First, from the seventeenth to the nineteenth century, the perspective of white European males dominated the formative period of philosophy of religion to such an extent that it was hard to see how the distortions of this long tradition might be overcome.Second, in the twentieth century, once philosophy of religion was professionalized and gerrymandered within Philosophy faculties at universities, it was insulated both from the old Theology faculties and the new Religious Studies faculties created in the 1960s and 1970s; therefore, feminists interested in pursuing a Ph. had to choose between Philosophy (where philosophy of religion was not regarded as “real” philosophy during the ascendancy of the analytic movement) or Religious Studies/Theology which took philosophical concerns seriously and thus provided a more welcoming location for feminist theorizing on religion.In the wake of a worldwide wave of religious resurgence at the beginning of the twenty-first century, many feminists find Stanton’s reasoning still persuasive: the Word of God is the word of man, used to keep women in subjection and to hinder their emancipation.For other feminists, especially those located within various communities of faith and resistance, gynocentric efforts to create a possible space for something “divine” hold considerable appeal.
Gender bias as it operated in the history of the philosophy of religion shaped the ways in which the traditional problems and orientations of the field were constructed.For a long time, philosophy of religion was written from a standpoint not unlike that of Reverend Thwackum, the character in Henry Fielding’s novel When I mention religion, I mean the Christian religion; and not only the Christian religion, but the Protestant religion; and not only the Protestant religion, but the Church of England. Undaunted by two such severe deficiencies—gender bias and ethnocentrism—the dominant Anglo-American analytic school of philosophy of religion proved surprisingly healthy in the last decades of the twentieth century.Whereas at the mid-point of the twentieth century philosophy of religion was virtually defined by the assumptions and methods of logical positivism and empiricism, in subsequent years new and technically rigorous contributions by religiously committed philosophers began to enliven old theistic arguments.Just like a God who helps us and leads us in the path of becoming, who keeps track of our limits and infinite possibilities—as women—who inspires our projects.
(1987 [1993b: 67]) Scalding critiques like Stanton’s and reconstructive reflections like Irigaray’s have marked feminist philosophy of religion with a complex set of relations to the subject matter of religion, as well as to the discipline of philosophy.As a form of critique, feminist philosophy of religion employs the practice described by Jeffner Allen and Iris Marion Young (1989) of showing the limits of a mode of thinking by forging an awareness of alternative, more liberating, ideas, symbols, and discourses.