Women Beyond Belief – A Book Review

Editor’s Note: Here’s another excellent review by Alexis Record, who keeps up with secular literature and is kind enough to share her reading experiences with us. I wish I had read this book when I was interviewing non-believing clergy. It would have confirmed what I was finding – all deconversion stories are not alike. Why would they be? Yet so much of what we learn about religion is how things are “supposed” to be and it’s rare (until lately) that people have been encouraged to speak out about their individual experiences.

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By Alexis Record

In 2014, Hobby Lobby fought to exclude certain types of birth control coverage for women based on a religious belief that women shouldn’t have it. The dispute went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court where five justices, all men and all with connections to the Roman Catholic Church, ruled in favor of religious beliefs over the human beings who didn’t share those beliefs.

Only one good thing would come from this “decision of startling breadth.” One woman would become inspired to seek out unbelieving women who were free from religion and share their experiences with the world.

The result is Women Beyond Belief: Discovering Life Without Religion.  

 

It’s a compilation of women’s stories by first time author and editor Karen L. Garst, Ph.D.

karen garst

In the library of atheist literature there are countless male voices and authors. Now, twenty-two women add their human perspective and experience to the mix. And it’s about time.


Continue reading by clicking the name of the source below.

49 COMMENTS

  1. Another general theme I found in the various stories was how those who were never very religious were happy to live symbiotically with the religious, and reflected on religious practice as an oddity. Yet those with religious backgrounds were more wary of religion, as they had first-hand experience with the harm it brought to their lives.

    I really think this is a thing! Could it be true that our most strident atheists are those who have broken away from a religious up-bringing?

    “Even the most severe naturalist like myself who avoids “woo” could thoroughly appreciate her experience.”

    That’s it! My new self-label – severe naturalist.

    She’ll know she’s not alone.

    I thought I was alone too. Then I read the book Freethinkers by Susan Jacoby and when I turned the last page and closed the cover of the book I knew I was not alone. It’s a critical realization.

  2. This is a much needed book.

    I wonder if getting a copy into Jill Sweeney’s hands before November and her appearance with Richard on the 7th and 9th might be a good idea?

    One of the first and greatest accounts of a religious life let go of was from this women. I always thought her emotional savvy more telling than most subsequent male accounts.

  3. I must lead a sheltered life. I had no idea (until I joined this site) that there was such a stigma associated with being an atheist in the US. Is this a real issue or is it just another example of the commodification of dissent? One book after another on the Joy of Atheism, as it were, and how liberating it is. Not once have I been asked if I believed in God by anyone other than a crazy homeless person. I was born and raised in Manhattan, but I am skeptical about all this. Coming-out is a problem in other countries, but in the US? Really? So your family is religious, and your community. So what? Just say ”I am an atheist.” They’ll survive. (It’s 2016!) Fuck em. What’s the big deal? I think this whole issue of coming-out is a manufactured one to a large extent.

    Am I wrong?

  4. I just don’t think that declaring oneself to be an atheist anywhere in this country has any serious ramifications, unless you’re in politics or in the clergy or maybe a young free-thinking kid who wants to be herself, but is living in an abusive, religious home. There may be other situations where coming out as an atheist is difficult. But generally speaking I think I am dead right.

    “Bum. Are you being ironic?” What does that mean?

    I will read what you sent me now. Perhaps I have led a sheltered life.

    I read some of it. It’s great that these people have been able to let go of religion. My point was that there are no serious consequences in this country for openly renouncing one’s religion. I stand by that contention.

    This business about the “trauma” of “coming out” as an atheist has been manufactured, and is not analogous or comparable to the struggle of closet homosexuals; it is a false, money-making straw-man. The personal, inner struggle may be comparable. But apart from that aspect coming out as an atheist is a breeze. No one cares. They might give you a little flack but that’s it. A piece of cake.

  5. Okay. I shot from the hip, overstated my point. But I still think that atheism is turning into a money making racket. Even atheism has become a commodity, something to sell. That gives it a bad name. I l adore Dawkins and I like harris and all those guys; but they are the real deal. Others just see an opening and write lousy books about all of this stuff because they can.

  6. @ #1

    Could it be true that our most strident atheists are those who have broken away from a religious up-bringing?

