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Images of God in different religions - Davie

Davie shows that:

·      Women see God more as a god of love, comfort and forgiveness

·      Men see God more as a god of power and control.

·      Christianity is inherently patriarchal, with men made in 'the image and glory of God' and women made 'for the glory of man'.

·      The most prominent females in the Bible, Eve and Mary, can be interpreted as reinforcing patriarchal ideas regarding, on the one hand, the dangers of female sexuality and, on the other, the virtues of motherhood.

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Sexuality and religion

·      Bird points out that sexuality is an important issue in many religions. Roman Catholic priests are expected to be celibate, while Christianity and Islam are opposed to homosexuality.

·      Turner suggests that a disciplinary role with respect to sexuality is central to religion. Widespread importance is given to asceticism, a self-disciplined existence in which pleasure is repressed.

·      This means that, in order to carry out priestly duties properly, there needs to be a degree of policing of the body - and the presence of women makes this difficult.

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Women in religious organisations

·      Patriarchal attitudes have meant that, until recently, women have been barred from serving as priests in many of the world's great religions, and the more traditional factions continue to bar them. E.g. Orthodox Jews continue to exclude women from the religious hierarchy,

·      Simon and Nadell conducted research about women in religious organisations, drawing on evidence from in-depth interviews with 32 female rabbis and 27 female members of the Protestant clergy. They concluded that the women conduct themselves in totally different ways to the male members of their religious organisations.

·      Seventeen out of the 27 female members of the Protestant clergy described themselves as less formal, more people orientated, more into pastoral care and less concerned with power struggles, than were the male clergy.

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Feminism and Religion

·      Mary Daly goes as far as to suggest that Christianity itself is a patriarchal myth. She argues that the Christian story eliminated other 'goddess' religions. She argues that Christianity is rooted in male 'sado-rituals' with its 'torture cross symbolism', and that it embodies women-hating.

·      Beauvoir saw the role of religion in a similar way to Marx. However, she saw it as oppressive to women in particular. Religion is used by the oppressors (men) to control the oppressed group (women). It also serves as a way of compensating women for their second-class status. Religion gives women the false belief that they will be compensated for their suffering on earth by equality in heaven.

·      El Sadaawi does not blame religion in itself for its oppressive influence on women, but blames the patriarchal domination of religion that came with the development of monotheistic religions. Such religions, she argues, 'drew inspiration and guidance from the patriarchal and class societies prevalent at the time'.

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Is religion necessarily patriarchal?

·      Judaism has allowed women to become rabbis in its non-orthodox denominations since 1972, and even some Christian religions e.g. Quakerism. According to Kaur-Singh, Sikh Gurus pleaded the cause of the emancipation of the Indian womanhood, fully supporting them in improving their condition in society.

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Why are women more religious than men?

Miller and Hoffman report that women: - are more likely to express a greater interest in religion than men - have a stronger personal religious commitment than men - attend church more often than men.

Aune et al cite a number of reasons for the decline in church attendance and why certain women in particular are not going to church as much as they once did:
- Fertility levels- Women have fewer children and so the older generation lost from the church is not being replaced.
- Feminist values­­- Feminist values began in the 1960s-70s, challenging traditional Christian views about women's role and raising women's aspirations.  
- Paid employment- Now, two-thirds of women are in the labour market. Juggling employment with childcare and housework causes time pressures and attending church is one activity to suffer.
- Sexuality- The church's ambivalence towards sexuality is driving women to leave, feeling that the church requires them to deny about sexual desire and activity.

Miller and Hoffman identify two main explanations for such gender differences:
1.   Differential socialisation- Females are taught to be more submissive, obedient and nurturing than males. These traits are compatible with religiosity; as such characteristics are highly esteemed by most religions.
2.   Differential roles- Females have lower rates of participation in paid work and this, it is argued, gives women not only more time for church related activities, but also a greater need for religion as a source of personal identity and commitment.

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Linda Woodhead

Linda Woodhead, in attempting to explain the diversity of responses that modern women have begun to demonstrate towards religion, divides contemporary women into three groups:

1.   Home-centred women, whose priority is their home and families. They tend to be traditionally Christian because Christianity affirms their priorities.

2.   Jugglers, who combine home and work. These women are more likely to be found in alternative spirituality because alternative spiritualities do most to help women who are negotiating private/public boundaries.

3.   Work-centred women, who are more likely to follow male patterns of religiosity, abandoning church because it doesn't fit with their demanding work schedules.

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Women and NRMs

·      Women tend to participate more in sects than men. Women are more likely than men to experience poverty, and those who experience economic deprivation are more likely to join sects.

Glock and Stark suggest that people who form or join sects may have experienced these different types of deprivation.

·      Social deprivation- This may stem from a lack of power, prestige and status.

·      Organismic deprivation- This is experienced by those who suffer physical and mental problems.

·      Ethical deprivation- People may perceive the world to be in moral decline and so retreat into a sect that separates itself from the world.

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Women and NAMs

·      Within the philosophies of New Age cults, women tend to be afforded a much higher status than men. This is one reason that may explain higher female involvement in NAMs, as many of them emphasise the 'natural', such as aromatherapy.

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Women and fundamentalism

·      Cohen and Kennedy suggest that the 'desire to restore fundamentalist religious values and social practices is associated with the fear that any real increase in women's freedom of choice and action will undermine the foundations of tradition, religion, morality and, it could be argued, male control'.

·      In the USA opposition to women controlling their fertility through abortion has sometimes ended in violence, with right-wing, religious pro-life groups adopting near terrorist tactics to close clinics down.

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