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ExChristian.Net

A Fall and A Rise from Christianity

By Zephram Harrison ~

"So, because you are lukewarm,
and neither cold nor hot,
I am about to spit you out of my mouth."
-- Revelations 3:16 (New Revised Standard Version)

I was raised Christian. My church was near Indianapolis, Indiana, and was non-denominational.

My family was relatively devout. We all volunteered often at the church. My siblings and I were even in the drama team. We acted out skits to help teach lessons to the younger children.

I can't remember when I committed my life to Christ. But I can remember a moment, after doing it. I was riding home from a Sunday service in a white pickup truck. I was very young, about seven or eight, and I was very happy. My parents believed in God, and I wanted to be like them. It felt like the right thing to do.

The fall started quietly when I was between ten and twelve years old. I began having strong sexual thoughts towards girls. This is lust, a sin in the Christian faith. The Bible is very clear about this, in numerous places. Guilt is common with any sin, but I felt a deep shame for lusting, in particular. Not due to a single thought, but due to the unrelenting frequency of these thoughts. For the next six years, I would add into my prayers..,
"Please, God, help me to resist the temptation of lust."
I wanted to grow closer to God, but every time I had sexual thoughts, I felt like I'd taken a step back from Him. I doubted God's existence, for giving me a clear, biological compulsion, and then telling me not to think about it.

Then, my fear got the better of me. And a curious thing happened. While eavesdropping on a conversation between my mother and a visiting friend, I heard a story about a kid I knew from church. The child was walking through a hallway in his home, when a grotesque, green ogre with horns appeared. It was a demon staring down the kid.

The demon went away just as quickly as it appeared, and the kid was unhurt. The story was concluded by the fact that if you said, "In the name of Jesus Christ, get out of this house," then the power of God would force demons to leave.

The idea that demons can visit children is utterly terrifying, especially when you are a child.

I'm a nervous person, and my first clear memory involves:

  • being afraid of the dark, and
  • not being able to fall asleep.

I would often think I saw faces in the dark or that someone was going to hurt me after I closed my eyes. I know, now, that those irrational fears are known as common paranoia. But when you're a kid, you don't know important stuff, like the mistakes you tend to make.

I was afraid of a great many things. The existence of a higher power that could protect me, was thoroughly appealing, especially at night.

When trying to fall asleep in bed, my eyes would close, but I would also listen intently to soften any lingering fears. After hearing the story about the demon, I'd preemptively whisper,
"In the name of Jesus Christ, get out of this house."
for a few rough nights.

One night, I was startled awake by a voice. The voice spoke in gibberish, and it was deep, guttural. Opening my eyes, I could only see two feet past my bed. Further out, it was all black.

A clock sitting on a brown hutch near my bed read "12:03 AM" in its green liquid crystal display. It was that time of night when you think no one else in the house is awake. The gibbersih might as well have been another language. It continued.

Closing my eyes, I weakly mumbled, unintelligibly, "In the name of Jesus Christ, get out of this house."The voice grew louder, yelling, as if emboldened.

Then I screamed,

"In the name of Jesus Christ, get out of this house!"

Then the voice went away, on the exclamation point of that yell. I was wide awake, sweating like a runner, and breathing hard. Throwing the covers over my whole body, I hid underneath for the rest of the night. I was scared worse than ever before.

I knew it was not a nightmare. The feeling of sweat on my back and the crystal clear memory are indicators that I was awake. I'd never had a nightmare with such strong details. In a nightmare, there is often a startling moment that forces one awake. Here, something caused me to wake up.

This event caused two critical things to happen:

  • I continued to believe in God.
  • I took pride in the fact that a demon had visited me.

The reasons came later:

If I heard a demon, then at least one exists. If the words worked, then Jesus's name has power. I was a witness to that power. For a time, Christianity ceased to become a matter of faith. To me, it became a matter of fact.

I kept repeating inside my head, "If God allowed this to happen, then I was not meant for a normal life." I felt unique, at those times in youth when you are so desperate for an identity, even a bad one will do. It lead to feelings of destiny. Along with feelings of entitlement and superiority. I continued to beat myself up for lusting after girls. It was a drain placed underneath my self-esteem. My self-worth could so easily be washed away by a single thought, an image, or an erection.

