2008-01-19

The GOOD legacy of a fundamentalist and cultic life: 3

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by Neil Godfrey

Continuing from Leaving the Fold Marlene Winell’s encouraging list of some of the good one can take away from the fundamentalist or cultic experience, mingled with my own thoughts . . . .

Vision of the Possible

In the church or cult to which I once belonged a common phrase used was “the human potential”. This was in some ways nothing more than a clever PR term: what it meant in religious language was “salvation”. But still, the term helped focus on a vision of an ideal.

Marlene Winell cites another ex-fundamentalist saying:

I am striving to achieve this dream of a full life. I don’t know anyone who has it, but I must say that I would rather spend my life working for something that might not ever materialize in its entirety than just give up and have nothing.

I personally have found the thought of striving for an ideal to be anathema. It reminds me too much of attempting to live out an “inhuman” perfection, a life governed by “principles” in place of “humanity”. But maybe a lot of this is just semantics. I know I really am constantly mindful of what we/people are, of the nature of humanity and the human condition, and the many different paths individuals and societies opt to follow for “the good life”, or at least the best one possible. This is always at the back and front of my thinking when I bury myself in my hobby readings of history, anthropology, neurology, human evolution and prehistory, even cosmology.

Maybe I do have an ideal, and it is to understand and just be what we are, not what we can never be. Or is that an anti-ideal? Anyway, I do do my bit when opportunities arise to expose and demolish those things I see as crippling us emotionally and mentally or otherwise wasting our lives.

Marlene speaks of “ex fundies” as:

likely to retain idealized notions of love, peace, beauty, compassion, fulfillment, . . . . [They] can probably imagine a life that is expansive and creative, full of power, joy, serenity, and generosity. These are Christian ideals, from the positive side of Christianity.

I guess I do have “idealized notions” of one or two items in that sort of list. But I do not like the word “idealized”. I prefer something much more prosaic and practical and real, that avoids any risk of trying to be something other than human. Nevertheless, compassion, fulfillment, generosity, and a few other things are very important to me.

The trouble with Christianity – and Marlene makes this point – was that it very often taught these “ideals” or good qualities in ways that led to them being dysfunctional goals.

Then they were to be obtained through self-denial, self-abnegation, from without instead of from within, or only after death.

See also Marlene’s new website Recovery from Religion

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