Hitchens on the conundrum of female religiosity

August 25, 2009 | 34 comments
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From his book review of Elizabeth Edwards’ new memoir, in this month’s Atlantic:

In describing the dreams and superstitions and fantasies that assailed her when she lost her boy, she confirms something that I have long thought to be true about the apparent conundrum of female religiosity: Why is it women who keep up the congregations in male-dominated places of worship? That’s easy: women do all the childbearing, and they will try anything—anything—to ward off the illness or death of an infant. They will also grieve over and commemorate such a catastrophe long after the menfolk have “moved on.” Elizabeth manages to get a slight laugh out of a sad parishioner at her North Carolina church who says that his unending misery is like the movie Groundhog Day (“I think he must have left before the end of the film”), and she ends up with a sort of deistic compromise whereby she doesn’t demand the right to have an explanation from God but doesn’t believe he intervenes, either. Like a surprising number of people, she fails to see any contradiction in the idea that God “gave” her “free will.” When she goes to texts for illumination, she is more likely to quote Ovid than the Gospels. From the Old Testament she prefers the Book of Job, and no wonder.

(emphasis added)

Women’s religiosity — it’s because women care most about the kids, says Hitch, and those Mother Bear instincts make them more willing to bet on Pascal’s Wager. It’s an interesting theory; I don’t think it adequately explains why religious organizations are so male-dominated to begin with, or why the Mother Bears wouldn’t begin to take their religious business elsewhere if and when competing, more egalitarian options became available (or why the market wouldn’t provide more such options).

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34 Responses to Hitchens on the conundrum of female religiosity

  1. Matt Elggren on August 25, 2009 at 1:02 pm

    Thanks, Kaimi. A little observation from hand — I don’t think it’s just because mothers care about the kids but that they care how the kids are connected to the extended family and community. And males may dominate because this is a way for females to keep males involved and committed. I know how this sounds but it still “feels” true to me.

  2. J. Stapley on August 25, 2009 at 1:17 pm

    Reasons for the divide are still debated, and I am not inclined to take Hitchens’ shoot from the hip sociology as even interesting until there is some research to back it up. A couple of relevent pieces:

    Michael P. Carroll, “Give Me that Ol’ Time Hormonal Religion,” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 43 (June 2004): 275–78.

    Rodney Stark, “Physiology and Faith: Addressing the ‘Universal’ Gender Difference in Religious Commitment,” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 41 (September 2002): 495–507.

  3. reese on August 25, 2009 at 1:22 pm

    I’d love to contribute to this conversation, but I see the name Hitchens and my eyes immediately go crossed.

    But seriously, his logic just doesn’t track to me. If that was the motivation, and a virulent anti-religionist like him couldn’t seem to be able to comprehend any other sensible motivation, why wouldn’t women stop practicing their faith altogether when a child dies? Why wouldn’t those Mama Bear instincts create an unresolvable enmity between her and God?

  4. Dave on August 25, 2009 at 1:24 pm

    Here’s the abstract of the Stark article, which likens male irreligiousness to crime and posits a physiological basis for gender differences in participation:

    That men are less religious than women is a generalization that holds around the world and across the centuries. However, there has been virtually no study of this phenomenon because it has seemed so obvious that it is the result of differential sex role socialization. Unfortunately, actual attempts to isolate socialization effects on gender differences in religiousness have failed, as have far more frequent and careful efforts to explain gender differences in crime. There is a growing body of plausible evidence in support of physiological bases for gender differences in crime. Making the assumption that, like crime, irreligiousness is an aspect of a general syndrome of short–sighted, risky behaviors leads to the conclusion that male irreligiousness may also have a physiological basis. If nothing else, this article may prompt creative efforts to salvage the socialization explanation.

  5. Bill on August 25, 2009 at 2:02 pm

    “Making the assumption that, like crime, irreligiousness is an aspect of a general syndrome of short–sighted, risky behaviors”

    That’s quite an assumption!

