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Interview with Ophelia Benson

Thanks to Michael for the link.

MAIA: Welcome Ophelia. First, I’d like to say that I loved Does God Hate Women? and agree with Nick Cohen’s comment that it is “At once a joy to read and a call to arms.” With straight forward logic, you and Jeremy Stangroom take apart the arguments of religious apologists and expose their ignorance at a foundational level, even though, as you write, it’s considered that, “Religious law is ‘sacred’ law….and thus fixed, peremptory and inviolate.”

In your book, you say that “… religion has for millennia helped the stronger to go on dominating the weaker.” You also write, “The control of women is dual. The goal is to deny access to woman’s genitals to all men in the world minus one and to guarantee access to one” and “Most people who have grown up in liberal secular societies fail to realize how taken for granted it is elsewhere that girls and women have no rights over their own genitals or their own lives.” And “It’s impossible not to notice what a convenient theology this is, for the men who originated it and the ones who perpetuate and preach and enforce it. It’s impossible not to think that God and the Prophet are simply a fig leaf for a naked and brazen system of sexual slavery.” Because religion is “man-made” is it simply a proxy for men to enforce their will over women?

OPHELIA: Religion isn’t simply that, because religion is a lot of things. But are religious rules governing women and their bodies and their sex lives that? Broadly speaking, yes. Mind you, I don’t think it’s as simple as men sitting down and thinking, ‘Now what’s the best way to guarantee each man exclusive access to at least one woman? I know – pretend it’s what God wants.’ I think it’s more like projection. ‘There is a way things should be; this includes women belonging to men and not being allowed to roam off whenever they feel like it, and it also includes men being in charge and women being submissive. Because that is how things should be, naturally it is how God wants them to be.’ There is no need to think of it as a conscious trick – on the other hand I think it is reasonable to think of it as a large failure of imagination. It’s taken humans a remarkably long time to realize that treating some people as radically inferior is really neither necessary nor desirable.
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