Assigning Gender to Gods Suggests We Created Them in Our Image

Female god presiding over the Earth

Why do so many people seem so convinced that their gods have a gender? Why do they insist on using gendered pronouns to describe them? Gender applies to humans, but few are eager to claim that their gods are human. They'd like to think their gods are better than us. Gender applies to many other animals too. But once again, few view their gods as animals even though some behave worse than most animals.

Why would a timeless and infinite being be constrained by gender? Many monotheists insist that their god is everywhere and in all things. This sounds impressive until they trip over gender, referring to their god as "he." Why would they think their god was male in any meaningful way? They might as well claim that their god has red hair or lives in Arkansas.

Isn't the answer obvious? No, not because it says so in an ancient book some people still take seriously. That's a brief detour that brings us to the more obvious answer. Humans created gods in our image. They have genders because we do.

It should surprise no one that the gods we created share so many of our flaws. How does it make any sense for a god to be jealous? What would a god have to be jealous of? A wrathful or punitive god? This seems unlikely unless we created it by projecting our characteristics onto it. And who else but humans would conjure a genocidal god?

If I close my eyes and picture the Grand Canyon or another natural beauty, I assign no gender to it. I remember standing in front of Old Faithful in Yellowstone National Park. I had no need to pretend it had a personality or consciousness. When struck with awe before nature, I recognize that this powerful feeling is mine. I don't pretend some external force is speaking to me. It is not necessary to do so.

Nature should pale before gods. If we don't assign human characteristics to nature, doesn't it make even less sense to do so for gods? I had a blast exploring Yosemite, but it never occurred to me that it loved me and wanted me to be happy. To claim that about gods seems even sillier.

If gods are infinite, they don't have human characteristics like gender. If gods exist outside of nature, they aren't constrained by anything found in nature. If miracles are real, they are evidence that gods don't have to play by the rules of our universe. When I hear someone refer to a poorly-defined god as "he," I always have the same question. Is this arrogance, evidence of limited imagination, or some combination of both?

Image by author via NightCafe