February 18, 2013

I would like to expand on Ruth Marcus’s analysis of sexism in our religious traditions [“The orthodoxy of sexism,” op-ed, Feb. 13]. Ms. Marcus is quite correct in attributing such attitudes to a “fear of encroaching modernity undermining doctrinal control.” I would suggest, however, that the key to the issue is those last two words.

It might be useful for us to distinguish between religion and doctrine. Religion is a human attempt to experience and connect our lives to the divine, the sacred and the transcendent as a way of enhancing our sense of meaning, purpose and significance. Our religious founders, leaders and scriptures are meant to provide us with paradigms and practices that facilitate that connection. Doctrine, on the other hand, is a human effort to exert control and authority, and for the past 5,000 years or so, it seems that has meant male control and authority. The solution is to eschew doctrine in favor of religion.

Richard C. Lederman, Silver Spring

The writer is founding chair of the Montgomery County Interfaith Council.

One need not be a supporter of the Catholic Church’s policy against the ordination of women or of the “ultra-Orthodox” rabbis’ policy banning women from wearing a tallit at the Western Wall to be dismayed by Ruth Marcus’s suggestion that those policies be scuttled because she finds them “irrational,” “chauvinistic” and, worst of all, at odds with “encroaching modernity.”

Religious authorities promote and protect some policies and practices because they believe them to be divinely ordained, or at least divinely inspired. If the test for those policies and practices were whether they conform to what is politically or socially correct today, religions would have had to close up shop long ago. That is why they are called faiths.

Neil H. Koslowe, Silver Spring