Is Feminism a Religion?
Feminism and religion are not exactly natural allies. According to feminist author Kristin Aune (2011) compared to women generally, feminists were much less likely to identify with a world religion.
In a survey only one in ten confirmed holding to a belief system and more than half were atheist. At the time, generally 60% of women regarded themselves as belonging to a religion.
Yet feminism and religion have at least one thing in common; both are belief systems. The feminist believes that women are equal to men and seeks to fight for social, economic and political equality. But this is a belief that equality does, or should exist, and is not easily quantitatively provable in any empirical form. The feminist believes equality is morally correct but cannot prove it so.
Merriam-Webster gives one definition of religion as ‘a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held with ardor and faith’. While this is only one possible way to define the term, if accepted it does allow us to include feminism as religion as no major feminist writer of note fails to see feminisim in this manner.
Zwissler (2012) sees the relationship between feminism and religion as ‘multifaceted’ and believes it important to feminist political activism despite Aune’s note of the absence of traditional faith among feminists. Zissler isn’t alone in believing the two disciplines are compatible, but does that mean we can equate feminism with religion?
Perhaps, but the obvious difference between the two is religion’s belief in a spiritual dimension in the hereafter whereas feminism seeks to make a difference in the physical world, right now. This entails an entirely different mindset: religion focuses on the ‘next world’ and primarily seeks justice there; feminism aims to uproot injustice wherever it finds it.
Aune, K. (2011, March 29). Why feminists are less religious. The Guardian, retrieved September 8, 2015, from http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/belief/2011/mar/29/why-feminists-less-religious-survey
Zwissler, L. (2012). Feminism and Religion: Intersections between Western Activism, Theology and Theory. Religion Compass, 6: 354–368. doi: 10.1111/j.1749-8171.2012.00363.x
Religion. In Merrian-Webster. Retrieved September 8, 2015, from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/religion
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