious beliefs after abuses. But that’s just me. On to you…

    It is totally possible to be Christians and progressive, but there’s the potential to go wrong when people deceive themselves about Christianity’s oppressive history (textual and actual). I think a prime example, is the infallibility and divine inspiration of the bible, or any text for that matter. The rightness of a text (as a text) can often be conflated with the act(s) that the text is describing. Thereby, the acts such as mindless killing, imperialism, genocide (coughcanaanitenationscoughcough), and war in general are vicariously conflated as rightness when there isn’t actually a clear moral judgment given in the text. Consider this: What if the perpetrators of war in the bible were held accountable for their actions and we started viewing their stories in such a light? How would that change our ideas of inspired texts? Would it change our ideas of god/text/doctrine or merely how the prophets/leaders in the bible interpreted god/text/doctrine? What if those stories are there to show us how truly stupid we can be instead of how great killing is? What if the truth is in the discrepancy? I really have no concrete answers, but it’s a thought.

    Furthermore, I think its incredibly admirable that you’re not about to deceive yourself into thinking that Christianity is without flaws, or that any religion is divorced from the people that carry it out. Just like feminists have to daily negotiate often asymmetrical relationships with patriarchal power, so each participant in religion (whatever the organization) has to negotiate the divide between religion and those who carry out said religion’s dicta. I don’t think there’s one pat answer like SarahMC suggests. But I also don’t think there’s hypocrisy as long as you’re not trying to justify specific Christian beliefs (and/or the manner in which certain beliefs have been carried out) as indisputably good.

    You are so right on in questioning everything, and I wouldn’t be dismayed by wanting to embrace Christianity as a religion. It’s what you were raised with, and if it’s where you find spiritual fulfillment, then who am I to criticize. Still, regardless of your previous connection to Christianity or your desire for spiritual fulfillment, there would be something seriously wrong if you didn’t have a problem with innocent people being killed. The answer from the former Navy man dealt with consolations and rationales AFTER the fact of killing, which, though only natural for his situation, doesn’t actually address the problem of innocent people being killed or the opposition of two or more seemingly right religions. It’s a huge unanswered question that I myself don’t understand, but as I said before as long as you’re not trying to deceive yourself that killing mindlessly is just great (insert tony the tiger), then I think you’re not perpetuating the killing in your practice of the religion. Frankly, I think Christianity could use a lot more people like you. More power to you.

  31. June 20, 2007 at 2:57 am

    :) You sure do get around! I don’t believe one can be a feminist and be a “Bible believing” Christian any more than I believe a gay or lesbian person can. You have to ignore a lot of passages in the Bible to work your way around to it. Of course, I’m an atheist that tries to live by the “golden rule,” so take that for what it’s worth.

  32. Linnaeus
    June 20, 2007 at 3:24 am

    Really though, what disturbs me the most nowadays, is the treatment that people of faith are receiving at the hands of many liberals, including feminists. Calling all religions illogical or oppressive just marginalizes populations and certainly doesn’t help us work together or understand our common ground. If anything, such comments just further isolate those of faith who DO want to do good in the world.

    I understand where you’re coming from, Tricia. I wince sometimes when I hear some of the hyperbole about religion from people whom I normally respect and with whom I probably agree the vast majority of the time. When you consider that many – or even most – people who are left-liberal also follow some sort of religion, it’s definitely counterproductive.

    That said, I think this treatment (or whatever you wish to call it) is rooted in part in genuine and justifiable frustration with the way in which religiosity, particularly Christianity, is used in our culture to marginalize left-liberals. To someone who is not Christian, or even a certain kind of Christian, and who is on the left end of the spectrum, it seems like there’s no end to the messages one gets about how morally corrupt liberals are. This is often packaged with a victimization narrative to the effect that Christianity is constantly under attack. This despite the fact that overt expressions of Christianity are pervasive, and some expression or acknowledgement of religious faith (usually, but not always, Christian) is pretty much expected for those running for high-level political office. Or, at the very least, you’re not supposed to mention you are not a Christian and if you’re one of “weird” pagan believers or an atheist, and you express either view openly and with as much vigor as we often get from Christian politicians, you’re politically radioactive.

  33. Taube
    June 20, 2007 at 4:35 am

    I was thinking about my own views on religion earlier today. I still identify as a nominal Christian on surveys and whatnot, but I haven’t been to church in years and don’t really desire to go back. I don’t know what would happen if people stuck to either the letter OR the spirit of the Bible, since it has obviously never been tried. Furthermore, I think you definitely can’t stick to the letter AND spirit – they just aren’t at all consistent. Given the choice, I think the spirit – the intention – is more important. I have an uneasy relationship with my beliefs about the existence of God, and especially of Jesus. I’ve achieved kind of a compartmentalization – but one of which I’m aware. I think I do believe in god – but not as a white-bearded arbiter in the sky or whatever, or even as a person per se, but more of as a force. Sort of like gravity, but more as the force of love and compassion. I think this is – or at least should have been – the central message of Christianity if you take away the parts that people use to beat other people over the heads with. As for Jesus? I find it comforting to think such a person lived, as a son of god, on earth. My interpretation of that myth gives me satisfaction. However, it is completely unimportant to me whether he existed or not. Either way, I still think it is wrong to hurt other people, it is right to take care of myself, those around me, and the world I live in. Whether or not Jesus existed doesn’t change my opinion on divorce, evolution, abortion, shrimp scampi, or anything else. I guess technically that makes me not a Christian, but I don’t really care about that either.

    To actually answer the question instead of rambling, I think you can be a Christian and feminist, but not if you are using and obeying the strict definition of Christianity used today. All of the people I’ve known who were most ‘officially’ Christian were also some of the most hateful people I’ve known. Also, any woman that is living in this kind of Christianity is being taught and encouraged to be self-loathing, so that makes it more difficult to be feminist for sure.

  34. FridayLeap
    June 20, 2007 at 5:32 am

    I’m an atheist so I can’t offer you any direct advice as I think that all religion is, well maybe I’d better stop there – it’s a little early in the am my time for my sky-fairy rant. Suffice to say I think that Richard Dawkins is pretty much spot on. However, that aside, I suggest you pop over to Hugo Schwyzer’s blog and have a look around. He’s a feminist-friendly christian college professor and has some interesting posts on feminism and christianity.

  35. June 20, 2007 at 5:50 am

    Sometimes it seems like it’s a question of prosody or whatever; when Europeans are unhappy with their religion, they seem to say, “This religious stuff doesn’t work for me” — and then they become atheists –, while US-Americans seem to say, “This religious stuff doesn’t work for me” — and then they become pagans. : )

    That aside though, all rational reasons to abandon That Religion Thing have been given time and again; obviously it’s not something open to rational discourse. Maybe the most relevant is that you do can everything you can do with religion at its best (love, be a decent person, build a community, whatever) without it as well — except be spiritual, so maybe religion should tend to that without interfering with the rest. Like, while the right should accept that yes, people will have sex, maybe the agnostics and atheists among us should accept that yes, some people will have spiritual needs. So maybe it’s more a question of both sides admitting that reason doesn’t have anything to do with it. Shoot up with Jesus or whatever to fill whatever need that fills, but don’t build a framework of pseudo-reason around it that only opens you up to manipulation, or if you do, at least have the decency not to vote?

  36. rachel
    June 20, 2007 at 6:15 am

    A couple random thoughts…

    I think every belief system, whether religious, political, or anything else, has the potential to be perverted in a couple ways: 1. as a bolster to the individual’s ego, and 2. as a way to excuse the ego from whatever responsibility he/she wants to be excused from.

    I’m an episcopalian, and we’re dealing with gender issues a lot in our church–our head bishop in the US is a woman, and a lot of people still have a problem with that. But I find the dialogue encouraging more than frustrating.

    I think in general faith is something that is a struggle with the lack of absolutes–and a lot of fearful people turn away from that struggle by clinging to a specific interpretation of their religion’s law–whether that’s the bible or a specific Buddhist text or anything else.

  37. DarkAesthete
    June 20, 2007 at 7:32 am

    “I’m a feminist, and very religious. Granted, I’m a Celtic Pagan, so my religion has no dogma, no oppression, and no dictates on behavior (beyond be a good host). Religion doesn’t have to be terrible.”

    I actually left Wicca due to what I say as the inherent sexism in the religion, but as a pagan maybe you’ve foung something a bit different that works for you. In all myth trvael of the religious sense (born Catholic, raised Protestant, considered Judaism, left Wicca in disgust) I’ve never manged to find an egalitarian religion.

  38. DarkAesthete
    June 20, 2007 at 7:33 am

    Gah, I actually CANNOT spell but you get the general idea.

  39. Ataralas
    June 20, 2007 at 7:39 am

    Yes, absolutely, it is possible to be a Christian and a feminist.

    It’s also possible to be Christian and racist. It’s possible to be Christian and gay. It’s possible to be Christian and a pacifist. It’s possible to be Christian and a warmonger. It’s possible to Christian and rich. It’s possible to be Christian and classist.

    Christianity is not a unified body. It is a collection of streams of thought loosely centered around the life and death of Jesus of Nazareth and a collection of writings about his life and his religious tradition that is called the Bible. There is no one particular way (and if you’re a Reformed Christian, like me, there ought not be one particular way) to be a Christian.

    Yes, Christianity has a long history of misogyny. So does basically every other Western collection of people with any power ever. It also has some bright moments in terms of elevating women, particularly in the early church, to positions of authority.

    My suggestion? Sit down with your Bible awhile, alone or with a group of likeminded friends. Study. Think. Read Biblical criticism. Read Biblical and ecclesiastical history. When you’ve got a good handle on what you believe, perhaps you’ll find it easier to go out and find a community of Christians with whom you feel comfortable.* Or maybe you’ll decide the Jesus thing isn’t for you. But at least you’ll be informed about it.

    *There are shitty people in every group of people. I’m a PK and have been around the best and worst of churches all my life. The worst is pretty fucking bad, but the best is pretty awesome. But not really so much worse than say, academics. Or activists.

  40. mothworm
    June 20, 2007 at 8:04 am

    All religion is a cult. Free yourself from oppressive, illogical myths.

    I’m really going to have to disagree on this one. Most (if not all religions) have value. It’s just that they are often molded into the views of the believer. Most religions teach tolerance and love, and many have always taught equality between the sexes.

    Sorry, I have to agree with the first comment. You can tolerate and love and teach equality without religion. It adds nothing to the mix.

    Where does it leave anyone who thinks that following Jesus’ teachings might not be a bad way to go but just can’t find any justification for a lot of the actions and views that go along with Christianity?

    Which is why I say that if you think Jesus had some good ideas, then adopt them. But adopt them because you think they are rational choices, not because of divine authority–the same as you would with any philosophy. You don’t need religion’s hoo ha any more than you need any other illogical, unfounded beileif that would require you to waste your brain.

  41. June 20, 2007 at 8:21 am

    Feminist and Christian, is it possible?

    No.

    Next question?

    The Bible is very clear that women are subhuman. Both New and Old Testaments have multiple references to women’s lack of status relative to men. I can cough up a zillion examples if somebody out there wants me to prove it, starting with Genesis (Adams rib? “Helpmeet?” F*CK that!) and ending with the New Testament (“Women should not be allowed to teach.”).

    The Vatican has also made itself very clear about its policy that women are useful objects at worst and members of a subhuman servant class at best.

    It’s possible to be a Jesus freak and not be Christian. Frankly, they only barely have anything to do with one another. Jesus is probably flipping OUT in the Otherword over the things that have been written/spoken/done in his name.

  42. Caitlain
    June 20, 2007 at 8:54 am

    It is my belief that religion, at least as organized religion as it is practiced in the majority of cases, and feminism are incompatible. Religion is responsible for the overwhelming majority of the wars, deaths and misogyny that have occurred throughout history. How can you reconcile the misogyny inherent in most religions with the basic premise of feminism? It isn’t possible, of course.

    I’m sure many people delude themselves into believing it is possible (based on the comments here). I’d challenge anyone who says they are compatible to rectify the two (at least from the mainstream religions), however.

  43. June 20, 2007 at 9:16 am

    One of my Women’s Studies classmates in college was a Mormon. There were only a few of us who were Women’s Studies majors and she was one of them. It always confused me how that could be.

    But feminism isn’t an all or nothing system of beliefs. Feminism is a MOVEMENT and therefor the people within it move and change and evolve and develop along with the society they’re trying to change. We all come with baggage and sometimes that baggage is religion.

  44. June 20, 2007 at 9:20 am

    I suppose some religious folks can be feminist

    What? Maybe Buddhists can, certainly not Christians. In fact, people who seek to justify discriminatory practices often appeal to the Bible.

    I’m a Christian. I’m a Feminist. I’m an Existentialist. I can’t even count the number of times I’ve been told I can’t be a Christian and a Feminist or Existentialist. Take a second and think before you right off an entire group of people. You can get a lot of support from Christian Feministis if you’re not to quick to shut them out.

  45. Arianna
    June 20, 2007 at 9:28 am

    “I’m a feminist, and very religious. Granted, I’m a Celtic Pagan, so my religion has no dogma, no oppression, and no dictates on behavior (beyond be a good host). Religion doesn’t have to be terrible.”

    I actually left Wicca due to what I say as the inherent sexism in the religion, but as a pagan maybe you’ve foung something a bit different that works for you. In all myth trvael of the religious sense (born Catholic, raised Protestant, considered Judaism, left Wicca in disgust) I’ve never manged to find an egalitarian religion.

    Ditto, DarkAesthete. Wicca drives me nuts in that it claims to be totally gender-equal and woman-empowering, but is so focused on gender divides and the maternal and gender roles, I finally had to quit. It’s not as bad outside of Alexandrian/Gardnerian groups, like I really appreciate some of Starhawk’s writing (especially in the 20th anniversary edition of The Spiral Dance where she annotated her old work, saying she doesn’t really believe in a gender duality anymore and that everyone contains all the qualities/properties, but maybe for some people it’s easier to think of it that way just because that’s how they’re socialised, made me really happy as compared to other writers’ insistence on it being innate).

    Being just Pagan however is a whole ‘nother kettle of fish. No dogma, no rules, no nothing – she works within Celtic framework, but beyond that practice etc is at her discretion.

    I consider myself Pagan sometimes, but sometimes I go months and months swearing I’m an ardent atheist. I’m in a bit of religious flux right now. Similar path to you Aesthete – born Catholic, spent time Anglican, considered Judaism, left Wicca after a bit of pre-initiatory study (tg I was never initiated), and now just sort of… floating.

