Religion is another facet of life that has been used through history to justify men’s supremacy over women. Some argue that this patriarchy is created from manipulating faith traditions (such as Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism and Islam) in favor of sexist religious leaders and wider societal trends of inequality. With this argument comes the assertion that there is nothing inherently patriarchal about religion and that these manipulations can be undone or at the very least ignored. Whether the religion itself or various leaders are to blame, is not particularly relevant to the issue today in my opinion. Whatever is to blame happened so long ago that it has become absorbed into key pieces of religious texts (such as the Bible) that are central to their respective traditions today.
It is impossible to practice these religions, such as Christianity, without their androcentric texts or by omitting sexist portions of text. Some Christian denominations are working to counteract this by showing these texts in a different light as well as opening leadership roles to women, including ordination. But some feminists argue that these attempts are futile, the patriarchal core of these religions cannot be remedied. Instead they argue, women must create new faith traditions that not only accommodate equality but empower women (Shaw & Lee, 682). This is most evident in the resurgence of Pagan faiths such as Wicca. Not only does Wicca value men and women equally, but the divine is largely represented in a feminine light as the Goddess or Earth Mother. This invites and empowers female followers to explore their own spiritual nature and divinity.
The patriarchy in many organized / world religions and the call of feminists to start anew would explain the high number of women compared to men engaged in New Age traditions. Women feel pressed to search for equality and empowerment, while men are served well by the traditional gender roles common in organized religion and are content to express their spirituality through traditional means. Women’s desire for equality and empowerment is instrumental in contemporary religious shifts like the emergence of New Age traditions and the re-emergence of Paganism. Based on the disproportionate ratio of men to women in these traditions, it is reasonable to assert that gender plays a central role in New Ager demographics.
Shaw, Susan & Janet Lee. “Religion and Spirituality in Women’s Lives” in Women’s Voices Feminist Visions: classic and contemporary readings, 4th ed. Edited by S. Shaw & J. Lee. New York: McGraw-Hill Companies Inc., 2009, pp. 669-682.