Religious Hypocrisy: Romela E. Petrosyan

This is one of several honorable mention” essays in FFRF’s 2007 contest for college-bound high school seniors. Ms. Petrosyan received $100 for her essay.

By Romela E. Petrosyan

For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.–Galatians (3:27-28)

Regarded as the source of moral values, God’s word teaches its followers ideals that will ensure their freedom and equality. However, the holy texts, otherwise considered records of God’s message to humanity, misjudge and eventually inflict suffering upon groups that are mistreated and misunderstood. One such group is women, whose roles and worth are solely seen as inferior to those of men in the literary references of God’s remarks. The bible first introduces the guilt and duty of a woman in the book of Genesis, during the creation of Adam and Eve. Born from one of Adam’s ribs, Eve is initially regarded as “a helper fit for him,” thus, obtaining her secondary role in comparison to Adam (Genesis 2:18). Later in the book, she is tricked by the serpent’s subtle persuasion into transgressing God’s will by eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. As her punishment, God tells Eve, “I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee” (Genesis 3:16). Hence, with this single statement, women became slaves in the world dominated by the power of men. A female could no longer consider herself even a subordinate of a man, which had been Eve’s initial role.

As Christianity developed out of Judaism, the Apostle Paul later confirmed the authority of men when he was discussing whether females could teach. His response was that a woman could not teach or have authority over a man because of man’s priority in creation and Eve’s responsibility for the original transgression (1 Timothy 2:12-14). If one observes this reasoning logically, it would appear as nothing more than nonsense. Put bluntly, a woman’s degradation arises from the supposed mistake of a fictitious character, who is considered to be the product of God’s creation. However, a woman’s inferior role does not end in the experiences of Eve.

Hannah, wife of Elkanah from Ephraim’s tribe and the mother of the prophet Samuel, exemplifies the sole worth and purpose of women in the bible. Initially childless, she prays annually at Shiloh for a son, whom she vows to dedicate to the Lord. Eventually, God answers her prayer and she names her newborn child Samuel. When her child reaches the age of three, she dedicates him to the service of the Lord in the sanctuary. Hannah’s actions justify her struggle with her sense of self-worth because she is unable to conceive children.

Therefore, a woman’s value is determined by her ability to produce children. Regarded as baby factories, women are expected to do nothing more than procreate and follow their husbands and Christ. A woman is initially regarded as “unclean” because she menstruates, and the only way she can redeem herself is through childbirth. Carrying a male is preferable, since having a female brings forth new sins and makes her more “unclean.” Leviticus states the matter bluntly:

If a woman have conceived seed, and born a man child: then she shall be unclean seven days; according to the days of the separation for her infirmity shall she be unclean. . . . And she shall then continue in the blood of her purifying three and thirty days; . . . But if she bear a maid child, then she shall be unclean two weeks, as in her separation: and she shall continue in the blood of her purifying threescore and six days. (Leviticus 12: 2-5)

The result of a child’s sex is considered a woman’s responsibility, even though biologically the male parent determines the gender of an offspring. If the occupations of the women of the bible are considered, the majority would carry titles such as wife, servant, homemaker, and, most important, mother. These duties are the basic expectations that every female has to accomplish in her lifetime in a religious community.

Paul’s letter to the Ephesians states that, with marriage, women have to fall under the control and protection of their husbands: “[w]ives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body” (Ephesians 5:22-23).

Treated as mere property, which is transferred from the father to the husband, women are prevented from making their own choices. Independence and freedom are forbidden. A wife is not allowed to do anything without confronting her husband about the matter and receiving his approval. This is the main reason that, in most parts of the world, a man chooses to marry or divorce, and that abortion and birth control are considered against the religion.

Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law. And if they will learn anything, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church. (1 Corinthians 14:34-35)

With numerous abuses to the value of women, it is unavoidable to notice that the bible is hypocritical in its notions of male and female equality under God.

Apologists argue that the purpose of religion is to teach its followers a sense of virtue, honor, and belief. However, although the will of God benefits some people, it destroys the lives of others, especially women. Stripped from independence and equality, those who are degraded in the eyes of God are degraded in the eyes of society. This arises from the tendency of many followers of the bible to disseminate its fictitious stories into the real world, where they distort the lives of individuals in it. The female characters, whose duties are to care for their husbands, children, and homes, become ideal roles for many women in the world. Following God’s word, these women lose their sense of self-identity once they become slaves under the dominance of males.

Works Cited

Ridolfi, Brian. “What Does the Bible Say About . . .”: The Ultimate Bible Answer Book. New York: AMG Publishers, 2005.

“Born in the capital of Armenia, Yerevan on October 21st, 1989, I immigrated to Moscow with my parents at the age of two. After the break up of the Soviet Union, my family was subjected to racial discrimination by many Russian citizens and, eventually, the nationalist group, Skinheads. To escape the racial bigotry of the nation, I was enrolled in a private, multicultural school with a focus on native language studies, and became fluent in Armenian. Soon, I was isolated from the rest of society, which made school and family the only getaways where I held the freedom to pursue my love of science.

My desire to achieve a career in medicine was not enough to change the conservative nature of Russia and I was forced to accept the fact that college was beyond my reach. Despite this, I held onto hope of my recovery from this situation and was given permission to immigrate to the United States in 2002. Then 13, I did not know a single word of English and began studying the language from the alphabet. With time, I found new friends, engaged in activities such as reading, art, dance, and Science Bowl, became the top of my class, and got accepted into one of the top universities in California. I was a senior at William Howard Taft High School and entered as a biological sciences major at the University of California-Irvine last fall.”

Freedom From Religion Foundation