When you hear atheists criticize a book that many Christians claim is something far more than an ordinary book for being less than charitable to women, what are they talking about? Just because we've had our share of patriarchal societies does not necessarily mean that Christian scripture is responsible for it. When I was a Christian, after all, I was taught that we were all "God's children." This certainly included women and girls as well as men and boys. Why then would some atheists claim that the very foundations of Christianity (i.e., the "holy" book itself) are filled with blatant sexism and even misogyny? What could have given them such an idea?
Perhaps it would be helpful to consult 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 (NIV) for guidance here:
Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says. If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church.This sounds like the sort of thing one could reasonably expect to find today in Saudi Arabia. Of course, it also sounds like something one might find in some Southern Baptist churches here in Mississippi today. I have certainly heard directly from some of the local Southern Baptist women that they are subservient to their husbands because that is what their god wants. I have to admit that no matter how many times I hear that, it creeps me out every time.
Nobody at the mainline Protestant church I was forced to attend as a child ever read this passage from 1 Corinthians during a sermon. It was almost as if they didn't want us to know it was in there. I think that most of the people at that church would have found it embarrassing. After all, this was in a book many of them insisted was "holy." Maybe I'm wrong about them finding it embarrassing though. After all, I do remember an exodus of older members of the congregation when the church dared to hire a female minister. Although this happened after I had moved away, none of the reasons given for their departure involved anything other than the fact that she was a woman.
As far as some evangelical fundamentalist Christians are concerned, this passage and all it represents should be a source of pride rather than one of embarrassment. At least, it isn't something they would attempt to conceal. To the contrary, they seem to broadcast it proudly. I can't help thinking that this might be one of the many reasons younger people are losing interest in church.