    (this might have double posted, i got a weird wordpress error when i submitted it the first time)

  46. La Lubu
    June 20, 2007 at 9:32 am

    First, many blessings on you and yours Bint, for the struggles you’ve been through/are going through.

    I’m kinda at the same place you are, but having arrived from a different direction. My parents had a falling out with the Church after some things that happened after my brother’s death. It’s hard to explain—one the one hand, my father would say things like, “Repeat after me, religion is propaganda.” And my three-year-old self would respond “Weelijun is pwopaganda.” On the other hand, there was always a lot of talk (and books around)about religion, religious philosophies, comparative religion, etc. Not to mention the rest of my family being pretty devout, but in their own way (meaning, they attended Mass, prayed–especially to saints, burned candles—but were obviously anti-clerical, not into the hierarchy, and basically ignored any pronoucements that came from the “official” church that didn’t fit). I always had this pull towards Spirit, the Divine, God, whatever. Is it rational? I don’t know—is “love” rational? Reason doesn’t fill all needs.

    I’m Catholic, and struggle with that. It is deeply tied in with my cultural heritage, and there is a lot in the liturgy and rituals that feel like home. Do I disagree with the Vatican? Hell yeah! That’s endemic to Catholicism, and always has been. Sicilian Catholics have always been devout and anti-clerical at the same time (and I really dig how Lucia Chiavola Birnbaum spells that out in her books). At the same time, I’ve been exposed to so many other religions and spiritual beliefs (‘cuz I’ve been searching for that spiritual homeland since I was a child—reading, talking to people, attending other religious services, etc.), my beliefs are so syncretic I doubt I’d find that other home, anyway. And that’s ok.

    See, every time I get challenged on why I am Catholic, I remind folks that “there’s Catholicism the way men in pointy hats in the Vatican preach it, and there’s Catholicism the way Sicilian grandmothers have been preaching it long before there were men in pointy hats in the Vatican.” It’s about ownership—who owns the Church? The hierarchy, or the people? For me, it’s the people. When I think of Catholicism, I don’t think of the Vatican. I think of my grandmothers, mother, aunts. The people who stand outside the Federal building every Saturday protesting the war in Iraq. The Dominican nuns in my neighborhood. The soup kitchen and Martin DePorre center. The Jubilee Farm (also run by Dominicans) that holds classes and seminars on environmental stewardship and invites the public to walk their labyrinth and pray or be at peace in nature.

    In other words, despite the sexism in the official hierarchy, I still think of that strong, deep bedrock of women who are living what Jesus taught. But yeah, when it comes down to it, I’m a seeker. That’s ok, too.

    I think it’s inherent in the human condition that churches, like governments, like any large organization—once it gets beyond a certain size, that hierarchical poison creeps in. That “I’m better than you.” That distinct lack of respect for others in the body of humankind. I have to second gordo on seeking a congregation rather than a religion. And—there’s a book you may want to check out (literally. it’s out of print) called “God Without Walls: You Don’t Have to Go to Church to Pray” by William Mayo.

    Feminism can be hostile to those with a spiritual bent, just like it can be hostile to mothers, women of color, lesbians, etc. It can also be welcoming to all of the above. Feminism is just like any other mass gathering of participants—and in that way, has some of the same flaws as organized religion. So IMHO, feminism and Christianity, or Islam, or Buddhism, or any religion, are not inherently incompatible.

    Peace, Bint. I really enjoy your blog, and hope you have a long stint here.

  47. Vail
    June 20, 2007 at 9:33 am

    I’m a Deist myself. I too grew up in a cult-like religion (born again Christian). I believe it’s when you organize religion that you start to have trouble. Putting people in charge of religion is a big mistake. The more power you give them, the bigger the mistakes that can happen. Look inside yourself for what you believe, and don’t let someone else tell you what to think/believe or how to act. You might want to join some other non-religious group to find freinds and make bonds. That way you will feel free to reject whatever teachings you don’t likee at church but still feel like you have a place to go to be with people.

  48. June 20, 2007 at 9:36 am

    A lot of comments in this thread have been of the form “you should join religion X because it’s very consistent with feminism.” If this works for you, great. But I think most human beings have multiple overlapping value systems in their heads, and mature moral/ethical/religious reflection involves finding compromises among those systems. One characteristic of cults is that they present One True Yardstick by which everyone is supposed to evaluate every action and thought–to think of evaluating one’s self by multiple standards is to be disloyal.

    You may discover that services at the most gender-egalitarian church that you can find leave you totally cold, while a church that is flawed from a political POV (like the one you’re attending now) is the one that actually brings you closer to the Divine. In that case, you need to figure out how to bring more feminism into your relationship the sexist church or bring more Holy Spirit into your relationship with the egalitarian church. Your need for authentic religious experience and your need for feminism are both legitimate, and neither should be suppressed for the sake of the other.

    A lot of atheists and agnostics seem to assume that religion is some kind of soporific that provides easy answers to the hard questions of life. My own experience with religion has created at least as many questions as it’s answered.

  49. June 20, 2007 at 9:53 am

    Feminist and Christian, is it possible? No. Next question?

    The Bible is very clear that women are subhuman. Both New and Old Testaments have multiple references to women’s lack of status relative to men.

    Who says you have to accept those parts of the bible to be a Christian? I mean, I know who says it, but why should we defer to them on that question when we don’t give any credence to what they say about anything else.

    The Vatican has also made itself very clear about its policy that women are useful objects at worst and members of a subhuman servant class at best.

    The Vatican doesn’t speak for all Christians. Ostensibly it speaks for all Catholics, but it doesn’t really do that, either — one of the most energetic critics of the Vatican I know is a priest.

    As Ataralas said, Christianity is a loose, diverse religion. I’d go so far as to say that for any X that any group of people in the world believes, you’d likely find at least a few self-described Christians who’d agree with them.

  50. Ursula L
    June 20, 2007 at 9:54 am

    Quite possible, but you’ll have to choose your denomination and congregation carefully. UU, UCC, a liberal American (northern) Baptist congregation, possibly Episcopalian, Lutheran (ELCA, not Missouri synod), Methodist, or Presbyterian.

    A useful thing to look for is whether the denomination allows women to be ministers/pastors/priests/bishops at all levels, and whether the congregation has or has recently had a woman as a minister/pastor/priest. Also useful to look whether the denomination/congregation will marry homosexuals, or do some similar dedication/commitment ceremony. You want to be sure of both the denomination and the congregation. Congregation is probably a bigger deal, they are the people you’ll be with most of the time. Denomination is more or less important depending on how it is organized – the American Baptists tend to leave most things at the congregational level, for example, so the denomination is silent on a lot of issues.

  51. Frumious B
    June 20, 2007 at 9:54 am

    I suppose some religious folks can be feminist

    What? Maybe Buddhists can

    Ever hear of the 8 heavy duties? Negatory on the Buddhist feminism.

    Most (if not all religions) have value.

    Nothing that is of value to religion is specific to religion. One does not need invisible sky fairies to treat people as equals and fight injustice.

  52. Sally
    June 20, 2007 at 9:56 am

    I don’t know much about Quakerism but aren’t they, for the most part, classic liberals rather than progressive?

    I’m not sure what you mean by “classic liberals.” If you mean “classical liberal,” in the sense that they believe in individual competition as the basis of society, then my answer would be no, not in my experience. If you’re differentiating between liberals, in the American sense, and progressives, also in the American sense, then I’m not sure where you’d draw that line. Because Quakers categorically reject all war, they’ve never been totally comfortable in the mainstream of American politics, so I wouldn’t say that they’re typical liberals. On the other hand, I think there’s room within Quakerism for people with a lot of different politics.

    As I understand it, the fundamental precepts of Quakerism are that everyone, and not just Quakers or Christians, has the Light of the Lord within them; that the Inner Light, and not just Scripture, is a source of religious authority; that one worships by meditating to find the Inner Light within one’s self. There are a number of corollaries to the Inner Light idea: everyone is equal; nobody is evil beyond redemption; it is never ok to kill a fellow human being. There are certain political ideas that seem to flow naturally from these premises, but it’s not like they lead directly to a particular political program.

  53. SarahMC
    June 20, 2007 at 9:56 am

    Gee, thanks, etango. But I disagree with anyone who insists that religious beliefs should be free from scrutiny.
    Belief in deities is no more respectable than belief that the world is flat, or that the sun orbits earth. And I think it’s my duty to call these beliefs as I see them: harmful to humanity and a hindrance to progress.

  54. June 20, 2007 at 10:00 am

    I think it is harsh to say that one cannot be Christian and a Feminist. In my humble yet religiously overeducated opinion a Christian is someone who believes in Jesus’s life and resurrection and the basic tenants of his teachings. In my 13 years of catholic religious instruction I came to some important conclusions (or someone told me them, who knows.) Religion and spirituality are different, religion is a structure, a building an instituation, a community, spirituality is your own personal relationship with God, which you can have without Religion.

    To have spirituality you don’t have to be a member of a church, and if you are, you don’t have to fully agree with them on every issue. And if you can’t find a church you are comfortable in you can still have a relationship with God outside of a church structure.

    Now most Church officals will probably tell you that this is NOT true. But it is important to consider that their power, thier position, their job is dependant on the idea that people like you need to come to them for spiritual guidance. They are holding you to the idea that you are not spiritually whole without them in order to save their jobs and their communities. They are human after all.

    So I say of course you can be feminist and a Christian, you can have a deep and spiritual relationship with God. You can trust what you know in your heart is right and good, or consult with the bible on your own. You don’t need all of the patriarchal nonsense in order to have a relationship with God.

    However if what you really feel is missing from your life is not a relationship with God, but a community, there are pleny of secular communities you can join, or you can participate in your church but realize that your beliefs and their teachings may not always align 100% and THAT IS OKAY :-).

    I think that people who can have a strong relationship with God, should. However I don’t think they should be dependant on a church for it!

    (Full Disclosure: I’m agnostic and a recovering catholic.)

  55. SarahMC
    June 20, 2007 at 10:00 am

    One does not need invisible sky fairies to treat people as equals and fight injustice.

    And anyone who DOES need those things is incrediby suspect, in my mind.

  56. Esteleth
    June 20, 2007 at 10:10 am

    Can you be a feminist and a Christian?
    I certainly hope so! I consider myself both, and I don’t see a conflict between them. I am a Quaker, and I second (third? fourth?) the suggestions that other people have made to look into that if you want a feminist-friendly Christian denomination. I am a queer feminist, and in my experience the Quakers are very supportive and open.
    A word of advice though: as Quakers have no clergy, how a Meeting will conduct itself and what sort of things are said/espoused will depend entirely on who goes there. Where are you living?
    Someone asked about the political leanings of Quakers, and again: it depends on the person. Many are progressive, some are classical liberals, some are conservative. Without a clergy to “direct” us, we go all over the place.

  57. June 20, 2007 at 10:11 am

    A lot of atheists and agnostics seem to assume that religion is some kind of soporific that provides easy answers to the hard questions of life. My own experience with religion has created at least as many questions as it’s answered.

    Yup. And as an atheist, I’ll add that atheism doesn’t provide reliable answers to the big questions, either — an atheist’s worldview may be as ideosyncratic and self-contradictory as the most befuddled believer’s.

    The good news is that it’s possible to be flummoxed by the big questions and still be a moral, thoughtful person. Neither atheism nor religious belief provides a road-map to a moral life, but neither precludes it, either.

    I understand why skeptics and believers are so wary of each other, but it seems to me — and you can see it all over this thread — that a lot of that wariness is grounded in sweeping assumptions and self-congratulation.

    You can struggle productively to live a moral life from within either a religious or a skeptical framework, and there are fatuous and hateful people on both sides of the aisle, too. When it comes down to it I’m far more interested in what a person believes about fairness and justice — and in how she puts those beliefs into practice — than in whether those beliefs are grounded in religious faith, and if so which one.

  58. Sally
    June 20, 2007 at 10:13 am

    Belief in deities is no more respectable than belief that the world is flat, or that the sun orbits earth.

    Sure it is. The world can be proven unflat, and we have lots of evidence that the sun doesn’t orbit the earth. Belief in a diety can never be disproved. It’s more akin to belief in invisible fairies or astrology or something like that.

    I’m always curious about people who are really hostile to religion, because I don’t feel that way at all. I’m not religious, because I just don’t believe in God. I’ve tried, and it doesn’t work. But I don’t think there’s anything wrong with believing in God, and I think that religions are flawed institutions that carry a lot of baggage, the same as any institution that’s been around for a long time, such as Oxford University or the United States Supreme Court. Some are more flawed than others, but I don’t see them as some special kind of evil. Maybe I just underestimate their power, because I’ve never been directly subject to it.

  59. Kristen
    June 20, 2007 at 10:40 am

    I hear where you’re coming from. I had a similar experience growing up, although I was ostracized not for having sex, but rather for having the temerity to wear slacks and call child protective services on our minister (who was beating the crap out of his daughter on a regular basis). I was welcomed back in the fold for reasons too stupid to go into but at one point, I said fuck it and walked away. After I left, I, too, tried to reconcile my need for the divine with the hatefulness I saw in my Christian upbringing. My solution was to search through every religion I could in order to discover if there was something out there that would fill the void I felt when I walked away from Christianity. At the end of my search, I felt like I had found Nothing and Everything.

    As for the Nothing, I found that no set of spiritual beliefs was without internal contradiction. Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, Taoism, Science*, etc were all intrinsically flawed. This to me was absolutely shocking. Growing up in a Fundie religion provides you with a sense of certainty, a sense of security (not to mention a sense of superiority). “There is a God. You have superior knowledge of who this God is. You can rely on God to be there.” I discovered that all the religions I studied wanted to provide this similar sense that their religion was the Truth (with a capital T), the way to Enlightenment, the way to God. But that their paths were always flawed based on their own belief system. My resolution (your results may differ) was that there is no knowable Truth.** There may be lots of little truths, the truths that keep chairs on floors instead of ceilings, but what ever the big Truth is, we’ll never actually know it and we may not have the capacity to know it.

    As for the Everything, I found that nearly every set of spiritual beliefs embodied a notion of kindness. This to me was the answer to the question of how to go forward. I didn’t know the Truth, but I did know that kindness is valuable…so I went with that. Be Kind.

    And Be Kind is where religion sort of falls off the bus for me. Religions may embody a notion of kindness, but they also embody a sense of otherness. “We’re right. We know the way. Everyone who is not us is dumb, unenlightened, and/or going to hell.” This othernessing*** of people is at the heart of racism, sexism, and all the other evil -isms. Othernessing is an invitation to hate. And othernessing is diametrically opposed to feminism.

    So philosophically I take the position that feminism and religion cannot peacefully co-exist. Of course for some individuals it may work, but philosophically I don’t think they do.

