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It’s not Matthew, Mark, Luke and Joan

I have an ever-increasing sense that we are witnessing the violent death throws of the Patriarchy.

I think it first hit me when I saw the footage of Pussy Riot doing their head banging stuff in a Moscow Church. The people most offended, upset and able to do something about it where a bunch of bearded men in long robes with comically large crosses hanging around their necks.

Bearded old men in the Sudan condemned a woman to death for marrying the wrong man, okay, they’ve gone back on that decision because of the international outcry, but they still did it.

Bearded old men in long robes encourage bearded young men to go and fight holy wars every day of the week.

Bearded old men in long robes try to justify the vile event of a bunch of tragic men who raped two teenage girls to death in India.

All of these old beardy blokes have one thing in common, they represent the patriarchy.

It’s got little to do with the individual religions they profess to teach, lead, have divinely bestowed upon them by a mythical bearded old man in long robes they call God.

Now, I do understand that criticizing any culture I have little knowledge of is dangerous.

Grouping together a whole race or religious group because of the actions of one or two nut bags is the job of UKIP supporters.

However, as a white, western liberal living in a privileged bubble (apparently) I have to face an ugly fact.

I’m also a man.

The bedrock of all religious belief is by its very nature, patriarchal.

(Patriarchy: relating to or denoting a system of society or government controlled by men)

It’s all about the father being in control, it’s all about a great big, bearded angry dad otherwise known as god.

You don’t have to be a scripture scholar to understand that all religion was dreamt up and written down by men.

Ooops, sorry, I mean God, a bloke, with a beard and long robes. My bad.

Check who wrote the New Testament in the Christian bible

It’s not Matthew, Mark, Luke and Joan is it?

Who wrote the Quran?

A bloke.

Who wrote the Old Testament?

A bunch of blokes.

Religion was made by men to extoll their own virtues, control their offspring and chattels, (that’s the Mrs and the cattle BTW) and lay down the law.

Many years ago I read some of theories about the dawn of patriarchy, the pre-historic connection desert people in the Fertile Crescent made between shagging and childbirth.

These theories indicate that before we started farming, keeping cattle and living in more organised, settled communities, patriarchy simply didn’t exist.

We lived in a matriarchy; as the saying goes, “the mother came first, the son merely followed.”

(Matriarchy: a form of social organization in which descent and relationship are through the female line)

No one knew and more importantly cared who their dad was but you knew who your mum was because she raised you.

The theory is, and it’s backed up by ancient cave paintings and fertility statues, women were revered and in control of their own destiny.


I’m not saying this state of affairs was better or in any way perfect, I’m merely suggesting that patriarchy isn’t ‘the only way we can function.’

The human race is always evolving, new relationships and roles emerge and there is no ‘right’ or ‘only’ way to live together and raise children.

Anyone who tells you otherwise is going to be more interested in power than love.

Anyone who tells you otherwise is going to be a bloke and more likely a religious bloke in a position of power in your community.

The tedious argument that men are ‘naturally dominant’ only exists because we’re all endlessly told that from day one.

We are, I believe, currently seeing the tattered and despoiled cloak of patriarchy slowly disintegrate and that frightens the b’jayzus out of a lot of blokes who’ve invested their entire existence in such dated nonsense.

Any religious nutter with a brutal countenance, long robes and a beard is a patriarch, terrified of the power of women, determined to cling on to power because, poor sausage, that’s all he’s got to fill the void in his heart.

These bearded gentlemen come in all flavors, Russian Orthodox, Greek Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Muslim, Jew and any number of offshoots of all of them.

Big beard, long cloak and complete confidence that their particular strand of virtually the same religion is the right one.

Bit tragic isn’t it?

They are all from the same Abrahamic tradition that stems from the same bit of land on the Eastern side of the Mediterranean that blokes have been fighting over for millennia.

And these squabbles always involve men, boring, tedious blokes who want to impose their self claimed ‘divine law’ on the rest of us.

Tedious but sadly, in some cases we are seeing at the moment, still ridiculously powerful and dangerous.

It’s got naff all to do with genuine religious belief, which, despite my cascade of offense I do actually have respect for.

How weak do you have to be to express such fear from one woman who won’t do as you demand?

How pathetic are you that when your daughter/sister doesn’t obey your every bullying command you kill her to protect, and read this carefully, ‘the honour of your family.’

