By Tony Philpott | 24 February 2017
Church and State
It all started with Eve. Or did it?
The Alphabet Of Ben-Sira, a Judaic document derived from a Talmudic script, asserts that Lilith, not Eve, was Adam’s wife. Since it comes to us through the same mythological lineage as the Bible itself, the historical veracity of The Alphabet of Ben-Sira is not what matters here. What does matter is that this ancient text gives us a female who makes Germaine Greer look like Mother Teresa.
Unlike her successor, Eve, Lilith was not made from Adam’s rib. She was made from clay in exactly the same way as her husband was. Her job description, as given to her by God, was to submit to Adam and be “under him”. But she had no sooner morphed into existence when she told God “I will not be below; I will not lie beneath him – I am as him; made too from clay.” God, not used to being spoken to like this, became angry. Lilith, however, didn’t give a toss; she just flew away and joined a hoard of screaming female demons.
And that’s how we have Feminists.
But Lilith came back for revenge, as you do. She verbally assaulted the angels that God sent to return her to Adam and generally threatened screeching mayhem on any male, or Deity for that matter, who came within screeching distance. She was never incorporated into the bible as a real human being; instead she is listed among abominable animals and evil spirits in the Old Testament. No surprise there, then.
It is said by contemporary scholars that The Alphabet of Ben-Sira was a satirical commentary, all well and good. But what is wonderful about the story of Lilith is the fact that the ancient satirist who wrote her into being did so because he was smart enough to recognise that the secondary/submissive role assigned to women by God was a crock of shit.
But what exactly is God’s problem with females? Or, more accurately, what problem do the creators of God have with women? Given the fact that the deity has so many of the most obnoxious human attributes one can only assume that his biographers assigned to him the characteristics that mirrored the prevailing mind-set of the day. Androcentrism; the idea that gives males and male perspectives total priority, was the operating sociological principle among primitives in the Iron Age Levant – while it remains fully operational in modern Saudi Arabia, it has ceased to retain any real popularity in the western world. But if women were creatures worthy of nothing more than derision – then why did those ancient misogynists have God create women in the first place?
In Genesis, we are told that God made Adam, and seeing he was lonely and bored he gave him the job of naming all the animals in creation. We don’t know how long this little exercise lasted; suffice it to say that after having authored the nomenclature for all living things Adam was still bored and lonely; a state of affairs which was strangely unanticipated by divine foresight. So, then God created Eve to keep Adam company and to be his helper. Eve’s later response to the Serpent’s suggestion regarding the apple seems also to have been unanticipated by God.
Why didn’t God just make another male as a friend for Adam? Men like each other’s company – go to any pub or football match and you’ll find males in small or large groups having the time of their lives – tight clusters of males can be always be found in the kitchen at parties discussing power tools and belching with abandon. We enjoy each other’s company. If God was so concerned about Adam’s loneliness why did he create him with the capacity to be lonely in the first place? And given that it was only the boredom of Adam that caused God to create Eve, then the second human created by god seems to have been a divine afterthought, such would suggest that God had no intention whatsoever to create anything other than a single male human being in the first place. Seems like God was making it up as he went along; not very omnipotent behaviour – shows a distinct lack of planning if you ask me.
But having created Eve and having had her disobey him, God then damns her to bear all her children in agony and ensures that, forever after, her entire gender are to be essentially treated like human pariahs.
The very sight of the female form has always been offensive to religion. It still remains offensive in huge swathes of the Middle and Far East. Religious apologists will assert that the burka, the hijab and the veil are in fact designed to protect women, to ensure that they are not ogled, disrespected or set upon by males.
The burka, the hijab, and the modest attire preferred by Christians, are dress codes that express male ownership. They are intended to hide the attributes of a piece of human property from the eyes of competing males. They represent nothing more than male insecurity. The presumption is that without such garments the shape and form of the wife/chattel will attract other males, it’s further presumed that the wife/chattel is as sexually indiscriminate at her master and will leg it with the first bloke who sidles up to her and flexes a bicep. Mistrust, male insecurity and immaturity are the threads that wove the veil and the burka – not a wish to protect feminine dignity, but a wish to retain and enforce rights of exclusive sexual access.
Throughout history women have been under a divine imperative to submit, reproduce, and to disengage from human discourse. Lie down, have babies and shut up. What kind of philosophy allows for the exclusion and subjugation of one half of humanity? If women didn’t get the right to vote until the 20th Century it was not directly because of political resistance, it was because of how religion informed politics.
Since God himself decreed that women remain within the confinements of childbirth, child rearing and social subservience – then it was a perfect justification for their exclusion; chauvinism and misogyny were brothers in arms in the bible and their later primacy in masculine behaviour didn’t just rob women of a role, it deprived all of humankind of a contrasting intellectual dimension. Had femininity not been excluded from cultural, political and creative expression, the world would have been a different place.
