Can Religion Ever Be Good For Women?
Religion and forms of spirituality have continued to encapsulate individuals and society at large. Whether you associate with the dominant religions of the world — Christianity, Islam, or Judaism, or find meaning in Paganism, Hinduism, or Buddhism, religion influences our cultural and social identities.
Religion became historically significant through its disputes over land ownership and cultural differences. Patriarchy and religion have heavily relied upon each other in maintaining the religious system; men have primarily instigated religious battles and crusades. Although religion has evolved into a spiritual space to enhance peoples' lives, it continues to manufacture ideologies around individuation, social reproduction, and cultural disparity.
Gender relations are highly contested within the religious space. While some faith-based systems allow female leadership, men still significantly outnumber women in terms of religious leadership. However, women tend to be more religious than men. Based on a survey by Pew Research Center's Forum on Religion and Public Life, women were found to be more spiritual and religiously inclined than men. What does imply in term of power and gender dynamics in society?
If women are generally more religious than men, yet men are still the primary leaders of religious institutions, a power relationship is in effect. According to a Washington Times article, one's relationship with God stems from a father-child relationship, says Brad Wilcox, sociology professor at the University of Virginia:
"Because regular church attendance is less common for fathers than mothers, in some ways his religiosity is more important because it's more unusual."
Perhaps the reason more women are active participants within religious spaces is because women experience more social and economic disadvantages in comparison to men. Furthermore, the dominant religions of the world were created by men, taking on a phallocentric approach to ideologies, beliefs, and meaning which may have a greater appeal to female followers rather than men, but do women have an active voice when it comes to religious policies, governance, and ideological construction?
"I was not offended when a four-person panel on religious freedom in the House of Representatives last summer did not include any women. The gender of the panel members should in no way validate or invalidate their arguments. We should be able to have an honest debate about our constitutional right to religious liberty without crying about superficialities."
This statement is baffling. How can one designated social group develop institutional laws and policies guaranteeing freedom for all people? The collaborative efforts of a diverse range of constituents results in a more effective outcome in the creation of egalitarian systems. If this strategy is not implemented, religious systems will continue shuffling towards patriarchal standards and social inequalities, sustaining marginalized social groups as its primary target market.