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How did you leave fundamentalism behind (if applicable)?


Austin

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I think this is an interesting discussion, Knight completely aside, so I'm going to start a new topic. Formergothardite posted this in that ATI-ask me anything thread and I want to explore it further.

I guess to me, I can think back to so many time when I told people things just like he is saying like "Well, you have really made me think." when I was in my fundie stage and it was just words. Saying that is easy and pretty meaningless unless you back it up with actions. I knew exactly what to say to make people let up on me and stop pushing me so much for answers because they thought they were helping me and that I was really sitting around having my faith shaken by their words. But it was just words meaning nothing except that I wanted people to think that they were making an impact when they really weren't. When I truly got to the point that my beliefs were shaken and I was really thinking about the questions people were asking, I was willing to discuss why I thought I believed things and listen to why others didn't and respond back. I have learned so much on Free Jinger about things I always thought were true and it ends up they weren't. But if confronted with those same facts 15-20 years ago, I would have just smiled, acted like I had been made to think and then gone on my way.

When people move from one position to a completely different (and opposite) position, there must be a line between those positions, a journey. You moved out of deep fundie-ism, which I assume you were raised in and were beliefs that you actually held. I moved away from being a fundie-lite, which I was raised in, and I held those beliefs personally. My positions have evolved over a significant period of time into what has essentially a polar opposite position (as I'm now a proud liberal). Yours have clearly changed significantly. So how did we get from there to here on our respective journeys?

I don't know that I could point to one thing or another; it was something that took place over time. I wish I could say I had a dramatic moment of epiphany, but I didn't. One day I held an opinion I now find ludicrous, and then a day came where I no longer held that opinion.

I think there were a couple of factors for me. For me, one aspect was being a mother. I have three sons and I started thinking about how I would feel if any of them was gay. I heard how I was supposed to feel from the pulpit and in evangelical circles, but I knew I would never be able to distance myself from one of my precious boys. Over anything. Nor would I be able to consider them "less than" or "sinners" or "hellbound" or anything other than the wonderful human beings they are.

Another element was that as I got older, I became much less cocksure of my positions. I started to realize that I knew nothing. Literally. Despite being an educated women who is not too shabby in the smarts department. Relatively speaking, the body of knowledge, the things I actually knew, was non-existent. When I realized that, I really started to investigate for myself and listen. All of the warnings I had heard continued to echo in my mind, such as "don't open up your mind too much or your brains will fall out" or "if you don't stand for something, you'll fall for anything" (favorite evangelical expressions to prevent people from exploring ideas too much). I had fear about going to hell (and still do, to be completely authentic). But I really did try to suspend as much bias as I was capable of doing, and look to reason, to logic, to humanity, to compassion and I found, over time, that those values did not jive with my evangelical belief system.

edited to clarify

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How: broke up with my fiancee, took off my cover, donned a pair of pants and became Orthodox christian. Then became nonreligious. Now I'm borderline atheist.

Why: I was raised feminist. My fiancee said things that I couldn't reconcile (interracial dating, attitude towards homosexuals, other races, believing that a preacher was a mouth of God - not to be questioned...), a preacher used the pulpit as a 2 hour lesson on why we should vote republican, and finally and most importantly, I realized how big of a hypocrite I was being. Judging others in my holy and pious righteousness? What crap. I was a terrible person for doing that. I still haven't forgiven myself for the pedestal I put myself upon.

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I classify as an evangelical more so than a fundamentalist. (It was over the "liberalism" of evangelicalism that prompted Rice/the Independent Fundamental Baptists to split from the Southern Baptist Convention. They thought Billy Graham was too liberal.)

The Assemblies of God really disappointed me and didn't work like it promised.

I moved on to sing with a group that was into Ken Copeland, and we sang somewhere nearly every week. This ended up running its course. Too small of a group and too many relationships that clashed.

Got into Word of Faith and moved to the Bible Belt where it was better, but it was still disappointing.

Found a "Charismatic" church that was not Word of Faith, but they were Gothard nutballs. After four years there we left. Two years were like bliss, and the last to years were increasingly more uncomfortable levels of getting into trouble and learning terrible things that went on behind the scenes. I had a "curse" pronounced on me when I told an elder that we were leaving (without their permission or their input). I found my way to the exit counselor. This was the beginning of the end, because I learned the manipulation tactics they used, and I could see them throughout my whole religious experience.

Church attendance since then has been "hit and miss," and I don't feel all that comfortable settling in anywhere.

