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Discrimination And Equality In Christianity, Judaism And Islam

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With the dawn of the 20th century, we saw numerous cultural and social issues occurring. These issues have continued to prevail, some have been left unanswered or unexplored and as a society we must take each one with the respect and care they deserve. Such issues include women’s rights, same-sex marriage, scientific exploration, evolution, the rise of atheism and the increasing number of diasporic communities. As religion continues to maintain a large number of adherents today, we are charged with looking at how the world religions address these issues. I have chosen to look at how the world religions view women’s rights. The world religions I will look at will be the Abrahamic religions; Christianity, Judaism and Islam.

Starting off with Judaism, the oldest of the religions I will be discussing, we see that the role of women is determined by the Hebrew bible, by customs, tradition and culture and also by the Oral Law of Judaism. Historically, the position and status of women in Judaism, is not nearly as low as modern people would assume. In traditional Judaism, women are seen as separate but equal to men. The obligations and responsibilities are different, but no less important. This equality is mirrored in their belief of God. God, in Judaism, is neither seen as male or masculine, but as having both masculine and feminine qualities. This is further explained with humans, as we are both created in the image of God. In terms of women’s rights within traditional Judaism, they were much greater than the norm of the day. Women had the right to buy, sell and own property. Rights that had alluded the rest of women at the time.

With the rise of feminism, we do however see that there were signs of institutionalized prejudice in Judaism. For example, in all Orthodox synagogues, men pray separately from women. This segregation is further exemplified with the roles that Jewish women have. For example, women are assumed to take on social duties such as wives and mothers and therefore are discouraged from pursuing higher education. Even though they are seen as just as important as male roles, they can be seen as rather reductionist and limited in scope. Having said this, there has been some movement towards a reformation of Jewish teaching which allows for all parts of Jewish life to be accessible to all men or women.

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When looking at Christianity and women’s rights, we see that women are subservient to men. The roles within the church are only for males, such as popes, priests, bishops and such. We also see throughout the biblical texts, that there is rampant sexism. This is confirmed with passages such as “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands” (Colossians 3:18; cf. 1 Peter 3:1 and Ephesians 5:22) as well as “Let your women keep silence in churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law.” (1 Corinthians 14:34, cf. 1 Corinthians 11:3-9 and 1 Timothy 2:11-12). It is these views which show a blatant disregard for the rights of women and are also mirrored in the practices of the religion as well. Women are seen as property to the husbands and must obey them. They are not able to have any autonomy over their lives and must submit to the dominion of their male partners. Much like Judaism, women are given the roles of wives and mothers. Both are seen as important within their respective religions, but Judaism holds these matriarchal roles as more important than their Christian counterparts.

As for the religion of Islam and its views towards women’s rights, we see a similar trend. The majority of Muslims believe that women should obey their husbands. However, within the Islamic teachings, men and women are moral equals in God’s view and are therefore expected to fulfill the same duties of worship. It could be argued that Islam generally improved the status of women compared to earlier Arabic cultures. Islam prohibits female infanticide and also recognizes women’s full autonomy as a person. Nevertheless, the status of women in modern Islam has conformed to prevailing patriarchal cultural norms. Therefore, improvement of the status of women has become a major issue in reformist Islam. Much like Christianity, we see signs of sexism across the religion, especially in terms of segregation between males and females. There is much to be done in terms of bridging those divides.

We see that the countries with the highest level of gender equality are also among the most secular places in the world. Countries such as Iceland, Norway, Finland, Sweden, New Zealand and Germany prove this, however is that true? Or is it just a coincidence. Does secularism and atheism lead to the improvement of women and women’s rights? The advent of secularism seems to go hand in hand with the rise of feminism as we see a number of feminists link their emancipation with secularization. With atheism there is no specific doctrine in which to fall back on and say God made it so. However, even without a religious doctrine or laws to be adhered too, there is still a gender gap. As an atheist myself I would say that the world is unfortunately and inherently patriarchal, regardless of the world religions that are prevalent. With this in mind, it could be argued that the religions of the world are not to blame for the inequality but are rather products of the societies which bore them. Since we have evolved as a species and become a connected world, we are able to see the wrongs and inequalities and address them.

In conclusion, as I previously mentioned, I am an atheist, yet I was born a Roman Catholic. I also consider myself to be a feminist and believe that everyone should be equal in all facets of life. I believe that religion is not necessarily to blame for the inequality that has been perpetrated but are more a product of the patriarchal societies at the time. All of the religions hold an importance towards women, but their views can stifle woman’s growth. With the growth of secularism, we are able to see that there is a movement towards equality, yet there is still a lot to be done and I do not feel that religion is to blame for it all. Perhaps as a society we are understanding the fundamentals of humanity, and that we should all be equal, and therefore we should look not to religion as a scapegoat for the way we are, but look to improve moving forward so we can live in a equal and balanced world.

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Discrimination And Equality In Christianity, Judaism And Islam. (2022, February 18). Edubirdie. Retrieved September 24, 2023, from
“Discrimination And Equality In Christianity, Judaism And Islam.” Edubirdie, 18 Feb. 2022,
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