  6. TMD on August 25, 2009 at 2:19 pm

    Dave’s serial polygamy link has a good answer for the question of why women don’t prefer more egalitarian options. Though written from an RC standpoint, I think the central argument holds true for the LDS: the faith and doctrine are a tightly woven together, and to pick at one is to undo many. Once you give up the authority of scripture on one point, you give up the authority of scripture on most issues, if not all, leaving one with a vague sense of spirituality rather than the rock of real faith.

  7. Bridget Jack Meyers on August 25, 2009 at 3:13 pm

    I really don’t think the Hitchens article even begins to posit why women are so willing to tolerate male-dominated religion. Why women are more likely to be religious, possibly, but not why they don’t mind supporting religions that subordinate them. (I think his reasoning for why women are more religious is poor as well, but I’m not going to discuss it right now.)

    The throngs of women who have told me they don’t mind supporting a male-dominated religion have long baffled me. I have a theory rolling around in my big empty head which I call the “incumbent religion” theory. From my observation, in general, when people encounter problems with their religion, they are more likely to seek ways of salvaging and accepting the religion they’re already practicing rather than seeking to reform it or throwing it out. It’s easier to find some way of accepting the status quo than it is to change it or abandon it. Therefore, when women realize that the religion they’re already practicing subordinates them, they start seeking ways of being okay with it: it’s God’s design, women have different but equal roles, it’s not that big of a deal, or whatever. Precious few of us actually reach the point of deciding that these systems are not acceptable, and even fewer of us take steps to do something about it, either by leaving our old religion or actively seeking to reform it.

    I’ve gotten a lot more active in discussing the egalitarian-complementarian controversy in the evangelical community in this last year and there are some interesting trends I’ve observed. I’ve met dozens and dozens of women who have come out of male headship churches to embrace egalitarianism, and I’ve met a few complementarian women who started out complementarian, honestly studied out the egalitarian arguments and decided to remain complementarian. But I have never met a woman who started out egalitarian and switched to complementarianism. I’m not saying they don’t exist, but they’re a sliver of a minority wherever they are. I think hard complementarian evangelical leaders such as Wayne Grudem and John Piper know this, and that’s why they’ve worked so hard to censor the egalitarian movement. The genie won’t go back in the bottle once it’s out, and they know it. Once you’ve frolicked in the fields of egalitaria, you don’t look back.

    So why are women so willing to put up with male headship churches in spite of being more religious than men? Because that’s their incumbent religion. Those are the churches they grew up in, or the churches they initially converted to, and they would rather find ways of being okay with it than change it. The incumbent is very hard to unseat.

  8. Sgarff on August 25, 2009 at 5:31 pm

    Hitchens’ explanation cannot account for the fact that religiosity among single females is even higher in proportion to their single male counterparts than it is among married persons and people with children.

  9. TMD on August 25, 2009 at 6:16 pm

    Bridget,

    I’m not at all sure that your arguments have legs outside of low-church American protestantism. Counter examples are evident in the not inconsiderable numbers of Anglicans who left the COE when it ordained women and went into the Catholic Church, and similarly, the movement of the believing remnant out of the episcopal church (USA) and into other provinces or a prospective new province in the US (notably, some of the bishops leading the drive for a new province lead diocese which have never ordained women, even prior to secession from ECUSA; and at the parish level there is, from what my friends tell me, no difference in the percent of men and women leaving). I think a lot has to do with authority claims. A casual reckoning suggests to me that women have traditionally only led in churches and congregations without strong authority claims–they are “groups of believers” with pastors and “leaders” rather than holders of a magisterum or very strong priesthood claims. Arguments over egalitarianism look very different when there are no authority claims than when there are strong authority claims (LDS, Roman Catholicism, Orthodoxy). In these cases, a more sustained assault on traditional sources of theology is necessary to make a claim for female leadership, and being that there will be many women who reject the wider attack regardless of its egalitarianism.

  10. Bridget Jack Meyers on August 25, 2009 at 7:02 pm

    #9 TMD ~ In the cases you cite (Anglicans and Episcopalians), you aren’t talking about women who abandoned egalitarianism in favor of a male headship system; you’re talking about women who were living under a male headship system and opted to stay within a male headship system, thus requiring them to abandon their denominations which had gone egalitarian. Besides that, I think there were other factors which had a strong effect on the exodus from the Anglican & Episcopalian traditions—theological liberalism and ordination of homosexuals, for example.