    Yes, not only do I think it could be true; I think it is necessarily true. What I have referred to as “chosen” atheism is bound to be stronger than the “default” atheism that we are all (supposedly) born with, because it is based on knowledge and experience rather than ignorance (which is how we all start out).

  7. PeacePecan

    “chosen” atheism is bound to be stronger than the “default” atheism

    Yes, that’s an interesting way of putting it.

  8. Laurie,

    PollyDan (aka the misanthrope) has something to say:

    “Like Wilcox, one day when I was reading the Bible, I realized I simply didn’t believe any of it anymore. Suddenly my whole world was off balance. God was no longer the Great and Powerful Wizard of Oz; he was the man behind the curtain of collective imagination.”

    This is so goddamned superficial. People need to read great writers, great thinkers, like Tolstoy and Melville and Mailer! This isn’t deep. Wizard of Oz. Ha-ha! I was right. (#7) If people like it and it helps them, that’s fine. That’s good. But the bar has been set pretty low these days. Bad writing too (“Collective imagination” is bad.)

  9. Dan
    I rarely perceive bad writing. It has to be horrendous writing before I catch on. In my science book discussion group, one of the guys always starts out by stating that the chosen book, whatever it happens to be, is badly written. I used to be taken by surprise by that but now I just follow with – why is it bad? I mean, many things could go wrong with the writing to make it bad. Screwed up grammar, pointless side tangents, poorly organized content, etc.

    But come on, not everyone can be a Tolstoy or Melville!! Should we not attempt to write if we are anything less than Shakespeare himself?!

    Women need to hear other women expressing feelings that they can identify with. One of those is the fear that if they tell the truth about their lack of faith that they will be ostracized by those that they love in their families and by their friends. Young women may fear the wrath of their parents and others of the older generations while they are still dependent on them for support. We don’t need a Tolstoy to write about that. All we need to hear is that she was once afraid to tell the truth but found the courage to do so and now feels more honest with herself and others. It’s not ok to live a lie. It warps us inside if it goes on too long. Truth is, some significant others will be ok with the discovery of our atheism but some will never accept it. We will have to agree to disagree.

    The Wizard of Oz man behind the curtain is an image that all Americans can relate to right away. I won’t argue your point because like I said, I’m no writing critic, but I think she’s addressing the common woman and those are the very ones that I want to walk out of the churches and take their children with them. Women of the upper economic classes with good educations already have the means to think their way out of their indoctrination, if they care to try and I think we have the security in life to be seen as nonconformist or eccentric. Some women need much more support when they try to express certain difficult truths.

  10. Laurie,

    It would not be honest if I didn’t admit that it really bothers me that I have yet to get a book published or a play produced!

    Sad face (can’t do it.)

    Regards,

    Dan

  11. Of course the most strident atheists are those who were once strident believers. Converts are always the worst! Plus, if you are an obsessive personality you’ll bring that to your next obsession.

    But I disagree that “chosen” atheism is “stronger” than “default” atheism. I don’t think they are comparable on that basis. If you were never taught to believe in ghosts, is your nonbelief weaker than the person who gives up their ghosts? I don’t think so. In fact. I think the convert’s vehemence will be somewhat mystifying to the non-indoctrinated. I personally am wary every time I meet or read an ex- religious who’s now an atheist “leader”. I keep waiting for the re-conversion.

    I agree with Dan insofar as atheism seems to be the newest opportunity for religious wildcatters. I watch as the former fundamentalist (male) leads the atheist group, the Sunday meeting groups where everyone sits rapt and listens to the speaker and sings. I have no interest in faux religion.

    But of course I disagree with Dan that no serious repercussions follow a declaration of atheism for most people, even in 2016
    Maybe especially in 2016. Are you unaware of the incursions religion has made in our secular life over the past 30 years? I’m sure not. Public schools are f-in bastions of religious pressure on students, churches blatantly encourage teachers to violate the law. I never told my employers I was atheist because most of them were openly “Christian” (whatever the hell that means these days). I am untrusting adult, so I choose how open I am. But my child has been ostracized, lost friends, been threatened with hell.

