Feminist Philosophy of Religion
In Judeo-Christian-Islamic theology and philosophy of religion, God is, of course, usually spoken of as masculine. Christians (but, interestingly, not Jews or Muslims) use paternal imagery: "He" is our "Father". Freud makes much of this.
A spiritual Supreme Being (if there is one), lacking a body, would certainly have no physical characteristics. Thus such a being would necessarily lack sexual organs, which are physical. It is therefore absurd to assign any gender to such a being.
Theologians and mystics of every major world faith have always recognized the absurdity of assigning a sex to God, and there have always been alternative conceptions of the Supreme Being, some of which emphasize a feminine aspect. There are female goddesses in popular Hinduism and female bodhisattvas (Buddhist saints). The major Shinto deity, Amaterasu, is female. But mainstream Western religions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) have stood by the masculine model. Contemporary feminist theologians and philosophers of religion have led the way in exploring alternative conceptions of the divine. For example, see Merlin Stone, When God Was a Woman (San Diego: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1976).
Note also that the Judeo-Christian-Islamic God lays down rules for our conduct. He punishes us if we disobey the rules. Feminist theologians and philosophers of religion such as Mary Daly link this rule-based concept of God with the typically masculine approach to morality noted by Gilligan.
A remarkable book by a feminist theologian is Uta Ranke-Heinemann's Eunuchs for the
Kingdom of Heaven. Ranke-Heinemann documents in chilling detail the history of the
Catholic Church's attitudes toward women and sexuality.
I also recommend Karen Jo Torjesen's, When Women Were Priests: Women's Leadership in the Early Church and the Scandal of Their Subordination in the Rise of Christianity.
go to next section