Misogyny in Christian History

Valerie Tarico has a collection of 20 quotes from Christian leaders, from the early church fathers to modern fundamentalist preachers, showing extraordinary misogyny. I haven’t traced the origin of these quotes, so I’m trusting Tarico’s research here, but some of these are truly appalling:

In pain shall you bring forth children, woman, and you shall turn to your husband and he shall rule over you. And do you not know that you are Eve? God’s sentence hangs still over all your sex and His punishment weighs down upon you. You are the devil’s gateway; you are she who first violated the forbidden tree and broke the law of God. It was you who coaxed your way around him whom the devil had not the force to attack. With what ease you shattered that image of God: Man! Because of the death you merited, even the Son of God had to die… Woman, you are the gate to hell. –Tertullian, “the father of Latin Christianity” (c160-225)

What is the difference whether it is in a wife or a mother, it is still Eve the temptress that we must beware of in any woman… I fail to see what use woman can be to man, if one excludes the function of bearing children. –Saint Augustine, Bishop of Hippo Regius (354 – 430)

As regards the individual nature, woman is defective and misbegotten, for the active force in the male seed tends to the production of a perfect likeness in the masculine sex; while the production of woman comes from a defect in the active force or from some material indisposition, or even from some external influence. –Thomas Aquinas, Doctor of the Church, 13th century

Those are three of the most legendary thinkers in the history of the church. But the protestant reformers were just as bad:

The word and works of God is quite clear, that women were made either to be wives or prostitutes. –Martin Luther, Reformer (1483-1546)

No gown worse becomes a woman than the desire to be wise. –Martin Luther, Reformer (1483-1546)

Of course, Luther said even worse things about Jews, demanding that his followers commit violence against them. None of this should be at all surprising, of course. The Bible is a deeply misogynistic book from one end to the other.

52 comments on this post.
  1. jamessweet:

    This is a little bit unfair, in that I don’t think it would be exactly difficult to find equally vile quotes from great scientific thinkers of the age. Of course, it’s only a little unfair, because religion claims some moral highground… but centuries-old misogynist quotes don’t prove religion is evil, it only proves religion isn’t magically good.

    More modern misogynist quotes, of course, are all the evidence we need for the former proposition…

  2. John Pieret:

    Aw! You left out Pat:

    The feminist agenda is not about equal rights for women. It is about a socialist, anti-family political movement that encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians.– Pat Robertson, Southern Baptist leader (1930–)

    Women … baby-killing commie lesbian witches who won’t stay with their husbands.

  3. eoraptor:

    Jeez! Imagine what they would be saying if Lilith hadn’t decided to split.

  4. raven:

    Martin Luther: If they (women) become tired or even die, that does not matter. Let them die in childbirth. That is what they are there for.

    Yeah, Martin Luther was a misogynist and a cold hearted creep. And devised the first Final Solution for the Jews. A thoroughly defective human.

    Fuck you, Martin Luther!!! (Who was the founder of my natal branch of xianity.)

    Seems like most founders of religions were creepy monsters. Joseph Smith, Elron Hubbard, Martin Luther, John Calvin.

  5. sinned34:

    It reminds me of a passage in Revelations that I can’t be bothered to look up right now for the exact quote. Basically, it gives the description of the 144,000 that are supposed to go up to heaven to rule with Jesus as kings or something like that. It describes them as “men who have never defiled themselves with women. They are virgins.”

    You don’t get a lot more misogynistic than that.

    I recall it because I’ve gone a few Jehovah’s Witnesses memorials (their version of Easter celebrations), and I remember them talking about their version of the afterlife and how only 144,000 people will go to heaven, and they will be the “cream of the crop” of the Witnesses. There’s been a few times where I pointed out to my wife “keep reading, because the next scripture goes on to describe them all as virgins”. To my surprise, at one of the meetings, one of their preachers actually addressed that, stating that virginity “was not actually necessary.”