    And the idea that one’s family will get over it – it doesn’t work that way for a lot of people and many people find it devastating to be cut off from their families.

    I don’t see where this book is merely a money-making effort. Personally, I find the experiences, voices, and analyses of women relevant and material on ANY issue.

  12. @ #15

    Are naturalized citizens more patriotic than natural born denizens?

    (I’ll assume that last word is a typo or rogue spellcheck – though I have my doubts.)

    Frequently. (But, as with all metaphors, the comparison is imperfect.)

  13. @ #14

    Of course the most strident atheists are those who were once strident believers. Converts are always the worst! Plus, if you are an obsessive personality you’ll bring that to your next obsession.

    These were not stated as conditions.

    …comparable on that basis.

    What basis?

    If you were never taught to believe in ghosts, is your nonbelief weaker than the person who gives up their ghosts?

    Yes, because it is not chosen. (Though again, imperfect analogy.)

  14. @14

    I personally am wary every time I meet or read an ex- religious who’s now an atheist “leader”. I keep waiting for the re-conversion.

    I too have the same attitude (like people who change their football (soccer) team!) , I have always been atheist, although I think I may have believed that martians were planning to invade earth when I was about seven!
    If you are stupid enough to be a god-botherer how can you suddenly gain the insight to realise that it’s all bullshit – surely the child to person process would have thrown out ALL gods along with father xmas and the tooth-fairy? No?

  15. Dan

    How about writing a book about those Jewish communities we’ve read about here that are still stuck in the dark ages. They don’t educate their girls and their boys are stuck in religious schools all day. Something like- Hey ultraconservatives! You’re harming our kids and messing it up for all of us! Welcome to the 21st century! Your angle can be all about ethics – pragmatic ethics – don’t get carried away with over our heads Philosophy!!! Tell these archaic types that we need to move on from the dusty old sacred texts. We have better ways to know what’s right and wrong, good and bad, valuable and not valuable. It’s ethics – not Bibles (Torah – whatever).

    Another point is that when I look at how some other cultures treat their women badly I think of the resources they are squandering. A great culture wouldn’t do that. It’s blunt stupidity. No society will surge ahead if it keeps its women locked away in a state of ignorance. I’ve actually delivered that opinion to plenty of Muslims but it does hold true for those insular Jewish communities as well.

    You’d be roundly attacked for being a self-hating Jew but you know, controversy like that will get you placed right on the best media sales circuit!! I really believe that you have the chops to power through that adversity though.

    When your book signing tour brings you through Harvard Square (they all come through there) let me know and I’ll take you out for dinner.

  16. From the OP

    Religion can be escaped, but it still haunts a person.

    When the poison goes in young, the mental scarring is for life. Once told of your own original sin as a six year old and hell might be your reward from seven onwards, you build a world around that certain knowledge. Even the lesser eternal obligation of gratitude you are demanded to have towards someone who allegedly had a bad weekend for those sins of yours you never knew about creates a screwed up sense of self and an undue obligation. Over imitation in children is the human trick for stable cultures. You will never intellectually escape those foundations to your subsequent thinking buried decades deep and supporting so much that constitutes you.

    Perhaps in a second way, perhaps more noxious for its hidden harms to a single person, religion poisons everything.

  17. Not a bad idea, Laurie. And I won’t mind being called a self hating Jew at all. I agree with Trump that all publicity is good publicity.
    I might fictionalize it, however, or like Aristophanes, satirize my Jewish characters (give them all big noses like Fagin…kidding).
    Or maybe I’ll write something entirely different.
    I appreciate the suggestion.
    I will see you at Harvard Square. In the mean time, and since you mentioned the Jews and oppression, here’s something inspiring that someone sent me.
    Exciting. All women.

