What if You’re Wrong?, at Faithless Feminist

Cross-posted from: Faithless Feminist
Originally published: 12.03.18

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One of the many common misconceptions and myths that we atheist parents hear from the believers around us, usually said with a horrified or frightened tone, is the question What if you’re wrong? What if my belief system of guilt during life and heavenly reward afterlife is true?

What if you’re wrong about that science stuff? What if you’re wrong about how you interpret the fossil record with the concept of evolution? What if there is a glorious afterlife to reward a life time of worshiping our silent, absent, and often-cruel god? What if there is a hideously agonizing afterlife to punish for free thought and using logic and reason during life? What if we were right to heap shame upon anyone who was not a white, straight, male, monogamous follower of our god? What if we are supposed to carry the shame of being born a human being on this planet?

What if the sheep herders in the Middle East truly do know more about the best way to live life than any thinking person in the current era who uses compassion and love as a starting point? What if our earnest belief in a water-walking carpenter from Bethlehem is absolutely essential for an eternal reward? What if the hominids of the past million+ years of time were alive a mere six thousand years ago? What if dinosaurs are truly misunderstood dragons? What if violent murders or silencing of innocent victims of rape by elders is truly the preferred way to handle the inappropriate sexual acts of those trusted, respected, or feared elders?  …

The full text of this article written by Karen Loethen is available here. 


Faithless FeministWritings about religion’s subjugation of women

When the hijab is forced, at Reimagining my Reality

Cross-posted from: Reimagining My Reality
Originally published: 22.12.15


1. this is my story
2. this is not the story of all Muslims
3. this is not the story of all hijabis
4. there can be more than one story

Once upon a time (about 14 years ago), in a land far away (South East England), I wore the hijab. It’s surreal looking back. I’ve spent a long time actively detaching myself from that part of my identity, so I feel almost fraudulent claiming it as my own. Even now, after 14 years of fixing myself up and reclaiming all the bits of me, I struggle to talk face to face with people about the hijab. My experience was bad, and the word and the memories still stick in my throat. This post is about how more than 5 years of forced veiling affected me.
Read more When the hijab is forced, at Reimagining my Reality

Jon Jorgensen and Repackaged Patriarchy, by @God_loves_women

Cross-posted from: Mrs GLW
Originally published: 12.12.16

In the last week, I got my first introduction to Jon Jorgenson after stumbling across his video “Who You Are: A Message to all Women” after it found its way into my Twitter feed.  The video is well on its way to having 6 million views.  Jorgenson is a Christian spoken word poet and although this video’s title is aimed at women, the video is set in a lecture hall and seems to be seeking an audience of younger women and girls.

A white man telling girls who they are didn’t seem like a particularly liberatory model.  So I decided to have a watch.  With emotive music and short dramatic sentences, the video is designed to create a specific emotional response.  He tells girls they’re smart and precious and funny and insists we have a responsibility to set free the “world changing woman” within ourselves.  Incidentally the video is entirely produced by men.  So he doesn’t think women are actually smart enough to be involved in creating his videos with him.

After moaning about the video on Twitter, I was informed that he has also created one for men.  So I had a watch of “Who You Are: A Message to all Men”, it has close to 2 million views.  The thing that is MOST fascinating is comparing the words of the videos (and though I don’t have time to delve into them, also the tone and body language within them and soundtrack lyrics behind them).  The subtly (or not so subtly) different language devices within stories that are broadly the same.  The overarching narrative of both videos are:

Read more Jon Jorgensen and Repackaged Patriarchy, by @God_loves_women

Why aren’t there more women atheists?

Cross-posted from: Faithless Feminist
Originally published: 12.05.17
We all know that the movement called the “New Atheism” was promoted most importantly by the “Four Horsemen.” These men-Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris, and the late Christopher Hitchens-all became very outspoken after the tragedy of 9/11. Each of them published seminal books in the first decade of the 21st century. A survey of the 100 best-selling books on atheism on Amazon shows each of them still in the top ten today. The number of women on that list of 100 on May 8, 2017 was two. YouTube debates between Christian apologists and atheists are dominated by men, usually on both sides of the issue, including the men mentioned above. Women atheists who take to debates about religion are few and far between. Why?

