Well, I'll start with a little disclaimer: this is going to be mostly about Christianity because it's what I'm most familiar with, but please feel free to talk about other religions....
If you believe in God, does it bother you that He is always referred to as a man? Do you think of God as a mixture of genders or as unquestionably male? Do you think the fact we refer to Him as male reflects upon or affects gender inequality in our lives? Or do you see it as inconsequential (e.g., there was a 50% chance He'd be a man, so what of it?).
If you don't believe in God, did the male-centric aspect turn you off? Have you found alternative beliefs?
I personally am not religious, so I hope this topic doesn't offend anyone. My intent is for this to be an enlightening discussion, not merely a forum for religion bashing.
Personally, I've always objected to [b]any[b] gender being applied to the concept of God. But then, my variety of faith is strange to most people. I've yet to find any religion that didn't bother me in some way, so my solution has been to study various religions and adopt whatever elements speak to me.
So I believe in a higher power, yes. But I've not felt the need to assign a gender to it. <shrug> I think it's because I feel that any such higher power encompasses all varieties of gender, and so assigning any one gender means ommitting the rest.
------------------ Kythryne Scarleteen Advocate
"The only unnatural sexual act is that which you cannot perform." - Alfred Kinsey
i'm a buddhist. the buddha was a mortal man. this is what i believe, and i really have no reason to dispute the claim (otherwise i would -- i like to be a devil's advocate like that).
does this bother me? no. i happen to like the treatment of women in buddhism. in other branches (not the one i practice, though) there are bodhisattvas, or people who have attained enlightenment, but instead of choosing nirvana, they came back to earth to help people. There are female bodhisattvas such as tara and kuan yin.
But back to my sect of buddhism; the buddha treated women respectfully. he had female disciples, including his former wife and his sister. but over time, after the buddha's death, the women were displaced because the society was traditionally patriarchal. so nuns no longer held the same importance the sangha (monks) did.
but my tendency is toward following the ideas, and not the pedantics, and buddha taught that the dharma applied to all people. so imho, women can be just as enlightened and spiritual and any male. so it's all good.
Some church of England bishops are now refering to G-d the Mother instead of G-d the Father. I was surprised it would happen in a fairly "high church" place but it seems reasonable to me.
Judaism hasnt shown mich sign where I am of changing the gender of G-d. I think he fits a male role in the Old Testament a bit more obviously than in the New Testament: constantly angry, jealous and quite violent at times. Perhaps I am gender stereotyping too much.
I'm pretty much an atheist at the moment (though I'm not willing to say for absolutely certain- maybe 95% atheist), so I don't see much of a god to have a gender in the first place. Before that I believed in a conscious higher entity that was no gender, that was niether good nor evil, and before that I believed in the basic Christian story that we were taught in primary school. I did question whether or not god was really male, but I ended up thinking that logically he would be male since he managed to get Mary pregnant.
I do find, though, that when I'm talking about a hypothetical Judeo-Christian-like god, I tend to refer to it as "he" just out of habit.
Not to pick on ya, Beppie, and not to take this thing too far off track, but if someone says they are less than 100% of anything in religion (which, in the deepest darkest corners of many people's hearts is probably the case), aren't they then, simply agnostic?
------------------ My God can beat up your God. -Weights and Measures
Technically, I guess it does mean that, in the same way that you can't be a little bit dead, but what I really meant by it is that I don't think that there is a conscious deity overseeing things, but that at the same time I'm not prepared to say that I know it. I find it healthy to doubt my own beliefs so that I don't get bogged down in them.
Posts: 2710 | From: Australia | Registered: Jun 2000
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quote:Originally posted by PoetgirlNY: I go to a reform Jewish synagogue, and they refer to G-d neutrally. I think they changed some of the text of the books, but there's generally no mention of gender where I go.
I know from my experiences with Judaism, they usually refer to G-d neutrally as well. However, they have many different names for God. For instance, one implies that G-d is a "king" and therefore male, one implies that G-d is neiter male nor female, and one refers to G-d as a "mother", making It a female. I like to think of G-d as a nurturer, as I guess the mother figure was meant to be, but genderless.
::flashback to "Empire Records":: "I talked to God, and she says, 'Yo, wassup'..."