‘Oh yeah, they’ve got a lot of honour that family, they killed their daughter in the street and we all respect that.’

Hello, it’s 2014, not AD 414 for pities sake.

So as a wet liberal tosser living in a privileged western bubble, I do judge cultures I don’t fully understand when it’s brutal, stupid and based on blatantly enforced ignorance.

As privileged western liberal men we should do all we can to deride and undermine patriarchal power no matter what flavor.

We need to show by example that it is possible to be a man, to be a real, proper bloke, without mutilating little girls, raping and murdering women when they don’t obey our ridiculous demands and claiming some kind of divine superiority.

I’m not saying women are always right or in some way superior, I’m not even saying all men who believe in some sort of old-dad-god figure are brutes, rapists and murderers, but the ones who are need to be faced up to.


If you want to fight patriarchy - but won't fight religion - you're not fighting patriarchy.        @ aliamjadrizvi 

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Reader Comments (15)

Great post - although to me it is not all about the men in long robes with long beards, it is also about the men with microphones & celebrity investigated by Operation Yew Tree; the third pillar seems to be the power-crazed men in charge at the banks - by they are outrageously just getting away with fines for their colluding behaviours! Long-live the conflicted liberal UK man - I'm married to one and he is fabulous.

November 14, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMelanie

I absolutely understand the sentiment, but can't help feeling there's more anger in this post than honest commentary or investigation.

Incidentally, I wonder if you're aware of the "He for She" organisation? http://www.heforshe.org/

I have the greatest respect for your work (especially in promoting EVs and renewable energy), but in this instance I'm concerned that you may be under-appreciating the effect of your own worldview on your perception of others'.

Everyone must hold to some kind of life-philosophy in order to make sense of life. I suspect you may be an adherent of Humanism (the belief that through hard work and learning, humans make their own way with only themselves to judge success). You need to bear this in mind when considering other worldviews: your assumption that there is in fact no God flavours the rest of your argument, whereas the majority of the world's population believes that there is a God (or more than one). It's brilliant to discuss and argue these things, but it must be done with an attempt to understand the opposing worldview.

Now I'm a Christian. I believe God is real, and I believe what the Bible has to say. I'm not one for priests and robes, pomp and circumstance. That's because those things are nowhere to be found in what the Bible has to say about Jesus, and I follow Jesus. Jesus's attitude toward women was deeply unusual for the time: he had plenty of female followers too, and was recorded engaging women in conversation a number of times (e.g. John 4). There's nothing anti-women about Jesus.

As an aside: who were the first to witness Jesus after his resurrection? Was it one of the 12 male disciples? Nope: it was a group of women. And there's every reason to suggest this was deliberate.

It doesn't surprise me that you have an old-man-with-white-beard image of God in your head; many people in the UK have the same. The fact is that the Bible at no point suggests this view of God. In fact at each point that the Bible describes someone "seeing" God, they've fallen flat on the ground, blown away by his brilliance. Maybe the old-man-with-beard idea comes from Moses. I don't know. The only visible likeness of God that anyone has really seen was Jesus, a middle-eastern, ordinary-looking man who proved beyond the reasonable doubt of his peers (including some very well-educated) that despite his absolutely ordinary appearance, he could not simply be a man.

You bring up an interesting point when you say that the Bible, Qu'ran and other such texts were written by men. Again, you need to consider the historical context here. For millennia, knowledge was passed down through oral tradition, from father to son, from mother to daughter. When writing came along, its only real use was for for genealogies, law-writing, and some business. At that time, women generally saw little purpose in writing, and neither did most men. Again, until recently, men dominated the written records because of the use of writing in existing male-dominated roles; women largely continued in the oral tradition, generally seeing no real value in writing. This is still the case in many parts of the world: it can take determination to convince women (and often men) in some rural communities of the value of writing.

So I agree heartily that dictatorial systems (whether patriarchal or not) are to be resisted at all costs. However, at least through the lens of my own philosophy of life, I have to disagree with your view of God as the source of evil. Quite the opposite, in fact.

"God did not choose us to suffer his anger, but to possess salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us in order that we might live together with him, whether we are alive or dead when he comes. And so encourage one another and help one another, just as you are now doing. [...] Be at peace among yourselves. We urge you, our friends, to warn the idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone. See that no one pays back wrong for wrong, but at all times make it your aim to do good to one another and to all people. Be joyful always, pray at all times, be thankful in all circumstances. This is what God wants from you in your life in union with Christ Jesus." (1 Thessalonians 5:9-18, GNB)

November 14, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Dann

You know, I had a long and boring speech all prepared in response to the previous post. But, stuff it! Can't be bothered! Instead I will thank you, Robert, for your musing. I always enjoy your honesty and directness.

