mb_dyson_opinion-200x0Losing my Religion for Equality is an excellent article by former president Jimmy Carter, describing why he left the Southern Baptist Convention. I have reposted the article in full and bolded the sections which I have chosen to comment on.

“Women and girls have been discriminated against for too long in a twisted interpretation of the word of God.”

 While it is true that women and girls have been discriminated against on account of biblical teaching, one does not need to do any twisting to find passages of Scripture that are biased against women denying them equal rights. While I agree that the minds of those that want to dominate and control women are twisted, the Bible lends itself readily to their misogynistic whims.

I HAVE been a practicing Christian all my life and a deacon and Bible teacher for many years. My faith is a source of strength and comfort to me, as religious beliefs are to hundreds of millions of people around the world. So my decision to sever my ties with the Southern Baptist Convention, after six decades, was painful and difficult. It was, however, an unavoidable decision when the convention’s leaders, quoting a few carefully selected Bible verses and claiming that Eve was created second to Adam and was responsible for original sin, ordained that women must be “subservient” to their husbands and prohibited from serving as deacons, pastors or chaplains in the military service.”

The reason men can claim that women are responsible for original sin is because that is what the Bible clearly teaches. The apostle Paul states in 1Tim.2:13&14 that Adam was created first and Eve was the one who was in the transgression, he also states that women are to be subservient to men. The nature of many men in positions of authority is that they will use any opportunity available to them to dominate and control women, but the Bible has been handed to them on a silver platter containing everything they need to justify their control of women, this is because its words were written by men.

“This view that women are somehow inferior to men is not restricted to one religion or belief. Women are prevented from playing a full and equal role in many faiths. Nor, tragically, does its influence stop at the walls of the church, mosque, synagogue or temple. This discrimination, unjustifiably attributed to a Higher Authority, has provided a reason or excuse for the deprivation of women’s equal rights across the world for centuries.”

Actually the discrimination is justifiably attributed to a Higher Authority, because the book from which men are given authority over women was penned by men. This gives men every reason they need and excuse to deprive women of their equal human rights. Practically every religious text in the world grants men authority over women because they are all written by men.

“At its most repugnant, the belief that women must be subjugated to the wishes of men excuses slavery, violence, forced prostitution, genital mutilation and national laws that omit rape as a crime. But it also costs many millions of girls and women control over their own bodies and lives, and continues to deny them fair access to education, health, employment and influence within their own communities.

The impact of these religious beliefs touches every aspect of our lives. They help explain why in many countries boys are educated before girls; why girls are told when and whom they must marry; and why many face enormous and unacceptable risks in pregnancy and childbirth because their basic health needs are not met.

In some Islamic nations, women are restricted in their movements, punished for permitting the exposure of an arm or ankle, deprived of education, prohibited from driving a car or competing with men for a job. If a woman is raped, she is often most severely punished as the guilty party in the crime.”

Religious beliefs have controlled the lives of people from the beginning of civilization. When one attributes rules and laws to a deity, thus forming religious doctrines they sadly become frozen in time, unable to be changed even though human intellect progresses forward and the archaic laws are shown to be immoral and outdated. This is why the battle must begin at the root of the problem, which are the religious doctrines themselves. Religious doctrines must be questioned and not merely accepted because they are asserted to be from god.

“The same discriminatory thinking lies behind the continuing gender gap in pay and why there are still so few women in office in the West. The root of this prejudice lies deep in our histories, but its impact is felt every day. It is not women and girls alone who suffer. It damages all of us. The evidence shows that investing in women and girls delivers major benefits for society. An educated woman has healthier children. She is more likely to send them to school. She earns more and invests what she earns in her family.

It is simply self-defeating for any community to discriminate against half its population. We need to challenge these self-serving and outdated attitudes and practices – as we are seeing in Iran where women are at the forefront of the battle for democracy and freedom.

I understand, however, why many political leaders can be reluctant about stepping into this minefield. Religions, and tradition, are powerful and sensitive areas to challenge. But my fellow Elders and I, who come from many faiths and backgrounds, no longer need to worry about winning votes or avoiding controversy – and we are deeply committed to challenging injustice wherever we see it.”

Religions and traditions are indeed powerful institutions, which makes them in many ways hard to challenge, but challenged they must be. The first step is recognizing that it is at the root of the tree where the disease usually found. This is true of the Bible and many other religious texts which are founded on the thinking of primitive minds that were ignorant of many things, thus attributing the unknown to a deity with the mindset of archaic thought.

“The Elders are an independent group of eminent global leaders, brought together by former South African president Nelson Mandela, who offer their influence and experience to support peace building, help address major causes of human suffering and promote the shared interests of humanity. We have decided to draw particular attention to the responsibility of religious and traditional leaders in ensuring equality and human rights and have recently published a statement that declares: “The justification of discrimination against women and girls on grounds of religion or tradition, as if it were prescribed by a Higher Authority, is unacceptable.”

We are calling on all leaders to challenge and change the harmful teachings and practices, no matter how ingrained, which justify discrimination against women. We ask, in particular, that leaders of all religions have the courage to acknowledge and emphasise the positive messages of dignity and equality that all the world’s major faiths share.”

Yes, indeed! Justification of discrimination against women and girls on any grounds is totally unacceptable, but I fear it will take much more than calling on leaders to change their teachings, because their teachings are based on what they hold to be the word of their deity. What must be exposed is the nature of the sacred texts themselves which is clear to see were authored by men who wished to dominate and control women.

“The carefully selected verses found in the Holy Scriptures to justify the superiority of men owe more to time and place – and the determination of male leaders to hold onto their influence – than eternal truths. Similar biblical excerpts could be found to support the approval of slavery and the timid acquiescence to oppressive rulers.

I am also familiar with vivid descriptions in the same Scriptures in which women are revered as pre-eminent leaders. During the years of the early Christian church women served as deacons, priests, bishops, apostles, teachers and prophets. It wasn’t until the fourth century that dominant Christian leaders, all men, twisted and distorted Holy Scriptures to perpetuate their ascendant positions within the religious hierarchy.”

Sad to say the verses men use to dominate women are found in abundance throughout the Bible and expressed as eternal truths given by an eternal god. Clearly this poses a dilemma that is not easily solved. How can one change a sacred text whose deity condones and propagates decimation based on gender without invalidating the integrity of the text itself? If a text is shown to be corrupt because of discrimination and bias in its foundational principles, how can its god be salvaged?

“The truth is that male religious leaders have had – and still have – an option to interpret holy teachings either to exalt or subjugate women. They have, for their own selfish ends, overwhelmingly chosen the latter. Their continuing choice provides the foundation or justification for much of the pervasive persecution and abuse of women throughout the world. This is in clear violation not just of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights but also the teachings of Jesus Christ, the Apostle Paul, Moses and the prophets, Muhammad, and founders of other great religions – all of whom have called for proper and equitable treatment of all the children of God. It is time we had the courage to challenge these views.” ~ Jimmy Carter, president of the United States from 1977 to 1981.”

Ultimately male religious leaders do have the option to treat women equally, sadly though many have chosen not to, using the Bible as an excuse to impose their will upon others. The bottom line is that religious leaders are in a position of authority and many have used their status to abuse those who look up to them as being spokesmen for god. Great concern should be given to any holy teaching that allows men the option of how its rules should be interpreted. Its time to look at the reason why men can abuse the teachings of religious texts so easily…could it be because the texts themselves are corrupted and if so should they be taken as divinely inspired?

Read original article here.

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