Defining Terms of Belief
A Critique of Belief | Neurotheology - is God in our Heads?
The Evolutionary Advantages of Faith | The Biological Basis of Belief
Why do we have Beliefs? | Why are Beliefs held so Dearly? | The Stages of Belief
The Contradictions of Atheistic Assumption in the Social Sciences | Science as Religion
Joining and Leaving a Minority Religion
Why Someone Might Choose Neo-Paganism Over Mainstream Religion
On Medieval Heresy | The Perceived Dichotomy Between Sexuality and Spirituality
Religion as a Tool for Social Control
In December, 2002, Dr Rowan Williams took over as Archbishop of Canterbury amid a right-wing furore over his attitude to sex. He had refused to sign a letter condemning sex before marriage. This is not the first time Dr Williams has fallen foul of the right wing, as in the past he has ordained women and gay men. To most people sexuality is the antithesis of spirituality but this is not universal and in some cultures sex is an integral part of worship.
Women in the Ancient World
Babylonian, Egyptian, Greek, Roman and Celt
At Babylon a woman slept in the great bed of Bel (Marduc), which stood in his temple at the summit of a ziggurat. The belief was that she was chosen by the god to be his consort. The law severely punished any disrespect toward these 'consecrated women'.
The same happened in the temple of Ammon at Thebes but there the Queen of Egypt was the consort of the god. At the time of Christ beautiful young pre-pubescent girls of noble birth became concubines of Ammon. During their term of office, they freely prostituted themselves to any man that took their fancy.
The Greeks did not give women much of a say in everyday life but their pantheon of gods and goddesses covered every aspect of life in the raw. The Followers of Pythagoras were struck by the existence of pairs of opposites and believed that they were the basis of the structure of the universe. They listed ten fundamental pairs among which were odd and even, right and left, male and female, good and evil. Odd numbers were right, male and good, even numbers were left, female and evil.
In pre-Christian Rome there were many mystery cults, one of the most important of which was the Cult of Mithras. This cult was exclusive to men. The Vestal Virgins were the only female priests within the Roman religious system. The punishment for breaking their 30 year vow of chastity was death by burial alive in a place known as the 'Evil Fields'. Their lover would be flogged to death on the Comitium, the centre of all political activity in the Roman Republic.
The Celts laughed at the Greeks for depicting their deities as human. The Celtic view was abstract and their deities were everywhere in nature.
Women's Place in some of the Major World Faiths
Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism.
In Judaism a person has to be married before he or she can become a Rabbi though orthodox sects don't allow women to become Rabbis.
Islam is very strict when it comes to what women can and cannot do.
Hinduism is such a diverse system of beliefs that anything is possible. Many Hindus have a very Victorian attitude and are embarrassed by the writings of the Kama Sutra and explicit Temple carvings.
In the Buddhist world those who wish to follow the path of Buddha renounce all worldly things and live a life of poverty and chastity. Those supporters of Buddhism who are not ready to become monks or nuns are not condemned to Hell and damnation but are encouraged to follow the eight-fold path to eventual Buddha-hood.
Attitudes in Christian Denominations
Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Fundamentalist and Conservative Christians
Women are subject to the rules laid down by Paul who believed that women were subservient and through Eve, brought sin into the world.
Sex is expected to be confined to marriage and in Roman Catholicism, since the clergy are denied this, they have to remain celibate. Roman Catholic women who want to enter the church become nuns but when it comes to the Mass etc, they have to call in a priest to do the Holy work. In This Rock, the magazine of Catholic apologetics and evangelization, Joanna Bogle writes:
We can expect that, as the question 'Why can't Catholic women be priests?' is further explored, the Church will provide richer testimony to the unchanging truth of a male-only priesthood. There will be no change in this teaching – rather, the more it is discussed and debated, the more its scriptural and theological basis will emerge. The male-only priesthood of Jesus Christ and the bridal nature of the Church are spiritual realities of which our two human sexes, male and female, are profound and deeply important images, made in the flesh. Ours is an incarnate faith, centred on the great fact that the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. Nothing has been left to chance.
There is a softer attitude to sexuality amongst Liberal Christians and though sexual fidelity is encouraged marriage of divorced couples in church is left to the discretion of the vicar. The next big challenge to the Anglican Church is the ordination of women bishops which may cause a major rift.
By way of summing up, the final Entry in this project is a linguistic (and slightly cynical!) examination of the meanings behind the ideas discussed here: A Critique of Belief.