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How far do religious organisations and religious beliefs maintain those systems of inequality, which disadvantage women?

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Introduction

How far do religious organisations and religious beliefs maintain those systems of inequality, which disadvantage women? Max Weber was one of the first sociologists to look at and address the issue of women's role in religion, and why religion might appeal to women more than men. However, it can be seen that in some ways, religious organisations and beliefs can maintain systems of inequality, which disadvantage women. To begin with, one must look at women's involvement in religion. In an article written by Weber, titled 'The Soteriology of the Underprivileged' he argued two man points. Firstly, that religious sects appeal to those who are underprivileged because they offer salvation from real suffering and; that women have a central role to play in such religious sects, in part because they are themselves underprivileged. Feminist theories of religion follow Marxist theories in arguing that religion can be an instrument of domination and oppression. However, unlike Marxism, feminist theorists tend to see religion as a product of patriarchy, rather than as a product of capitalism. They hold the opinion that religion serves the interests of men. "The Christian religion is a resolutely male affair in its symbolism as well as its hierarchy. While Mary, the mother of Jesus, may sometimes be treated as if she had divine qualities, God is the father, a male figure, and Jesus took the human shape of a man. ...read more.

Middle

It can be seen that modern - day worshippers, use Biblical texts to oppress women and ensure that they remain in a disadvantaged position. Though the scriptures were written hundreds of years ago, when society was very different, the laws are still observed by some Orthodox and extremist groups. In the Qu'ran, the prescribed penalty for adultery is one hundred lashes and a year in exile (Sura 24:1). However, Mohammed did condemn people to be stoned to death. Today many Islamic fundamentalists advocate the stoning of women and stoning does occur in many Muslim countries. Honour-killings also occur when men feel that female family members have brought shame to the family. This occurs among Muslims and also Arab Christians, who claim that it is their tradition. Tradition has always been religion's ally in the subjugation of women. Tradition and religion can be seen as the iron ball and chain that hinders women's progress. Some Muslim scholars believe that Mohammed did proclaim some rights for Muslim women. For example, he abolished the pre-Islamic Arabian custom of burying - alive unwanted female infants. He also decreed that women could own and inherit property and that women have the right to enjoy making love. However, he did enshrine women's inequality and inferior status in immutable Quranic law, accepted by Muslims as the infallible word of God. ...read more.

Conclusion

Any attempts by various governments to give women more freedom, greater property and marriage rights have been vehemently opposed by conservative Islamists, who insist that the reforms are against Islam. Even the situation here in the UK can illustrate the belief that religious beliefs and practices maintain the systems of inequality, which disadvantage women. In the past, here in Britain, women have also been the subjects of oppression, though at a much smaller degree than in some Muslim countries. Women did not have the right to vote, women did not work and women could not be ordained as Priests. However, as time has gone on, secularisation has taken place. As religion became 'less important' and had less of an influence over people's decisions, women became much more equal partners in society. As time has changed, women have even been ordained as Priests in the Church of England. Overall, it can be seen clearly that religion does play an important role in maintaining the systems of inequality that disadvantage women. Religious 'traditions' and scriptures are often used by members to cater to their own needs and to oppress women. However, it is not only religion that does this. Political parties and governments would essentially be able to hold ample control over people and promote systems of inequality. So, therefore, though religion does play an important role, it is not the only organisation that disadvantages women. ...read more.

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