------------------ "You're scary sometimes! Brilliant, but scary!" -Ron to Hermione, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
Due to the obvious limitations of our own linguistics, it is logical to assume that some may consider it disrespectful to refer to any being as "it"--we have no neutral term that describes both male and female persons. One can only use "him" or "her".
Assuming that one must choose between either "him" or "her" to describe God, unfortunately, it makes the most sense to use "him". Generally speaking, the male is physically stronger, and has been dominant throughout history. Also, the dominant force in most Christian churches throughout history has been the male gender (they had the choice of whether to refer to god as "him" or "her" in many instances).
Unless a neutral term to describe both males and females can come about in the English language, regardless of how unfortunate it may be, the majority of Christian churches will continue to refer to God as a male due to physical superiority of the male, and male dominance of the respective Churches' administrations.
I'm bilingual in Thai and English. When referring to the God of Abraham, the term we use is gender neutral. In fact, many pronouns in Thai are gender neutral (age in far more inportant than gender in determining social status). However, because the religion was propagated by Europeans during the Colonial period (c.17-19th Century, and it never really quite caught on in the region), the gender of God was implied as male.
so there you go, gender neutrality in language, but gender assignment by virtue of those who proselytized the religion.
I think its a bit arrogant of the human race to try to apply a gender to any God. But I have to say that I think that if God had any gender, she would be a she. I just think that books like the bible cannot be trusted as they were written in a time and place when women were nothing and were less than second class citizens so it would seem a bit strange to have a female God then. That's what I believe anyhoo
Posts: 896 | From: Europe | Registered: Nov 2001
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Slayer_gurl, I'm a little confused. First you say it's arrogant to apply a gender to a God, and then you refer to God as a female. (Hence: "she would be a she").
Secondly, and this is not relatiing to what Slayer_gurl said, assigning a gender to God is irrelevant. If in fact, males and females are equal, than it should not matter which gender God happens to be; male or female.
If G-d exists they (better than it I think) will be such a completely different being from us that they will have no discernible gender. Yeah here is an idea: in French and Old English you refer to people you respect in the plural. Hence "vous" when addressing older people and "we are not amused" in Victorian English! So perhaps we should refer to G-d as "they" out of respect.
------------------ 'An Anarchist is a Liberal with a bomb' Trotsky
Don't want to get too off topic here, but I believe that the use of "we" by monarchs was supposed to represent that the monarch is, in a figurative sense, the people of the country.
Posts: 2710 | From: Australia | Registered: Jun 2000
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In my opinion, God is the gender you assign him or her.
But going back to the original post, I think it's worth pointing out that God is *not* always refered to as a he, even in Christianity. You mileage will vary, depending on your Christian denomination, your congregation, and your church leaders.
It will also vary tremendously based on what translation of the bible you're reading. For example, the older King James version of the bible was translated in an era of sexual repression, and the translator is very much acting as censor. If you look at Ruth 3:4, for example, you get this whole thing with her uncovering the feet of Boaz.
Other, later and more honest translations, however, translate this as the original Heberew text intended: "Thou shalt go in, and uncover his sex, and lay thee down."
As someone else wisely pointed out, God is often reffered to as being gender neutral in orginal texts; when translated to other languages without gender neutral pronouns, a male gender was assigned to God.
So, this short biblical lesson is only meant to highlight that unless you're reading the original Hebrew and Aaramaic texts, you're not getting the full scoop. You're looking at translations which NOBODY - even fundamentalists - disputes were made by human beings. And human beings have agendas suited to the politics of their time... including gender politics.
------------------ Hope this helps, --Bri
[This message has been edited by DarlingBri (edited 01-12-2002).]
My general philosophy is pagan, that is, I believe in more then one god, and some are male and some are female, and I think that some parts of the Christian or any other God are male or female and there is no real decision to be made. But I always used to wonder about this in bible class, and I finally asked my teacher. (I'm a unitarian universalist) and she told me that nobody really knows what God is and if I wanted to make that distinction, I could.
Posts: 7 | From: Bethesda, Maryland, USA | Registered: Jan 2002
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I'm with Gumdrop and Bri on this one. The English language, and several other languages, have limitations as to gender and other things. Societies have deemed it "better" for God to be thought of as male, so He is, in that language. Also, that's why I plan to teach my kids Greek and Hebrew (along with whatever other languages they may choose)...so they can interpret the Bible for themselves.
