Subject: Women and Religion

Religion’s Oppression of Women, Part 2: Christianity

The second part of my two lectures on religion’s oppression of women concerns Christianity.  I have focused on the persecution of witches in Europe in the 15th,16th and 17th centuries, finishing with the Salem, Massachusetts witch trials in 1692 and 1693. The topic of Christianity and its oppression of women is much too large and varied to discuss in an hour, so this lecture is centered on one of its most heinous phases, the social construction, and then the hunting down and execution of women deemed witches by their communities, and by the churches and governments of those communities. Before I discuss witch hysteria in Europe, I would like to glance at the importance and influence of Christianity on Western culture, because it has been a dominating force with regard to the shaping of our civilization.  We might consider the West to be secular in its governments and its societies, but we

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Religion’s Oppression of Women, Part 1: Islam and Hinduism

It is a truism that women have been and continue to be ill-treated and subjugated by religion.  As I began to delve into this area of research, I discovered that many contemporary studies on women and gender issues have focused more on cultural questions rather than strictly religious ones.  However, culture, religion and gender matters are frequently intermingled to such an extent that they merge into one single concern.  This blending is particularly evident in three issues which I have chosen to illustrate religion’s oppression of women.  All three subjects are excellent examples of the way religions and their influence on culture have had a deleterious effect not only on women’s legal standing and cultural position, but have helped lead to the physical and economic subjugation of women. In this first lecture, I shall discuss the role of women in Hindu India and in Islam vis-à-vis religious issues. In my

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