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25 Books About Religious Abuse


 This blog post contains links to 25 books-- mostly memoirs-- about religious abuse. And yes, I have read each of them (I am actually finishing one as I write this).  You will find the link to the books below and if you want to read my reviews, click here on my Shelf labeled Religious Abuse in my Goodreads account. (I think you probably need to get into Goodreads first?). 
TRIGGER WARNING: There is a whole load of horrible descriptions and information about various aspects of religious abuse that you may find disturbing and that may trigger you back to your own awful experiences of violence and/or manipulation. Please proceed at your own comfort and safety level. If you have undisclosed experiences that you might like to get help with, please speak to your family doctor or the contacts (for Canada) HERE or for the USA HERE

While each of these books have a major theme of religious abuse, the form of the abuse takes may present in different ways with different protagonists in different religious constructs. In the books I have reviewed, almost all the writers are female victims. That certainly does not mean that women are the biggest victims of religious abuse, or does it? I'm not sure. It would seem that the Patriarchy is set up to be most punitive and harsh with women, children and other marginalized persons. Adherence to a patriarchal belief system appears to be a major marker for both religious persecutors and their victims. The abusers are generally those with some power over the victim: pastors, evangelists, teachers, other zealous "believers," parents, and often, "the religious system" made up of the fundamental beliefs, the hierarchy in place to lead, administer, recruit, and protect the system. 

Of the 25 books, the vast majority are about living in an isolated, abusive, cultic Christian family or community of believers.  No, I do not believe that all of the denominations represented in these books are "cults", but it seems that fundamentalist, legalistic, patriarchal groups form more readily from out of the larger conservative religious communities when differences of opinion and reformative change is on the table. But still, not all the books describe abuse with smaller cult groups, the results of schisms. Some abuse actually is condoned within the larger Church proper.


The ChurchToo Movement arrived pretty quickly on the heels of the MeToo Movement. In March 2017 on Twitter, Emily Joy Allison 'outed' her abuser who groomed her during her teens. The North American Evangelical Churches were rampant with sexual abuse and assault while presenting as the great purveyors of Purity. Emily Joy-- currently working on a Master's Degree in Theology with a concentration on religion, gender and sexuality at Vanderbilt University--wrote her first book exposing the Purity Movement and unearthing the damaging sexual violence and trauma of Church-related abuse.  ChurchTwo: How Purity Culture Upholds Abuse And How To Find Healing.

A steady stream of disclosures of grooming and abuse by prominent religious leaders has been running ever since Emily Joy stepped forward. 

If you were groomed and / or assaulted by a religious leader-- priest, pastor, teacher, counselor, praise team member, elder, another person with more power than you have-- you might be interested in The Hope of Survivors; a confidential place to start your healing with others who have also experienced Clergy Sexual Abuse. The facilitators are experienced, educated and empathetic. They have useful and important information that will help you move forward.

Besides the much publicized Evangelical Church leader-assailants in the News over the past 5 years, you might want to look at some of these other topics related to religious abuse:


Shunned: How I Lost My Religion and Found Myself by Linda A. Curtis Exiting with grace from the Jehovah's Witness Organization.

Run, Hide, Repeat: A Memoir of a Fugitive Childhood by Pauline Dakin This book sticks in my head because it identified the perpetrator as having "delusional personality disorder" which seems to be the disorder of some people I know.  Not nice for the victims.

Banished: Surviving My Years in the Westboro Baptist Church by Lauren Drain    A braver young woman you would be hard pressed to find! 14-minute video interview

Chasing Eden: A Memoir by Cherilyn Christin Clough Her parents believe God wants them to be isolated from the World.

Exodus: A Memoir by Deborah Feldman  At age 23, Deborah Feldman left her abusive Hasidic Jewish marriage.

Fatty Legs: A True Story bMargaret-Olemaun Pokiak-Fenton (Author), Christy Jordan-Fenton (Author), Liz Amini-Holmes A way to start the residential school system conversation with your kids and grandkids.

Holy Ghost Girl: A Memoir by Donna M. Johnson 

21 Things You May Not Know About the Indian Act: Helping Canadians Make Reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples a Reality by Bob and Cindy Joseph


A House in the Sky- A Memoir by Amanda Lindhout Pretty shocking how a single (for the most part) journalist was held hostage and raped for over a year in the "world's most dangerous country" (Somalia) and was able to express compassion and forgiveness about her assailants. 

The Betrayal: the Shattering Sex Discrimination Case of Silver Vs. Pacific Press Publishing Association by Marikay (Silver) McLeod   A feminist heroine of the struggle for equal pay for equal work in the Seventh-day Adventist publishing industry. 

Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books by Azar Nafizi Staying one step ahead of the Morality Squad in Islamic Iran

Sin Bravely: A Memoir of Spiritual Disobedience by Maggie Rowe Crazy-making "Christianity"

Beautifully Broken: A Memoir by Reema Sukurmarin Is grooming and assault made easier for a trusted clergy when the victim was not considered of value by her #Adventist father?

Seven Fallen Feathers: Racism, Death and Hard Truths in a Northern City by Tanya Talaga Brought to you by the Residential School System

Daughter of Gloriavale: My Life in an Abusive Cult by Lilia Tarawa Hard to leave a cult when your whole life is bound up in it-- when your Grandfather is the revered Cult leader

Women Talking, A Novel  by Miriam Toews "This amazing, sad, shocking but touching novel, based on a real-life event, could be right out of The Handmaid's Tale" (Margaret Atwood, Twitter)

One Church, Many Tribes by Richard Twiss  "a rallying cry for the Church to work as one so that the lost may learn to walk in life with beauty, along the path of the Waymaker"

Rescuing the Gospel from the Cowboys: A Native-American Expression of the Jesus Way by Richard Twiss "For Twiss, contextualization is not merely a formula or evangelistic strategy, but rather a relational process of theological and cultural reflection within a local community. Native leaders reframe the gospel narrative in light of post-colonization, reincorporating traditional practices and rituals while critiquing and correcting the assumptions of American Christian mythologies."

Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover Sometimes "homeschooled" is code for "religious abuse and educational neglect"


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