    I very much agree with you that it is related to authority though. Even in Protestant low-church traditions, while there are plenty of women serving as deacons, elders and directing ministries under a local pastor, there are very few women serving as pastors and especially few women serving as senior pastors. People have a hard time seeing women as authority figures even at a low-church level, so it’s not a huge surprise that none of the big “authority” churches has dropped its male headship system yet. Perhaps the women in those systems put up with it in part because they can’t accept themselves as figures of authority.

  11. TMD on August 25, 2009 at 7:11 pm

    Bridget, it may be true that in some cases that’s so, but in the cases of women currently exiting the ECUSA, they are moving from church contexts that had women priests to church contexts that, presently, do not.

    In the authority churches more generally, though, egalitarianism is inseparable from theological “liberalism”, however. In these churches, its not just a question of women accepting themselves as authority figures (as it may be, I agree, in the low churches), it’s a question of pulling on the threads of traditional theology more generally.

  12. Naismith on August 25, 2009 at 7:52 pm

    And males may dominate because this is a way for females to keep males involved and committed.

    Pretty much, that’s how I tend to look at it. In our church, behind every man who serves as a bishop, high councilor, stake president, etc. there is a woman who was asked if he could serve thusly, and is told that he serves at her pleasure and he will be released if she so asks. At least, that has been my experience. And so who is really “dominant”?

    Therefore, when women realize that the religion they’re already practicing subordinates them,

    That may be. I wouldn’t know. I’m a woman in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and I am not subordinated by my faith. Rather, I am completed and strengthened by my church.

    And it’s not that this is all I know, and am comfortable with. I am an Army veteran, and have a graduate degree from a non-LDS university. Our LDS system works better, in my opinion.

    Please stop trying to save me. I really am not stupid.

  13. Bridget Jack Meyers on August 25, 2009 at 8:29 pm

    #12 Naismith ~ You really have a chip on your shoulder for this subject, don’t you?

    I recognize that many women (such as yourself) have come to their positions of accepting male headship thoughtfully, prayerfully and with much critical thinking. I have never said, thought or implied that you are stupid. Thinking you are wrong ? thinking you are stupid.

    Besides, this thread isn’t just about Mormonism, it’s about male-dominated religion in general. If you really don’t believe Mormonism is a male-dominated religion which subordinates women, then I guess we’re not talking about you. Do you believe male-dominated religion exists? If so, feel free to chime in on what you think does drive women to participate in those religions anytime.

  14. Bridget Jack Meyers on August 25, 2009 at 8:31 pm

    the ? in my second paragraph should be a =/= sign. The T&S commenting system apparently hates special characters.

  15. George on August 26, 2009 at 10:31 am

    [B]ehind every man who serves as a bishop, high councilor, stake president, etc. there is a woman who was asked if he could serve thusly, and is told that he serves at her pleasure and he will be released if she so asks. – Naismith #12

    That’s a pretty broad statement to say that every woman has been told this. I know of a certainty that the times I was asked to serve in a branch presidency, bishopric, district presidency, and district high council that my wife was never told any such thing. The only thing that was asked was “can you support your husband in this calling?” When my father was called as bishop (in the 80s) he came home and announced the calling to the family, my mother included; she had no say in the matter. I can tell you of women who expressed concerns about their husbands callings (but never felt comfortable actually saying they don’t support the calling) only to see their husbands called. And I know of one woman who did have the courage to say she couldn’t support the calling, but yet her husband was still called as well.

    Just because you don’t feel subordinated doesn’t mean that you aren’t. It just means that you don’t feel that way. If the feelings of the subordinated were all that mattered we’d allow sweatshops to be legal in the US because the disadvantaged who work in them are simply happy to have jobs, no matter the work conditions.

  16. BobW on August 26, 2009 at 12:08 pm

    There are so many hooks in our unconscious mind. Some of these hooks allow us to exist in a society. One such hook is the fact that being taller gets more respect. (More management positions, more pay, etc.) Men are taller, in general, and will just get more respect and be more in command just for that fact alone, for example.