There is no immediate consequence for lust, in one's heart. Parents are not mind-readers. No one but me, knew how much of a sinner I was... unless I told them. And I'm not as honest as Jimmy Carter. God could forgive me, but I could not forgive myself.
"The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge;
fools despise wisdom and instruction."
-- Proverbs 1:7 (New Revised Standard Version)
Around this age, I started reading the book of Proverbs, because I wanted to be wise. I wanted more than simple knowledge, like 3+3=6. I wanted to be mature, to understand people, and to know what to do next. I wanted to see the inevitable when one truly understands a situation.

In high school, after more reflection about that night, the question ceased to be whether or not God existed. The question became whether or not I could trust my own ears. I was still lusting; God hadn't answered my prayers. The more I questioned His existence, the less happy I felt. But I knew I'd rather be right and a little sad, than be happy and wrong. When long term benefits outweigh short term costs, the choice is easy.

During my first year in college, I made a deal with myself. I would stop believing in God for one year. Like a test. If I didn't feel God's presence, or I could live without Him, then I could permanently stop believing.

Without God, I thought I was free,

  • to believe what I thought was right, instead of what the Bible says is right,
  • to exist with the uncertainty of what happens after death (in place of a looming, final judgement)
  • to think sexual thoughts free of shame or regret

Old habits die hard.

I still felt shame when thinking about women. I was so ashamed, I virtually stopped looking people in the eye. I looked down at the floor as often as possible, and stopped enjoying the act of sight. In my later college years, it became worse.

I stopped getting a full night's sleep. I stopped brushing my teeth twice a day. I stopped showering daily. I stopped focusing on my studies. Due to stress, malnutrition, and a lack of sleep, I started to easily forget things. Most importantly, I forgot who I was.

After a few years, I got two cavities, and I failed a class. This left me at about the level of a seven year old in personal hygiene, and I lost good schoolwork as a critical source of self-esteem. A strong sense of failure began to spread through me.

Throughout my early life, I would think about a women, and feel ashamed from the thought. But then I would receive a good grade on a worksheet. Then the next hour or the rest of the day might turn out OK. Then night would come, when that type of thought is at its strongest, and the cycle began again.

I used to be a good student, but I started procrastinating and making poor decisions with my time. I wasn't good to my friends or the people who depended on me. At times, I made simple tasks more difficult, just to mess with myself. I was so tired

  • I forgot to smile.
  • I was on edge, constantly shifting between angry and afraid.
  • I didn't want to talk to other people.
  • I didn't want to eat.
  • I didn't want to think.
  • I looked for short-term pleasures: TV, drinking, etc.

I had many of the disadvantages of vanity, without the crucial benefits of self-esteem. It's a weird mix, but these two conditions can pair up in folks, especially in "my generation". (I'll expand on this in the next document. There is a link to the document at the bottom of this testimonial.)

I wasn't living; I was only surviving. I was stumbling through life with a useless depression, a useless anger, and tired eyes. I hated myself. I wanted to die, but I didn't know myself well enough to realize it.

Too much of my self-worth was tied up in a relationship to God, a being that may or may not exist. With the daily sin of lust, I felt like a wind-up toy, constantly running into the same wall, and quickly running out of energy.

I do not know, for sure, if Christianity is right or wrong. I know Christianity is not right for me. I know if I stay, I would keep hurting myself.

I am neither hot nor cold. I'm just tired.

Go ahead, God. Spit me out.

A Rise from Christianity

Can atheist organizations work together?

By Karen Garst ~

When my husband and I left religion behind for good, we did not seek out an alternative community. We didn’t explore more liberal churches such as the Unitarian Universalists. We didn’t check out any humanist organizations in the greater Portland, Ore., area. We didn’t inquire if friends knew about any secular communities. We just raised our son without religion…and slept in on Sundays.

But many people do seek out like-minded organizations for a variety of reasons. If they have recently left a church community, particularly one that disowned them, they may want to make new friends. Others seek out a community where they might learn more about their newly found non-belief. Some might want to help other people who are seeking to leave the fold as they did.

