Women and World Religion
Christianity, Islam, and Judaism are major religions of the world today. Christianity includes the Catholics, Protestant Eastern Orthodox, Pentecostal Angelican, and Jehovah’s Witnesses, to mention a few, while Shiite and Sunni are under the Islam religion. The three shares a common belief of having a supreme, all knowing, and all seeing being that created the universe and mankind. Christian and Islamic gods are alleged to be a man in person. Jewish deity, on the other hand, does not possess a specific gender.
For Christianity and Islam, having God and Allah as their prime being, respectively, greatly neglects the feminine influence and limits the capacity of both genders, especially women. However, women played influential roles in the early years but restricted to matters of the house and family, disempowering them to religious hierarchy. It was only in the recent years that women showed their full efforts regarding this matter. The three major world religions mentioned each delegated the role of the women to be nurturer, a medium for procreation, raise children, and serving her husband to a great extent.
Her potential as a wife and mother is the only thing that suggests the value of a woman. After the birth of Christianity, Islam, and Judaism, the world societies adopted the gender stereotypes that were written in the Bible for Christians, the Qur’an for Muslims, the Torah and Talmud for Jews. Various sectors including arts, politics, literature, and others adapted the ideas of women as submissive, weak, and inferior to men. Today, many articles are being published in newspaper regarding the status of women, their role in religion, and how religion influences their role in the society.
Most publications were written by feminists and women groups to further discuss issues most especially those regarding the women’s equality with men. An article in USA Today, written by Weise (2006), stated that in America, it is not unusual to see an Muslim woman wearing a veil or chador or even an Orthodox Jewish woman in long skirts and clothing, and covers their hair, but it is very unlikely to see an American Christian woman to wear modest style dresses or covering her hair.
Covering a woman’s hair is a symbol of submission to God and her husband. This is not practiced usually be Catholics especially in liberated countries. Sarkar (1995) wrote about the status of women in world religions. The article further discusses the beliefs of major world religions including Christianity, Islam, and Judaism. According to him, it is indeed impossible to detach the position of women in a religion. For Christians or Catholics, women are said to be the origin of the sin and brought endless suffering on every individual.
Women are considered very inferior to men, they cannot speak in an assembly, they can never be right, and women are also described to be intellectually deficient. A woman destroyed the God’s image and according to Tertullian, as cited by Sarkar (1995), it is the fault of the woman that even the Son of God had to die. Even today, men still dominates the Catholic Church and women are being continued to do unpaid work in the church, and do voluntary jobs such as cleaning the chapel and fundraising.
At present, there are many feminist movements that challenge the interpretations of Christian scriptures regarding the role of women. One of the major issues in Christian religion is equality and the differences between men and women. Catholic women also aim to have full secular equalities, however, with restricted roles, rights, and privileges in both ecclesiastical and secular life. However, opinions vary greatly among men and women regarding the Catholics.
Some believed that in the United States, the Catholic Church doesn’t recognize the full authority of the pope, or that other people had become upset on the Catholic Church as they accepted abortion, homosexuality, and other deviant behavior of some people. Some people see the Catholic women very liberated that even a good woman can’t be found inside the church. But still, there are some who respects and loves being a Catholic, still values virginity and other Catholic beliefs.