A few weeks back I took archaeologist William Dever to task for his unwillingness to extend to contemporary Goddess-worship the same sympathy that he clearly feels for ancient Goddess-worship in his 2005 book Did God Have a Wife?: Archaeology and Folk Religion in Ancient Israel. http://witchesandpagans.com/Pagan-Culture-Blogs/an-open-letter-to-william-g-dever.html I'd now like to return to this topic with greater attention to specifics.
Dever describes himself as a “former Christian now turned secular humanist” (46). He distinguishes between “mainstream”—i.e. secularist—feminists and “doctrinaire” feminists, for whom ideology trumps scholarship (xiii). These latter are the “more radical secular feminists” (309) who “style themselves [sic] 'Neopagans' or 'Wiccans' (witches)” (310). This “'Goddess movement'” (a phrase which he consistently delivers in quotes) preaches “without any evidence” a monolithic primal Great Mother who prevailed until dethroned by male deities in early historic times, evidence of whom was later suppressed. The prophet of these “various New Age Goddess cults and 'Neopagan' religions that selectively resuscitate the beliefs, images, deities, and practices of ancient religions” is Marija Gimbutas, whose “pseudo-scholarship” he dismisses without discussion (307). This movement, while it may have “comforted some women superficially, has left them still in need of the truth, not a naïve Utopia where all is women's supposedly unique 'strength, beauty, fertility, love, harmony, and peace'” (308-9).
This is pretty virulent stuff, coming as it does from someone who has worked hard for years to convince his colleagues in academia 1) that ancient Hebrew religion took many forms, some of them overtly polytheist, 2) that the Goddess Ashera was widely worshiped in ancient Israel, and 3) that what remains of her cultus offers a posthumous voice to the silenced women of ancient Israel.