The Book

Beyond Belief: The Secret Lives of Women in Extreme Religions (to be published by Seal Press in April, 2013), chronicles the lives of women from a variety of restrictive religious backgrounds who chose a religious path only to eventually reject it in whole or in part.

In 2007, we (co-editors, Susan Tive and Cami Ostman), a former Orthodox Jew and a de-converted fundamentalist born-again Christian met in a writing class. Through sharing our stories we soon discovered many parallels. As young women, we had each been overwhelmed with life’s many choices. With little familial or social guidance, we were desperately seeking structure and role models. We each turned to a religious way of life hoping that the concrete answers we were yearning for would deliver us closer to a feminine self-identity we could believe in.

Our anthology, Beyond Belief, is divided into three themes:

  • Stories of getting IN
  • Stories of staying IN
  • Stories LEAVING

The book explores, through story, the questions of how and why women choose to get involved in rigid religion, what keeps them invested, and then how and why they leave (and what they miss—or don’t—once they’re gone).

Readers will meet former Unification Church members, Mormons, Evangelicals, nuns, and others who’ve walked the path of submission. Contributors will address topics such as food, modesty, religious meetings, holidays, work, children, clothing, secrets, converting others, prayer, marriage, and sex and how each of these was governed by theology and religious tradition.

Faith and religion are remarkably difficult to talk about, but the act of sharing our stories with each other brings us out of isolation. This dialogue is not only healing for its participants but also relevant to the larger conversation in our polarized political and religious climate. Check out Beyond Belief: The Secret Lives of Women in Extreme Religions (available now for pre-order).

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