The GOOD legacy of a fundamentalist / cultic life: 1

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by Neil Godfrey

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.

Broad Consciousness

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. . . .)

Once more on the fundamentalist mindset

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

by Neil Godfrey

Some time ago I began to engage a few fundamentalists with some critical questions about some of their claims. I know, many will think I was wasting my time and in some ways I was. But one charge these folk raised against me a number of times was revealing. They accused me of “attacking Christianity”. At the time I tended to brush aside the charge or at most offered a simple denial. It should have registered with me at the time that by raising this accusation against me they were in fact informing me why it would be a waste of time continuing any attempt at a critical discussion with them.

They were informing me that they consider any critical questioning from a nonbeliever who is attempting to engage them with the logical and factual fallacies in their dogmas as a form of warfare on the Truth of which they are the guardians. They did not consider it an attack on their particular interpretation of Christianity, but on Christianity itself. In other words, they were revealing that in their minds their fundamentalist view embraces the essence of Christianity — other Christian views must be labelled “so-called Christian” or “false” or something similar.

Their accusation demonstrated a mindset that sees itself under siege in a world of darkness. That they must be prepared to fight enemies who are out to persecute or destroy them.

This victim mentality is actually interpreted as a virtue in the Bible: “Blessed are the persecuted”.

There is no concept of open and honest intellectual exchange as equals. How can their be “equality” between Light and Darkness? And their very identity itself is the embodiment of Light — a concept I discussed more fully in my previous post: Authority and identity in the fundamentalist approach to biblical and scientific debates.

Their world is divided into white and black. Honest intellectual enquiries and debates between proponents of different hypotheses, especially if they result in one person deciding to modify or reject a hypothesis, are in many cases merely signs of a confused and benighted world. (“God is not the author of confusion”, their Bible says, and uncertainty, free enquiry, tentativeness, challenges, are interpreted by the black and white mindset as “confusion”.) As Vinny so aptly put it on a comment here, they know the truth so there is no need for further enquiry in that respect. Debates can have only one purpose for a person who “knows the truth” — to garner ammunition to attack “enemies” who they believe are “attacking Christianity”.