------------------ Munchy, the Munchkin, the Monchichi
Ok, to counter a point made earlier against my post. I don't think we should assign a gender to God, just like I don't think we should assign labels to people, but if we do, I would call God a woman, jsut like I would call myself a lesbian. Hope I cleared a few things up.
Posts: 896 | From: Europe | Registered: Nov 2001
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I'm pagan/wicca/celtic (sorta, heh), so i have more than one god/goddess. I believe there are many higher being's. I just find it really hard to believe that it's just us here, or that there isn't a higher being. It's kinda comforting for me.
------------------ "If you had soup like I had soup you'd never leave the house either!" -Hawksley Workman
my personal belief is kinda confusing... i believe that if there was a "god" that it would be one superior being that was completely different from anything that we know... But if they were almost like humans there would deffinately be more than one, kinda like Greek, but not... i believe in my own theology which gives me comfort.
i believe that everything happens for a purpose, that there are certian things that you can't control, but there are other things that you can. Maybe kinda sorta like one of those mystery books where you choose your own adventure. BUT... i also believe that there are certian things that you need to go out and get, you can't just lay back and let fate make you happy or rich, but if you are a good person, being yourself (or at least trying) the god(s) or whatever it is up there, gives you fate, or luck, or whatever you want to call it.
But that's just me!
Be yourself, because then no one can ever tell you that you are doing it wrong
Before i begin i'd like to ask what agnostic means..? i'm rather limited in my knowledge of religion.
As for my beliefs, i prefer to believe not in heaven, but reincarnation. It has nothing to do with religion or culture, it's just the belief (that i know of) that seems both likely and comforting. As far as god (or g-d) is concerned, i'll admit that i think of (he/she) as a him. i realize it's wholly possible for (he/she) to be a her, but it's just the way i see it. Why? i'm not sure. maybe b/c that's the way they've been described, or maybe just b/c i'm more comfortable with (he/she) being a male.
I think perhaps if i was more of a feminist, i'd be offended, but i'm not.
------------------ "Everybody thinks i'm such a horrible person, but i have the heart of a little boy. In a jar. On my desk." -Stephen King
I wanted to add something that i'd forgotten about. One of the reasons i like pagan beliefs so much is because of the way we view god and goddesses. I read an essay somewhere and the person described how they felt wonderfully. They had trouble with christianity because they didnt like dealing with one god whom they couldn't even see. In my religion, there is more than one god and many goddesses or everything. The moon, the earth, the sun, the trees, nature, animals. I love that. I feel like i can see my goddess's and god's and they're really there.
That is a very comforting thought to me.
------------------ "No self-respecting woman will let a naked man in socks do the squelchy with her'-Jeff Murdock (Coupling, BBCC)
i realize that by typing g-d, you all mean god. why do you type g-d instead of god? i am not at all criticizing you, in fact, i think it's kinda cool. is there a certain religion that refers to god as g-d? interesting.
anywho... i believe that there is a spirit; a greater power somewhere; a power that created the universe... yet i believe that this spirit is not actively involved in the goings-on of the universe. i don't pray because i don't believe that there is a spirit who listens to prayers and helps the people who are praying. i have great faith in humankind. i believe that many people won't accept the reality of their own amazing achievements- they give credit to a god for helping them achieve something. which is fine if you do believe that- i think that the most important thing is that you have faith in SOMETHING. that's all that matters.
and of course, with my view, there is no sex. a spirit has no sex. i was raised catholic, so i am familiar with jesus, who was a man, of course. and i believe that jesus totally rocked, and i think he rocks even more because he brought people together, (which is always AWESOME), and these people created a church (an amazing church). and this church helps so many people- the church builds shelters and hospitals, and compels people to do service, and most importantly, the church gives many people a sense of community- a sense that they belong to something special. and i don't believe that the catholic church is the only church who can do this. i believe that any religious organization whose goal is helping others is awesome, and nobody should ever insult another person's church, or temple, or mosque, or what have you, because that is where that person finds refuge, and why would you want to take that away from someone??
so sorry... tangent.. ah! well anywho... g-d, god, allah, what have you- the spirit i believe in is a spirit. not a human. this spirit has no sex. woohoo!
In grade 7, I noticed that in music class, a Jewish girl sitting beside me wouldn't actually write the name of a song down, as she was supposed to, in her music book. It had the word 'god' in it, and she instead replaced it with g-d. She said that following her religion, she wasn't supposed to write god's name on anything that wasn't holy.