    Messina, Italy: This morning at 9:50 am, women representing 13 countries spanning five continents began their journey on Zaytouna-Oliva to the shores of Gaza, which has been under blockade since 2007. On board are a Nobel Peace Laureate, three parliamentarians, a decorated US diplomat, journalists, an Olympic athlete, and a physician. A list of the women with their background can be found here.
    When asked why they are going, the women gave a variety of responses. Mairead Maguire, Nobel Peace Laureate from Ireland, notes that “they say that ‘silence is golden’, but regarding the plight of Palestinians in Gaza the silence of the world, especially concerning their little children, shows a lack of moral and ethical leadership from the international community. Why has it lasted so long?”
    For two of the women, their countries’ own historical struggles for human rights played an important role in their decision to join the Women’s Boat to Gaza. Leigh-Ann Naidoo, an Olympic volleyball player from South Africa, feels that “South Africans understand the importance of international solidarity in fighting regimes that practice segregation.” Marama Davidson, a Maori Member of Parliament from New Zealand, carries with her a strong personal connection to Palestinian women in Gaza. “As an indigenous woman myself, I want to stand alongside the women of Gaza and to draw attention to the ongoing humanitarian crisis there.”
    The Amal-Hope II has been making final preparations to sail and is scheduled to depart from Messina soon. Both boats are expected to arrive in Gaza in early October.
    Yudit Ilany, an Israeli participant who has sailed with the Zaytouna-Oliva since Barcelona, said “The blockade of Gaza is a crime against humanity being committed in my name, and it is my duty to protest it in any way possible.”

  18. @ #20

    You will never intellectually escape those foundations to your subsequent thinking buried decades deep and supporting so much that constitutes you.

    I disagree. Intellectual escape is possible. Emotional escape may be the never you describe.

  19. PP

    Indeed, what I intend is that you will never escape by intellectual means. You can never get behind your aesthetics, so often formed by early experience. More specifically-

    Like sympathy escapes the tyranny of empathy your acts may become more as you would wish them but your thoughts are not so biddable.

  20. …your acts may become more as you would wish them but your thoughts are not so biddable.

    So acts are wish-able, biddable but not so with thoughts? Is thinking not an act? (I thought so.)

    I submit, again, that emotion, not thought or intellect, is the thing that resists our bidding.

  21. @Dan

    You must be aware that atheists in the states are among the most unpopular groups?

    Half a dozen states (in the south) have said it is not possible to hold public office with a “lack of belief in god”

    Imagine if you were told you would not be able to take up a position because you were a woman, black, gay or jewish today?

    All those movements have progressed (gay rights women’s rights etc) but atheists are still fair game for this sort of discrimination.

    New atheism has helped a lot, Hitchens, Harris, Bill Maher and RD books appearances on TV & debates.

    It is not the stigma it once was but you will not see many US politicians declaring a lack of belief (many posts on here regarding that- Bernie Sanders possibly the only one?)

  22. PP

    I think our actions are the things we are used to training, because they have the most immediate consequences. We are very bad at training our thoughts in part because we don’t recognise the different-ness of their origins, having this singular “illusion” of self. It mostly takes outside help (cultural, educational, therapeutic) to train these. Emotions are pre-thought and as Damasio would have it pre-feeling. Feelings for him are thoughts, emotions introspected upon. But emotions like stress may produce no feelings and therefore be pre-conscious. Emotion and what I am terming aesthetics (your automatic valuing/response of things) are indeed essentially unbiddable (though possibly avoidable). But I still claim this particularly with regard for our childhood indoctrinations and as I said earlier

    your acts may become more as you would wish them but your thoughts are not so biddable.

    I think this a hugely interesting area and somewhere if not here and now it would be nice to discuss management of emotions, SJWs and trigger warnings…

  23. Ep2016 #14
    Sep 28, 2016 at 12:23 am

    Of course the most strident atheists are those who were once strident believers.

    I am far from convinced that any significant number of “strident atheists” exist.
    Richard having explained some science to the assertive ignorant, is frequently accused of being “strident”, despite the most courteous and civil tone of his speaking.

    Strident is just a dismissive, issue dodging assertion, made by theists whose irrational claims, and dogmatic beliefs, are challenged.

    It helps the theists to look away from places the don’t want to go (or places their god-delusions don’t want them to go!).

    Converts are always the worst! Plus, if you are an obsessive personality you’ll bring that to your next obsession.

    That can certainly be so where there is a psychological need to reinforce a view by means of repetitive assertion. This is more applicable to religious conversions than reasoned ones.

    But I disagree that “chosen” atheism is “stronger” than “default” atheism. I don’t think they are comparable on that basis.

