Beyond Belief: The Secret Lives of Women in Extreme Religions

Beyond Belief: The Secret Lives of Women in Extreme Religions


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Beyond Belief addresses what happens when women of extreme religions decide to walk away. 

Editors Susan Tive (a former Orthodox Jew) and Cami Ostman (a de-converted fundamentalist born-again Christian) have compiled a collection of powerful personal stories written by women of varying ages, races, and religious backgrounds who share one commonality: they’ve all experienced and rejected extreme religions. Covering a wide range of religious communities—including Evangelical, Catholic, Jewish, Mormon, Muslim, Calvinist, Moonie, and Jehovah’s Witness—and containing contributions from authors like Julia Scheeres (Jesus Land), the stories in Beyond Belief reveal how these women became involved, what their lives were like, and why they came to the decision to eventually abandon their faiths. 

The authors shed a bright light on the rigid expectations and misogyny so often built into religious orthodoxy, yet they also explain the lure—why so many women are attracted to these lifestyles, what they find that’s beautiful about living a religious life, and why leaving can be not only very difficult but also bittersweet.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781580054423
Publisher: Basic Books
Publication date: 04/02/2013
Pages: 328
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

Cami Ostman is a life coach, marriage and family therapist, and author of Second Wind: One Woman’s Midlife Quest to Run Seven Marathons on Seven Continents (Seal Press). Cami holds a Bachelor’s of Education in English and theater from Western Washington University and a Master’s of Science in marriage and family therapy from Seattle Pacific University (both in Washington State). She has a special interest in helping women live more authentically and freely. She is also a dog lover, a wine connoisseur, a runner, and a blogger. Her blogs can be found at and Cami has appeared in O, Adventures Northwest, Fitness Magazine, The Mudgee Guardian (Australia), and La Prensa (Chile). She lives in Bellingham, Washington with her husband and their four-legged creatures.

Susan Tive is a writer and editor for a variety of academic, film, and women’s studies projects as well as non-fiction book titles including Faith and Feminism and Rachel’s Bag. She is currently the grant-writer and Development Director for Salt Lake Film Society. A former stay at home mom, she raised three, now grown, children in a small orthodox Jewish community in northern New Mexico. Along the way she completed her Bachelor of Science degree and earned her Masters of Liberal Arts from St. John’s College. Susan is currently writing her memoir, Woman of Valor, the occasionally humorous tale of a twenty-something wife and mother who bid farewell to her fashionable freedoms and blue jeans to become a religious Jew. She now lives with her agnostic husband Michael in the Pacific Northwest where she is learning to brave the rainy weather and play in her garden, delighting in the fruits no longer forbidden in her life.

Table of Contents

Introduction vii

In the Beginning

Church Bodies Naomi J. Williams 2

Direct Line to God Cami Ostman 16

Beaten by Devotion Huda Al-Marashi 25

Baptizing the Annas Caitlin Constantine 35

Uniforms Leah Lax 47

Seducing God Joshunda Victoria Sanders 62

Show Me the Way Elise Brianne Curtin 74

Swan Sister Yolande Elise Brener 84

Burnt Offerings

Turning Twelve Lucia Greenhouse 100

Touch Elise Glassman 111

Body Language Pamela Helberg 126

A Mother in Israel Stephanie Durden Edwards 137

Poisonous Promises Grace Peterson 146

Tilapia Mikveh Susan Tive 162

Witness Melanie Hoffert 170

Eva Leila Khan 182

White Lie Nikki Smith 195


Always Leaving Donna M. Johnson 212

Separation Colleen Haggerty 222

Dirty Girl Erin Seaward-Hiatt 230

Can I Get a Witness? Elizabeth Taylor-Mead 245

Lucky Cat Kyria Abrahams 256

Church of the Snake Carolyn Briggs 265

The Imperceptible Head Shake Julia Scheeres 278

Duct Tape and Baling Wire Valerie Tarico 286

Nun Hands Mary Johnson 293

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

“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

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