Then she looked at me, smiled, and said, "...and no, Josh, my music book isn't holy."
------------------ I want to break my legs just so I won't forget to be nice to you. -Moneen
[This message has been edited by Dzuunmod (edited 03-12-2002).]
Sometimes I forget to miss out the vowels. I think the Jewish doctrine says that by calling the Lord by name means that you have some kind of control over him, that perhaps you have reduced him by representing him on a page. You are also not supposed to ever say the name of the Lord and despite not being particularly religious, I do try to avoid saying the words J-h-v- or Y-w-h. I remember I was once cleverly tricked by someone when they tried to make me say it by asking what they call that religion in which people knock on doors and try to convert them on the doorstep. We concluded that if it really is a tremendous sin to say it then at least in Hell we will be in good company with Harrison Ford and John Cleese!
Posts: 711 | From: England | Registered: Nov 2000
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I see the gender/sex of God in Christianity (which happens to by my outward religion; I'm an Episcopalian, which is surprisingly close to Catholic, as far as the worship service goes) as restricted by the English language, which requires an explicit subject in any non-imperative sentence. I don't think much of it, because in another language like Japanese, He could be properly sexless.
OTOH, Jesus was male, and was "begotten, not made, of one being with the Father"--which is to say, that Jesus and God are something like multiple personalities; since Jesus' Earthly representation was male, then God Himself must logically be male as well.
On the third hand, during my confirmation classes, my pastor pointed out a passage somewhere where the Bible refers to God as female. Unfortunately, I can't remember where...
In any event, it doesn't really bother me; I see God as sexless, and the gender as a linguistic convenience.
------------------ Sapphire Cat The world needs me, to know not everyone is the same. Artist, poet, programmer, dreamer, and crossdressing bondage kitty
On the basis of Christianity, I don't agree with God being male, but it could be worse. They could've said Satan was a woman.
Posts: 88 | From: Hixson, TN, US | Registered: Mar 2002
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When I was still part of my old congregation (I've since renounced my ex-faith, butt hat is a different post) God was always referred to as "He" and "the Father" and "the Lord", and so was considered an unquestionably male diety. I remember having a conversation with a few girls in my youth group about the lack of women in the bible (except for The Virgin), and my sister just came out and asked "Why can't God just be... God?" And from then on I always though of God as a non-human entity, as something way above sex and gender. During the very brief time I taught Sunday School, I kept everything very gender neutral, and it was always God, and never The Father, etc. - unfortuneatly, the church council members really, really didn't like my "hidden agenda", so my kids got their old teacher back and went back to learning about how Eve is just a stupid rib. Grr. But anyways, the short and short of it is: God is way to up there for our measley gender roles.
-------------------- *~*Sorry for the inconvenience*~* Posts: 59 | From: not in Regina, Sass-cat-chew-ahn | Registered: Dec 2006
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First off, I'm an atheist because I just truly don't believe in a higher power or in an afterlife. It (a higher power) sounds a little silly to me I guess. Sure, I kind of wish there was some nice little afterlife, but there's no use wishing. So I enjoy this life that I get. I have faith in humans and human accomplishments and human compassion. That's really more than enough for me. Also, I hate the idea of being controlled in any way and for me, religion just always felt like some method of control. Breaking free of religion entirely and becoming an atheist actually made me feel very free and finally in control of my life and my future.
I think it makes sense for the Judeo-Christian god, or maybe even any god, to be a female simply because females are life giving. Yes, a male is required in the act, but surely a god would be powerful enough to provide the other part in order to create life. And it's a lot easier to provide a little sperm than ovaries and a uterus.
I always liked the Pagan view which had many gods and the two main gods were male and female, showing a harmony between the sexes. I've had buddhist friends and they were probably the nicest people I've ever met. They were very compassionate and had a great heart, especially for animals. They were also a great deal more open-minded, especially with regards to homosexuality.
