Women's Roles in Religion

2734 words 11 pages
Women’s Roles in Religion

Contemporary women are faced with oppressive traditions that restrict their roles in world religions, but notable women are taking steps to promote a more egalitarian future.

Nick Maki

Historically, women have held prominent and influential roles in several religions, but women have been deprived of these roles as the majority of religions have become increasingly institutionalized. In this analysis, I will review women’s roles in Indigenous Religions, Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam to highlight how androcentric cultures have led to women’s diminished religious influence. I contend that women have been ostracized from religious hierarchies based on ancient cultural beliefs.
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I believe that this religious subjectivity has resulted in traditions that are based as much on prevailing cultural practices as on any specific religious texts. As such, Hinduism is open to a broad variety of interpretations that have generally been defined by the ruling, Brahman class. Nonetheless, Hindu women have begun to take progressive steps to overturn these misogynistic cultural traditions.
Perhaps one of the most influential of these contemporary female leaders is Sri Mata Amritanandamayi. She is an extremely popular guru who suggests that women must simply “wake up” and assert their roles in religion (M.P. Fisher 89). She further suggests that women have merely been conditioned to believe that they cannot overturn these outdated hierarchies. Amritanandamayi teaches that women and men can attain the state of universal motherhood which is a “love and compassion felt not only towards one’s own children, but towards all people, animals and plants, rocks and rivers—a love extended to all of nature, all beings” (M.P. Fisher 91). Therefore, she believes that women must simply awaken from centuries of conditioning in order to once again express their powers of the “Divine Mother.” (M.P. Fisher 91).
Buddhism is an institutionalized religion that is based on the “Four Noble Truths” (Eller). These truths state that all suffering is caused by human desire; by overcoming human desire it is possible to end all suffering and become enlightened (Eller). Unfortunately,


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