    * Science was added to this list years later.
    ** Yes, I know that I state this as a truth, but its not the Truth, its just “a” truth.
    *** Othernessing should be a word, like othering, but by a group.

  60. Rhiannon
    June 20, 2007 at 10:46 am

    and I think that religions are flawed institutions that carry a lot of baggage,

    I think you answered your own question of why some people are venomous towards religion… that’s part of religious instituation’s baggage… creating hostile non-believers.

  61. Penny
    June 20, 2007 at 11:05 am

    My Mum had an adventure last year when she went to an eco-event hosted by some local nuns. (Mum’s a protestant, she was looking for lawn care advice).

    She really liked the nuns. By the end of the weekend they were all singing a song and doing a dance thanking Gaia.

    I said “are you sure this is ok with the Pope?”
    Mum said “Oh….I don’t think they like the Pope much.”

  62. June 20, 2007 at 11:10 am

    Like BabyPop, I’m a Catholic Feminist. In fact, I’m a prochoice, bisexual Catholic feminist.

    I think there are feminist groups and anti-feminist groups within each faith, and then within the denominations of each faith. For instance, the Catholicism I practice with theSisters of St. Joseph is radically different than, say, the Legion of Mary, or Opus Dei.

  63. Steph Steph Stonas
    June 20, 2007 at 11:11 am

    Bint, I used to be Mormon and your story hits very close to home. I always felt conflicted about the church’s strict views on gender and sexuality, but I wouldn’t have called my feelings feminism until I was out of the church for awhile. As far as your question goes, I think there are people who are members of more open and progressive Christian denominations and congregations that really can reconcile feminism and Christianity, though there are women who call themselves feminists in almost every religion. I found my church stifling and had to get out. I don’t think I’d ever seek out religion again, but good luck to you in your search for a place you fit in.

  64. SarahMC
    June 20, 2007 at 11:16 am

    Fine – I admit that god-belief is more along the lines of fairy-belief or unicorn-belief or Santa-belief. Doesn’t make it reasonable or logical. Doesn’t make it respectable and it especially should not be a sacred cow.

  65. June 20, 2007 at 11:19 am

    Sorry to disappoint all of you people who seem to have a chip on your shoulder when it comes to religion, but yes it is possible to be Christian and feminist. I am one.

    Just as feminists get sick and tired of the whole “bra-burning, man-hating” stereotype, many Christians get tired of others believing that we are all carved out of the same mold. We’re not.

    Whatever y’all choose to believe – or not to believe – is fine by me. But have enough decency to respect the fact my faith is what gets me through the day and it’s what makes me happy. You don’t have to agree with me, but I would hope you would respect my decision just as I respect yours.

  66. lizvelrene
    June 20, 2007 at 11:20 am

    My very catholic aunt had a similar experience when she married my uncle. He is divorced, from a brief marriage when he was very young. Divorce is a sin in the Catholic church. But she is the one who has to confess about it, as though it were a sin she committed, having married the man she loved. Her church doesn’t recognize their marriage, even though it is both long and stable and both are the picture of church-going christians – because he is divorced he cannot remarry in a church-approved manner. How does this happen? I think Catholics in paritcular have learned to mentally adjust themselves to this kind of thing, where in their individual lives they will consistently make the best decision for themselves regardless of what the church says, and then go to church and apologize for it. I’ve come to think that religion as we know it now is simply Incompatible With Life. I don’t know if it was always this way, but I can imagine that this is how a religion dies out.

  67. June 20, 2007 at 11:21 am

    I grew up in a cruel, vicious cult (Pentecostal/Assemblies of God) and ran off in my teens and joined another cult (Hare Krishnas/ISKCON). Towards the end, I just could not deal with the disconnect between what I was preaching, the supposed ideal state of the faith, and the reality, which was the rape and abuse of women and children, mind control, deception, and oppression of every stripe. Maybe you can call yourself a feminist and still be part of Christianity or other religions, but that feminism will be at odds with your faith, no matter how much you wish it were otherwise.

    I want to add that the turn of phrase “person of faith” makes me want to vomit. It’s appropriating language of genuinely marginalized people to pretend you are being oppressed because of a choice you make.

    One more thing: I had some measure of respect for the Bahai’i faith, fighting against oppression and all. Until I found out how much they really don’t give a damn about the GLBT community.

  68. June 20, 2007 at 11:43 am

    All religion, by the definition I understand, requires something in the way of a specific belief or behavior. You’ve tried an unquestioning belief, but that didn’t work for you. You’ve tried a a religion with caveats, but that’s not working either. I’d say give it up. It’s possible to accept Jesus (or anyone else) as a teacher without actually having to join a religion.

  69. Hector B.
    June 20, 2007 at 12:13 pm

    It’s possible to accept Jesus (or anyone else) as a teacher without actually having to join a religion.

    While this is true, becoming part of a community of believers attracts a lot of people to organized religion. Small groups for every conceivable demographic (high schoolers, singles aged 30 to 45, etc.) form part of the appeal of fundamentalist megachurches. When movable type made it possible for everyone to read the Bible for herself, rendering unnecessary the intervention of the priest, people still went to services once a week to hear sermons. Even essentially home based religions like Judaism or Jainism are enhanced by forming congregations.

  70. in2mi
    June 20, 2007 at 12:30 pm

    Fine – I admit that god-belief is more along the lines of fairy-belief or unicorn-belief or Santa-belief. Doesn’t make it reasonable or logical. Doesn’t make it respectable and it especially should not be a sacred cow.

    And you wonder why there is such animosity between believers and non-believers around faith. Thanks Sarah MC for contiuing to condescend and disrespect people of faith. It is sacred in the sense that it is a belief system that people hold to for various reasons. That doesn’t mean that it is not open to critique. But, it is not critique to essential call people of faith crazy, which is exactly what you do when you equate belief in God to belief in unicorns or Santa. Just as it is not critique when call people are quick to judge atheists or people who aren’t Christian as heathens who are doomed to Hell.

    Extremists on either side are pretty damn unhealthy and do little to promote any level of tolerance and acceptance.

    Whatever y’all choose to believe – or not to believe – is fine by me. But have enough decency to respect the fact my faith is what gets me through the day and it’s what makes me happy. You don’t have to agree with me, but I would hope you would respect my decision just as I respect yours.

    Thank you Angel!

  71. LivvySidhe
    June 20, 2007 at 12:38 pm

    I’m a Unitarian Universalist. It’s nice to be able to explore spiritual questions in a place without any specific doctrine and with a progressive emphaisis. We’ve got Christians, Humanists, Pagans, Buddhists.

    oh, and, uhm…

    She really liked the nuns. By the end of the weekend they were all singing a song and doing a dance thanking Gaia.

    I said “are you sure this is ok with the Pope?”
    Mum said “Oh….I don’t think they like the Pope much.”

    delighted me beyond all telling.

  72. SarahMC
    June 20, 2007 at 12:46 pm

    If you consider yourself a feminist Christian, I have to assume you reject a literal interpretation of the bible. If that’s the case, why do you believe Jesus is the “son of god?” (the very basis of Chrisitanity)

  73. Em
    June 20, 2007 at 1:26 pm

    I invite you to explore Discordianism.

  74. Em
    June 20, 2007 at 1:29 pm

    Do you want faith or do you want religion? You can have either without the other.

  75. Dauphine
    June 20, 2007 at 1:38 pm

    I did my research paper for my history seminar (Religious History in the U.S.) on feminist spirituality, specifically Dianic Wicca, which, as it’s written by Z. Budapest, is a political tool first and a religion second. I’ve dabbled a little in pagan religions out of curiosity and wanting to find a better place for me after leaving Christianity, and many of them seem to be feminist-friendly and are populated with lots of strongly feminist women and feminist men–as well as a lot of “fluff bunnies” as they’re called in the greater pagan community. But it’s true that pagan religions, such as traditional Wicca and even many non-traditional paths, have a lot of gender stereotyping going on. I don’t think pagan religions are immune to criticism, nor should they be.

    As for the existence of the Divine, I’ve spoken to smart, entirely sane people who fully believe that they commune (as in, have conversations with) their gods on a day to day basis, and then I’ve spoken to people who fully believe that gods are nothing more than make-believe “sky fairies,” to quote a couple of people in this thread. The conclusion I’ve come to is that gods exist, most certainly, but they don’t always need us and we don’t always need them.

    I was raised a Catholic and I didn’t have a terrible relationship with the Church, not like the experiences some of you guys have had with cult-like religions. But I had a falling-out with Christianity all the same, and I think it’s simply that I was slowly poisoned by the evil, sexist, bigoted people who are the loudest representatives of Christianity, who think that the literal interpretation of the Bible is the only interpretation (though you’d be astonished how much of the Bible so-called literalists are simply ignoring…what was it Jesus said about hypocrites and Pharisees?) as well as the evils and sexism in the Bible itself (I’m not going to say that there’s no way to be a Christian and a feminist, but sometimes I wonder how you guys manage it, because sexism and treating women as subhuman is ALL OVER the main dogma of the religion, but I suppose not everyone is a literalist…still…I have a hard time getting it). What ultimately made me leave the Church was the awful fear–I’m talking about real, genuine terror–of the afterlife, which I was experiencing on a day-to-day basis. I think one of the absolute worst things Christianity does is teach its followers (at a very early age) that their so-called loving God will not hesitate to damn them to eternal torture if they step out of life. What the hell (no pun intended) kind of message is that? It’s the biggest issue I have with Christianity and so utterly contradictory to the myth of the loving God (yes, I call it a myth, because either there is a very loving God out there whose followers got nearly everything about him wrong, or there is a very hateful God out there who condemns his followers to hell if they don’t follow his laws exactly the way he wants–there is no way, absolutely no way it can be both). That’s like saying that your parents love you if they beat and rape you on a daily basis. I lived in fear for a very long time because I was questioning my faith, sinning, and doing all sorts of things that according to many Christians would earn me a one-way ticket to hell (being pro-choice, for example!), until one day I finally woke up and thought, “What am I doing? Why am I living my life this way? This isn’t what religion is supposed to be about.”

    I’m a spiritual person. I’ve tried atheism; it doesn’t work for me. It’s a really difficult thing to not have a spiritual home–like I said, I’ve dabbled in paganism but I have yet to find a path that really suits me. For a while there, I think, I did feel like I had a home with Catholicism, but nothing has managed to entice me back since my falling out, including some encounters that I’m fairly sure were divine messages. The fact is that I’m not sure what God is about, but I’m pretty sure that I’m damned pissed off at him. There is no adversion to religion than being raised to believe that it’s a good and wonderful thing, and then discovering its awful underbelly. Some people recover from that betrayal; I haven’t yet.

  76. Dauphine
    June 20, 2007 at 1:42 pm

    That should be “out of line,” not “out of life.” Sheesh!

  77. June 20, 2007 at 1:43 pm

    Heck, I can adopt Jesus as my personal savior without aligning myself with a religion that has “Women are Slaves” as one of its primary tenets.

    The Bible is Christianity’s instruction manual, period. Some religions have published supplemental material but in the end it all comes down to Jesus and the Bible. And frankly Jesus didn’t say much. The formal religion was established hundreds of years later by misogynist pricks. That every Christian denomination hunts and pecks through the Bible looking for out-of-context snippets to “prove” their dogma and mistreat and “otherize” people tells me these religions are rotten to the core.

    I’m not saying this to be mean or to marginalize/shut out Christian women who identify with feminism. As far as I can tell, none of us have that ability/authority anyway, so come-as-you-are and stay at the party already. I fully support your right to call yourselves Christian feminists. However, some of us are suggesting that perhaps y’all haven’t quite thought things through.

    And I KNOW the terror of thinking this through. I have an extremely strict Calvinist upbringing: Mother a Presbyterian, father a member of the Brethren, an anabaptist sect whose members (still) live rather like the Amish. I lied my way through confirmation class. I used to hide out in the church bathroom, sitting on the can, reading a book on Wicca. It took me almost ten years to get over the nagging feeling that I might – just might – go to Hell for discarding Christianity, and did I really want to take the risk?

    I finally resolved the matter by separating Jesus from the patriarchal religions, its misogynist origin myths, its bloody history and its deluded projections on poor Jeebus. I mean, really. Can a woman say she’s a feminist but accept that Eve came from Adam’s rib? That’s the very definition of subhuman. There is also that passage that’s a part of many sermons in almost every Christian denomination, something along the lines of “Children submit to woman, woman submits to man, man submits to God.” That’s an oppressive heirarchy. Patriarchy in a nutshell, folks, and feminists don’t dig it.

    That said, I’m a witch (NOT Wiccan, ugh don’t get me started) AND a Jesus freak. Put THAT into your hooka and smoke it! Yeah, I can relate to not feeling the cognitive dissonance that people presume you OUGHT to feel when you don’t feel it at all. But at least there’s nothing about my faith that conflicts with my belief that I’m a real human being, same as any man.

  78. June 20, 2007 at 1:45 pm

    Yeah, I’ve been meaning to write about my own feelings on this for a while.
    I’m with Linnaeus–I understand where the hostility comes from, but I still find it not-so-hot to tell -other- people what you can and cannot be.

    There’s a term, “spiritual abuse,” which is mostly used as far as I know within certain churches, but I think is a useful term for anyone who’s been through an experience like yours. Honestly, I think that the actual canon of the Big Religions is only a small part of the problem–as we see, people interpret them in a thousand thousand ways to suit their own needs. (I like the idea in Buddhism of various paths as “vehicles,” although i’m not a Buddhist; the concept makes sense). Anything can be twisted into a cult. Although I admit that some doctrines might lend themselves to authoritarianism more easily than others to begin with. Still, what I know about cults is: the content of the beliefs is largely irrelevant; what matters is the abuse of authority.

    Lifton’s 8 criteria come to mind here.

    As per religion: it’s derived from “religiare,” to “tie fast.” A relationship, iow. I look at it as any way of remembering the connections between the self and the greater body of…let’s call it Being. The rituals and narratives are things we -all- need, and things we -all- have in one way or another (even making your coffee and reading the paper every morning is a kind of “ritual;” and we all have stories we tell ourselves and live by at some level).

    Me, I grew up without any religion at all, and the folks are generally suspicious of organized religion, and simply “buh?” about the more let’s say mystic aspects of spirituality. I’ve…been on my own path. It’s kind of hard to talk about, especially over the Internets. In some ways I think this shit is deeply private, more so than sexuality or anything else. In other ways I think–well, yeah, it’s good to talk about. But…it’s really subjective, I think, and without a shared context for it (i.e. a certain church or book or path), it’s really hard to elucidate. I find.

