For my invited contribution to this special issue of Religions
on “Feminisms and the Study of ‘Religions,’” I focus on philosophy of religion and contestations over its relevance to the academic field of Religious Studies. I amplify some feminist philosophers’ voices—especially Pamela Sue Anderson—in corroboration with recent calls from Religious Studies scholars to diversify philosophy of religions in the direction of locating it properly within the current state of Religious Studies. I want to do this by thinking through two proposals in productive tension: first, any philosophy of religions worthy of the name is intrinsically feminist; second, any philosophy of religions worthy of the name is intrinsically traditional. I want to use the productive tension between these two to illuminate ways calls for broadening the field can be enhanced when such calls are seen as both feminist and traditional. I proceed as follows. First, I note three instances of explicitly feminist work in philosophy of religions that do not suffer from the same narrowness as so-called “traditional” philosophy of religion. Religious Studies critics of philosophy of religion overstate the case in claiming feminist philosophy of religion is too narrow. Second, I develop a useful distinction between the concepts of “tradition” and “institution” to locate forces of oppression more precisely in dynamics of institutionalization so that we might rehabilitate tradition as a resource for combating institutionalized oppressiveness. I do this in response to the hegemony of current philosophers of religion who claim to speak about “the traditional god.” And third, I briefly coordinate four topics in religions from diverse feminist perspectives to help refine paths of inquiry for future philosophy of religions that is both feminist and traditional. My hope is that these clarify a philosophy of religions renewed through feminisms—moving from fringe to normative topics in institutionalized philosophy of religion, maintaining focus on actually existing human beings rather than hypothetically existing transcendent entities. I turn our attention to technical issues surrounding the status of mae chis, Buddhist laity who seek monastic recognition in Theravada. I turn our attention to struggles over fitting criteria for leadership between Mary Magdalene and Peter in early Christian contexts. I have us listen to Muslim women who seek to speak for themselves, many of whom describe Muhammad as a feminist. I have us listen to Anderson’s criticism of arguments about the (non)existence of a god and her promotion of human yearning as guided by regulative ideals as a pointed challenge to institutionalized philosophy of religion. In all these ways and more, feminist challenges to institutionalized philosophy of religion further contribute to diversifying field.
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