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Taking Back God: American Women Rising Up for Religious Equality Paperback – February 1, 2011

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Taking Back God: American Women Rising Up for Religious Equality + Her Share of the Blessings: Women's Religions among Pagans, Jews, and Christians in the Greco-Roman World (Oxford Paperbacks) + "Believing Women" in Islam: Unreading Patriarchal Interpretations of the Qur'an
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Counterpoint; Reprint edition (February 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1582437084
  • ISBN-13: 978-1582437088
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 5.9 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,168,272 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


Praise for Taking Back God

“Well-documented, engaging, and encouraging . . . This book stands out from others.” —Library Journal

Taking Back God may help forge alliances among women of different religions . . . And on a human level, it’s a thoughtful exploration of a group of women who, like all women, live daily with contradictions.” —Bitch

“Tanenbaum illuminates a forgotten landscape of progressive activism: religion. Her intimate perspective is personally revealing and enormously informative. She takes two of the most polarizing issues, religion and feminism, and weaves individual stories together to craft a tale of people not politics. She reminds us why we wanted to believe in the first place, and that religion is cause that is far from lost.” —Feminist Review

“The author and her subjects seem to connect. Tanenbaum’s chapters on Jewish women are incisive.” —The Jewish Week

“Tanenbaum skillfully weaves interviews with 95 American women of all faiths into her own extensive research on the history of each religion. Compelling individual stories.” —Book Corner

“Whether we eat matzah or ham at the dinner table this holiday season, our liturgy will feature men and more men. We worship a God invariably described as male, and we recite prayers that skip over our foremothers while praising to the high heavens our forefathers . . . Millions of devout women are fed up. They love their religion but want to take back their God.” —Laura Tanenbaum on NPR

“Rich in anecdote, careful in analyses, strong in message, this highly readable and sophisticated text not only will inform the public at large but also chart the way forward for so many women who have chosen to take this journey.” —Blu Greenberg, author of On Women and Judaism

“In Taking Back God, Tanenbaum has done a great service by presenting a riveting account of the sexist sins of our fathers in not one but three major religions, and by giving the faith-filled women fighting to elevate women’s place in these religions the respect and attention they deserve. To every woman of faith who has ever sat in her church, mosque or temple feeling belittled, hurt, angry and alone, this one’s for you." —Angela Bonavoglia, author of Good Catholic Girls: How Women are Leading the Fight to Change the Church

Taking Back God is an enlightening, inspiring look at how our faiths can—and should—reflect our highest ideals about morality and God. It’s a must-read for anyone who cares about religion in America today.” —Danya Ruttenberg, author of Surprised by God and editor of Yentl’s Revenge: The Next Wave of Jewish Feminism

“Religious feminism is not dead! If you believe in gender equality and belong to any of the three great ‘religions of the Book,’ Taking Back God will both energize and anger you. An observant Jew herself, Leora Tanenbaum carefully nuances the secondary status of many women in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. She shows how women are challenging repressive traditions in light of the core values of their faith. As a Christian feminist myself, I especially appreciated learning about Jewish and Muslim women in parallel circumstances and with similar interpretive hurdles. Tanenbaum blends extensive research with human interest stories and an embracing attitude that keeps one turning the pages.” —Reta Halteman Finger, Assistant Professor of New Testament, Messiah College, Grantham, Pennsylvania; and former editor of the Christian feminist magazine Daughters of Sarah

“It is a joy to find a book on women and religion that speaks from the point of view of religious women—women who love not just spirituality but organized religion, who care about tradition and ritual, and who hear the voice of egalitarianism as divine. At last, a treatment of Islamic gender debates that does not isolate Islam from other religions, or assume that Muslims are inherently more sexist than others. This book is a sincere attempt to understand, in a broad, generous, interfaith perspective, the concerns of religious women for equality and justice.” —Mohja Kahf, Associate Professor, Middle East and Islamic Studies Program, University of Arkansas, and author of The Girl in the Tangerine Scarf

“Leora Tanenbaum is so uncannily accurate in capturing not only the facts but the nuanced heartbeat of a world that I know well—I read the book in one sitting. This is the most comprehensive overview of the status of women and religion I’ve read. It chronicles the harm religion can do to both men and women, but also holds out a promise of radiant hope.” —Frank Schaeffer, author of Crazy for God