Read more Why aren’t there more women atheists?


Cross-posted from: We Mixed Our Drinks
Originally published: 28.11.16

Martin Saunders wrote for Christian Today recently about the experience of attending a conference of the UK’s most influential church leaders and their teams, only to realise that “Ninety per cent of the people in the room were male; if you were to take pastors’ wives out of the equation, that number would look even worse.” He noted that in the UK at least, ‘there’s no doubt women are being invested in’, citing well-known leadership conferences as examples of this – and who could fail to notice the image used to illustrate the piece – Justin Welby surrounded by female clergy? …


You can read the full article here.

We Mixed Our Drinks : I write about feminism, politics, the media and Christianity, with the odd post about something else completely unrelated thrown in. My politics are left-wing, I happily call myself a feminist and am also an evangelical Christian (n.b. evangelicalism is not the same as fundamentalism, fact fans). Building a bridge between feminism and Christianity is important to me; people from both camps often view the other with suspicion although I firmly believe that the two are compatible. I am passionate about gender equality in the church.  Twitter @boudledidge


Cross-posted from: Suppressed Histories Archive
Originally published: 01.01.06

This is a brief summary of a visual presentation, first shown in 1986, which was given in September 2005 at the Shamanic Studies Conference in San Rafael, California.

A Chukchee proverb declares, “Woman is by nature a shaman.” (1) Yet the female dimension of this realm of spiritual experience has often been slighted. Mircea Eliade believed that women shamans represented a degeneration of an originally masculine profession, yet was hard put to explain why so many male shamans customarily dressed in women’s clothing and assumed other female-gendered behaviors. Nor does the masculine-default theory account for widespread traditions, from Buryat Mongolia to the Bwiti religion in Gabon, that the first shaman was a woman.

In fact, women have been at the forefront of this field worldwide, and in some cultures, they predominate. This was true in ancient China and Japan, as it still is in modern Korea and Okinawa, as well as among many South African peoples and northern Californians such as the Karok and Yurok. There are countless other examples, including the machi of the Mapuche in southern Chile and the babaylan and catalonan of the Philippines.
Read more WOMAN SHAMAN by Max Dashu

The Pontifical Council for Culture has an agenda on women: the same tired old cage

Cross-posted from: Veleda: Source Net
Originally published: 14.02.15

The Pontifical Council for Culture meets in Rome on 4-7 February 2015 to consider “Women’s Cultures: Equality and Difference.” They’ve issued a preliminary document that tips their hand, in case you entertained any doubts that their ideas about women have changed a whit. It’s titled “Women’s Cultures: Equality and Difference,” and it endeavors — yet again — to convince women of what the male hierarchy insists is their rightful place:

“At the dawn of human history, societies divided roles and functions between men and women rigorously. To the men belonged responsibility, authority, and presence in the public sphere: the law, politics, war, power. To women belonged reproduction, education, and care of the family in the domestic sphere.”

Hold it right there. What happened to female responsibility and authority — women chieftainsand medicine women and clan heads? For a long time, it was possible to get away with claiming that public female leaders never existed, but too much documentation has been piled up for this to fly anymore.

Manchu woman shaman, a major public authority in her culture

“In ancient Europe, in the communities of Africa, in the most ancient civilizations of Asia, women exercised their talents in the family environment and personal relationships, while avoiding the public sphere or being positively excluded. The queens and empresses recalled in history books were notable exceptions to the norm.”

