Academic journal article The Journal of Psychohistory

Religious Fundamentalism and Its Impact on the Female Gender

Academic journal article The Journal of Psychohistory

Religious Fundamentalism and Its Impact on the Female Gender

Article excerpt

Whether the mother is depressed and withdrawn or dominating and angry, the extremely vulnerable baby and young child fears being killed or abandoned by her, and this fear of imminent death is embedded in the brain in a dissociated alter in its right hemisphere, where it is unavailable for conection as the child grows up.'Psychoanalysts have begun to address the fact that many of their patients continue to fear and defend against early death dealing Killer Mother alters that remain in a cut-off dissociated state in their psyches. Joseph Rheingold, a psychiatrist writing in the 1960's emphasized the child's terror of being violently killed by his or her mother who wished him or her dead and shows that the child, therefore, concludes that it must be because he or she is bad and that "by dying the child appeases the mother and hopes to gain her affection."2 Rheingold sees this not only as a source of suicide and other destructive behavior but as the ultimate source of religion in rebirth fantasies such as the Christian and Islamic wish to die and be merged with God/ Allah, shouting "Allahu Akbar," God is Great, "the Killer Mother is great", where, "mother's love is the prize of death."3

THE TRANSITION FROM GODDESS WORSHIP TO GOD WORSHIP

Riane Eisler describes in her book, The Chalice and The Blade, how Goddess worship in prehistoric times was transformed into God worship.4 She described the destruction of sexually and socially egalitarian societies which were Goddess oriented to dominator and God oriented societies. The new male rulers consolidated their power by stripping women of their decisionmaking powers. At the same time, priestesses would have to be stripped of spiritual authority, and patriliny would have to replace matriliny even among the conquered peoples-as it in fact did, in old Europe, in Anatolia, in Mesopotamia, and in Canaan, where women were now increasingly viewed as male-controlled technologies of production and reproduction rather than independent, leading members of the community.5

As is characteristic of dominator societies, technologies of destruction were now given highest priority. Not only were the strongest and most brutal men highly honored and rewarded for their technical prowess, in conquering and pillaging; material resources were also now increasingly channeled into evermore sophisticated and lethal weaponry.6 "Precious stones, pearls, emeralds, and rubies, were embedded in the hilts of shields and swords. And though the chains with which conquerors dragged their prisoners behind them were still made of base metals, even the chariots of these more cultivated warlords, kings, and emperors were fashioned by silver and gold."7

However, force could not be constantly used to exact obedience. It had to be established that the old powers that ruled the universe had been replaced by newer and more powerful deities in whose hands patriarchal power was now supreme. "And to this end one thing above all had to be accomplished: not only her earthly representative - woman - but the Goddess herself had to be pulled down from her exalted place."8

The Goddess was given subordinate status of a more powerful male God. On the other hand, she was transformed into a martial deity. For example, in Canaan, we find the blood thirsty Ishtar, both revered and feared as a goddess of war. Similarly, in Anatolia, the Goddess was also transformed into a martial deity a feature which, E.O. James notes, is entirely absent in earlier texts.9

At the same time, many of the functions formerly associated with female deities were reassigned to gods. For example, as the cultural anthropologist Ruby Rohrlich-Leavitt points out, "when the patron of the scribes changed from a goddess to a god, only male scribes were employed in the temples and palaces, and history began to be written from an androcentric perspective."10

But though Canaan, like Mesopotamia, had already for some time been moving toward a dominator society, there is no question that the invasions of the thirteen Hebrew tribes not only accelerated, but also radicalized, this process of social and ideological transformation. …

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