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Beyond Belief: The Secret Lives of Women in Extreme Religions Paperback – April 2, 2013


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Editorial Reviews

Review

Named one of the Washington Post's Top 50 Notable Nonfiction Books of 2013

“These women share the terror they experienced because they dared to read Judy Blume, or disagreed that feminism is Satan’s tool, or had sex outside of marriage, or refused to believe that reciting verses from their holy scripture would solve every one of life’s problems. Their brave, aching stories reveal a new truth.”
Leora Tanenbaum, author of Taking Back God: American Women Rising Up for Religious Equality

“With a bold eye for the tragic and ridiculous, these spot-on testimonies by women cast a penetrating light on their pilgrimages to Planet Religion in search of meaning and sanctuary, trudging through the sloughs of inequity and weirdness to reach, with luck, the get-me-the-hell-out-of-here exit."
Tova Reich, author of My Holocaust

About the Author

Cami Ostman's first book, "Second Wind: One Woman's Midlife Quest to Run Seven Marathons on Seven Continents," was published by Seal Press. She is a weekly contributor to "The Spirited Woman" and has been featured in "O, The Oprah Magazine; Adventures Northwest;" and "Fitness" magazine. As a writer, editor, and researcher for more than 14 years, Susan Tive has worked on on several nonfiction titles, including "Faith and Feminism" and "Rachel's Bag," and on a variety of academic articles exploring psychology, feminism, and religion. They both live in Bellingham, WA.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 328 pages
  • Publisher: Seal Press (April 2, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1580054420
  • ISBN-13: 978-1580054423
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 5.8 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #441,551 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

This is an astonishing and beautiful book.
keneumey
I may never know if I did the right thing by choosing to leave, but I know I did the necessary thing, and sometimes that's all anyone can do."
Book Shark
This book is not very interesting, it's a little confusing, and just not worth the effort of reading.
umi denise

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Winston D. Jen on April 23, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Based on authentic first-person accounts (which barely scratch the surface of religious abuse among extremist sects), one cannot help but scream out in rage, horror and injustice. Like Jesus Camp before it, this book details what can easily happen when religious beliefs are taken too far (Jesus Camp's Becky Fisher was unapologetic about turning young, helpless, impressionable children and teens into literal warriors for Christ).

The book is divided into three segments: eight stories about entering extreme (in the eyes of these women) religions, nine on life within these religions and nine dealing with the journeys out and into secular worlds with true hope, freedom and purpose.

One example is the tragic tale of a young lesbian, who was confronted by her god-fearing parents shortly after she became of age. Resorting to emotional blackmail and genuine concern for her immortal soul (a fabricated concern over nothing that religions have exploited for millenia), she is forced into pastoral "counseling" and expected to pray the gay away (or failing that, to remain abstinent, miserable and married to a man she has no physical or emotional attraction to).

This timely tome carries an unequivocal message - it is all too easy to use religion to abuse children (without even resorting to genital mutilation). The fifth commandment is a prime tool for this - one-sided, dictatorial and cruel. "Spare the rod spare the child" also comes to mind.

The contributors who came forth through the sludge and swamps of psychological and physical trauma to make their stories known to the world deserve our unwavering admiration, gratitude and support.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Renee Doyle on May 29, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Amazing stories of women in "extreme" religions. No matter your views or feelings on organized religion this offers new in sights on how women are perceived and treated within those organizations. There are mainstream, fundamentalist and alternative organizations covered. I do recommend you review the short biographies on each author in the back of the book as you read their stories. They give some additional information that provide more of the stories.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Jason Toews on April 29, 2013
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Ostman and Tive have produced a tremendously readable and vitally important book. For those of us who grew up in a fundamentalist church/community, the stories contained in Beyond Belief are all too recognizable. Despite the fact that these stories are told by women from a variety of fundamentalist (I wouldn't say "extreme," since most of these churches are pretty mainstream, a minor quibble) churches, I (a man, raised as one of Jehovah's Witnesses) recognized the feeling of leading an inauthentic life, the deeply-held belief that any doubts or questions must spring from your own broken-ness or lack of faith, the (justified) fear of losing family and friends should you venture outside the gate... I found myself grinding my teeth and muttering angrily during each one of these stories. Harrowing and painful, sometimes funny, always written with the ring of truth and clarity of prose, these stories moved me deeply. Highly recommended.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By keneumey on April 29, 2013
Format: Paperback
This is an astonishing and beautiful book. Each story opens a window into the world of extreme religion, showing what attracts women to it, why they stay, and what motivates them to leave.

Given the range of faiths that's covered, it's surprising how much the women have in common. What's also beautiful is their honesty in telling about their experiences. This is not an anti-religion book, but rather an honest look behind the scenes.

Some of the authors have written longer memoirs about their experiences, and some have works in progress. I'm dying to read more.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Janelle Lendon on June 25, 2013
Format: Paperback
I loved this book. From start to finish it gripped me with stories of real women dealing with their spiritual lives or in many cases their inherited religion. I cried in many of the stories, feeling the genuine distress, the feelings of hopelessness and unworthiness. I thought about how much it would cost each of them to tell their stories truthfully, but also knew that some would have healing in doing so. In many cases the stories are a mere snapshot into one woman's spiritual life. They were told frankly and that really spoke to me personally. I have asked many of the questions that these women were asking and I particularly related to Nikki's story coming from a similar background. Ultimately this book made me feel that I'm not alone in my journey out of the spiritual background into which I was born and have lived my life so far.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By jdubbiu on May 22, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I bought this book for a few reasons:
1. it was the book I've always wanted to write but didn't know where to start
2. my friend Leah Lax has her essay included and I wanted to read her story
3. I'm a Jehovah's Witness who has left and returned. No one knows the impact of the word disfellowshipped unless he or she has experienced it. I thought no one could ever understand the kind of alienation I felt. This book reminded me others have navigated through two worlds, the secular and the religious. Like me, they've struggled with belonging to either one.

I haven't finished the book, but I have enjoyed what I've read so far and look forward to writing a full review on my blog www.inthepm.wordpress.com.
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