Invocatory female figure from Netafim, circa 5000 bce

These prelates are advancing a claim of universal male domination — a doctrine to which the church hierarchy is deeply attached. They don’t feel any need to substantiate this claim with evidence. Their fiat has been enough for such a long time, they can’t recognize that the world has moved on. Taking state-based societies as the norm, they pass over long epochs of human history, including neolithic societies with their many depictions of female leadership, and a vast array of Indigenous societies that don’t fit into the cramped sexual politics being touted here.

Women's ceremonal leadership is a central theme of predynastic Egyptian art

Women in ancient societies did not “avoid the public sphere”: not the African warriors, nor the Cretan and Iberian priestesses, nor even the Sumerian and Babylonian and Phoenician priestesses. Here we are talking recorded history, that leaves no room for ambiguity. Even in much later periods, we know of Turkic epic singers, the judges and scribes of Cambodia, the powerful market women’s associations of West Africa. But why discuss only these continents, leaving out the Americas, Australia, and the Pacific islands? They also count as ancient societies, and they have their own histories of prominent women, of female law-makers and diplomats and chieftains, of ceremonial leaders and warriors.

The Lady of Cao, a priestess-chieftain in 4th century Perú

The Iroquois and Cherokee remember that “mocassin-makers” had the right to act as “war-breakers,” refusing to supply men who wanted to go to war without consent of the women’s council. In Yunnan, the Lisu people say that men had to stop fighting if a woman of either side waved her skirt to call for an armistice. Similarly, on the Pacific island Vanatinai, a woman could give the signal for war or peace by taking off her outer skirt. This is female authority. It is not a fantasy. It is historical reality.

The Huastecs sculptured a large number of female monuments in stone, in eastern Mexico

The Pontifical Council’s statement passes over the great majority of Indigenous societies, including those in which female responsibility, authority, and public presence were and remain integral. Among the Six Nations of the Iroquois, the Gantowisas have structural authority to select chiefs and to “knock off their horns” if they fail in their responsibilities. These chiefs act as delegates of the people, not lords over them, a fact that continued to astound European observers who made very different assumptions about leadership, as well as about female power.

But there’s more: the women’s council of Gantowisas (“matrons” in European accounts) discussed issues and, as Seneca historian Barbara Mann writes, the men’s council could not debate any issue until the women’s council forwarded it over to them. They had a structural balance between male and female sovereignty. Mann also calls the women elders the “federal reserve board” of the Six Nations, referring to their control of economic resources.

Hopi women carry out the Lakon ceremony; men have no authority over women in their matrilineal / matrilocal culture.

And where, in the priesthood’s blinkered view, where are the female founders, like Ti-n-Hinan, the ancestral mother of the Imushagh / Tuareg people of the Hoggar, whose 4th century tomb is the most prominent  monument of the region? What about the female chieftains of the Edomites whose names are listed in Genesis, or for that matter, Miriam the prophetess, Deborah and Huldah? Where are the Montanist prophetesses who were denounced as heretics in 3rd century Asia Minor? The women who led rebellions against conquest and colonization, labor movements, whose actions struck the sparks for the French and Russian revolutions?

Ti-n-Hinan, ancestral founder of the Imushagh/Tuareg people of the Hoggar

The denial of female spiritual leadership is especially fraught for a institution fighting with all its might to hold back the tide of female ordination. To admit the massive  evidence for female priesthood — the wu in ancient China, the mikogami in Japan, the mudang in Korea, to name some of the East Asian societies where female shamans once predominated (and still do in Korea) — would be to pull out the last struts supporting the crumbling edifice of an all-male power structure. This hierarchy has been severely shaken by scandals over pandemic child-rapes, and over the cover-ups by bishops, as well as over financial corruption in the Curia. Many people readily declare that women would do a far better job at running the church.

Wu (female shamans) acted as healers, prophets and rainmakers in ancient China. Bronze hu circa 4th century bce

Having pretended that male leadership was a historical universal, an innate and essential quality, the Pontifical Councillors move on to the subect of women’s movements that have challenged and overturned old customary constraints:

“From the latter part of the 19th century onwards, especially in the West, the division of male and female ‘spaces’ was put into question. Women demanded rights, such as that of voting, access to higher education, and to the professions. And so the road was opened for the parity of the sexes.”

