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Women who have left a religion, why

(78 Posts)
IrishCawfee Sun 15-Nov-20 12:55:47

And how has it changed your life?

Thank you.

OP’s posts: |
BigSaltyPeanut Sun 15-Nov-20 13:04:10

The Abrahamic religions are formed with misogyny at their core.

Many if not Most Christians in England now celebrate Christmas and Easter etc but aren't real Christians. For example I love a good Christmas meal but other than for weddings I think I've been to church once. Although I do admire the architectural beauty of a cathedral.

America is a bit of an unusual anomaly with their rather strange evangelical situation. The mega churches in America are rooted in both sexism but more importantly- money.

I know many religious people enjoy the traditions and culture of their belief system but don't follow the word to a t but with that said you only have to watch Orthodox on Netflix or the Ted Talk video by Payzee Mahmod to see how insular and destructive religion can be to girls in particular.

South Asian communities in England muslims and Sikhs etc are both quite large and insular and there have been several stories of second generation girls who are more British than their parents trying to escape and being killed for it. Shafilea Ahmed, an English girl, was murdered by her evil parents in England in 2003 in a so called "honour" killing.

Pretty sure the majority of "honor" killing, child and teen marriage, forced conservative dress and FGM in England can be attributed to religion and patriarchy having said that mothers and aunts in these communities are just as bad.

endofthelinefinally Sun 15-Nov-20 13:39:26

I have realised how misogynist the majority of religions are. Just a way to control and subjugate women. The catholic church is a good example IME and IMO.
Covering up the abuse of children.
Storing up obscene wealth.

I have also been disappointed in the behaviour of people who claim to be devout Christians. Teachers who lie and bully children.
A member of my own family who was one of the most unkind, abusive, manipulative narcissists I have ever come across.

DandelionDue Sun 15-Nov-20 13:46:42

Like PP mentioned religious bodies are very powerful very influential and breeding grounds for sexual abuse, abuse against women and children. I used to romanticize Catholicism as a child and teenager but I've lost that notion as an adult.

Unsure what I think of marriage now or the tradition of giving a child you carry and birth the surname of its father forsaking your own (I do understand this when the woman has a bad relationship with her family though)

DandelionDue Sun 15-Nov-20 13:52:50

Also Catholic Churches and the church of Scientology are as pp mentioned money hostders. These organisations rake in billions

It's quite obscene and I think perhaps Jesus would be mortified.

DandelionDue Sun 15-Nov-20 13:53:12


calamityjam Sun 15-Nov-20 13:57:43

Not left a religion particularly but I was brought up in the 80s where Christianity was prevalent in most primary schools. Assembly and prayer and hymns, hymns at lunchtime and hymns at home time etc. I always felt like I believed in a higher source of energy but never could gel with organised religion for many regions. I just feel it was a way to instil compliance and to assert patriarchal superiority.
I'm pagan now. I feel this type of path allows us to appreciate the balance in life, there cannot be masculine without the feminine or light without dark, life without death. But also everything flows in natural circles, death brings life, the seasons and astrological cycles. I follow the seasons and try to only use of the earth that which I can replace. I believe in a supreme power but which is both male and female. I could bore you all for hours, but I feel that paganism is much more "me" than structured formal Abrahamic religion

TyroTerf Sun 15-Nov-20 14:00:34

Atheism functions as a religion for my dad. That particularly militant "I'm enlightened and everyone else is wrong" attitude that isn't intrinsic to atheism, but is frequently seen nonetheless. He did his best to indoctrinate his kids into that mindset.

It took a hell of a lot of unpicking, but by the end of the process I'd discovered empathy.

(Didn't discover god, though! Just humanity.)

Malahaha Sun 15-Nov-20 14:21:30


Atheism functions as a religion for my dad. That particularly militant "I'm enlightened and everyone else is wrong" attitude that isn't intrinsic to atheism, but is frequently seen nonetheless. He did his best to indoctrinate his kids into that mindset.

It took a hell of a lot of unpicking, but by the end of the process I'd discovered empathy.

(Didn't discover god, though! Just humanity.)

