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Atheist feminism asserts the equality of men and women in a faithless society. It cites organized religion as a main source of female oppression, gender inequality, and overall suppression of sexual freedom and basic human rights. For atheist feminists, joining a faith is a submission to patriarchy and an acceptance of the anti-female actions condoned by the organized religions.


This group of feminists who renounce faith on a basis of gender inequality has appeared in numbers only recently. Annie Laurie Gaylor co-founded the largest organization for atheists and agnostics, The Freedom From Religion Foundation, in 1978. Her work with the foundation and her publishing on women and religion has inspired much of the organization of this sect of feminism.

Role of women in theology

Historically, organized religions have often claimed women to be the origin of evil either because of their innate weakness and naiveté or their tendency to adhere to darker beliefs. The ancient Greeks believed that the first mortal woman, Pandora, opened a forbidden jar and released the evils of mortals into the world. Christianity cites Eve as the harbinger of original sin and the cause for all human suffering because she allowed herself to be tempted by Satan.

This is used as reasoning for the necessity of female submission and a-sexuality in the Christian text. The Bible has also been used for evidence against abortion rights, women’s right to birth control, and the legalization of same-sex marriage while it has been used to promote colonialism (conquest in the name of god), heterosexism, and slavery.

Hinduism defines women as low in status and they are banned from contact with scriptures, Brahmins (the highest and most powerful in the social order), and deities. Buddhism charges sons to feel with a mother’s love, but ignores the presence of daughters and encourages the subjection of women to male domination. Jewish women are considered secondary to men and, while they have gained the ability to become rabbis, females practicing Judaism are subjected to patriarchal rule and are expected to follow the men in all regards.

They may not enter Synagogues while they are menstruating and anything they touch during this time is considered taboo and unholy. Islamic women were denied property rights and autonomy separate from their husbands under earlier interpretations of the religious laws. While reforms have re-interpreted Islamic law to better equate men and women, females are still considered to have an isolated place in the home. Atheist feminism recognizes the patriarchal influence found in organized religious systems and obvious slander against the female race.

Women and black magic

Recurring themes found in religion concerning women have often revolved around defining them as a source of evil or black magic. During the five hundred year Spanish Inquisition, thousands of women were burned at the stake by the Catholic regime under the conviction of witchcraft. Menstruation has often been described as taboo, unclean, and primitive in religious text while the ability to bear children is exalted or even envied. The Yin-Yang is a spiritual symbol meant to embody the balance of interposing forces. Yin, or female energy, is classified as fertile, dark, cold, wet, mysterious, secret; the negative principle in nature.

Role of women in religious rule

None of the major religions (Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Judaism) have a female as their main deity icon or their mortal personifications. In fact, women have often been denied an education because religions deem them unworthy or unnecessary. The ranks of religious rule are and have been dominated by men; therefore the modern interpretations of religion have always been determined by men, excluding the female perspective. For instance women are considered equals of men under Islamic law, but the interpretation of the Qur’an has kept Islamic women in submission for centuries.

Pro-feminist religion

Neopaganism, Wicca, worship of the goddess, and other forms of non-savior based spirituality have been associated with the modern feminist movement. For feminist atheists this is an irrational course of action to take after renouncing the patriarchal faiths. Conflict follows the creation of any organized religion because a faith cannot be structured all-inclusively and without hierarchy. By putting effort into reviving old religions that were inclusive to women or creating new female-based ones, women are detracting from progress. Atheist feminism renounces organized religion as a hindrance on the progress of human equality. Feminists who discard their faith as a product of patriarchal organizations can cite histories of oppression and the positions of religious institutions on modern issues of human rights as evidence of male bias. [1]


  1. Holm, Jean and John Bowker ed. Women in Religion. Continuum International Publishing Group, 2000.

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