Christine Scheller reports at the Huffington Post’s Religion section on Women in Secularism…from the pov of someone not very keen on secularism.
When women leave moderate forms of religion, are their stories less interesting or was it a coincidence that all but one of the deconversion narratives I heard at the Women in Secularism III conference May 17 in Alexandria, Virginia, involved women leaving fundamentalist versions of faith? Because I’m a Christian, and I would leave those too.
So, she’s hinting, there should have been more about “moderate” forms of religion.
The question arose in light of these stories as to what keeps women in religion when it is so often hostile to us? Among the answers suggested were rationalization, a culturally imposed lack of self-confidence, the need for community, a lack of basic life skills and/or education and a longing for purity that also involves disdain for the body.
Missing from the discussion was the idea that other women have positive experiences with religion and/or have grappled with similar challenges and come to different conclusions.
Only Jones said it is important to draw a distinction between fundamentalism and more moderate and progressive traditions. She finds the same battles over ideological purity in the secular community that she found in fundamentalism, she said.
“I worry that we’re trying to single religion out as the scapegoat,” said Jones.
Of course one person’s “battles over ideological purity” may be someone else’s efforts not to lose the plot altogether.
In an email after the conference, Jones said it takes a great deal of work for her to admit that religion can be a force for good because she was “treated shamefully so many times by so many people who justified their actions by claiming that they were just following the Bible.”
“I’d be lying if I said that didn’t make me angry. It still makes me angry. I’m still in the process of recovering from that pain, and I have no idea how long that process will take,” said Jones.
Nonetheless, she sees parallels between hardline atheism (the perspective that the world would better if we were all atheists) and fundamentalist Christianity (the view that the world would be better if we were all fundamentalist Christians).
“Both are very rigid perspectives. And the world isn’t a rigid place,” said Jones. “There’s abuse in organized atheism — the church doesn’t have a monopoly on that.”
Because Jones had mentioned her involvement in interfaith work, I wondered if that work might inform her perspective. It taught her that there can be more than one philosophical justification for the same human rights principle, she said.
“I don’t care if someone supports gender equality, for example, because they believe it’s a religious tenet. I care that they support gender equality,” said Jones.
I on the other hand do care. Of course it’s better to have a religious believer who supports gender equality than to have one who doesn’t, but the religious believer remains vulnerable to being told by a religious authority that gender equality is not pleasing to god, and believing it. It’s an extra vulnerability in the commitment. That’s not an abstraction: most people have decidedly believed exactly that throughout recorded history.
As a storyteller, I understand that dramatic narratives can be the most compelling, but far too much public discourse about religion is driven by arguments with fundamentalism.
Really? Surely a great deal more public discourse about religion is driven by the assumption that religion is the source of goodness.