That sounds really good, right? That women gained our rights, and things opened up. Oh… wait. Uh-oh: “This step was not, and is not, without problems.”

What were these problems? They tell us: that women were taking on roles “that appeared to be exclusively meant for the male world” [meant, by whom?] and their reflections on their situation were “sometimes becoming entwined with political and strongly ideological movements.” These realizations, we are meant to understand, are far more problematic than the “strongly ideological” doctrines of female subordination that the institutional church has enforced through “political” means, from crusades to inquisitorial trials and witch hunts, to the modern laws and policies the church espouses, that still make women second class citizens whoselives and very bodies are expendable.

The Pontifical Council doesn’t deem patriarchal structures to be problematic; it continues to maintain that they are in line with god-given essential qualities. It is the female pushback against them that it dislikes and deplores. Women! stay in your place.

“Which kerygmatic proclamation [“preaching,” in plain English] should there be for women, one that is not closed in on a moralistic vision? Which indications do we need for a new pastoral praxis, for a vocational path toward marriage and family, toward religious consecration, in view of the new self-awareness that women have?”

What is “new” about pushing women “toward marriage and family”? This much is clear: by “religious consecration” they do not mean female ordination to the priesthood. More likely, they are dreaming up some new religious trappings for the role of wife and mother as a sop to women’s longing for greater inclusion in the church.

The worst thing that could happen, in the minds of the writers, is that women reject the feminine role as they define it“It is a matter of protecting the dignity of women, respecting what is genuinely feminine (and this is the real equality), and avoiding that the woman, in trying to insert herself responsibly into society that is markedly masculine, lose her feminility [sic].”

This is nothing less than a restatement of the old patriarchal principle: women belong in the private sphere, under the authority of men. Not only that, but “society” means “men.” If women are included in how you think about “society,” there is no need for us to “insert” ourselves into it. We are already part of it. But the statement shows no awareness of that simple fact. These high-ranking prelates don’t believe that women belong in the public sphere at all — and least of all the priesthood.

In fact, they don’t really want women’s input in this initiative on “Women’s Culture.” As Soline Humbert informs me, “The Pontifical Council for Culture has 32 permanent members, all male,appointed for 5 years. Almost all are cardinals, bishops and priests, and a couple of lay men (“men of culture”…No “women of culture”…) There are also Consultors who are appointed by the pope… There are 27 male consultors, and 7 women, ( if I remember correctly), appointed last Summer by Pope Francis.”

In other words: that’s zero females among the 32 permanent members of the Pontifical Council, while in the outer circle of Consultors the ratio of men to women is 4:1, for a total of 59 men and 7 women. This is who is going to issue a definitive statement on “Women’s Culture” — and they expect that to pass for change, in their  initiative to engage Catholic women.

This is a familiar pattern of high priestcraft: barring women entirely from the core of power, and admitting a few carefully screened females to an outer circle, where they are greatly outnumbered (and outranked) by men. Soline adds that “there has been a mention of a group of women working on the outline discussion document now released, but I have not seen the names of the members of that group (anonymous women?) nor how they were selected. In addition, while they mentioned there would be an ‘Open Day’ it seems it’s again by invitation only for a select few….”

Venus in bondage: the hierarchy's vision of Women's Culture

The image selected for this initiative is highly symbolic: a naked, headless, armless, legless woman in bondage. It is Man Ray’s 1936 photo “Venus Restored.” This is their idea of Women’s Culture?!? It has already outraged countless women. Soline Humbert sums up the background of this piece on the We Are Church Ireland blog:

“Man Ray had a strong interest in Sade and sadism and there is a recurrent sadistic streak in his artwork, as well as in his relationships with women, characterised by domination and aggression. Man Ray photographed women wearing implements of bondage and enacting scenes of torture. He also helped others, like William B Seabrook realise in real life his fantasies of women bondage.

