Imagine No Religion?
This week is Holy Week for both Jooz and Christians; the week between Palm Sunday and Easter, and the week of Passover. People go to their holy places and sing, or listen to music, or eat, or don't eat, and contemplate the mysteries of the universe, or check out the cute guy three pews ahead and to the left.
As for me, I'm getting more like my Communist grandfather (and my atheist mother) all the time. Suddenly the word "Socialist" is starting to sound better than the word "liberal." (Liberal Socialist? Hmmmm....) Out on the street with my sign on Saturday, I ran into a blogger called "The Unrepentant Marxist," who was thrilled to see me and my fellow travelers protesting in the streets. I kind of felt a little thrill myself.
Don't worry, folks. I can't go all the way, because I'm just not constructed to believe in any "ism" - nothing is absolute in this world, and no set of beliefs covers every contingency. But then again, that's why I don't think religion is all bad.
Wait, MadamaB, I hear you say. Isn't all religion rooted in patriarchy? Well, except for Wicca (which is the one religion I might be able to belong to with a full heart) and possibly some other belief systems I know nothing about, I have to say, yes it is. The radical feminist Mary Daly did an interview in which she was questioned about the Buddha, and she had this to say:
WIE: ...In the Pali Canon [principle Buddhist scriptures], the Buddha is reported to have said: "Ananda, if women had not obtained the Going Forth from the house life into homelessness in the Law and Discipline declared by the Perfect One [acceptance into the Buddha's monastic order], the Holy Life would have lasted long, the Holy Life would have lasted a thousand years. But now, since women have obtained it, the Holy Life will last only five hundred years. Just as when the blight called gray mildew falls on a field of ripening rice, that field of ripening rice does not last long—so too in the Law and Discipline in which women obtain the Going Forth, the Holy Life does not last long."
MD: It's just the same old song in a different language: "Women pollute."
WIE: My question is: How do you think that Gautama the Buddha could have come to such an extreme position about half of the human race? What would you say to a Western Buddhist woman wrestling with the apparent incongruity of such an enlightened being holding such a woman-negative view?
MD: As I wrote in Gyn/Ecology: all patriarchal religions are patriarchal—right? They take different forms. What would I think? There's nothing to think about. It has taken another form—seductive, probably, because christianity is so overtly warlike and abusive. And furthermore, I don't know what "enlightened" means. It's not a word that's in my vocabulary. This is like a christian woman being upset over something that Paul said, instead of seeing that of course he's an asshole. He's one more very macho asshole described as a saint and as enlightened, and once you get over that, you get over it. You see it for what it is and you don't worry about why he would say such a thing. Of course he would say such a thing. That's what he is. It's really extremely simple. Stop wrestling with it; it's not interesting. Get out of it. That would be my approach to it. Misogynists! Hateful! All of them! I studied them. And finally I just didn't try to reason with it anymore. Boston College was most enlightening to me. The experience of being fired for writing The Church and the Second Sex introduced me to the idea that it's not going to change. That's the way it is—leave it.
Although I feel that Mary Daly had some indisputable points, I do think that religion can move past its patriarchal roots and become a force for good and positive social change. The Reform Movement in Judaism has led to the formation of some very accepting and loving communities, including the one in which I sing. Episcopalian churches have begun to embrace their LGBT congregants and confirm gay bishops. And yet, the Catholic Church, which has not had a true reform movement in decades, has been covering up yet another horrible sex scandal. Patriarchy hurts everyone: men, women and children are all its victims.
Nothing is simple; no "ism" is absolute. So I say, I don't want to imagine there's no religion. I think people will always look for a spiritual connection to something that is larger than themselves, and that urge is, in the main, a good thing. Where I hope we will evolve, is to take the message of love that is the heart of humanity, and to spread it until there is no more hatred.
Happy Easter, Good Yontiv, Wonderful Wicca.
(Oh, and I double-dog-dare you not to get chills when you listen to this piece. Bainton must have been channelling something divine.)