Wednesday, December 26, 2012

God's Gender

When it comes to religion, people are willing to fight over the most ridiculous things. Today's story is from last Friday, just before the holidays. German Family Minister Kristina Schroeder has been criticized by members of her own political party over comments made in a magazine interview, stating that she thought it was "fine" to use the neuter "das" as the article for God. Like most European languages but unlike English, German associates genders with nouns. Based on those genders, the word "the" can be rendered three different ways - masculine (der), feminine (die), or neuter (das). Gott, the German word for God, is traditionally treated as masculine, much as "He" is the traditional pronoun for God in English.

Family Minister Kristina Schroeder made the comments when asked in an interview with German weekly Die Zeit how she explained to her young daughter the use of the masculine form for God. "The article is not important," she responded, adding that it was fine to use "das" instead of the traditional "der" when referring to God.

The remarks were immediately denounced by members of Schroeder's own Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and its Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU). "This intellectualised nonsense leaves me speechless," Christine Haderthauer, Bavarian social minister, told top-selling daily Bild. Stefan Mueller, a CSU lawmaker, said he was "bewildered" by Schroeder's "inappropriate" comments.

Here's what I find bizarre about this whole dispute - the idea that a monotheistic God would have a fixed gender at all. Human sexes have to do with sexual reproduction, which is more effective than asexual reproduction at maintaining diversity across a gene pool. God as a spiritual being should have no genes and therefore no reason to engage in sexual reproduction. Furthermore, as monotheists believe in a single deity, even if one were to grant God the characteristic of gender, there would be no other deities with whom to reproduce. In fact, as I see it the entire point of a monotheism is a concept of divinity that should in theory encompass and transcend all genders, so if Schroeder wants to use "das" as her article for God I don't see anything wrong with it. She was simply stating her own preference in the interview, not insisting that everyone else follow suit.

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