I now do more visiting of a couple of different churches that are okay but don't regularly go to the same church. I've done that for the past couple of years after attending an Anglican church for a time, but that got old for me, too. I'm in and out, and I don't get involved, and none of them seem to have the kind of healthy life I would like to find in a church. People are aloof anyway, and I don't find that people here want to get involved or build friendships after the Sunday morning exercise. I'm put off by the whole of organized religion/institutionalized church and how complicated people tend to make it. (Many of you know what I mean. I hate church politics and those of the denomination.) I get more fellowship with my Christian friends. And the more I read, the more disappointed or disturbed I become with the very small handfull of ministers that I've followed over the years. So much of it is about control, and I'm to weary to put up with the bunk.

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Woke up to the fact that some seemingly mainstream presbyterian and baptist churches are in fact dangerous and cultish especially when you add in those under the influence of ATI and VF cults who throw their weight around, can't think and lack common sense. Life/church becomes hell. Nearly destroyed our family and marriage. We got out when a Creaky Kid started coming apart at the seams. We are still Christian and go to worship in a church, but that's it. No strings attached. Follow Christ and ditch the rest.

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I was raised fundy and became very good at proving how things that people who didn't agree with me and my very strict fundy upbringing didn't line up with the bible. If one minute detail didn't line up then nothing that person said could be trusted and should be thoroughly investigated which was too time consuming and it was easier to just not listen/read/watch them. Reading things only from people that agree with you gets boring even if it is gratifying. I quickly outfundied my parents then got married and joined the holier-than-thou competition myself.

Our church gradually became more strict and I went along with it like a good little fundy stepping it up a notch when and where I could but I became curious about just how terrible "worldly" things really were when biblically the pendulum could swing in either direction. One of the big evils was the internet. The internet was bad. The only good things there were the church website, and Christian curriculum companies. We prayed for family and friends that made the decision to open blogs or join social networking sites as if they were drug addicts or alcoholics. When the internet was no longer easily avoidable we gave in and started using it at home but only for emailing, banking, and ordering.

Curiosity got the better of me and I used google to find friends blogs and lurk. Hearsay about one of those friends made me slip up and reveal that I read their blog to some church members. After that our family was slowly picked apart by the people we had looked up to. Our kids weren't trained well enough (we didn't spank them enough), our choices in food, financial decisions, brightness of clothing, everything was up for criticism. Decades of legalism had finally turned and focused on us.

Meanwhile the blogs I read convinced me to take the same approach with the people I agreed with as I did with the people I didn't. I noticed that the people I didn't agree with usually lined up closer to the bible than the ones I did. After a lot of studying I threw out a lot of my books. I brought up my thoughts to my husband and before I finished talking he told me that he was thinking the same thing. We resigned our church membership within minutes and as expected all contact from church members stopped immediately.

About that time I rediscovered FJ. You had snarked on a few friends blogs years before and I came to peek back then. This time I lurked for a while to watch the discussions on politics, religion, lifestyles, and see what your opinions on them were firsthand. There's a great big diverse world out there! I didn't and don't always agree but I do respect the people and views here.

I'm not sure what to call myself now. I have attended 3 churches sporadically in the past year but can't become too involved without learning who I am and what I believe instead of what I've been told. It's awkward but it's where I am.

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There was no one big moment for me, it was a slow process and I can't pinpoint exactly what caused me to be more open or question some of the key things I had always believed. I think age has a lot to do with it, also meeting gay Christians and becoming friends with them ( I am sad to admit I used to think being gay was a sin), but some of it has to do with knowing people who weren't all sweet and nice about talking to me about my offensive beliefs.

That is why I didn't cut Knight any slack when he sent me a pm saying I was mean and I should have been nicer to him. Maybe I'm projecting my feelings onto him, but as long as people were nice to be about the offensive things I believed, it was easier to see them as not being that bad. But when people reacted in horror and anger over them, it was harder to do that. Of course, when I was younger and not willing to even explain or question my beliefs, that didn't even help. It was just easier to convince the nicer people that they had made me question my beliefs when they hadn't.

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Guest Anonymous

I made my way into evangelical Christianity as a teenager, and made my way out over a number of years in my twenties. I am in my late 30s now and am still taken by surprise at times, at how damaging those years were and how they still affect me now.