    For some reason when I heard that, it really struck me that there’s no such thing as a Christian group that actually uses all of what scripture says. Which is funny, because I’d been an atheist for at least a half decade by that time. It shouldn’t have been a surprise at that point. But there’s so much in the bible, and large amounts of it is either incredibly vague or contradictory, enough that it must be practically impossible to keep it all in mind and come up with a somewhat coherent set of dogmas.

  6. raven:

    @5

    The 144,000 going to heaven will not only be male virgins but Jewish, 12,000 from each tribe. Never mind that 10 of those tribes disappeared before xianity was ever invented.

    I’m guessing the average age will be around 12.

    Xians routinely just make stuff up and say it came from the bible. When you actually look it up, it isn’t there.

  7. leni:

    What about all those poor priests who were so unfairly accused of child abuse, Ed? Misandry!!!!

  8. mouthyb, Vagina McTits:

    Here’s my favorite:

    Woman is a misbegotten man and has a faulty and defective nature in comparison to his. Therefore she is unsure in herself. What she cannot get, she seeks to obtain through lying and diabolical deceptions. And so, to put it briefly, one must be on one’s guard with every woman, as if she were a poisonous snake and the horned devil. … Thus in evil and perverse doings woman is cleverer, that is, slyer, than man. Her feelings drive woman toward every evil, just as reason impels man toward all good. –Saint Albertus Magnus, Dominican theologian, 13th century

  9. oranje:

    @#2: Well my partner has the lesbian and commie stuff pretty much down, but I think she’s held off from the baby-killing and casting of spells. I think she even wants to stay with me. Who knew Pat would be wrong again?

    Also, there could be an entire set of encyclopedias related to misogyny in christian history. I appreciate the Readers Digest version, though.

  10. Taz:

    Don’t forget John Knox and his little pamphlet “The first blast of the trumpet against the monstruous regiment of women.”.
    Poor John was aiming at that terrible catholic Mary I, and just couldn’t understand it when protestant Elizabeth I was equally pissed off.

  11. Ray Ingles:

    To be scrupulously fair, I’ve seen attempts to defend Aquinas from such misogyny: http://www.firstthings.com/article/2009/03/003-what-aquinas-never-said-about-women-38

    Hard to put context around most of those, though.

  12. jnorris:

    Joseph Campbell noted years ago, I do not have a reference, that after Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, God found them. God addressed the man to explain himself and he immediately blamed the woman. Its been that way ever since.

  13. Synfandel:

    And the 144,000 Jewish male virgins will cast the billions of others (dead or alive) at the end times into a lake of fire to burn for all eternity, because God so loves them.

  14. baal:

    The bible more or less has women in the same category as ‘farm animal’ and proceeds to treat them as beasts of burden throughout. These christian quotes seem perfectly in line with that denial of humanity.

  15. Synfandel:

    God addressed the man to explain himself and he immediately blamed the woman.

    Thus began the standard workplace managerial practice of listening only to the first person who tells you about something.

  16. d.c.wilson:

    All three abrahambic religions have their roots in a culture where women were regarded as little more than commodities to be traded like (and often for) goats or camels. Nothing changed from Moses to Pat Robertson except for how the message has been disseminated.

  17. Don Williams:

    I am not strongly religious — indeed, I have the skepticism of the scientist to things not proven. And I have noted in the past the dangers posed by corrupt men of the cloth and the strong advantages political manipulations can gain by masquerading as religion. The FEC does not audit Rev John Hagee’s collection plate.

    But contempt for Christianity and other religions shows ignorance of history. Why does faith survive? Because it has a strong survival value — its believers can remain functional in circumstances that drive atheists into deep depression and madness.

    St Cyrian explained it when noting the horrors of the smallpox pandemic that struck the Roman Empire circa
    250-266 AD:

    “This trial, that now the bowels, relaxed into a constant flux, discharge the bodily strength; that a fire originated in the marrow ferments into wounds of the fauces; that the intestines are shaken with a continual vomiting; that the eyes are on fire with the injected blood; that in some cases the feet or some parts of the limbs are taken off by the contagion of diseased putrefaction; that from the weakness arising by the maiming and loss of the body, either the gait is enfeebled, or the hearing is obstructed, or the sight darkened;—is profitable as a proof of faith.