    I think you are quite correct here.
    Someone who has chosen to leave a religion (especially a religion inculcated in childhood), has all the deeply inbuilt assumptions accepted on “faith”, trust, and irrationality, to work out of their thinking – over an extended period.
    Some preconceptions and thought habits, may linger for years.

  24. Pinball 26
    Phil 24

    Hi, Pinball,

    (I hope you read my comment where I said that Britain under Blair (and in general) was and remains our “bitch” and that I didn’t mean you. Forgot what thread that was.)

    Your’e right. And Phil’s point was well taken. Coming out as an atheist destroys families and friendships. I wasn’t really aware of this, and I was also annoyed by the review. But I already acknowledged that politicians are straightjacketed: “I just don’t think that declaring oneself to be an atheist anywhere in this country has any serious ramifications, unless you’re in politics…”

    Hi, Philip,

    “Like sympathy escapes the tyranny of empathy your acts may become more as you would wish them but your thoughts are not so biddable.”

    Nice quote. I’ll see you and raise you one (although this is not my own):

    Only brutalised criminals and insane persons take absolutely no interest in their fellow men; they live as if they were alone in the world, and the presence of strangers has no effect on them. But for him who possesses a self there is a self in his neighbour, and only the man who has lost the logical and ethical centre of his being behaves to a second man as if the latter were not a man and had no personality of his own. “I” and “thou” are complementary terms. A man soonest gains consciousness of himself when he is with other men. This is why a man is prouder in the presence of other men than when he is alone, whilst it is in his hours of solitude that his self-confidence is damped. Lastly, he who destroys himself destroys at the same time the whole universe, and he who murders another commits the greatest crime because he murders himself in his victim. Absolute selfishness is, in practice, a horror, which should rather be called nihilism; if there is no “thou,” there is certainly no “I”, and that would mean there is nothing. —Otto Weininger

  25. People need to read great writers, great thinkers, like Tolstoy and
    Melville and Mailer!

    Hi Dan!

    I took your advice and started reading Mailer’s “Cannibals and Christians”. I’m enjoying his writing style, but I confess it’s a little rich for me (like a giant piece of cheesecake). I can only read a few pages before a satiation overload starts up in my brain. I am amazed at the real-time grasp he had of the national mindset back then!

  26. @laurieb-2 #1

    Could it be true that our most strident atheists are those who have broken away from a religious up-bringing?

    What did you mean by the word “strident” here?

  27. Vicki!

    Bless your heart. Stay with it. And you can jump around. That one doesn’t have to be read in order; it a collection of articles, essays, etc.

    Still relevant now. With Mailer, one can learn about today by reading about the past. A testament to the depth of his observations, criticism, and insights.

  28. Emotions are pre-thought…

    Exactly. And thoughts are affected by as well as affect emotions. But what is the developmental sequence when a child is brought up in a religious environment? Which comes first, thoughts about one’s environment or the emotional response to it? I think emotional response always precedes thought.

    …as Damasio would have it pre-feeling. Feelings for him are thoughts, emotions introspected upon.

    So emotions beget feelings. Nothing new there. (Though some feelings are just feelings, physical response to stimulus that wouldn’t be described as “thoughtful” or in any sense intellectual, like that feeling you get in the pit of your stomach when you hear your boss’ angry voice calling you into the office.)

    But emotions like stress may produce no feelings and therefore be pre-conscious.

    How about unconscious?

    Emotion and what I am terming aesthetics (your automatic valuing/response of things) are indeed essentially unbiddable (though possibly avoidable).

    This reads like agreement (or do I misunderstand?)

    I think this a hugely interesting area…

    I agree.

  29. PP #32

    I’m glad you pointed out my usage of “strident” there. I now regret using the word. I looked it up and the definition is much more harsh than I knew.

    Dictionary.com
    adjective
    1.
    making or having a harsh sound; grating; creaking:
    strident insects; strident hinges.
    2.
    having a shrill, irritating quality or character:
    a strident tone in his writings.
    3.
    Linguistics. (in distinctive feature analysis) characterized acoustically by noise of relatively high intensity, as sibilants, labiodental and uvular fricatives, and most affricates.