I was not brought up in the church and my family was always a bit bemused by it, but saw it as a social activity and let me get on with it. I wish that they (or someone, or anyone!) had actively tried to speak to me about it, but to be honest, I think that they were probably part of the reason I went looking for 'something' in the first place. My parents were poor, overwhelmed by their own stuff, and mostly emotionally unavailable to me and my siblings. As a lonely, insecure teenager, I was very much attracted to what the church seemed to offer to fill the void in my life.

The same thing that attracted me, repelled me later on: the idea of agape or unconditional love. I had never felt it before and I wanted it, and at first my church experience felt really good. As well as a youth group and a set of peers who became my best friends, I also gained a new, extended family who were interested in me and cared about me.

I first learned that women had an inferior role to men, when I was fifteen, one week after I was baptised and became an official member of the church. Men's and women's roles were not on the baptism class curriculum. I learned about it the first time I endured a communion service - in 'brethren' churches the meetings are unstructured and what happens is that anyone with a penis is free to get up and share a bible verse and their thoughts on it, or pray, or suggest a hymn. I was 15, and in very deep, when my education about 'equal but different' began.

I wish so much that I could go back in time and drag my 15-year old self out of there, kicking and screaming if necessary. Others left over time, many stayed and just took very little to heart. I stayed because I wanted and needed the acceptance, the membership, the identity that came with the package. And so I tried to intellectualise it and to stuff down the feelings that sprang from the doctrine. I tried to put aside the bad dreams I had and the fears I had, and the worries that I could never marry, if it meant subjugating myself and putting aside who I was to be the obedient wife the church said I had to be.

I totally wasted the years when I should have been finding myself and enjoying life, and I still feel rather haunted by it all.

I left the church, over a number of years, after graduating from University and taking jobs which moved me around the country and out of the clutches of the church that I first joined. I grew up, I grew out of my adolescent need for a black and white world, and I looked around and saw that I was not the only one hurting. I became friends with people who were gay, and I started questioning the nonsense I had been taught by the church about sexual orientation being a sinful choice.

Ultimately I realised, with much sorrow, that there was no agape love within the church - I oftentimes felt neither loved, nor loving towards those people who were my church family. In the end, the only way that church made sense to me, and the only way I could overcome my bitterness and anger towards the church leaders, was to conclude that there was no God and that most of those people were just ordinary folk like me, bumbling along on their own steam.

A major theme of my teenage bible studies had been that the church was right abut everything and that most other people were wrong in their beliefs - that other people might well have been sincere but they were sincerely wrong. This appealed to me greatly as a young teenager. Finally, as an adult, I came to the view that of all the people I knew it was mostly my church whose beliefs I could no longer share - they had mostly good and sincere intentions, but they were sincerely wrong, and it was time to break free from it all.

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Loving this thread. So far the common theme I see is that you all were not, at heart, black-and-white thinkers. You had innate critical thinking skills and they could only be silenced for so long. Awesome!

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Found a "Charismatic" church that was not Word of Faith, but they were Gothard nutballs. After four years there we left. Two years were like bliss, and the last to years were increasingly more uncomfortable levels of getting into trouble and learning terrible things that went on behind the scenes. I had a "curse" pronounced on me when I told an elder that we were leaving (without their permission or their input). I found my way to the exit counselor. This was the beginning of the end, because I learned the manipulation tactics they used, and I could see them throughout my whole religious experience.

I now do more visiting of a couple of different churches that are okay but don't regularly go to the same church. I've done that for the past couple of years after attending an Anglican church for a time, but that got old for me, too. I'm in and out, and I don't get involved, and none of them seem to have the kind of healthy life I would like to find in a church. People are aloof anyway, and I don't find that people here want to get involved or build friendships after the Sunday morning exercise. I'm put off by the whole of organized religion/institutionalized church and how complicated people tend to make it. (Many of you know what I mean. I hate church politics and those of the denomination.) I get more fellowship with my Christian friends. And the more I read, the more disappointed or disturbed I become with the very small handfull of ministers that I've followed over the years. So much of it is about control, and I'm to weary to put up with the bunk.

I can totally relate to this. In the last 5-10 years, I was constantly in trouble. I do not do church politics well, as I am a very direct person and a terrible liar hypocrite. Once I had started questioning some things, I couldn't hide that I had doubts and doubts were not tolerated well. I found the most vaunted church women nearly intolerable, and compared to my non-church friends, very artificial and irritating. Women's Bible studies made me feel sick. I wanted to study something with some depth and heft (like the men), but would always be outvoted by those who wanted yet another Beth Moore book (barf). I felt increasingly "on the outside".

