Austin Cline writes an Agnostic/Atheist column over at About.com. He’s featured several articles about women, gender equity, religion, and atheism that continue the ongoing societal debate about whether religion is good for women or whether it perpetuates the oppression of women. This one in particular caught my eye and brings up some very good points about women’s freedom. The chief (notice I don’t say only) oppressor of women in the world is religion. I have no doubt in my mind that this is true and will continue to be true until women learn to either take control of their spirituality and carve out their own spaces in the religious world or dispense with men’s religions altogether. But this is easier said than done.
Personally I can be a hypocrite on this matter just as much as the next person. I’ve perpetuated (with my time, money, and energy) the religious hierarchy that denies women the same rights as men on numerous occasions and for my own selfish reasons. Although I’ve given up support of this oppression by leaving Baptist church membership behind me, I still feel led to attend, with my husband, the Catholic church from time to time. I do this because there is no supportive group in my rural area to cast my spiritual lot with. I practice my own brand of spirituality that is enhanced by the silence and meditative atmosphere of the Catholic church we attend. My interest is purely aesthetic. I love the mystery, the incense, the music, the real presence of Mary and her Son, (the real archetypal god/dess of this world), and the sheer beauty of place. What priests command or demand of my soul, well…that’s got nothing to do with me anymore. I do not maintain those Catholic ties by giving them permission to be gatekeeper over my soul, to tell me what to eat or not eat on this or that day. I don’t care whether I miss some day of “obligation” or practice contraception. They do not have that right. I do.
Speaking of religion, today we just got back from the graveside services of my husband’s uncle. He was buried in our small town’s cemetery not a mile outside of town. It was hot and humid and clouds rolled in as we stood under the makeshift tent set up as shade over the grave site. There will be a storm this afternoon, I’m sure of it. The service is the second we’ve attended in the last four months. It was poignant, with a military send-off of Taps and an honor guard. My husband’s uncle served in Vietnam. Taps never fails to bring tears to my eyes because of its mournful quality. Many others in the cemetery at other grave sites unrelated to ours stood still and listened out of respect. That was very kind of them. The same was played at my father-in-law’s funeral not four months ago in the very same cemetery and with the same bugler, a man from our Catholic church. My father-in-law served in the Navy.
The funeral was led beautifully by a Lutheran minister with a Southern drawl fit only for those south of the Mason-Dixon line. The service was well done and made me begin planning my own funeral, one which I hope will be a happy occasion for those who choose to come and remember me fondly. My husband wants a Catholic funeral. I will submit to one as well, since we want to be buried together and Catholics are funny about protocol like that. But as I sat there and pondered the ways and doings of life I thought to myself that the only good religion does for us is to see us through the milestones of life: baptisms, weddings and funerals; not because I believe in an afterlife, but because it helps the living mark family history and pause to ponder what we’ve done here and now. These religions do well and perhaps there should be these markers along the passages of life to remind us of our mortality. But as for getting us through this life with fairness and equity, religions seem like nothing but intrusions into spaces they have no business being in: your bedroom, your politics, or child rearing, etc.
So as my hubby and I wait for 5:30 Mass, I will busy myself with reading, watching golf on TV, and pondering the shortness of life and how each of us manages to get through our own lives with as little harm done to ourselves or others as possible. Some women aren’t as lucky as I am. Some don’t have the freedom to choose their own spirituality nor do they have freedom to live their own lives, free from censure. Some, always in the name of religion are maimed and/or killed by brothers, fathers, uncles, sons, grandfathers, or other proprietary males in their lives; never knowing what it’s like to be free to love, live, or die in control of your own life. I will remember them and I will pray that if they have no choice, that they will go down fighting tooth and nail for their own freedom. What else can I do for them?