    I believe male dominated religion uses many of these hooks to maintain control. Just like polygamous men use other hooks to make their behavior acceptable, even desirable, to some women.

    When using the hooks in the unconscious mind, the person doing the hooking and the person being hooked feel quite natural because these are completely natural outcomes of the way we are set up.

  17. Dave on August 26, 2009 at 1:06 pm

    It’s not like Hitchens is the last word on the gender gap. Researchers and commentators have been mulling this over for years.

    It’s also worth pointing out how undefined is the term “male-dominated.” Granted, the local leadership of wards and stakes are men, but the positions are unpaid and require ten or twenty hours of time per week. What’s the payoff? What’s the gain (under this model) to the men? It’s a strange way for the supposed dominators to reward themselves.

    Furthermore, the evolution of Mormon doctrine and practice over the last generation or two has increasingly taken female interests into account. Women give prayers, speak at Conference, are described as “equal partners” in marriage, and are now ritually praised as models of all that is morally good; men are habitually flogged for being unmotivated, underperforming, and only one tempting click away from moral degradation. In many respects, we’ve become a female-dominated church. I’m not saying much of the change isn’t for the better, but before reflexively labelling the Church as “male-dominated,” these difficulties with that view of things need to be addressed.

  18. Bridget Jack Meyers on August 26, 2009 at 4:48 pm

    #17 Dave ~ It’s good to see you again.

    I don’t know what Kaimi had in mind in his OP, but personally I would define “male-dominated religion” as any religion which restricts women from holding the top leadership positions on local, national and/or international levels. If we’re discussing Christian religious traditions, then Roman Catholics, Orthodox, Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and complementarian Protestants all qualify.

    I can’t speak for Kaimi, but I have personally avoided mentioning the LDS church specifically because I did not want this to become yet another discussion of the merits and failings of the current LDS gender system. I think most people know how I feel on the matter and I would rather discuss the larger issue of why women are okay with such systems, be they one of the Christian traditions I listed or another religion like Islam.

    What’s the payoff? What’s the gain (under this model) to the men?

    Control. You don’t have to get paid in order for control to be valuable.

  19. Naismith on August 27, 2009 at 12:08 pm

    Besides, this thread isn’t just about Mormonism, it’s about male-dominated religion in general.

    Trying to have a discussion about other religions in general in a Mormon forum and insisting it not be about the LDS faith is a bit like going into the NAACP and insisting that the discussion NOT be about race, don’t you think? I assume that the reason it was posted HERE was to discuss the implications in an LDS setting.

    That’s a pretty broad statement to say that every woman has been told this. I know of a certainty that the times I was asked to serve in a branch presidency, bishopric, district presidency, and district high council that my wife was never told any such thing.

    Wow, good point. And if I was your wife, I would have a different outlook, certainly. I thought it was widespread practice because I talked to women whose husbands served in other states, and they reported the same thing. Not only was this said at the time of calling, but the bishop’s wives and high council wives have to see the stake president personally for their temple recommends, so that he can follow-up and ask how things are going, and if the impact on the family is too negative, etc.

    You don’t have to get paid in order for control to be valuable.

    But this assumes that people WANT the control. And in that sense, our LDS experience *is* very different from other faiths. Our leaders don’t choose to go into the ministry; it chooses us. When my husband was called as bishop, he argued that it was not his thing, he was the clerk type. Let him be a clerk, and he would be great at it. The stake president said he felt the same way, but if he was stuck being stake president, then my husband had to bite the bullet and serve as well.

    A while back when I was needed as Relief Society president, my husband was released from the bishopric in order to support me and take care of our children. If control was an issue, he should have taken that change negatively. Instead, he was delighted, and was called as an assistant clerk, where he was very happy.

    For control to be valuable, you have to want it.

    I would rather discuss the larger issue of why women are okay with such systems

    That’s an awfully big umbrella under which to lump Mormon women. In which other traditions do women serve as missionaries, perform ordinances, sit in leadership councils?

    I wouldn’t be “okay” as a prairie muffin, but a female temple worker and returned missionary sounds fine to me.