Meanwhile the blogs I read convinced me to take the same approach with the people I agreed with as I did with the people I didn't. I noticed that the people I didn't agree with usually lined up closer to the bible than the ones I did. After a lot of studying I threw out a lot of my books. I brought up my thoughts to my husband and before I finished talking he told me that he was thinking the same thing. We resigned our church membership within minutes and as expected all contact from church members stopped immediately.

I'm not sure what to call myself now. I have attended 3 churches sporadically in the past year but can't become too involved without learning who I am and what I believe instead of what I've been told. It's awkward but it's where I am.

I worried very much about my husband. I knew he was a man of faith and I didn't want anything to come between us. After a lot of reading and gathering of my thoughts, I too shared them with my husband. I found that he was just as disillusioned as I was on many levels, and was tired of the whole church rat-race. Although the men were slightly less judgmental with each other, he had been questioning and being shot down, too. Deep thinking was being discouraged just as much in his circles as mine. He felt stifled and lonely in church and church activities.

We had a couple of things that we had committed to in the near future, but we set a date to leave. One of those commitments is that my husband had agreed to do a teaching based upon Tim Keller's A Prodigal God. He had met with the group leader and gotten approval for the book (the man said he had read the book). My husband taught directly from the book and all hell broke loose. The book kind of turns upsidedown what most people think the meaning of the Prodigal Son parable is, and in short, it is about the meaning of grace.

It went over like a lead balloon. The emails started flying and finally landed in our email box after it was clear it had been discussed at length behind my husband's back first. The group leader phoned my husband and questioned his faith, his belief in scripture, and on and on. It was the punctuation point to everything we'd been feeling for a long time and a confirmation for our decision to depart. We did so quietly, and people who we had thought were our true friends turned their backs on us. My one main woman friend, who I had walked nearly every day with for three years, become unavailable for our time together and we never walked together again. I see her now and she acts like she barely knows me. I shared a lot of things with her (and she with me) and it still hurts to see her and know that she has cut me off like the mold on a piece of cheese.

I first learned that women had an inferior role to men, when I was fifteen, one week after I was baptised and became an official member of the church. Men's and women's roles were not on the baptism class curriculum. I learned about it the first time I endured a communion service - in 'brethren' churches the meetings are unstructured and what happens is that anyone with a penis is free to get up and share a bible verse and their thoughts on it, or pray, or suggest a hymn. I was 15, and in very deep, when my education about 'equal but different' began.

I wish so much that I could go back in time and drag my 15-year old self out of there, kicking and screaming if necessary. Others left over time, many stayed and just took very little to heart. I stayed because I wanted and needed the acceptance, the membership, the identity that came with the package. And so I tried to intellectualise it and to stuff down the feelings that sprang from the doctrine. I tried to put aside the bad dreams I had and the fears I had, and the worries that I could never marry, if it meant subjugating myself and putting aside who I was to be the obedient wife the church said I had to be.

The women-are-not-equal thing had been a problem for me from the beginning. While I had been raised in church, my family never subscribed to this and I was taught I could do anything/be anything. Of course, this is not how the church felt, but I managed to convince myself that it really didn't affect me. Later, after I entered into a totally egalitarian marriage, I told myself how the church felt about women didn't matter because my husband didn't believe that or treat me that way.

But it did matter. I couldn't get away from the constant drumbeat of women needing to stay in their place. Even in our most liberal church experience, the bottom line, though seldom spoken, was that men were to be the headship. That church, rather uncharacteristically (in our view at the time) invited Mark Driscoll to speak at their annual conference. Yeah, that was troubling, to say the least.

I could not remain around people who, when push came to shove, didn't respect women fully and sought constantly to limit their expression of their gifts and talents. When I discussed this with other church women, they would squirm uncomfortably and basically tell me the same thing I had been telling myself: it doesn't matter if your husband is not "like that". But it did.

I also don't know how to refer to myself now. Our family therapist asked me about a year ago how I would classify myself and I couldn't answer. She asked me if I considered myself an athiest, and I couldn't say that I did. I just don't know. I sort of think the cake hasn't been completely baked for me on this issue, and I don't know where I'll end up. I don't want to close my mind to God or the idea of God because I don't want to close my mind to anything. I am open to learning more, exploring more. So who knows.

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Guest Anonymous

Thank you so much, Austin and everyone else for sharing your thoughts. I feel like I need to 'process' it all before I can discuss it more, but it is so good not to feel alone. :)

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Loving this thread. So far the common theme I see is that you all were not, at heart, black-and-white thinkers. You had innate critical thinking skills and they could only be silenced for so long. Awesome!