November 14, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterLisa H

"... as a wet liberal tosser living in a privileged western bubble, I do judge cultures I don’t fully understand when it’s brutal, stupid and based on blatantly enforced ignorance."

The key phrase in there, I think, is "fully understand". Do you need to fully understand something before you can have a problem with what it produces? I don't think so, and it's not just about religion.

I personally think that religions are hokum, but I don't feel that everyone has to think like me. I suppose that makes me a "liberal" too, since I think people are free to think what they wish, and I have no "liberal thought agenda" to push on to others. You can't say the same about the "Islamic State" or Hamas: they have genuine intolerance for anyone who is not "one of them".

When it comes to actions, on the other hand, then no, I'm not a liberal. I'm probably never going to fully understand what such people do, but I don't believe I need to: "by their works ye shall know them", and all that. This is where "multi-culturalism" confuses me: if intolerable crimes such as honour killing are endemic to particular cultures, what does it mean to be "tolerant" of such cultures?

November 14, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterbrian t

Stalin, Poll pot, Hitler, North Korean dictators of today all do not believe there is a God. This has not stopped them murdering millions.
Its not the beards or the Religion that needs to change its what is inside us that needs to change.

Are you having trouble convincing people that electric cars are a good idea?
Ive had my electric car for nearly a year now and find that people still want to cling on to old ways of thinking.

The problem is not coming up with new technology its letting go of the old.
Jesus correctly identified what is wrong with the world. Its us that needs to change.

November 14, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterDavid Hicks

Paul Dann: I believe the image of God as a man with a beard in a long robe comes from ancient Ugarit, this being their chief god El. "El" is also the Hebrew word for "God" which i presume you knew. Early Jews, of course, didn't depict God at all, quite famously taking a strict line against idolatry.

The earliest known religious author was in fact a woman, a certain Enheduanna, High Priestess of Ur in ancient Sumer (Abraham's home town). She composed many hymns to the goddess Inanna.

The original purpose of religion was not, as many modern people believe, to control everybody, but was the original Welfare State and social justice advocate. It didn't become patriarchal until later, when men obviously realised they could use it to increase their power and influence, and when idependent city states became militarised empires.

November 14, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterAmigaBeanbag

Nice post, Rob.

First I should say that I am a White bloke who is happy to identify himself as a feminist. I would rather we lived in the kind of world that you want us to live in, and agree that setting up our societies all those centuries ago for the sole benefit of men was a pretty stupid idea. As you say, we *can* live another way, and we definitely should.

However, there's one thing I have to disagree with you on: the idea that there was ever a period of human history "pre-patriarchy". I am an evolutionary biologist and all the evidence I have seen convinces me that men have always controlled the lives of women -- that there was no female-led utopia where women were in charge (and examples of modern-day matriarchies crumble upon close inspection).

Yes, we can find artefacts that show artists of the past revered women, but I don't think this means much. Modern-day sexists will often put women on a pedestal and worship them as special and delicate, at the same time as they claustrate their wives and daughters to 'protect' them (i.e. limit their reproductive decision-making). An ancient sculpture of a "fertility goddess" is just as good an example of male gaze in action as a Michael Bay movie.

Human psychology and human physiology is a much better place to look for evidence of what our past might have looked like. One simple but illustrative example is that we men are much physically stronger than women (the difference in strength is bigger than the difference in body size). Given this, I don't see how men could ever have permitted women to rule over them. The idea is almost as preposterous as the idea that a female gorilla could rule over a silverback. Animals that can force other animals to bend to their will, do. There is zero reason to think humans were any different.

You have said above that you think this argument is "tedious", but that doesn't make it any less true! (frankly, like many, I find Dawkins pretty tedious these days, even when I agree with him).

I hasten to add that I don't think any of this means patriarchy is a good idea, or that we should quit trying to change society because "this is how we've evolved". That would be a fallacious "appeal to nature". Just because we have evolved in a certain direction doesn't mean we should consider ourselves free of blame, or that our behaviour is fixed by our genes (it's definitely not). I have to point this out because I think most of the resistance to my way of thinking is that it is perceived by many to absolve wrongdoers of blame, or to suggest that human behaviour is immutable: this is bollocks.

