David Marshall On How NOT To Defend Christianity's Terrible Record Towards Women, Part 1

Annie Laurie Gaylor is the co-founder of the Freedom from Religion Foundation (with her late mother Anne Nicol Gaylor) and currently its co-president (with her husband Dan Barker), which does some fantastic work on behalf of a secularized world. She wrote a superior chapter in my anthology Christianity is Not Great: How Faith Fails, titled, "Woman What Do I Have to Do with Thee: Christianity's War against Women." I bid everyone to read it. Not everyone likes it though, due to the fact it means the god of Christianity is to be blamed for a war against half the people on the planet (an effective rhetorical title, I'll admit). So you'd expect a defender of the indefensible faith would try to rise to the challenge, and so enters David Marshall. For my part, I'm on record as saying,
I am against sexism and especially misogyny, most emphatically, without any doubt at all. In fact, one of the main reasons I do what I do is because of what religion has done--and continues to do--to women. I argue against religion for that reason alone.
Ever since Gaylor's chapter was published Marshall has been egging and taunting and badgering me for a debate on the topic of women in Christianity. I have repeatedly said his views have already been refuted in a few books I recommended, and that I would no more be scared of debating him on this topic than I would a flat earther. But I do think his defense contains a few lessons in how NOT to defend Christianity's terrible record towards women. So along the same lines as my book, How to Defend the Christian Faith: Advice from an Atheist--which is the one every defender of the faith should read--I can easily show how his defenses fail, miserably.

A major part of his challenge is this one:
If Christianity has locked women in a dungeon, it seems to have been an uncommonly sloppy jailer, and seems to have to outsourced the jail-keeping duties to other cultures. In fact, the data strongly suggests just the opposite: that where the Bible has been influential, for whatever reason, women enjoy better health, more education, better working conditions, and more control of their families than in the rest of the world....The simplest explanation is that Christianity (and possibly Judaism) have consistently elevated the status of women, while Islam and Hinduism have lowered it, and Buddhism has had a more mixed effect.LINK.
So here goes, easily.

1) If you wish to defend Christianity's terrible record toward women, focus on everything that's helpful toward women, and ignore everything that's hurtful. Do the same thing as you already do with prayers, by focusing on the hits and ignoring the misses. In her chapter on women Gaylor recounts a host of hurtful things done to women by the church as sanctioned in the Bible, but Marshall ignores all of it, preferring instead to focus on that which he claims the gospel of Jesus did to elevate the plight of women in the world. He needs to offer an explanation for the kind of hurtful anti-women statements we find in the Bible and acted upon by the church down through the ages. Then he needs to explain why his perfectly good, all-powerful god, with his perfect revelation in the Bible, along with his authorized holy spirit indwelt and inspired church has had such a mixed record on women AT BEST. If what Gaylor recounts is the best a perfectly good god with his revelation and church can do, then this, all by itself, calls into serious doubt a perfectly good god, his perfect revelation and his authorized spirit-filled church.

2) If you wish to defend Christianity's terrible record towards women, then you should hypocritically refuse to compare comparables, choosing instead to compare incomparables, by comparing Christianity's regard for women with whatever makes Christianity look better, not with that which is best for women. Even if we admit the gospel of Jesus caused "women to enjoy better health, more education, better working conditions, and more control of their families than in the rest of the world", why is his chosen comparable the "rest of the world"? This is why I say all Christian apologetics is special pleading. It truly is. And this is why no reasonable person should accept it. And why I'll hammer home this point till the day I cease arguing. Marshall isn't saying anything significant by comparing Christianity's regard for women with the rest of the world. If that's the best he can muster it ain't much, especially given the miserable plight of women under Muslim theocratic/Taliban/Wahhabism rule, and many other places. Better doesn't cut it if he's trying to defend the omnipotent, omniscient, perfectly good ways of the supposed one true god. The real comparison is obvious, the one between Christianity's regard for women with how women ought to be regarded.

3) If you wish to defend Christianity's terrible record towards women, obfuscate the difference between causation and correlation. The plight of women in the western world has indeed become better than the rest of the world, beginning a few centuries ago. However, Christianity has been around for nearly twenty centuries, so why have women only recently experienced the kind of happiness and power over their lives that men have always enjoyed? It cannot be because of Christianity, since it had fifteen centuries to get this right. It has to be because of other socio-political-scientific influences. Those other influences are the rise of modern science (especially medicine, agriculture and food transportation around the world), the rise of human rights, women joining hands in the workplace next to men (especially since WWII, which because women are not allowed to work in many oil-poor Muslim countries those countries are poverty stricken) democracy, and especially women's suffrage (which all by itself was a game changer). Anyone who claims Christianity is responsible for the rise of modern science, human rights, democracy, and women's suffrage are simply ignorant, even willfully so. See Richard Carrier's chapter on modern democracy in my aforementioned anthology, "Christianity is Not Great", and see his chapter on the rise of modern science in my anthology The Christian Delusion: Why Faith Fails. The rise of democracy in the west mainly arose from the carnage between warring Christian theocracies, just like civilized people hope will happen to the endless Muslim theocratic wars.

4) If you wish to defend Christianity's terrible record towards women, forget about why women around the world have probably always had it worse off than men. If Christianity has been used to elevate the status of women in the western world, why were women around the world regarded as second class citizens (or less, as chattel) prior to the influence of Christianity? A perfectly good god didn't care about women before the rise of Christianity, and even then not for fifteen hundred years. If the Christian god cares about women then he should even inspire other world religions to grant women equal power over their lives.
If god can truly inspire a whole religion (the greater deed) then he can inspire other religions to teach a truly high regard for women (the lesser deed). If he can't do the lesser deed, he can't do the greater deed!
5) If you wish to defend Christianity's terrible record towards women, ignore the fact that atheist societies have a much better track record with regard to women when compared to the happiness women should experience in a good society. Phil Zuckerman shows us the least religious nations are also the most healthy and successful in a number of ways. Since this helps both women and men, atheist societies are better for women. If having better societal health and happiness is an indicator of truth then secular/atheist societies have more truth to them.

No doubt Marshall will complain--without any real substance--to what I just argued. He'll claim I should deal with every assertion of his before it can be said I debunked his views. Let him first show he can reasonably argue with me, before I'll consider writing more. Or, he should acknowledge I am correct here, which is the only thing an authentic person sitting at the adult table can do. Then I'll respond further.

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