Female caution and male aggression are attributes that often bang up against each other; a woman’s caution is often mistaken for indecision – it’s why women drivers get honked by males as they hesitate before edging out into traffic at an intersection. But women’s trepidation is a valuable attribute simply because, in our early stage of evolution, an incautious female could be the cause of more than one death; her own, and her children’s. And Mother Nature doesn’t like that.
A prehistoric male encountering danger might well be the only casualty of any aggressor/hunter behaviour that went wrong – a nursing female’s mistake would leave her children motherless, without breast milk, and dead. Not good news for the species in general.
The words that describe early humans as “hunter-gatherers” are in the wrong order. Gatherer-Hunters might perhaps be the more accurate term considering early man, and I mean man, might not have been the dab hand with a spear we thought him to be. Family nutrition, and indeed human survival, may well owe a greater debt to foraging females.
For our macho spear-chuckers in the prehistoric African Savannah, the conversion of a forty mile an hour elk into a venison pot-roast by a male Homo Sapiens was an extremely rare event. Had human survival depended on a male ability to hunt – we would be extinct and the dominant species might now perhaps be a semi-intelligent reptile – but enough about American politicians.
While our ancestral male was busy trying to be man-the-hunter, prehistoric females were quietly developing skills to help compensate for man-the-failure.
Nuts, berries, fungi. These were the nutrients prehistoric females gathered. Very sedentary activity when compared to the vigour of hunting, but pick the wrong root or mushroom and you and your hairy family would die a toxic death and become a source of dietary fibre for the next scavenger to pass by.
A half shade of purple could determine the difference between a juicy berry and some poisonous mimic, the female ability to spot a variant shade of blue is a critical survival skill that could often have meant the difference between life or death.
Women are valuable, equal, and they are certainly not the afterthought of a God. Yet the Catholic Church forbids women to become priests. This is interesting, and it has dimensions which go beyond mere chauvinism. First, let’s look at exactly what a priest is. Obviously he’s a male – but he is also a conduit between God and worshipful mortals. He has intercessionary powers with the creator, he can bring God’s forgiveness to Catholics who attend confession, he can create new Catholics with baptism and he can perform a ritual which turns bread to flesh and wine to blood. In effect, he is intermediate between God and humanity and God talks and acts though him. In any heavenly transmission he is a desired point of contact. Let’s say all of this is real. Then why not a woman? Could it be that God himself doesn’t like contact with the fair sex – or could it be that the ecclesiasts never wanted him to talk to women?
It is now 2017 – we have come a long way from menstrual milk curdling, we’ve left behind the idea of female witches, and we’ve even gone on to allow girls to be altar servers at Mass. But no female priests – that particular glass ceiling is of the tempered, bulletproof kind. So what’s the problem? Women are indeed human, made by God, they are great listeners – surely were God to give them a message they’d get every detail and nuance duly noted. They are great communicators too, when delivering messages from the faithful to God he would no doubt receive the fullest most inclusive, and most empathic account. But it’s not going to happen, and here’s the answer; given by Scott P. Richert of The Rockford Catholic Examiner and the weekly Catholic newspaper the Wanderer. “The New Testament priesthood is the priesthood of Christ Himself. All men who, through the sacrament of Holy Orders have become priests (or bishops) participate in Christ’s priesthood. And they participate in it in a very special way: They act in Persona Christi Capitis, in the person of Christ, the Head of His Body, the Church. Christ was a man.”
There you have it.
And here you have more of it.
From Catholic Answers, whose motto is: “To Explain and Defend the Faith”, comes this biblical validation.
While women could publicly pray and prophesy in church (1 Cor. 11:1–16), they could not teach or have authority over a man since these were two essential functions of the clergy. Nor could women publicly question or challenge the teaching of the clergy (1 Cor. 14:34–38)
Women having authority over a man. Oh, the horror!
Here again we find the inspired view of Iron Age males decreeing their own supremacy and female inferiority. The ordination of women seems such an inconsequential thing, but the rationale behind it is exactly the same as that which allows the Saudis and the cretinous Taliban to bury women up to the necks and pound their skulls to fragments with stones – it is the still-potent residue of such thinking that sees women rape-victims as young as thirteen whipped or beheaded for their “crime”. It’s not for a moment conceivable that the Christian churches would condone such actions – it’s not even remotely possible that the churches would resume burning witches – but it is equally unlikely that they would ever acknowledge that their attitude to women has direct and linear antecedents in that same two-thousand-year-old view of female inferiority.
Excerpted from Faithless – A Journey Out Of Religion With Stops For Light Refreshment Along The Way, by Tony Philpott. Copyright © Tony Philpott, 2013. All rights reserved.
Tony Philpott is a published author and screenwriter. His latest book “Faithless – A Journey Out Of Religion With Stops For Light Refreshment Along The Way” is a biting and humorous critique of religion and irrationality.
Faithless – A Journey Out Of Religion With Stops For Light Refreshment Along The Way
By Tony Philpott
The Liffey Press (November 2013)
What Are the Arguments Against Religion? A. C. Grayling on the Case for Humanism (2013)
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