The way in which the Bible advocates treating women is often nothing short of horrendous. I will examine just a few examples of this treatment here. Let us start with the laws of the Old Testament:
"When you go out to war against your enemies, and the LORD your God delivers them into your hand, and you take them captive, and you see among the captives a beautiful woman, and desire her and would take her for your wife..."
At this point I'd like you to stop and think about what words should come after this in a just and rational society. I would expect something like "you shall by no means do so, and if attempt to, you shall be severely punished." Instead we find:
"...then you shall bring her home to your house, and she shall shave her head and trim her nails. She shall put off the clothes of her captivity, remain in your house, and mourn her father and her mother a full month; after that you may go in to her and be her husband, and she shall be your wife. And it shall be, if you have no delight in her, then you shall set her free, but you certainly shall not sell her for money; you shall not treat her brutally, because you have humbled her." (Deuteronomy 21:10-14)
Some context is useful here: in the previous chapter (v. 13-14) God commanded the Israelites to kill all of the men of the enemy nations. This woman's father, brothers, and male friends would all have been dead. Then she is forced to become the wife of one of the men who killed them. Then, as if this would not already be a living nightmare, she is raped. Yes, the Bible allows the rape of female captives—and it definitely is rape. And just to head off any objections from apologists, I'll lay out here why we know this to be the case:
- The man is clearly having sex with the woman. The phrase "go in to" is a common Old Testament euphemism for sex, and the precise phrase "because you have humbled her" is used sexually just one chapter later (v. 28-29).
- "Anah," the Hebrew verb translated here as "humbled," is used in its sexual connotation eleven other times in the Bible. All eleven refer to a sex act that degrades the woman, and at least six refer to rape in particular.
- There is no reason that consensual sex would have degraded or humbled the woman, so it had to have been non-consensual.
- Most importantly, no woman in her right mind would willingly have sex with a man who has just aided in killing her family and forced her to be his wife.
Here's an issue that's relatively minor, yet is still indefensible because it's both harmful and completely unnecessary:
"Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, "Speak to the children of Israel, saying: 'If a woman has conceived, and borne a male child, then she shall be unclean seven days; as in the days of her customary impurity she shall be unclean. And on the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised. She shall then continue in the blood of her purification thirty-three days. She shall not touch any hallowed thing, nor come into the sanctuary until the days of her purification are fulfilled. 'But if she bears a female child, then she shall be unclean two weeks, as in her customary impurity, and she shall continue in the blood of her purification sixty-six days." (Leviticus 12:1-5)
Why this discrimination? What is it about giving birth to a baby girl that makes one twice as unclean as giving birth to a baby boy? This arbitrary distinction in the law has absolutely no upside, and would probably have made the Israelites more resentful towards baby girls. This is a suspiciously human law—one that seems far more likely to originate from an ancient tribe with primitive ideas about gender than an infinitely enlightened God.
There are many other instances of inequality and misogyny in the OT, but I want to keep this to a reasonable length. Let's move on to the NT:
"Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything." (Ephesians 5:22-24)
Do Christians ever stop to think about why this should be? Certainly women are no less intelligent. While they may be physically weaker on average, this shouldn't have any impact on a social relationship. And while there is an analogy presented in this verse, it only clarifies the woman's role rather than giving a reason for it. To be blunt, there simply is no good reason. (In case this verse wasn't clear enough, its command is repeated in Colossians 3:18 and 1 Peter 3:1.) And finally:
"Let your women keep silent in the churches, for they are not permitted to speak; but they are to be submissive, as the law also says. And if they want to learn something, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is shameful for women to speak in church." (1 Corinthians 14:34-35)
"Let a woman learn in silence with all submission. And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression." (1 Timothy 2:11-14)
So in summary: women are to be silent in church, they are to learn in silence, they are to be submissive, and they are not to teach or have authority over men.
Why is this? What exactly is shameful about women speaking in church? What is it about women that makes them poor teachers? I wonder why many Christians who think women shouldn't have authority in the church also think it is perfectly fine for women to be mayors, senators, governors, or even president? Surely the office of president is filled with far more problems than a position of authority in the church. If they're going to treat women as second-class citizens, they ought to at least be consistent—especially since the Bible itself portrays female rulers as a bad thing in Isaiah 3:12.
Look at the bizarre non-sequitur rationalization Paul gives in 1 Timothy. Women should be silent and should not teach because Eve came after Adam and was deceived? Paul seems to think that because Eve was deceived, all women are naturally gullible. This is a clear example of the genetic fallacy: drawing a conclusion based entirely on someone's origin. It should make no difference where women came from; they should be judged based on their own merits.
Again, this is just a sample of the misogyny in the Bible—there's plenty more. Of course, apologists try to downplay these instances in any way they can, but if we use their same standard of acrobatic reinterpretation, we can also excuse the rampant anti-woman sentiment in the Quran. With enough leeway, anything can be made to say the opposite of what it originally meant. If we treat the text with any degree of honesty, the image we get is not of a loving God, but of bigoted men who used religion to subjugate women.