Deelaem,

You don't know the half of it at all, and I started young.

When I was just starting to talk. I opened a bottle of baby aspirin and poured them on the floor. When my mom asked if I'd taken any, I stood up, put my hand on my hip, pointed at them with the other and told her to “Count them and see.†(It apparently really wigged her out, as relatives have told me.) My parents were very passive folks and were never comfortable with my temperament, but they just couldn't manage to squeeze or shame the trait out of me.

There were several incidents in my childhood where I apparently grilled adults and would call them on their notable BS without hesitating. I remember my knees knocking during some of it, but I was offended at their pretense and dishonesty. I could write three or four paragraphs here about several incidents.

A new pastor came into our church when I was just ten years old, and I was in his Sunday School class for a year. It was a long and hard year. I don't think that pastor was very bright, and every week, I demanded to know the answers to questions that he clearly had no clue about. He knew the party line, but he couldn't explain squat, and it was blatantly obvious to me. He was terrible, and I not only lacked respect for his lack of ability/knowledge, I really resented the patronizing way he dealt with my questions. I was approached about my attitude, and I suggested that they let me attend the adult class. They apparently very willingly let me. The pastor's wife was no rocket scientist, either, and I was glad when they moved on in only about four or five years.

I went on short term missions trips with the Assemblies of God, and it was suggested that this was the way to go to get into extended trips or full time missions. I was told, if you come on this trip, we'll give you something more challenging to do, and after a couple of trips, that was clearly not the case. I asked the director what I seriously needed to do to get to a new level in that group, because I'd already done all they said to do, and I was clearly not progressing anywhere as I was told that I would. They essentially insulted me in about five different ways, without coming out and saying what they thought of me. A nurse practitioner that they had not treated very well told me on the plane home that they preferred a male-led model and a physician oriented model, but... After being on two trips with me, she thought that I was too well-spoken and asked too many questions to really fit what they were looking for in the program. To do well, you had to be sycophant to the people who ran it, a sweet and quiet type of girl who just did whatever crazy thing she was told to do, whether it made sense or not, and she said that I spoke well enough that I was intimidating. She was intimidating to them, too, I believe. I don't go AoG anymore, and it was both the last trip with their program for the both of us.

When I was meeting with the exit counselor after I left the Gothard cult, she started to laugh heartily at one point. She said that I was delightful, but she figured that there were quite a few people at the cult that were absolutely thrilled that I'd gone, because I clearly never gave them a moments rest from questions and challenges. For all of the times I coped with cognitive dissonance by telling myself, "I must have missed something or misunderstood," I did challenge ideas and practices much more than the average church member there. But the pastor and a couple of elders like me and liked the volumes of work that I could do, so I think that bought me some special consideration for a time. Lucky for me that it didn't last! What was odd to me was that the women were mostly all tough as nails and resented my (honest and often purely pragmatic) questions far more so than any of the men. I socialized better with the men there, too. One woman told me once that the women didn't like me much because I'd been to college and had a job. Gasp! Women were not traditionally supposed to ask questions there, I guess.

I could go on and on and on.

I don't even bother speaking up anymore in discussions at church gatherings. I just smile and think that when people want to have a discussion, they really just want to hear others agree with them or flatter them. They don't want to think. I will jump in if I think someone needs encouraged, but that's about the only time. I don't even let on like I know anything about anything. It seems easier that way, but it apparently has not fostered my ability to develop any kind of friendships outside of the services which I would very much like.

It's craziness.

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It was a process for me. I grew up Wesleyan but my parents have always been questioners and thinkers.

Lots of life stress happened in 2004 that drew me to fundamentalism. It fit perfectly what I needed at the time (or so

I thought). I looked at the nicer aspects of it while disregarding the things that irked me (like we're perfect and everyone

else goes to hell, gay hatred, etc).

I "quit" it and came back a couple times, usually when I was feeling lots of stress and couldn't deal with it.

2009 fall I left perminantly. I developed vestibular vulvodynia that year and couldn't talk to anyone about it. Hey my fellow fundies, my Bartholin's Gland is flaming red and I can't have sex! I was reading blogs and websites about my vulva and it was so countered to what I've known for years (avoid all things sexual).

A couple months before this my bipolar (mixed state usually) became very pronounced and I was having self injury issues. I wouldn't bath for almost a week at a time and just stared at the wall for hours.