“What is behind this choice of female bondage image by the (all male)Pontifical Council for culture? Is it the choice of the group of women (Who are they?) behind this document? What message does it seek to convey?”

We may well ask.

The same goes for Pope Francis’ recent scoldings of Pilipina women for their high birth rates, after decades of churchmen steadily advocating the rhythm method! As if abstinence is a real option for most married women in this world. He does not have the least clue about the reality that these women live.  When it comes to women, nothing has changed.

Neither has the cold attitude toward Indigenous people, whose enslavement, starvation, floggings, and other abuse in the mission system is being affronted by the planned canonization of Junípero Serra. (See 8:50 >> on linked video, where descendants talk about kidnappings, about their ancestors being starved on 700 calories a day, while being forced to labor, and made to kneel on tiles during the entire Mass, kept in line by guards with whips and bayonets.) In these two important social justice issues, women and Indigenous people, the tone-deaf pontiff does not even pretend to want change.


The backlash against women has even reached liberal San Francisco. It took 16 centuries to get the ban on females at the altar overturned, for a couple of decades, in some places, and now some priests are trying to turn it back. “The Rev. Joseph Illo, pastor at Star of the Sea Church since August, said he believes there is an “intrinsic connection” between the priesthood and serving at the altar — and because women can’t be priests, it makes sense to have only altar boys. “Maybe the most important thing is that it prepares boys to consider the priesthood.”

“The Richmond District parish is now the only one in the Archdiocese of San Francisco that will exclude girls from serving at the altar. Such a decision is “a pastor’s call,” said archdiocese spokesman Chris Lyford. “An altar boy program would be a male bonding experience, one that helps them socialize and develop their leadership potential, Illo said. Girls would still be allowed to perform readings during Mass.” Isn’t that special;  girls will be allowed to read out loud.

Mexicana curandera smudging the pope: gifts and blessings from sources as yet unrecognized

This is not going to fly, because too many Catholics have awakened to the realization that they are the church. The women, especially, know that things must change, because they are the ones who are out there doing the real work, holding things together and picking up the pieces, as the number of ordained men drops and the hierarchy scrambles to find men to be in charge. All this has to change. The option for the poor doesn’t mean much without a recognition that women are the poorest of the poor, the ones who carry a tremendous load, on whose shouders the whole edifice rests. You can’t have a progressive agenda without recognizing that their responsibilities give them a spiritual authority of their own. It’s well past time for the prelates to recognize women’s knowing, women’s authority, women’s rights.

Source Memory (Veleda) My blog ranges over whatever subjects on global women’s history and culture I happen to be working on, or that come across my screen. The idea is to bring forward cultural traditions that usually get sequestrated from the view of all but the most specialist scholars. Recent posts have looked at prophetic women in the Pacific Islands, pagan culture of the Kalasha in upper Pakistan, medicine women and soul retrieval in Manchuria, Notre Dame de la Vie in Savoie, and the Women’s Dance as depicted in art around the world.

It’s all about St John the Baptist – or, how the Tudors celebrated the Midsummer Solstice

Cross-posted from: Katharine Edgar
Originally published: 21.06.13

The summer solstice was one of the pagan festivals taken over by the early Christian church, aligning it with the feast of St John the Baptist, on 24th June. So by the sixteenth century it had accumulated a lively mix of Christian and pagan meaning.

In town and country, fire was a theme of midsummer celebrations. In both places, people made bonfires and feasted and drank around them. In the countryside these bonfires were particularly valued to protect crops and lifestock. Fires were lit on the windward side of crops and animals, so the smoke would blow over them. In some places, people even drove animals through the embers of the fires. 
Read more It’s all about St John the Baptist – or, how the Tudors celebrated the Midsummer Solstice