About the Author

Leora Tanenbaum is the author of Slut! Growing Up Female with a Bad Reputation and Catfight: Rivalries Among Women—from Diets to Dating, from the Boardroom to the Delivery Room. She lives in New York City with her husband and two sons.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By L. Erickson on December 30, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I think any woman interested in religion or spirituality should read this book, regardless of whether or not she has ever personally felt conflicted over the status of women in her tradition. The author, who describes herself as an 'observant Jew' and clearly cares passionately about her own faith, interviewed women from five different traditions within the 'religions of the book' - Catholicism, Evangelical Christianity, Protestant Mainline traditions, Islam, and Judaism. All of the women consider themselves devout within their respective faiths, but struggle - to varying degrees - with the second-class status accorded women within them.

The author combines excerpts from her conversations with these women with in-depth religious history. She covers the status of women over the centuries within each faith, and the often tenuous scriptural support used to justify their second-class status. She focuses on four main issues: 1) Restrictions on the roles women can hold, particularly leadership roles, 2) The predominantly male language and images used to represent God, 3) The idea that women's bodies are somehow intrinsically sinful or problematic, and 4) The idea that only men, and not women, are created fully in the image of God.

Some of the women she interviews consider themselves feminists and activists, but many do not, and it is the latter that really give the book its power. The most moving comments are from the 'average' women who have stuck steadfastly by their faiths because they feel a passionate connection to them, but are uncomfortable with the messages often sent them (and their daughters) about themselves and God.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Shaina R. Gaul on November 14, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I was raised in the Christian faith, and as I came to adulthood I felt that my personal belief system was calling me to Taoism. I recently decided to convert to Catholicism after witnessing the testimonies of my husband and his aunt. I heard about this book from a review in Bitch magazine, and its favorable analysis lead me to order it from Amazon.

Taking Back God enabled me to examine the disparity between feminism and Christianity and then draw my own conclusions based on the factual information provided. This book includes material on several different monotheistic faiths, including Muslim, Jewish, Protestant, Catholic, Fundamentalist, and Evangelist modes of thought. If you're a woman interested in learning about how your sense of self intersects with your monotheistic faith, this book is definitely a must-read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Trudie Barreras VINE VOICE on May 24, 2011
Format: Paperback
Although this is another book that reached my library by a circuitous route, rather than via Amazon, I am delighted to see that a paper-bound version has now become available. I believe it is an important addition to the dialog concerning feminism and religion -- specifically, as the author emphasizes, the three "Abrahamic" religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

I especially appreciate the fact that Leora Tanenbaum, self-defined as an "Observant Jew", brings a depth of knowledge of the historical roots that adds a great deal of meaning to her discussion. In addition, she has obviously been able to interact effectively with women of all the various traditions represented, and while her perspective is completely honest, it is also as objective as is possible in this type of writing. Her writing style is lively and thoroughly engaging.

It is clear that with modern communications, it will no longer be possible for the various religious traditions to maintain a strangle hold on the awareness of the population in general concerning their patriarchy and misogyny. It is also clear that a study such as this, which paints a comprehensive picture of the entire panorama of the way in which women have been systematically excluded from opportunities to utilize their gifts and hold positions of leadership by the various religions, is extremely valuable. This comparative study makes it obvious that ALL the established religious systems are in need of scrutiny and renewal, and that to accomplish this is vital for their survival as part of the ongoing progress of humankind. However, because the author deals with the important aspect that there are many women who do in fact cherish their own religious heritage, and are NOT, as so many feminist are, going to simply "opt out", I believe she issues a prophetic message to these religions. It could be put in modern proverb form, "Wake up and smell the coffee!"
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By tbauer on September 17, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I am about half way through this book and can't put it down. I am well aware of the Catholic attitudes concerning women, but had no idea of problems in the other Christian religions. I am beginning to understand why some women stay so long in abusive relationships--they have been raised by their churches to believe that they must submit. Tanenbaum, has well researched her sources, fully understands, and clearly presents all of the angles whether Muslim, Presbyterian, Catholic, or whatever. The only problem that I experience with this book is how it makes my blood boil over the idiocy of the patriarchy. I highly recommend this book!
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By priestess on October 29, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I enjoyed reading this book and seeing that others have felt the feelings of disassociation that I have felt for a very, very long time. It helped me to analyze these feelings and decide that being a member of an organized church isn't necessary to building a relationship with God. In my case, it caused more harm than good.
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