I was raised atheist by such a father; except that he was also an extremely kind, compassionate man and a great, loving dad. But he indoctrinated me from the start with arguments against Christianity, which was the dominant religion in my country. And this was in the 50's, a time when it was really revolutionary to be an atheist. My mother was also atheist, but she leaned more towards agnosticism.

So I'm quite ho-hum about people these days declaring their atheism as if it is some kind of rebellion against the establishment. I know all the arguments. I was atheist on and off as a teenager, sometimes quite outspokenly so. Since my schools were by default Christian, I knew all about Christianity, Every school I went to had Christian assemblies at the start of the day with hymns, prayers, Bible readings. I observed everything and thought about it all a lot.

Objectively, I found that Christianity gave me a lot of inner comfort and strength. I learned to pray and I found that helped me through difficulties of all kind. I found that prayer does work, from a psychological aspect. I found comfort in the hymns and Christmas carols and chorals and most especially, Mozart's Requiem, which can reduce me to tears.

But I never believed in God as some superhuman Man up in the sky. Which is usually what atheists refer to when they say God. As someone upthread said, I believe in a unifying spirit which is in us all and connects us all, and that is God. I like the term God because it encompasses all the power and the beauty and the great love I seek in my heart. So no, I don't believe in God as a Man up in the Sky but as something far greater than that, something accessible and formless that lives in the heart of us all. I believe that is the source of all goodness and happiness.

It was a long journey but I found what I really believe, and what really makes sense, in the teachings of Vedanta, the philosophical backbone of Hinduism. It is intelligent, profound, and scientific, and most of all, you can actually experience that of which is speaks.

I do not belong to any religion. And I can easily separate doctrine from the core message of every religion. The atrocities emanating from the Catholic Church, and some of their doctrines, and evil stuff it has condoned, is not what Jesus taught. Jesus is for me the measuring stick, the core. I appreciate that core in every religion, and believe they have the same source and lead to the same goal. It's important to separate the wheat from the chaff. Not to throw out the baby with the bathwater. OK, clichés, but they work.

Sorry for the long post; it's just my 2c.

cookiesdippedincream Sun 15-Nov-20 14:35:35

Agree with others in terms of atheism being problematic too. Although I prefer the idea of it to religion it also whiffs of patriarchy. Prefer the term agnostic but even then i can't stand terms and labels. Prayer and faith can offer a real comfort in times of deep fear and sadness and it's awfully convenient that atheism ignores that.

From observation only devoutly religious communities tend to be homophobic & women = breeders that stay at home dressed in a polo neck and smiling and having sex on demand like a good stepford wife.
During the recent USA election I found myself on a video watching spree and somehow ended up on the youube page of a conservative politicalcommentators sister Abby Shapiro who is in a conservative religious marriage and her videos with her husband seem without passion or true companionship.
Really didn't sell religion to me and made me sad of the lies women are sold.

Of course not all religious people are one way or another which should go without saying but I really couldn't do religion and I can't see how feminism and religion can authentically co exist.

Doesn't it say in the bible that when a woman has a son she is unclean for 7 days but when she has a daughter she is unclean for 14.....I mean wtf is that about

MichelleofzeResistance Sun 15-Nov-20 15:02:25

It is perfectly acceptable for those born into however strongly or vaguely Christian religions to leave them. Or leave them and come back, or wander in and out at will. In fact if you go onto any MN board you'll get one hell of a lot more stick for staying in and raising your children in CofE/Catholic/Baptist/Methodist etc faith than saying you're leaving it which will gain you a lot of support. There's very little public kickback of any kind these days for not conforming to those religions. No one's going to shun you at the pub or Tescos because you weren't at communion yesterday. No one's going to come and bang saucepans outside your windows at night for living with someone you aren't married to. Women in this context are perfectly free to point out the dodgy records of Catholicism, the misogyny and the wrongs and downsides and discuss it or flat out denigrate it all they like. You can go and say it straight to the face of a vicar or priest who will probably be quite interested in a chat about it, and may agree with some of it. I've found it quite rare to meet someone from one of those faiths who has had the experience of happily growing up in a family in the context of a deep, family held faith with its presence always their in the daily life, routines, weekends, festivals, or who by themselves has a deeply held faith they'll feel comfortable to openly talk about or would find it deeply painful to consider giving up on their faith or losing it, outside of specifically church communities.

