There’s something that must be said in the beginning: I am not religious. As I am a Religious Studies major, this tends to surprise people to hear. Just yesterday, while sitting quietly in Alston to finish yet another paper, I was approached by two women. When asked about my religion, I told them the truth; I am not ashamed of who I am, precisely because being agnostic was not a decision that I took lightly.
Regardless, they wanted to know if I had heard of “God the Mother,” in contrast to the more popular idea of “God the Father.” Naturally, I told them I was familiar with the concept; as a Religious Studies major, one because well acquainted with ideas of God/gods/goddesses that diverge from the typical Judeo-Christian depictions. This is especially true at an women’s college, where we as students are taught to question the status quo, and as Religious Studies majors we are taught to question how religion and different religious doctrines can impact women’s lives (Religious Studies Major Learning Outcome).
More than that, I’ve considered many times over what I think of the concept of a female God in general; if there is a God, and they are a woman, what are the social implications of that? Does a female God encourage equality, or does it encourage a matriarchy in much the same way that a male God encourages a patriarchy? For my part, I’ve determined that if there is a God, it seems most natural for them to be a “they,” non-binary and capable of representing the population as a whole as it is before socialization occurs (Summit Learning Outcome 8; 9).
Regardless of my own opinion in the matter, I recognize the appeal in viewing God as a woman. I can see the appeal in believing in a God or gods at all. Humans want to believe in something, even if the motivation for wanting to believe in something beyond oneself is not always clear. Some, like David Hume, say fear is the motivating factor in believing in a higher being. Perhaps humans simply need something bigger than themselves, something to rally behind and look to as a paradigmatic example of the behavior they wish to embody (Summit Learning Outcome 9; 11).
I can’t say I will ever know for sure what the answer is to all the questions I have. I can’t know the answer to whether or not there is a God. I can’t know the answer to what they look like, or what characteristics they have, or why one would or should believe in a God at all. But I do know this: thanks to my education at Agnes Scott, I have a better idea of what the right question to ask are. I know my own beliefs, and I have a better idea than I could’ve hoped to have before about when I need to question my firmly held beliefs. But, even better, I have a better understanding of what to do when confronted with people whose beliefs don’t match up to mine.