  79. June 20, 2007 at 1:45 pm

    I mean THEIR its misogynist origin myths, THEIR bloody history and THEIR deluded projections on poor Jeebus. Sheesh.

  80. June 20, 2007 at 1:48 pm

    anyway I know some incredible people of faith (I call people what they want to be called; and “oppression” isn’t really the main point of choosing one’s own moniker, and in any case it’s not like there isn’t enough of -that- to go around). I do wish more people were aware of the work that’s starting to happen with the Spiritual/Religious Left.

    I mean, look, you can either believe that MLK was who he was and accomplished what he/they did in -spite- of the Church, or because of it. In either case, though, it’s hard for me to look at that and go, it would have been better if he’d renounced religion and all its works.

  81. NancyP
    June 20, 2007 at 1:49 pm

    Lesbian feminist Christian here. No-one has mentioned the Metropolitan Community Church or Unity Fellowship yet. These are lgbt-predominant denominations, the first tending towards the ecumenical, the second specifically aimed at black lgbt who have been booted from or walked away from their childhood church, but who want services in the style of their childhood church. There’s an MCC in every medium and major city, and a UF in about 10 large cities.

    There are straight members at these churches, brought in by random visits with friends or relatives.

    LGBT have had to make up theology and liturgy of same-gender relationships, of transgenderism, etc. Although the MCC denom. was sexist at first in 1968 (the founder was a Pentecostal preacher), that changed very quickly, and now the Moderator (elected CEO) and at least half of the licensed ministers are women – feminists, naturally.

    If these don’t suit, look in the local gay newspaper or Pride Pages (gay-friendly phonebook – most communities have them) for church listings or ads to find suitable mainstream denomination congregations. There is a wide range of attitudes in individual congregations of UCC, Episcopal (avoid anything labelled “Anglican” in the USA, these are antifeminist), UMethodistC, Evangelical Lutheran (not Missouri Synod), Presbyterian(USA) (not Presby Church of America, a conserv. org.). Same with UUniversalists and Humanists – congregation-dependent. But, by and large, if a congregation is gay-friendly, then it will be feminist-friendly (not necessarily vice versa though).

    And someone above made the astute comment that no congregation is going to be perfect in all things. Pick the one that suits, and work around the rest.

  82. NancyP
    June 20, 2007 at 1:53 pm

    “gay-friendly phonebook” should read “phonebook listing gay-friendly and gay-owned businesses and organizations”. I just had an unfortunate image of the guy in the phonebook suit ad walking into a piano bar.

  83. June 20, 2007 at 1:54 pm

    Bint-

    I read your journal via feed (and have for awhile), and am constantly inspired by what you share. As someone who is in a community of ritual abuse survivors, I want to say that it takes super-gigantic-guts to be honest and open about cult stuff, and to remain vulnerable and real, even virtually.

    As an Arab Jew (with a family full of Orthodox Christians from Albania and Egypt), I constantly try to reconcile the real and tangible benefits of spiritual practice that is from my culture (I don’t feel ok trying to cram someone else’s ancestors into my stuff) with all of the bs that is contained in the spiritual practice from my culture. I’ve not got any answers, just letting you know that I’m searching, and that hearing about your search is meaningful to me.

  84. June 20, 2007 at 1:56 pm

    oh, and Christian Zionists drive me up the fuckin’ wall. As does the whole pat-the-head “you are the Chosen People, even though yer still going to hell if you don’t come around to our way of thinking; but, meantime, we RESPECT you” I keep getting from a lot of neocons and other charming specimens of current right-wing thought. (Yes, I’m very much Jewish, no matter what religious path or lack thereof I ever take, always have been, always will be). I especially love when they use “anti-Semitism!” to bash anyone who might have any critique of Israel’s policies (I try to stay the hell out of I/P discussions, but I certainly don’t think that Israel can do no wrong), ignoring or even trying to pull realness cred on any actual Jews in the room who don’t agree with their spavined political ideologies. Oh, and bash the hell out of anyone -else- in a way that surely would -never- shift onto Us Chosen People again if it became convenient (Moslems, immigrants, and oh yeah, LGBT folk), because hatefulness is something you can totally turn on and off like a faucet, and also I really love being -special- that way.

    In fact–Bint, I think we had this discussion a while ago at your spot, you saw me ranting about an encounter with one such (incredibly annoying and frankly vile) person and riffed on it. It was interesting.

  85. Barbara_K
    June 20, 2007 at 2:08 pm

    I was raised in WELS (a very conservative Christian church) and my family switched to a less restrictive Lutheran church when I was a teenager. I was never a fan of church services and stopped attending when I left home, but when I found out how conservative the viewpoints of my family members attending the more liberal church still were, and how much they still disagreed with each other on various minutiae of scripture, it threw me into a few years’ worth of soul searching and research on religion.

    I think the Quakers really have a great concept of the holy ghost, as a light that exists in everyone, including people who have not been introduced to Christianity, and that you don’t need to be a Christian to be “saved”. Not to mention the fact that they’re very much anti-war of course, that’s refreshing. If I was ever forced to join a church (freedom OF religion, not freedom FROM religion – scary stuff) I would join a Quaker church (probably of the universalist variety, there are different branches of the Quaker church as well).

    Otherwise though, I just don’t think organized religion is necessary. I know many people like the community aspect of religious services, but if you’re inclined to ponder your spirituality on your own, meditation and self initiated research into various religious beliefs are really enough to go on, IMHO.

  86. June 20, 2007 at 2:26 pm

    I mean, look, you can either believe that MLK was who he was and accomplished what he/they did in -spite- of the Church, or because of it. In either case, though, it’s hard for me to look at that and go, it would have been better if he’d renounced religion and all its works.

    Yup. And his faith informed his politics in ways that are accessible to those of us who don’t share his religious beliefs.

    King once said that “the arc of the universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” Clearly that claim was for him grounded in his belief in a benevolent God, but it’s not dependent on that belief — you can make arguments for it that are grounded in the study of history and sociology and psychology.

    And even if you’re not sure that it’s a true statement, you might still believe (as I do) that it can be a useful and sustaining statement — that we may be stronger and more resilient if we behave as if it’s true than if we don’t.

    I don’t admire King’s religious faith, any more than I admire his more patriarchal attitudes. But unlike his patriarchalism, his faith was the source of some of the qualities and insights that I do admire in him as an activist and a theorist of social change.

  87. June 20, 2007 at 2:27 pm

    Interesting quote and comment thread – this is actually my line of research – ‘cults’ (New Religious Movements) and feminism.
    You are right, there are a lot of dangerous groups out there. But what is worrying is that this umbrella term ‘cult’ is used to represent them all – very inaccurate and intolerant. ‘Cults’ can kill. There are a great many stories like yours and some of your commenters, but there are a great many more of stories when members, female members, are perfectly happy.
    I’ve done a great many interviews with female members and the oppression they feel is not from the movement but from outsiders, who they feel do not understand them. I had one woman in tears once talking about how she was viewed by the women she worked with as ‘downtrodden’ and ‘brainwashed’. She’s one of my favourite women to interview – very sharp-minded, very bright.
    I understand people assume these women are ‘brainwashed’ and ‘wrong’, but to me that is quite a concern – it reminds me of the anthropologists of the 19th Century referring to the people they studied as ‘heathens’ and ‘savages’
    I do find it disturbing that women within NRMs are represented as wrong, brainwashed, unintelligent or whatever because of their belief. I must point out that many of them believe “all out equal in the eyes of God”. Sure, not on earth, but some are thinking the appocalypse is just around the corner – what do they care about the world order? They do not believe they are oppressed, they believe in women’s rights, but it is expressed in such a different way. It would be good to see some attention go to this rather than perpetuating the assumption that women in ‘cults’ are oppressed (NOT that I am suggesting YOU ought to do this or ought to have done this, I understand that you are recounting an experience and sparking a debate)
    Just to summarise – from my research and interviews, I would tend to favour Christian feminists (although they don’t use the word ‘feminist’) however one cannot generalise from what I say and apply it to all NRMs any more than one can generalise about the negative effects and suggest that the word ‘cult’ is a good, accurate word to describe what goes on in NRMs. I do think it is very concerning indeed that so many take for granted that NRMs are anti-feminist without giving much thought.
    (Good on Belledame (comment 72) for pointing out the work of the Spiritual Left, though it’s an area I’m unfamiliar with so can’t contribute.)

  88. tricia (another one)
    June 20, 2007 at 2:58 pm

    I think one thing that hasn’t come up in this thread yet is that atheism doesn’t have to mean you lose touch with the divine. Seriously, hear me out.

    I would describe myself as a Strong Atheist – as in, I believe there are no gods, period. But I’ve had experiences that I suspect are very much like religious extasy, only completely devoid of any deity. That feeling of being out on a clear night under the stars and sensing yourself and even the earth being such a tiny part of such an amazing universe? You will still have it. The sense of connection you sometimes feel with the earth, or the sky or other people – you’ll keep that too. Reverence and awe for the miracles* of birth and death – still there. They’ll be different, but lack of deity doesn’t mean your life becomes flat and empty and meaningless. You have to do what’s right for you, but don’t be afraid of losing your “connection with the divine”, because even if you stop believing in God or gods, that connection will probably still be there. I believe we all have it in us regardless.

    *miracle – no such thing, just natural processes, but “miracle” works well rhetorically

  89. pigeon
    June 20, 2007 at 3:06 pm

    You sure do get around! I don’t believe one can be a feminist and be a “Bible believing” Christian any more than I believe a gay or lesbian person can. You have to ignore a lot of passages in the Bible to work your way around to it.

    there was another comment about abortion too that i can’t find skimming back through the thread but– what the bible says about about both abortion and homosexuality is not nearly as straight forward as the talking points we hear in mainsteam media. that’s one of the problems with mainstream media, it positions everything as liberal/not-religious vs. consevation/religious, which marginalizes everyone on the religious left.

    it’s been a while since i’ve read the bible, and i’d have to dig it up if you want chapter and verse for this, but there are passages in the bible that can be used to support pro-choice beliefs and that are not anti-gay. i remember a passage, i think it was in leviticus or deurotomy, that said something to the effect of “if a man strikes your wife and kills her, you can excute x punishment. if a man strikes your wife, and she is with child, and only the child dies, he owes you x-sum of money”. the punishment for killing a woman was more severe than the punishment for killing fetus.

    similarly, homosexuality as we understand it today did not exist. one of the first passages i remember condeming homosexuality is in leviticus, and along with condeming sodomy, it condemns eating pork and wearing shoes in the house– all things that were known to carry disease. much of these rules had to do with protecting the community from illness. some of the other passages condeming sodomy are condeming other kinds of sex right along with it– wasn’t so much about the gay sex as the sex-having.

    realistically, if you look at the bible you have to accept that there are contradictions. there are blatant contradictions between the four gospels– i don’t understand myself how anyone who has read the bible can take it literally. there are many, many ways to interpret the bible. you don’t have to distort or ignore huge chunks of the bible to come out with a feminist interpretation.

    Which is why I say that if you think Jesus had some good ideas, then adopt them. But adopt them because you think they are rational choices, not because of divine authority–the same as you would with any philosophy. You don’t need religion’s hoo ha any more than you need any other illogical, unfounded beileif that would require you to waste your brain

    while you hardly need divinity to live ethically, there’s certainly nothing wrong with beliving in and wanting a connection with the divine, however you understand it. why does a belief in some sort of divinity have to be an “illogical, unfounded belief”? if you haven’t had a spiritual or divine experience in your life, and it doesn’t resonate with you, that’s fine. but it seems pretty presumptuous (not to mention insulting) to tell all those people who *have* had such experiences that their experiences are not real, or that it’s some sort of false consciousness fueled by “illogical, unfounded beliefs”.

    i have plenty of my own difficulties with organized religious– catholicism especially– and i’ve met a lot of religious folk who were bigots, misogynists and hypocrites. but i’ve also know a lot of religious people (including plenty of christians) who are feminists, activists, queer, etc., whose values are in line with my own. it seems to me much more prudent to INCLUDE these folks, as they can show others that you don’t have to choose between being religious & conservative or liberal & godless.

  90. pigeon
    June 20, 2007 at 3:09 pm

    gah, sorry for the double post. feel free to delete one from the moderation queue.

  91. Matthew
    June 20, 2007 at 3:10 pm

    Can you be a Christian Feminist? I’m firmly on the side of “yes,” being one myself. I find myself pretty at home in the Anglican church, probably in no small part by having grown up in the same congregation. The priest and both deacons are women, and all are strongly feminist. I actually had a great conversation with one of the deacons about the impending baptism of my daughter the other day (I didn’t know that the Anglican church no longer believes in the cocept of original sin, and it makes me happy that this doctrine was changed).

    Attending a Christian church, or any toher religious institution, doesn’t require you to accept things uncritically. Most people do accept things uncritically though, whether they’re religious or not. It’s a lot easier than thinking for yourself. I’m lazy, but I do tend to think about what church leaders (my own or others) critically. I assume they’re going to say something I don’t like and don’t agree with. Makes it a pleasant surprise when I agree completely.

    I don’t agree with all the policies of my church. For that matter, I don’t know a lot of them because I simply don’t care. What I do know is that my parish comes down firmly in favour of equal rights for all people, regardless of gender, colour or sexual orientation. The bishop works towards allowing the church to bless SSM. Most of the time though, if I disagree with a given policy that I encounter, I just keep silent.

    If it’s important, sure I’ll ask some pointed questions. But a lot of congregations are pretty open to their members having a different understanding of some pretty fundamental concepts. If you don’t accept that the Bible is inerrant (and most churches I’ve been to don’t), then you have to start making decisions on what parts you accept and what parts you reject.

    I actually have a lot of respect for the Quaker point of view; it’s a good way to put things that we all have that light inside us, and that light is the voice that should take precidence over some texts written thousands of years ago that may no longer be all that relevant.

  92. June 20, 2007 at 3:15 pm

    I was raised in a great church. It was progressive and accepted all comers. My church hired the first out gay man to be ordained (that is, others had been ordained, then came out, but this one did it in the other order). When I came to “membership” (like confirmation) age, the others of that age were all female, as was our minister, so she decided to teach feminist theology classes as membership classes. During that process, I figured out I didn’t really believe in God, so that was sortof the end of that for me.

    This seems a little silly on its face, but it might actually help you determine what religious tradition best suits you: Beliefnet’s Belief-o-matic quiz. I think it told me I should be Quaker or Unitarian.

  93. kxo
    June 20, 2007 at 3:20 pm

    I’m in perfect agreement with SarahMC in the first reply.

