I was perusing Ophelia Benson's Facebook page last Saturday morning and ran across a post she put up Friday about the post on Dave Muscato's wall regarding Jaclyn Glenn's Youtube video slamming feminism and how she is disappointed - no, outraged - that AA is supporting Glenn's anti-feminism.
One of the comments (which I can't find to quote, dang it) made a comment about the negative consequences of believing in superstition. It rang a bell with me, so here we are!
There are numerous negative things religion brings to society which many religious folks either overlook or are brainwashed into thinking they are good, mainly because they believe it's good because they're told it is, but have never actually examined the issues to see what the reality is.
But today, we're going to look at a few things.
As I see it, there are at lease three major areas in which religion (believing in a superstition) brings negative consequences to society.
Of course, these aren't the only things at issue, but each of these are major, affecting broad areas of society. So, let's take them one at a time.
(This is going to be a long post, so I will post in installments. This is the first, the others will follow tomorrow and Monday.)
PatriarchyPatriarchy is defined as:
1. social organization marked by the supremacy of the father in the clan or family, the legal dependence of wives and children, and the reckoning of descent and inheritance in the male line; broadly : control by men of a disproportionately large share of powerThis sounds very clinical, and almost reasonable, doesn't it? But what are the consequences of these things?
2. a society or institution organized according to the principles or practices of patriarchy
In the modern context of our present day political scene, the relevant part of that is about the legal dependance of women and children, though we will see other consequences of it as well.
In today's western society, especially the US, the practice of patriarchy is at least partially based on religion. In the Republicans' "War on Women", it IS based on biblical strictures requiring men to be the head of the household, and women being denied the right to be "in charge of" men.
In other words, they are relegated to second class citizens.
Now, in the larger US society, in the last hundred or so years, we've managed to back some of that off. Women can now own property in their own names, vote, drive cars, work outside the home (and in fact, at jobs traditionally reserved for men), and can marry (or not) according to their own wishes.
But, I am going to back things up a bit and note some negative consequences of allowing the Fundies to begin denying women those rights, as they seem to want to do - which will highlight some ways in which we have failed to progress into a more modern way of thinking about women.
First of all, think about the term "dependance" in that definition above. Legal dependance, especially. What does that entail? Briefly, it means a woman (or a child) has no legal rights of her own. She has to have a male guardian who has the right to "care" for her, as a legal responsibility.
That has two consequences. The most obvious is that she has no rights of her own. He can pretty much force her to obey his every wish, and she has no legal recourse, unless he is neglecting her welfare. She is, in fact, virtually his property. In many countries, this is in fact, the case.
But wait, there's another side to it. HE is obligated to care for her. That means he is responsible, legally, to feed her, clothe her and provide her with shelter. This isn't something he has a choice in, it becomes his legal obligation, for which he is liable if he fails.
What if he can't? What if his resources aren't up to the task? Sure, he can neglect her to her detriment, but that leaves him vulnerable to accusations of neglect which may, if his society cares, cost him.
Either way, this kind of situation isn't exactly fair to either one. Worse for the lady, since she is the one losing rights, but if she is prevented by the social or legal rules to not be able to work, the whole family suffers. In fact, the entire society suffers.
This is actually the worst part of the patriarchal system. The entire society, from the individual, to the family, to the potential employer, to the city, State and the entire country, everybody suffers, both socially and economically. To stop half of the population from working is to cut your potential GDP in half, at the very least. Even if you only go halfway and allow women to work, but restrict them to certain jobs (and, equally, restrict men to certain jobs) you are still preventing people from working in their best way and potentially most skilled career. The potential of people working at their best level and in a skill that they are best suited for is huge, and the frustration (for both men and women) in being prevented from doing that is as huge as the potential. The cost of such false restrictions based on arbitrary and unnatural reasoning is perhaps not as bad as a complete ban on women working, but it is a non trivial figure.
Society suffers in other ways. Women are, actually, as smart as men, and as capable of doing anything men can, save perhaps (on average) some jobs or tasks requiring major body strength. (...and even there, some women exceed that standard and do quite well in those circumstances, as on the other hand, some guys fail!) In the US, after over a century of women working, there is plenty of evidence that many aspects of society are better off with the participation of women. Corporations find that women make better organizers, deal better with adversity and are better at mediating conflict. In politics, women (when allowed to work independently) are often better at compromise and negotiations than men.
As costs have risen in recent decades, women have been forced into the workplace, bringing in much needed resources and allowing single women to raise children alone under better economic conditions than once was allowed.
I could go on, but it is obvious from these examples (which are only a few examples of many) that were women forced back into the home, the economy of the US would take a hit that would guarantee our immediate slide into third world status. Poverty would become, instead of merely commonplace, rampant and virtually the norm. The middle class would be destroyed, and those in poverty would be devastated completely.
Notice that I haven't even touched on the health care aspects of women's rights, and the devastation the American family would suffer were women no longer allowed to control their reproductive rights. In fact, the proposed restrictions on contraceptives would be devastating to not only women, but to the entire country, as it would push us back into a time where women were not capable of stopping pregnancy. (This does, of course, include the prohibitions against abortion.) The social consequences of this would be to push many women out of the workforce, and reinstate the social pressures against allowing women to work, with the consequences noted in the previous paragraphs.
I haven't addressed the other side of the issue, which is the damage to men a patriarchal system can and does do.
This system not only imposes restrictions on women, but imposes strict (depending on the time period and the culture involved) roles for the two different genders. (Note here, the refusal of this system to even acknowledge the existence of the LGBT folks!) This framework of strict roles is restrictive and limiting for both men and women. Men may have a larger menu of choices, but they are no less prevented from crossing that line than women are.
Some women are great corporate managers. Some are great politicians. Some aren't. Many men just suck at those roles, and choose to do other things, including these days, staying home to take care of the kids. Numerous articles have been written by guys who have done this, and it is liberating for them to be able to do so. As it is liberating for women to be able to be corporate managers.
Some guys are fantastic secretaries, or office managers, or nurses. Men can be social workers, cooks, day care workers, pole dancers and strippers. And they can be good at it.
Patriarchy would prevent them from doing all this, as those are not "traditional" men's jobs.
Men are forced into a false and totally artificial image of "manhood", that is as false and artificial as the image of "womanhood" the ladies are forced into. This produces mental and psychological stress and often damage that hurts the individuals, their families and their friends - often their employers as well.
It also forces men into this culture of rape we all know so well, but I'll deal with that in the "sex" topic.
In short, patriarchy is not a system that is supportive of society, but is damaging and harmful to a society that hopes to progress into a modern, peaceful, and productive society which accords equal rights for all citizens.
In short, it is un-American, in accordance with the ideals declared by us in the Declaration of Independence.
Some of the last points I raised also apply in the next section.
Come back tomorrow for Part II!
Robert W. Ahrens
The Cybernetic Atheist