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Innisdale Secondary School

Religious Oppression

World Issue Independent Study Unit

Meredith Cudmore-Keating


Mr Toole

Friday, March 10th


Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false and by the rulers as useful.

-Lucius Annaeus Seneca


Preface and Definition

In modern times religion has changed drastically from what it has been through history.
People can decide which aspects of a religion they would like to abide by, and discard others.
They can call themselves spiritual but not religious. It is accepted to personalize and custom-
make a set of religious beliefs based off of a mainstream religion, for example, one can have a
loose belief in the Christian God but not identify as expressly Christian, because they dont think
Jesus died on the cross for humanitys sins, or they do not want to be aligned with organized
religion. Religion has become a fluid and subjective experience which also makes it more
attractive and approachable. For the purpose of this report religion will be defined as any
organized system of beliefs where adherents share a belief in a superhuman entity that they must
worship and obey. It has a concrete set of rules and practices that must be followed and an
inherent belief dictating that other religions are wrong, because ones particular religion is right,
that is present regardless of the adherents tolerance to other religions. Religion can be traced
back as far as humanity and it has been influencing the development of society for thousands of
years. Religion is a double edged sword in many ways. It has many positive impacts but has no
shortage of negative ones either. Of the plethora of harmful effects it can have, some include
rejection or repression of freedom of thought, a communal superiority complex, division within
societies and families, loss and removal of critical thought and an opportunity for justification for
evil actions. All of these involve oppression inflicted upon, or by the believer.
One form of oppression is loss of the ability to have freedom of thought, religion
frequently being responsible for this form of oppression. The unconditional belief in a religion
can cause someone to blindly follow a holy book or religious leader without second thought.
Many religions commit horrendous acts and advocate for certain beliefs that may not align with
an individuals values, but unwavering faith in a church prevents believers ability to ask
questions that could instil doubt in their religion. Even if an individual does begin to question the
doctrines of their religion, fear of losing that which provides them so much comfort and
community can prevent them from creating or acting upon their own thoughts, resulting in an
individuals own thoughts being oppressed by their religion.


Within more extreme religious societies such as Saudi Arabian culture, Saudis must obey
brutal sharia law. Whether citizens follow Islam or not, it is imposed on them, oppressing their
freedom of expression and their behaviour. Women in Saudi Arabia cover themselves from head
to toe and must be in the presence of a man when in public. They are considered possessions and
are depreciated and objectified. Complaints of oppression towards women in extreme muslim
societies are justified, but in more moderate western culture oppression may not be as apparent.
According to muslims living in western society, the hijab is a sign of modesty and is honourable
to wear, not oppressive. However, a garment worn by women to protect themselves from the
gaze of men oppresses women because it implies that they must repress their own femininity and
hide their bodies to be safe from men. It also doesnt address the fact that perhaps men with
prodding eyes are the issue instead of a beautiful woman. Having women wear hijabs because of
an issue caused by men, instead of men addressing the issue they cause is oppressive towards
women and implies they are inferior. Islam is dripping with oppressive practices, making it a
leader in religion as a means of oppression.
It is impossible for any person who belongs to a religion to believe that other religions are
equal to their own, unless they do not truly believe in their faith because by choosing one god all
others are immediately rejected. Though most religious folk do not impose their beliefs on others
and would not express, or even consciously think that other people are inferior because they do
not share their beliefs, a sense of superiority is inevitable. One who believes they are going to
heaven because of their faith must believe those who do not follow their religion are not going to
heaven, or their religions equivalent of heaven. This type of condition is inherent to religion and
creates division between believers and non-believers. People of faith can develop a sense of
superiority above others and try to remove them from their ungodly path. Superiority and
division oppresses non-believers and causes resentment and distaste between populations. These
emotions lead to holy wars, terrorism and prejudice on the basis of religion.
The opportunity to justify evil deeds such as terrorist attacks or condemning a woman
who is receiving an abortion to damnation is often presented in religion. Vile actions done in the
name of religion harm victim societies and create a negative stigma surrounding those sharing in
the religion of the offenders. For example, many muslims face persecution because of the actions


of extremists, that do not accurately represent Islam. As a result, muslims are oppressed and
stigmatized by society and by members of their own religion.
Religion, by nature is oppressive because it creates divides and rules and hinders free and
unbiased thought. This report will explore the complexities behind this phenomena and offers
insight as to why religion is responsible for so much restriction and what is behind it.

Religious oppression, from a global standpoint is significant for numerous reasons. Its
effects vary in severity but one of the major reasons why it is an important issue is because it is
so pervasive throughout the world. That said, religion has become a less important part of
modern society but it is still present in every single culture across the world. According to the
Pew Research Centre only 16.3% of the world are religiously unaffiliated, meaning 83.7% of the
world are engaged in some religion. (Liu, Joseph. "The Global Religious Landscape." Pew
Research Center's Religion & Public Life Project. N.p., 17 Dec. 2012. Web. 14 May 2017.) As
religion is so widespread, so are cases of religious oppression which can be anything from the
limiting effects religion has on thought to justification for rape, which will be elaborated in this
The most obvious form of oppression by religion is by laws or restrictions placed upon
people by their faith. In Catholicism homosexuality is condemned, as shown by this excerpt from
the Bible, In the same way also the men, giving up natural intercourse with women, were
consumed with passion for one another. Men committed shameless acts with men and received in
their own persons the due penalty for their error. (Romans 1:27). The Bible condones the
oppression of an entire group of people based only on who they love. This kind of oppression
can ruin families and cause major strife between these two groups of people. The Catholic
website, The Vortex, released an article with the following quote in it, [Non-Catholics] want the
whole world to accept abortion, men having sex with men, contraception, fewer humans (The
Vortex). The Vortex demonstrates the hatred religion instills in people over something as arbitrary
as sexual orientation. These regulations dictated by a two thousand year old book are responsible
for a significant amount of hatred, abuse and oppression of homosexuals across the world.


Catholicism is present all around the world, as shown in Figure 1 in the Appendix for a map of
the percentage of each countrys population of Catholics. This map shows how vast Catholicism
is across the globe, emphasizing that it is a global issue. Catholicisms influence is infecting its
adherents, politics and the communities in which the religion is practiced. (Encyclopdia
Britannica, 2017)
Living under sharia law is another brutal example of religious oppression. Sharia law is
practiced with varying degrees of severity by some muslim countries in the world such as Saudi
Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Yemen, and the United Arab Emirates. Muslims are living under
inhumane and brutal regimes acting on the word of Allah. Sharia law states that a woman must
have four witnesses if she is to accuse a man of raping her. Thieves have their hands cut off when
caught, and stoning as a means of execution is still used. The use of religion to condone such
violence and entrance oppression is barbaric and cruel.
Women are nearly always oppressed in religion. The Holy Bible says, Wives, submit to
your husbands as to the Lord. (Ephesians 5:22) and has other similar passages like this one.
Most modern Christians do not follow such passages literally but quotes such as these create
sexist undertones within a religion. In Islam quotes from the Quran such as, Your women are
your fields, so go into your fields whichever way you like (MAS Abdel Haleem, The Quran)
and, Wives have the same rights as the husbands have on them in accordance with the generally
known principles. Of course, men are a degree above them in status(Sayyid Abul A'La
Maududi, The Meaning of the Qur'an, vol. 1, p. 165) blatantly places men above women in
society. They imply that rape is acceptable when a man can enter his field whichever way he
likes. Women are too frequently oppressed within religion and this perpetuates sexism because
of how prominent religion is around the world.
Doors to self understanding, security, comfort, purpose and explanation can be opened
with religion, but many can also be closed. Committing oneself to one religion can remove the
opportunity to explore others. Religion prevents the posing of questions and further discovery.
When affiliated with a certain religion, a persons thoughts and questions might be suppressed
for fear of shattering their beliefs. Religion telling people what to think about women,
homosexuality, birth control and other religions prevents the formation of individual thoughts


