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Women have made great strides toward equal rights over the past hundred years, especially in the West. But when considering the ongoing fight over reproductive rights and equal pay—and the prevalence of sexual violence and domestic abuse—it is clear that a significant gap still exists. With scripture often cited as justification for the marginalization of women, it is time to acknowledge that one of the final barriers to full equality for women is religion. Much has been written about the great strides humankind has made in knocking down many long-held religious beliefs, whether related to the age of the earth or the origin of the species. But religion’s negative impact on women has been less studied and discussed. This book is a step toward changing that. Twenty-two women from a variety of backgrounds and Judeo-Christian traditions share their personal stories about how they came to abandon organized religion, and how they discovered life after moving away from religious and supernatural beliefs. Their words serve both as a celebration of all who have taken similar steps under the weight of thousands of years of religious history—and as a source of inspiration for those individuals, especially women, who have deep doubts about their own belief traditions but who don’t yet know how to embrace life without falling back on religion.
About the Author
Karen L. Garst, PhD, is the former executive director of the Oregon Community College Association and Oregon State Bar. She writes at the Faithless Feminist (http://faithlessfeminist.com/).
"All three Abrahamic religions are nasty, and women have borne the brunt of the nastiness throughout history. It still persists, and it is moving to listen to women of today telling their personal histories of the various ways in which religion has oppressed them, from childhood on. In their interestingly different ways their testimonies seem to add up to the same story, a story as old as the myth of Eve. I closed the book with uplifted admiration for all these women and for their courage in breaking their historic fetters." —Richard Dawkins, author, The God Delusion
"From these delightful and varied stories we learn how many women are taught to feel inferior, sinful, wicked, and worthless but also how many escaped, some through sudden realisation and others after long suffering. Any woman who is hovering on the verge of giving up her indoctrination should read this book." —Susan Blackmore, author, The Meme Machine
“When we see the world through other people’s eyes, our horizons are expanded and our lives enriched. Karen Garst’s compilation promotes just that." —Candace R.M. Gorham, LPC, author, The Ebony Exodus Project: Why Some Women Are Walking Out on Religion–and Other Should Too
"Sometimes funny, sometimes fierce, often sad and exuberant in turn—these essays invite us along on twenty-two journeys into and out of religion—many from the vantage of a woman who at some point in her life tried to live by a biblical script and then discovered something better." —Valerie Tarico, psychologist and author, Trusting Doubt: A Former Evangelical Looks at Old Beliefs in a New Light and Deas and Other Imaginings
“This is one of the most important books on women and religion in the last quarter century.” —Peter Boghossian, author, A Manual for Creating Atheists
“Providing rich testimony from a variety of world views and walks of life, Women Beyond Belief is a refreshing snapshot of the cultural and social issues that inform women’s transition to secularism and nonbelief.” —Sikivu Hutchinson, author, Moral Combat: Black Atheists, Gender Politics and the Values Wars and Godless Americana: Race and Religious Rebels
“Why would anyone embrace a male-dominated religion in today’s world, or any religion for that matter? Specifically, why would women embrace the religion of their male oppressors? Given the stories told in this wonderful tell-all book, they shouldn’t . . . . I bid all readers to follow the reasoning and examples of the authors in this book. Their stories are quite revealing and fascinating. Highly recommended!” —John W. Loftus, author, Why I Became an Atheist; editor, Christianity Is Not Great
“Women Beyond Belief is a book of revelation, stories of social conditioning and personal self-doubt that have kept women ‘in their place’ historically and in our modern, supposedly educated world. Besides the sometimes wrenching accounts of eventual awakening, Karen Garst provides a very useful account of the Judeo-Christian tradition’s subordination of women that should be read by any woman who still labours under the delusion of a beneficial deity.” —Meredith Doig, President, Rationalist Society of Australia Inc.
"This book invites us into the hearts and worlds of women who have made the life-changing journey from believer to nonbeliever. Each story is unique, filled with anguish, brilliance, pain, and joy, not unlike having a child. And, yet, each story is the same. Each woman was in a very real sense reborn as they shed the cocoon of their old religion for the wings to take flight into fresh air. Women Beyond Belief is a testimony to the inner call for truth and the strength of these women to find it for themselves. I found them awe-inspiring.” —Rebecca Hale, President, American Humanist Association