I ended up going to a sexologist multiple times for treatment (WHOO for gabapentin cream lol) and after you show your

crotch all those times and talk about your Pelvic Floor Dysfunction etc etc, I just felt I didn't need fundamentalism anymore.

I got off birth control AFTER leaving fundamentalism and found I feel so much better (and sexual!) being without it. Sex is healthy and beautiful and it's completely normal to "window shop" (Dolph Lundgren LOL). :)

I'm blabbing lol. Developing sexual dysfunction actually saved my life lol!

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I've been seriosly questioning my beliefs ever since (and a bit before) the world didn't end in May like my Camping-follower parents said.

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The emails started flying and finally landed in our email box after it was clear it had been discussed at length behind my husband's back first.

Aren't those emails the most super most funnest awesome part of fundyness? Ugh. I'm proud of your husband for teaching that class before you left. :)

The men in our church were just as judgmental as the women only in their own way. There were 2 self appointed leaders that everyone had to fall in lockstep with. Similar to wifely submission only all men. Ahem. If they did things differently they would be run down with the emails and meetings where the 2 men would talk and everyone else nodded until the renegade gave in. Not spanking our kids for squirming when they hadn't eaten for 6 hours and had been sitting in the service that whole time was a huge issue. My leaving the service with squirmy kids in tow was smiled at because they thought I was leaving to spank them. One day someone saw me feeding them from my car stash of granola bars. We got emails then too but my husband refused to cave in and some of the nodders admitted that their kids were starving and fidgety too and snacks were permitted for children under 8. They were still frowned at but the emails stopped.

The whole system was sick. There was no grace or mercy and I still have a hard time accepting it when it's given by anyone but my husband because it isn't what I'm used to. I wonder if there's a group therapy for ex-fundies? Maybe this is it. lol

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Is Wesleyan a type of fundie? I had an ultra-liberal physics prof who was Wesleyan, very involved in church and such. I only know this because he tragically died and I went to his funeral at the Wesleyan Church, where they sung his praises to the heavens (with good reason). His wife did not seem fundie at all and they voluntarily had no children because they liked having time for all of their philanthropic work and their careers. I did not get a fundie vibe at all.

In fact, he made a point of closing down religious speech in class when it came up, and he routinely noted that his best students were always women. He *was* from Lubbock, TX though. Deep South Bible Belt, etc.

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Is Wesleyan a type of fundie? I had an ultra-liberal physics prof who was Wesleyan, very involved in church and such. I only know this because he tragically died and I went to his funeral at the Wesleyan Church, where they sung his praises to the heavens (with good reason). His wife did not seem fundie at all and they voluntarily had no children because they liked having time for all of their philanthropic work and their careers. I did not get a fundie vibe at all.

In fact, he made a point of closing down religious speech in class when it came up, and he routinely noted that his best students were always women. He *was* from Lubbock, TX though. Deep South Bible Belt, etc.

They are more fundi-fied than the Methodists who I don't think get into weirdness as a group. The Methodists started with the Wesley brothers, but that might be all that they have in common. I know many pentecostals who have switched to Wesleyan churches and then switched back, so it is compatible in many ways. I don't know anyone who grew up in one, but they are holiness oriented and are evangelical.

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When I was 14, my parents questioned too much and got themselves kicked out of a cult. I was mad. I hated them for a few weeks. I had just barely overcome the "polluted outsider" status and had wiggled my way into friendships with the children of the "elite" class (so much for communalism, "all things in common", and "everyone is equal". It was more like Animal Farm).

And I am so, so glad. Eternally grateful that they spoke up and risked losing everything. And they did lose everything, except for their children. If they'd waited a few years and I'd reached 18, they might have lost me to the cult--I was completely brainwashed.

I can't say I've left fundamentalism, as I hold to the "five fundamentals" of Protestant Christianity and am in general very conservative theologically, socially, and politically. However, I'm still a square peg in fundie circles, so I'm not sure exactly what I am.

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When I was 14, my parents questioned too much and got themselves kicked out of a cult. I was mad. I hated them for a few weeks. I had just barely overcome the "polluted outsider" status and had wiggled my way into friendships with the children of the "elite" class (so much for communalism, "all things in common", and "everyone is equal". It was more like Animal Farm).

And I am so, so glad. Eternally grateful that they spoke up and risked losing everything. And they did lose everything, except for their children. If they'd waited a few years and I'd reached 18, they might have lost me to the cult--I was completely brainwashed.