What will they find? When I did some research on what exists in Portland, I found a variety of different organizations—the Humanists of Greater Portland, a local chapter of the Center for Inquiry, a Sunday Assembly, and a local chapter of the Freedom from Religion Foundation. There was also a chapter of Americans United for the Separation Church and State but their focus is solely on this policy. As a state with a significant percentage of respondents answering “none” when asked about religious affiliation, Oregon’s various options are not surprising.

I probed further to find a number of national organizations: American Humanists Association, Center for Inquiry, Secular Coalition for America, American Atheists, United Coalition of Reason, Secular Student Alliance, Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, The Freethought Society, among many others. There are also international organizations like the Atheist Alliance International and the International Humanist and Ethical Union. Why are there so many organizations and what is the impact of this diversity on atheism?

While the word “atheism” can be traced to France in the 16th century, it was used as an insult. The Enlightenment gave cause for certain people to identify themselves as deists or atheists, but until the adoption of the Constitution of the United States, there was never any true separation of church and state. Early American deists included Thomas Paine and Ethan Allen. Helen Gardener and Robert G. Ingersoll emerged in the 19th century as popular atheist orators. The first organization in the United States that could be called a national organization for atheists was probably the American Humanist Association formed in 1941, which was an outgrowth of various humanist manifestos. People with slightly different goals formed the other various organizations that exist today. Some prefer to focus on the separation of church and state, some refuse the label atheist, and some may even want to work with liberal churches.

It is interesting to note that some atheist organizations appear to be undergoing consolidation such as the merger of the Center for Inquiry and the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science. The stated reason for the merger is “both organizations seek to make the world a better place for everyone by advocating for science and reason over faith and pseudoscience in all areas of public life, by defending the rights and equality of nonbelievers, and by exemplifying and acting on the values of humanism.”

Given the historical development of various atheist organizations and the likelihood of more in the future, what strategic goals could be undertaken to increase the effectiveness of this diversity of secular organizations? As it is unlikely for all of these organizations to come together to form one atheist national organization, what are the other possibilities?

The Secular Coalition of America is the closest to a “national organization” that currently exists. It has 19 different national organizations including those listed above as members. It was formed in 2002 by Herb Silverman. It formed as a 501© 4 so that it could facilitate “unlimited lobbying on behalf of nontheistic Americans.” This is an important step in the right direction. The Coalition exists to facilitate common projects among member groups. There are some additional things that could be done through this or another combination of organizations to increase the visible and cooperation of the various atheist organizations. A short list of ideas follows.

  • An annual e-newsletter to highlight the major accomplishments of each.
  • Coordination to promote “atheist” art, music, an entertainment – a “Good without God” concert perhaps.
  • An annual “Atheist Festival” that could be held locally throughout the U.S. Portland, Ore. held one of these in 2015 that could serve as a model. It brought together several groups locally to celebrate with music and informational booths.

These are just a few ideas that could be undertaken if the groups wanted to coordinate more of their activities. If we want to change the percentage of “nones” in the United States, we are going to need to work hard and work together. If you are a member of an atheist organization, voice your support for this effort if you agree.

Karen L. Garst, The Faithless Feminist

Without Enthusiasm, What is There?

By Carl S ~

About those 24-hr. news channels. My wife watches them every day. I used to, especially during election seasons, until they stretched out for 18 months. What was once enthusiasm faded to interest, then disappointment, and now those channels are annoying. Time to move on. It's a madhouse out there now, more aggravating than entertaining. News commentators talk every subject to death. Wouldn't it be cool to have a regular series on TLC, The Learning Channel, about atheist families? It's the channel viewers go to to learn about lives they pretend not to care about. It's the perfect place for the evangelical prudes to indulge, without each others' knowing, their curiosity about the godless they condemn. But that's not all. I'm seriously thinking about quitting my commentaries; there's neither interest nor enthusiasm, and I put a lot of labor into them. Maybe move on to something different, somewhere?