and is a form of oppression in itself because it restricts freedom of thought. Millions of people
are affiliated with religion today, each of them with clouded judgement, possible unable to think
fully for themselves. This is a tragedy because the world is losing out on each individuals
thoughts and ideas that are suppressed by religion

There has never been a recorded human civilization that has not had some form of
religion involved in its society, and therefore to tell of the history of religious oppression would
be to tell of the history of the world, because all religion is in some way oppressive. The first
written records of religion occurred in 3500 BCE in Mesopotamia. Since then, thousands of
religions have been practiced by various civilizations through time.
Religions oppressive nature has left a large mark on history. In written recorded history,
some of the major events of religious persecution include the Crusades, the killing of muslims
when they began to severely threaten the Catholic Church between 1095 and 1291, the murder of
about 400 million Hindus by muslims between the years 1000-1500 during the muslim conquest
of the India, also known as, The Greatest Genocide In History (the muslim issue), the Spanish
Inquisition, involving the brutal torture and oppression of so-called heretics or non-catholics
for hundreds of years and most infamously, the Nazi genocide of six millions Jews in the Second
World War. More recently we see muslim extremists massacring western societies due to their
lack of religion. Historically speaking, religion was far from the holy and righteous institution it
portrays itself to be.
Religion has been oppressive through history in more ways than just through major,
violent acts of war between religions. In early Islam, women were treated extremely poorly, and
even still, in some locations today they are treated very similarly to the way they were during the
prophet Muhammads time. The introduction of Islam improved womens rights to an extent, but
not by any sufficient amount. Women could not divorce their husbands, nor did they have
custodial rights to their children post divorce. They could be one of a mans four wives but could
not have more than one husband. Women were financially dependent on their husbands and
could not hold any position within the mosque. This instance of oppression of women was in part


due to previously instilled cultural conventions, but was condoned by many passages in the
Residential schools in Canada tell of another instance of oppression through religion.
Residential schools in Canada were designed to assimilate indigenous people into Canadian
society, or in Capt. Richard H. Pratts words, the founder of the Carlisle Indian Industrial School,
Kill the Indian in him, and save the man (Digital History). These residential schools were
brutal and inhumane places to live. Children were abused, overworked, sexually and physically
assaulted. In an article about residential schools in Canada, the Canadian Encyclopedia states:
Students were isolated, their culture disparaged removed from their homes and
parents, separated from some of their siblings (the schools were segregated according to
gender) and in some cases forbidden to speak their first language, even in letters home to
their parents. (The Canadian Encyclopedia)
An estimate of 3200-6000 children died in residential schools. The schools were in part a
political strategy to subdue Native American people and remove them from the metaphorical
equation of North America. They were also designed to convert indigenous people to
christianity. The government worked with Christian churches to run the schools. In 1930 there
were 80 residential schools, sixty percent of which were operated by the Roman Catholic
Church, twenty five percent of which were operated by the Anglican Church and fifteen percent
of which were operated by the Presbyterian Church. These denominations of Christianity all
contributed to the harms committed against indigenous children and their cultures in the churchs
efforts to oppress the Indian and create a christian child. The effects of the abuse committed by
Christian churches in residential schools in an effort to convert children are described by Marcel
Guiboche, a survivor of a residential school. Describing an experience at his school he said:
A sister, a nun started talking to me in English and French, and yelling at me. I did not
speak English, and didn't understand what she, what she was asking. She got very upset,
and started hitting me all over my body, hands, legs and back. I began to cry, yell, and
became very scared, and this infuriated her more. She got a black strap and hit me some
more. (Marcel Guiboche)


Guiboche describes a traumatizing experience of being beaten by a nun at a residential school.

His is one of millions of stories describing the extent of brutality and oppression that religions
and the people involved in it will go to for their religion.
Nicolaus Copernicus was a Polish astronomer who was the first to propose earth was one
in a system of planets whose motions were relative to the suns, and that earth rotated on its own
axis, a theory called heliocentrism. He wrote a book revealing his findings, which was only
published upon his deathbed, and did so because at the time the Catholic church was persecuting
scientists whose discoveries were deemed heretical. This book was later banned, evidence that
any ideas which threatened the Bible were oppressed. Copernicus wrote in a fashion that
suggested he did not himself believe in heliocentrism to protect himself. Nicholas P. Leveillee
wrote an article commenting on Copernicus and his relationship to the Catholic church, and in it
comments on Copernicuss phrasing that suggests his own doubts in his discoveries. Leveille
writes, By writing in this fashion, Copernicus would have been able to deny that he himself
believed in heliocentrism because he phrased it as nothing more than a hypothesis and as a result,
would be able to slip past the Church's dislike of heliocentrism (Leveille). This is evidence that
the churchs oppression of science extended so far that it would prevent a man from publishing
his findings until his death, and even then releasing them phrased as a hypothesis.
Religion was a major component in most societies until the past century when it started to
lose traction in some areas. As religion is so widespread, some form of religious oppression has
likely affected almost every person who ever existed. The examples of religious oppression listed
above occurred throughout different time periods and locations from the Middle East, to Canada,
to Europe. Religion always brings with it oppression, with varying magnitudes. At the very least,
religion suppresses ideas of other belief systems but the oppression can, and does, extend much
further than that. Religion as a means of oppression is as widespread an issue as is religion,
making it an issue spanning all continents and time since humanity began worshiping a higher
The recent deviation from religion in the western world is what some would call a
resolution to the issue that is religion, but it is not a resolution to religious oppression. Religion
may be losing popularity but its oppressive effects are not, be it by primary or secondary


influences. For example, the secular beliefs of Americans are significant motivators for
terrorism, and the growing non-religious population in America will only worsen this form of
religious oppression. The variances in opinion between Christians and the non-religious makes
for a diverse nation but also creates controversy and occasional hate crimes. In America, the
battle between the religious and non-religious can be seen, in part, in the fight for issues such as
marriage equality, womens reproductive rights, euthanasia, legalized prostitution and other
A Yale University professor, Barney Carson said, Religious oppression is the beet juice
to religions brand new white t-shirt. Why the fuck would you bother trying to get that stain out,
that shit is in there. (Carson, 219). Carson describes that oppression is inherent to religion and
always will be. His statement, that shit is in there, and his comparison of a beet juice stain to a
white t-shirt emphasizes the futility of separating religion and the oppression that comes with it.

