This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Untamed" by Glennon Doyle. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.
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How does society impact religious beliefs? What beliefs have you inherited from your culture?
Speaker, author, and activist Glennon Doyle deconstructed her ideas about religion after a negative experience at a conservative church. Doyle decided that she no longer wanted to be part of a faith tradition that forced her to check her critical thinking and intuition at the door or defer to the judgment of powerful men.
Keep reading to find out why asking questions about religion to challenge old beliefs can help you live a more meaningful life.
Deconstructing Institutions and Belief Systems
In addition to deconstructing her ideas about marriage, parenthood, and family structure, Doyle also began asking questions about religion. She realized that she had been participating in cultural practices and belief systems that did not reflect what she believed true about herself and the world.
Questions About Religion: Trust Your Instincts
When Doyle was a young mom in the early 2000s, she became involved in her local church—only to find that the church was primarily focused on opposing homosexuality and abortion. When she questioned the pastor about his approach, he told her to trust the church’s teachings. After this experience, Doyle joined another church that didn’t force her to check her critical thinking and intuition at the door or defer to the judgment of powerful men.
After meeting her partner Abby, Doyle reflected on her experience with her first church as she continued to ask questions about religion. The experience had given her a first-hand perspective of how religion can negatively impact women’s lives—she realized how important it is to deconstruct the views handed down by authority.
|The Challenge of Leaving Your Congregation|
During her early church experience, Doyle saw how her viewpoints were easily ignored and disregarded by powerful men. Many women have spoken out against injustice in their congregations after having similar experiences.
Two notable women who have written extensively about questioning religion are authors Sarah Bessey (Out of Sorts) and Rachel Held Evans (Searching for Sunday). They point out how patriarchal power structures within the church discourage open dialogue and debate and promote conservative political ideologies.
Like Doyle, Bessey and Evans both experienced leaving their congregations, deconstructing their beliefs, and finding new faith communities. Their work expands on Doyle’s ideas by exploring the difficulty of leaving a faith community and the bravery required to deconstruct your faith—especially as doing so requires letting go of a central support system for many women. The sense of isolation and alienation that comes with leaving your congregation and faith can be challenging, and you may feel that community support is necessary for your journey. If you need support, Bessey and Evans founded an online community for people actively deconstructing their faith that can help you during this difficult transition.
Doyle’s New Beliefs About Religion
Today, Doyle believes that following Jesus’s teachings should not involve taking a hardline stance on political issues. (Shortform note: This stance mirrors the views of many people who asked questions about religion, eventually leaving their congregations due to their church’s views on homosexuality.)
Doyle rejects the idea that the church is a necessary intermediary between individual believers and the divine. Instead, she believes that she has personal access to God and doesn’t require an intermediary or interpreter. As a result, she no longer views organized religion as necessary for loving God or each other.
(Shortform note: Doyle’s conclusions align with recent studies that asked questions about religion and found an increasing lack of confidence in organized religion. Many people no longer see organized religion as a necessary part of their faith journey and instead have developed a more personal approach to spirituality. Doyle has also chosen this path and is currently not affiliated with any religious organization, and instead explores her spirituality by practicing meditation (as discussed in the previous section).
Questions About Religion to Ask Yourself
Doyle achieved freedom from her captivity by systematically deconstructing her beliefs and assumptions. In this exercise, you will reflect upon the beliefs you’ve adopted and how they’ve changed over time—and you’ll identify which beliefs may need deconstructing.
- What were you taught to believe about religion?
- How have these beliefs changed over time? What caused this change?
- What beliefs do you have today that need to be deconstructed or reexamined?
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Like what you just read? Read the rest of the world's best book summary and analysis of Glennon Doyle's "Untamed" at Shortform .
Here's what you'll find in our full Untamed summary :
- Glennon Doyle's story of freeing herself from society's rules and expectations
- Why you should rebuild your life using emotion, intuition, and imagination
- A look at how young women are taught to repress their emotions and desires