Interests and enthusiasms make life worthwhile. When people are “trying to find” themselves, they're really looking for the interests that define themselves, which they've lost or put on the back burner for the interests of others. So, interests and enthusiasms are selfish in the way being oneself is selfish. When they're vibrant, life is also. Without them, things are pretty dull; life is contingent on having enough energy to keep it being interesting. My relatives knew this until their dying days. They went down, as is said of daredevils of the sky, “the way they wanted to.”

The last time I saw my mother was in Ohio. She was 85 years old at the time, visiting with my older brother and his wife. This was a day before she flew back to Arizona. I said, “See you next year,” and she told me that No, she was “Tired of living and I want to be with my husband in heaven.” My mom was always a positive person, tough in business dealings, tender and defensive for her kids, and flexible as hell about their life choices, no matter how “wrong” others thought they might be. But that day she let me know her fading loss of sight and taste, combined with a life she pretty much lived as she wanted to, was ready to be put away for good. Now, she has been gone for many years, along with my brother and his wife. My sister was like her mother, but she also reached that point where she said, almost every time I'd write or talk to her, “I'm tired and I want to die.” When enthusiasm isn't in the picture, time to hang things up and mellow away, yes?

My sister once got so carried away by a radio evangelical preacher that she left her seven kids behind and took a bus so she could run away with him. (He sent her home.) It gets me to thinking about something. I wonder if it's the personalities of these preachers that draw believers to be enthusiastic, and not their God or Jesus, as they claim. It's not inconceivable these preachers with their TV, radio, and mega church audiences, can be the equivalents of rock stars, movie, and television celebrity idols.

Everybody should have enthusiasm. But, as one writer noted, educational systems (religion system included), try to squelch the natural-born enthusiastic instincts of children. A Montessori educational system encourages children to develop their natural interests and enthusiasms. Such killjoys, such wet blankets! We encourage our kids to question, to use their interests for discovering how the real world works. Religious institutions exploit them to be channeled into dogmatic brainwashing. The trusting child does not question motivation. The child doesn't know what “perversion of reality” means. (Come on, how insane can a claim be: washing your clothes in blood can make them white as snow?) Think of how much progress humanity could have made without religious systems sapping the curiosity we're all born with. And can you imagine trial-and-error progress without blasphemous and obscene words? Never would happen. Only the topmost worker in a gothic cathedral could get away with that, and only by muttering to himself. But curse he did, ergo... progress. Every male knows this.

Everybody should have enthusiasm. But, as one writer noted, educational systems (religion system included), try to squelch the natural-born enthusiastic instincts of children.Governments, religions, and other institutions around the world keep trying to suppress and censor free speech and civil rights, curbing or denying enthusiasm. They want us to believe we have purposes to our lives, as long as they suit their purposes. But we're human; our enthusiasm is often at cross-purposes with their desires to control us. The bastards are pushing to make our sexual decisions for us, even forcing legislation to deny us the right to control how we choose to leave this life, for chrissakes! They'd rather have us tortured to death by whatever will inevitably end our lives and/or the hopeless medical intervention we don't want. Let it be noted: One enthusiastic purpose I have to my life is to destroy clerical power; just the opposite of what that “purpose driven life” religion wants.

The way I see it, Christian clergy and you and I take our references from the 12 o'clock hour. It's just that theirs is 12 a.m., and ours is 12 p.m. Growing up in a religion enclosure is a world of its own. The Christian religion tells us our lives begin in the darkness of midnight, and progresses to the sunrise of our own Easter. They preach that death is just the beginning of the only life that counts, since mortal life pales in comparison to it. That's perverse. When religious lives are lived under the dark filtered-by-faith-glass, we are told to grope in blind trust, to follow the leader in darkness through life's unexpected trials and tribulations. Hell, any cult has the same spiel.

If you are one of the 12 p.m. children, on the other hand, you begin living life in the clear light of day, seeing and discovering, interested, enthusing, through thick and thin. Life is a buffet, not a place where you must, under threat of punishment, deprive yourself of its opportunities, its pork, beef, and beverages, and sexual pleasures. Your life's purpose is your own, it isn't a lifelong battle waged to settle a religion's desire for revenge or for conquest. After years of living in all life offers, you get weary, tire out, and then you can go to your acceptable final rest, in peace. You’ve had your time singing in the sunshine, laughing in the rain, of splendor in the grass, and it's time to say “Good night, world.” Interesting, isn't it?