I have a dislike of christianity. Growing up, there was always a lot of sexism coming from the christian kids in school. The boys believed they were better than the girls and cited religion as proof of that. It's funny now, but at the time I was really pissed off: they even truly believed that men had one less rib than women and so women owed men something. I have a huge problem with how women are treated in christianity, and especially with the whole Adam and Eve story. Again, as a kid all the little boys would go on about how evil girls were because of the Adam and Eve story. Ugh! I also am upset at the teachings that most christian churches have on pre-marital sex, homosexuality, birth control, stem cell research, and abortion. I really hate having those aspects of my life dictated to me by someone else. I like Episcopalians better though because they allow female ministers and homosexual ministers and same-sex marriages. I think that's really progressive and love that they are so open-minded. I'm really sorry if I offended anyone with that little rant. And honestly, I think you should believe what makes you happiest. So long as your beliefs don't cause harm to anyone else or yourself.
I guess part of my reason for not wanting to be a part of religion is how they treat women. In a lot of religions, it seems that women are supposed to be submissive to the man. That's always been backwards to me. My mom is definitely not one of those women that just takes crap from men and does what she's told. She's always had an acid tongue when a man has talked down to her, and I really love that about her. She's actually rather spiritual though.
I have been wondering though what the status of women is in Jewish society. It has always seemed to me (at least in movies and books, but who knows if those are true) that women were of equal or slightly higher status than men, that women were usually the heads of the family. And I've heard that Jewish women are free to marry whoever they please, but Jewish men must marry a Jewish woman. If that's true, then wouldn't that also imply a higher status for women? I'd really love to get the answer to this one.
Sorry that was so long.
[ 05-23-2007, 01:07 AM: Message edited by: orca ]
-------------------- Listen, strange women lyin' in ponds distributin' swords is no basis for a system of government. Supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses, not from some farcical aquatic ceremony.--Monty Python and the Holy Grail Posts: 2726 | From: North America | Registered: Apr 2007
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This atheist thing highlights another of my resistances to submit that I am anything other label than my-unique-self. I really hate the word, though my trusted theory is in fact that there probably is no God (not really as passionate as the word "belief").
Basically, it bothers me that people think their gender makes them in anyway superior or inferior.
I'm under the impression that "the creator" was always assumed to be male because followers simply took for granted that all from the tribal leaders to the king of england were male, and that leaders are male, and people with authority are male.
So i make the assumption that with that background, it's easy to imagine that people barely even question the gender of God, maybe it was never consciously decided.
I don't know if it has any subliminal negative impact, by enforcing the godlyness of men, most of the big characters (except you know who *cough* mary *cough*) in the Bible are male anyway so maybe not.
But, people believe it.... because... they just do. SO it's hard to say that it's wrong that he should be male, unless you think he/she was concocted. Because for those who believe in the fellow, it's not an option, it's just fact.
I remember reading the bible and bit-by-bit deciding that the bits i didn't agree with were just metaphorical, or mis-translated. And I always assumed that calling god "Him" made God more a of a personality than an object, "It" is hard to feel compassion towards an object... and the final name just so happened to be "him" rather than "her".
I think if i were to make a religion today, there would definitely be a genderless God. There's no reason why gender would make a difference, so why decide. And religions are big enough to make up their own pronouns, "herm".
My own religious beliefs have become more and more muddied as I grew older. When I was young, I was a Protestant, but when life started to suck, I was given a very simple choice: Blame yourself or blame God. Not ever being one to take the easy choice, I did both. For years, I was a staunch athiest, but recently I find that belief in non-belief lacking. It just wasn't quite right, you see? A summary of what I believe is that the universe began with the Big Bang, that we evolved from the primordial sludge, and that our existence is a monumental coincidence. What happened before the Big Bang? Why did it happen? Why did life begin in the primordial sludge? Where-from did our sentience spring?
If there is a God (and I've reached the point in my spiritual development to acknowledge the possibility), then it does not exist as a man, nor as a woman. It is manifest as the rules that govern existence. We think, have bodies, and have a universe to inhabit because all of those things fall into what can be, according to the rules. It IS the rules.
So, in answer to your original question: Yes, I do think it's wrong that God is considered a man. The Christian god was packaged for a phallocentric culture (the Romans), so any women of power had to be trimmed out, lest it anger the plebs and patricians both. While I don't think God (if It exists) is a woman, I wouldn't complain for an instant if somebody began to espouse the belief that It were.
Of course, I'd not complain, because it's too fun to watch the Righties get all pissed and militant. Of course, I digress.
-------------------- "And you're really asking me if I prefer injury to embarrassment? That's not even a choice. I don't know anybody who's literally died of embarrassment."
People are annoying sometimes. Posts: 78 | From: Summerside, PEI, Canada | Registered: Jan 2007
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