    I really had in mind number two from this definition by the Free Dictionary (whatever that is)

    stri·dent (strīd′nt)
    adj.
    1. Loud, harsh, grating, or shrill: a strident voice. See Synonyms at vociferous.
    2. Forcefully assertive or severely critical: strident rhetoric.

  30. @laurieb-2 #35

    I really had in mind number two…

    Same here. I did not take your meaning (nor the meaning of the word) to be “harsh” so much as “forceful”, and not necessarily in a negative way. This may be a more common usage in the US. This has become my vocabulary lesson for this week.

    What word do you now think might have better conveyed your meaning?

  31. LaurieB #35
    Sep 29, 2016 at 10:55 pm

    I’m glad you pointed out my usage of “strident” there. I now regret using the word. I looked it up and the definition is much more harsh than I knew.

    We should be careful not to pick up on misused terms which are propagated and generally circulated into common usage via sheeple followers.

    As I suggest @#28 it is typical of a psychological projection on to atheists, of the characterises of ranting preachers!

    Dan #36
    Sep 29, 2016 at 11:46 pm

    “… by the Free Dictionary (whatever that is)”

    “Shrill” is another word which is beloved as an assertion of “tone over substance”, by the challenged irrational.

    http://www.thefreedictionary.com/shrill

    shrill
    1. High-pitched and piercing in tone or sound: the shrill wail of a siren.
    2. Producing a sharp, high-pitched tone or sound: a shrill fife.
    3. Sharp or keen to the senses; harshly vivid: shrill colors.

  32. PP

    As A4d points out, shrill seems to be the feeling around the word strident. This is also my vocab lesson for the week. 🙂

    I think the word “assertive” would have been better in my statement in #1.

    Assertive atheists and passive atheists? The passive ones are definitely on our radar. Much of the Reason Rally was devoted to encouraging the quiet checked out types to speak up and be out.

    I’m reminded of the good ole 70’s when women’s groups had consciousness raising groups to rethink what certain words that are used to describe us really mean. Words like bitch, lady, etc. Some words have value judgements attached to them. “Strident” is the “bitch” of the atheist bunch.

  33. LaurieB #39
    Sep 30, 2016 at 8:03 am

    As A4d points out, shrill seems to be the feeling around the word strident.

    I think “shrill” is what the fundamentalist actually hears when god-delusion defence alarm goes off in their heads, triggering the “hands over ears”, and “won’t look” mode, of avoiding “the sin of doubt” and the risk of Hell!

  34. PP

    This reads like agreement (or do I misunderstand?)

    Its is entirely agreement on emotion. But I’m not even sure of their subconscious presence (which may tip into the conscious, if deemed salient) on all occasions. If their autonomous functioning is self sufficient, they may remain only for your doctor to notice a slightly raised heart rate.

    Emotions are unbiddable, but describing all thoughts as actions misses an opportunity of finesse. In one sense they are, but actions (conventionally defined) speak. Thoughts don’t and are substantially private but for body language.

    Talking in this conventional mode I maintain thoughts are less biddable than actions and far more often require external help for traction and change. I think those adversely indoctrinated as children “suffer” their own (private) thoughts more than their own actions.

    I think it may be the mental equivalent to the alien hand/limb syndrome.

  35. @29

    Yes I replied and I said all taken in jest. There is a mutual sort of respect between the states and UK not just the governments but the people too.

    At least this is my personal impressions.

    There was a post a few years ago on the old site regarding women atheists, why are there so few?
    I think we have some pretty prominent names in the UK right now Francesca Stavrakopoulou
    Alice Roberts and Shappi Khorsandi who is president of the British Humanist Association.

    Professors Roberts and Stavrakopoulou (not an RD fan?) are still working academics so TV appearances are probably geared towards their work rather than their lack of belief.

    Prof Stavrakopoulou appeared with RD on the big questions in the UK too, we should see more of that.

    Whatever the differences between the different styles and egos of the current high profile atheists are, what should the goals of new atheism be?

    To live in a system that is dictated by laws based on rational debate?

    I think we can agree on that.

  36. Comment from an old friend who is with me now:

    Emotions precede thought, Phil? Yes, that is often the case. Maybe that is why there are so few women atheists.
    -Donald Trump

    (Kidding.)