Behind the God Façade

By Carl S ~

“A mass grave containing about 800 human remains ranging in age from 35 weeks to 3 years was discovered at the former Bon Secours Mother and Baby Home in Tuam, Ireland, a Catholic orphanage that closed in 1961.” - Associated Press, March 3, 2017.

Shortly before I quit going to church with my wife, I found myself after one service, alone with her pastor. He took the opportunity to ask me if I had “issues.” I told him I didn't. (But later I asked my wife what “issues” meant.) Of course I have issues. For years now. Looking back at his question, I suspect he was planning on setting up an intervention with him and other church members to “explain to a wanderer from the faith,” just to keep him in the herd. Little did he know I never was part of his flock. If he did, he might have agreed with actor Strother Martin in the movie “Cool Hand Luke,” who said, “What we have here is failure to communicate.” But then, problems all believers deal with stem from the fact “God” fails to communicate, don't they? So, “his” delegates must speak for “him.”

Maybe the “calling” to preach is only a social construct, to enable liars to have a livelihood. I suspect “lying for Jesus” or God has been so successful for the clergy it's a pleasure-giving habit, and because their unvalidated claims go unchallenged, so too must the deceptions multiply. When habitual lying becomes an addiction, won't it become self-deception? Isn't this combination similar to a gambling addiction? Probing doubt is needed to peel away religion's veneer.

Things are not what they're loudly proclaimed to be when it comes to religions:

1. Their scriptures are written with constant changing of subjects to dissuade us from investigating their claims. Ask yourself why couldn't Christianity continue as an oral tradition; why wasn't there any resurrection account written until at least thirty-plus years later? I came to this conclusion: The gospels had to be written in order to keep people from asking questions. And they were not checked for errors or veracity. Early Christianity was replete with scattered beliefs and dogmas about the nature of Jesus alone. A solution was concocted for a monopoly of power: a convention of church elders got together and voted in which “alternative facts” texts were to be “true,” and every other opinion became “heresy.” After that, anyone caught teaching anything differing from them would be punished, banished, or executed. “Alternative truth” by vote?

2. Our disagreements with clergy about their god's personal morality might arise from the same kinds of “disagreements” we have with psychopaths. Unless we are psychopaths ourselves, we can't relate to Klaus Barbie, Ted Bundy or the Inquisitors, either. Neither can we imagine what it's like to be a bishop, rabbi, pope, priest, pastor, or imam, etc., having to cover up crimes of fellow clergy, to justify physical and psychological child abuse, or the deaths of women due to denied or botched abortions. Maybe, for the same reasons, we don't see their reasons for their indifference to giving us information, or their refusals to justify their decisions. We're looking at things from a moral and ethical position and making a mistake in thinking religious authorities are also.

3. Organized religions, because they are founded and dominated by males, are all about Power. Moral sincerity is a facade. Does the Vatican, Russian Orthodox Church, Islamic religion, or any other belief system sincerely care about moral/ethical, behavior? Hasn't morality been a successful facade for all religious claims to authority? While clergy preach each believer has moral obligations, they practice a double standard for their own behavior.


4. All known dictatorial systems followed the blueprint laid down by Christianity: claims to own absolute truths and authority, suppression of facts, a strict structure of hierarchies, degradation or persecution of dissidents, absolute loyalty, and promises of rewards to those who obey. No surprise the Mafia is an outgrowth of the Catholic Church. What clergy are loyal to, answerable to, and uphold, is not to any higher power they preach, but The System. All other considerations, such as compassion, honesty, justice for those the system harms, are all collateral damage for the sake of preserving it forever. And it gets worse with each stretch of privilege giving the clergy a free pass. Unopposed, they'll grab all they can. The holiness, reverence for life, claims to moral superiority because of asserted, (not necessarily) seriously believed beliefs, is so much bullshit. Even the Mafia can relate to that. Even gang members know; it's all about power.

