Women v. Religion: The Case Against Faith… and for Freedom

Women v. Religion: The Case Against Faith… and for Freedom May 3, 2018

Editor’s Note: the Rational Doubt blog proudly presents the review of the second book Dr. Karen L. Garst has edited. Why isn’t this book being reviewed by our resident reviewer, Alexis Record, you may ask?  It’s because Alexis is one of the authors – an indication of how worthy this compilation of essays is.


By Teresa Roberts

With a bold title like Women v. Religion: The Case Against Faith… and for Freedom, Karen L. Garst has once again provided an opportunity for women who have suffered at the hands of religious doctrines to speak out. Her first book, Women Beyond Belief: Discovering Life without Religion, showcased the personal stories of 22 everyday women who left religion. This newest work written by different authors, often professionals in their fields, focuses more on why women leave religion and how it is beneficial both to them and to society. Although the fight for the rights of women in general is experiencing steady progress in many parts of the world, religious dogma has shown to be insidiously regressive, and a constant threat to societal advancement. That’s what makes the content of this book so relevant. Religion is at the very root of these political and social movements designed to drag women back into the Dark Ages. Culturally, the threads of religious indoctrination have been so closely woven into our collective psyches that they are often difficult to recognize, but as more and more women turn their backs on religion, it becomes harder to justify such blatant oppression. Even liberal Christians, one of the most progressive sects of Abrahamic faith, are now being forced to find a way to align their fight for social justice with a book that supports the pervasive belief in male superiority and female subjugation. As women gain personal autonomy, these Christians are challenged to find reasonable explanations for the archaic belief systems in the Bible, the very foundation of their faith.

Dr. Garst has managed for the second time to bring together a collection of bright women willing to share their perspectives about what it means to be a woman in a culture that worships old tomes packed full of harmful ideas. Traditionally, women from all over the world have been denied a place at the table with men. Abrahamic religion in particular has led a strong hand to the muzzling of women. The notion that women were responsible for the downfall of mankind and that they were created as an afterthought to accommodate males is well founded in their holy scriptures.

It is an absolute inspiration to read the words from women like Candace Gorham who has witnessed firsthand through her clinical practice the damage that religion does. Having been diagnosed with PTSD as a result of being raised in a Christian cult, I know the trauma that a young girl faces by experiencing the daily brainwashing of such harmful belief systems. Leaving an oppressive religion behind is a difficult task and the damage to my mental health was significant. It has taken years to rid myself of the shame and guilt and find freedom in following my own path. To have my experiences acknowledged and written about in such depth was life affirming.

This book is full of many such revelations as Dr. Garst was careful to include perspectives from women of different backgrounds and religions such as Deanna Adams who writes about the experiences of black women in America. She shows the historical importance of those brought here against their will as slaves and forced to transition from the faith systems of their ethnic groups to patriarchal Christianity. Or Aruna Papp who wrote a compelling chapter about the somber responsibilities she carried as a child born into a Christian Indian household. Trying to combine the cultural expectations already facing Indian women, she was also burdened with the limitations of Christianity. What an enormous challenge for a young girl.

From the transgender perspective to black and Hispanic experiences to Jewish law and Islam, the accounts are raw and powerfully persistent.  They all insist on calling our attention to the challenges of being a woman in any culture upholding a belief system of oppression that is supposedly sanctioned by a god. What a horrible cultural construct, designed to subjugate women while giving absolute power to men. That kind of absolute power inflicts pain and suffering upon women as well as limits their autonomy. And, although each essay is different, they inevitably have one thing in common: Religion stands firmly in the way of progress for women. It may very well be the last big obstacle that needs to be overcome. The evolution of our societies is significantly slower than it should be because of religious ideologies that continue to permeate our collective consciousness. Even in their complete absurdity by modern standards of morality, they persist. Old, archaic, even unscientific and harmful ideas live on and on and on while women are denied autonomy and freedom.

Dr. Garst has managed a literary accomplishment that forces us to open our eyes and acknowledge that it’s time to kick these outdated notions to the curb. Each essay written by a woman is a testament to their courage. By leaving their religious upbringings behind and embracing the responsibility that comes with true freedom, they set an example for all women. Furthermore, writing about sensitive, even controversial topics from the female perspective is long overdue. As more and more women leave religion, find their voices, and speak out, the great lie will be exposed. This book is packed full of thoughtful, well-written essays, making it very clear that religion has been one of the biggest lies ever perpetrated upon womankind.


Bio: Teresa Roberts is a retired educator turned writer, travel blogger and professional myth buster. Raised in a religious cult, she soon discovered after leaving home that the world at large expected conformity as well. She is dedicated to debunking the many cultural expectations and myths that limit creative living. Teresa manages a website called Creative Paths to Freedom. Her most recent book is Have We Been Screwed? Trading Freedom for Fairy Tales.

>>>>>Photo Credits: https://www.amazon.com/Women-v-Religion-Against-Freedom/dp/1634311701;  photo of author: http://faithlessfeminist.com/about/


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  • Brian Curtis

    Good review, thanks. Interesting coincidence: an excerpt from Garst’s book has just been posted over on Cross, Examined:

    • Karen Gorder Garst

      Brian, I am sharing guest blog posts on as many blogs as will take them! Karen

  • alwayspuzzled

    If an atheist is intellectually and emotionally free from the oppressive rigors and demands of religion, why would she still be gripped by a psychological need to stereotype and vilify religion?


