The following is a guest post by Dr. Karen Garst, author of the new book Women Beyond Belief: Discovering Life Without Religion. Dr. Garst’s book focuses on the negative impact religion has had on women and shares the voices of atheist women. Below is an excerpt from an essay from her book.
“My experience in religion left me feeling small and insignificant,
helpless and unprotected. In religion, there was always a finger pointing
at me, accusing me of being bad, of being responsible for Jesus’s death (he
died for my sins, after all), of not having enough faith or being as righteous
as I should be. Religion warned me that if I wasn’t careful, if I wasn’t praying
“without ceasing,” I might stand before the judgment seat and be found
lacking when it was too late to change.
The reward offered for being willing to live a puritanical life was heaven,
a place of gold and pearls. But the dangling carrot, the pie in the sky, did
not compensate for the losses of pleasure and joy (and dancing!). One had
to give up independent thinking in order to please God, and a woman had
to give up more than a man; a woman had to accept a submissive role at
Without those childhood brainwashings, I might have become a
more outspoken person earlier. I think I would have been a great lawyer. I
could have been a judge. It was religious tradition that told me I couldn’t.
Instead, I did the traditionally acceptable female tasks: made many potluck
dishes, knocked on doors to pass out religious pamphlets, taught Bible
classes, and packed my reluctant child off to church camp. Those would
not have been choices either of us would have made if I hadn’t been
indoctrinated. I hated cooking and my son had an incredibly terrible time
at camp! We both would have made different choices had I been reared
with a sense of autonomy and the will to fight the traditions of religious
patriarchy.” -Marsha Abelman
Marsha Abelman was raised in the Church of Christ. When she and her husband left the church, not one person in the congregation ever contacted them again. She is one of 22 authors who wrote an essay about her journey away from religion.Karen L. Garst has compiled these essays into a book entitled “Women Beyond Belief: Discovering Life without Religion,” which can be pre-ordered on Amazon. Dr. Garst became incensed when the U. S. Supreme Court issued its decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby in 2014. This decision said that because of its religious views, Hobby Lobby, a craft store, would not be obligated to follow the dictates of the Affordable Care Act and provide certain forms of birth control to its employees. “Will we never end the fight for women’s reproductive rights?” Garst stated. Once again, religion has influenced the laws of our land. Politicians cite their religion in supporting restrictions on abortion, banning funding for Planned Parenthood, and a host of other issues that are against women.
The first leaders of the New Atheism movement that arose after 9/11 were men: Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, and Daniel Dennett. They came with backgrounds of science and philosophy. They launched a renewed effort to show people how destructive religion can be and how all Abrahamic religions are based upon an Iron Age mythology, borrowing from other mythologies of the time.
Dr. Garst wants to add a focus on women and the role this mythology has played in the culture of many countries to denigrate and subordinate women. She states that “Religion is the last cultural barrier to gender equality.” And she is right. More and more women atheists are speaking out. And as we all know, if women leave the churches, they will collapse.
She has received support with reviews by Richard Dawkins, Valerie Tarico, Peter Boghossian, Sikivu Hutchinson and other atheist authors.
I encourage you to check out Dr. Garst’s blog at www.faithlessfeminist.com and to pre-order this excellent book.
Karen L. Garst was born in Bismarck, North Dakota and was raised in the Lutheran Church. She obtained a BA in French from Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota, a Masters in French, and a PhD in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Wisconsin in 1982. She worked as a field representative for the American Federation of Teachers – Oregon from 1980 to 1988. From 1988 to 1995 she served as executive director of the Oregon Community College Association. From 1996 to her retirement in 2008 she was the executive director of the Oregon State Bar. She currently lives in Salem, OR with her husband.