I can't say I've left fundamentalism, as I hold to the "five fundamentals" of Protestant Christianity and am in general very conservative theologically, socially, and politically. However, I'm still a square peg in fundie circles, so I'm not sure exactly what I am.

Something similar happened to two of my girlfriend's kids, but two of their kids went back into the group. They left the cult, but as too many people do, they joined another cult. And that didn't last long, and they ended up in another. And then another.

When they left the first group where they'd been for about ten years or so, as their kids had become older, it was impossible to keep those older ones away from their pretty limited circle of friends. Some friends left, but some didn't, and then there were the homeschooling things that didn't allow for a complete break.

The oldest girl went into a similar cult and works at one of their colleges. Another adult child went back to a church plant of that group. And they interact with the same people in many cases. They were at a wedding a year ago, and it was full of people from ye old cult. It has not been good for the kids, but the break was tough for them. Homeschooling made it incredibly more complicated.

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This is such a good idea for a topic, Austin. Thanks I started to write something about my journey away from fundie-ism, but I got too depressed by my own words and deleted it. I'll just say that my fundie-ism was of the Catholic variety, and yes there definitely is abusive Catholicism. I started with the regular, 1950s kind, then made it worse when I tried to fix myself by joining a Catholic charismatic community that combined the worst features of Catholicism with wacko Protestant notions like "shepherding," beating your kids with a rod, oppressive gender roles, and much, much more.

How we finally left: refused to shun a friend who had been kicked out of the the group and was then ordered to be completely shunned, such that no one could even talk to him. He had also been slandered as "having problems" and being "mentally ill"--all because he stubbornly questioned the leadership and talked about their decisions. His father and his baby daughter died suddenly and he experienced tremendous grief, but that didn't make them show any mercy to him. My husband and I were going to have him and his wife to dinner to show support and caring for them. We were told we couldn't do that, and that if we did, we were in rebellion and obviously had put ourselves outside God's will and had no reason to be considered part of the community. A flunky was sent around to deliver the official sentence. Then they had the gall to claim we left of our own accord--just because we didn't plead to be allowed to stay.

For me, what made me reject their ideas wasn't the lack of reason and logic. My concern was always with people. I believed in religion because I thought it was about compassion, about treating people as Jesus did, healing their hurts and helping them. If religion doesn't help people, and in fact makes things WORSE for them, my feeling was okay, the HELL with it.

I stayed in the Catholic church for a long time after that, but when I saw their reaction to the child sex abuse scandal, again I had to realize that the system is all about power and abuse, it hurts real people, and I could no longer have anything to do with it.

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This is something I'm really struggling with. I've always had issues with believing/ non believing, and sometimes felt like my faith in God hinged on holding into & defending my theology and church culture. I'm at an in between pint now where I'm really sick of so much of the church and religion and all of the stuff people say about God, so I don't know if I'm going to just totally lose faith in everything or if I can end up embracing a more liberal type of Christianity without being pissed at God for all the crap people claim in His name.

Um, anyway, the biggest thing that's causing me to question, reject, and step away from a lot of it is the way the church treats sexuality in general. I've seen too many people hurt by the effects of patriarchy as a commandment, and by the way abortion and premarital sex are addressed and handled. I'm also having increasing problems with how fundamentalism and many conservative churches treat gay people, which I should've been pissed about years ago, but it's becoming more relevant for me because there are a shitload of people in my life who are gay, bi-sexual, or otherwise wired for something outside of lifelong heterosexual monogamy for procreation only.

I could embrace a form of Christianity that is about loving God, loving others (including people who aren't Christians and/or don't live by your arbitrary standards), being a better person, having an inclusive community, and helping people inside and outside of your community. Instead, I'm starting to see fundamentalism as something that's more about rules and judgement than love, about condemning others, acting "holier than thou", and tends to feel people with a lot of self-righteousness and even hatred, and that destroys families and communities over bullshit rules that are more about a political or social agenda than about God or love. If I can't openly support and care for people who don't conform to some set of standards, then I don't want to be a part of it anymore.

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I could embrace a form of Christianity that is about loving God, loving others (including people who aren't Christians and/or don't live by your arbitrary standards), being a better person, having an inclusive community, and helping people inside and outside of your community. Instead, I'm starting to see fundamentalism as something that's more about rules and judgement than love, about condemning others, acting "holier than thou", and tends to feel people with a lot of self-righteousness and even hatred, and that destroys families and communities over bullshit rules that are more about a political or social agenda than about God or love. If I can't openly support and care for people who don't conform to some set of standards, then I don't want to be a part of it anymore.

