Social progress can be measured by the social position of the female sex. —Karl Marx
Religion is bad for society. At least, that’s the correlation one finds when comparing the level of sexual oppression to the amount of control a religion, any of them, has on government. Where there is over-abundant religious control there is no sexual freedom and where there is no sexual freedom society, as a whole, takes a giant step backwards.
A lot of people have control issues, and a lot of those people try to hide their control issues by encoding them in a set of rules. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that major religions, which have more rules than any other organizations, might be full of control freaks. What’s especially bad about that, though, is in their attempt to maintain control, they are inhibiting the grown and progress of the societies of which they are a part.
I’m not going to bother linking to any of the three different stories I saw yesterday regarding some pastor or church leader being caught in a sex sting (two with underage children). At this point, we’ve seen those headline so many times I’m rather surprised that confidence in the clergy is holding together at all. While I know many pastors are genuinely good people, we are seeing headlines such as these almost every day now. For me, that’s a little unsettling and I question why it’s not that way for more people.
Then, there was this article in Sunday’s Daily Beast describing how Muslim women are mistreated if they dare show their hair. Specifically, there has been a crackdown on Instagram models from Iran who posted pictures with their hair uncovered. As repressive as Christianity can be, Islam can be even worse and the consequences can be severe, all as a means of control.
Hindu women are not much better off as 85% identify with a caste system in which women are not only subject to beating and abuse by the male members of the family, but are restricted by the constructs of the caste system with rules seeking better opportunities for themselves. Women are taught at an early age to not ask questions, to not expect better, and to obey their husbands.
While sexual oppression is common across all three of the world’s major religions, we have to realize that sexuality isn’t the problem. The problem is a desire for abject control and sexuality is the tool religions use for exerting that control. They tell you when sex is right (within very strict guidelines established by the church for the specific purpose of retaining its dominance) and when sex is wrong (which is anything the religious leaders can’t control). They define who can and who can’t have sex and then enforce those rules with laws that are cruel and often violent.
But the rules and laws against sexuality have nothing to do with devotion to a deity or set of deities. Sexual oppression, just like rape, is about control and patriarchal religions are not anxious to give that up, even when they know what they’re doing is wrong. Male theocrats across all three religions are the loudest voices in opposition of sexual openness and liberations. You can see it in the likes of Texas Senator and former presidential candidate Ted Cruz. You can see it in the election of Ahmad Jannati to Iran’s Assembly of Experts. You can see it in just how close far right-wing candidate Norbert Hofer came to winning Austria’s presidential elections this week. You can see it in the political actions of India’s ultra-conservative Prime Minister Narendra Modi. All are looking for religious control and all are, to one degree or another, using sexual oppression as a means of getting it.
Increasingly, sexual freedom has become a sort of litmus test for whether a society is open and progressive or closed and regressive. To the extent that the most conservative elements of any religion have any voice or say in a government, the more closed and restrictive that society is likely to be and open displays of sexuality are punished. The more secular a government, the more open and sexually liberated is the society likely to be, which also correlates in social progressiveness in other areas.
This leaves us with the logical conclusion that religion, in its desire for complete control, is against any form of progress that might allow people, women especially, to be in control of their own bodies, their own thoughts, and their own actions. If we are to move forward, we must take more of a hard line against religion in government. Interestingly enough, the very first amendment of the United States Constitution addresses that need.
So, how does sexuality relate to a progressive society? Because where we are open to exploring the advancement of sexuality, we are also open to exploring the advancement of other things, such as food, art and creativity, literature, human development, intellectual disabilities, and a host of other areas. Our attitudes toward sexuality impact almost every other aspect of our lives. Progress does not come in just one area on its own, but as awareness and openness in one dimension of our lives impacts others and pushes us toward the improvement of those conditions. Interestingly enough, though, progress in all those areas comes without acknowledgement of or any connection to religion. Religious control in such fields as the arts and sciences would be limiting at best and destructive at its worst.
I know religious moderates will object to such a strong anti-religion stance. “Not all religions are dominating and controlling,” they will say. To some extent they are correct. More moderate to liberal theologies are open to multiple views of sexuality. However, none of those religions are attempting to control the conduct of entire countries, either. Moderate religions don’t even dominate religion. Those on the far right end of the religious spectrum are the ones with the control issues, and, much to the detriment of everyone else, we’ve allowed them to have increasing amounts of control to the point they use that power to deny us the most basic of freedoms.
Note: we’re not picking on any one religion here. Christianity, Islam, and Hinduism are all equally guilty. Together, they are attempting to hold back the progress of two-thirds of the world’s population and they are doing so by attempting to control matters of sexuality.
The struggle against religious control is not one of just LGBT rights, or feminism, or reproductive rights, or anything else affected by the control religions attempt to exert over society. The struggle against religious control is a fight for humanity, a fight for progress, and a fight for reason. We should be alarmed. We should be vocal. And as much as anything, we should support sexual freedom and exploration in every culture and civilization around the world.