Women and Religion


oppression-of-women-quoteoppression-of-women-quoteHelen H. Gardener is the pen name for Alice Chenoweth, an American author and political activist in both the free thought and women’s suffrage movements of the late 19th century. She was a prolific lecturer and made the acquaintance of Robert Ingersoll who spoke out against religion. Later in her career, President Woodrow Wilson appointed her to the United States Civil Service Commission, the first woman to occupy such a high federal position. Hats off to her for the courage to speak out about the harm religion has done to women! https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Helen_H._Gardener

Here are excerpts taken from Men, Women, and Gods and Other Lectures, 1885. Topic headings have been added. Available for free at http://www.gutenberg.org/files/30207/30207-h/30207-h.htm

A Woman’s Voice

It is thought strange and particularly shocking by some persons for a woman to question the absolute correctness of the Bible. She is supposed to be able to go through this world with her eyes shut, and her mouth open wide enough to swallow Jonah and the Garden of Eden without making a wry face. It is usually recounted as one of her most beautiful traits of character that she has faith sufficient to float the Ark without inspecting the animals.


Even though a religion claim a superhuman origin – and I believe they all claim that – it must be tested by human reason, and if our highest moral sentiments revolt at any of its dictates, its dictates must go.


Morality depends upon universal evolution; Faith upon special “revelation;” and no woman can afford to accept any “revelation” that has yet been offered to this world.


Every religion must be tried at the bar of human justice, and stand or fall by the verdict there. It has no right to crouch behind the theory of “inspiration” and demand immunity from criticism: and yet that is just what every one of them does. They all claim that we have no right to use our reason on their inventions. But evil cannot be made good by revelation, and good cannot be made evil by persecution.


The dogma that leads us to ignore our humanity, that asks us to throw away our pleasures, that tells us to be miserable here in order that we may be happy hereafter, is a doctrine built upon a false philosophy, cruel in its premises and false in its promises.


A religion that teaches a mother that she can be happy in heaven, with her children in hell—in everlasting torment—strikes at the very roots of family affection. It makes the human heart a stone. Love that means no more than that, is not love at all. …It has always seemed to me that I would rather go to hell with a good son than to heaven with a good Christian.

Pascal’s Wager

I do not believe that any “suppose it should be” gives us the right to teach “I know that it is.” I do not believe in the honesty and right of any cause that has to prop up its backbone with faith, and splinter its legs with ignorance. I do not believe in the harmlessness of any teaching that is not based upon reason, justice, and truth.

Bible and Women

This religion and the Bible require of woman everything, and give her nothing. They ask her support and her love, and repay her with contempt and oppression. No wonder that four-fifths of the earnest men are against it, for it is not manly and it is not just; and such men are willing to free women from the ecclesiastical bondage that makes her responsible for all the ills of life, for all the pains of deed and creed, while it allows her no choice in their formation, no property in their fruition.

Nature Better Than Religion

It is often urged that women are better off under the Christian than under any other religion; that our Bible is more just to her than other Bibles are. For the time we will grant this, and respectfully inquire—what does it prove? If it proves anything it is this—that all “divine revelations” are an indignity to women, and that they had better stick to nature. Nature may be exacting, but she is not partial. If it proves anything, it is that all religions have been made by men for men and through men.

Bible’s Injustice to Women

Every injustice that has ever been fastened upon women in a Christian country has been “authorized by the Bible” and riveted and perpetuated by the pulpit…The Lord doesn’t object to a man selling his daughter, but if any one thing makes him angrier than another it is to have her go about as the men-servants do after she is sold. On a little point like that he is absolutely fastidious. You may here notice that God took the trouble to come down from heaven to tell the girl what not to do after she was sold. He forgot to suggest to her father that it might be as well not to sell her at all. He forgot that. But in an important conversation one often overlooks little details.

Ignorance and Fear

Of all human beings a woman should spurn the Bible first. She, above all others, should try to destroy its influence; and I mean to do what little I can in that direction. The morals of the nineteenth century have outgrown the Bible. Jehovah stands condemned before the bar of every noble soul. What Moses and David and Samuel taught as the word and will of God, we, who are fortunate enough to live in the same age with Charles Darwin, know to be the expression of a low social condition untempered by the light of science. Their “thus saith the Lord,” read in the light of to-day, is “thus saith ignorance and fear”—no more, no less.

Bible Is a Fraud

Do you believe for one moment that a God ever talked with any man and told him to murder a whole nation of men, to steal their property, to butcher in cold blood the mothers, and to give the young girls to a camp of brutal soldiers—and that he helped to do it?


The theory of vicarious atonement is the child of cowardice and fear. It arranges for a man to be a criminal and to escape the consequences of his crime. It destroys personal responsibility, the most essential element of moral character. It is contrary to every moral principle. The Church never has been and never will be able to explain why a god should be forced to resort to such injustice to rectify a mistake of his own.


I want men and women to be good and true because it is right towards each other, and not because they are afraid of Hell. Honor towards people in this world, not fear of a fiend in the next—that is my doctrine. That is the way to make men and women strong and brave and noble. Stop telling them they can’t be good themselves; teach them that they must do right themselves. Make them self-dependent. Teach them to stand alone.

Personal Liberty

Under Pagan rule the personal liberty of woman had become very considerable, as well as her proprietary liberty; but Christianity began her degradation at once.

Christianity was introduced into England in the fourth century, and the sale of women began in the fifth; and it was not until the eleventh that a girl could refuse to marry any suitor her father chose for her.

The Church and Money

Every dollar that is paid to support the Church is paid to degrade a woman. Every collection that is made to spread “revelation” is used to suppress enlightenment and retard civilization. Every dollar that is invested in “another world” is a dollar diverted from useful purposes in this. Every hour that is spent mooning about “heaven” is that much time taken from needed labor here.


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About the Author Karen Garst