There's a lot of pretty good quality LGB fiction and biography from the late 80s and early 90s by Jewish writers of both sexes talking about the challenges of their sexuality and faith, of leaving a faith they'd held for so much of their lives and a family and community and all their family rituals and bonds based in that faith. I recommend it, although it's not easy reading.

There are also women living in the UK who have lived all their life in the context of a daily practiced, family held and community held faith who would be facing much, much worse, immediate and real consequences than the personal pain of losing their faith, or the pain of losing family, community and getting tutted at in the street if they tried to leave their religion, and who are not free to point out the misogyny or stand up against it. For some it would be impossible to leave, even if they wanted to. It's why I found the comments of a certain teenaged women's officer so abysmally naïve and self indulgent, that any woman unable to do x or y should just abandon her faith (and family and community) on the spot as a morally necessary rejection of misogyny. Only someone born in the very loose and almost gone Christian faith basis of the UK with no real life experience of faith or even a basic awareness of women and their broad range of faiths and cultures would see it in such childishly simple terms.

TyroTerf Sun 15-Nov-20 15:05:49

I can't see how feminism and religion can authentically co exist.

I suppose it's theoretically possible to found a feminist religion, but all the existing ones I have any familiarity with have got male-dominance baked in.

What I found was that dismissing all the religious texts as straight up fictitious wasn't a satisfactory explanation for my dad's position of "religion is evil and religious people are the derided Other."

I needed to find a way of explaining his psychology, really, because I believed his utter conviction that he was right wasn't qualitatively different to the utter conviction of those he deemed Other. It was rooted in human psychology, all of it.

These days I believe we haven't got a bloody clue what consciousness is, and we're all hampered by having to communicate indirectly via the medium of words and the physical world, but underneath it, the faith part? We're all talking about the same human experience.

My dad believed he had knowledge, but what he had was faith. Faith that the realist doctrine he identified with was truth, and that other doctrines were falsehoods. He couldn't see that he had been taught that only the physical world was real, and he had accepted this as fact despite his own inexplicable experience of sentience.

He couldn't see that this is just how the human organism does being human, either. But by god he was fond of using his belief in his objectively superior analysis to justify being a dick.

Apparently it's just natural that men go for girls as soon as they have the physical markers of being able to gestate, because biology, and so he was totally justified in not developing a personal taboo against finding teenage girls attractive.

It's no bloody wonder I rebelled!

Rainbowshine Sun 15-Nov-20 15:15:43

There was a really interesting Ask Me Anything thread about someone who had left their religion. I think she was a Mormon. I think many, not just women, are questioning the organisation and leadership of religions, with the cover up and failure to deal with child abuse and similar it’s made a lot of people question the church’s authority (or leaders of the religion e.g. Jehovah’s Witnesses). It’s not necessarily the faith that’s lost, more that it’s whether people are able to separate and follow their faith away from an organised congregation or whether it’s all intertwined so the faith is lost with the trust in the organisation behind the faith.

FloralBunting Sun 15-Nov-20 16:49:42

I'm mostly known as an ex-fundy now Catholic convert round here, but I actually view religion very much as a social construct borne out of the innate sense of religious impulse some humans have, so I probably wouldn't call myself a believer now.

I do think that it's possible to harmonize religious belief with feminism. I've yet to meet someone who didn't make some accommodations in their strictness of belief, even fundamentalists pick and choose. So I see no reason why someone can't do that to marry feminism and religion, and some religions got very well with feminist thought.

At base, though, I don't really think in terms of a personal supernatural deity anymore, so that's kind of a full stop for me on that. Religion has caused me some real suffering over the years, from conversion therapy to being pregnant constantly for 7 straight years and becoming disabled as a result because of quiverful ideology. But I still know that religious belief can be a great support to people, so I'm not anti-religious per se.

