13 September 2013

Beyond Belief - The Secret Lives of Women in Extreme Religions [Review + Giveaway!]

I'm always intrigued and drawn to books that take on the subject of religion. It isn't an easy to subject to address and even more difficult to get people to talk about it (without getting into any type of argument or getting anyone offended).

I had the wonderful opportunity to read the book Beyond Belief - The Secret Lives of Women In Extreme Religions an anthology by  Cami Ostman and Susan Tives.

First, before you read my review, here's a quick summary of the book:

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.

My Review:

Like I said, I was immediately drawn in with the book's subject. I'm a spiritual person myself and after having grown up with Christianity as my background (went to a Christian private school during elementary school), I couldn't wait to hear what other women had to say about their experiences. I found, most of all, a lot of reflection and questioning that happened for the women as they went through the practices of their religion. Some religious practices mentioned in the book didn't seem that extreme to me, but some of the others that were a bit more extreme did make me think about religion and what we tend to believe in and what it means in a different way. I wish I could have read a more complete look into some of these women's experiences as many of them referred to just a brief moment in their life rather than the whole picture. I also would have loved to see more stories about their leaving process, which didn't seem to happen as often as I would have hoped.

This book though is a wonderful book to inspire conversation and I would have loved to read this in a "book group" type of setting and debate back and forth about the experiences described. If you are a contemplative, spiritual, deep thinking, or religious person, you will want to read this book. It will inspire you to think in a very different way.

About the Authors:

Cami Ostman is an author, editor, life coach and a licensed marriage and family therapist with publications in her field. She blogs at 7marathons7continents.com and on the psychologytoday.com blogger team. She has appeared in several publications, including O, The Oprah Magazine, Fitness Magazine, Adventures Northwest, the Mudgee Guardian in Australia, and La Prensa in Chile. Cami is a runner and a dog lover who lives in Bellingham, Washington.

Susan: As a writer, editor and researcher Susan has worked on a variety of academic articles exploring psychology, feminism and religion. Susan’s interest in these subjects led her to become an editor for several non-fiction titles including Faith and Feminism and Rachel’s Bag. Her new anthology Beyond Belief: The Secret Lives of Women in Extreme Religions will be published in April 2013 by Seal Press.

Visit these writer's online at their Facebook page and visit Cami on Twitter.
I also get to giveaway a copy of this book to one of my readers! Just leave a comment below and you will be entered to win! Contest ends on September 20th.

***WINNER: Kylie Carlson! Thank you for entering everyone!***

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of the book in exchange for my honest review.



  1. Sounds fascinating. Sometimes I cannot fathom how difficult or challenging it would be to be an extremist and not have God's love and arms wrapped around me.
    Thank you for the opportunity!

  2. This sounds like a very interesting read. It's great that these women are willing to share their stories. Thank you for the opportunity to win a copy!

  3. Sounds really good and interesting, would love to read and learn. So many dofferent views in this world and who knows if they are good or bad right or wrong.
    Linda W

  4. Interesting! I don't really consider myself to be religious (I'm more philosophical and spiritual) I am really interested in how religion functions in the world, both positively and negatively.


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