Expert: Nina Shea
Title: Director, Center for Religious Freedom at the Hudson Institute
Areas of Expertise: Religious Freedom
Nina Shea is the director of the centre for Religious Freedom at the Hudson Institute.
Before joining the Hudson Institute in 2006 Shea was a human rights lawyer. She works to
advance individual religious freedoms in U.S. foreign policy. Nina Shea is an advocate for those
persecuted for their religious beliefs and works for diplomatic measures to end religious
repression and violence abroad, from state actors or extremist groups. Shea served seven years as
a Commissioner on the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, ending in 2005.
She has been appointed as a U.S. delegate to the United Nation's main human rights body and
she served as a member of the Clinton Administrations Advisory Committee of Religious
Freedom Abroad and in 2009 she served as a member of the U.S. National Commission to
UNESCO. During the adoption of the International Religious Freedom Act she was responsible
for finding much support for it. She also lead and organized a coalition of churches that worked
together to end a war against non-Muslims in southern Sudan. She has met with Pope Francis to


discuss the persecutions of Christians in the Middle East. Shea has written books and reports on
religion, among them Ten Years On: Saudi Arabia's Textbooks Still Promote Religious Violence
(2011), Update: Saudi Arabia's Curriculum of Intolerance (2008), Saudi Arabia's Curriculum of
Intolerance (2006), and Saudi Publications on Hate Ideology Invade American Mosques (2005),
Silenced: How Apostasy &Blasphemy Codes are Choking Freedom Worldwide, and Persecuted:
The Global Assault on Christians (2003). Her works have been published by the Wall Street
Journal, Washington Post, CQ Researcher, Weekly Standard, National Review Online, CNN, Fox,
The Daily Beast, HuffingtonPost, and RealClearWorld. Shea graduated form Smith College and
and American University's Washington College of Law.

Role of Control
Time and time again mankind has shown its thirst for power. Evidence of this includes
the colonization of the Americas, mans obsession with money, political movements, the bullying
seen in schoolyards and any war ever fought. They may have superficial reasoning behind them
but they are all driven by the same desire to cultivate power. For example, at its core, the
colonization of the Americas allowed European nations to grow power over their neighbours.
Money can buy anything, even power, politics is the game played by those in search of the
ability to impose their ideas on a nation, bullying is the exaction of strength by a superior force
on its subordinate and war, despite superficial labels defending it, such as imposition of better
values or control of land, is just a forced transfer of power. Furthermore, power at its essence is
the control of people. One who controls the people of a nation controls the entire nation. With
this logic, it becomes apparent that religion, which controls billions is incredibly powerful. Those
at the head of religion have control over the degree of oppression that a religion inflicts on
others. Religious oppression is controlled not only by heads of church. Parents oppress their own
children by introducing them to religion, governments oppress citizens when they cease the
separation of church and state. Finally, whichever holy texts, teachings, scriptures, myths,
legends, paintings or gods that a religion follows holds the power to oppress people through their


The most obvious possessor of control over religious oppression is the religious
institution itself, for example in Catholicism it would be the Pope. Religion is based on
oppression of all other ideas but those it preaches, and it depends on that oppression to continue
to have support. The faith that religion deems so important is in fact the biggest tool it uses to
oppress followers and maintain control, in fact, religion relies on the oppressive act of faith.
When followers ask questions or doubt the religion, the answer is to have faith. The so called
faith is simply a soother meant to appease the questioning spirit and enable oppression to occur.
Faith is so inherently oppressive because it sets the individual free of the responsibility to
question the religion that provides them with so much comfort. Christianity frequently uses faith
to control Christians. Oswald John Simon wrote an article on the position of faith in the Jewish
religion for the The Jewish Quarterly Review, and in it compared the use of faith in Christianity
versus Judaism. Describing the role of faith in each religion he says:
The difference in this respect between the claims of faith in the case of Judaism and in
the case of Christianity is that in Judaism it assumes only what is not inconsistent with
reason, though logically indemonstrable; whereas in Christianity faith claims a function
altogether independent of reason and sometimes hostile to it (Simon, 54)
Simon says faith is used in Christianity so pervasively that it even instigates the disregard of
reason. Religion takes advantage of this convenient ability to ignore logic and harnesses it to
create a following of blind, deaf and dumb people worshipping the church without question.
Anybody who believes in freedom of thought and truth should care about religions ability to
oppress its followers. This epidemic of mindless adherence to religion is urgent because
believers are oppressed by the church, growing its power at the cost of the thoughts and
freedoms of the millions supporting it.
Religious people can also be blamed for religion as a means of oppression. Though
victims of their religions oppression, they also perpetuate it and even they themselves oppress
people. They do so, among other ways, by imposing their religion on their children. Children are
easily influenced, especially by their parents and when they are shown a religion at such a young
age they are offered little choice on whether or not they would like to follow their parents. Also,
most children are too young to have developed the ability to question teachings of a religion and


will blindly follow them. Religious people do not believe they are harming their children by
bringing them into religion because they dont consider that religion may be oppressive. A
sixteen year old girl named Allison Hardy was raised in a strict Catholic household. Her
grandmother was the matriarch of the family, pounding her religion into Hardy and her siblings.
Later, her mother studied Catholicism and her new education caused her to abandon her faith,
bringing her children away from the church with her. Hardy experienced significant oppression
of thought, especially with regards to homosexuality. Speaking of her childhood, Hardy said:
When I was a kid I would tell my parents that I didnt want to go to church and my
parents would make me feel guilty about it because if youre not going to church youre
not following the religion. My religion wasnt something you questioned. If I did
question it, I would push it out of my head because it was such an integral part of my life
living without it was not an option. When I was twelve I started writing about learning
about different sexualities in school. I was often told by my grandma that the kinds of
conversation I wanted to have about sexuality, I couldnt have. A lot of times the things I
wanted to talk about were shut down. I remember coming home one time after we had
talked about homosexuality at school and I asked my grandma what she would do if
one of her grand-children were gay. She said that would never happen and told me not to
make comments like that. She compared being gay to being blind, saying it is a disability
that you are born with that you cant help but its something you have to live
with. (Hardy, 2017).
Hardy underwent a common form of oppression where she was taught not to tolerate
homosexuals. Her family perpetuated religious teachings that oppressed her freedom of thought,
preventing her from forming her own opinions on homosexuality. Hardys family was an
example of religious people acting as messengers and soldiers for their religion. It is they who
carry out and maintain a religions practices and ideas. They are the ones who protest
governments passing bills that go against their religious beliefs, the ones who deliver a religions
message against, for example, homosexuality, and by imposing their religious beliefs on others,
in turn, oppresses them. Muslim jihadists will impose their beliefs on others and oppress them to
the point of suicide. Catholics protest adamantly outside abortion clinics, shaming those who


