A popular claim of Christianity is that the Bible has given women a dignity and status far superior to societies that are dominated by other religions. That the ranks of Christianity include so many women is evidence that there must be some truth to the axiom that says if a lie is told enough times, some will believe it, because only someone who is relatively ignorant of the Bible could believe that it is in any sense complimentary to women. From beginning to end, the Bible insults women and speaks of them with a disdain that one would think women in modern times would no longer tolerate. But tolerate it they do, for the membership rolls of churches probably include many more women than men.
The men who wrote the Bible wasted no time getting down to one of their favorite themes: all the pain and suffering, sorrow and grief that the human race has to endure is the fault of women. Right in the opening chapters of God's inspired word, the first woman ate a fruit that God had told her not to eat, and that's why men have to earn their living by the sweat of their brows. Never mind that this grievous offense also caused women to have to endure the pain of childbirth (Gen. 3:16). What are a few labor pains compared to the men's ordeal of having to till soil that brings forth thorns and thistles (v:18)?
Ever since the Genesis writer put the blame on Eve, God's emissaries have continued to lay it on thicker. Paul, the chief apostle not just of Christianity but of blatant sexism too, used Eve's sin as an excuse to put women into the basement of Christianity, which they have yet to climb out of. Writing by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, who is presumably another person in the one "godhead," Paul told women that they were welcome in the churches as long as they kept their mouths shut: "Let your women keep silent in the churches, for they are not permitted to speak; but they are to be submissive, as the law also says" (1 Cor. 14:34). Well, gee, if women are not permitted to speak in the churches, how can they be expected to learn things they may need to know? Not to worry; Paul had the answer to that: "And if they want to learn something, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is shameful for women to speak in church" (v:35). It's hard to see dignity and respect for women in any of this, but obviously many women have bought it and meekly acquiesce to the sexist rantings of a religious mystic whose denigration of half the world's population has been rivaled only by other religions that have enshrined the same primitive, male-chauvinist nonsense.
Christians can't say that Paul was just in a bad mood when he wrote his epistle to the Corinthians, because if he was the author of the pastoral epistles, as most fundamentalists claim, then he gave orders for his sexist views to be taught as ecclesiastic law: "Let a woman learn in silence with all submission. And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence" (1 Tim. 2:12). Why, heavens, no, never permit a woman to teach, even if she has a Ph. D. in theology and the only alternative is a male with the IQ of a doorknob. The guy has to get the nod. Presumably, then, Paul believed that a penis and a pair of testicles somehow qualified a male over a female for teaching assignments no matter what. Maybe God just has a penchant for testosterone, or maybe he considers sex organs more important than brains. After all, this God is a "he" too, isn't he?
And what was God's reason for giving men the preeminence in his church? "Paul" told us why: "For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression" (vs:13-14). So there it is. It all goes back to Eve. She ate the forbidden fruit, and so everything is her fault. Not only that, but everyone born since then with the misfortune to have two X chromosomes has had to bear the brunt of Eve's mistake. Talk about injustice, this has to be the granddaddy of all injustices.
"Paul" never bothered to explain why Adam was so blameless in this affair of the forbidden fruit. The Bible says that Eve ate the fruit all right, but it also says that she gave some to Adam and he ate it too (Gen. 3:6). There isn't any arm-twisting even implied in the story, so if eating the fruit was all that bad, why did men get off with just having to sweat to earn a living? If given the choice of either working to earn a living by the sweat of his brow or carrying a child to full term and then giving birth to it with the pain roughly equivalent to expelling a watermelon from his abdomen, even the most ardent male chauvinist would choose the sweaty brow.
"Paul" can't be accused of completely lacking empathy for women, because in the very next verse of his ecclesiastic instructions to Timothy, he did assign women a role in the church: "Nevertheless, she will be saved in childbearing if they continue in faith, love, and holiness with self-control" (v:15). So it all ties together. A woman brought grief and suffering upon humanity, and so all of her descendants of the same gender have to pay for it with no recourse except to redeem themselves from something they didn't do by bearing children. What woman wouldn't be deliriously happy to have a role like that in the church that God's omniscient wisdom foreordained before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4), while the male descendants of Eve's co-conspirator get to be top dogs in the plan? It's hard to find fault in such wisdom as this.
No one can claim that Paul was just a maverick voice on the subject of the place for women in God's grand scheme of things, because all through the Bible women were denigrated by the earthly vessels whom God allegedly chose to write his inspired, inerrant word. In Genesis 19, God sent two angels to Sodom to warn Lot of the impending destruction of the city so that he could flee to safety. When a group of men surrounded Lot's house and demanded that he send out the "men" so that "we may know them" (v:5), Lot tried to save the men from gang rape by offering his daughters to the mob: "So Lot went out to them through the doorway, shut the door behind him, and said, `Please, my brethren, do not do so wickedly. See now, I have two daughters who have not known a man; please, let me bring them out to you, and you may do to them as you wish; only do nothing to these men, since this is the reason they have come under the shadow of my roof'" (vs:6-8). Do you get the message implied in this? Sexually abusing men would be doing "wickedly," but abusing women wouldn't be so bad.
If anyone thinks that such a despicable proposal as this made Lot an abomination to the infinitely good Yahweh, then think again. Yahweh saved Lot from the fire and brimstone that he rained down on Sodom and then later "inspired" a New Testament writer to describe Lot as a "righteous" man who was "sore distressed by the lascivious life of the wicked" (2 Peter 2:7-8). So if a man who would offer his daughters to a mob of men to appease their sexual demands could in any sense be described as a "righteous" man, we can only wonder how depraved the rest of the people in Sodom were. At any rate, this story makes very clear the attitude of the Bible god. If it is necessary to sacrifice the honor of women, in order to protect the honor of men, then so be it. This is the god that millions of women trek to churches each week to oooh and ahhhh over.
There is more--much more--that could be said on this subject,
but it will have to wait till the next issue.