Dysfunctional fundamentalist families (4): Stifling independent thought

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by Neil Godfrey

Any deviation from the one set of “true answers” in fundamentalist families is generally stifled by calling upon the infallible authority of their belief system.

Marlene Winell writes in Leaving the Fold:

In authoritarian families, children grow up resentful, and they learn to conform in order to get approval. They often have difficulty forming and expressing personal opinions later in life. (p.120)

Insecure parents feel tension or in other ways feel uncomfortable listening to disagreements from their children. What their children believe is a real worry. Alternative ways of thinking about major life questions are nothing less than threatening.

In other words, such parents avoid dialogue with their children, rarely encourage them to explore their own thoughts or be open-minded about other ideas, or come to their own independent conclusions.

I recall such parenting well. Teach, instruct, monologue. Dialogue with the intent to check for deviant thoughts that need correcting. Thrill to children’s ability to parrot right answers, right arguments, right reasoning. Give them a parental role model who constructs the strongest walls to independent thought and truly exploratory questioning.

Fortunately in my case I came to my senses soon enough to attempt to undo much of the damage this parenting had done. Hey, I even took my children out to other churches and religious gatherings, from Roman Catholic masses to Hare Krishna free-feed meetings .

Happily they came to think all were equally boring and pointless. And I must admit to a compulsion to share my observations of what I saw they had in common with other cult modus operandi.

Well, maybe they did find some interest in the colourful variety out there. But we each must walk our path and who knows what decisions they will make in the future.

Hare Krishna food

We all agreed the free hare krishna food beats the catholic mass, although we were respectful enough as non-believers not to actually taste the mass.

Catholic mass

Next in this series: Devaluation of feelings

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Neil Godfrey

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