Not too many nuns leave their convents and become atheists, much less atheist activists, but Elizabeth Murad did. She spent thirteen years as a nun in an extremely conservative (I'd say reactionary) religious order and by now she's been outside the convent for much longer.
Nun in the 1930s
Today Elizabeth Murad is one of the leaders of the Humanists of the Treasure Coast and she is also a member of the Freedom from Religion Foundation. She was introduced to humanism and freethought by the man she married, but doubts about religion and God started even before she entered the convent.
"I was 10 and sitting on my bed, and my mom was doing my hair, and out of nowhere, she said to me, 'You know, I really admire those atheist people. They can be kind people just for the sake of being good. Their kindness has nothing to do with going to heaven or being religious,'" Murad said. "That, what she said, stuck with me all my life."
During the '60s, as the teachings of the Second Vatican Council began changing the church, Murad remembered her mother's words.
"I remember there was a big issue with changes being made to our habits," Murad said. "We spent hours discussing whether our habits should be at the knee or below the knee, and I just stood up and said, 'Why are we talking about knees? Shouldn't we be focusing on doing good for the community, or something?'"
Murad's comments resulted in a Mother Superior taking away her wedding ring to God as punishment.
Her mother's remarks every Friday, when she and other nuns whipped themselves with chains, also stirred up her uncertainty, she said. Corporal mortification was practiced in Murad's order.
"I couldn't believe there was a God who actually wanted this from us," she said. When she shared her doubts, Murad's order sent her to a psychiatrist and on a religious retreat.
Hers is certainly an inspiring story. I was fortunate enough to have her send me the link - apparently she's a regular reader here and thought I might be interested in the article. I definitely was and I hope it interests the rest of my readers as well.