When Cami Ostman, a famous author, and Susan Tive, a renowned editor, met in a Seattle based memoir-writing class, they found a strong bonding between themselves. This connection was based on their experiences in fundamentalist religious groups. Ostman has spent the major part of her life involved in charismatic Christian organizations. Tive converted to Orthodox Judaism in order to salvage a sinking marriage. As a result, both of these women have a lot of similarities in their thinking and ideas about religions.
However, at the time of the writing class, they had already left their faith communities and moved on with their lives. Ostman stated, “How could we live in the secular world while all the paradoxes drew us together?” She added that for both of them, it was not the matter of just a moment when they decided to leave, but there was an amalgamation of many such moments along the way.
For Tive, it was appealing for her to hear what Cami was telling about the things that are prevalent in her own religion. Though she found them different from her own experiences, the feelings certainly rang true for her and made real sense.
When the women talked, they realized that they would definitely love hearing from others like themselves – women who have already lived through such experiences. As a result of this discussion, they decided to edit a book about women who have left religion entitled: “Beyond Belief: The Secret Lives of Women in Extreme Religions.” It is an amazing anthology of essays written by Christian, Muslim, Jewish, and Hindu women. Ostman has added that they might have missed a few religions and cultures. but they definitely tried to collect every possible piece of information from the women who belong to these extreme religions in every corner of the world.
For example, they had a wish to hear from an Amish woman, but it didn’t happen somehow. Still, fortunately, they did hear from a diverse section of women who include a woman who lost her virginity and Jehovah’s Witness faith in the same week, a former Catholic nun, and last but not the least, a Pakistani woman who is a Muslim. This Pakistani woman is trying to reconcile the devotion of her mother with the stress of her own post-partum.
In the three magnificent sections of the book, the authors have explained the significance of how women get into a religion, stay in it, and then finally leave. If you read this book then you will entirely understand the concept of why religion might be an attractive medium in each of these stages of the process.
However, this book has inspired at least one funny living room conversation. Before the book was about to get published, the authors decided to give readings of the essays to a group of women. According to Ostman, every single woman was nodding and exchanging those sounds of assents that women usually give to one another.
Authors even pointed out that the group of individuals who were reading has commented that the book is all about how their sexualities had been restricted or co-opted by various ways. Someone even exclaimed, “Wow the stories of this book have a huge impact on sex!”
But, Ostman and Tive haven’t been surprised with such a comment as the intense experiences like sex came up so often from their contributors. It’s because through their thorough research they have understood that such intense experiences are after all the reasons behind why most of the women got into such religions in the first place.
Additionally, the authors observed that many women from different faiths talked about how music plays an important role in their lives. In fact, it was something that never left them even after a long time when they’ve left their communities. In particular, Tive said that it was something which was there in their bones and blood!
Moreover, it can be clearly said that often women choose to go into extreme religions for quite positive reasons which then end up becoming no less than just feelings of restriction.
So, all in all, experiences of women about religions in different parts of the world might not be something quite pleasant but yes, it’s worth knowing and exploring about!
By Arina Thoggy
February 24, 2018
Arina is passionate about spirituality, astrology, feminism and religion. In addition, Arina also supports non-profit agencies that provide healthcare solutions to handicapped and disabled people.
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