The Ties that Bind – Help for Women Trying to Break Them
The word religion derives from the Latin religio, which means to bind. And that is just what religion does. It binds people together. It forms communities. It does this through benign means such as ritual, music, and fellowship. The not so benign means involve fear, shame, and guilt. All of these make it hard to break away.
The American Religious Identification Survey, conducted by Trinity College in 2008, showed that women compose the majority in all American religions with the exception of Muslim, eastern religions, and a category referred to as new religious movements and other. A 2012 Pew Survey showed that atheists and agnostics are much more likely to be male (64%) than female (36%).
These statistics may mean that it is harder for a woman to leave a church community than for a man. Women also do much of the work that keeps the church functioning. My 94-year-old mother-in-law still helps with funerals at her local Catholic parish. But help is available. Communities exist both on the Internet and in many cities that can make the transition easier. These connections can replace the positive aspects of religion while leaving the negative ones behind.
There are several Facebook pages that are designed by and for women who have left religion. A simple “like” on these pages will provide regular postings to anyone with a Facebook account. Women Without Religion is just one of several. Topics on these sites are quite varied and range from comments about current events, religious texts, and personal experiences.
YouTube has a large number of videos discussing atheism, some of which address the specific concerns of women. Just search for women and atheism and they will pop up. Some of my favorite speakers include Valerie Tarico, an author and psychologist; Greta Christina, who often speaks about LGBT issues; Annie Laurie Gaylor, head of the Freedom from Religion Foundation; Susan Jacoby, an author and journalist; and Ayaan Hirsi Ali, an author and former Muslim. Other popular women atheists are Rebecca Vitsmun, Jennifer Michael Hecht, and Rebecca Watson. Ms. Magazine did an article a few years ago about women atheists. Check it out here.
There are also YouTube Channels where women atheists post videos on a regular basis. You can subscribe to these and get e-mail notices when a new post has been made. Kristi Winters, an American living in Cologne, Germany, is one of my favorites. Just go to YouTube and enter her name. If you like a more edgy or sarcastic bent, try videos by Jaclyn Glenn or Christina Rad.
Blogs are also a great source of information from women who are atheists. Just like mine, you can subscribe to them to get a notice when a new post has been made. Some of these are by the same names mentioned earlier as well as Vyckie Garrison and Monica McGee. You will have to find someone who has the tone and topics that fit your needs.
Chapters of national organizations such as the Secular Coalition for America, the United Coalition of Reason, the American Humanists Association, the Center for Inquiry, and the Freedom from Religion Foundation exist in many cities. Meetup.com is one way to find out about these groups. You simply sign up online and are notified when a group matching your interest meets. Many college campuses also have secular student groups.
One of the groups I belong to is the Humanists of Greater Portland. They meet weekly on Sunday featuring speakers on a wide variety of topics. This group is incredibly welcoming to new attendees. The group produces a newsletter, has a book club, and gathers for lunch with the speaker after the event. Sometimes a musical event is scheduled instead of a speaker. There are also several smaller groups including two women’s groups that meet monthly as part of HGP.
For secular parents, Camp Quest provides a weeklong event for kids in many states and Camp Inquiry is run by the Center for Inquiry. There are magazines, videos, and blogs about secular parenting as well.
Recovering from Religion, which has a website and a Facebook page, has recently begun the Hotline Project where an individual can call and get the personal support and help they need. Check it out here.
While by no means exhaustive, these examples show that support is growing for men and women to learn more about atheism and provide alternative communities.
Please let me know what I have missed. Print and pass along to a friend!
P. S. I am always looking for contributions to my blog. If you are interested in writing, you can contact me here. It’s not about me, it’s about us.
The Faithless Feminist
September 11, 2015
 Trinity College 2008 ARIS Survey, p. 11.