    What a grandeur of spirit it is to struggle with all the powers of an unshaken mind against so many onsets of devastation and death! what sublimity, to stand erect amid the desolation of the human race, and not to lie prostrate with those who have no hope in God; but rather to rejoice, and to embrace the benefit of the occasion; that in thus bravely showing forth our faith, and by suffering endured, going forward to Christ by the narrow way that Christ trod, we may receive the reward of His life and faith according to His own judgment!”

  18. Don Williams:

    Christianity is the refuge of the poor and the enslaved. It is growing in American because misery, debt, poverty and virtual wage slavery is growing in America. 5 Years after Democrats were given control of the White House, the House and the Senate.

    A priest or preacher may have an agenda –but they will provide food, shelter and help in finding a job — whereas liberals only provide idle lip service , patronization and contorted excuses for sellouts to wealthy men.

    There is some attraction in a faith that assures us limousine liberals will scream in hell for all eternity.

  19. sinned34:

    Don @ 18:

    Wait, Christianity is growing in North America? I thought all the studies had been showing people abandoning religion in general (and Christianity specifically) in favour of “no religion” (not atheism, but definitely not Christianity).

    And yes, you’re right – many people are attracted to the idea that their enemies will suffer terrible fates. Not one of the most redeeming qualities that humans share, and I don’t think it’s admirable to appeal to that horrible desire. But the Republicans have enjoyed much success (up until very recently) using that strategy.

  20. Taz:

    Don Williams – You have “the skepticism of the scientist” yet you claim of religion that “its believers can remain functional in circumstances that drive atheists into deep depression and madness” with no evidence whatsoever. You also claim that Christianity is growing in North America when polling shows the opposite.

    A priest or preacher may have an agenda –but they will provide food, shelter and help in finding a job — whereas liberals only provide idle lip service

    “Preacher” and “liberal” are antonyms?

  21. raven:

    Gallup GSS from FTB Zingularity July 4, ’13

    In 1972, just 5 percent answered“no religion”; by 1990, 8 percent did.

    The percentage preferring no religion has risen sharply since1990. In the 2012 data (released March 7, 2013), 20 percent of Americans answered “no religion” — that is an increase of 12 percentage points in 22 years.

    We find no evidence of a slowdown. The change from 2010 to 2012 was 2 percentage points, within the margin of error of what we would expect based on the overall rate of increase from 1990 to 2008…

    The reality is US xianity is dying. They are losing 2-3 million members a year. There is a huge amount of data on this from multiple sources including the churches themselves.

    “its believers can remain functional in circumstances that drive atheists into deep depression and madness”

    LOL, where is the data for this claim? We would like to see it.

    AFAICT, religion drives more people mad than it saves from madness. It’s hard to even tell where madness ends and religion begins, a fact shown by the DSM IV.

    Millions claim to be possessed by myriads of demons that are all around us just waiting for their chance, while satan rules the world, and they can be thrown into hell forever by their Sky Monster god for trivial offenses like belonging to the wrong church. And all of these beings with power over humans are invisible and AFAWCT, imaginary.

    If you go to a psychiatrist and claim hordes of invisible demons are trying to possess and destroy you, you are labeled crazy. If that is part of your religion, the DSM calls you sane. Not much difference, is there?

  22. Don Williams:

    Taz at 20: “with no evidence whatsoever”

    Christianity was a minor cult in the Roman Empire circa 50 AD. Move forward 500 years after the collapse of that Empire and what was the score: Atheists vs Christians?

    Why does the military have chaplains?

  23. Taz:

    Don Williams –

    Christianity was a minor cult in the Roman Empire circa 50 AD. Move forward 500 years after the collapse of that Empire and what was the score: Atheists vs Christians?

    What does that have to do with anything? Your original claim was that faith “has a strong survival value — its believers can remain functional in circumstances that drive atheists into deep depression and madness”.

