Current feminist theory in validating women39s own
This entry considers the work of both critique and reconstruction as it has developed in feminist philosophies of religion over the last several decades.
In the present situation, most practitioners of feminist philosophy of religion and of feminist theology are agreed that their discipline cannot be limited simply to a sociological assessment or confessional narrative of what a particular religious group believes to be true, without consideration of the difference that gender makes.
In the wake of a worldwide wave of religious resurgence at the beginning of the twenty-first century, many feminists find Stanton’s reasoning still persuasive: the Word of God is the word of man, used to keep women in subjection and to hinder their emancipation.
For other feminists, especially those located within various communities of faith and resistance, gynocentric efforts to create a possible space for something “divine” hold considerable appeal.
Third, many feminist philosophers themselves have harbored either a suspicion of religion or an impoverished understanding of it, and so have been slow to develop a significant body of scholarship in this area.
Fourth, the entrenched bias and resistance to feminism within mainstream analytic philosophy of religion, combined with the myth that its methods, norms, and content are gender-neutral, has impeded recognition of the relevance of work appearing under the rubric of feminist philosophy of religion.
Philosophical reflection on religion is as old as Greek questions about Hebrew stories.
At the same time, it cannot presume that religion exists as some common universal underlying all the various traditions; only particular religions exist, and even the very concept of religion itself has come to be recognized as a modern and Western concept.
For a long time, philosophy of religion was written from a standpoint not unlike that of Reverend Thwackum, the character in Henry Fielding’s novel When I mention religion, I mean the Christian religion; and not only the Christian religion, but the Protestant religion; and not only the Protestant religion, but the Church of England. Undaunted by two such severe deficiencies—gender bias and ethnocentrism—the dominant Anglo-American analytic school of philosophy of religion proved surprisingly healthy in the last decades of the twentieth century.
Whereas at the mid-point of the twentieth century philosophy of religion was virtually defined by the assumptions and methods of logical positivism and empiricism, in subsequent years new and technically rigorous contributions by religiously committed philosophers began to enliven old theistic arguments.
Feminist theology, on the other hand, flourishes in an academic field that for over forty years has been hospitable to a variety of liberation theologies, death-of-god theologies, environmental theologies, postcolonialist theologies, and queer studies.
The maturing of feminist philosophy of religion as a field distinct from feminist theology was evident at the end of the twentieth century.
Nevertheless, gender constitutes perhaps the most fundamental factor creating human difference, and it remains among the most ignored philosophically.