Most religious sects these day ban women from their clergy. This is generally the case in conservative or traditional churches: Roman Catholic, the various Christian Orthodox sects, conservative Protestant denominations, just about every kind of Islam, and orthodox Judaism (although a few female rabbis have even emerged in the latter).
If you see a female protestant minister in 2015, she will most likely be serving a liberal congregation such as an Episcopalian church, or the Collegiate Churches here in New York. Because when a woman tries to minster to a conservative sect such as Southern Baptist, even if she has the backing of her flock, well, something like this happens as per Raw Story:
The Greater Tabernacle Church will lose membership with their local Baptist Association because the pastor of the church is female. The association voted overwhelmingly to show “no tolerance” for women church leaders…
By getting kicked out of the Southern Baptist Convention, the Greater Tabernacle Church will therefore be dissolved, its property yanked, and its flock left without their church. All because these people could not countenance a female as a member of the clergy.
Much of the Abrahamic religious force has been violently misogynist from the Dark Ages onward, and plays a major role in the rendering of women as anywhere from second-class citizens to outright chattel, not only in the church but throughout society. But religion was not always like this, as a glance through this wikipedia page makes clear. The idea that holiness is strictly a male business would have been quite alien to ancient Greece, Egypt and India.
It also arguably would have been alien to Jesus.
As usual, the misogynists who destroyed the Greater Tabernacle Church cited God as their excuse. “[I]t’s not anything we decided on our own, we take God for his word,” one of them, Mark Kemper, said. But the problem is that, as with most issues, the Bible is self-contradictory and hard to pin down. People just cite the verses they like and ignore the rest.
What Kemper probably referred to was 1 Timothy 2:11-12, which says*, “Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.”
That line is so crystal clear, I’m surprised it hasn’t been co-opted by MRAs and PUAs. But, that also is hardly the final word. Scripture had many, many different authors with many competing agendas, from many different times and places. And 1 Timothy has traditionally been ascribed to Paul who, how shall I put this, had a view of women that puts his namesake Paul Elam to shame. Here are a few counterpoints.
Galatians 3:28: “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.” But what would He know?
Luke 2:36-38: “And there was one Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Aser: she was of a great age, and had lived with an husband seven years from her virginity; 37 And she was a widow of about fourscore and four years, which departed not from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day. 38 And she coming in that instant gave thanks likewise unto the Lord, and spake of him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem.” Obviously, Southern Baptists should demand this passage stricken from their Bibles!
Romans 16:1-2: “I commend unto you Phebe our sister, which is a servant of the church which is at Cenchrea: 2 That ye receive her in the Lord, as becometh saints, and that ye assist her in whatsoever business she hath need of you: for she hath been a succourer of many, and of myself also.” The fact that this comes from no less a misogynist than Paul makes this passage even more remarkable. He continues to greet other female as well as male religious leaders in this chapter.
Or to go to the beginning, how about Genesis 1:27: “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.” This passage both precedes and contradicts the more familiar Adam & Eve story, which is the narrative preferred by misogynists and conservatives.
Because it’s always been the case that religious people pick and choose the parts and interpretations of their religion that they want to believe in, and a certain type of person is determined to keep women as second-class citizens forever. So they highlight that 1 Timothy line and ignore any contradictory verses. And when challenged, they always just wave their hands and say “God.”
But the misogyny came first. The Scripture came later.
Atheist MRAs and PUAs are no less bitter woman-haters than Mark Kemper up there, but the difference is that they don’t have God to hide behind. Therefore, they have to give us the real reasons why they hate women, which makes them useful indeed. Because a glimpse into the mind of an atheist woman-hater is equally a glimpse into the mind of an evangelical or Islamic woman-hater, for these people are awfully similar to one another. Keeping women bundled up in unrevealing clothes; relegating her to the home; stripping her of any authority; endlessly repeating the superiority of male sexuality; fearing and, if possible, outright destroying female sexuality. For following differing holy books, or none at all, it’s interesting how these men all end up at the same conclusions.
I don’t profess an opinion on religion overall. But if you believe in a God that speaks only to men, then maybe that says something more about yourself than it does God.