  20. Bridget Jack Meyers on August 27, 2009 at 5:48 pm

    #19 Naismith ~ Trying to have a discussion about other religions in general in a Mormon forum and insisting it not be about the LDS faith is a bit like going into the NAACP and insisting that the discussion NOT be about race, don’t you think?

    That’s a bit of a strawman, Naismith. I said that I did not want the discussion to be just about the LDS faith, not that I wanted it to have nothing to do with the LDS faith. And I certainly do think that those of us who have concluded that Mormonism is a male-dominated religion which subordinates women (which includes the OP) ought to be able to have a discussion on how it fits into the broader context of male-dominated religions without being re-directed to the question of whether or not it is a male-dominated religion in the first place. That’s been done to death in the Bloggernacle elsewhere, and I’ve had enough exchanges with you to know that you and I are never going to see eye-to-eye on the matter, so why keep re-visiting that topic?

    But this assumes that people WANT the control.

    Not really. Dave asked what the payoff is for the men, and control is one of the perks of their leadership callings whether they initially wanted those callings or not.

    In which other traditions do women serve as missionaries, perform ordinances, sit in leadership councils?

    I’ll assume you’re not asking about egalitarian Christian denominations (which obviously allow women to practice all of the rituals and leadership callings men do) and limit my comparison to male headship traditions.

    1) Missionaries ~ I can’t think of a single Christian tradition which doesn’t allow women to serve as missionaries. Even the hardest complementarian Protestant denominations allow women to serve as missionaries so long as their husbands approve of it and accompany them.

    2) Ordinances ~ I think it’s apples and oranges to say Mormonism lets women perform temple ordinances while other Christian traditions don’t. Other Christian traditions don’t have temple ordinances. For comparison, the Church of God in Christ is a soft complementarian denomination which has a foot-washing ordinance they let women perform, but I wouldn’t say they give more freedom to women than Mormons do because of that.

    If we want to compare, the place to compare is in the ordinances all of these traditions share: the Lord’s supper and baptism. Mormons don’t let women administer either. Some complementarian denominations will let women administer the Lord’s supper. I don’t think any of the male headship traditions allow women to perform baptisms.

    So Mormonism really isn’t anything special in this department. It has a unique ordinance it lets women perform, but only in a very limited context with some serious restrictions. Make of that whatever you will.

    3) Sit in leadership councils ~ You’ll have to be more specific on what you mean by this. Most complementarian denominations allow women to “sit in leadership councils”—over the women’s and children’s ministries. Some of them will have their male elders consult with a council of women. I’m less certain of the Catholic, Orthodox and Jehovah’s Witness practices in this department.

    There are two things the LDS church does really well that you typically won’t see in other male headship traditions: (1) It lets women speak from the pulpit at the weekly meetings, and (2) It lets them teach co-ed Sunday school. The first one is really something to be proud of as even egalitarian churches sometimes do a terrible job of cycling actual women preachers in to give the Sunday meeting messages.

    FWIW, I also believe the LDS church does a better job of emphasizing that male headship is about service and that husbands are not supposed to act like the masters of their wives.

    But past that, it really isn’t much different from any other male headship tradition.

  21. Naismith on August 27, 2009 at 8:34 pm

    I think it’s apples and oranges to say Mormonism lets women perform temple ordinances while other Christian traditions don’t. Other Christian traditions don’t have temple ordinances.

    Which is why comparing us to them is so specious and misleading. Those other Christian denominations don’t have a widespread lay priesthood for men, either.

    So it is really a square peg, round hole kinda comparison.

    Pretty much meaningless.

    And I don’t consider LDS to be “male headship,” but rather Christ headship.

  22. Bridget Jack Meyers on August 27, 2009 at 9:31 pm

    Which is why comparing us to them is so specious and misleading. Those other Christian denominations don’t have a widespread lay priesthood for men, either.

    It doesn’t sound like you’re familiar with evangelical complementarian writings then. In spite of having no formal chain of priesthood, they teach that men are the prophets, priests and kings of their households, and they have leadership positions which are open to males among the laity but not females (elders, lay pastors, and usually deacons). So I find the similarities in these systems striking and the study of them intensely meaningful.

