Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Problem with Madeleine Bunting

Are religions corrupted by their patriarchal history – yes of course, as I've written on this site before. Does much of that patriarchy still survive – yes, in many places but in many others it is being challenged. Does it sometimes become misogyny – yes.
So Madeleine Bunting concedes in a confused criticism of Ophelia Benson, the latter having kicked the former's beehive by co-writing a book-length treatment of the question, Does God Hate Women?, and daring to conclude that, yes, based on the evidence at hand, god hates women.

It seems to me that if religion has been "corrupted" by its patriarchal history, this implies the existence of a pre-corrupted state, which leads immediately to the question: where do we go to observe the character and qualities of this pure, uncorrupted state? When we go there -- wherever it might be in time or space -- do we find something that isn't redolent with suspicion, scorn, and outright hatred of women?

If so, Bunting can't be bothered to specify the time or place, nor any other details regarding this pre-patriarchal purity. And if so, she can't possibly be talking about the reputedly god-given revelations found in the Koran, Old Testament, or New Testament. These books disagree on many questions of theology and history, but they agree that women are beneath men in status: lesser, secondary, weaker, rightly subordinate, means rather than ends, not the sorts of people who should be making any unsupervised judgments or occupying any leadership positions in mixed company.

The trouble with Madeleine Bunting is that god and religion are, for her, as she would prefer them to be, not as they demonstrably are. If patriarchies have appropriated god for their women-hating ends, it is not because they have corrupted anything but because they have found in religion and god a thickly-stocked reserve of authority for doing so. She zooms past the ways god and religion have been and continue to be used to justify the inequality and oppression of women in order to reach a happier place where god is as pro-women and pro-equality as she is. God has not followed her there, and that place was made in spite of the teachings attributed to him.

Ophelia Benson has her own ideas about the problem with Madeleine Bunting.

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