  37. Pinball

    There was a post a few years ago on the old site regarding women atheists, why are there so few?

    It has to be a mix of factors.

    One thing I remember is the women my mother’s age back in the sixties and seventies who were still mostly housewives and most were bored to death. They created all sorts of social clubs and volunteer work to keep from going stir crazy. The church or other religious institutions were a convenient way to organize social events (with others of one’s own tribe) and the churches even have large event halls with kitchens equipped to feed the masses. Even now, church halls can be used for events at a cut rate. Way to convenient. All sorts of fundraising events were held by those women in those days.

    I’ve also been thinking of what J. Coyne calls “purity signaling”. He’s had some posts up on his site about the SJWs and I couldn’t help but think of all of those Methodist women way back when who wore their pious purity on their sleeves and lorded it all over every other woman while sneering at young women for acting anything less than puritanical. Who knows what they were up to when no one was looking. As a status building tactic it used to work out pretty well for them. Young women now don’t put up with the puritanical purity signaling.

  38. Hello,
    I just returned to town and saw all these comments. Great! And thanks again Alexis for writing this unsolicited book review.

    I decided to write this book because of the US Supreme Court decision in Hobby Lobby where the 5 catholic men on the court decided that because of the craft store’s religious views, it didn’t have to provide certain forms of birth control under the Affordable Care Act. As someone who came of age during the 60’s and 70’s, I couldn’t believe we are still arguing about this.

    I truly believe that religion is the last cultural barrier to gender equality, not only here but across the world.

    I chose to write about women for two reasons: first, there are not as many female voices in print or in debates about atheism and religion and second, because I think we all need models in order to imagine ourselves in a different position. Thus, if someone who is thinking of leaving religion and reads the book and says, “Now I can” that is great.

    There are many denominations of Christianity in the US and elsewhere that make it difficult to leave. As an example from the book, if you are “disfellowshipped” from the Jehovah’s Witnesses, none of your friends or family in the church can have anything to do with you. That’s a big deal. Some of my authors have written under pseudonyms for that very reason.

    In terms of making money writing books, ha, ha. 99% of writers sell less than 5,000 books. I receive $1.00 for each paperback sold in stores or online. I hired an editor who went over these essays twice because they were not professional authors long before I approached a publisher. I also hired a marketing person to help set up and advertise my blog – http://www.faithlessfeminist.com. I am retired and am grateful to have a pension as does my husband so that I can afford to do this work. I doubt whether I will even cover my expenses.

    What is important is that young people and future generations have the freedom to not be bound personally or through the government to Iron Age myths.

    Thanks for taking time to read Alexis’ post and I hope you have a chance to read the book.

    Karen L. Garst

  39. @ Ms. Garst

    In terms of making money writing books, ha, ha. 99% of writers sell less than 5,000 books. I receive $1.00 for each paperback sold in stores or online.

    That’s my asinine comment you’re alluding to. My apologies. I was wrong, and feel embarrassed. What I said doesn’t apply to your book, and I hope everyone reads it. I do think, however – and I am sure you’d agree – that the larger problem of the commodification of dissent is a legitimate problem.

    My late father was a professor, academician and author. He received very, very little for his books, and he didn’t care. All he cared about was reaching people. My mother had a book published not long ago and hasn’t made a dime.— Like your book, it’s a serious and important work. The true state of affairs is this: the quality of the material, and an author’s desire to really reach people and make a difference in their lives, is (in most cases) in inverse proportion to ones’ profits.

    Regards,

    Dan

  40. @45

    I think that is true Laurie, my mum was too busy being a mum to consider atheism!
    That was not that long ago either (1970s and 80s)
    Women have time to think about these things now since we (men) dont expect our tea to be ready when we get home!
    I wish more women today would think about how religion is damaging children, young women at Uni in the 80s were more likely to get involved in: animal rights and anti vivisection; feminism (all types), anti fascist league; socialist worker party; Free Palestine; Green peace Friends of the earth and amnesty international.
    The atheist stand during rag week in the 80s at Uni (where new students joined a society) was all young men mostly bearded. I have not been on campus for a while, I suppose now its all SJW safe spaces triggers BLM and lashings of new feminism?

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