    A suggestion: I realize that you want to view Mormonism as special and unique in its gender system, but have you ever considered that if your views on gender as well as the truthfulness of Mormonism are correct, perhaps the apostate Christian churches which teach some form of patriarchy/complementarianism/male headship are just preserving some remnant of God’s intended system, however distorted? You seem eager to draw a hard line between your church and these other ones, and I’m not sure if that’s really necessary. I have some fiercely intelligent female acquaintances here at TEDS who are complementarian, some of whom are working on degrees in traditionally male-dominated fields like New Testament, and they would say very similar things about how complementarianism completes, strengthens and empowers them rather than feeling subordinated by it.

    Anyways, just a thought, take it or leave it. I hope you have a nice night, Naismith.

  23. TMD on August 28, 2009 at 8:17 am

    fwiw, bridget, Catholicism recognizes baptisms performed by almost anyone [so long as a traditional christian baptism is the intention]. Although this is not the custom in normal circumstances–in which a priest is expected to do it–because of original sin doctrines Catholicism recognizes ‘emergency’ baptisms as valid. Since they also recognize pretty much all protestant baptisms as valid, too, they must be recognizing at least some performed by women in those circumstances as valid, too.

  24. John Hamilton on August 28, 2009 at 10:24 am

    You guys are all missing the point. Church structure merely reflects the general nature of men and women throughout all aspects of society. Men are typically the CEOs of companies (somewhere on the order of about a billion to one), and dominate politics and political positions as well. The church structure is simply and extension of society. Men are naturally inclined to be competitive and controlling–they needed these attributes to survive, either against the elements of the natural world or against other males. Women naturally want men with confidence and the ability to “protect” them and their offspring. I know this gets into an evolutionary aspect of things, but it seems to apply. That said, does this apply to ALL men or ALL women? Of course not. Some women desire for themselves the control and confidence they see in men and some men could care less about controlling anything and are anything but confident.

    As my wife says, “Confidence is sexy,” but the man will not get that confidence unless he has a chance to compete and lead (if he wins the competition). Women can then swoon to what they perceive as someone who will protect and defend them. Since we’re no longer battling saber-toothed lions for our daily bread, these attributes–it can be argued–no longer apply, but they will always find their reflection in society’s institutions such and businesses and churches. At least until our DNA changes.

  25. Geoff B on August 28, 2009 at 11:01 am

    Naismith, really, really good comments, very similar to the kinds of things my wife says all the time. Thanks for your input.

  26. Naismith on August 28, 2009 at 11:41 am

    You seem eager to draw a hard line between your church and these other ones….

    I like being accurate.

    I was raised as a Roman Catholic, and I find the differences to be so marked and stark that I am not buying the statement that LDS “really isn’t much different from any other male headship tradition.”

    …control is one of the perks of their leadership callings whether they initially wanted those callings or not.

    Are you claiming that they learn to like and value the control once they have it? Again, I am not sure that is a widespread phenomenon in our tradition of servant leadership.

  27. Bridget Jack Meyers on August 28, 2009 at 12:31 pm

    #23 TMD ~ That’s a great point. And actually, the Orthodox accept baptisms from other Trinitarian traditions as well, so technically both the Roman Catholics and the Orthodox accept baptisms performed by women in that sense.

    #26 Naismith ~ If you like being accurate, then I’d suggest you learn more about the practices of other Christian traditions before you go around tooting Mormonism’s horn for letting women do things that every other Christian tradition lets them do, like be missionaries. You say you were raised Roman Catholic; did you not know that Catholics let women serve as missionaries when you made your statement in #19?

    Are you claiming that they learn to like and value the control once they have it?

    I’m claiming that control is one of the perks of their leadership callings; their feelings on the matter are fairly irrelevant to that fact. Control doesn’t stop being valuable just because a man really hates having it, and I wouldn’t believe for a second that all or even most LDS leaders hate having it.

    Anyways, I have a ton of patristics homework and unpacking to see to this weekend, so this is probably the last time I’ll be able to check in on this thread. Thank you both TMD and Naismith for discussing this with me.