    Yeah, sure, all religions have something good about them, like preaching love and kindness or whatever, but c’mon people, these are hardly new concepts. Religion doesn’t have a monopoly on being nice. Nobody needs to be religious to be a good person, but if you’re only behaving yourself because you fear karma or divine retribution or hell, your morality is shallow. In fact, I’m just going to say that if fear of those things makes you even a little less likely to be a dick, your morals are shallow.

    Also, you’re allowed to agree with Jesus on a bunch of points without believing all that Son of God nonsense. Same goes for any other religious figure.

    I’m not here to play feminism police. Yeah, you can be an awesome feminist and have faith and love your religion. But why waste your time and energy on something so unnecessary? Aren’t we supposed to be freeing ourselves from stuff like that?

  94. June 20, 2007 at 3:20 pm

    I want to add that the turn of phrase “person of faith” makes me want to vomit. It’s appropriating language of genuinely marginalized people to pretend you are being oppressed because of a choice you make.

    I think you’re assuming that “person of faith” is being used to echo “person of color.” I don’t know who first came up with the “person of faith” phrase, so I can’t say whether or not that was the original intention, but it sure isn’t what I (as a Quaker and presumably part of the group being targetted for the “person of faith” label) read into it. In fact, before you said this, it never even occurred to me to hear the phrase that way. I assumed, rather, that it was intended to: a) make it clear that “faith” is a larger category than “Christianity,” and b) do that without resorting to the “Judaeo-Christian” phrasing (which is problematic because, aside from leaving out any faiths that aren’t Jewish or Christian, it sometimes subsumes Jews in faith claims that turn out to be specific to Christianity, and to Christian readings of Judaism-as-precursor-to-Christianity, regardless of whether those reflect how Jews see themselves).

    (On the other hand, I don’t actually call myself a “person of faith,” for an entirely different reason – given that “faith” is one of those key Christian theological virtues, I feel as if naming myself as having it is a claim to special virtue. But that’s just me; I don’t assume other people who do use the phrase are all claiming to be especially virtuous.)

  95. June 20, 2007 at 3:21 pm

    I just retook the belief-o-matic. My top 5 are:

    1. Secular Humanism (100%)
    2. Unitarian Universalism (92%)
    3. Liberal Quakers (81%)
    4. Neo-Pagan (70%)
    5. Mainline to Liberal Christian Protestants (69%)

    This makes a lot of sense, as I do in fact identify heavily with secular humanism, though I have considered seeking out a UU church to find a community. I like the Quakers, but don’t think I really belong. A lot of my friends are Neo-Pagan, but again I don’t really fit there. And I was raised in a Liberal Christian Protestant tradition and don’t disagree fundamentally with the values I was taught there.

  96. June 20, 2007 at 3:48 pm

    I read this…

    When movable type made it possible for everyone to read the Bible for herself

    …and my first thought was, why should a computer program for blogging have such an impact on reading the Bible?

    Spending too much time on the internets, I am.

  97. June 20, 2007 at 4:03 pm

    You know, I think that there is such a thing as religious/spiritual yearning. And not everyone has it, just as not everyone is particularly (or at all) driven by sexual desire, but a lot of people do. And, I also think, if you -don’t- feel it, other people who do are not gonna be able to explain “rationally” what that feels like in a way that makes sense. So yeah, annoying as “I can’t explain it if you haven’t felt it” is, I do think there’s something to it, and it isn’t fair to say to people, “just drop those silly superstitions, you’ll be much happier, like me” any more than it is to say “well, have you tried NOT being (gay, in love with this person)? why bother when it brings you nothing but trouble?”

    Yeah, there’s certainly a way in which to talk about how the institution of the Church or these abusive religious authorities are harmful. And…well, the other thing that happens is, I think that these people cause -so- much damage and are -so- much the face of religion, that people who’ve either been burned by them or simply are standing by and thinking “damn, that’s fucked up; why do these people…?” come to associate -all- faith with fundamentalism (even if it’s not calling itself that).

    but, again, i guess for purposes here, bottom line: I’m not gonna tell anyone else you -can’t- be ___ and ___. It’s just not my business. I readily admit that I don’t understand my acquaintance who’s a gay priest, but…it’s his stuff to work out. That said, I reserve the right to criticize the Pope and Church doctrine insofar as it does impact the rest of us.

  98. June 20, 2007 at 4:05 pm

    …and I wrote the above before seeing this:

    But why waste your time and energy on something so unnecessary? Aren’t we supposed to be freeing ourselves from stuff like that?

    and again: no. “We” aren’t a monolith, and evidently a lot of people don’t find it unnecessary. What we’re “supposed” to be doing is telling our own stories/truths and respectfully listening to other peoples’. I think.

  99. mothworm
    June 20, 2007 at 4:14 pm

    The Bible is very clear that women are subhuman. Both New and Old Testaments have multiple references to women’s lack of status relative to men.

    Who says you have to accept those parts of the bible to be a Christian? I mean, I know who says it, but why should we defer to them on that question when we don’t give any credence to what they say about anything else

    I’m an atheist, and one of the things that helped me on the way, and on which I remain in complete agreement with the Fundamentalists, is that you don’t get to pick and choose which parts of the Bible you believe and which you ignore (setting aside, for the moment, the fact that Fundies are expert cherry pickers).

    If you’re willing to believe in the divinity of Jesus and the existence of God, you do so because of the stories put forth in the Bible (I can’t think of any other sources). Why then, if you’re willing to accept that the Bible is true on that account, are you not willing to accept that it reflects the will and edicts of that same God?

    Once you can reasonably reject the morals of the Bible, it’s a small and easy step to rejecting the Voice from which they flow. I’ve found that most of the people who say that religion imparts morality have in fact chosen their religion based on their own pre-existing notions of what qualifies as good and ethical. Since religions are made up by people, it’s not too hard to find some of those personal views reflected in the teachings of any particular religion. From that point on, many believers assume that the whole edifice of their church reflects this “goodness” and never bother to look any further at all of the very bad things it expects them to believe (which also leads to the easy manipulation of the flock towards those bad things (hate, injustice, etc), since they’ve already internalized the belief that everything about, and issuing from, their religion is good).

    The fact that we can plainly see that much of what is recorded in the Bible, and preached from the pulpit, is wrong goes a long way towards proving the non-existence of God. Is such a plurality of interpretation–of religious beliefs and cults in general–really what we would expect to find if there were an omnipotent creator?

    Anyway, I guess the question is not so much “can you be a christian and a feminist?”, but “if you are a feminist, why would you want to call yourself a christian?”.

  100. June 20, 2007 at 4:21 pm

    and on which I remain in complete agreement with the Fundamentalists

    see, that right there. I’m not. In either case, it’s paying more respect to a bunch of authoritarian knobs who wanted to decree what’s Canon and what’s not and how to interpret thus-and-so than they deserve, and ignoring the fact that myths (which is what much of the Bible is, and no, that’s not the antonym of “true”) are more complex than any literal interpretation can provide.

  101. pigeon
    June 20, 2007 at 4:30 pm

    But why waste your time and energy on something so unnecessary? Aren’t we supposed to be freeing ourselves from stuff like that?

    it seems presumptuous to declare all faith and religion as “unnecessary”– there are a lot of us for whom it *is* necessary. although i’m not religious, having some sort of faith is certainly necessary for me, and it’s something that i struggle with. that doesn’t mean that i have to do or believe anything, only that i’ve decided for myself that having a faith and spiritual practice is integral to being the kind of person i want to be. these are my values, my ethics, and *for me* faith and a spiritual practice help me to live them more fully. no one is imposing anything on me. i came to this on my own, by a lot of trial and error. i don’t need to “free myself” of anything.

    that doesn’t mean that anyone else needs religion or faith or a spiritual practice. you don’t have to believe anything, and if you don’t, that doesn’t make you any better or worse than anyone else.

    no one is telling you how that you’re wasting your time and energy on some unnecessary activity that you ought to be freeing yourself of, it seems only fair that you extend others the same courtesy.

  102. ACG
    June 20, 2007 at 4:30 pm

    I don’t really understand why we’re presenting The Concrete Entity of Feminism and The Concrete Entity of Christianity as two mutually exclusive viewpoints.

    I mean, there has been discussion after discussion after discussion after discussion about what what “feminism” really is. Are you still a feminist if you wear makeup? Are you still a feminist if you shave your legs? Can strippers be feminists? If you really like high heels but don’t wear them because feminism says they’re patriarchally imposed, are you really making decisions for yourself? If you have a college degree but choose to be a SAHM, but raise your daughters to be feminists, are you still a feminist? Everyone has their own interpretation of what it means to be a feminist, and although assorted authorities on the subject are prepared to tell you you’re entirely wrong and nothing more than a tool of the patriarchy for your heretical beliefs, we all manage to get together and discuss it more-or-less respectfully.

    So if feminism isn’t really the all-knowing concrete entity that it’s purported to be, why must Christianity be? People all over the world who profess to be Christians disagree entirely over what Christianity really is. Not just between sects, but even within congregations, people disagree on basic talking points. I’ve had conservative priests preach fire and brimstone and progressive priests preach love and tolerance and logically explain away all kinds of sexism, heterocentrism, and homophobia, and I’m not going to be the one to tell the one or the other that they’re not a Christian because of their beliefs.

    So to answer your question, Bint, I don’t honestly know. I think it can; in my experience, being both a Catholic and a feminist has worked for me. It hasn’t always been easy, and sometimes I think I’ll always struggle with my faith to swing things around to a more progressive viewpoint, but I know what it feels like to really kid yourself and it doesn’t feel like I’m doing that. There’re probably people who are prepared to tell me that I’m not a real feminist, or not a real Christian, or just a big ol’ stupe entirely for believing that women’s equality and Sky Fairy faith can coexist, but I think it’s one of those things that just plain either works for you or it doesn’t. Best of luck.

  103. in2mi
    June 20, 2007 at 4:43 pm

    GRRR – My computer froze and I just lost my post!!

    This thread infuriates me as much as the conversations I have with Christian friends who can’t *fathom* how I am a Christian and a feminist, and pro-choice(!).

  104. June 20, 2007 at 4:46 pm

    If you’re willing to believe in the divinity of Jesus and the existence of God, you do so because of the stories put forth in the Bible (I can’t think of any other sources).

    Well, right there you’re denying that faith can lead a person to truth, which is a proposition that many believers would take issue with. A person might come to believe that Jesus was divine through a mystical experience of one kind or another, or just “know” it to be true without knowing how they know.

    Why then, if you’re willing to accept that the Bible is true on that account, are you not willing to accept that it reflects the will and edicts of that same God?

    The Bible could be a fallible human record of holy events, and that’s exactly what most liberal Christians believe it to be.

    And even if a person has no extra-biblical basis for a belief in Jesus’ divinity, that doesn’t mean that he or she has to accept everything in the Bible as literally true. If I read an account of a historical event from a witness (or someone who spoke to a witness) I might find some elements of the story credible and others not. I might also choose to accept some or all of the narrative as accurate while rejecting some or all of the author’s interpretation of events.

  105. fishboots
    June 20, 2007 at 4:49 pm

    You can be both both Feminist and Christian, IMHO. Jesus told us to do unto others,and I like to be treated with respect. I assume others would as well, and expect the same.

    I think what happens within any group (republicans, athiests, christians, etc.) is a group of people that have a bizarre compulsion to be RIGHT forcefully voice their opinions making and people that have a strong compulsion to be TOLD WHAT TO DOfeel at home. Those with a strong compulsion to be POPULAR jump on board, quickly followed by those that CAN”T BE BOTHERED to think for themselves. The POWER seekers notice the huge crowd and sucker the entire group into doing its bidding simply by telling the top tier how RIGHT they are. Before you know it you elect a narcissistic maroon into office and invade a small helpless country, killing hundreds of thousands of people.

    People have these weird little hang-ups and compulsions, and they take them along for every freakin’ ride they go on. A militant anything is the same across ideologies, religions, sexual preference… They tell you your going to hell, that you’re old, ugly or repessed andthat you believe in fairies and Santa Clause. Although I have alot more sympathy for someone that says “Proove It!” when it comes to religion, I don’t think they get a free ride to be condescending.

    Mostly I don’t think the fact that human beings use God to justify their hatefulness is God’s fault (if I were God I would get mightily sick of it) so I prefer not to hold him responsible for assholes, and death and disease and Rush Limbaugh. I have faith. Perhaps I’m wrong, but even then, it’s not like I’m going to know about it.

  106. Dauphine
    June 20, 2007 at 4:56 pm

    You know, I think that there is such a thing as religious/spiritual yearning. And not everyone has it, just as not everyone is particularly (or at all) driven by sexual desire, but a lot of people do. And, I also think, if you -don’t- feel it, other people who do are not gonna be able to explain “rationally” what that feels like in a way that makes sense. So yeah, annoying as “I can’t explain it if you haven’t felt it” is, I do think there’s something to it, and it isn’t fair to say to people, “just drop those silly superstitions, you’ll be much happier, like me” any more than it is to say “well, have you tried NOT being (gay, in love with this person)? why bother when it brings you nothing but trouble?”

    and again: no. “We” aren’t a monolith, and evidently a lot of people don’t find it unnecessary. What we’re “supposed” to be doing is telling our own stories/truths and respectfully listening to other peoples’. I think.

    Thank you, belledame. You put what I was trying to say so much better. No, we’re not all the same and no, we don’t all embrace the hard atheist viewpoint. I tried it, it didn’t work for me. In the first place I just don’t believe it, second of all, while I have suffered occasionally from my belief in a divine presence (whatever form it takes, I’m not certain yet), I’ve also found a lot of fulfillment from it. If you don’t need or want spirituality that’s fine, but don’t assume that no one else gets anything tangible out of it.

    it seems pretty presumptuous (not to mention insulting) to tell all those people who *have* had such experiences that their experiences are not real, or that it’s some sort of false consciousness fueled by “illogical, unfounded beliefs”.

    Also a good point. As Pigeon points out, not everyone bases their spirituality on books or a priest’s teaching. I mentioned in my first post that I’ve had some encounters that I’m pretty sure were divine messages. There is no way for me to prove to you that they actually were, and you don’t have to believe them. But you have no grounding for telling me that I’m wrong and those experiences were just figments of my imagination, either.

  107. Dauphine
    June 20, 2007 at 4:57 pm

    No grounding and no evidence, I should say.

  108. in2mi
    June 20, 2007 at 4:59 pm

    The Bible is very clear that women are subhuman. Both New and Old Testaments have multiple references to women’s lack of status relative to men.

    Actually, I wouldn’t say that the Bible is very clear that women are subhuman. There are several places that the Bible affirms women’s humanity, as individuals created in the image of God.