    First of all, the vast majority of non-Christians in the Roman Empire circa 50 AD were not atheists. Second, the fact that Christianity spread throughout the Roman Empire says nothing about whether atheists (or non-Christians for that matter) are more prone to depression and madness.

    Historically, the biggest survival value of religion comes in the form of “convert or die”.

  24. Taz:

    Why does the military have chaplains?

    Why are there so many military suicides?

  25. raven:

    But contempt for Christianity and other religions shows ignorance of history. Why does faith survive? Because it has a strong survival value — its believers can remain functional in circumstances that drive atheists into deep depression and madness.

    No one is quite sure why faith exists much less survives.

    Quite a bit of it has to do with the power of the sword, piece of rope, and stack of firewood.

    Without every known method of thought control ever invented, backed up by occasional murders of defectors, religion just falls apart.

    In the 20th century, the Nones went from about zero to 1 billion and growing rapidly. And what does that tell you?

  26. raven:

    Why does the military have chaplains?

    The Soviet Red Army had chaplains? Or the Viet Cong/NVA? How about the Red Chinese and North Koreans?

    Two of those countries had huge casualties during WWII and the Vietnam wars. The USSR lost about 25 million people and the Vietnamese something like a million. And both ultimately won. Without military chaplains. The Red Chinese and North Koreans took huge casualties and it ended up a draw.

    DW is trying to claim the military needs chaplains because xians are dumb enough to die in wars, sure that they will end up in heaven. There is no evidence for this and it is pretty silly to try to even claim this.

    AFAICT, mostly we have military chaplains as wingnut welfare and a perk for the superstitious among us.

  27. Don Williams:

    1) Strange. The same people who believe in Darwin’s Evolution and Survival of the Fittest never ask why
    Christianity has had Billions of followers in the past 2000 years while atheists have been a vanishing small percentage of the population.

    Atheists can grow and expand slightly in soft, comfortable environments –but wilt under any kind of stress.
    Which is why their power and influence have also been miniscule over the past 2000 years as well. Even today — in the richest nation on earth.

    2) In the US military, atheists and agnostics only make up about 0.006 of the personnel.

    http://ac360.blogs.cnn.com/2009/11/12/raw-data-religious-preference-in-the-military/

    3) Re the Nazis, Soviets, Chinese and North Koreans, what lessons are provided by losers?
    In the last two years of WWII the Nazis were running on meth and the Red Army on hatred.
    Plus the Roman Catholic church retained influence in Nazi Germany as did the Eastern Orthodox Church
    in the Soviet Union. For what crime did Putin send Pussy Riot to prison?

  28. Don Williams:

    Re Taz at 23: “First of all, the vast majority of non-Christians in the Roman Empire circa 50 AD were not atheists”

    If you believe in all the gods –including Caligula — then functionally you believe in none.

  29. raven:

    1) Strange. The same people who believe in Darwin’s Evolution and Survival of the Fittest never ask why Christianity has had Billions of followers in the past 2000 years while atheists have been a vanishing small percentage of the population.

    I just answered that.

    Up until recently, being an atheist was a death penalty offense. I see you ignored the fact that in the last century No Religions went from near zero to over a billion and are growing rapidly.

    3) Re the Nazis, Soviets, Chinese and North Koreans, what lessons are provided by losers?

    This is just plain stupid.

    The USSR won WWII. The Viet Cong/NVA won their wars against the USA and France. The Chinese and North Koreans had a draw with the USA. Believing in an afterlife and/or having military chaplains is simply irelevant to how willing people are to die for a cause.

    Atheists can grow and expand slightly in soft, comfortable environments –but wilt under any kind of stress.

    Hitchens rule: An assertion without proof or data may be dismissed without proof or data. You don’t know this and it is factually wrong. A billion No Religions is a lot of people.

    Were done here. This simply isn’t worth my attention or time.

  30. Taz:

    Don Williams –

    The same people who believe in Darwin’s Evolution and Survival of the Fittest never ask why
    Christianity has had Billions of followers in the past 2000 years while atheists have been a vanishing small percentage of the population.