enter. Religious people are the foot soldiers in the war that religion wages because they spread
the message (otherwise known as oppression) to the whole public, from their families to
Unfortunately, when religion and government rule together, atrocities are even more
likely to happen because no force will oppose the government. The combination of the absolute
power of the law with a church offers too much power to religion. Queen Mary Tudor I executed
over 300 of her subjects because they were protestant and she wanted to return England to a
Catholic state. In present times the Saudi Arabian government is very muslim and governs with
sharia law which means that all Saudi Arabians must live obeying extreme muslim rules whether
or not they are muslim. Governments can benefit immensely from religious oppression and a
government can subdue its population with religion because it instills universal values into the
population which makes them easier to control. Charles A. Ellwood wrote an article for The
Scientific Monthly titled Religion and Social Control and it explored the role religion played in
creating societal norms and a range in which a populations acceptable behaviour is created. In
his article, he said:
Religion has been from the first a powerful means of social control, that is, of the group
controlling the life of the individual for the larger life of the group. Psychologically it
functions, as we have seen, to universalize values and make them absolute, so that they
come into the consciousness of the individual in the intensest way.(Ellwood, 339).
Ellwood says religion serves to universalize values and make them absolute which helps
governments rule a society because they are given a divine and irrefutable range of values that
they will not stray from. Governments can use this to their advantage to maintain order and
remove the possibility of revolt against the values of the religion and in turn, the government.
No single institution is solely responsible for religion being so oppressive. The religion
itself is largely responsible for oppression but believers and government also contribute to it. The
combination of these three institutions lead to oppression of people within and without a religion.


Logic of Evil
They say method can be found behind madness, if you look for it. The same can be said
for logic behind evil. The logic behind the evil of religious oppression is represented by a few
reasons, the first is money. Massive religions gain millions of followers, each donating their
share of money. Over time wealth is accumulated and the more people in a religion, the more
money a church receives. The next explanation for religious oppression is motivated by the
church wanting to generate a self regulating population. By oppressing people and making them
believe they will receive salvation if they perform certain rituals and maintain certain behaviours
the people begin to regulate themselves, following rules installed by the religion. Many, but not
all religions have some sort of text or custom that teaches that women are subservient to their
husbands. Many traditional Catholic women are taught never to deny their husbands sexual
desires, which means men can always be satisfied without question. This is motivation to
perpetuate religion, and therefore religious oppression, because it offers men constant willing
sexual companions. These are the main motivating factors driving religion to be so oppressive
which can be applied to most of the worlds religions.
There have been spectacular things made in the name of religion throughout the world.
Paintings, sculptures, architecture and music such as the Sistine chapel, the Kaapa, Handels
messiah and the Piet are all examples of spectacular artworks inspired by, or made for religion,
all worth millions. Religion tends to stand the test of time, some being older than others but
many going back thousands of years. Over time they accumulate wealth in the form of land,
architecture and through tithes (donations) of their believers. Religion often tells its adherents
they are sinful or evil and offers them salvation, the only price is their loyalty to that religion,
frequently in part with money. By oppressing followers, religious support is ensured for
generations because devotees are made to believe they are on a sacred path, with a guaranteed
happy ending, and they are also offered a sense of superiority and pride over non-believers which
they would like to offer to next generations. The more followers a religion has the more wealth it
accumulates. For example, the Catholic church, which is among the largest religions in the world
has evident wealth and pageantry in its name. For hundreds of years catholics have donated the
suggested tithe, responsible for the majority of the churchs wealth and this in combination with


investments, production of art, real estate and trading of antiques has made them the richest
church in the world. Wealth motivates religions to look for more followers because it translates
to power and a greater reach around the world. Oppressing their followers in the sense of
restricting their values and beliefs allows them to maintain and then grow their base of adherents.
As in many things, a portion of the reason why religion is so oppressive is to ensure ample
To maintain authority one must discipline those that are subservient. This is true in all
cases except in religion, and that is because religion uses oppression to create a self regulating
society. Believers are oppressed in ways such as telling them they are sinners and need religion
to ensure salvation. Faith is also inherently oppressive and an integral part of religion, as it acts
as a fail safe against any question involving logic or reason that would contradict religion; it
oppresses logical and intelligent thought. Religions use the promise of salvation to manipulate
followers into obeying any commands of the church. Religious people become self-regulating
and wont do things that go against the religions rules because they dont want to threaten their
change at salvation. Regulation occurs within religious communities where members ensure all
are being obedient and pious. Religions conveniently use oppression as a tool to keep their
adherents in line, causing the population to blindly follow religious leaders to do their bidding
and expand the reaches of that religion.
Stereotypically, men tend to have higher libidos and many religions teach that women are
to be subservient to their husbands and teach that husbands can have sex with their wives
whenever they choose. Catholicism and Islam in particular foster a culture of men being able to
demand sex of their wives on a whim. This is no surprise when the Holy Bible has excerpts such
as, Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their
husbands. (The Holy Bible, Ephesians 5:24) and Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to
the Lord. (The Holy Bible, Ephesians 5:22) and :
Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the
word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your
respectful and pure conduct. Do not let your adorning be externalthe braiding of hair
and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear but let your adorning be


the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit,
which in God's sight is very precious. For this is how the holy women who hoped in God
used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, (The Holy Bible,
Peter 3:1-6).
None of these explicitly say a woman must have sex with her husband whenever he pleases but it
is implied. When the Bible says wives should submit in everything to their husbands, that also
means their bodies. Talk of submitting to ones husband allows men to interpret these verses as
permission to access their wives whenever they want, regardless of her wishes. After
interviewing Jean Keating, a devout Catholic and mother of ten children she said, I was raised
to not even think of denying my husband sex. I never dreamt of it. (Jean Keating, 2012). This is
evidence that these Bible verses do impact the Catholic community as women feel they cannot
deny their husbands. The Quran has a verse saying, Your wives are a place of sowing of seed
for you, so come to your place of cultivation however you wish and put forth [righteousness] for
yourselves. And fear Allah and know that you will meet Him. And give good tidings to the
believers. (The Quran 2:223) which, again, does not expressly tell husbands they may have sex
with their wives whenever they please but comparing wives to a husbands place of sowing
seeds: that they may cultivate however they wish is just as effective in telling men they may do
what they please with their wives as saying so. The apparent oppression of women and
permission men have to have sex with their wives whenever they want is motivation for men to
oppress women in religion so they receive sex when they want. This perk that comes along
with religion benefits half of the population with sex on demand, so men gladly take part in
oppressing women in marriage within the religion. Unsurprisingly, power over women and sex is
a portion of the reason why religion is oppressive.
Governments benefit immensely from religion and use it to their advantage frequently.
Politicians can play to the values of certain religions and politicians who belong to a religion
automatically draw voters of like-faith. Massive religious following among populations creates
stability which is what governments strive for. Because government is largely composed of and
benefits from religious people they do not want to eliminate it from countries.


