Beginning in this issue, Free InquIry will publish a series of articles focusing on women and
their encounters with religion. We will hear from—and about—women who have shaped religion, who have opposed religion, who have been victimized by religion, and who have advocated, often fiercely, for their beliefs and disbeliefs.
In this issue, writer Shari Waxman probes the case of Cassie Bernall, the Columbine High School student who refused to renounce her Christian faith beneath the muzzle of Dylan Klebold’s gun. Though Bernall’s defiant death made her a Christian Right icon, the popular account of her martyrdom is almost certainly untrue. Historian and activist Bill Cooke reconsiders the legacy of Madalyn Murray O’Hair, whose one-woman war against religion divided America’s humanist and freethought movements—but restored atheism to the national agenda in ways a less abrasive activist might never have achieved.
In future issues, historian Melinda E. Grube examines the battles between freethinkers and the orthodox that rived America’s pioneer feminists and suffragists. Indian humanist activist Innaiah Narisetti surveys what world religions teach about child abuse—and the quite different ways millions of adherents treat their own children. Humorist Beth Birnbaum wryly prods Christian authors and entrepreneurs who deftly, if daftly, co-opt popular cartoon characters—even the Simpsons—to promote religious messages. Author Diane Wilson recounts her dramatic apostasy from the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Muslim critic Fatemolla challenges the tyranny of traditional Qu’ranic marriage. And philosopher Richard Taylor wonders whether Western matrimony has ceased to offer women an acceptable bargain.
We look forward to readers’ comments on this and future installments of “Women and Religions.”