As a feminist, my issue is when systems are leveraged to oppress women. Any system can function that way - religion, politics, whatever. Sometimes it's best to dismantle the system. Sometimes it's something that isn't inherent bad, so it can be reformed. The trick is working out the difference.

So yeah, not religious anymore, though I still occasionally enjoy some mystical woo if I'm in the mood. But I am of the opinion that it's just a part of my psyche that needs to be scratched sometimes, like my preferences for action adventure movies and upbeat music.

ChazsBrilliantAttitude Sun 15-Nov-20 17:18:48

I draw a distinction between faith and organised religion. Faith is your personal relationship with God and organised religion is quite often a patriarchal power structure.

I respect people’s faith but despite my RC upbringing (or perhaps because of it) I have no interest in organised religion at all. Bluntly, I was sick of blokes telling me this is what God expects of women on issues like ordinal sin, abortion, marriage etc.

Mumfun Sun 15-Nov-20 17:29:52

Always struggled with the very committed Christianity I was born into.

One day went to a talk by a guy who had studied the Bible from a non Christian perspective and he took it apart very well and showed how many parts of it don't flow properly and that it has been very much altered over time. Just fitted together with the history I had studied and also some psychology and realised that the Church had been using a lot of psychological techniques on us.

Just set me free and I feel really happy now. More and more I can see how misogynist Christianity is. And can see how lots of things I was told when growing up in it are not true. Happy humanist/ agnostic now. Still love church music (found a talk by Douglas Murray on this very inspiring) and buildings but rightly see them as the amazing work of humans.

ErrolTheDragon Sun 15-Nov-20 17:32:26

I was raised in a Nonconformist Christian family. Not fundamentalist, and as churches go one of the more egalitarian - they had women in full ministry before they could vote in the U.K.

I was firmly convinced that I was a Christian myself.

But then at uni, through some combination of exposure to on the one side atheists who pointed out things like the circularity of any belief in the Bible, and on the other side the more fundamentalist types in the CU, I gradually thought it through and realised that I didn't believe in god any more. It was all too irrational. I wanted to believe - I really loved the church I'd grown up in, it was 'family'. But I just couldn't.

The older I get, the more problems I can see with religion in general and monotheistic 'book based' religions in particular. Once you realise they are man made institutions (man in particular, not human in general) you can see how they've evolved as control structures, in various ways but including of course the systematic oppression of women.

mostlydrinkstea Sun 15-Nov-20 21:22:18

I'm a priest in the C of E. I tried very hard not to be but there was a calling which eventually I followed and I was ordained almost 10 years ago. I work in an area where there haven't been many women priests and the day to day misogyny from the congregation and the parish as well as some of my fellow priests can be wearing. One very wise, very elderly chap took me to,one side when I was very new and said something like, 'remember that 50 years ago women doctors were a rarity. It was tough on those who were first but you'll be fine.' I bless him for that thought on tricker days.

mostlydrinkstea Sun 15-Nov-20 21:36:06

Pressed post too soon.

In my part of the church there are a lot of women who are working out how we inhabit a space that was dominated by men for the last 2000 years. It isn't easy when a conservative worldview of straight white western men can be seen as normative. Simplistic religion of rules can be helpful for some but many of us move beyond into something more tentative, more paradoxical and far more interesting. So I've left that form religion behind and am the uppity priest with pink hair and fabulous shoes who makes some of the traditional boys clutch their skirts in horror. Yey!

jackstini Sun 15-Nov-20 21:36:45

@mostlydrinkstea & @Malahaha - brilliant posts

Will have a think about this overnight and post more in the morning but am a Christian, currently attending a Methodist church (well, not since March but you know what I mean!)

I cannot imagine how I would have got through some things in my life without the backing of some amazing people in my church and the knowledge of the unconditional love that God has for me

Women are appreciated and respected (along with men, children too) and the comfort I have experienced from fellowship and prayer is incredible

I did leave my old church after I got divorced and had a wobbly time in my faith but a divorced minister and a number of other Christians that were divorced, gay and more ‘out there’ than I expected made me realise God loves and accepts all.