Religious activists fighting against LGBTQ rights, abortion rights, birth control, and
euthanasia do so because their religions values tell them they do not support these rights. A large
part of the fight for these rights is fighting against oppression by religion because many voters
have values against these rights.
Money, a self regulating population, and a common, but not universal desire for sex on
demand, fuel religious oppression. Governments benefit from religious oppression and therefore
do not aim to minimize it and the fight for LGBTQ and abortion rights, birth control and
euthanasia is so difficult because religious oppression influences millions of people to believe
they are against such rights.
Case Study One - Islam
Islam is the second largest religion in the world, with 1.6 billion adherents. ("Islam."
ReligionFacts. N.p., 05 Mar. 2017. Web. 15 May 2017.). The word Islam means submission in
arabic which reflects the religions principle to submit to God. Islam is based on the teachings of
the prophet Muhammad who lived in Saudi Arabia during the 7th century. The muslim holy book
is called the Quran and it was written by Muhammad over twenty years when the angel Gabriel
appeared to him with the word of Allah, the muslim god. Muslims recognize the teachings of
prophets like Jesus and Moses as coming from the same God, but claim that the only pure and
uncorrupted teachings are those of Muhammad. The five pillars of Islam are faith, prayer,
fasting, pilgrimage to Mecca and alms.
Islam is notorious in western culture for being one of the most oppressive religions in the
world. An obvious example of this is the hijab, frequently worn by muslim women and very
controversial in western culture. Its presence is difficult to ignore, and as a result it becomes a
frequently debated part of Islam because many believe it is oppressive towards women. As in
most religions, the oppression of women is a common theme in Islam. From blatantly sexist and
misogynistic passages in the Quran to subtle cultural undertones, Islam is riddled with the
oppression of women. Sharia law, the religious law of Islam is infamous for its restrictive and
brutal practices, among them, cutting off a persons right hand if they are caught stealing, and the
punishment of death for denying or criticizing a part of the Quran. This law oppresses any
critical thought towards the religion. Islam is particularly oppressive in certain cultures,


specifically those in the middle east because their culture revolves around Islam where it is
practiced to the extremes. In fact, Islam oppresses sexuality in general. One of the reasonings
behind a womans hijab is to promote her modesty and for her not to flaunt her beauty because
she is meant to be seen only by her husband. This is indicative of the oppression muslims face
because of the taboo nature of sexuality in Islam. Islam oppresses muslims in many ways and is
one of the most oppressive religions in the world because of the control it has over muslims
lives and beliefs.
The most prominent from of oppression in Islam is the oppression of women.
Throughout the world muslim women are subjected to oppression because of their faith. Abdel
Halim, a human rights lawyer in the Middle East was quoted in a paper on domestic violence in
muslim populations saying:
Although Islamic rules have been reinterpreted, modified, or simply treated as
inapplicable when dealing with changing circumstances in such issues as slavery and
modern commercial practices, no such flexibility has been shown with regard to womens
rights. For women, the trend of interpretation has worked almost exclusively in the
opposite direction. (Abnel Halim, 1994).
The first aspect of this oppression is the clothing that muslim women wear. Garb such as the
hijab, burqa, niqab and other traditional attire that are worn by muslim women is oppressive
towards them. There are two verses in the Quran that speak to a womans attire. The first one
says, O Prophet! Tell thy wives and daughters, and the believing women, that they should cast
their outer garments over their persons: that is most convenient, that they should be known [as
such] and not molested. (Quran 33:59) and it asks women to cover themselves to prevent from
being molested. This verse places the responsibility of preventing molestation upon women
instead of men which is sexist in itself. Men being unable to prevent themselves from molesting
an uncovered woman is the real issue and the Quran fails to address this, instead subjecting
women to conservative clothing. This has translated into modern muslim culture. Mohamed
Ellabban, a young muslim in Barrie, Ontario argues the hijab is not oppressive to women in the
least. Instead he believes it is honourable for a woman to wear it and says, The hijab is a sign of
modesty and protects girls from being stared at. So when a girl bends over Im going to stare at


her butt because Im a man and we cant help it. When a woman wears a hijab it prevents men
from seeing her beauty and also saves it for her husbands eyes only. (Ellabban, 2017). Ellabban
does not understand that a woman should not have to cover herself to be seen as a person not an
object. He also neglects to address the fact that it is men who sexualize women in this situation
and has adopted a boys will be boys attitude, completely removing any responsibility he might
have for his actions. This is oppressive towards women because it teaches them they are
responsible for their own protection against men and they are at fault if a man ogles at them
because they are not properly covered. Many muslim women in western culture deem the hijab
as a feminist statement of modesty forcing people to see women for the people they are instead
of the bodies they live in. Attiya Latif is a muslim and university student that spoke at a TED
conference. She spoke of feminism and wearing a hijab. During her talk she said, Islams
perception of modesty is meant to empower people. Its this idea of rejecting the objectification
of a body and instead focusing on your individualism, your identity as a person without focusing
on the sexualized aspects of yourself. (Attiya Latif, TEDxUVA). Wearing a hijab or other
modest garb to desexualize oneself could be deemed as a feminist action. However, if a woman
covers herself so she can be seen as a person rather than an object she is succumbing to her own
objectification instead of fighting it. A woman who embraces her sexuality instead of concealing
it is a true feminist because she celebrates all aspects of herself while fighting through being
objectified, instead of hiding her sexuality to prevent objectification. The muslim clothing used
to cover a womans body and give her modesty are oppressive towards her because it forgives
the reasons she is wearing that clothing in the first place; the reasons being hiding her from the
gaze of men unable to resist temptation and to give her identity past her body.
Even more obviously oppressive than a hijab are some of the passages in the Quran
regarding marriage and the relationship between husbands and wives. While discussing the topic
of divorce the Quran says of a couple, Wives have the same rights as the husbands have on
them in accordance with the generally known principles. Of course, men are a degree above
them in status (Quran, 2:228) which is an evident indicator that women are considered inferior
in Islam. It admits men and women have the same rights however follows to say that despite


these rights men remain a degree above women. Islam is known for its polygamous practices.
The Quran allows for a man to take up to four wives, as shown in this passage;
And if you be apprehensive that you will not be able to do justice to the orphans, you
may marry two or three or four women whom you choose. But if you apprehend that you
might not be able to do justice to them, then marry only one wife, or marry those who
have fallen in your possession (Quran, 4:3).
A woman, however is allowed only one husband which teaches women they are less important
than men. This said, this practice is reflective of arabic culture because men tend to be the
providers of income and need to provide for their wives. Women are not encouraged to work in
muslim countries and as a result are dependent on their husbands. Furthermore, the Quran
condones beating ones wife should they be disobedient. Found in the chapter called Women the
passage says:
Righteous wives are devout and guard in their husbands absence, if you fear high-
handedness from your wives, remind them of the teachings of God, then ignore them
when you go to bed, then hit them. If they obey you, you have no right to act against
them (Quran, 4:34).
Any religion with even one passage instructing the abuse of women is misogynistic and
oppressive towards women. This passage also allows for men to be able to abuse their wives
whenever they see fit, because it is unclear what high-handedness means, and a husband could
simply say his wive is demonstrating high-handedness though she may not be, allowing him to
assault her whenever he pleases while obeying his faith. Also, when women read such passages it
instills fear in them and discourages them from challenging their husbands for fear of abuse. This
is oppressive towards them and promotes a life in fear of ones husband.
Sharia law, otherwise known as Islamic law is used by muslim states as the law by which
the country is governed. It is derived from teachings of the Quran and the Hadith, a log of some
of the Profit Muhammads sayings. Islamic law is highly controversial because of its brutal
punishments for seemingly minor crimes. It is also well known for some of its policies against
women. According to sharia law a womans testimony is worth half that of a mans. This is
derived from a passage in the Quran that says, And bring to witness two witnesses from among


