Below is a sample essay on one of the questions from the Jan 2015 mock exam. It's the same copy that is in the forthcoming student revision handbook, based on the writing frames that are also in the handbook.
Outline and evaluate the view that religion is unfair to women 
The view that religion is unfair towards women is one that is often held by feminists. There are many different forms of feminism, but all of them agree that societies tend to be patriarchal (male-dominated) and therefore most things in such societies favour men and restrict the opportunities of women. Both contemporary and historic evidence shows the extent of female suffering in the name of religion (e.g. FGM, witch burnings, strict dress/behavioural codes that only apply to females).
In early human societies, goddess worship was very common (evidence of goddess statues has been found all around the world) and such religions were often controlled by women (e.g. priestesses) and celebrated femininity. These were wiped out by the spread of monotheistic religions around the world, all of which focus on a single, male God. These monotheistic religions remain dominant today and almost all senior positions within them are taken by males.
Daly, a radical feminist, pointed out that if God is associated with masculinity, there is little hope for equality. Daly argued that Christianity “embodies woman hating”: God – the perfect being – in a man, most significant prophets and figures are male, whilst women in The Bible are either mothers, wives or prostitutes and are routinely punished, raped or killed (particularly in the Old Testament).
Marxist feminists like De Beauvoir argue that religion is used to control women in capitalist societies in the same ways that Marx argued it was used to control the proletariat. It is the “opium of the masses”, keeping exploited people in their places by offering them false hope and happiness, promising them that their suffering will be rewarded in the next life.
On the other hand, many sociologists – including many women – argue that religion does not treat women unfairly. The fact that in most societies women are more likely to be religious than men perhaps supports this view. In addition, many religious sects have actually been founded by women (e.g. Christian Science, Spiritualism), some religions have always promoted gender equality (e.g. Quakerism) whilst some of the larger churches are clearly striving to achieve this (e.g. women bishops now allowed in the CofE; gender neutral language now used in many Christian ceremonies). The rise of the New Age Movement has also been positive for women, as a majority of New Age practitioners are female and many aspects of it can be seen as a return to the goddess worship of old.
In conclusion, it is difficult to argue that religion has always been fair to women. However, there is also evidence that many religious groups are now trying to move towards equality. As El Sadaawi, a Muslim feminist, claims: It is not religion that has treated women unfairly, but it is the way religious texts have been interpreted by men. As women become more prominent in religion, these interpretations are changing – and so too may the attitudes of some religions towards women.
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