5. Those within the grasp of religion's power are indoctrinated to believe in a man who is invisible, but feared. Nobody has seen him, heard him, and yet he has to be constantly praised and begged for favors. As a righteous god, he is unsympathetic and cruel. We see his image when soberly reflecting on the indifference of psychopathic torturers and murderers, this fictitious god who creates a facility where he can watch humans being tortured, eternally. (Eat your heart out, Klaus Barbie.) What they share is absence of remorse, empathy for their victims, with no sense of evil in following their desires to the maximum.

Things are not what they're loudly proclaimed to be when it comes to religions6. Go behind the facade. Religions are not about morality and ethical behavior, but Power over minds, emotions, and women. Christianity sells a trade-off: forgiveness as a substitute for personal responsibility. Unlike prisons built to constrain the guilty, religions are prisons where power and control are exercised over the innocent, good, caring, humans, who don't need them. Creationism, miracles, the immovable belief in the magical power of words and manifestations are all of the same non substance: wishful appearances. Believers are not purchasing the steak, but the sizzle. Clergy are holy vacuum cleaner salesmen who tell you their product will cleanse your soul, but all they're selling is the vacuum.

7. Why do even intelligent humans buy into the facade, stay in it, even to the point of being most fearful of losing it? When we talk about common human traumas, we consider death, destruction, divorce, health crisis, betrayals, etc. But maybe the worst of all is disillusionment. This explains a lot. I say this because, of all of them, disillusionment has the longest lasting effects. The more a person commits in love, passion, time, money, and in setting aside all other things that mean the most to him or her, so much the more devastating will be the result of finding out one has been deceived all along. It's inconceivable. The most natural reaction is rejecting this could happen, this could be true. And to reach the end of one's life realizing one has been conned, has to be the greatest disillusionment. No wonder it would be avoided as exposure to the most toxic of plagues. Denying the finality of death is one of the most powerful illusions humans cling to. Hope is the very last thing to die, as the saying goes, but even at death, the believer hopes. When thinking about the persistency and defensive power of faith (which is only another word for nothing more than gambling), make note of how terrified humans can be whenever they are faced with being disillusioned. Therefore, religion thrives.

8. Religious teachings and scriptural writings exemplify what “moral” means to all those fictitious male deities, and the sellers who promote them as their profitable products, as compared to the rest of humanity. It's not realistic to agree to disagree with those whose purpose is to dominate you. Confrontation is necessary. Religious spokesmen should be revealed to have “failure to communicate,” because they only want their words heard, and avoid these facts.

Women in Arabia before Islam

By Karen Garst ~

I have written extensively about the worship of female deities prior to the advent of monotheism. Many historians will agree there was likely a notion of a Mother Goddess or Mother Earth early in the lives of humans. Everyone knows about the later pantheon of Roman and Greeks gods and goddesses… unless you were sleeping in high school. Many other cultures had goddesses as well. Furthermore, Judaism was not the only culture to get rid of the goddesses and opt for a single male deity. Enuma Elish, the Babylonian myth, predates the Jewish tradition by at least 1,000 years. In this story, Marduk, one of the male deities, asks his fellow gods to make him the head god. If they consent, he will kill Tiamet, the goddess of the sea. Yup, they agreed and she was cut in half to separate the skies and the earth. But we often hear that females in the area where Islam started, the Arabian Peninsula, were disadvantaged, couldn’t own property, and couldn’t choose whom they could marry. These writers maintain that Islam improved their lives.

Hibah Ch[1], who has written an essay about women and Islam for my next book, quickly disabuses us of this characterization. First, the wife of Mohammed, the founder of Islam, was married to Khadija bint Khuwaylid for 25 years until her death. She had been married previously and was a very successful merchant in the Quraysh tribe. It is said that her caravan “equaled the caravans of all other traders of the Quraysh put together.”[2] Doesn’t sound like an oppressed, disadvantaged woman to me.