  28. Alison Moore Smith on August 28, 2009 at 3:23 pm

    Not only was this said at the time of calling, but the bishop’s wives and high council wives have to see the stake president personally for their temple recommends, so that he can follow-up and ask how things are going, and if the impact on the family is too negative, etc.

    My husband has served in multiple bishoprics and multiple high councils in two states and I have never had anything remotely like this said to me. I was always simply asked if I would support him. And my temple recommend process was no different during those times than at any other time.

    For control to be valuable, you have to want it.

    That’s nonsensical to me. It’s valuable if you USE it. I think your feelings on the matter are of little importance. If I give you a million dollars it’s valuable–whether you wanted it or not–depending on what you do with it.

  29. Kaimi Wenger on August 28, 2009 at 5:22 pm

    That sounds right to me.

    For instance, suppose that my workplace put in place a policy of giving all women a free fishing license.

    I could say, “I don’t mind that I’m excluded, because I don’t fish. It doesn’t hurt me any.”

    But regardless of whether I fish or not, the policy would still affect male co-workers broadly. There are men who do fish, and they would be being deprived of a benefit.

  30. Naismith on August 28, 2009 at 6:03 pm

    suppose that my workplace put in place a policy of giving all women a free fishing license.

    I think a better analogy would be, “Suppose that my workplace forced all women to go fishing, whether they want to or not.”

    But regardless of whether I fish or not, the policy would still affect male co-workers broadly.

    But does it have value to the women who aren’t interested in fishing? How can it be a “payoff” for them?

  31. Starfoxy on August 28, 2009 at 6:16 pm

    Naismith- I remember you making a comment about how your ward has a tradition of standing for rest hymns. As I recall this tradition was started at your request by your husband while he was bishop because of your physical condition.

    I think that story contradicts your assertion that control is only valuable if you want it.

  32. Naismith on August 28, 2009 at 10:07 pm

    I remember you making a comment about how your ward has a tradition of standing for rest hymns. As I recall this tradition was started at your request by your husband while he was bishop because of your physical condition.

    Minor correction: I did not make a request. He simply thought it would be a good idea.

    And the fact that this is such a trivial matter does not strengthen the argument. What sane man would give up 20+ hours a week of time with the family in order to have that kind of payoff? Heck, the chorister could have made the same decision.

    No doubt that a bishop has some control. He has no choice.

    But is it a “payoff” as was previously asserted? I tend to agree with Dave in #17.

  33. DavidH on August 29, 2009 at 12:09 pm

    Re: Comment 2. The most recent issue of the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion (for which Marie Cornwall of BYU recently began her term serving as editor) includes four additional articles on this subject:

    A Power-Control Theory of Gender and Religiosity (p 213-231)
    Jessica L. Collett, Omar Lizardo

    Gender, Risk, and Religiousness: Can Power Control Provide the Theory? (p 232-240)
    John P. Hoffmann

    The Nature-Nurture Debate Is Over, and Both Sides Lost! Implications for Understanding Gender Differences in Religiosity (p 241-251)
    Matt Bradshaw, Christopher G. Ellison

    Reifying Sex Difference Isn’t the Answer: Gendering Processes, Risk, and Religiosity (p 252-255)
    Marie Cornwall

    http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/journal/117996720/home?CRETRY=1&SRETRY=0

  34. Thomas Parkin on August 30, 2009 at 3:56 pm

    “Control doesn’t stop being valuable just because a man really hates having it, and I wouldn’t believe for a second that all or even most LDS leaders hate having it.”

    Then they aren’t real LDS leaders. Exercising control is listed as one of very few things that cause the withdrawal of the Holy Ghost and therefore the termination of an ability to function in the priesthood. Your assertion that men primarily want to maintain control doesn’t wash with my experience of _most_ priesthood leaders. A bishop who is controlling the members of his ward is a bishop who is hampering the function of the thing. He’s got to give up desire for control in order to get the revelation that is necessary to his calling.

    Obviously, both men and women are controlling. We learn early in life how to control situations to get our way. Overcoming this tendency is one essential part of becoming like God. ~

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