I always go back to ‘what would Jesus do’ and ‘love your neighbour’

Any religion where people are not encouraged to treat all with love concerns me.

Malahaha Mon 16-Nov-20 07:11:32

thanks @jackstini.

It is an extremely private thing for me and very real. An anchor through four decades giving strength and much joy.

What I've come to understand is that there are two dimenstions to every religion. The dimension most people see, most religious people cling to, most atheists object to, is the horizontal dimension: the scriptures, rules, dogmas, priests, imams, doctrines, etc, the visible parts that can so easily be corrupted because they are, indeed, manmade.

The other direction is vertical. It's the individual's relationship to that entity we call God, that power beyond ourselves which can only be found within. It's profound and it's life-changing, and if it happens to you there's no way you can describe it to others, and especially not to atheists. I would not have understood it when I was an atheist.

As a child, I challenged both atheism and religious doctrine and wanted to know the truth behind it all: not vocally, but in myself, sitting or hours and thinking it all through. I easily disproved my father's main argument, that science could not prove the existence of God and that science contradicted religion, because, I reasoned, if there IS a power and intelligence behind the Universe then obviously a) that power would also have "invented" science and its rules and b) science would never be in a position to "prove" its own creator, because that creator would be so many million times beyond its range.
And that a human could never fully grasp It because that would be like ants trying to grasp humans. That was my childish comparison; I used to love ants, watching them, and it was the nearest I could get to the relationship between humans and God.

The only bridge is Love with a capital L, and when that happens -- well.
It's what all the main religions come back to, eventually: humility, and love.
Before they all get distorted, by men.

Babdoc Mon 16-Nov-20 09:15:21

So many atheists throw the baby out with the bath water. Jesus was very definitely NOT misogynistic!
He was conceived of the holy spirit and born of a woman- men played no part at all in his incarnation.
He made the first witness of his resurrection a woman - Mary of Magdala - and entrusted her with the job of spreading the news to the male disciples and the world.
He rescued a woman about to be stoned to death for adultery.
He had female disciples who travelled with him and helped finance his ministry. One of them is thought to be the high ranking wife of Herod’s chief steward.
He preached some parables in pairs, with one male and one female example- eg the man with the lost sheep and the woman with a lost coin. So evidently was including women in his ministry.
He talked to the Samaritan woman at the well, who was shunned by her village for cohabiting with a man. Jewish rabbis at the time were not meant to speak even to Jewish women, let alone an “unclean” foreigner, and especially a hated Samaritan. Jesus offered her salvation.
St Paul encouraged women priests to set up and run churches all over Asia Minor. There are contemporary frescoes of him preaching alongside them. The misogynist passages in his epistles do not match his writing style, and scholars say they had a different author and were added later.
My own minister is a lesbian, who has campaigned for the current full acceptance of gay ministry in our church.
Please don’t condemn Christianity because of its distortion by patriarchal power structures over the centuries. The core beliefs are as valid, life changing and uplifting as always - that we are loved unconditionally by God, who demonstrated that love on the cross in willing sacrifice. We are asked to respond in love, both to Him and to our fellow humans.

nemeton Mon 16-Nov-20 09:46:14

What eloquent and well-constructed posts malahaha. Thank you for sharing [thank]

Malahaha Mon 16-Nov-20 10:06:33

Please don’t condemn Christianity because of its distortion by patriarchal power structures over the centuries. The core beliefs are as valid, life changing and uplifting as always - that we are loved unconditionally by God, who demonstrated that love on the cross in willing sacrifice. We are asked to respond in love, both to Him and to our fellow humans.

Exactly. People, including my dad, let go of religion because of all the nonsense constructed by MEN who only use it to forward their own egoism and narcissism. And they lose out on the substance of the message. This is true of ALL religions. My dad was a thoroughly good man, and he remained good as an atheist. But he was raised by Christians, with Christian ethics. As a child raised atheist, I would have floundered through life if I had not had a core strength, an anchor within me, granted by the Christian schools I attended. If you listen to some of those hymns, they work on you in a very deep way. The prayers, too, many of which I learned by heart and can still remember, if given a nudge. The words are beautiful, and so true -- if you dare to let them work on you.
One of my favourites is Immortal, invisible, God only wise, with the words: Tis only the splendor of light hideth Thee.