      Probably for the same reason that I, an Agnostic Atheist Activist does. Because religious belief supports religion and as all truly knowledgeable people know: Religion Bars Progress, Interferes with Our Lives, Causes Misery, Bigotry, Boycotts, Slavery, Discrimination. Harassment, Prejudice, Vandalism, Hate, Torture, Many Wars, and Most Terrorism. Plus, Religion Costs Us Lots of Money and Causes Many Times More Problems than it Helps!






    • Brian Curtis

      Why would a freed slave complain about the fact that others are still in chains?

      • alwayspuzzled

        Interestingly, the freed slave metaphor is also frequently used by the “born again” crowd.

        • Karen Gorder Garst

          alwayspuzzled… I think this book helps women REALIZE the history and oppressive nature of religion. What freed me was reading Bishop John Shelby Spong’s book – Resurrection: Myth or Reality. Karen

  • ElizabetB.

    I would love to know what Alexis’ essay is!

    I think so much depends on how the texts are read. Often they question and disrupt oppressive systems, but tragically culture often selects out the oppressive elements to endorse and enforce rather than nurture the new shoots. In the NT, Mary of Bethany is accepted as a disciple learning at the feet of a rabbi and Mary Magdalene is empowered post-‘resurrection’ to be the first “apostle to the apostles.” In the first creation account women are not subservient but are created equally “in the image of god” — “male & female god created humanity.” Deborah was a great judge. Etc etc.

    I see religious traditions producing seeds of progress but also being used to concretize regressive elements in the culture. It’s critically necessary to call out and correct every regressive element — and seems like one strategy that could help correct them would be to highlight the progressive elements — see them as ally.

    • ElizabetB.

      Just discovered a sketch of Alexis’ section [and others’] by Garst over at Debunking Christianity —

      “Alexis Record, frequent book reviewer and blog contributor, expands Gorham’s discussion by focusing on the impact of childhood indoctrination. Record was raised in a fundamentalist household and was educated using Accelerated Christian Education. In 2001, Norway banned the curriculum for violating their Gender Equality Act.[1] A mother’s roles are discussed as “helper, cook, cleans house, washes and irons clothes.”[2] Record concludes with an action plan to help children know what is true and to give them the tools they need to distinguish facts from beliefs.” http://www.debunking-christianity.com/2018/05/pre-pub-announcement-of-karen-garsts.html

      • Karen Gorder Garst

        Alexis is an amazing writer. She has also written for my blog. Just Google Alexis Record and Faithless Feminist and it should pop up. She is in Scotland for a couple of weeks. Yippee for her! Karen

        • ElizabetB.

          Many thanks for the invitation to FF! Looks great & I look forward to visiting!!

    • mason

      ElizabetB … I’m sure you could find the “progressive elements” in the Manson family. 🙂 For a woman to try picking out the progressive elements in religion is like trying to find a good loyal reliable man among pimps. Somehow you’ve shown that there were 14 apostles and the Marys were Co-Chairpersons. So we agree to disagree on the subject of women and religions. I say cut off the chains ladies, toss em’ away, go Secular Humanist, and never look back; the ERA might even get ratified in the land of gender inequality, good ol’ USA.

      • ElizabetB.

        Mansons… that’s a challenge. But they *were* located in CA : )

        We def agree to agree there’s tons to deplore. My take is we all work as hard as we can from whatever perspective we can…. some of us have to ditch the tradition, some like Lloyd Geering want reforms but credit a core christian tradition for the progressive parts of Western civiliation, and others like me just chip away at issue by issue using whatever tools are at hand as honestly as we can. All hands on deck!!!!!!! Thanks, Mason!

        • Karen Gorder Garst

          Elizabeth, There are so many other great organizations and movements to join that do not have the “male deity” baggage. We should concentrate on those. I spoke last week at the AHA Conference and the speakers were amazing. Gavin Grimm, the transgender young man who just won his lawsuit this Tuesday spoke and there was not a dry eye in the house. Thanks. Karen

          • ElizabetB.

            Very happy to hear from the conference! Sounds wonderful!!! Many thanks!!
            I think I see your point… yet, for example, as a retired chaplain in longterm care, I lead a devotional monthly at a local nursing home. Last week was near Mothers Day, so I talked about the revolutionary ways women are portrayed in the Bible, ways we still have not implemented in the West; and I could see how the women especially were listening intently. I’m not sure I could have as strong a positive & hopefully healing impact for these lifelong believers if I forewent highlighting antidotes and correcting mis-impressions from their own tradition…. Actually, probably I take a humanist tack through issues, just don’t label it as such : )

  • There is also an encyclopedic book edited by Annie Laurie Gaylor, titled: WOMEN WITHOUT RELIGION– NO GODS – NO MASTERS The collected writings of women freethinkers of the 19th and 20th centuries. C. 1997 PUBLISHED BY THE FREEDOM FROM RELIGION FOUNDATION, Madison, WI. 608-256-8900

    • Karen Gorder Garst

      This is a great book on the history of women atheists. Have it on my shelf.

  • al kimeea

    While the following refers to something else, it seems apropo when applied to religion https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/6f1f8274f5b609ecb6445935680de08c780450a813a46d8517f90b7938dc38cc.png