Beyond God the Father

by Mary Daly

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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

In her critical feminist analysis of Christianity, Mary Daly argues for a radical process of re-envisioning and renaming the underlying foundations of the Christian (and, by extension, Judeo-Christian) faith. Connecting the rise of patriarchy with the rise of monotheism, she isolates specific instances where a shift occurred between the characterization of a more abstracted, unnamable divinity to the male personification of God—and of Christ as his son.

One of Daly’s most significant points is identifying "God" as a verb rather than a noun: being, not a being. This adjustment erases the implication of the divine as an object. This shift is necessary, Daly argues, to move beyond subject-object dualism, which she sees as a critical issue in religion and philosophy. This rejection of objectification is particularly important for women—not only for their own comprehension of their place within a religious worldview, but in order to facilitate their pioneering of new ways of being: positioning themselves as subject, rather than object. These are necessary corrective steps, Daly argues, towards rebuilding what is essentially a patriarchal church.

This attention to subjectivity is followed by an attention to collectivity (for which Daly posits female suitability). Daly insists that, in order to radically re-envision the church, the position of the whole subject as well as the relation between the whole and its parts must be understood. The "whole" and the "parts" can include the body and its subsequent parts, which she sums up as "phallic morality."

In addition to the theoretical and philosophical aspects of her analysis, Daly also addresses contemporary social theories and movements that are concerned with reforming the church (such as those that were contemporary with her 1960s–1970s writing). These theories and movements include—but are not limited to—feminism, ecology, the civil rights movement, and the anti-war movements.

Summary

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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

Beyond God the Father: Toward a Philosophy of Women’s Liberation by Mary Daly discusses the impact of Christianity on patriarchy. According to the author, Christianity has played a significant role in advancing patriarchy. Daly holds the view that Christianity and patriarchy are inseparable. She claims that Christianity is a male-centered religion, which should be done away with and allow a society where men and women are equal.

In the book, Daly argues that the world is male-dominated because Christianity associates God with men and not women. God is always referred to as “He” and not “She.” For instance, associating God with a particular gender has resulted in Christian husbands dominating their wives just as God does to His creation. The writer notes that many religions find it hard to accept the liberation of women and a world that embraces gender equality.

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