More on feminism and religion

You notice what you’re paying attention to, which should go without saying except that some people don’t notice that this is what happens, so they call it synchronicity. At any rate, since we’ve been reading Full Frontal Feminism, I’ve noticed a lot of articles about feminism and religion on blogs I read. Here’s a bit from Pandagon called “Feminism helps collapse religion“:

Women are the mainstay of churches, the support system, and they have to buy into the B.S. in order to run the picnics and the bake sales and the anti-choice protests. But what happens when women have other options for fulfillment other than contributing unpaid, underthanked labor to religious organizations? They apparently start dropping out and those religions lose their power.

This post links to an article about women in Canadian churches. Apparently Christianity in Canada may be dying, or at least heading toward “history’s sunset.” The whole article is interesting, but you have to scroll down to the bottom part of the story to find the bits on how women may be affecting this change:

Women — the traditional mainstays of institutional religion — in huge numbers abruptly rejected the church’s patriarchal exemplar of them as chaste, submissive “angels in the house” with all of the social and moral responsibility for community and family but none of the authority.

Unable to find acceptable religious role models or religious ideals that were not painful or oppressive, they reconstructed their identities as secular and sexual beings.

Now that’s a trend I can like. Skepchicks of the world, unite! Southward ho!


Donna Druchunas is a freelance technical writer and editor and a knitwear designer. When she's not working, she blogs, studies Lithuanian, reads science and sci-fi books, mouths off on atheist forums, and checks her email every three minutes. (She does that when she's working, too.) Although she loves to chat, she can't keep an IM program open or she'd never get anything else done.

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  1. Or religion will evolve and change to include these changing ideals or Islam will step in and the battle will start all over again just with a different name plate.

  2. As a Canadian, and as an atheist, I'm tempted to say "Woo Hoo!" However, I prefer to resist telling other people what to believe, instead preferring to leave them to figure it out for themselves, regardless of what conclusion they reach. The good news evidenced here is that more and more Canadians are figuring it out for themselves, instead of buying into the dogma at face value.

    Dare I say it?

    Oh, what the hell!

    Woo Hoo!

  3. Even if women are drifting away from religion because they have other things to do, it could be tricky to say how much of that is down to feminism opening opportunities, and how much is down to general secularism/capitalism providing opportunities (and/or a decreasing censure for people who drift away from religion).

    The impression I get from the UK is that for many people, church attendance used to be done to a significant extent because it was thought to be the done thing – people would notice if you weren't there.

    Once more and more people started being able to do stuff away from home at weekends, it was relatively easy to slide into missing more and more church.

    Especially when more people started moving away from their families, whether to study, or to work, there wasn't nearly as much parental-pressure.

    If *everyone* in the past had really liked going to church, there wouldn't have been the need for social censure, fines for workers who skipped church, rules to stop anything interesting being done as an alternative, etc. As soon as not going becomes a feasible option, there are going to be people who can't be bothered going, or who decide to go and do something else instead. I imagine that there are many women and men who'd fall into that category.

    Especially once not going becomes significant, capitalism will spot the market and start more providing things to do instead, which can certainly help to accelerate the process with a hearty dose of positive feedback.

    Though it may just be personal experience, I do rather get the feeling that women may *tend* to be the ones more worried about what people might think if they are seen to skip church, or are seen not to be making their children attend.

    None of the above is attempting to suggest that there aren't many women who may well have moved away from religion partly, mainly, or wholly due to its attitudes to women, but for if individual was the principal instigator of attendance in a family, having other people in the family less keen than them can certainly make leaving rather easier, as can having other things to do instead.

  4. PH, I suspect "all of the above" is the correct answer. The article actually focuses on many different possible causes for the decline in church attendance and membership. It is interesting, especially since American fundamentalist groups are trying to make inroads into Canada. Does this mean they are not succeeding? Or has no-one yet noticed that some of the peole leaving the traditional churches are now attending freaky ones?

    I just pulled out this one bit in light of our reading selectin for the month.

  5. How much recruitment does fundamentalist Christianity tend to get from outside as opposed to people just being born into it?

  6. There were lots of new converts in the 70s and 80s when I was involved. One interesting thing was that they didn't seem to stick around for long. When they had people raise their hands in church to show how long they'd been a Christian, there were very few over 5 years, only two or three hands would go up at 10 years. I have no idea if things are different today.

  7. Would the general fundamentalist idea of 'Christian' include all Christians, or just their own, 'real' kind?

    Also, if recruits were young, might they tend to consider past childhood belief (especially in some other flavour of Christianity) as being less than the real thing.

    That is, might people tend to consider taking the lord into their hearts or being born again as the real start date?

    It's interesting that many converts drifted away, though I suppose for some people belief may well just be a phase, especially in the absence of strong social/family pressure to attend.