I say all this because I think it's true, but also because I think acknowledging that patriarchy was the inevitable consequence of our Pleistocene pre-history is a good first step towards gender equality. Yes, much of human behaviour is determined by the culture we are brought up in, and in some cultures men behave more or less dominantly than in others. But I think we need to accept that we have an evolutionary past and it has driven us towards the situation we now find ourselves in. That knowledge is useful! It's a tool!

Convincing gorillas that there was once a fantasy era when females ruled over the silverbacks doesn't get us anywhere.

November 16, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterRob

One can only hope that we move from a gender driven plutocracy to one that is gender agnostic? Neither gender is perfectly suited for all aspects of leadership, and it would be ridiculous to believe that one should be put "in charge" over the other. In fact, as you point out it has been ridiculous for the male driven world.

Can we move to a society driven by educated, thoughtful leadership of whatever gender that is not owned by Those of Means?

November 24, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterAlan Mimms

Completely right Rob. Even if the post was out of anger it is out of anger for the right reasons.

December 9, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJ


Loved this post. Gosh I wish you were my dad...

It's also heartening to see this past year several several top minds (Hawkins, Musk) reminding us publicly that life on this planet has not finished evolving. It's sobering to think that one day the super beings we and our machines might evolve into might look back on us with pity and a begrudged admiration-gratitude, much same as we look back on the bacteria that were our beginning.

I feel sorry for the religious people commenting above, but I'm afraid that this is truly the meaning of life-- To simply be a rung on the unfolding ladder of the universe. And there is nothing wrong with that.

Sure we all get ground into dust at the end, but in the meantime we get to watch the show and get the honour of doing our part to push the process along.

December 30, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterChris

Great thinking. It is our responsibility to consiously analyse every aspect of how we live and adjust accordingly.

An interesting study is that of chimp vs bonobo society. Bonobos live in a matriachy, practise lots of sex to reduce stress and live a quite peacefull exustence. Chimps on the other hand live in a patriarchy where alpha males rule through fear and violence.


January 9, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterRastian-I

I've only just stumbled on you blog Robert but am already hooked.
Assuming there is a God/some Gods, it's not their fault and generally the ideas associated with them "thou shall not kill" etc. are good.
It's "Religion" invented by human beings to justify their own existence that causes all the trouble.
I'm not too sure the human race is evolving in the right direction though, just look at the adverts on the television ( I really hope the aliens aren't watching - "stay away from Earth it's got humans"), all we seem to do is concentrate gadgets to keep the little people where they are = in debt and in their place.
Anyway keep up the good work

February 17, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterNeil Livewire

Great job on this work.. Good read keep it up

April 24, 2015 | Unregistered Commentersheepskin

But St Augustine said "God has neither sex nor Gender" nor does He have physical form or matter so to speak of Him as a "breaded man" is a bit daft.

At best we use the masculine pronouns because the texts of Scripture use them but term for Divine Wisdom Sophia in Greek and Horkmah in Hebrew are feminine. Catherine of Sena, Hildigard, Teresa of Avila, Therese of the child Jesus are all female Doctors of the Church.

>Now, I do understand that criticizing any culture I have little knowledge of is dangerous.

This post is evidence of that. It's barmy but I still like you & can't wait for Red Dwarf XI.

May 25, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterDarth Jim Scott

Robert, can I correct a wrong assertion of yours in an otherwise nice blog which I mostly agree with. A bloke did not write the Qur'an. Neither did a number of blokes. Nor did any other party, whether singular or collective, of humans - this is the unique claim of the Qur'an. Now, you are entitled to dispute this rigourously if you like, but the Qur'an itself has a special and rather unique way of dealing with a disputation of this nature - it has issued a challenge that no human can write like it. BTW, this challenge has stood for 1500 years so good luck! This is not to overlook the fact that blokes tend to be the ones who interpret the text, and that they often do so in egregious ways, however, the collection of words contained in that book are free from human intervention, demonstrably so.

I think this is one of the key points which those hailing from a Judeo-Christian background fail to correctly appreciate, often lumping the Qur'an in with all the other 'holy' books. There is a lot more to say on this subject, but I think this is quite sufficient at this juncture.
Best wishes and peace to you.

May 22, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterSteve Connolly

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