Women Beyond Belief: Discovering Life without Religion
edited by Karen L. Garst
Pitchstone Publishing, 2016
272 pp.; $16.95
IN 2014 THE ARTS and crafts chain Hobby Lobby fought to exclude certain types of birth control coverage for its female employees based on its owners religious views of what constitutes acceptable family planning. The dispute went all the way to the US 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.
At least one good thing would come from this "decision of startling breadth," as Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg described it in her dissent. One woman would be inspired to seek out nonbelieving women who were free from religion and who wanted to share their experiences with the world.
The result is Women Beyond Belief: Discovering Life without Religion by first-time author and editor Karen L. Garst. In the library of atheist literature there are countless male voices and male authors. Now, twenty-two women add their human perspective and experience to the mix. And it's about time.
I knew a bit of Garst's story, as we've both contributed to the Patheos blog Removing the Fig Leaf and I follow Garst's own blog, The Faithless Feminist, where I've learned more about the history of my own religion than I did in fourteen years of religious education.
The very first story in Women Beyond Belief is by Ann Wilcox, and it resonated thoroughly with me. There were just too many parallels between her story and my own, including her compulsion to list fundamentalist doctrines and describe each one. We don't get indoctrinated from the womb to know this stuff and then just let it go when sharing our story.
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. My surprise was akin to Wilcox's in that I honestly didn't think this would ever happen to me. However, in my case this revelation came with an additional shock. I thought I was the only atheist in the world. That's right--True Atheist: Population 1.
This isolating experience began the day I ran across a definition for atheism online. It read something along the lines of, "Not being convinced of the validity of a deity or deities based on the lack...