It says in the Bible that man was made in the image of God. I think it's the other way around: MAN made God in the image of MAN, which is why we have the judgmental, rather ridiculous Man in the Sky image.
It's always so annoying when atheists mockingly go on about "your friend up in the sky" or "skyfairy". I never believed in such a god. But I never engage or argue.

NonnyMouse1337 Mon 16-Nov-20 10:08:54


And how has it changed your life?

Thank you.

Oh gosh... Where to start.... I wouldn't be able to fit it all in a single post, so I'll try to summarise as much as I can.

I was raised as a Jehovah's Witness from a young age by my mum. I'm also from an Indian background and I lived in an Islamic country. So I've had exposure to all kinds of faiths and religions - Roman Catholic, Protestant, more evangelical types like Jehovah's Witnesses, Pentecostal etc, along with Hinduism and Islam.

The concept of atheism is quite unknown among South Asians. The assumption is even if you aren't overtly religious, you and everyone else will/must always believe in God or some sort of higher power. For most people, if you say you're an atheist or try to explain the concept, their reactions can range from confusion to looking at you like you're from another planet.
And also (unfortunately in my view) women from these regions are way more religious than the men and less likely to feel bold enough to entertain ideas like atheism or abandoning religious beliefs. Maybe it's changing with the younger generations as they connect with other people around the world and absorb more westernised media.

Anyway, I say this to give context as to how difficult it is to question your own religion and other religions and to reach a position of rejecting all of them. It is really not easy because religion and culture is very closely intertwined and the concept of separating religion and state seems like a distant dream.
Family, community... Everything is connected to religious beliefs and rituals and of course women are at the bottom of the hierarchy in them all. The vast majority accept this meekly.

My questioning and rejecting of religion was based a lot on how it affects and impacts women and how, irrespective of the religion, Indian women are always second (if not third) class citizens. And that we have to accept our place with men being the "head".

I dunno, I've always found it hard to swallow that concept. I'm too headstrong and stubborn and I like to think things through logically. I love science and understanding the world around me. I tend not to get scared or existential about "unknowns". I find a lot of beauty and comfort in knowing about the physical and material wonders of the universe and all that is in it. I don't feel threatened by the fact that there is much out there that we haven't figured out yet. I feel humbled by knowing how insignificant I am in the grand scheme of things.

For all sorts of reasons, I eventually couldn't justify my belief in religion and God. I love reading about ancient religions and seeing parallels with more modern ones. Human civilization, history and culture passes through generations and these stories / ideas evolve and transmit via religions.
Our exceptional intelligence as a species also brings all kinds of mental health issues, and I see humans as finding solace in religious beliefs as a way of coping with the existential dread that is the consequence of our intelligence and self-awareness.

I used to be really depressed and suicidal when I believed in God because I never felt I could live up to all the crazy standards required from me. Plus I could never really suspend my rational thinking and have blind faith. I sometimes wish I did as life does seem easier if you can have blind faith.

Overall though, I am so much happier as an atheist. It's like a huge weight has been lifted off me. I have been very fortunate to have a good life and live in a good country that protects my right to live free from religion. There is so much beauty and wonder in the natural world. I've never felt the need for a "higher power" to experience admiration and humility at our brief time in this world. I know that humans, as amazing as we are, do not sit outside of the animal world. We are not above it, even though we have always tried very hard to pretend that we are via creationist myths. I think those myths are ways to grapple with some very complex ideas.

I can understand people's need for religious beliefs when their lives are very hard and their circumstances particularly cruel and difficult. I can see how powerless so many women are in their societies and so I understand that they hold onto religion to help them get through such unfairness. When you know you are born and will die as a second class citizen with men always dominating you, then I can imagine you need the comfort of a better afterlife to get you through your lot in life. Although at times the afterlife perks for women still don't seem as good as what's promised for men, but something better than nothing.

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