“When God Was a Woman”

Barnes and Nobles Company in New York published When God Was a Woman, a book written by Merlin Stone, in 1976. Merlin Stone, the author is a sculptor and professor of art and art history. She became interested in archaeology and ancient religions from her study of ancient art. She taught at the State University of New York at Buffalo. From 1958 to 1967, she worked as a sculptor, exhibiting widely and executing numerous commissions.

Stone states her thesis in the introduction. She postulates that a prehistoric matriarchy was destroyed by the patriarchal Indo-Europeans. She concludes that because of the clearly patriarchal outlook of the Hebrew Levites, finding it “ironic” that “Aryan Nazis” would have exterminated “equally Aryan Jews”, alleging misogyny or hatred of women and hatred of goddess worship. She also attempted to connect Hitler’s teachings to the ancient Hittites, member of an ancient Anatolian people whose empire based in Asia Minor during the second millennium largely because of the similarities of the names within Israelite society, which she connects to the later development of Christianity.

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The book is about archeologically documenting the story of the religion of the Goddess known by many names and dominates the Near East and the Middle East.  By documenting and changing the way the myth and religious dogmas, an alteration in the women’s role has taken place. She discovers that one of the culture’s greatest frauds has taken its roots during the ancient time- a conspiracy, laid in the Garden of Eden by Adam and Eve themselves.

Unfortunately, myths of ancient female dominance invariably highlight women’s failure as rulers and end with men assuming power. Anthropologists believe that these myths function as a rationalization of contemporary male dominance. Women may have greater political power in matrilineal societies than in other societies, but this does not imply matriarchy. The universality of male dominance is not, however, natural or biological, because the form of, and reasons given for, patriarchy differ in most cultures. Through studying the various ways that male dominance is organized and justified, anthropologists have concluded that it is culturally constructed.

The book explores legends, temple sites, statues, and rituals of female deities and clergy, and discovers that what the author has accepted from teachers about sun/moon gods and earth/heaven symbolism is wrong. Various cause-and-effect theories associating women’s status in society and the worship of female deities are offered alongside “reams of pseudo-poetic material”, claiming that the female’s ability to produce children so awes males that they worship women, but it appears that the critical element is “matrilineal descent of name and property” rather than matriarchy (“women in power”).

Several scholarly prophets suggest that home ownership in early societies makes males dependent on females and often produces polyandry (simultaneous marriage to multiple husbands). They suggest that this is an evolutionary stage for all societies. This theory has fallen out of fashion, but remains in existence in many parts of the world.

She suggests that when human beings first began to acknowledge a higher, creative power, that they recognized that power as belonging to the female principle. The first part of the book dedicates itself to the sketchy, distant archaic world that initiated the worship of the Goddess. In time, however, the male principle pushed aside and eventually crushed the worship of the female divinity, and replaced it with a Father God who was responsible for all creation. Now the Male Principle perceived as the ultimate creative force in the universe, somewhat of an obvious paradox, but one we have bought into for thousands of years. With the tools she develops through an understanding of the rise of Male dominion, she takes a fresh look at the story of Adam and Eve, and comes to some startling conclusions.

The role of gender within the biblical tradition and document and its continuing influence on subsequent life and thought clearly manifested in the author’s perception is very moving The book emphasizes historical methods as well as anthropological, archaeological to biblical characters, gendered imagery, and the history of biblical interpretation. The book based on thorough scholarship and can be read with pleasure by all serious readers.

Body of the Report

The relevance of the book to the men and women today has a social impact, which encompasses the interaction between them in the current state of society. It has served in way that it bridges how people think before towards women and that they should think again because the past keeps haunting the many negative notions about the women of today. The book’s social impact opens the eye of many religious fanatics who are misinformed and suppressed from their beliefs to embrace and accept the facts lay down by the author. Such belief, which has delayed the progress of the liberation of the women today, has been the greatest hindrance towards achieving the women’s struggle for equality. It impedes our social progress bringing us even farther from the reality that men has believed where they are suppose be but wronged for believing in the power they thought was theirs.

I am impressed on how effective the author is able to convey the information with such accurate evidence, which she has researched for several years. The book is significant to readers as it has an interesting sociological and gender role sensitivity. The book enlightens readers to think that there is more to say about the position of the women. Concepts like liberty, equality and political representation that are usually men’s territory should now be imparted to the women’s role towards society.

