Men have been dominating atheist debate. Well, they would, wouldn't they? After all, the monotheistic religions - Christianity, Judaism and Islam - are patriarchal, while the main critics of religion in atheist circles are mostly male. It's become a contest between science and religion, while the history and sociology of religion, particularly the history of women's role in religion, has been largely ignored.
I've written about this sort of thing before - click here to read it. Was reminded of it again by two things. The first was a thread on Facebook about original sin, linked to the TV debate in Australia between Richard Dawkins and Cardinal George Pell. When asked about the story of Adam and Eve, Pell said,
Adam and Eve are terms - what do they mean: life and earth. It’s like every man. That’s a beautiful, sophisticated, mythological account. It’s not science but it’s there to tell us two or three things. First of all that God created the world and the universe. Secondly, that the key to the whole of universe, the really significant thing, are humans and, thirdly, it is a very sophisticated mythology to try to explain the evil and suffering in the world.Dawkins said,
I’m curious to know if Adam and Eve never existed where did original sin come from? But I also would like to clarify the point about whether there was ever a first human.Both of them ignore the history of the allegory, which is important. If you don't understand how and why this story developed, you won't understand where modern Christianity and Judaism get some of their ideas, and how the mythology has been twisted so that Eve became the villainess, rather than the heroine of the story.
The second TV programme that reminded me of the masculine bias in explaining religion is the current BBC and Open University series, Divine Women. Click here for the OU page. If you concentrate on demolishing Biblical mythology without understanding the shift from matriarchies to patriarchies, and how old myths have been changed to reflect male power, your understanding of religion will be limited. Male bias in religion is bad enough, but male bias in atheism is just as annoying.
One of the reasons that female goddesses predominated in the past was that only woman can give birth; they were venerated because of it. Paternity wasn't recognised. When it was, that's when the shift happened, as men sought to claim their offspring and the ownership of their property. This is still a major factor in religious justifications for the subjugation of women today. Men are excused for spreading their seed (a man's got to do what a man's got to do, or he'd go mad with frustration - or something along those lines), while women who lie with men who aren't their husbands are vilified.
Click here to read how the Creation myth was copied from an earlier Sumerian myth.
Painting of "The Fall of Man" by Rubens, whose women were realistically voluptuous, just as most early female fertility figures or goddesses were.
Photo of a female fertility figure, probably a goddess, seated between two leopards and giving birth, from Catal Huyuk, an Anatolian settlement, Turkey. c.7250-6700BCE