    Enlighten us – how exactly is the history of religious belief in the last 2000 years related to evolutionary processes as understood by modern science?

    If you believe in all the gods –including Caligula — then functionally you believe in none.

    Polytheists are not atheists. Words have meanings.

  31. Don Williams:

    Re raven at 29:

    1) Oxford Professor and atheist Richard Dawkins discussing the Darwinian survival value of religion–
    and the various ways of viewing the issue –here::

    http://sandwalk.blogspot.com/2010/07/whats-darwinian-survival-value-of.html (starting around time 3:00)

    2) Some people argue that Marxism is a religion.

    3) E O Wilson’s view of the survival value of religion:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/E.O._Wilson#Spiritual_and_political_beliefs

  32. Don Williams:

    A bloody religious war between two scientific humanists on a related subject:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2012/jun/24/battle-of-the-professors

  33. Don Williams:

    Richard Dawkins talking to PBS re the survival value of religion:

    http://www.pbs.org/faithandreason/transcript/dawk-frame.html

    “QUESTION: Might religion itself be viewed as something that enhances survival?

    MR. DAWKINS: I should have mentioned that religion may very well have a conventional Darwinian survival value. I have talked about religion as a virus, which is survival value at the level of the meme rather than the gene, the meme being the intercultural inheritance. But it could of course have survival value at the conventional gene level. Religion could enhance the survival of individuals who are religious. Or some people believe in some kind of group selection — it could enhance the survival of a group. It’s not difficult to see the advantages for a group, a tribe, which has a war-like god which enjoins its young men to sacrifice themselves for the good of the tribe, to fight with suicidal ferocity and bravery — certainly it worked in the Crusades. Certainly it worked with the Japanese Kamikaze fighters. Certainly it works with Islamic suicide bombers. Such a tribe, such a group, could have great success in war, and therefore spread itself, spread the genes of the group, and of course spread the memes of the group, spread the ideas of the group.

    But what about individual survival? It’s possible too that religion might enhance individual survival. There is even some medical evidence that religious people in our society are slightly healthier on average than non-religious people — perhaps because they suffer less from stress-related diseases. It’s known that stress gives rise to disease. It’s also known that many diseases, especially stress-related diseases, can be cured by placebos — pills that have no medicinal effect, but people think they do, and so they do.

    I could easily believe that religion could enhance health and hence survival, and that therefore there could be indeed be literally Darwinian survival value, Darwinian selection in favor of religion. None of that of course bears at all upon the truth value of the claims made by religions.”

  34. Taz:

    But it could of course have survival value at the conventional gene level. Religion could enhance the survival of individuals who are religious. Or some people believe in some kind of group selection — it could enhance the survival of a group.

    What Dawkins is talking about (and he admits it’s pure speculation) would not manifest itself in so brief a time as 2000 years. Certainly the “believe or die” mechanism is going to favor the spread of whatever snake oil is being sold, but neither that nor Dawkins speculation is evidence for your claim that atheists are more prone to deep depression and madness, or that there is some evolutionary mechanism behind the spread of Christianity.

  35. Don Williams:

    1) As Dawkins notes, selection can occur as ecological competition , not just Darwinian selection at the genetic level (although Dawkins is biased toward genetic arguments.)

    Per r/K selection theory, the r strategy is favored in chaotic, unstable, unpredictable environments.

    I think it is hilarious that there is only one copy of the Richard Dawkins evolutionary biologist virus and that that virus does not seem to realize there are 19 copies of the Jim Bob Duggar religious fundamentalist virus. And God knows how many copies of the Roman Catholic Contraception is Evil virus.

    2) Which is important because –as Dawkins noted to PBS — religion is a virus propagated via the uncritical minds of children.

    3) My worldview is closer to Richard Dawkins’ than a southern Baptist’s. But to use an analogy, I don’t have to be a psychopath to realize that they can be very dangerous.

  36. Don Williams:

    Scientific humanists , in contrast, seem as sterile as mules. Must be all those years in the stacks slaving away for tenure — drains the precious bodily fluids right out of them.