your men. And if there are not two men [available], then a man and two women from those
whom you accept as witnesses so that if one of the women errs, then the other can remind her.
(Quran, 2:282) which is indicative of a belief that a woman is worth less than a man because her
testimony is not worth as much. Also, it implies a woman may forget her testimony in court
which is indicative of the lack of intelligence that women are believed to have. Furthermore,
women inherit half of what men do. Two passages in the Quran instruct this, the first one
saying, Allah instructs you concerning your children: for the male, what is equal to the share
of two females (Quran 4:11) and the second saying, If a man dies, leaving no child but
[only] a sister, she will have half of what he left. And he inherits from her if she [dies and] has no
child. But if there are two sisters [or more], they will have two-thirds of what he left. If there are
both brothers and sisters, the male will have the share of two females. (Quran 4:176). Sharia
law mandates the adherence to these rules which instructs that women they are worth less than
men because they inherit less than they do, and also oppresses women by keeping them less
financially independent.
Islamic law is not only oppressive to women but to all muslims. It can be brutal,
merciless and unreasonable. The Quran does not allow muslims to drink alcohol as stated by the
following passage, Satan only wants to cause between you animosity and hatred through
intoxicants and gambling and to avert you from the remembrance of Allah and from prayer. So
will you not desist? (Quran, 5:91) and sharia law allows for drinkers of alcohol to be flogged.
Thieves have their hands cut off which is a barbaric and uncivilized practiced instructed by the
Quran as shown in this passage, As for the thief, the male and the female, amputate their hands
in recompense for what they committed as a deterrent punishment from Allah . And Allah is
Exalted in Might and Wise. (5:38) This practice is oppressive because it is a response too brutal
for the crime of theft. It inspires fear of the government and religious authorities in citizens
hearts fostering an unhealthy and fearful relationship that produces an oppressed individual.

Case Study Two - Catholicism

There are approximately 1.2 billion Christians in the world, making Catholicism one of
the largest religions in the world. It follows the teachings of the New Testament in the Bible and


one of the main principles of the faith is that Jesus, the son of God, died on the cross for
humanitys sins.
Catholicism is not as blatantly oppressive as Islam but common themes can be found in
both religions. They are both oppressive towards women and emphasize a wives inferiority to
her husband. They both oppress sexuality and condemn homosexuals. One aspect of Catholicism
that is less applicable to Islam is the concept of faith, which is oppressive.
Catholicism does not foster the oppression of women as Islam does. The oppression of
women in the Catholic Church extends to Bible verses such as this one instructing womens
inferiority to her husband saying:
Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband
is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the
Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their
husbands in everything. (Ephesians 5:22-23)
This excerpt is very oppressive towards women especially where it says For the husband is the
head of the wife because it implies women dont even get the courtesy of thinking for
themselves; that is why they have a husband. Also, this passage instructs women to submit to
their husbands in everything which discourages thought independent from that of a husbands.
The Catholic church does not allow for women to hold positions of power. They cannot become
priests because essentially, the church does not want to stray from tradition. The National
Catholic Reporter discusses this issue and says, The Catechism of the Catholic Church states
that only men can receive holy orders because Jesus chose men as his apostles, and the apostles
did the same when they chose collaborators to succeed them in their ministry. (Francis X.
Rocca, 2013) which means that the Catholic church does not want to break tradition. In a modern
world where gender equality is a prominent issue, the Catholic church not ordaining women for
the sake of tradition can be seen as a sign they undervalue women and their influence in the
church. Nowhere in the Bible are they instructed to only ordain men and there is no reason apart
from adherence to tradition to keep women from being priests. The Catholic churchs resistance
to change on this issue is indicative of its indifference when it comes to gender equality,
especially when they have no specific instructions not to ordain women.


Catholicism excels in producing shame, guilt and fear around sexuality. Masturbation, for
example is a natural act, but because it is a sexual act the Catholic church aims to oppress it. The
Catechism of the Catholic Church condemns it, saying:
Both the Magisterium of the Church, in the course of a constant tradition, and the moral
sense of the faithful have been in no doubt and have firmly maintained that masturbation
is an intrinsically and gravely disordered action. The deliberate use of the sexual faculty,
for whatever reason, outside of marriage is essentially contrary to its purpose. For here
sexual pleasure is sought outside of the sexual relationship which is demanded by the
moral order and in which the total meaning of mutual self-giving and human procreation
in the context of true love is achieved. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2352).
It criticizes masturbation because it is contrary to the purpose of sex which is against the moral
order. The Catholic church places sex, a natural human act on a pedestal, saving it only for
marriage denying the fact that humans are sexual being. This oppresses humans natural
sexuality that occurs because we are animals and are always striving to reproduce. Michael S.
Patton, a writer for the Journal of Religion and Health wrote about the harmful effects that the
Catholic churchs oppression of sexuality, and dualist perspective on sex and the human
experience had on Catholics. He spoke of the state of Catholics under these doctrines saying:
It is quite probable that Catholics in previous generations developed neurotic and even
psychotic attitudes toward sex, self, and God because of such dualistic scripting, which
taught them to hate the body, emotions, sex, and women while they were to love the soul,
intellect, men and God. (Patton, 131)
Catholicism extends so far to ask that people disobey their biological instincts to reproduce and
be sexual beings because they believe sex is of the highest sanctity, oppressing the most natural
part of the human existence.
The Catholic church is infamous for its condemnation of homosexuals. Homosexuals
raised in Catholic households face guilt, denial and possibly rejection from their families. The
Bible promotes hatred for homosexuality in verses such as, If a man has sexual relations with a
man as one does with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They are to be put to
death; their blood will be on their own heads. (Leviticus, 20:13) which furthers the oppression


Catholics inflict on homosexuals. Despite being taught to love thy neighbour many Catholics
use this opportunity to spread their religion in a way that oppresses others.
The final and most oppressive concept that Catholics share with Christians is the concept
of faith. Faith is used to test a believers commitment to the church by God. For example,
Christians have no proof of the existence of God, save for their experiences with him and when
confronted with this fact, they have faith. From an objective, logical point of view, faith is the
perfect tool t with which to perpetuate religion. Faith is essential to religion because religion
suffers from a lack of logic, proof and likelihood. When a religious person is struck with a
thought containing any of the listed, such as, Is it really likely that a talking snake told Eve to
eat some fruit? the church can condition them to have faith that he did, and believers are taught
their faith will be rewarded. Faith is defined as, a firm belief in something for which there is no
proof (Merriam-Webster, 2017). By telling someone to have faith, a religion can make any wild
claim it please without a shred of evidence and tell its followers that if they have faith in the truth
of their statement they will be rewarded by God for it. It is a brilliant tool because when
questions arise there is a universal and fool proof answer. Faith is oppressive because it
eliminates the need for critical thought. Instead of questioning religious teachings and forming
opinions, a person will accept teachings and follow blindly.

