I am finishing a book called “The God part of the Brain” (review to follow). In it the author offers a quote by Freud: “God is the exalted father, and the longing for the father is the root of all religion.” The purpose of this article is not to debate the root of religion. When I read this my thoughts went to the recent views of God I have heard and seen. There is a Shaggy song and a Richie Sambora song that ask if God is a woman. There is a Lou Bega song and a speech by Jon Bon Jovi that claims God is a woman. And there is a song by the band “Humane” that wishes God is a woman. There is the movie “Dogma” where God is played by a woman. Generally these are all references to the western idea of God, and this list does not include the many female deities or Goddesses of other religions.
While thinking of Freud’s statement I thought it may be dated. Freud went on to say “I cannot think of any need in childhood as strong as the need for a father’s protection.” In thinking about these statements and what individuals today might long for, I remembered these references to God being female. I began to wonder if there wasn’t something telling about this trend toward a feminine God.
In Freud’s day the gender roles were much stricter. Men were more clearly what we would define as masculine, and women were expected to be much more in line with what we consider feminine. The world was perhaps a scarier place (although this is a weak spot in my argument, as today’s world might be viewed as equally scary). Men were more likely to remain married, stayed around to rear the children, and were likely perceived as the protector of the family. Times have changed.
My suggestion is that perhaps in Freud’s day his statement was very true. Perhaps the benefits of perceiving a male deity, which would protect (and as I was taught punish harshly) were what was sought by those who worshiped in the western religions. This to me begs the question then, why so many references to a female western god these days?
My answer is a simple one, and one more gained from personal experience than anything else. Perhaps we are more welcoming of a feminine version of the western god because of distaste for the perception of masculinity in this era. Perhaps rather than looking to be protected by the all powerful perception of god, our culture is looking more toward the nurturance of a mother figure. Rather than a father figure, who may not be around, who is susceptible to fits of rage, who perhaps has punished harshly; this era is looking for the ideal female protector. A strong feminine model that is capable of protection, but also of loving and nurturance.
As I focus this month on the practice of Metta, the practice of loving-kindness, the type of love a parent has for a child, I think also of what type of love I have most longed for in my life. The unconditional love of a healthy mother seems to me to be the most perfect love there is. So what better representation for an all powerful deity than a woman?
As I teach in Introduction to Psychology, the gender roles of this generation are becoming more androgynous. Men are more nurturing, and women are much more likely to be independent, perceived as strong, and otherwise demonstrative of qualities that used to be more attributed to men. Perhaps later we will see god depicted with both male and female sex traits, or otherwise androgynous, like Pat from SNL.