  37. Taz:

    Scientific humanists , in contrast, seem as sterile as mules.

    Anything to back that up? Because my experience is just the opposite.

  38. d.c.wilson:

    Okay. I’m officially convinced that Don Williams is a Poe.

  39. yoav:

    Christianity was a minor cult in the Roman Empire circa 50 AD. Move forward 500 years after the collapse of that Empire and what was the score: Atheists vs Christians?

    And yet being a christian nation didn’t prevent the fall of the empire.

  40. slc1:

    Re DonWilliams @ #27

    Plus the Roman Catholic church retained influence in Nazi Germany as did the Eastern Orthodox Church

    Excuse me, the other major religious organization in Germany is the Lutheran Church, not the Eastern Orthodox Church.

    Re Don Williams @ #31

    Some people argue that Marxism is a religion

    As Martin Gardner opined in his seminal work, Fads and Fallacies in Science, Dialectical Materialism has many of the attributes of religion, namely it is a set of beliefs based no evidence.

  41. dingojack:

    Forgive my ignorance but what supernatural being (or beings) does Dialectical Materialism propose?
    Dingo

  42. Don Williams:

    Dingo at 41: “supernatural being (or beings) does Dialectical Materialism propose?”

    A Dictatorship of Proletariat–philosopher kings that wouldn’t sellout at the first opportunity in order to live the sweet life.

    You know –kinda like the Democratic Party’s Platform.

  43. dingojack:

    So ‘philosopher-kings’ are supernatural now? Funny, I always viewed them as being – well – both philosophers and kings (both of which are subsets of ‘human).
    Dingo

  44. Draken:

    Christianity is the refuge of the poor and the enslaved.

    Which is precisely why Christianity tries hard to keep people poor and enslaved.

  45. Don Williams:

    Re dingo at 43: “Funny, I always viewed them as being – well – both philosophers and kings (both of which are subsets of ‘human).”

    Oh, that’s okay. No need to apologize.

  46. slc1:

    Re dingojack @ #41

    I said that dialectal materialism has many of the attributes of religion. It doesn’t cite supernatural figures but is it a requirement that a religion cite supernatural figures? AFAIK, Buddhism doesn’t cite supernatural figures but is considered a religion. The issue is a set of beliefs based on no evidence and in that regard, dialectal material resembles religions.

  47. Don Williams:

    Slc at 46:
    1) I think that empirical evidence — 5000 years of history –shows that the idea there could exist a
    group of benign philosophical kings who would not exploit their power to stab their followers in the back
    in order to promote personal interests is a concept that ranks with the tooth fairy and Thomas
    Aquinas trying to figure out how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.

    It is almost too comical an idea to call it superstitution.

    2) Almost as funny as those poor Democratic activists going door to door and begging for votes after
    the massive failures of the 111th Democratic Congress.

    3) Rank and file Hare Krishnas, Moonies, Democrats and other cultists should wear a “Kick Me I’m Stupid” sign.

  48. Don Williams:

    And has anyone seen Daily Kos lately?

    It is like listening to a bishop give a tortured , incoherent explanation for why protecting buggers of small children is acceptable. Why the Vatican was right to threaten to burn Galileo at the stake for saying that the
    Earth revolves around the Sun.

  49. Thumper; Atheist mate:

    @Don Williams

    Christianity was a minor cult in the Roman Empire circa 50 AD.

    Well at least you admit that much. And since you do know that much, I assume you also know that the original cult you mention was in fact a minor denomination of Judaism? So, please explain how the one true religion can possibly have started out as a minor off-shoot of one the many false religions?

  50. Thumper; Atheist mate:

    If you believe in all the gods –including Caligula — then functionally you believe in none.

    … you don’t know who Caligula was, do you? Hint: he was not a god.

  51. Don Williams:

    Re Thumper at 50: “You don’t know who Caligula was, do you? Hint: he was not a god”

    And you don’t know Roman history, do you?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caligula#Claims_of_divinity

  52. Don Williams:

    Jesus, SLC, where did you FIND these guys?

Leave a comment

You must be