Case Study Three - Judaism

Judaism was founded by Moses 3500 years ago in the Middle East and today there are
approximately 14.4 million Jews in the world. ("How many Jews are there in the world?" Israel
National News. Arutz Sheva , 17 Dec. 2016. Web. 15 May 2017.) Jews believe they have a
covenant with God and that they were chosen by him to keep his laws. The most important
religious text in Judaism is the Torah, which is almost the same as the Old Testament in the
Bible. Jews worship in synagogues and the spiritual leaders are called rabbis.
Judaism does not fall short when it comes to oppressive practices and beliefs. In this case
study three oppressive aspects of Judaism will be explored, those being the treatment of women,
dietary restrictions and the covenant Jews have with God.


Women in modern Judaism are treated well for the most part, even though the Torah has
passages that clearly demonstrate that a womans place is under mans. When God gives women
labour pains he says, I will greatly multiply thy pain and thy travail; in pain thou shalt bring
forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee. (Bereshith,
3:16) and not only does he subject women to labour pains but he tells women their husband rules
over them. Having such an obvious statement of male superiority in a religious holy book sets
women in an irrefutably inferior position to men. Along with a wife being her husbands
subordinate the Torah also preaches baby girls being inferior to baby boys. Following a birth a
woman undergoes a time of purification where she is unclean. If she gives birth to a girl the
mother is deemed unclean for double the time she would be if she gave birth to a boy. The
following passage in the Torah describes this, saying:
And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: Speak to the children of Israel, saying: If a
woman conceives and gives birth to a male, she shall be unclean for seven days; as [in]
the days of her menstrual flow, she shall be unclean. And on the eighth day, the flesh of
his foreskin shall be circumcised. And for thirty three days, she shall remain in the blood
of purity; she shall not touch anything holy, nor may she enter the Sanctuary, until the
days of her purification have been completed. And if she gives birth to a female, she shall
be unclean for two weeks, like her menstruation [period]. And for sixty six days, she shall
remain in the blood of purity. (Leviticus, 12:1-5).
This is describing the birth of a baby girl as twice as dirty as the birth of a boy. This is
misogynistic and oppressive towards women because it describes women as twice as dirty as
men, marking them as inferior. This passage also deems childbirth in general as something
unclean which is offensive to women who must give up their bodies for months and undergo
immense pain. It disregards the sacrifice women make to bring children in the world which is
demeaning, disrespectful and oppressive. To further the topic of the hatred towards the natural
functions of womens bodies, the next passage from the Torah speaks of a womans uncleanliness
while menstruating. The Torah says:
When a woman has her regular flow of blood, the impurity of her monthly period will
last seven days, and anyone who touches her will be unclean till evening. Anything she


lies on during her period will be unclean, and anything she sits on will be unclean.
Anyone who touches her bed will be unclean; they must wash their clothes and bathe
with water, and they will be unclean till evening. Anyone who touches anything she sits
on will be unclean; they must wash their clothes and bathe with water, and they will be
unclean till evening. Whether it is the bed or anything she was sitting on, when anyone
touches it, they will be unclean till evening. If a man has sexual relations with her and her
monthly flow touches him, he will be unclean for seven days; any bed he lies on will be
unclean. When a woman has a discharge of blood for many days at a time other than her
monthly period or has a discharge that continues beyond her period, she will be unclean
as long as she has the discharge, just as in the days of her period. Any bed she lies on
while her discharge continues will be unclean, as is her bed during her monthly period,
and anything she sits on will be unclean, as during her period. Anyone who touches them
will be unclean; they must wash their clothes and bathe with water, and they will be
unclean till evening. (Leviticus, 15:19-27).
According to the Torah, everything a woman touches during her period becomes unclean which
demonstrates the disgust women face for their natural bodily functions. A womans period is
treated as a disease, something to fear. The disgust with which the Torah refers to menstruation
oppresses womens bodies and in turn their minds because they are taught that their bodies are
sickening and something to be feared.
It is not uncommon for religions to dictate the diets of its adherents, and Judaism has a
particularly restrictive diet. Though dietary restrictions do not have a hugely oppressive impact
on an individuals life it still remains oppressive to individuals because it dictates the very food
they eat. Religious dietary restrictions show the full extent that religious oppression can go
because it will dictate every aspect of an individuals life down to the very food they eat. Jewish
people must eat kosher which means they follow certain rules including, but not limited to,
slaughtering animals in certain ways and having dairy and meat not come into contact. Utensils
must also be kosher. Tracey R. Rich has studied the intricacies of kosher eating and describes a
rule applied to kosher cooking tools, saying, Thus, if you cook chicken soup in a saucepan, the
pan becomes meat. If you thereafter use the same saucepan to heat up some warm milk, the


fleishik status of the pan is transmitted to the milk, and the milchik status of the milk is
transmitted to the pan, making both the pan and the milk a forbidden mixture. (Tracey R. Rich,
2011). Rich is saying that once something has been used to cook meat in if dairy comes into
contact with it a forbidden mixture will form. This is an excellent example of how ludicrous
religion can be. This rule seems ridiculous to someone who is not jewish, but millions of people
abide by these rules not to mix meat and dairy dishes. The fact that millions of jews obey these
rules without questioning why they cannot mix dairy and meat shows the extent that religion can
oppress critical thought.
One of the pillars of Jewish belief is that they are the chosen people and they hold a
covenant with God. The reason why jewish men are circumcised is the symbolize the covenant
held between Jews and God. The core of the covenant is that the Jews follow God and in turn he
will provide them with protection and the holy land of Israel. An example of the nature of this
covenant and the obedience God expects from it is this passage in the Torah saying, Leave your
country, your people and your father's household and go to the land I will show you. I will make
you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a
blessing. (Genesis 12:1-2) where God asks ninety nine year old Abraham to leave everything he
knows. This is a perfect example of the covenant between God and the Jews; Abraham obeys
Gods command blindly and faithfully while God ensures Abraham is protected and cared for.
All Jewish people believe they have this relationship with God. This believed relationship is
oppressive to Jews and other people because it creates a us and them mentality. Because jews
believe they are the chosen people it creates separation between their own and others. It instills a
sense of difference and superiority which is oppressive to jews because it limits their perspective
and influences it in a negative way. This attitude does not foster a sense of unity in the world and
only causes division and strife.

All three religions in the case studies share a universally oppressive concept; the
oppression of freedom of thought. This form of oppression is inherent in religion especially in
highly organized religions such as Islam, Catholicism and Judaism. Oppression of freedom of


thought occurs in these religions because the teachings of religion tell a believer what to think
instead of them making their own choices. For example, muslims believe that only Allah decides
when a person enters and exits the world, as shown by this passage, There is no god but He: it is
He Who gives life and gives death the Lord and Cherisher to you and your earliest
ancestors (Quran, 44:8) where the Quran says that only Allah gives life and death. As a result,
muslims are against euthanasia, birth control and abortion. Muslims would adhere to these
beliefs because their religion instructed them to do so, not because their own values swayed their
opinion. Thought is also oppressed in cases such as with evolution. Many Catholics will not
acknowledge the possibility that evolution is likely true, despite extremely convincing evidence
indicating it is. They have let their religion oppress their thoughts that would allow them to think
critically and take in facts and evidence to form an educated opinion. The oppression of thought
will occur in any case where a religion instills beliefs in an individual that they did not create on
their own. For example, the belief that couples should wait until marriage to have sex, the belief
that homosexuality is wrong or the belief that wives can be beaten are oppressive because
religious people accept these beliefs as right because they were instilled in them by the god they
worship not by their own values.

