Eleven feminist scholars examine how various religions regard women and how women have been restricted, idealized and even creatively inspired by faith. Judith Van Kerik (Pennsylvania State Univ.) looks at the life of writer-mystic Simone Well, who surrendered herself to God, like a virgin bride awaiting the groom and a child awaiting food. In preferring physical hunger to material food, she ultimately died of anorexia. Frederique Apffel Marglin takes issue with the commonly-accepted Western view that Hindu goddesses, without a male consort to restrain them, are inevitably malevolent. She contends that celibacy--male or female--is the source of destructiveness. Sheila Briggs (USC) contends that the ""gender as destiny"" theories of 19th-century German theologians ultimately led to ""race as destiny"" and finally to the Lutheran church's concept of Jews as an ""alien force."" These fulminations, she argues, were crucial rationalizations for Hitler's campaign against the Jews. Clarissa W. Atkinson (Harvard Divinity School) demonstrates how changing perceptions of St. Monica (mother of St. Augustine) increasingly stressed selflessness and self-sacrifice as the ideal for motherhood: the saint became ""the embodiment of men's notions about 'good women.' ""Other essays in this first in a series of Harvard Women's Studies in Religion examine how the Bible, Black literature, the Catholic Church, Tibetan Buddhism, and antebellum America have regarded women. In sum, rather arcane. Many of the authors seem to stretch their evidence paper-thin to reach their intended conclusions. That's a problem for academe, in whose groves this volume will flourish or wither.