PHIL 293-01 Religion and Women WOST 240-01 Women and Religion

Course Description

This course will examine the position of women in the ancient goddess and earth-centered traditions, and neo-Paganism, as well as in the major religious traditions of the world (Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam). Historically and culturally, women have been relegated to the status of a dark, profane, and passive “other” in the domain of the religious. This religious alienation has profound implications not only for the spiritual lives of women but for the personal, social, political, and economic aspects of their existence as well. It also raises the question as to whether religion itself as a movement, institution, and cultural and spiritual category has been so compromised as to render it at best irrelevant for women in a post-modern world, or at worst, debilitating and destructive. The Western world in particular is in the midst of a massive paradigm shift in which the full humanity of women is beginning to be recognized and affirmed, albeit much too slowly and not uniformly throughout; nevertheless, this tectonic shift has begun and there is no turning back. This course will explore patriarchal and hierarchical patterns of domination as they are grounded in and legitimated by androcentric religious systems of meaning. We will also explore transformative alternatives that exist within the world’s religious traditions themselves in an effort to identify sources of empowerment, mutuality, and justice for both women and men, indeed, for the world itself. Throughout the course, it will be essential to understand the great diversity of women’s spiritualities arising out of their particular contexts, cultural, social, economic, and religious. We will be primarily concerned both with the description of women’s religions, and with the development of some theoretical models to help us understand the nature and functions of women’s religious beliefs and practices. We pay special attention to the interaction of religion and culture, and the ways in which religion helps form women’s roles in different societies. Issues raised will include the impact of the women’s movement and feminist thought on the religious life of women in particular contemporary societies, and the development of contemporary woman-oriented spiritual movements and religious practices.