Even more importantly, there were women leaders of some of the tribes in the area. Examples include:

Zabibi the Assyrian queen of a kingdom in north eastern Arabia called Doumatoa, the Nabatean empress Julia Domna (170-217AD), the queen of Palmyra Zenobia (240-270 AD), the queens of the kingdom of Himyar in South Arabia, the Kingdom of Kindah in central Arabia, the Ghassanids in Syria and the Lakhmids of Hirah all between 300 AD and 500 AD.[3]

In addition to women leaders as well as women warriors (one led a war against Mohammed), Hibah tells us there were female deities as well. The society which preceded Mohammed was polytheistic. Three of the female deities that were worshipped were Al Lat, Al'uzza, and Manat. Just as the Jewish Tanakh railed against the “Queen of Heaven” (Jeremiah 44:18), the Qur’an, the holy book of Islam, railed against these female deities as well.

 So have you considered Lat and ‘Uzza? And Manat, the third—the other one? Is the male for you and for Him the female? That, then, is an unjust division. (Qur’an 53:19-22)

It undoubtedly took Islam a while to suppress the reverence for these female deities just as happened in Judaism. Karen Armstrong, a well-known writer about religion, states that it probably took 600 years to fully create the monotheistic religion that Judaism became.[4]

Unfortunately, after Islam was fully established, much of the evidence regarding the worship of these female deities was destroyed including all the temples of Al Lat in Taif (current day Saudi Arabia) as well as other sites in the Islamic world. There were statues and shrines to previous deities even in the Kaaba itself which became the holiest site of Islam.

Just as the laws of Judaism devalued women and established a male patriarchy, Islam also made women subservient to men in its holy writings.

Men are guardians over women because Allah has made some of them (men) excel others (women), and because they (men) spend of their wealth. So virtuous women are those who are obedient, and guard the secrets of their husbands with Allah’s protection. (Qur’an 4:34)

Allah instructs you concerning your children: for the male, what is equal to the share of two females. (Qur’an 4:11)

Just as I wrote in last week’s blog post about menstruation, Islam’s holy book also sees women as unclean. Men have to undergo a ritual cleaning prior to prayer.

O you who have believed, do not approach prayer while you are intoxicated until you know what you are saying or in a state of janabah, except those passing through [a place of prayer], until you have washed [your whole body]. And if you are ill or on a journey or one of you comes from the place of relieving himself or you have contacted women and find no water, then seek clean earth and wipe over your faces and your hands [with it]. Indeed, Allah is ever Pardoning and Forgiving. (Qur’an 4:43)

Mohammed obviously learned from what was happening around him. Both Jews and Christians had a holy book. Mohammed wrote the Qur’an to serve the same purposes. And Christianity had spread rapidly after the fall of the Roman empire. By the late 6th century, when Mohammed was born, Christianity was evident in most of the geographical areas bordering the Mediterranean.  

This is just a small portion of the history of Islam and its impact on women that Hibah outlines in her essay. Stay tuned for the book!

Karen L. Garst, The Faithless Feminist






[1] Hibah Ch is a Syrian Expatriate woman living currently in the United States, born and raised in Aleppo. She is from a conservative Muslim family. She left Islam in her mid-twenties to follow the school of liberalism. The information for this post is drawn from her essay and her references are cited.
[2] Muhammad ibn Saad, Tabaqat vol. 8. Translated by Bewley, A. (1995). The Women of Madina, p. 10. London: Ta-Ha Publishers. Accessed at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Khadija_bint_Khuwaylid.
[3] Nabia Abbott, “Pre-Islamic Arab Queens,” The American Journal of Semitic Languages and Literatures, 58:1 (Jan. 1941): 1-22. http://www.journals.uchicago.edu/doi/abs/10.1086/370586
[4] Karen Armstrong, The Great Transformation: The Beginning of our Religious Traditions (New York, NY: Knopf, 2006), 45.

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At 9:10am on July 20, 2008, Ian Andreas Miller said…
You're welcome!
At 8:44am on July 20, 2008, HoleyHands said…
Say Hey, Dave

Welcome aboard.

I enjoy your site........ read it everyday.
At 8:37am on July 20, 2008, Ian Andreas Miller said…
Hi! http://exchristian.net is a great site!
 
 
 

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