    It is important to understand that the Bible is a combination of things – it is metaphor, it is history, it as a rule book, it is a series of letters. So, in looking at the Bible in that context, I can say that while I don’t take a legalistic interpretation of the Bible, I do take somewhat of a literal interpretation of the Bible. But that interpretation is a thoughtful, critical, and at times very questioning one.

    If you consider yourself a feminist Christian, I have to assume you reject a literal interpretation of the bible. If that’s the case, why do you believe Jesus is the “son of god?” (the very basis of Chrisitanity)

    So yes, I can affirm that Jesus is the Son of God based on what I read in the Bible and I can question the context in which certain passages were written, but still get something out of it that is useful. Even with the most ugly and confusing passages, I think the challenge that Christians have is to neither take it them as Truth (the fundies) nor to dismiss them because they make us uncomfortable (the cherry pickers). There is a middle ground in saying, “You know what, I have no idea what is meant by XXX passage, ” and to stand in the tension that the uncertainty creates while I read and pray for something to make sense of it all.

  109. Thomas
    June 20, 2007 at 5:00 pm

    you don’t get to pick and choose which parts of the Bible you believe and which you ignore

    Sez you. BD’s right on this one. The Bible is itself a collection involving decisions about what is canonical, made by editors long after all the survivors of Jesus’ ministry were dead and dust. Further, a statement that the entirety of it is weighted equally is an assertion of interpretive methodology- one can read the four corners of the text and find indications that some parts should be read one way and other parts another way. For example, many denominations take the view that the Old Testament can be read differently because the New Testament says it changes the covenant, while other textual readings undermine this. For that matter, how do you account for differences between John and the Synoptic Gospels?

    Saying of any text, Bible, Constitution or otherwise, “everything here is equally important” is not a priori true, it is an assertion about how to relate to the text.

  110. Irene M.
    June 20, 2007 at 5:02 pm

    Count me among the proud Catholic feminists!

    //For me, it’s the people. When I think of Catholicism, I don’t think of the Vatican. I think of my grandmothers, mother, aunts. The people who stand outside the Federal building every Saturday protesting the war in Iraq. The Dominican nuns in my neighborhood. The soup kitchen and Martin DePorre center. The Jubilee Farm (also run by Dominicans) that holds classes and seminars on environmental stewardship and invites the public to walk their labyrinth and pray or be at peace in nature.//

    La Luba, I am not trying to be snarky in anyway, but a lot of the issues you raised such as being pro-charity, pro-enviromentalism, and anti-war activism exist within the Church with the blessings of the Vatican. Yes, there are many Catholics who disagree with the Vatican on various issues and, yes, the clergy are not always in agreement (especially on non-doctrinal issues relating to the enviroment or war). However, it is important to remember that the Vatican does not easily split along liberal/conservative or Democratic/Republican lines and recognize that the Catholicism practiced by your grandmothers (I’m a convert) may hold a lot in common with the Catholicism advocated by the Vatican.

  111. in2mi
    June 20, 2007 at 5:02 pm

    oops, the block quote is reversed in the last two parapgraphs of my previous comment.

  112. Irene M.
    June 20, 2007 at 5:04 pm

    *anti-war* not anti-war activism and *pro-enviroment*

  113. other orange
    June 20, 2007 at 5:12 pm

    Brroklynite, When you say this:

    The Bible could be a fallible human record of holy events, and that’s exactly what most liberal Christians believe it to be…. If I read an account of a historical event from a witness (or someone who spoke to a witness) I might find some elements of the story credible and others not. I might also choose to accept some or all of the narrative as accurate while rejecting some or all of the author’s interpretation of events.

    I got excited, because that’s something I’ve always tried to express, but you’ve done it so well here. The Bible was written by people, not carved out of stone tablets by God’s lazers. They put something of themselves into their interpretations- and they lived in a time that was hostile to women (well, who hasn’t.)

    And men decided what went in- which is why the gospels of Mary Magdalene got tossed out, and why the church decided to falsely teach that she’d been a prostitute, to later discredit her. These are the decisions of men, not the Word of God.

    I’m a rabidly pro-choice, pro-abortion, anti-war, environmentalist, pro-LGBT-rights, Christian woman. I think that that are definitely struggles to overcome if you’re a Christian, certainly in dealing with the legacy of fundamentalist hate and the domination of men in the religious sphere; but for those of us who want to reclaim our faith, it’s a positive struggle. For some people, it’s not the right fit, and that’s fine with me. But I can be both.

  114. mothworm
    June 20, 2007 at 5:42 pm

    while you hardly need divinity to live ethically, there’s certainly nothing wrong with beliving in and wanting a connection with the divine, however you understand it.

    I guess that depends on how you understand it. What do you mean by “divine”? What reason do you have for thinking such a thing exists? There’s nothing wrong, I suppose, in believing in Santa Claus, but I don’t see where that would ever be useful.

    why does a belief in some sort of divinity have to be an “illogical, unfounded belief”?

    To quote from The Onion’s article “Skeptic Pitied”: “Craig is a really great guy,” Cobb said. “It’s just too bad he’s chosen to cut himself off from the world of the paranormal, restricting himself to the limited universe of what can be seen and heard and verified through empirical evidence.”

    It’s illogical and unfounded becuase, well, what’s the foundation? The Bible?

    if you haven’t had a spiritual or divine experience in your life, and it doesn’t resonate with you, that’s fine. but it seems pretty presumptuous (not to mention insulting) to tell all those people who *have* had such experiences that their experiences are not real, or that it’s some sort of false consciousness fueled by “illogical, unfounded beliefs”.

    I guess I draw the line at calling the ineffable “divine”. I agree with someone above who said that atheists still experience awe and wonder (through love, sexual communion, art museums, at concerts, etc.), we just don’t attribute it to an evidentially invisible, unverifiable, deity.

    I’ve never heard voices in my head, but I don’t doubt that others do. That doesn’t mean that the best explanation lies with spirits and not with chemistry and physiology.

    i have plenty of my own difficulties with organized religious– catholicism especially– and i’ve met a lot of religious folk who were bigots, misogynists and hypocrites. but i’ve also know a lot of religious people (including plenty of christians) who are feminists, activists, queer, etc., whose values are in line with my own. it seems to me much more prudent to INCLUDE these folks, as they can show others that you don’t have to choose between being religious & conservative or liberal & godless.

    Of course I don’t want to exclude anyone, or tell them they can’t be feminists or progressives. If you hold feminist and progressive beliefs, then join the club! Like I said before, I just wonder why you would also want to part of a club that was decidedly against those things.

  115. June 20, 2007 at 5:49 pm

    The other thing is, getting back specifically to feminism and Christianity, y’all know that they were pretty well intertwined during the *first* wave, right? Particularly you might want to look at the Temperance movement. and of course, the influence Christianity had on the abolitionist movement, which was (unfortunate later rifts notwithstanding) very much bound up with suffrage.

  116. mothworm
    June 20, 2007 at 5:56 pm

    see, that right there. I’m not. In either case, it’s paying more respect to a bunch of authoritarian knobs who wanted to decree what’s Canon and what’s not and how to interpret thus-and-so than they deserve, and ignoring the fact that myths (which is what much of the Bible is, and no, that’s not the antonym of “true”) are more complex than any literal interpretation can provide.

    They’re “not true” in the sense that all fiction is “not true”; i.e., made-up. Sure, there’s value in stories, but I’ve gotten more out of reading Mrs. Dalloway than I ever got from the Bible.

    Besides, if you believe in the Christian God, you’ve decided that at least part of the Bible is actually “true” and not a myth. And if you believe that the central concept is true, why not all the stuff that Being says is true along with it?

  117. antiprincess
    June 20, 2007 at 6:17 pm

    bible fun (or Sunday School Scripture Smackdown)!

    Identify this verse:
    There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.

    my favorite verse.

  118. mothworm
    June 20, 2007 at 6:24 pm

    Well, right there you’re denying that faith can lead a person to truth, which is a proposition that many believers would take issue with. A person might come to believe that Jesus was divine through a mystical experience of one kind or another, or just “know” it to be true without knowing how they know.

    Yes, I am absolutely denying that. Sorry, I know that comes off as condescending (which I really don’t mean to be, and I apologize if I’ve come off that way), but that can’t rationally be considered a way of knowing. There’s no difference between that and “any random thing I think up is true”.

    Believers of all religions claim truth based on faith knowledge, yet all their religions are contradictory. In the vast majority, one religion cannot be true without others being false. Faith knowledge cannot be valid for Christianity, but not valid for Islam. But it can’t be valid for both, either. The whole concept falls apart.

  119. mothworm
    June 20, 2007 at 6:34 pm

    And even if a person has no extra-biblical basis for a belief in Jesus’ divinity, that doesn’t mean that he or she has to accept everything in the Bible as literally true. If I read an account of a historical event from a witness (or someone who spoke to a witness) I might find some elements of the story credible and others not. I might also choose to accept some or all of the narrative as accurate while rejecting some or all of the author’s interpretation of events.

    I guess I just don’t get accepting the grandest unfounded proposition of a book as true, but balking at the lesser statements. It just seems that a god, as described by christianity, should have better control of its message. If nothing in the Bible is actually true, except for the existence of God, then believing in or following that God would seem to make very little difference. It doesn’t interact with humanity, it doesn’t tell us how to live, it doesn’t seem to care.

    Again, if you have a system of morality and ethics that isn’t reflected in the Bible (and certainly, it’s possible to come up with a much better one than is written down, there), then what difference does Belief make? What does believing in God add to that equation?

    If you can read through the Bible and “know” which parts to reject based on modern sensibilities–if it isn’t a source of knowledge–what exactly does God “do”?

  120. exholt
    June 20, 2007 at 6:34 pm

    I do believe that one can be feminist, gay, or socialist and be a good Christian. I personally know Christians who fit one or more of those categories which are deemed incompatable by religious orthodoxy. If one subscribes to religious and/or spiritual beliefs, as long as they don’t force it down my throat or hurt others in the process, that’s their own life and they have a right to live it as they wish.

    Though religion has caused plenty of wars and human suffering of all kinds, I am troubled by the following statement:

    Religion is responsible for the overwhelming majority of the wars, deaths and misogyny that have occurred throughout history.

    I may be reading this wrong, but this implies that with the elimination or drastic reduction in religion’s influence, that problems such as wars, deaths, and misogyny would largely be solved. For some reason, I doubt the elimination or reduction of religion’s influence would make much of a dent in the reduction, much less end such problems. If it is not individuals and groups within a dominant social elite misappropriating or otherwise using religion as a reason to wage wars, kill others, and dehumanize women and other minority groups to maximize their own dominance over others, they would use other means to rationalize and justify their destructive actions.

    Moreover, pro-religionists do not have a monopoly on wars, death tolls, and yes, even misogyny. The People’s Republic of China, a supposedly atheistic “communist” state, waged wars, killed millions who were seen as “counterrevolutionary social classes” or through egregious neglect (Great Leap Forward), and had Red Guards use misogynistic language to browbeat intellectuals and other “counterrevolutionaries.” My Great-Aunt who was a physics professor at a Beijing area university was beaten and “treated” to vile misogynistic insults from her own students who joined the Red Guards. It should also be noted that Mao Zedong maintained a patriarchical environment even while publicly promoting gender equality.

    Personally, I believe wars, killings, and marginalization of women and minorities are a product of the social elite’s desire for ever more power and control over others. Religion, political ideology, etc are used as progagandistic rationalizations to justify their efforts to gain and augment their power and control over those they deem lower than themselves.

  121. mothworm
    June 20, 2007 at 6:41 pm

    Sez you. BD’s right on this one. The Bible is itself a collection involving decisions about what is canonical, made by editors long after all the survivors of Jesus’ ministry were dead and dust. Further, a statement that the entirety of it is weighted equally is an assertion of interpretive methodology…For that matter, how do you account for differences between John and the Synoptic Gospels?

    I account for it the same way you appear to be. People wrote it and assembled it haphazardly with an eye towards affirming what they wanted to be true. I just go a step further and say that applies to the whole document, including the part that says god exists.

  122. June 20, 2007 at 6:46 pm

    There’s nothing wrong, I suppose, in believing in Santa Claus, but I don’t see where that would ever be useful.

    If your belief in Santa Claus helps you be a good person all year, isn’t it useful?

    A belief in God isn’t a necessary component of a moral life, but if such a belief sustains certain people in their struggle to live righteously — and I think it’s quite obvious that it does — then such a belief is useful, whether or not it’s accurate.

    At a certain point this business about how none of us need religious belief starts to strike me as a little odd. It’s as if we were all on an island, talking about how we got there. One person says, “I took a helicopter,” and someone else says, “you know you don’t need a helicopter to get to this island.” The first person says, “I know there are other ways to get here, but I took a helicopter,” and the second person says, “there are regularly scheduled flights to this island. I don’t see how a helicopter would ever be useful.”

    If the goal is complete understanding of the universe and human experience, then I, as an atheist, have to say that a belief in God can never get you all the way there. But none of us, atheist or believer, is ever going to get all the way there, and I don’t feel confident at all in saying that the mere fact of my atheism means that I’m further along than the smartest and most thoughtful of those who believe in God.

    And I don’t see complete understanding of the universe and human experience as the goal anyway. It seems to me that the goal is to be a decent person and to contribute something to the planet, and I can think of a hundred ways in which religious faith might help a person do that.

    It’s not my path, but if we both wind up on the island it really doesn’t matter to me whether you took a helicopter or a plane.

  123. June 20, 2007 at 6:52 pm

    I have to say that the single biggest harmful aspect that religion can have—and if it has this, it’s pretty much a fatal flaw no matter how much good works they do—is this exclusionist tendency. Not just “you have sinned, get out” but also “non-True-Believers all go to hell, regardless of if they had a chance to be a True Believer.”

    This is the point at which I seriously began my turn from Christianity—I had been to camps and rallies and was seriously considering going on a mission trip, when as part of our confirmation studies we were asked to compose a statement of belief, and in searching for inspiration I read the mission statement on the mission-trip-organization’s brochure. Among about a paragraph on its beliefs, it clearly stated that the “unsaved” would suffer eternal damnation. Epiphany: this is not right. The fire cooled, I injected rational thought into my spiritual life, and this eventually resulted in me reaching the path I follow now.

  124. other orange
    June 20, 2007 at 6:55 pm

    Faith knowledge cannot be valid for Christianity, but not valid for Islam.

