http://www.alternet.org/belief/why-rape-origin-most-religionWhy Is Rape at the Origin of Most Religion?Stories like the Virgin Birth lack freely given female consent. Why don’t they bother us more?
December 18, 2014 |
Powerful gods and demi-gods impregnating human women—it’s a common theme in the history of religion, and it’s more than a little rapey.
Zeus comes to Danae in the form of a golden shower, cutting “ the knot of intact virginity” and leaving her pregnant with the Greek hero, Perseus.
Jupiter forcibly overcomes Europa by transforming himself into a white bull and abducting her. He imprisons her on the Isle of Crete, over time fathering three children.
Pan copulates with a shepherdess to produce Hermes.
The legendary founders of Rome, Romulus and Remus are conceived when the Roman god Mars impregnates Rea Silvia, a vestal virgin.
Helen of Troy, the rare female offspring of a god-human mating, is produced when Zeus takes the form of a swan to get access to Leda.
In some accounts Alexander the Great and the Emperor Augustus are sowed by gods in the form of serpents, by Phoebus and Jupiter respectively.
Though the earliest Christians had a competing story, in the Gospel of Luke, the Virgin Mary gets pregnant when the spirit of the Lord comes upon her and the power of the Most High overshadows her.
The earliest accounts of Zoroaster’s birth have him born of a human father and mother, much like Jesus,; but in later accounts his mother is pierced by a shaft of divine light.
The Hindu god Shiva has sex with the human woman Madhura, who has come to worship him while his wife Parvathi is away. Parvathi turns Madhura into a frog, but after 12 years in a well she regains human form and gives birth to Indrajit.
The Buddha’s mother Maya finds herself pregnant after being entered from the side by a god in a dream.
The impregnation process may be a “ravishing” or seduction or some kind of titillating but nonsexual procreative penetration. The story may come from an Eastern or Western religious tradition, pagan or Christian. But these encounters between beautiful young women and gods have one thing in common. None of them has freely given female consent as a part of the narrative. ( Luke’s Mary assents after being not asked but told by a powerful supernatural being what is going to happen to her, “Behold the bond slave of the Lord: be it done to me . . .”)
Who needs consent, freely given? If he’s a god, she’s got to want it, right? That is how the stories play out.
Whether or not the delectable young thing puts up a protest, whether or not seduction requires deception, whether or not the woman already has a husband or love, whether or not she is physically forced, the basic assumption is that the union between a god and a woman is overwhelming in an orgasmic way, not a bloody, head-bashed-against-the-ground kind of way. And afterwards? Well, what woman wouldn’t want to be pregnant with the son or daughter of a god?
Underneath this remarkably enduring and widespread trope lie two assumptions that, in their most primitive form, may trace their roots all the way back to evolutionary biology.
The biology hypothesis, much oversimplified, goes something like this: Males and females of each species have instincts that maximize their genes in the next generation. Among humans, females seek the highest quality sperm donors that they can attract. They maximize the quality and survival of their children by mating with high status, powerful males. Males, on the other hand, maximize the quality and quantity of their offspring by seeking young fertile females (with beauty signaling fertility), controlling some females and fending off other males while also spreading their seed around if they can get away with it.