edited by Karen L. Garst, Ph.D.
I recently had a conversation with an acquaintance that left me astounded, angry and disturbed. I knew this acquaintance is a pretty serious Christian, and she knew that I am atheist – but even so, the conversation was not something I saw coming. It began with, “Did you hear about so-and-so who has worked at the high school being arrested for having a sexual relationship with a student?” and led to her expressing her belief that the existence of porn is to blame because it perverts people, which led to her sharing various other strongly held beliefs, such as the fact that men are genetically designed to be the providers (“So there’s a provider gene, then?” I asked), that the pay gap between men and women is a myth cooked up by liberals, that homosexuality and transgenderism are mental illnesses that we should be helping to cure instead of encouraging and enabling, that women do not belong in combat (she herself was in the Navy), nor do they belong in high-level positions in the workforce because they’re just going to go have babies anyway (as God intended), that without God there is no morality (“But look at me! I don’t have god and I’m extremely moral and ethical!” I said), and the list went on. I asked her what the basis is for all of this “knowledge” she claims. She cited some ancient text of stories passed down orally by illiterate shepherds a few thousand years ago. You know, the Bible.
What pissed me off about what she expressed to me – besides the utter ignorant prejudice – was how her views, which are undoubtedly held by many, many people, hurt women and girls. It’s not a simple matter of different people hold different beliefs and to each her own – these are the beliefs that drive the public policies that continue to harm and oppress women. These are the people whose willfully ignorant, self-righteous views will continue to harm my daughters – and their own daughters.
This stands out as a perfect example of how bad religion is for women.
Karen Garst’s Women v. Religion: The Case Against Faith – and For Freedom is an excellent follow-up to her Women Beyond Belief. Like Women Beyond Belief, Women v. Religion is a collection of essays by women from various religious backgrounds, from all walks of life, but it goes beyond just sharing personal experiences of leaving religion and delves deeply into the whys and hows of the harm religion and religious faith do to women and girls, mainly by perpetuating the notion that males are preordained by God to be dominant over females. I read Women v. Religion with highlighter in hand, and when I was done, half the book was pink. I certainly didn’t need convincing, though. The fact is, religious faith and real feminism cannot peacefully coexist.
Garst’s books should be required reading for anyone who cares about women, and certainly for anyone raising daughters.