The End of God: Important Directions for a Feminist Critique of Religion in the Works of Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung

Description

128 pages
Contains Bibliography
$5.25
ISBN 2-7603-0043-9

Year

1982

Contributor

Reviewed by P.J. Kemp

P.J. Kemp was a journalist living in Brigham, Quebec.

Review

The End of God is obviously meant to be used as a textbook, with extensive footnotes and an academic, slightly redundant style. Naomi Goldenberg maintains that there is today “a profound alienation of women from religious systems,” due to “a lack of meaningful religious symbols” because the two main Western religions, Christianity and Judaism, are patriarchal in nature and all but exclude women except in the role of gofers. In her book Goldenberg identifies “negative factors that make women feel estranged” from established religion, and then explores “a positive course of action and reflection which will allow the maintenance and expression of spiritual feelings about life.” To do this she uses the theories of depth psychology: “there are elements in the thought of both Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung that can be helpful in a feminist study of religion.”

The problem with using Freud’s ideas so extensively is that Goldenberg seems to accept the centrality and actuality of the ridiculous oedipal complex — where boys want to kill their fathers to have carnal relations with their mothers. Freud and Goldenberg both strain credibility by trying to outline a female equivalent of the oedipal complex, though precisely what form it takes and how it is to be resolved isn’t entirely clear. It would have been much easier and more sensible to point out that men and women must both learn to overthrow arbitrary authority before they can begin to reason and mature in their own right.

The second chapter, dealing with Jung, comes as a breath of fresh air after the heavy-handed Freudian nonsense of chapter one. Jung states plainly the heart of the matter when he writes “God has ... not chosen for sons those who hang on to him as the Father, but those who found the courage to stand on their own feet.” For a few, this would be enough; the problem remains, however, of semantics and interpretation. Goldenberg quotes Elizabeth Cady Stanton, moving force behind The Woman’s Bible, to the effect that male-written scriptures (however divinely inspired) have been used by male pharisees to subjugate women and all but deny them religious or any other kind of authority. But that isn’t necessarily so much a matter of religious dogma as of simple, entrenched power playing, which will always be around even when its guise moves from the religious to other spheres. It was, after all, mankind who made a dogma of the scriptures, not the scriptures themselves, which claim the underlying rule of all religious feeling is that one must love and serve other people.

Goldenberg might have made more of the issue of power plays, rather than continue and inflame the eternal wrangle over gender exploitation and definition. Only in the last 20 pages of her third and last chapter does Goldenberg pull the ideas and solutions together with some effectiveness when she clearly advocates “developing a perspective which allows us continuously to derive religious imagery from experience. A ‘theology’ based in ever-changing ‘experience’ is an enticing possibility which would indicate solutions to the problem posed by the desire for religious imagery without a dogmatization of that imagery... Perhaps more people will need to become innovators today as more people, especially women, become estranged from the contemporary patriarchal creeds of their day.”

Citation

Goldenberg, Naomi Ruth, “The End of God: Important Directions for a Feminist Critique of Religion in the Works of Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 19, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/38169.