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Why are Christianity, Islam and Judaism all so patriarchal?

I was thinking about Mother's Day recently, and the next thing I knew, I was wondering what would explain why three major religious traditions--Judaism, Christianity and Islam--were all started by men. I know, I know; there are volumes written about the patriarchal nature of the three, and how, starting with Judaism, they stripped the ancients of a healthy belief in female deities, etc., etc., blah, blah.

But I kept thinking there had to be more to the story than what the academics would have us believe. Then it dawned on me: It's all about mothers. Both Moses and Muhammad, hereinafter referred to as M&M, suffered the absence of a nurturing mom in their formative years. (We'll get to the Christian anomaly later.)

Centuries before he was portrayed by the recently departed Charlton Heston, the Moses of mythologized history is said to have spent his earliest days bobbing down the Nile River before being conveniently rescued by an Egyptian royal family, or pharaoh's daughter, depending on which version of the story you accept. Moses (whose name in Hebrew is the more mellifluous Moshe) was dumped in the river in a baby-sized basket by his mom after a pharaoh issued an order requiring the death of all newborn Hebrew boys.

Now this is all very confounding. Why would an Egyptian Pooh-Bah, who depended on the slave labor of Hebrew tribes to build those imposing pointy structures, want to whack future workers? But I digress.

So Moshe is raised by royalty, and with regal life being a busy swirl of activity, it's fairly certain his primary caretaker was the modern equivalent of a nanny. It's also a good bet M's nanny was like nannies everywhere (with the exception of television's Supernanny): more interested in the kohl adorning her eyes than her young charge.

Treated more like a stray puppy than a child, young Moshe grew up angry and disillusioned--hence his propensity for violence. His unruly behavior causes the pharaoh to put out a contract on his life (bad pharaoh), and M skips town to reinvent himself as a shepherd.

Fast-forward a bit, and we have Moshe back in Egypt demanding freedom for his brethren. The chief Egyptian sees the benefit of this following a plague or two, and after the newly liberated Hebrews wander around the desert for a few months behaving like unruly pagans, the next thing you know, M is descending from a mountain with a list of rules he got after a 1-on-1 with a flaming bush, or a bush channeling God.

Centuries later, Muhammad appears on the scene. He, too, loses his birth parents and, so the story goes, is raised by an uncle. Like Moshe, Muhammad is a troubled young man and flees the city to seek solace in a cave. His revelations are not as dramatic as Moshe's, and lacking a captive audience trying to get to the Promised Land, Muhammad has to go through the preaching process to attract his followers.

To sum up: Two orphan boys with troubled youths flee their homes, find God in mysterious ways and lay the foundations for two religions with startling similarities, the most significant of which are monotheism and the diminished role of women from those heady pagan days.

Unlike M&M, whose lives bracket Christ's lifetime, Jesus was not an orphan. On the contrary: Overlooking his mythologized-to-high-heaven stable birth, he grew up in a respectable Jewish home. But the most important fact about his life, one that is either unconvincingly explained or simply ignored by most of the folks who worship in his name, is that it was never his intent to establish a religion. Whether his agenda was to rid Judaism of those pesky, rigid Pharisees, or inject a bit of Essene-like mysticism into the tribe, or start a klezmer band, it remains a subject of speculation.

We have to look to Saul of Tarsus, aka Paul, to find the true originator of Christianity. And though there's as much controversy surrounding him as there is surrounding Jesus, it's likely his visions on the road to Damascus--the ones that set in motion a chain of events leading to the establishment of Christianity sort of as we know it--were the result of an epileptic seizure.

So there you have it: two orphans and an epileptic giving the world a stern, father-figure deity to replace a fun-loving Earth Mother. And all we get as compensation is Mother's Day. Bummer.

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