Tag Archives: feminism

Revolutionary atheists vs Stockholm syndrome (John Gray)

Esteemed cosmologist, and my old friend, Andrew Jaffe just posted a quick retort on his blog to a long essay by philosopher John Gray. Gray has an objection to the strident challenging tone of modern atheist thought-leaders like Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins.
I am not the scientist Andrew Jaffe is, and I was hopeful that Gray’s essay was something endearing and woolly, a plea for magic in our contemplative moments. Some time ago I began having issues with my atheism, a matter of personal feeling about this great universe. I’m not sure even now if I am proud or sheepish about it, but it is what it is – I am a woolly atheist.
Gray’s objections alas are very different, and worrisome. Supposedly Gray is discussing why militant religion is in resurgence, but Gray – himself a self-professed atheist – really writes to vilify and blame, cheekily calling the New Atheists “missionary” and “evangelical,” and less cheekily comparing them to the pseudo-scientists who justified Nazi and Soviet genocides.
It took a while for me to understand: John Gray has Stockholm syndrome. He’s been living in a culture that has been deferential to the religious for a very long time, and he can’t see a way past that.
Modern atheists are revolutionaries, not missionaries, and this is their revolution: to insist that in the modern world — where we fly without feathered wings, talk across distances without magic crystals, kill far-away enemies without thunderbolts and stop epidemics without human sacrifices — religion must now justify the exalted place it demands in the making of public policy and education.  Continue reading

Fiction: Marrying into matriarchy (from The Demon in Business Class)

WordPress doesn’t let me tag non-blog posts (the links in the header row), so without occasionally posting excerpts from my book, its potential readers can’t find me by searching. Every so often I’ll post a short excerpt here on the blog. (Especially when my family is down with flu and I don’t have time to write an original post!)
In this excerpt, Walt is engaged to Missy, heiress to an ancient witch coven. He assumes theirs will be a marriage of equals, but her family has their own ideas…
What Walt had assumed would be a late lunch was a cup of black coffee at a cheap conference table and a stack of legal documents. At least Missy had fucked him beforehand.
Walt put down the draft pre-nup. “Half my estate is a lot,” he said calmly.
Across from him, Missy’s mother, Elder Juno McCauley Devereaux; Althee Johnson Brown of the coven; Regina McCauley Everett of the clan. No one explained it but it was obvious. Coven was the company, clan the people with preferred shares.
“In an escrow account,” Althee said. She was black with freckled skin, weight on her middle age, sharp yellow eyes like a falcon. “Once you have a daughter, it becomes hers in trust, managed by you and our financial people. It’s what you’d leave her in any case.”
“But I’d have use of the money in the meantime. And the daughter might not be my daughter.” He had read it three times to be sure. “Is this customary?”
Continue reading

Jesus’s wife and the weirdness of patriarchy

So Jesus might have been married.
Whoop-de-do. Son of a God who never picked a female prophet; who never chose a female disciple; who didn’t seem to think it a big deal to have his feet anointed by a woman’s hair — would have made a difference if he were married?
Maybe it would have. Maybe it did. Jesus was already challenging local religious authority, and materialism too. Maybe he was an activist for gender equality; in a religious tradition where only two sacred texts were named after women (and shy retiring ones at that — assassin Judith only got brought in by early Christians), he wouldn’t have had to go very far to be one.
I am neither historian nor religious scholar, but the Abrahamic religious traditions are so monolithically patriarchal that it beggars belief, save as the result of millennia of censorship so active and complete it would even impress North Koreans. Apocryphal gospels — ones not included in the Bible — make Mary Magdalene much more of a player; there is even a Gospel of Mary. In the canonical Gospels, Mary Magdalene is less important than the love interest in most action movies — and even then, Pope Gregory still went out of his way to label her a whore, six centuries after the fact.
Either women are completely useless in the realm of the spiritual — and, really, how likely is that? —  or they were made so by leaders threatened by their power. I don’t mean their feminine wiles either — I mean the inherent differences between the genders in matters of thought and spirit, which have their roots in biology but have their expression in life. These differences are still going on — as I wrote this I listened to yet another discussion on the “gender gap” in the Obama-Romney election. I’m not saying one is more right; I’m just saying, we need both.
The deep-seated patriarchy in modern Western spirituality needs serious attention. Even in these days of growing political and economic parity, women are still being shut out of the guidance of our minds and souls, to great and I believe disastrous effect. At the very least it leads to skewed priorities, as we see from Catholic authorities more concerned that nuns advocate against contraception instead of for the needy. The 9/11 hijackers were rigorously kept in a male-centered world; Mohammed Atta didn’t even want women at his funeral.
Maybe this curious piece of papyrus might light the way to a discussion of just what the women were doing in Jesus’s day, and what they might do for us now. Something needs to.