Despite the losses of my years in fundamentalism and cultism there were also some very positive gains. I can’t say I would do it all over again, but I cannot deny the experiences in the more extreme end of religion have given me an outlook, an understanding and I think even a compassion that I suspect I may not have so fine tuned without some of those experiences. Glancing through Marlene Winell’s book, Leaving the Fold, again I was reminded that she had a section sharing the positive legacies that other ex-fundamentalists have also brought with them from their experiences.
Marlene has since started a new website, Recovery from Religion. (Also listed in my Blogroll)
In Leaving the Fold she lists about a dozen positive traits that various ex-religionists have carried over with them from their cultic type experiences. In any process of recovery it’s important to see the good as well as the bad, to draw on the strengths as we step into a new world view and self-identity. Thought I’d enjoy discussing some of these strengths that Marlene cites from other ex fundies, and mix in a few of my own experiences too. But to avoid getting into trouble for spending too much time on the computer at any one sitting I will necessarily break it up into a series of posts.
I can’t say that fundamentalist experiences are actually a “cause” of these legacies. I think extremist religions may attract people with an idealistic streak in the first place. Perhaps the experiences in religion contribute towards some sort of habituation, reinforcement, but especially yield a lot of do’s and dont’s from praxis years as believers. But especially, I think, a deeper humanity can be acquired through some of the less fortunate experiences of religion.
This refers to the habit of seeing the larger view. Extreme religions for all their faults certainly do stress “grand schemes” and global perspectives, of issues as they extend beyond our immediate personal space and time frames.
One is also often thrust into a close community drawn from a wide variety of backgrounds that one would not normally associate with. Wealthy and less wealthy business people, social misfits, academics and people from mission stations can all be found rubbing shoulders, and sharing social activities.
These together often leave a legacy of an ability to see alternative viewpoints.
And since ex fundamentalists learn not to be ashamed of holding views contrary to the popular opinion, they can often have carry with them the courage to continue to speak out for views that do see the broader perspective, and that are not popular.
They may bring with them a legacy that equips them to be agents for positive social change and social education.
(My computer time is up for now. More in a future post. . . .)