    Agreed. As a Christian, I feel enriched by the knowledge that Muslims and Jews worship the same God as I do- that God’s a force in their cultural and spiritual lives, however we’ve chosen to express that. I’m disgusted by fundamentalist ideas that try to, in a manner of speaking, shove us into a mason jar and shake us until we fight. If God is such a powerful force, ever-present through all eternity, why wouldn’t he want as many beautiful and different expressions of faith as there are people under the sun ?

    People wrote it and assembled it haphazardly with an eye towards affirming what they wanted to be true. I just go a step further and say that applies to the whole document, including the part that says god exists.

    Well, you go that extra step, and I don’t. It can be as simple as that. I choose to believe, and you don’t. I’m good with that. :)

    Honestly, I love Brooklynite’s explanation of the Bible as historical document. I believe that the statements of faith, the cornerstones of belief are true- but the surrounding details are colored by the humanity of the participants. I mean, as recently as the Civil War, accounts are colored with a hundred different viewpoints- the facts of the battle might be there in an eyewitness account, but maybe the biased eyewitness describes the northern soldiers as “pigs and half-breeds” and the southern soldiers as “flowers of manhood and gentlemanly knights.” Does that mean the battle didn’t happen ? No. Does it mean the narrator is full of horseshit ? Sure.

    It’s not a perfect analogy, when you’re basing something as difficult to define as “faith” on the narrative. It’s tricky. But it serves well enough to explain what I’m saying.

  125. other orange
    June 20, 2007 at 6:56 pm

    I do not rule at blockquotes !

    Sigh.

  126. mothworm
    June 20, 2007 at 7:01 pm

    I think magical belief, on the whole, is harmful for society, even if it is individually useful.

    A helicopter is useful. I can see a helicopter. I can study aerodynamics and understand how it works. I can accept that a person can get to the island by helicopter. I can’t accept that “angels dropped him there”.

    If our goal is to be on the island, then, I suppose it doesn’t totally matter if we’re all there, but the person who got there on his own but credits God with it is cheating himself out of a well deserved sense of accomplishment. If we don’t see what humanity is capable of on its own, we don’t progress. If we value authority and interpretation of sacred texts and “just knowing” over rational thought and logical argument, we lose out. It becomes easy to lead a country down the wrong path by appealing to faith knowledge that is sheilded from criticism.

    Looking at the numerous times throughout history that religion (an essentially conservative force) has had to revise itself in the face of modern thought, I don’t see how magical thinking will ever get us to the island. If anything, it’s standing in the way.

  127. Ataralas
    June 20, 2007 at 7:04 pm

    mothworm, I wonder what you would think if, say, someone found a journal that was the only written record of some historical event, perhaps a battle in a war. Now it turned out that this account was written many years after the author had been in the battle, and besides, at the time, the author was young and a very lowly soldier. Some archeological evidence confirms that this battle existed, as well as numerous references in contemporary histories, but very little is known.

    Now, for the historian trying to reconstruct troop movements in this battle, clearly this journal would be of enormous value. And yet, the historian couldn’t take everything in the account as absolutely true, given the vagaries of human memory and the limited perspective of the author.

    Now, there are numerous places the analogy breaks down, but simply because the historian believes the account to be true in some parts doesn’t mean sie has to accept all of it. Likewise, because I accept some of the claims of the Bible doesn’t mean I accept all of them. I am well aware of the history of the Bible, its composition and authorship debates. I can talk about the various biblical canons, about the authorship of the Pauline epistles, about J/E, D and P, about non-canonical gospels vs. synoptic gospels vs. John vs. Q.

    The Bible is a document of human authorship and multiple authorship, spread over hundreds of years. Of course it has contradictions. Of course it has faults. That doesn’t mean that it’s all untrue.

  128. June 20, 2007 at 7:10 pm

    “Just the facts, ma’am,” eh?

    Yeah, I don’t think we’re gonna see eye to eye on this. I don’t think of “God” as necessarily a separate being, personally; but it’s not something I really want to get into an argument about. And per “magical thinking…”

    yeah. we’re not on the same page. It’s okay.

  129. June 20, 2007 at 7:13 pm

    …as per myth/”true,” I take a more Jungian approach, I guess.

    “not this, not that” is a useful concept, also.

  130. June 20, 2007 at 7:13 pm

    You’re moving the goalposts, mothworm.

    In comment 114 you said you didn’t see where a belief in Santa Claus — and by extension God — “would ever be useful.” In 122 you said that it might be useful to an individual, but that its usefulness is outweighed by the harm it does.

    In 99 you said that people who believe that Jesus is God “do so because of the stories put forth in the Bible.” In 118 you conceded that people might have other sources for such a belief, but argued that those other sources are unreliable.

    Like I said, I’m an atheist. I agree with you that people who believe in God are mistaken, and I even agree that religious belief is, on balance, a negative rather than a positive force in the world. But if your argument against religious belief is that it’s inconsistent and irrational, you might want to take a moment to contemplate the Gospel of Matthew: Chapter 7, Verse 3.

  131. Hector B.
    June 20, 2007 at 7:16 pm

    If we value authority and interpretation of sacred texts and “just knowing” over rational thought and logical argument, we lose out.

    Human beings seem to value wishful thinking as much as or more than they value rational thinking. This explains why the US invaded Iraq as part of an imaginary axis of evil with al-Qaeda. If rational thought was important, before we invaded Iraq, we would have invaded North Korea for its known nuclear weapons and its known missile capacity, as well as to ease the sufferings of its people.

  132. June 20, 2007 at 7:19 pm

    “wishful thinking” isn’t really “faith.”

    shrug. not everything is “rational,” is what it boil down to for me, and while I obviously value Enlightenment thinking as a basic principle, it has its blind spots, and i think that one of the struggles of the last century or so has been figuring out what to do with that.

  133. June 20, 2007 at 7:28 pm

    Identify this verse:

    It’s from Galatians I know, but just because Paul said that doesn’t mean he believed it. He argues in other places the there is in fact a large difference between how men and women are seen in the Christian community. Not to mention the gay community.

  134. Sally
    June 20, 2007 at 7:30 pm

    The other thing is, getting back specifically to feminism and Christianity, y’all know that they were pretty well intertwined during the *first* wave, right? Particularly you might want to look at the Temperance movement. and of course, the influence Christianity had on the abolitionist movement, which was (unfortunate later rifts notwithstanding) very much bound up with suffrage.

    A key figure here is Elizabeth Cady Stanton. The fact that she rewrote the Bible to be feminist-friendly is indicative both of how important she thought religion was and how problematic she found Christianity’s foundational texts.

  135. June 20, 2007 at 7:31 pm

    Not to mention the gay community.

    Um, this will read incorrectly in my comment in moderation. i mean how gay people are seen in the Christian community.

  136. shibai
    June 20, 2007 at 7:41 pm

    Isn’t atheism a belief in and of itself? Atheists have chosen to believe that there is nothing beyond the physical, dismissing many people’s urges and needs for something spiritual as some kind of mass delusion. It’s not a verifiable stance, just as much as religious belief isn’t a verifiable stance.

  137. June 20, 2007 at 7:58 pm

    Of course I don’t want to exclude anyone, or tell them they can’t be feminists or progressives. If you hold feminist and progressive beliefs, then join the club! Like I said before, I just wonder why you would also want to part of a club that was decidedly against those things.

    See, the thing is, I’m NOT part of a club that’s decidedly against those things. Haven’t people already brought up (repeatedly) the fact that feminism isn’t one whole monolithic club in which everyone agrees and holds the same beliefs? Why is it so impossible for some people here to realize that Christianity, or any belief system, is the same way? My Christian faith and my feminism are completely compatible, my beliefs are compatible with those of my church, and I don’t give a damn what uber-fundamentalists fuckwits say I should believe. The fundamentalists can’t speak for the whole of Christianity any more than condescending atheists who are hostile to religion can speak for all atheists, or Phyllis Schafly can speak for all women. Why is that so HARD to understand?

    I am beyond sick and tired of having to constantly justify myself everywhere I go. Too many fundie Christians won’t let me in their “club” because I don’t accept their arbitrary and legalist interpretations of Scripture, and too many feminists, humanists, etc. are the same because I still cling to my faith and have the audacity to claim to be a feminist as well. I’m just sick of it. I don’t care anymore if any of you try to claim I can’t be a proper feminist. I just wish some people would realize that feminists can be close-minded assholes sometimes, too.

  138. June 20, 2007 at 8:09 pm

    I don’t remember the exact verse number, antiprincess, but it’s in Galatians.

    Besides, if you believe in the Christian God, you’ve decided that at least part of the Bible is actually “true” and not a myth.

    a) Of course at least part of the Bible is actually “true” – some of the historical figures, such as Herod, can be independently confirmed to have existed. We’re not seriously obliged to choose between “every word of the Bible is false” and “every word of the Bible is equally literally true,” are we? Because I don’t treat any other book that way.

    b) Some of us don’t consider “myth” and “true” to be incompatible categories.

    And if you believe that the central concept is true, why not all the stuff that Being says is true along with it?

    What, every time I agree with some concept that’s central to a particular book, I have to also believe that every single part of that book is equally literally true and without error? Since when?

    Quakerism has never been a faith that’s entirely about founding itself on taking a particular book literally, so I fail to see how I’m pulling some special sleight of hand, as a Quaker, in not founding my faith entirely on taking a particular book literally.

    I mean, I don’t want to be totally dismissive of the role of the Bible in my faith, but if the alternative is letting some atheist tell me that the only way to be Christian is to be fundamentalist, when that’s never been true in the entire history of Christianity, well, screw that.

  139. mothworm
    June 20, 2007 at 8:14 pm

    I didn’t state that well, I guess. I don’t think it’s useful because it contributes nothing that couldn’t be done on one’s own. I understand that people do make use of it, though. It’s a fine distinction, maybe, and I could have said it better.

    I also don’t see where 99 and 118 contradict each other. In 118 I pretty explicitly said that faith is not a way of knowing. I don’t see how faith knowledge could lead you to a belief in Jesus’ divinity without having the Bible as the basis of that knowledge. In other words, I don’t know of anyone who “came to know” Jesus without having read about him first.

  140. June 20, 2007 at 8:28 pm

    I don’t see how faith knowledge could lead you to a belief in Jesus’ divinity without having the Bible as the basis of that knowledge. In other words, I don’t know of anyone who “came to know” Jesus without having read about him first.

    I’d put it more that people come in contact with a community that already believes in Jesus, and either conclude that they agree with that community, or not (or, perhaps, agree with some communities believing in Jesus and not others). The Bible has never been the sole basis of Christianity.

  141. June 20, 2007 at 8:59 pm

    What, every time I agree with some concept that’s central to a particular book, I have to also believe that every single part of that book is equally literally true and without error?

    I think this is key. The Bible is, first and foremost, MULTIPLE TEXTS. To argue against it as if were one whole text that has be unaltered through history is invalid. Therefore, each argument as well as where it comes from and who is supposedly saying it need to be taken into account. C the quote that antip gave from Galatians. It is a lovely sentiment that there is no difference in the way that Christianity views women and men, but Paul himself discusses elsewhere where he shows that this is not the case. Is this a reason to throw away the earlier assessment? Not if we can place the quote in the context of the fact that this is one man writing his opinion, which may be contradictory. We can easily reject the first while believing the second, none of which diminishes our belief in some higher God or even our own disbelief. These are not equal statements.

    I think a lot of this comes from the attempt to argue the Bible as the inspired word of God as opposed to the very human words of some believers who may or may not have had an agenda. Taking it as the second makes it easier to argue the Bible philosophically and rationally, as opposed to either “all good” or “all bad” full stop.

  142. Ruth
    June 20, 2007 at 9:14 pm

    other orange Says:…are definitely struggles to overcome if you’re a Christian, certainly in dealing with the legacy of fundamentalist hate and the domination of men in the religious sphere; but for those of us who want to reclaim our faith, it’s a positive struggle. For some people, it’s not the right fit, and that’s fine with me. But I can be both.

    I cannot.
    But I can be fine with you being both. I think religion involves a kind of magical thinking that is less than helpful in solving real world problems, I also think feminists work hard to find real world solutions even when it means going against their church/religion. That I can deal with.

    By the way, Richard Nixon was a quaker.

  143. June 20, 2007 at 10:04 pm

    We can easily reject the first while believing the second

    Wow, I’m just being a moron today. I meant “We can easily believe the first while rejecting the second”.

    And I have a little more on the stupidity of assigning a different definition to “morals” than “ethics” that seems to pervade a lot of fundy logic.

  144. June 20, 2007 at 10:05 pm
  145. Ellid
    June 20, 2007 at 10:10 pm

    Try either the United Church of Christ, the Friends (Quakers), or the Unitarian Universalist Association. They are non-judgmental, theologically liberal, and welcome to all.

  146. June 20, 2007 at 10:53 pm

    I’ve had some pretty horrible experiences with the Church and refuse to ever attend one regularly ever again (I will appease my folks and attend when I visit them) but I still believe in God. I consider myself a Christian mystic and if that’s just too weird for people, I suppose I am more agnostic than anything else. I believe in acts of compassion and mercy, in love and acceptance, and in pascifism. I explored Quakerism but again, I’m not too into the whole organized meetings thing.

    That said, I think that there are real Christians who actually follow what Jesus commanded (love God, take care of widows and orphans) and then there are the fakes who use the Bible to justify their bigotry and hatred (for instance, Jesus never says to hate homosexuality – Paul does, to make a point about how begging for laws is just stupid because Jesus freed us from the law – but I digress).

    I also get uneasy about pro-Israel pretty much no matter what churches.

  147. Sally
    June 20, 2007 at 11:01 pm

    By the way, Richard Nixon was a quaker.

    Yup. So was Herbert Hoover. So were Jane Addams (although she left the fold and became a Presbyterian as an adult), Susan B. Anthony, Alice Paul, Sarah and Angelina Grimke, and Lucretia Mott. Lucy Burns was Catholic. What’s your point?

  148. Hector B.
    June 20, 2007 at 11:16 pm

    Isn’t atheism a belief in and of itself?

    I have run across two kinds of atheists. Regular atheists (I don’t believe there’s a god; I’ve seen no evidence that there is a god;) and Evangelical atheists (You’re an idiot if you believe there’s a god; there’s no evidence there’s a god, you idiot. Moron.)

  149. June 20, 2007 at 11:16 pm

    I’m an atheist, and moreover not one that came from a religion .

    My parents let me figure out where I would be in terms of faith on my own, my mother disgusted with organised religion after growing up in Europe and seeing what religious conflict did there, and my Dad was a lapsed anglican.

    By the time I was 12-ish I identified as initially agnostic, and then later atheist. And that really hasn’t changed much at all since then. I say all this so you can take what I am going to say with a grain of salt.

