Former nun, now atheist and activist


In a drawer in her Fort Pierce home, Elizabeth Murad has a black-and-white photo of the person she used to be. 

In it, Murad is wearing the nun habit she wore for 13 years. The only visible skin is on her face and neck, from which a big cross dangles. Her smile seems genuine. 

What the image doesn’t show is uncertainty — it was taken about 50 years ago when Murad, a Franciscan nun then living in New Jersey, started losing her faith.

“Doubt. In that photo, that’s around the time I first started doubting,” Murad said. “It was the beginning of who I am today.”

The 73-year-old is an atheist who helps lead the secular group Humanists of the Treasure Coast. She also is a member of the Freedom from Religion Foundation, in which she is an activist against what she believes are violations of separation of state and church.

Murad has fought against Amendment 8, a measure on the Nov. 6 ballot that aims to allow religious organizations to receive state money.

Written By: Zaimarie De Guzman
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  1. Atheists love a ‘believer’ come to their understanding.

    I really like to hear of these stories where people have learned the true meaning of freedom.

  2. It has been a while since I have commented but just had to post on this one. I too was raised Catholic and entered the convent, but after I came out I married a Catholic Church musician. We had a good marriage and raised 2 sons (one still Catholic the other agnostic), but my doubts remained buried due to a continued fear of  hell. My husband died after 38 years of marriage after which I began to let my doubts out into the air. Two years after George died I left the church, and thanks to this site and my new agnostic friend something turned in my mind, and I left religion period. The freedom from fear of hell and the brilliant truth of reality lights my path now. I too have always loved science and so enjoy learning all I can without having to worry about fitting it in ‘the plan’.  The universe is the plan and how fortunate we are to be alive. It is never too late. My friend Paris and I married in our sixties and continue the adventure of life.

  3. Very pleasing to hear about your discovered happiness Maryann!
    The “Magic of Reality”.

  4. Everybody has his own conversion story. I think one of my earliest doubts in Catholicism arose when my mother quoted from a book of Pearl S. Buck, “Heaven has many gates.”, about that it didn’t matter which religion you adhered. The only thing that mattered was leading a good life.
    Nevertheless it would take many years before I could definitely say goodbye to all religious things. When almost all your family and friends are Catholic it’s not an easy thing.

  5.   The 73-year-old is an atheist who helps lead the secular group Humanists of the Treasure Coast. She also is a member of the Freedom from Religion Foundation, in which she is an activist against what she believes are violations of separation of state and church.

    It is good to have some of those who have liberated their minds from fear and dogma, to counter believer’s claims that “atheists simply do not understand” Xtianity or its effects.

    The blinkered incredulous will however, probably claim as usual, that they were not “TRRrrrooooo Xtians” in the first place, so cannot have TRRRrrrooooo understanding!!

  6. Elizabeth Murad seems to have escaped the clutches of the church in rather short order, thanks in part to what was a solid and supportive family. It’s the women who didn’t and don’t have such understanding families, and for whom leaving the sisterhood just isn’t an option, that our sympathies should go out to.
    At this moment there are thousands of aged women throughout the world who have wasted their lives in a bizarre parody of marriage to the most absent of absent husbands, and there are thousands of young girls who are about to embark on that same journey to loneliness and sexual abstinence.

    Doubtless, many make the decision to take Holy Orders (if that’s the right expression. I don’t think it is) off their own bat; but one suspects that, at least historically, most have done so because of pressure from their families, who would have seen it as a way to dispose of a daughter who was unlikely to find a husband and would eventually become a permanent financial burden. Why not make her the Church’s problem instead?

    Whatever the reason for their becoming Brides of Christ, the important thing is that should any of them have a change of heart at any point and want to renounce their vows, they have some place to go on the outside. We know how vindictive the various churches can be to those they feel are abandoning them and turning their back on God. I’m sure some of the more liberal denominations offer some kind of support to women in this position, but I bet they don’t half lay on the guilt.

    The Clergy Project is admirable in its way, but it does focus on those nearer the top of the ecclesiastical food chain. I suppose this is intended to have a trickle-down effect on religion; or to put it in horror fiction parlance, if you take out the head vampire, the spell will be broken on his acolytes. All well and good, especially if you happen to believe in the efficacy of trickle-down economics… or in vampires.

    Perhaps in the future, a companion project to the Clergy one could be set up, one which gives support and advice to all those women trapped in their penguin costumes and their vows of silence and their sham polygamous marriage to a nonexistent spouse.

  7. Interesting that she chose to name her dog “Habibbi”, which is Arabic for “my darling”.  Are we sure she isn’t a Muslim sleeper?

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