  8. The original defnition of fundamentalist, coined in the, meant Christians who believe these five "fundamentals":

    1. Inerrancy of the Scriptures

    2. The virgin birth and the deity of Jesus (Isaiah 7:14)

    3. The doctrine of substitutionary atonement through God's grace and human faith (Hebrews 9)

    4. The bodily resurrection of Jesus (Matthew 28)

    5. The authenticity of Christ's miracles (or, alternatively, his pre-millennial second coming)

    Since then it has grown to include all conservative-evangelical Christians, then to include people who literally interpret their holy book, whatever it is (such as the Koran), and even more recently is has morphed into a sort of synonym for extremist.

    I think "born again" is pretty much a synonym as well, and that's what I meant in my previous post about converts.

  9. writerdd, have you read Bruce Bauer's "Stealing Jesus"? I thought it was really interesting (though he's one of those "I'm the good kind of Christian" Christians.) But he actually sets up a slight difference in definition between Evangelicals and Fundamentalists. Though I think "Born Again" can easily go into either camp. Now you're going to ask me exactly what that distinction is, and I'm going to say, well, I read the book about a year ago and I've slept since then… I think it's more to do with whether they are more into converting or more into setting up their own separate/parallel society (evangelicals being the former, and encompassing a larger body of denominations but don't quote me on that exactly; I'll have to go refresh my memory).

  10. Yeah, I know what the difference is. :-) Evangelicals and fundies are both born again, as are many other Protestant groups. Fundamentalists are usually much more legalistic and some evangelicals — gasp — read some portions of the Bible as allegory or metaphor. Basically the further you move from the fundie center, the less legalism there is and the more room for organizational and personal interpretation of the Bible. (Mormons are also born again, but outsiders don't think their born again-ness counts because every good Christian knows that Mormonism is a cult.)

    Some Christians call themselves fundamentalists and evangelicals today, but I never heard anyone self identify by either those terms in any of the churches I attended or visited. We were all just "born again."

    Then you have the Pentecostals who are more into the emotional experience, rather than the rule-following, but they still have shit load of rules, most of which are the same rules the fundies have and who define themselves by the fact that they are baptized in the Holy Spirit and speak in tongues. There are also the Word of Faiths, who are Pentecostals but then have their own little digressions of theology on top of that, mostly believing in miracles, healing, and that God doesn't want them to be poor.

    And, and, and….. there are so many sub groups it is really quite absurd. Not just formal denominations, but also splinters of non-denominational churches. I don't think those who self-define as fundamentalists speak in tongues, nor do many of the evangelicals. (You may not believe it, but that's a hugely important difference to insiders.)

    For most outsiders, the differences between all these groups are not significant. But I think my book will require a glossary.

    Haven't read Stealing Jesus though. I may have to check that one out.

  11. Oh, yes, actually Bauer uses the term "legalistic Christians" rather than "fundamentalists" through much of the book. The book is over 10 years old now, and apparently he has a much more recent/relevant book on Islam (which I have not read), but it was a book that helped me comprehend a little more about contemporary Christianity (and a lot of the issues that you seem to be interested in–fundamentalism's foray into politics, for example) and also made me even more afraid of folks like Pat Robertson. It's a bit on the Christian apologist side of things, at least from an atheist's perspective, but I thought it was good nonetheless.

    Growing up far away from the Bible Belt, I always kinda lumped fundamentalists and evangelicals into the same basket (to mix metaphors), but now that I live among them I have had to gain a more nuanced understanding. :)

    The all want me to change, so in that sense it doesn't matter to me what the differences are.

  12. I'm with you flygrrl – I find the differences interesting but at the end of the day I am on the "don't believe" side of the fence and all religious people of all stripes are on the "believe" side of the fence.

    I understand there are many differences between believers – and SteveT who comments here and I have great respect for is a world away from Pat Robertson for example – but believer/unbeliever are still my ultimate over arching categories.

  13. I personally only make a distinction between "religious" and "fundamentalist". I would put SteveT in the religious category, but well outside fundamentalism.

    Most of the people I know who are religious seem to fall into the former category of "religious (but sane)". But the very vocal religious minority who want to influence politics, change school science curricula and actively protest reproductive freedom and sexual preferences not their own, all are undisputably of the latter category (whether christian, muslim, jewish, etc…). I don't know how many of them there are, but they appear to be rather numerous judging by the sheer amount of talk by and about them on the internet.

    But for all I know though, they really might not amount to much.

  14. The Barna Group has some interesting surveys that say there are about the same number of evangelicals as unbelievers in the US:

    They obviously have a much narrower description of "evangelical" than of "born again":

    8% of US adults classify as evangelicals (2007) (see Evangelical category for more information)

    35% of US adults classify as born again, but not evangelical. (2007)

    Atheists and agnostics comprise 10% of adults nationwide. (2007)

    It's worth looking at their data in more detail, especially their definitions of the various groups.

  15. The Barna Group has some interesting surveys that say there are about the same number of evangelicals as unbelievers in the US:

    That is interesting. Especially since so many survey questions are asked in such a skewed way that I think the number of unbelievers is grossly underestimated.

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