The facts in this book will give knowledge on the earliest development of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam and their response to the female religions and customs that happened before. In the book, the author archeologically documented the facts she has presented making her source very credible for those who need the information in their fields. Amazingly, the author has stunned many readers including me on how she spent many years for the research and how brave she was to publish it and the publisher to put the book into cover. The book will also help us understand how the response led to the political attitudes and historical events that occurred and played a major part in formulating the image of women today as these male-oriented religions were forming.

The first strong point from the book, which I believe to be remarkable, is how the author is able to present her case with sufficient evidence and used the Bible, written by men, as one of her source of perception. It said that the Bible is one of the most unread books in the world, yet has been a major force in the development of Western culture and continues to exert an enormous influence over many people’s lives. Take for example the effect it did towards society, it has developed and influenced many scholars and non-scholars to believe something they thought were not true. The Bible has freed their confusions and misunderstandings. It has inspired men and women to acts of great service and courage, to fight for liberation and human development.

On the other hand, the Jews were convinced that there had never been a Goddess and that God had always been male. This fact still holds true today because such conviction has favored men to become more politically and socially advantageous than women. According to the author, when a woman is powerful, a man feels threatened and I believe that this should not be the case because men should share the power equally with able women.

The second point which I find remarkable is the reality we all faces and could not hardly do anything about it because the truth really hurts. According to the author, when a woman is empowered as much as a man, whether it be in athletics, military, politics, etc. she is dubbed a witch, a harlot, a number of things simply because women are not treated as equals to men. This painful reality has been planted to us like seeds and had grown to the present day.

The last remarkable point from the book is the way it has brought about a new consciousness to religion worldwide and its way of reawakening the spirit of Women’s Liberation. The author reminds readers that women are not superior to men, but they are not inferior in any way either and that men and women are equal.

In the book, the author treats more on the issue of unfair preference or bias which until now continues to be widespread in the Western civilization. My interpretation on the author’s perception on the issues she discussed is profound effort of trying to help people clear away the confusions and misunderstanding that has plagued their minds for many centuries now. The author also is trying to change the way the misinformed society look history and the way they understand religion.

The book is consistent with the aims of the women’s movement today since the facts presented by the authors also aims to influence many academic disciplines, including anthropology, sociology, psychology, literary criticism, history, theology, and the sciences. The book’s aim is harmonious to the idea of the women’s movement on undertaking research, which draws attention, and putting the limelight to the neglected need of women. It developed ways on how to eliminate discrimination against women.

One of the Women’s Movement primary goals was to invalidate gender roles in the sense that women were secondary to men which I believe to be consistent with the book’s contents. The fact that gender roles exist is unquestionable.  I agree that women are portrayed as physically weaker, but that is because generally they are physically weaker.  It is not so much an evil conspiracy by “the man” but an observation of an obvious fact.  But definitely not an excuse for men to just leave us weak and powerless.

From a woman’s perspective, a struggle for liberation in the first place should not exist because during prehistory, women were given much importance; men adore them. Until another group of men destroyed such treatment, women now suffered the consequences, which mean that they need to fight for their rights first. The right that should be rightfully theirs and the men are not in the position to take that away from them. Men just looted the position from the women.

Conclusion

The book has succeeded in drawing public attention to inequality between women and men and to the structures within society that belittle and work against women. It has led to a reconsideration of women’s role. Moreover, it has identified and tackled the problem of who gets the power issue and that it should not be the men all the time. The book is consistent with the aim of the women’s movement because it has also succeeded in challenging perceptions of women’s skills, with the result that some women are entering nontraditional areas of female empowerment.

I feel that the author of this book, Merlin Stone, is trying to tell her readers, “Women should not bother about men putting their abilities down when we have evidence that during prehistoric times, men adore us. They even ask for advice from our very own brilliant minds”

I like the book because it is a total page-turner and a mind opener. It provokes an oppressed mind to keep fighting on and get what is rightfully a power they deserve right from the beginning of time. It was intelligently written supported by evidences she discovered. Although I did not want to read it, it was not as bad as I had expected, and I found it to be enjoyable and informative.

I like this book because it gives us women a sense of power and authority over men. We have the Bible and our history to back us up. I would recommend this book to anyone who likes to associate religion to archeology. This book is stunning, and most of all it is very informative. It will surely change your way of thinking towards how the role of women should be given with proper attention.

Works Cited

Stone, Merlin. When God Was a Woman. New York: Barnes and Nobles, 1976

 

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