International Organizations
Former Catholic
Former Catholic is a website that was created so that Catholics and former Catholics

could have a safe place where they could discuss their struggles with the church. It focuses on

compassion, hope, respect for all points of view and kindness. The creator of the website, Marie,
created the website and says, I created this site because I wished I had a resource like this after

leaving Catholicism a couple of years ago. (Former Catholic, 2011) She emphasizes anonymity

when publishing articles so that the privacy of her contributors can be protected.
The site is designed so that people can share their stories and read others stories. It is

meant to be an open environment that is not at all an anti-Catholic community. The website has

articles such as After Catholicism - Now what?, "Top Reasons Catholics are Leaving the


Catholic Church, Slow Journey Away From Rome Auricular Confession, articles about

religious abuse and about women in love with priests, and how to cope in such a complicated

It offers resources for priests leaving the Catholic Church as well as the contact

information to a Father that helps Catholics leaving the church.

The transition from the sheltered and oppressive orthodox Jewish community to modern
society can be challenging. Footsteps provides a support system offering social and emotional
support, educational and vocational guidance, workshops and social activities, and access to
resources to jewish people leaving their communities.
Based in New York City, Footsteps started as a monthly drop in support group for
orthodox jewish women to have support during their transition into society. Many people needed
more help than a support group could provide, such as needing reading and writing skills,
financial challenges and mental health issues. The donations of generous supporters allowed
Footsteps grow to become an organization that has helped over 1100 people.
Some of their achievements in 2016 include launching an economic empowerment
partnership with Madison Strategies Group, four members participating in a new video series,
expanding the programming for parents and their children, having a story on Footsteps in the
New York Times, partnering on a groundbreaking study of an Orthodox Jewish community, co-
hosting a conference with Baruch College, having two new micro grant programs distribute 30
000$ to individual and community based efforts, having three footsteps among The Jewish
Weeks 36 under 36 and having more than 300 people attend Footstepts Celebrates.
It is not a large organization but its presence could be enough to motivate nervous Jews to
leave their communities because they will know there is support for them.

Women for Women (Afghanistan)

Women for Women is an organization that helps marginalized women in countries that
have been affected by war and conflict. They work in eight countries which are Afghanistan,


Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kosovo, Nigeria, Northern
Iraq, Rwanda and South Sudan.
They provide a year long social and economic empowerment program for marginalized
women to come to class to learn basic business skills and a vocational skill that will allow them
to earn money in local markets. The women, in classes of 25, work together to create support
networks, associations and help each other through challenges. They are taught how to manage
their health, including reproductive health and the importance of good hygiene and nutrition.
They are put in contact with healthcare providers as well. The women learn their fundamental
rights and freedoms and which of them are recognized in their own countries. This is especially
relevant in the Afghanistan branch of Women for Women because many women in Afghanistan
are deprived of human rights such as a right to education.
Some of the impact Women for Women has had on women in Afghanistan is teach
women how to earn income. The average income of graduates is 1.04$ per day compared to
0.00$ at the beginning of the program. All women practice family planning at graduation
compared to 1% at enrolment. Ninety Nine percent of graduating women report having shared
information about their rights with another woman compared to one percent at the beginning.

Canadian Connection
Religious oppression in Canada is found in the oppression of freedom of thought and
opinion that comes along with religion. Religious people in Canada have their freedom of
thought oppressed by the religion they follow and this happens because religion naturally
oppresses freedom of thought. Belief in one religion automatically destroys the possibility of any
other belief system. It also restricts any thought that leaves the teachings of that religion. For
example, Catholics must believe in the story of creation and that the human race evolved from
Adam and Eve which eliminates the possibility of believing in evolution. Religious Canadians
fall victim to this kind of oppression which is tragic because it prevents many people from
reaching their full abilities for critical thought and opinion.
Another form of religious oppression found in Canada is the oppression of opinion. Many
religious people rely on their religion to tell them their opinion on social issues such as marriage


equality, reproductive and abortion rights and euthanasia. When these rights are denied to the
public this is a form of imposing religion on others. By depriving someone of a right such as an
abortion, an individual who wishes to receive one cant because they are not provided due to
religious people protesting against them.
Canada is fortunate to have a diverse population, with people from many different
cultures and religions. In fact, 39% of the population are Roman Catholic, 29% are Protestant,
24% identify as atheist or agnostic, 3% are Muslim, 2% are Hindu, Sikhism, Buddhism and
Judaism each are practiced by 1% or less of the population. As a result, Canadians are exposed to
numerous kinds of religious oppression. Canadian society is still very accepting of the various
religions it supports.
Religion is oppressive in every context, but what varies is to what extent. Canadians are
lucky to only have to wrestle with the restrictive properties on thought that religion has instead of
worrying about abuse of women within marriages condoned by religion.

Religion is inherently oppressive. There is no avoiding this fact; any time religion is
present its oppressive properties will be as well. With that logic, the only way to end religious
oppression is to end religion but this is an impossible goal in todays world. The next best option
is minimizing religions oppressive effects. Some effects such as oppression of thought cannot be
helped but others such as the oppression of women in religion can be helped.
Comparing moderate Canadian muslims to Saudi Arabian muslims is like comparing
summer and winter. They are both seasons, but are very different. Canadian and Saudi Arabian
muslims practice the same religion but the degree to which they practice it varies, their
interpretation of the Quranic teachings varies, and their individual values vary because of the
societies muslims live in. Canadian muslims are still oppressed because they are religious but
they have their human rights. The reason why Saudi Arabian muslims, especially women dont
have access to the same rights as Canadians do is because of the society they live in. People are a
product of their environment. Canadian culture values women and does not stand for their abuse.
This is not very important in Saudi Arabian culture, and as a result people can use their religion


to justify the mistreatment of women. By changing societies around the world so that they value
gender equality and human rights religions negative impacts such as preventing women from
being educated can be alleviated.
Societal change is a gradual process and it is stimulated by many things. People need to
want change for anything to happen. Citizens must put pressure on their governments to enforce
human rights in countries that do not have them. Citizens in those countries must advocate for
their rights as well. Groups such as Amnesty International help advocate for human rights and
should be supported by citizens.
A world free of religion would be a very different one, whether or not it would be a better
world is a matter of opinion. One positive aspect of a world without religion would be no
religious oppression. No individuals would have their minds clouded with a God telling them
what to think and believe and that would be freedom.



World Map of Percentage of Population of Catholics

Figure 1. (Knowles, Michael David, and Michael Frassetto. "Roman Catholicism."

Encyclopdia Britannica. Encyclopdia Britannica, inc., 2012. Web. 14 May 2017)


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