About the Book

Throughout history, religion has been used as a tool of female subjugation. Women have been deemed less worthy than men, have been prevented from owning property, and worse—all in the name of a higher power. In recent decades, women have made progress in terms of equal rights with men, at least in Western democracies, but still, why has the United States never had a female president? Why aren’t more women heads of Fortune 500 companies? Why do politicians in the West continue to attack women’s reproductive rights? As this volume explores, it would be hard to find a bigger culprit than religion when identifying the last cultural barriers to full gender equality. With topics ranging from the subjugation of women in the Bible to the shame and guilt felt by women due to religious teaching, this volume makes clear that only by rejecting the very system that limits their autonomy will women be fully liberated from its malignant influences, not just in codified law but also in cultural practice.

Karen L. Garst, PhD, is the former executive director of the Oregon Community College Association and Oregon State Bar. She writes at the Faithless Feminist (http://faithlessfeminist.com/).

About the Author

“Reading Women v Religion is truly a journey through the minds and lives of women who have experienced the oppression and intimidation of the Abrahamic religions. They often lay their inner struggles bare as they take you through the journey of being in search of validation and wholeness. The essays clearly show that as one attempts to meet the constrictions of religious “rightness” and “goodness” they become lost to themselves. Shame, guilt, sin prevail until religion’s grip is released allowing for the full expression of the individual.”

—Rebecca (Becky) Hale, President, American Humanist Association and board member of the International Humanist and Ethical Union


ISBN: 9781634311700 (paperback)

SRP: $16.95 (paperback)

Page count: 272 pages

Trim size: 6 x 9

Pub date: June 2018

Ebook availability: Yes

Audiobook availability: Forthcoming

“This book gathers together some heartfelt writings of women who give overwhelming evidence of the multiple ways in which religion has betrayed and abused the female sex. To read these writings is to realize that religion has been far more cruel than kind to women; and this is particularly reprehensible in view of the fact that it is based on lies, concocted for profit and for the benefit of men. A thoroughly enlightening work.”

—Barbara G. Walker, author of The Woman’s Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets, The Woman’s Dictionary of Symbols and Sacred ObjectsThe Crone, Man Made God, Belief and Unbelief, The Skeptical Feminist, etc.

“As someone who was raised in the Methodist church in the Midwest, I didn’t meet another self-identifying atheist until I was in college and I didn’t know any female atheists until law school. If I had been able to read Karen Garst’s book then, my journey out of religion would have been easier. These essays about dealing with the socially ingrained biases against those who identify as female reveal how religion instigates and perpetuates those biases. All people will benefit from reading this comprehensive collection that explains the obstacles and struggles women face in and out of religion.”

—Amanda Knief, Former National Legal Director at American Atheists and author of The Citizen Lobbyist

Ever since the woman who went from talking to me on Skype to adopting me as her daughter after hearing my story, I’ve been in constant awe of her ability to empathize and stand up with others for what’s right and good in this world. This book is no exception, as she takes stories from so many different experiences of women, and catalogues them here to give them voices. Karen Garst is one of the most caring, motivated individuals I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting, and this book does a phenomenal job of not only displaying that, but backing up what she means when she says she wants to include the lives and experiences of others. She literally brings them together.”

—Marissa McCool, The Inciting Incident podcast

“In this collection of powerful essays—both personal and academic—Karen Garst thoughtfully and comprehensively tackles the subjugation of women by the Abrahamic religions. The book provides compelling arguments to back the proposition that these religions continue to assign second-class status to women around the world. The wide range of expertise offered by the anthology makes it an important addition to the growing pantheon of contemporary religious critiques—this book should serve as a clarion call to feminists everywhere to discard the psychological chains that religion imposes.”

—Monica L. Miller, Senior Counsel, American Humanist Association

“Despite the patriarchal and misogynist origins of many world religions, women of all ethnicities have the highest rates of religious participation across the globe. What accounts for this seeming contradiction? What social and cultural factors can address this disparity? The multi-faceted essays of Karen Garst’s Women v. Religion provide an insightful historical critique of the dominance of organized religion and how it undermines gender equality, women’s self-determination, and the agency of women of color. The book is a valuable resource for secular and religious scholars seeking an alternative to the thesis that organized religion and faith are necessary moral and social forces in women’s lives.”

—Sikivu Hutchinson, author Moral Combat: Black Atheists, Gender Politics and the Values Wars and Godless Americana: Race and Religious Rebels  

“Abrahamic religions infantilize all people, with their father figures and supplication demands. But women are especially subordinated. How? Karen Garst explains, in a book that provides a valuable compendium of smart, thoughtful critiques of religion’s treatment of women. This tightly edited collection of essays by an array of accomplished women writers will enlighten and entertain even as it infuriates you with its deep dive into the patriarchy that is religion.”

—Robyn E. Blumner, President and CEO, Center for Inquiry and Executive Director, Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science

“If you ever wondered about women’s roles in religion through the ages, Women v. Religion will thoroughly educate you. If you ever doubted that religion has systematically subjugated women, this book will dispel those doubts.  This set of essays is clearly written by 13 secular women and carefully edited by Karen Garst, but it’s not exactly an easy read.  It’s a serious, revelatory, sometimes revolting and always carefully portrayed collection of women’s trials with religion.”

—Linda LaScola, co-author with Daniel C. Dennett of Caught in the Pulpit: Leaving Belief Behind 

“This is an important and timely book, at a time when Islam is being labelled as a “feminist religion” by ignorant feminists who know little of its bloodied past. It is important to look at the time before Islam, at the lives of women erased during early Islam, so this myth of an equal religion cannot be popularized.”

—Sadia Hameed, Spokesperson, Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain

Advance Praise