This is exactly why I ended up becoming a Quaker. It's a personal religion that is between you and God, not man. I think if I hadn't found Society of Friends I'd of ended up a fundie again because it has been all I've known for a long time.

I am conservative but pro gay rights which is so far off the "mainstream" path of Christianity.

Many of the new Quakers are ex-fundies so I fit right in LOL!

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This is exactly why I ended up becoming a Quaker. It's a personal religion that is between you and God, not man. I think if I hadn't found Society of Friends I'd of ended up a fundie again because it has been all I've known for a long time.

I am conservative but pro gay rights which is so far off the "mainstream" path of Christianity.

Many of the new Quakers are ex-fundies so I fit right in LOL!

From a sample size of one, that 'between you and God' thing seems sort of lonely to me. Like, you have a community, but it's a very... external, community? Only your outward behaviour matters. I know that Quaker groups vary hugely, but the one I went along to a few months ago seemed very behaviourist to me, if that makes sense. You can have a thousand things going on inside, but what comes out is just what's most important, and you can have nice conversations afterwards with the people there but talking about spirituality and YOUR spirituality isn't the point. To me, that seems lonely, as I enjoy hashing things out and getting into discussions, and I find that one of the most bonding conversations I can have with close friends is to discuss their, or my, current 'so I'm trying to figure this out...'

Again, huge differences between groups beyond that one, but that's just something I saw coming out of the idea of having a community where each individual has their religion between them and God.

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This is exactly why I ended up becoming a Quaker. It's a personal religion that is between you and God, not man. I think if I hadn't found Society of Friends I'd of ended up a fundie again because it has been all I've known for a long time.

I take this to mean that there aren't people inserting themselves into your connection with God, trying to be your paternalistic conscience because they have such a low opinion of other Christians that no one can do it right without being fairly closely policed. In other words, it's not focused on legalism and external standards of performance or other external measures of faith to prove something to others. That's what Protestantism was supposed to be all about in the beginning.

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Aren't those emails the most super most funnest awesome part of fundyness? Ugh. I'm proud of your husband for teaching that class before you left. :)

The men in our church were just as judgmental as the women only in their own way. There were 2 self appointed leaders that everyone had to fall in lockstep with. Similar to wifely submission only all men. Ahem. If they did things differently they would be run down with the emails and meetings where the 2 men would talk and everyone else nodded until the renegade gave in. Not spanking our kids for squirming when they hadn't eaten for 6 hours and had been sitting in the service that whole time was a huge issue. My leaving the service with squirmy kids in tow was smiled at because they thought I was leaving to spank them. One day someone saw me feeding them from my car stash of granola bars. We got emails then too but my husband refused to cave in and some of the nodders admitted that their kids were starving and fidgety too and snacks were permitted for children under 8. They were still frowned at but the emails stopped.

The whole system was sick. There was no grace or mercy and I still have a hard time accepting it when it's given by anyone but my husband because it isn't what I'm used to. I wonder if there's a group therapy for ex-fundies? Maybe this is it. lol

Wanna know the most awkward thing ever? The group leader who called and grilled my husband was and is my boss. :shock: I can honestly say it was never mentioned or alluded to at all at the office, and he has treated me as well as he treats all of his employees. I don't know whether our ability to separate (compartmentalize?) the two worlds is a testament the professionalism of both of us, or a clear sign that I am crazy :D

I agree about the utter lack of grace and mercy. And teh crazee. People giving thanks for God providing a parking space for them at Kroger or about getting their reserved library book really fast (I'm not kidding). The last fellowship we ever attended featured one woman telling a 20 minute story about how her husband's boss at the post office was an atheist and how God sent some sort of flaming arrow at his front door and it embedded in the wooden door and the man came to his door and was immediately overwhelmed by the presence and awesomeness of God that he "gave up" atheism forevah. :shock:

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Holy flaming arrows, Batman! :o Did anyone check to see who in the church had taken up archery lately? Was she aware that yelling "Oh my god!" doesn't mean that he was praying?

I don't know how you can stand working for that guy. That takes some extreme maturity! It's all I can do to fake a smile and polite "Hi. Wow, your kids are growing up" when there's no avoiding someone from my past at the grocery store.

Here's a question for the rest of you. When you see people from your past in public do you catch yourself acting happy and energetic no matter how bad your day is to keep word from getting back that you looked tired/unhappy/angry and should have stayed in fundyville?

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