    Can you be christian and Feminist? I suppose so. But my big question is; why would you want to be? Why waste your energies on being christian when you could put them into things that really improve the world around you?

    You can be a wonderful, moral, giving, ethical and powerful person without being christian. You can volunteer, give back, push for rights and inclusions, democratise, empower those with less privilege and resources without being christian. You can work for women’s rights, LGBT rights, ethnic-minority rights, etc without being christian (and hell, fighting for religious minority rights I tend to think it helps to have the more neutral position in regards to them of being atheist).

    The universe to me is an incredible, meaningful and beautiful place, possibly even more so simply because it exists merely because it exists, outside of any unnecessary conscious intrusion by some deity. The pure physicality of the universe, including all the processes (which I loved so much I ended up getting a degree in order to understand them better, completely separate from my actual career’s degrees). Again, you can see all this without being christian.

    I tend to lean more in the direction towards SarahMC’s opinions, though I am not quite as harsh about them. I do think the world would honestly be a better place without religion in it, but that’s not going to happen any time soon, so it’s kinda pointless to argue over. I will respect a person’s beliefs, because I respect people and I can’t tell them what to believe, or not believe, but I am not going to give those beliefs any serious credence in their own right. Anything religion does that is good can just as easily be done without it, and hence without all the nasty side-effects.

    My basic point here is of asking “Why?”. If you feel it’s absolutely necessary for you to have faith in something, then go ahead, be a christian AND a feminist. More power to you. Just ask yourself if you really NEED it, and if so, WHY do you need it.

    I’m sure you’ll work out what is best for you.

  150. Roy
    June 20, 2007 at 11:52 pm

    Isn’t atheism a belief in and of itself? Atheists have chosen to believe that there is nothing beyond the physical, dismissing many people’s urges and needs for something spiritual as some kind of mass delusion. It’s not a verifiable stance, just as much as religious belief isn’t a verifiable stance.

    I’m not an atheist, but that’s not quite the same thing. It’s a quesiton of burden of proof, at that point. The atheist is, in many cases, doing exactly the same thing that most of us do- holding a position in the absence of evidence to the contrary. I don’t believe that there are dragons living on mars. I don’t believe in the tooth fairy. I don’t believe that a human being can run faster than a speeding bullet. I can’t prove any of these things. I could run tests on the moon and say “Well, I didn’t find any.” But, the believer can say “Well, you didn’t look hard enough” or “they’re invisible” or any number of other things. I could say “I tested people, and nobody could outrun a bullet” but the believer could say “You haven’t found the right person yet. Have you tested everyone?”

    Again, I’m not an atheist, but requiring an atheist to provide proof for the non-existence of a deity is sort of an absurd request. What would proof of the non-existence of anything look like?

  151. June 21, 2007 at 12:54 am

    I’m an evangelical and a feminist (and a man), and certainly have no problem uniting my faith in Christ (and my membership in the Episcopal Church), my belief in the inspired nature of Scripture, my belief in the work of the Holy Spirit, and the radical notion that men and women are designed to be fully, utterly, equal.

    Christians for Biblical Equality is made up of bible-thumpin’ evangelicals (like moi) who are committed to the notion that women as well as men should be in every facet of leadership, and that there are no pre-ordained roles for either sex. We fight the complementarian heresy all the time.

  152. Ruth
    June 21, 2007 at 4:07 am

    Atheists have chosen to believe that there is nothing

    Atheists have chosen not to believe, not quite the same thing

  153. z
    June 21, 2007 at 5:14 am

    It’s important to note that the religion preached by the fundamentalists is far removed from Christianity.

  154. Hannah
    June 21, 2007 at 9:06 am

    Ever hear of the 8 heavy duties? Negatory on the Buddhist feminism.

    I’m going to have to say, as an atheistic Buddhist feminist, you’re making the assumption that all Buddhists strictly follow the Tripitaka. This is a wonderful essay examining evidence of indoctrinated Buddhist sexism, and how little it actually goes along with the Buddha’s core teachings. Also, one can look to the Kamala Sutta to see thatthe Buddha says a Buddhist must examine all scripture, practice, and dogma before accepting them as in line with Buddhist thought, and they are free to reject those they feel do not.

    So just like fundamentalists don’t represent Christianity as a whole, fundamentalist denominations of Buddhism do not represent every part of Buddhism, or even many of its core teachings. Unlike Christianity, Buddhism is not inherently dogmatic and forced to accept only one text.

  155. mothworm
    June 21, 2007 at 9:32 am

    Ataralas Says:

    mothworm, I wonder what you would think if, say, someone found a journal that was the only written record of some historical event, perhaps a battle in a war….

    Now, there are numerous places the analogy breaks down, but simply because the historian believes the account to be true in some parts doesn’t mean sie has to accept all of it. Likewise, because I accept some of the claims of the Bible doesn’t mean I accept all of them….

    The Bible is a document of human authorship and multiple authorship, spread over hundreds of years. Of course it has contradictions. Of course it has faults. That doesn’t mean that it’s all untrue.

    The analogy breaks down at a critical point, though. We evaluate what is true, or at least possible, through the examination of evidence and context. We can look for archaeological finds that match descriptions of the battle sites; we can compare the document to what we already know of the civilization that produced it; we can do any number of things to see if the description matches an event that could have happened–but if the account ends with “and then we won because our god descended from the sky and smote our enemies”, no amount of cooboration of the realistic events can lend support to the existence of the supernatural.

    The stroy of the war with Troy may be historically accurate, but that’s not evidence of the existence of Greek gods.

    My problem with the “but we don’t have to accept all of the Bible as true” is that you’re accepting the most unsupported portion of it.

  156. June 21, 2007 at 9:39 am

    See, the thing is, I’m NOT part of a club that’s decidedly against those things. Haven’t people already brought up (repeatedly) the fact that feminism isn’t one whole monolithic club in which everyone agrees and holds the same beliefs? Why is it so impossible for some people here to realize that Christianity, or any belief system, is the same way?

    Because the reason a lot of people keep having to bring up that -feminism- isn’t one whole monolithic club is that a lot of other people -do- seem to want to think it’s a monolithic club. Monoliths=make life simpler and therefore popular.

    I am beyond sick and tired of having to constantly justify myself everywhere I go.

    I hear ya.

  157. other orange
    June 21, 2007 at 9:48 am

    You can be a wonderful, moral, giving, ethical and powerful person without being christian. You can volunteer, give back, push for rights and inclusions, democratise, empower those with less privilege and resources without being christian. You can work for women’s rights, LGBT rights, ethnic-minority rights, etc without being christian

    But I can, and do, work for those things while being Christian, too. That’s my point.

  158. other orange
    June 21, 2007 at 10:02 am

    Sarah-

    I’ve thought about it, and you deserve more of a real answer to your question: “Why ?”

    I’m a Christian for the same reason that I’m a feminist- because I believe it’s a force for good in my life. Feminism has opened my eyes to injustice and inequality, and given me the tools to fight those things- as has my faith. Maybe it’s a flaw in my personality, or maybe it’s just an aspect of my personality; but it feels good to be part of something real and positive- the community of people that I worship with, and cook brunches with, and read with and sing in the choir with, are good people trying to help the world they were born into. They’re anti-war, pro-women’s rights, pro-gay rights, pro-science (what an embarassing time to live in, that I have to type pro-science like it’s 1382 or something); they’ve taught me that faith should never be used a shield against the truth.

    Yeah, I like the social aspects of faith as well as the spiritual ones. I like learning about the history of faith, the good and bad acts, the mistakes, the people. I’ve had experiences in my life that lead me to believe that there is a God, a higher power, benevolent and creating. The same experience, if I was a different kind of person, might have led me to believe that the universe is random- but I’m not a different person. I’m me.

    I hope that helps a little bit, and that I’ve made some kind of a point in all that chatter. ;)

  159. June 21, 2007 at 11:36 am

    other orange –

    I can kinda see what you’re getting at, but I don’t see how christianity provides this to you … you can get it without the faith, without the belief. The ‘why?’ doesn’t really get answered for me.

    I guess it’s the difference in people, because I simply don’t get it, and I’ve been trying to understand for a long time (I actually heard that some scientists found a gene combination that people that had faith tended to have, and people that didn’t, didn’t, so maybe that’s what it takes).

    Course, I’ll respect ‘that’ you believe, even if I don’t respect the ‘what’. It’s not my place to tell you what to believe, or not to believe.

  160. other orange
    June 21, 2007 at 2:25 pm

    …you can get it without the faith, without the belief.

    I could get a sense of community by belonging to a gang, or a chess club, or a knitting circle. I do realize that. But I choose to find my community where I choose to find it- it’s true, people get good feedback from very different sources.

    Let me put it this way: I want to believe. I mean, unless somebody’s actually seen the burning bush, you have to make a choice to believe. You don’t necessarily fall into faith. My great-aunt was a faith healer, not a creepy one with tongues and falling-down fits, but one who lived a quiet life and tried to give whatever strength she had to others. Did her kindness, her devotion, influence my faith ? Definitely.

    (Sidenote: faith healing aside, do I still get vaccinated for stuff and see the doctor for every freaking cough and ache- yeah. Because if you believe that God is good, then I think you ought to believe that medicine and science, which saves lives, is good, too.)

    Also, as an artist and as someone studying art history, I’m exposed to thousands of years of devotional artwork- from every diety, from every period in history. People have been moved to create unimaginable beauty by their faith. (Ugliness, too, sadly.) It feels right to me to place myself in that particular tradition. Again, not a perfect fit for everybody- but a good fit for me.

    And I do thank you for your respect. I’m not threatened by criticism (I know some people who think that a challenge to their faith is just unbearable- but I feel like a challenge to faith is just that: a challenge, a chance to grow, and I welcome those.) So, I don’t necessarily need anyone’s respect, but I welcome that, too. It’s much appreciated. :)

  161. June 21, 2007 at 3:03 pm

    other orange –

    Thank you for understanding the difference between respecting a person, and not respecting the beliefs of a person. That’s an important distinction and I do wish people would get it.

  162. mothworm
    June 21, 2007 at 4:33 pm

    I am beyond sick and tired of having to constantly justify myself everywhere I go. Too many fundie Christians won’t let me in their “club” because I don’t accept their arbitrary and legalist interpretations of Scripture, and too many feminists, humanists, etc. are the same because I still cling to my faith and have the audacity to claim to be a feminist as well. I’m just sick of it. I don’t care anymore if any of you try to claim I can’t be a proper feminist. I just wish some people would realize that feminists can be close-minded assholes sometimes, too.

    Kristi, I want to apologize. You don’t have to justify yourself to me or anyone. If you believe in full equality, you’re a feminist. If your version of religion shares that view, that’s cool, too. I guess I have no argument with it if that’s true, It’s just not a viewpoint I’ve ever encountered in my religious experiences. Obviously, I don’t find any significance in theism, but everyone is free to pursue their own happiness. Sarah said everything better, so I’ll just leave it at that.

  163. June 21, 2007 at 6:41 pm

    I really like this website, it’s a good resource for progressive Christians.

    Thanks for this link, CMarie. I’ve already started exploring it!

  164. June 21, 2007 at 7:19 pm

    I have been lucky to meet many Christians who are openminded and tolerant of me and even agree with my stance on being independent and women’s rights. Yet hearing so many Christian-fundamentalist (historically) fighting against human (such as rights of racial-minorities, women, homosexuals rights…taint how (some) Feminists view Christians.

    I hate justifying myself as well, and no one has to agree with my faith or morals, just don’t push me out when I share the same goals.

    It hurts, to be Christian and Feminist..and sometimes, just sometimes..denounced by both sides.

  165. June 21, 2007 at 7:21 pm

    I must add though that several of these comments have been very helpful and supportive! It is possible to Christian and Feminist, despite head-butting with many passages of the New Testament.

  166. June 21, 2007 at 11:41 pm

    Wogglebug,

    I have a couple of very good friends who are followers of the Baha’i faith. A long time ago, I read some material about it but I don’t know much about its teachings. Pacifist religions appeal to me. I think the experience of living with cancer and watching many of my other cancer-friends suffer makes it impossible for me to see myself being an participant in conflicts where perfectly healthy people are slaughtered. Having experienced real physical pain and having had a front row seat while death took away so many of my loved ones, I just can’t picture being a participant in depriving someone else of their family and friends.

  167. June 22, 2007 at 1:07 pm

    Other orange,

    Like you, I choose to believe. Having a background in the sciences, it is perfectly understandable to me that some people do not feel the need to have any sort of religion in their lives. After all, some say, is there any reason why we should believe in “sky-fairies” any more than we believe in pink unicorns and flying spaghetti monsters? My own personal view is that if believing in pink unicorns, flying spaghetti monsters (one of my personal favorites), and/or sky-fairies gives people a sense of peace, if it helps them get through all of the tragedies that we will all surely experience at some point in life, if it provides them with reasons to be compassionate and peaceful and thoughtful…well then I think that those beliefs are not much worse than all the other things that people put faith in (e.g. the stock market, politicians, dry cleaners).

    When my daughter was a little kid, she used to be afraid to sleep in the dark. Even with her night-light on, everytime something in her toy box shifted or a shadow moved against the wall, she became really scared. I tried to explain to her that she needed that time in the dark so that her eyes could rest and her brain would have the time to sort out all her thoughts without having to concentrate on everything around her. I told her that it would help her wake up feeling refreshed the following day.

    Guess what? None of that worked. She just didn’t care about refreshed brains or any of that other stuff. Fortunately, we found something that did work. I began to pretend that I was afraid that there were monsters underneath my bed and in my closets and even in the toilet. All day long I would call her to come with me whenever I had to go into a room all by myself.

    She was very sympathetic at first. She’d come with me and help me check under the beds and in the closets to make sure there wasn’t anything lurking around. Then after a few days, she got tired of being interrupted while she was playing in order to come and show me that there wasn’t anything hiding in the dark waiting to pounce me. After awhile she started getting exasperated and telling me that since we’d already checked those spaces earlier, there wasn’t anything for me to be afraid of and I should just be brave and go without her.

    It wasn’t right away but not long after that, she stopped calling me into her room at night. She had convinced herself that there was no reason to be afraid of the dark.

    To me, that shows that sometimes you have to try and relate to people at the point where they are because logic isn’t always going to work when it comes to changing people’s minds about things. After all, who thinks logically all of the time? As much as I value logic, humans do not operate on logic alone. Logic has very concrete rules about things but humans have the ability to factor in a lot of other considerations when we are making decisions. I think that it’s all those other things that create the beautiful parts of the human experience. I wouldn’t trade away my ability to believe in the illogical for all the money in the world. It’s what makes me able to feel hope even when there is no logical reason for me to do so.

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