The Historical and Modern Day Role of AWomen in Religion Essay

Submitted By lenakonechka
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Pages: 18

THE HISTORICAL AND MODERN-DAY ROLE OF WOMEN IN RELIGION The three major world religions of Islam, Christianity, and Judaism each worship a supreme, all-knowing and all-seeing deity as the preeminent power in the universe. God and Allah are each credited with having created the universe and the forms that populate it, and most significantly with the creation of mankind. Created to guide their believers in the appropriate ways to live their lives and interact with each other and the world around them, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam construct their religious credos around the concept of a single figure creating and ruling the heavens and the earth. While the Jewish deity does not possess a specific gender, the Christian and Islamic gods are perceived as male personas. Thus the most basic element of these two religions, the main god credited with the creation of the entire world, religion, and human race, excludes to a large extent the feminine influence. Aside from the construction of the nature of God and Allah, these religions construct gender identities and boundaries for men and women that limit the capacity of both, and especially of women. Although women often played an influential role in the early years of these religions, their influence is either ignored, or valued solely for its knowledge of matters of the house and family, thus beginning a cycle of undervaluing the full potential of women and disempowering them within the religious hierarchy that only in recent years have efforts by modern women in religion begun to break. Islam, Christianity and Judaism each share many fundamental tenets in their religious theology, including the nature of God, the guidelines for exemplary and sinful behavior of constituents, the structure of the afterlife, and the nature of life on earth. Although the details of each creation myth differ marginally, the basic concept consistently describes an omnipotent being who creates, out of night and nothingness, light and matter. Genesis, of the Torah and the Bible, states that “In the beginning God created heaven and earth. The earth was without form and empty, with darkness on the face of the depths, but God's spirit moved on the water's surface. God said, 'There shall be light,' and light came into existence. God saw that the light was good, and God divided between the light and the darkness.” The creation of the earth and it’s plant and animal inhabitants occurs over a period of six days, and on the seventh “God said, 'Let us make man with our image and likeness. Let him dominate the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, the livestock animals, and all the earth - and every land animal that walks the earth.' God [thus] created man with His image. In the image of God, He created him, male and female He created them.” The creation story of the Qur’an occurs in a similar fashion, over six days. It begins with Allah ordaining the creation of the earth and heavens from nothing, as stated in Chapter 36, Ya-Seen, “A token unto them is the dead earth. We revive it, and we bring forth from it grain so that they eat thereof,” and then in Chapter 41, Fussilat, it describes how “Then turned He to the heaven when it was smoke, and said unto it and unto the earth: Come both of you, willingly or loth. They said: We come, obedient.” God and Allah thus create the earth out of a lack of matter, and create the humans to populate it out of the same lack of being. Thus at the most basic level men and women arise out of the same substance. Islam, Christianity, and Judaism each claim, at a fundamental level of religious theology, that all human beings appear as equal before God/Allah. The basic religious theology of each religion consists in the concept of a supreme god figure, that created the earth and mankind to serve him. Human beings are expected to follow the religious rules and guidelines laid down by this god and by his prophets on earth, and only by following these teachings may