Feminist Religion of the 21st Century

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Can feminism be the new religion?  Dianism, or Dianic Feminist Wicca, is a tradition of the Neopagan religion Wicca. It was founded by Zsuzsanna Budapest in the United States in the 1970s. It is notable for its worship of a single Goddess and focus on feminism. Dianism is named after the Roman goddess Diana, but Dianics worship the Goddess under a plethora names. Dianism combines elements of British Traditional Wicca, Italian folk-magic as recorded by Charles Leland in Aradia, feminist values, folk magic, and healing practices Budapest learned from her mother.

In 2000, Melissa Raphael wrote the text Introducing Thealogy: Discourse on the Goddess for the series Introductions in Feminist Theology. Written for an academic audience, it purports to introduce the main elements of thealogy within the context of Goddess feminism. She situates thealogy as a discourse that can be engaged with by Goddess feminists—those who are feminist adherents of the Goddess who may have left their church, synagogue, or mosque—or those who may still belong to their originally established religion. In the book, Raphael contrasts thealogy from the Goddess movement. In 2007, Paul Reid-Bowen wrote the text “Goddess as Nature: Towards a Philosophical Thealogy”, which can be regarded as another systematic approach to thealogy, but which integrates philosophical discourse.

This dignity was also strongly influenced by her childhood friend Helen Burns. Helen faces her struggles with a dignity that is based more upon her Christian views than anything feminist, but dignity nonetheless. Even on her deathbed, she places her dire fate in the hands of God, in whom she has so much faith (Bronte 71). Though Jane struggles to understand this at first, she soon incorporates this dignity into her being. In addition, this experience was one of Jane’s first opportunities to formulate her own, independent opinion of a highly complex topic: religion. She was introduced by Helen to a religion based on complete trust and faith, one based on hypocrisy and subordination by Mr. Brocklehurst and yet another based on ambition by St. John. She takes all of these examples into consideration but does not go to any of those extremes. She simply uses religion as a guide to ask God for help when in dire situations, such as the interruption of her wedding or when she is wandering the moors. She has the ability to form her own opinion of religion, just as she forms an opinion of social classes when, as previously discussed, she implores Mr. Rochester to look beyond her servitude and into the affairs of her heart.

If feminists challenge the norm, then Jane Eyre can definitely be defined as one. Her defiance of authority, or at least, those who try to wield authority over her, is proof of this assertion. Mr. Brocklehurst, Mr. Rochester and St. John each drew from her a certain defiance that portrayed her as nothing less than resilient and passionate. The fact that Jane refuses to give part of her nature to the will of any of these men shows that she does not consider herself below them, but wishes to maintain a dignified, independent self, free from their demands and desires. In addition, she is able to form her own opinions about religion and social standards as a result of (or in spite of) these men as well as other women in the novel. Her relationships to the other female characters are the strongest indications of Jane’s strength, fortitude and insistence on breaking from societal standards of the day. Some women inspire her independent spirit while other contrast sharply with Jane’s free-spirited attitude. Though Jane does not announce to the world that she is trying to begin any type of feminist movement, her actions and decisions nevertheless could set a model for any forward-thinking woman in the mid-nineteenth century. St. John’s opinion that her “words are such as ought not to be used: violent, unfeminine, and untrue” (Bronte 363) seem to be Bronte’s hint that indeed, Jane’s actions were not typical of a woman in that era.

The term suggests a feminist approach to theism and the context of God and gender within Paganism, Neopaganism, Goddess Spirituality and various nature-based religions. However, thealogy can be described as religiously pluralistic, as thealogians come from various religious backgrounds that are often hybrid in nature. In addition to Pagans, Neopagans, and Goddess-centred faith traditions, they are also Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, Muslim, Quakers, etc. or define themselves as Spiritual Feminists. As such, the term thealogy has also been used by feminists within mainstream monotheistic religions describe in more detail the feminine aspect of a monotheistic deity or trinity, such as God/dess Herself, or the Heavenly Mother of the Latter Day Saint movement.